Tempted by the Highland Warrior (Harlequin Historical Series #1098)

Tempted by the Highland Warrior (Harlequin Historical Series #1098)

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by Michelle Willingham

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After years of brutal torture, Callum MacKinloch is finally free of his captors—but his voice is still held prisoner. He'd never let anyone hear him scream.

Although Lady Marguerite de Montpierre's chains may be invisible, they threaten to tie her to a loveless and cruel marriage.

When Marguerite discovers Callum waiting to die, her…  See more details below


After years of brutal torture, Callum MacKinloch is finally free of his captors—but his voice is still held prisoner. He'd never let anyone hear him scream.

Although Lady Marguerite de Montpierre's chains may be invisible, they threaten to tie her to a loveless and cruel marriage.

When Marguerite discovers Callum waiting to die, her heart aches for the warrior beneath the suffering—but they can have no future. Yet she is the one woman with the power to tame the rage locked inside him. Maybe he can find another reason to live…for her.

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The sound of a man screaming awakened her from sleep.

Marguerite de Montpierre jerked upright, clutching the coverlet as she stared at her maid Trinette. 'What was that?'

Trinette shook her head, her eyes wide with fear. 'I don't know. But we should stay here, where it's safe.'

Marguerite moved to the tower window, staring outside at the darkened moonlit sky. The man's screams had fallen into silence now. Already, she sensed what that meant.

Stay here, her mind ordered. Don't interfere. What could she do, after all? She was only a maid of eight and ten. Both her father and Lord Cairnross would be furious if she went out alone.

But if someone needed help, what right did she have to remain in her chamber? Fear shouldn't overshadow the need for mercy.

'I'm going to find out what it was,' she informed her maid. 'You can stay here if you want.'

'My lady, non. Your father would not allow this.'

No, he wouldn't. In her mind, she could imagine her father's commanding voice, ordering her to remain in her bed. She took a breath, feeling torn by indecision. If she remained behind, she would be safe and no one would be angry with her.

And someone could also die. This wasn't about obedience; it was about trying to save a life.

'You're right. The Duc would not allow me to leave. But he's not here, is he?' Marguerite murmured. She prayed her father would return as soon as possible, for with each day he was gone, her life became more of a nightmare.

Guy de Montpierre, the Duc D'Avignois, didn't know what was happening here, for her betrothed husband had behaved with the greatest courtesy toward their family. The Duc was a man who valued wealth and status, and Gilbert de Bouche, the Earl of Cairnross, would provide a strong English alliance. A youngest daughter couldn't hope for a better marriage.

But although the earl had treated her with respect and honour, his cruelty horrified her. He was a man who firmly believed the Scots belonged in servitude. He'd captured several prisoners of war, and she'd observed them building walls of stone for hours on end.

Trinette shivered, looking down at the coverlet. 'I don't think you wish to anger Lord Cairnross by leaving this chamber.'

Marguerite didn't disagree. But the prisoner's cry haunted her, digging into her conscience. She'd seen Cairnross's slaves and the men were so very thin, with hopelessness carved into their faces. Two had already died since her arrival. And she suspected, from the screaming, that another man lay dying.

'I can't stand by and do nothing,' she murmured. Otherwise it made her no better than the earl.

She pulled on a closely-fitted cote with long sleeves, a rose-coloured surcoat, then a dark cloak. Her maid gave a resigned sigh and helped her finish dressing before she donned her own clothing.

It was past midnight, and soldiers were sleeping along the hallways and in the larger chamber of the main wooden tower. Marguerite kept her back to the wall, her heart trembling as she stepped her way past the men. Her father had left half-a-dozen soldiers of his own as her guards; no doubt they would stop her if they awakened.

She left the wooden tower and moved towards the inner bailey. There, she saw the cause of the screaming. A man, perhaps a year older than herself, was lying prostrate upon the ground. Blood covered his back and his ankles were chained together. Long dark hair obscured his face, but she saw his shoulders move. He was still alive…for now.

Marguerite whispered to her maid. 'Bring me water and soft linen cloths. Hurry.' Though she didn't know who the man was, she wouldn't turn her back on his suffering. He needed help, if he was to live through the night.

Trinette obeyed, and after the girl disappeared, Marguerite took tentative steps toward the man. When she reached the man's side, she saw him shudder, as if he were cold. She didn't want to startle him, but whispered quietly in English, 'Would you allow me to tend your wounds?'

The man tensed, his palms pressing into the ground. Slowly, he turned his head and his battered face was swollen and bruised. But the man's dark brown eyes were empty, as if he felt nothing. She knelt down beside him and saw his blood staining the ground.

