The Highlander's Stolen Brideby Melanie George
Lady Rosalyn Carmichael is on the run from her evil stepbrother, who will do anything to gain her inheritance. When Derek Hardwicke rescues her from an attempted kidnapping in London, she gratefully accepts the protection of his remote Scottish castle. And though Derek's devilishly handsome looks inspire scandalous fantasies, a secret from her past means those fantasies must forever remain dreams....
A Highland laird, Derek intends to marry his childhood friend Megan MacPherson, since only a Scottish wife will satisfy his clan. But beautiful Rosalyn awakens feelings he never dreamed he'd have. And while he has promised to keep her safe, the attraction between them burns too hot to deny. Now, with danger inching ever closer, he must choose between his allegiance to his clan and a passion like he's never known....
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Read an Excerpt
Rosalyn had the dream again.
It was the same dream she had been having for years, but the ending would always fade, leaving her flushed and breathless.
Now he had become a part of the dream.
The faces had become theirs, the passion a scorching flame that would heat her skin and have her waking with her nightclothes clinging to her.
She was a woman with secret desires -- a woman with an acute sensual instinct, living her private fantasies in the darkest part of the night, in the deepest recesses of her mind, where she could be brazen and audacious.
She had been sixteen the day sexuality awoke inside her untutored body. She had been attending a soiree with her parents. She had gotten lost in the enormous mansion and found herself at the opposite end of the house. She heard a noise behind a closed door, and thought she would find someone there to help her.
She knocked upon the door, but the noises within had only grown louder. She feared the woman she heard crying was in trouble, injured perhaps.
Rosalyn opened the door, and stumbled upon something devastatingly arousing to her senses.
A woman, wearing only a maid's apron around her waist, was down on her knees in front of a tall, fiercely built man with nary a stitch of clothes on. The woman's golden hair cascaded unbound down her back and was clasped in the man's meaty hand as he guided her head forward.
Rosalyn could barely contain her shocked gasp as his thick, hard rod disappeared inch by inch into the woman's mouth, her wet lips clasping and sucking the silky head.
The man's head was tipped back, his lips parted, his breath releasing in a groaning hiss as his stiff member stroked in and out of the woman's mouth, her hands guiding it, savoring it.
He shoved her hands away and pushed forward so the whole of his staff was covered by her moist lips, his movements becoming increasingly frenetic until a moan spilled from his lips, and a white froth erupted from the tip of his member.
Rosalyn stood in shock, unable to move. She must have made a sound, because the man shot a glance toward the door. No look of anger crossed his face. Instead, he smiled, as though pleased to have been caught in such a lascivious act.
"You like what you saw, young one?" he asked in a deep rasp. "Come back to me when the throbbing between your legs needs appeasing. Big John will pleasure you." He grasped the chin of the female still on her knees before him and said, "Won't I, my dear?"
The woman looked at Rosalyn with a cocked eyebrow and a wicked grin. "Oh, yes, he certainly will."
Their laughter followed Rosalyn as she raced down the hallway, stopping only when she ran out of breath. She felt scared -- and yet her breasts tingled, and a strange moistness had accumulated in her nether region.
Since that day, Lady Rosalyn Carmichael had used her dreams as a tool as she waited for him -- the one. The only man she would grant her virginity.
And as the night wore on toward the morning, her dreams focused on that man. A man who had walked out of her dreams and into her real life.
He had eyes of velvet blue, piercing and intense. Black hair glossy as a raven's wing. A body of rugged elegance, brawny beneath his tailored exterior. His beauty mocked all those around him as he smiled at her in a faintly wicked way from across the ballroom.
Rosalyn shivered as he approached, unable to pull her admiring gaze from his tall form, noting how he moved with careless grace, leaving her slightly dazed and barely aware of her best friend, Francine Fitz Hugh, who stood beside her.
Fancy's guardian, Lucien Kendall, walked alongside the darkly beautiful man. When the stranger stopped before Rosalyn and spoke, his deep, low voice tripping along her nerves in the most disconcerting fashion, she knew.
She was doomed.
Rosalyn could read her downfall in the assessing glance he leveled on her, as though he knew a secret he had no intention of telling.
"Derek," she murmured in her sleep, tossing fitfully, reliving the kiss he had given her in Lady Senhaven's garden. The scent of honeysuckle had surrounded them, the guests no more than forty yards away, a scandal in the making as she allowed -- nay, begged -- him to take liberties, moving his warm, large hand from her waist to her breast, tugging down the material to free the soft globes from their strict confines, loving the way he thumbed her nipples, rolling them lightly, leaving them swollen and sweetly sore as she guided his mouth to them.
A strange sense of abandonment swept over her, an excitement beyond all self-restraint as she placed her hand for the first time against a man's hardness. She felt it lengthen as she caressed it, marveling at its ever-increasing size and at her own power as a woman.
