Read an Excerpt
Bewitching the Highlander
"Colder than a sea witch's arse," Keelan muttered and stumbled again, nearly falling face first in the sodden bog. A cold northwesterly drove rain, hard and fast, into his face, soaking the tunic beneath the threadbare waistcoat he held bunched tight at his throat. "And I would be knowing," he added, then snorted at his own wit, dubious though it was. But whose humor would not be a bit stale given the circumstances? It had been raining since well before dusk. His last meal was little more than a cherished memory, and he was still mourning the loss of the small fortune he'd left the three gentlemen with whom he'd been gaming some days past. But the term gentlemen was loosely used indeed. Not one of them had cracked a grin the entire evening. On the other hand . . . He tripped again, righted himself, stumbled on. What they lacked in frolicking good natures they more than made up for in coin . . . and size. Arms as big around as Keelan's legs. Necks the size of . . . The toe of his saturated boot caught on something unseen in the darkness. He lurched forward, stopping his fall with his hands and feeling sheep droppings squish between his frigid fingers.
"Ahh," he said, rolling onto his back and laughing into the hard-driving rain. Where there were sheep droppings there were sheep, as ol' Toft was wont to say, Keelan thought, and grinned into the stinging deluge before struggling to his feet. Shuttling up a slippery incline, he gazed into the little dale that fell sharply away. It was as dark as the devil's broom closet below him, but dotted here and there among the sweeping hillocks were clumps of woolly gray. Sheep. Better known to the wayward Scotsman as dinner on the hoof.
Slipping back down the hill a scant few inches, Keelan fumbled with the ancestral sporran that hung from his waist. Opening it was no simple task, for his fingers had gone numb and stupid with the cold. His muscles were cramped and aching, but his night vision did not fail him. Still, dipping a dart into the corked vial was an onerous chore. Neither was it simple to fit the tiny weapon into its wooden tube. Yet he managed.
And voilÃ! Less than an hour later, the world seemed a brighter place. Quite literally in fact, for Keelan of the Forbes was squatting on his haunches before a small but optimistic fire. There was even a roof of sorts above his head. Granted, that roof was supported by slightly less than three walls and might well tumble in on him with any careless move. But 'twas daft luck that had led him to this dubious shelter in the first place, and he would ever greet good fortune with a merry "good day" when he happened upon it.
His ancient kinsmen had been entirely wrong. This was his path, despite their dire warnings. Who were they to warn him anyway? Their own lives had been fraught with dangers. Hiltsglen...the Black Celt. O'Banyon...the Irish Hound. And Toft...the Wanderer. They had tried to pretend they were naught but ordinary Highlanders, but he knew better from the moment he first met them. Saw the eerie strangeness in them just as he saw it in himself. But while their gifts were astounding...Hiltsglen's granite courage, O'Banyon's bestial strength, Toft's inexplicable abilities...Keelan's own talents seemed to be somewhat more humble. Sleeping, for instance. He was first-rate at sleeping. Well, that and chicanery. The Irish Hound had headed north looking for a healer and found naught but Keelan, a scheming Highlander just up from a lengthy nap.
Oh aye, Keelan had descended from these men of the mist, but he had somehow failed to inherit their talents. Thus, in the two years since his awakening, he had learned to make his own luck, to do without the creature comforts he had known in his former life. And now, after months of laborious scheming, circumstances were fast improving.
Eyeing the lamb that lay motionless at his feet, he grinned. Unless he was dreadfully mistaken, naught but good would come of this night's...
"Hello," said a towering shadow, and stepped inside the shelter. Firelight flickered on the bare arms that stuck like bulging sausages from holes in a sleeveless tunic.
Keelan scrambled madly to his feet. "Mary and Joseph!" he rasped, scurrying backward and crashing into the crumbling wall behind him.
"Actually . . ." said another, and stepped from the darkness, "my name is Roland." He was as slim as the other was stout, as small as the giant was huge. His round face looked angelic in the flickering glow of the firelight, and his golden hair gleamed like a polished halo. "And yonder gentleman is called Frankie."
Keelan shifted his gaze. Frankie was the approximate size of a draft horse and fisted his plowshare hands with impatient slowness.
"I dunna mind telling ye lads, ye scared the living blazes outta me," Keelan breathed. Always good to tell the truth if it suited his needs.
Roland smiled, but despite his angelic good looks, the expression did nothing to warm one's cockles even if one happened to know what the hell cockles were. "And who might you be, friend?"
Keelan skipped his gaze to the lamb near Frankie's mammoth feet and lied for all he was worth. "Me name be Bruce." His mind was racing like a cheating Englishman, skittering over well-laid schemes. Perhaps, after all, this was not his wisest plan to date. "Of the Highland MacLeods." Stepping forward, he reached for Roland's hand. They shook. "'Tis glad I am to meet ye." He shook Frankie's hand next, relieved when his own average-sized mitt emerged unscathed.
"I be Lord Seafirth's lad."
"Aye. Sure ye know him," Keelan said. "Deaf ol' bugger he be, but with a good heart. He lives over yonder." He gave his head a tilt in no particular direction. "Past Learloch Hills."Bewitching the Highlander
. Copyright © by Lois Greiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.