'I am Marguerite de Montpierre,' she said, switching to Gaelic in the hopes he would understand her. Though she was good with languages and had been learning the language of the Scots for the past year, she worried about her speech. 'What is your name?'

The man studied her, but didn't speak. Pain darkened his expression and he eyed her with disbelief, as though he couldn't understand why she would show pity. A lock of hair hung down over his eyes and she reached for it, moving out of his face.

It was meant to help him see better, but the moment she touched him, his hand captured hers. Though his palm was cold, he held her hand as though it were a delicate butterfly.

The gentle touch startled her. Marguerite's first instinct was to pull her hand back, but something held her in place. When she looked past his injuries, the planes of his face were strong, with the resilience of a man who had visited hell and survived it.

She waited again for him to speak, but he held his silence and released her palm. It made her wonder if Lord Cairnross had ordered the prisoner's tongue cut out. She lowered her gaze, afraid to ask.

When Trinette brought the wooden bowl of water and linen, Marguerite saw the man's shoulders tighten with distrust. 'Stay back,' she whispered to her maid, 'and call out if anyone approaches.'

Marguerite dipped the first cloth into the water and wrung it out. Gently, she laid it upon the prisoner's bloody back and he expelled a gasp when she touched it. 'Forgive me. I've no wish to harm you.'

Though his mouth clenched at her touch, he made no move to push her away. Marguerite tried to wipe away the blood and dirt, hoping the cool water would soothe him. She'd never tended wounds such as these, for her father did not allow her near the soldiers when they were injured.

The sight of his blood bothered her, but she forced away her anxiety. This man needed her. As she cleaned his wounds, she kept her touch light, knowing how it must hurt. The whip lash had gouged his skin, leaving harsh ridges that would form scars.

'Why did he do this to you?' she asked, soaking the cloth again. She moistened his cheek with the cool cloth and he touched his mouth and throat, shaking his head as if to tell her he couldn't speak.

'It was you who cried out in pain earlier, wasn't it?'

The man shook his head. Then he stretched out his arm and pointed into the darkness.

And Marguerite saw the motionless body of a prisoner with sightless eyes.

Every bone in Callum MacKinloch's body ached, his limbs raging with pain. He couldn't move if he'd wanted to. The English soldiers had beaten him bloody, then continued with twenty more lashes.

They hadn't killed him yet, but they would. It had become a test of endurance. Although his body was weak and broken, his mind had transformed into an iron band of strength. He hadn't cried out in pain, for he'd lost the ability to speak, almost a year ago. After all the nightmares he'd witnessed, he supposed it wasn't surprising.

Another wet cloth covered the lash wounds and he shuddered. This woman had offered him compassion when no one else would. Why? She was betrothed to the earl, a noblewoman who shouldn't have left the sanctuary of the keep. From his peripheral vision, he caught glimpses of her. Her rose gown accentuated her slim form, and, as she leaned forward, long strands of golden hair hung from beneath her veil.

Callum didn't deserve her sympathy. He'd been locked away for the past seven years, ever since he was a boy. His father had died in the raid and he'd been taken captive, along with his older brother Bram.

He lowered his face to the ground, wondering if Bram had escaped after all. It had been a while since he'd left and though his brother had sworn he would return to free him, Callum didn't believe it. How could he?

No one would save him. It wasn't possible. He was going to die, likely tortured to death.

Callum closed his eyes, wincing when Lady Marguerite sponged at one of the deeper wounds. The feminine scent of her skin cut through the fetid air, like a breath of mercy. He held on to it, inhaling deeply, as if he could absorb the memory of her.

When she'd finished, she lifted the cloths from his back and tried to ease him to sit. Callum glimpsed her face and wondered if he had died after all. Her clear skin and heart-shaped face were fragile, with soft lips and blue eyes that would haunt him for ever. He'd never seen a more beautiful creature in all his life.

'You're cold,' she whispered and removed her cloak, settling it around his shoulders. Her scent clung to it, along with her body heat. He smelled exotic flowers and a hint of citrus, like perfumes from a distant land. As he stared at her, he took in the signs of her wealth—not only the expensive silk gown, but also the softness of her hands and her pale skin.

How could she marry someone like the Earl of Cairnross? The idea of such a man possessing this innocent maiden made Callum's hands clench into fists.

You couldn't stop him even if you tried, came the voice of reason. The whipping had nearly killed him. He still wasn't certain why the soldiers had stopped. They'd left him here, no doubt believing the exposure to the cold air would finish his life.

Instead, Lady Marguerite had intervened. Though he wished above all else that she could help him to escape, tonight it would be a futile effort. A dozen guards patrolled the gate and he lacked the strength. He could hardly stand, much less run away from Cairnross.