If only the refined people dancing in the ballroom knew that she was not the girl they had labeled an innocent, gently bred and nurtured, elegant, graceful. A proper young woman.
Rosalyn was afraid to let even her best friend, Fancy, know of that darker side of her nature. Fancy had never judged her, but Rosalyn worried that her friend would look at her differently if she knew the wanton woman she truly was.
The dream suddenly evaporated and her eyes snapped open as a hand clamped down over her mouth, her gasp muffled into a callused palm.
"Utter a single word," a foul-smelling voice hissed, "and y'll be one very sorry miss."
A stranger stood beside her bed, dressed in dark, filthy clothes, the left side of his face obscured by shadows.
"Get up. An' be quiet. There's a man waitin' most impatiently for y'."
Rosalyn was jerked to her bare feet, feeling exposed and frightened in only her nightgown.
Calder had found her!
She had known her stepbrother had not given up in his pursuit, trailing her from Cornwall to London after his unsuccessful attempt at kidnapping her from Moor's End, Fancy's home in Cornwall. Rosalyn had been staying there since learning of Calder's twisted plot to marry her and do away with her, so that he could obtain her inheritance.
The last time he had attempted to accost her, she had put up a fight. This time she would go quietly -- she could not jeopardize the people she cared for. Fancy had nearly gotten killed trying to protect her from Calder's last assault; she had to face the swine alone this time.
Rosalyn straightened her spine as the man pushed her toward the window. She swallowed back her fear as she looked down from her room on the second story to the ground below, where a hemp rope swayed unsteadily in the night breeze.
"Make a peep," her kidnapper growled, "an' I'll gut y' like a fish. Now through the window with ye." He gave her a shove.
Rosalyn stumbled forward, her mind working feverishly. If only she was more like Fancy, who had disarmed the two thugs Rosalyn's stepbrother had hired to bring her back to Westcott Manor.
"Out the window," her kidnapper demanded, his tone brooking no argument.
"May I at least get some shoes?" Rosalyn asked, glancing down at her bare feet.
"No," he snapped. "Now get movin' -- or do y' want me to toss you over my shoulder an' carry y' down?"
She'd rather fling herself bodily from the roof. "I'll manage, thank you."
Hoisting up the hem of her nightgown, she straddled the windowsill, fervently wishing a white knight would suddenly appear to save her.
Where was Derek right now? Still at the Duvalls' cotillion, flirting with Lady Jane Windermere? "I don't need him anyway," she muttered.
"What's that?" her kidnapper snapped.
Rosalyn dearly yearned to erase his scowl with a bracing punch to his already crooked nose, but she'd probably only succeed in falling out the window.
"Are you sure this ladder will hold? Perhaps we should go by way of the front door."
"Missy," he said, pressing his face close to hers, his breath rank enough to make a skunk turn tail, "y're wearing mightily on my patience, and that ain't a good thing."
With that warning ringing in her ears, Rosalyn tested her right foot on the first rung, then swung her left leg over. She'd make a run for it the moment her feet hit the ground. She could easily outdistance the brute, as he was rather stocky and clearly in less than perfect physical condition.
Her left foot had just settled onto the rung when her bedroom door flew open. A figure loomed on the threshold, backlit by the flickering sconce in the hallway, creating a menacing apparition.
The glint of steel told her a gun was trained in their direction. "Step away from the lady," the voice said, "or I'll blow your bloody head off."
Derek! How had he --
The thug lunged toward the window, causing Rosalyn to swing back, her feet slipping from the rung. She cried out as she began to fall, scrambling for the rope ladder and dangling by a single hand.
Derek's arm thrust through the open window to grab her with one hand. "Hold on," he told her as he struggled with the man, who cried out a moment later as he fell past her and hit the ground with a bone-cracking thud.
Rosalyn stared down at his unmoving form, her fingers twisted painfully in the rope, sheer will all that kept her from the same fate. Derek's hand clamped around her other wrist. "I've got you."
The next moment she was hoisted through the window and clasped tightly in Derek's arms. She fell against his chest and closed her eyes, her whole body trembling.
After a few moments, Derek gently shifted away from her to look down into her eyes, concern etched plainly on his face. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"Dear heavens, what's going on here?" a voice called out.
Rosalyn glanced over Derek's shoulder to find Lady Dane standing in the doorway, her long mahogany hair unbound and flowing around her shoulders, her wrapper trailing behind her, confirming that she had flung herself from bed.
"An intruder made his way into her bedroom," Derek explained.
"Sweet Lord." Clarisse hastened into the room and knelt down beside Rosalyn.
"I'm all right," Rosalyn assured her.
"Come, my dear," Clarisse gently urged, patting Rosalyn's hand. "Let's get you to the bed."
