Thrust into the role of laird upon his father's unexpected death, Connor MacLaurey returns home to find his cousin has usurped his lands and title. Furthermore, his betrothed--a lass he barely knows and certainly did not agree to marry--is hunted by the sheriff, accused of stealing cattle. His plan is to petition the king for clemency for the foolish chit, break the betrothal, and take his castle back from his treacherous cousin. Marriage is not in his plans.
Brianna Douglas has no use for men. Widowed young, berated daily for failing to give her husband a child, and sent home in subsequent disgrace, she devotes her life to holding her family's land for her young brother as their sotted father drowns his sorrow in whisky over her mother's death. Raiders have hit her clan hard, and to save them, she finds herself betrothed to Laird MacLaurey's absent son to seal a pact of protection with the MacLaurey clan.
Forced into a marriage neither wants, it will take a king's edict and sacrifice from both to discover what love means. But can they accept their losses and learn from their mistakes before Brianna marries another?
Her step quickened and she fled the room to the stairway leading to her chamber. An iron grip on her arm yanked her to a stop and she whirled to face him, his expression black with fury.
“Let go of me!” she hissed angrily.
Conn released her arm, but did not move away. “What do ye think ye are about? Are ye dead set on being hanged?”
“The king pardoned me.”
“Aye, for reiving. Disobedience to the king is treason and will also get ye hanged.”
Brianna eyed him narrowly, unable to quell her toe as it tapped the stone floor impatiently. “I dinnae want to marry.”
“Well, there will be none to wed ye from the gallows.” He loomed over her, his expression darker still. “And I could have refused ye for yer lack of respect.”
“Lack of respect? I said naught that is not on any other’s tongue, m’laird.”
“Ye know naught of me or my past year in France.”
“Enough to know I dinnae want to be shackled to a skirt-chaser like yerself. I dinnae want such disrespect in my marriage, either!”
Conn exhaled a long breath. “Why are ye so against this marriage?”
“Are ye daft? What is there to recommend it?”
“Have stripped my clan of their wealth.”
“Yer dowry is of no importance to me. However, I do find myself in need of an heir.”
Furious, Brianna tossed her head. “Ye would do better to find a woman ye know will give ye one. I have no desire to be that woman.”
“Is that so?” The soft tone of his voice did not match the fire she saw in his eyes. She shook off the frisson of longing before it woke the passion his voice ignited in her, and did not flinch as she spoke the lie.
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