Callum struggled to rise, but his knees seemed to fold beneath his weight. Lady Marguerite reached out and helped him balance himself. Though her face flushed at having to touch him, she offered, 'Let me help you.'

He shook his head in refusal, steadying himself against a stone wall. He'd rather crawl on his knees like a dog than make her lower herself in such a way. She'd tended his wounds and given him her cloak for warmth. He couldn't understand why she would want to help a stranger and a Scot at that.

Closing his eyes, he heard her murmur words of comfort in her own language. He heard the softness of her French accent, the soothing tones sliding over him like silk.

When he tried to take a step forward, his legs gave way and he nearly stumbled from his chained ankles. Lady Marguerite moved to his side, bringing her arm around his waist for support. He wanted to tell her no, for he was filthy and bloodstained. She shouldn't have to endure contamination from him.

But she walked at his side, guiding him across the fortress. 'You're going to be all right,' she whispered. 'I'll come to you and bring food. Perhaps when you're stronger, I'll petition the earl for your release.'

He sent her a questioning look. Why? Why would she spare a moment for someone like him?

The troubled look in her eyes suggested that she didn't know the answer. When he removed the cloak she'd given him, his hand brushed against hers. Her lips parted and he wanted to kneel at her feet like the goddess she was.

Callum didn't want her pity. Though his body and voice might be broken, he wouldn't allow her to believe that he was less than a man. His hands threaded with hers, the cold skin merging with warm.

He brought her fingers to his ragged cheeks, absorbing the warmth. A few strands of her golden hair slipped from her veil, resting against her throat. And when he brought her hand to his lips, she inhaled a gasp.

He released her instantly, expecting her to pull back in disgust. Instead, her eyes were shining with unshed tears, her fingers remaining upon his face.

'I won't forget you,' she vowed, pulling her cloak around her shoulders. Then she picked up her skirts and disappeared into the night.

In the shadows, Callum caught a movement and turned his head. The Earl of Cairnross was standing there, watching.

And fury burned within his eyes.