Derek lifted Rosalyn into his arms, ignoring her protests. Once she was settled, he said, "I'll check the grounds and send for the constable."
"Thank you," Clarisse said as Derek headed out of the room, his face a mask of deadly seriousness. Rosalyn almost felt sorry for whomever he might run across.
How she wished she had never let Fancy talk her into coming to London! She had only managed to involve yet another person in Calder's evil intentions.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean for any of us this to happen. I'll leave in the morning."
Clarisse waved a dismissive hand. "Nonsense, you're not going anywhere. If you think I'll allow a mere cretin to scare me, you have much to learn." As though Rosalyn were a child in need of care, her hostess adjusted the pillows behind her head.
"I should go home," Rosalyn insisted, knowing that nothing awaited her there. Her parents were both gone, and the man who had treated her like a daughter for five years had succumbed to illness a few weeks earlier, leaving Rosalyn with no one but a stepbrother who wished her dead.
"Home?" Clarisse scoffed. "That's out of the question. Think rationally, my dear. This is the best place for you. Derek is a champion pugilist. He won't let anything happen to you. Nor will I."
"But if anything were to happen to you..."
"Nothing will happen to me. Besides, I could use a bit of excitement in my life. Now, I assume this was the work of your diabolical stepbrother?"
Rosalyn nodded. "I don't know how he found me. Mr. Kendall was so cautious with my safety."
"I'm sure he was. But desperate men will go to desperate measures. The only way we shall put an end to his machinations is to catch him."
"Calder is slippery. He always stays one step ahead."
"Then we need someone who shall stay two steps ahead. Someone far more dangerous and ruthless than Calder will ever be."
Derek regarded himself in the mirror above the mantel in Clarisse's plush living room and saw a man who had aged ten years in a matter of minutes.
An hour ago he had left the Duvalls' soiree, unable to endure the mindless chatter of his on-again off-again paramour, Lady Jane Windermere.
There was a time not long ago when he would have tolerated the woman's endless rambling about herself, knowing that once he had her in bed, moans rather than blather would pour from her lips.
But he had noticed something disturbing: a growing boredom with the opposite sex. And he was a man of enormous carnal appetites, which had earned him a place in an exclusive bachelor's club, the Pleasure Seekers. The other six members were his closest friends in the world, whom he would trust with his very life, and vice versa.
Yet his restlessness went deeper, to a level he didn't want to examine. A need had begun to stir within him, a desire to do something no devout bachelor would ever do.
Settle down with one woman.
He envisioned eyes of green fire and hair of the palest blond that fell nearly waist-length, like some fair maiden from a book of yore. But Lady Rosalyn Carmichael was very real.
She had caught his eye the moment she had entered Clarisse's ballroom three weeks ago for the coming-out ball of Lucien's ward, Lady Francine. Derek had never believed in angels, or God for that matter, but the sight of Rosalyn had made him a believer. Only a higher power could have created something so exceptionally lovely.
But it was far more than her beauty that drew him to her; it was the hint of sadness and vulnerability he glimpsed in her eyes. He had felt a strong desire to protect her -- even before Lucien had filled him in on the girl's murderous stepbrother, Calder Westcott, a man Derek's fists longed to meet.
Derek stared at the rope that he had yanked down from Rosalyn's bedroom window. If he had been any later...He didn't want to contemplate what would have happened.
He wondered how Rosalyn was faring at that moment. Was she still frightened? Did she need him? He desperately wanted to go check on her, make sure she was all right. He'd nearly had a heart attack when he saw a shapely leg swing over the side of the windowsill, and then spotted the flaxen hair he had imagined gathering into his hands all night.
Derek didn't know what had drawn him to her doorstep. He hadn't consciously decided to go to Clarisse's house after leaving the soiree, but that was where his feet had taken him.
Behind him, the door to the parlor quietly opened, then closed. "I see you've availed yourself of the liquor."
Derek turned and watched Clarisse as she moved with subtle grace across the floor. She was still a spectacular-looking woman, and many men would have killed to have her, but since her husband's death she had chosen to remain alone. She was a strong woman, and he admired her. He was glad they had remained friends all these years.
"Mind pouring me one?" she asked.
"Already did," he replied, reaching behind him for her glass.
"You always were a resourceful man."
Derek nodded toward the door. "How is she?"
"She claims to be perfectly fine. but while she is a surprisingly strong young woman, considering what's she's been through, I doubt she's fine at all. She does not want to burden anyone, which only adds to her struggle. She could use a protector, and quickly."
"Are you suggesting I assume that role?"
Clarisse smiled demurely over the rim of her glass. "I'm suggesting no such thing, my lord."
Derek shook his head. "You always were a cagey woman, Lady Dane. Far too smart for the likes of the men who pursue you so vigorously."
Clarisse sighed and sat down on the settee. "I fear she will try to leave."