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Tempted by the Highland Warrior 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Laura_Polito_McEleney More than 1 year ago
Callum and Marguerite's story was well worth the wait for those of you who, like me, have been waiting for Callum's happily ever after. Michelle Willingham has once again delivered a story that will grip your from the very first to the very last word. Her way with the written word will have you laughing, crying and hoping her characters will be able to overcome each and every obstacle that is thrown in their path. Whether you're struggling along with Callum as he tries to find his voice again, literally, after enduring years of torture or Marguerite trying to find her own voice by standing up to her father and fighting for the man she loves. Is the Duc, Marguerite's father really as hard hearted as we think? Will her betrothed, Peter, Lord Penrith, release her from their betrothal and follow his own heart? I love the little bit in the epilogue with Peter! It's great to revisit with Bram & Nairna (Claimed by the Highland Warrior) and Alex& Laren (Seduced by her Highland Warrior) also. Tempted By The Highland Warrior is one of those love stories that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. I know I'll be tempted to go back and read it over and over, just as I have with all of MW's previous books.
NavyWave62 More than 1 year ago
ONE OF HER BEST WORKS - GREAT JOB MW!! I stayed up late reading this because I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen to Callum and Marquerite. This book will not disappoint!! I can't add anything more than has already been written by other reviewers. Just know, this is an beautiful story, many twists and surprises.Well worth your time and money. It is just over 200 Nook pages, but alot is packed in those pages. Better if you read them in order to get the full effect of all the character's and how they are all connected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ofcourse the cover drew me. But the story kept me. Highly recommended. This one kept me up reading till way into the night. Loved it!!!!.
ThaisP More than 1 year ago
Do you believe in love at first sight? I do! I've had the chance to look at someone in the eyes and feel as if we had known each other all our lives. It gives me goosebumps to this day. And I relived that when I had the chance to read "Tempted by the Highland Warrior". And so much more... The main characters have a connection from the second they met, a bond so strong that it empowers our heroine, who otherwise would only abide by the rules. Their love seems impossible and you cannot help but going over page after page, devouring the words, cheering, crying, trying to imagine how they could overcome their problems and just... be together. Michelle Willingham presents this story in such a way that you feel as if you are there, living the story with Callum and Margueritte... Callum's story is exquisite! The first book I read by Michelle was Her Irish Warrior, which I read in Portuguese. I think I read it three times in the first week. I was hooked! I had to read the MacEgan brothers' saga. Fantastic!! One better than the other. And now, here I am , with new adventures and true love in store for me. Wonderful!
GailAdams More than 1 year ago
The sign of a great writer is that the characters and story line are so well written that you feel, visualize and are aware of your surroundings as the story unfolds and comes to life. The characters and story are written with such clarity one feels they are there in time and place. From the first page of Michelle Willingham's advanced reading copy Tempted by the Highland Warrior to the last page, I couldn't put the book down. Callum was so protective of Lady Marguerite and it was love at first sight for him. Lady Marguerite's tenderness toward her knight and love proved so strong throughout the book. I fell in love with the characters and just held my breath that all would work out for them. Add in one overbearing aunt, a determined father and a prospective change in Marguerite's life. If you love suspense, nail biting, twists and unexpected turns and an interesting climax, then this is the book for you. It is definitely a must read. Michelle is a master storyteller and you will want to put this book on your must read list.
Kooky71 More than 1 year ago
Look at those eyes. Mystical, drawing you in. The Archer on the front, ready to defend the woman he loves. Amazing! This cover begs you to turn page after page. What's inside is quite frankly stunning. A roller coaster of a romance, packed with passion, unrequited love, determination and a mute MALE virginal Archer hero. You cannot get better than this. From page one Michelle has the reader immersed in Medieval Scotland. In amongst leather, heather, castles and conflict. There is tonnes of that. The fight scenes are rich in description and at one point I thought I could hear swords clanging and arrows flying over my head. As for the interaction between Marguerite and Callum. Passion, determination, desire. Everything that makes a romance great is within these pages. Like a rollercoaster ride, they are together, no they arent. Someone else comes into the equation.....Noooooo, let them stay together. Then a HUGE secret (not saying), mouth open. Do they finally get their Happily Ever After with all they have been through. Ha ha, you will have to read this to find out. I LOVED this. The love scenes were spicy and written with enough emotion for the reader to feel swept away with happiness. This book is a VERY MUCH beloved part of my bookshelf.
MelanieMeadors More than 1 year ago
Tuesday night I started reading Michelle Willingham's Tempted by the Highland Warrior. I finished it Wednesday night. For me, a homeschooling mom who has only so many minutes to steal from a day for reading (never mind my writing), this is a rare thing! But I could not put this book down. Ladies and gentlemen, read this book and observe how a short historical romance should be written. Never once while reading this book did I wonder "Well, why can't the heroine just...?" Never once did I say, "Come on people, it's not that hard!" Willingham did a spectacular job at raising the stakes, and just when I thought things couldn't get worse, she raised them again. There were none of the ludicrous situations you see so often, no silly misunderstandings. There was believable and original conflict around every turn, and the characters were sympathetic with genuine plights. I fell in love with the hero, and I wanted to be the heroine. This hasn't happened to me in a while. Yes, I love historical romance. I really enjoy reading the genre. But this book made me feel like I was experiencing life in 1300s Scotland. The setting was convincing; I liked seeing the political backdrop playing so subtly into the story. This is not the first of Michelle Willingham's books I've read, and while I have enjoyed the others (one of which, Her Warrior Slave, actually brought tears to my eyes. Her heroine's experience of losing a child is very convincing and the emotions are genuine), this one deserves 5 star placement on my shelf. I certainly hope this book gets RITA attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent! This is one great story. Callum and Marguerite' characters are wonderfully written. I loved the fact the in this story the hero and heroine admitted their love for each early and the angst came from their circumstances. After all and not because of an antagonistic relationship. A hellion and a brute annoys me. I loved the fact that even though Marguerite was raised to do her duty, she decided that she would put her happiness first and live on her own terms.  Callum....what can I say; this guycould convey emotions without opening his mouth. A very sexy hero.  I highly recommend this book and will read it again. Definitely on my most favorite list.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was truly on the edge of my seat throughout the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LRML13 More than 1 year ago
The inner strength of Callum allows him to persevere under the torture and captivity he suffers. Marguerite cannot stand by and not offer her help to Callum after a brutal beeting leaves him wounded on the floor of his cell. This meeting stays with both of them long after and each begins to have feelings for the other despite the many obstacles set up to keep them apart. The dialogue between the two characters is stronger for the fact that only one of them actually speaks. Michelle Willingham's ability to convey Callum's un-spoken words through physical gestrues and thoughts adds to this romantic drama. Definintely not my last read from Michelle Willingham. LRML
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was cute. It wasn't my favorite but entertaining.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved loved loved it.....a must read
FastReaderMJ More than 1 year ago
This is the third book of this series...I skipped the 2nd book and had no problems picking up with this one. Would recommend....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
aretha_2105 More than 1 year ago
HIGHLEY RECOMMENDED. I f you love historical romance, this book is a must buy. If you believe in love at first sight, this book will deliver you a beautiful romance of first love and true love