Derek had worried about the same thing. "Where might she go?"
Clarisse shrugged. "I don't know. She's got no one. Her horrid brother appears to be the only family she has left. How terrible to have to live in fear of the people who should protect and cherish you.
"Well," she continued with a sigh, "I shall come up with something. You've done more than your share. Had you not arrived when you did..." She shivered, then cocked her head and frowned. "Why, exactly, were you here in the middle of the night?"
"I was restless, so I went for a stroll."
"A stroll, hmm?" A slight grin turned up the corners of Clarisse's lips. "How very fortuitous for us."
Derek glared. "Yes."
"Well," she sighed, rising to her feet, "I must get back to check on my guest. And you must get home. If I remember correctly, you are leaving tomorrow for Scotland."
"Yes." He had come to England only to settle his mother's estate. Now that that had been taken care of, he had no reason to stay.
Except for Rosalyn.
Something about her pulled at him. He had never considered himself particularly heroic, although Megan, the lass he had grown up with, would disagree. Her five very protective older brothers, however, did not share her opinion. They believed he should be skinned and hung from his ankles.
"Are you all right?" Clarisse asked, regarding him with a furrowed brow.
"Fine." He stared down into his drink. "I'd like to stay on your couch tonight, make sure nothing else happens." When he glanced up, he found Clarisse smiling again.
"That would be wonderful. I'd feel ever so much safer knowing you're here -- as would Rosalyn," she added pointedly. "I would prefer you sleep in a real bed, however, since I have seven of them. Perhaps the room next to Lady Rosalyn's?"
The temptation would be great, but what would be his excuse for declining? "That will be fine. Thank you."
Derek followed Clarisse from the room, telling himself that he was just staying until the morning to make sure nothing more transpired during the night and to see that Rosalyn had sufficiently recovered from her experience. Once he knew she was safe and taken care of, he would depart.
He would hire a protector for her. A Pinkerton man, perhaps. He also knew a high-ranking constable who had recently gone into business for himself, a fine fellow with spotless credentials. Either one would do.
Derek glanced at Rosalyn's closed bedroom door as Clarisse opened the next door over and gestured him inside. As he bid her good night, he wondered why he didn't feel the least bit pleased with his decision.
Copyright © 2006 by Melanie George
Meet the Author
Before she discovered romantic fiction, Melanie George was the CEO of an executive-search consulting firm. Her most important job, however, has always been that of mother, to both a much-adored son and two precious dogs. When she is not writing, she is trying to restore her hundred-year-old house and has come to the conclusion that paint speckles will more than likely be a permanent part of her person. Melanie enjoys hearing from readers, and you can visit her website at www.melanie-george.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I thought this book was great. It was funny, loving, and sensual. But 'supposedley' Rosalyn is barren so at first she refuses to marry Derek, but who really knows if she is? I really would have liked to see them marry and have children. As the book was ending, I kept thinking this can't be it. I turned the page and it was over just like that. I love Derek and Ethan (who I think will have his own book) but I think the book should have had another 30 pages to it, and an epilouge. I think there will be more to Derek and Rosalyn in Ethan's book, but I think it should have been put in this one, also i don't really want to wait and see if Rosalyn and Derek end up having kids. It was a great book, with a bad ending.
Highlander Laird Derek Hardwicke is settling his late mother¿s English estate while also visiting a friend where he meets English Lady Rosalyn Carmichael, who is fleeing her nasty step brother Calder Westcott. After Derek rescues Rosalyn from an intruder, she explains that Calder plans to wed and kill her to gain her inheritance. For her safety, Derek takes her to his keep Castle Gray though he knows he must ignore his attraction to her as he is expected to wed childhood friend Megan Trelawny whose brother is lord of a rival clan.----- However he fails at keeping his emotions in check and soon Derek falls in love with the woman he vows to protect Megan reciprocates. Still duty and the expectations of his clan that he forges an alliance with the Trelawany brood by marrying Megan serve as powerful inhibiters. To wed an English rose could prove an affront to Megan¿s clan and enable his step-brother Ethan to foster further dissension within his clan and gain an edge to take over. Meanwhile the diabolical Calder sets in motion a scheme that will enable him to gain access to the keep and ultimately Rosalyn.----- Though the antipathy between the half-brothers is somewhat irritating, the relationships between the lead couple and the disapproval of everyone (except Megan) especially his clan coupled with the sinister brilliance of Calder comes together in a tense wonderful historical romance. The exciting story line is clearly character driven with Derek as the center struggling between duty and love. Calder is a fabulously sociopathic villain whose final plan is lethally brilliant. Scottish historical romance readers will appreciate this fine ¿Pleasure Seekers¿ tale by George.----- Harriet Klausner
The ending could have been better
Predictable plot, not much in the way of characters if you like memorable ones and page after page of sex scenes. Ends abruptly.