First in a brand-new series from New York Times bestselling author Sabrina York about the bold, brawny men of the Highlands-and the lovely lasses who bring them to their knees...
Highlanders are her weakness.
Hannah Dounreay has no time for suitors who only seem interested in her family's land, which she manages as well as any man. If she marries, she wants to be loved for the educated, independent woman she is. But when a strong, silent-and spectacularly handsome-Highlander saves her from a violent attack, her heart is stirred. Who is this man? And if he asks for Hannah's hand, will she be able to resist him?
Love is the most powerful weapon of all.
Alexander Lochlannach, Laird of Dunnet, has no time to lose. The Highlands are in an uproar as clans battle for land-without mercy-and Alexander can't afford to fall for the wildly attractive, strong-willed Hannah. What's more, he has a desperate secret, one that could destroy them both. But as their attraction turns into an all-consuming passion, Alexander has no choice but to prove to Hannah that he's the only man for her-body and soul...in Hannah and the Highlander.
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About the Author
Sabrina York is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than twenty hot, humorous written works, including Hannah and the Highlander. Her stories range from sweet and sexy to scorching romance.
Read an Excerpt
Hannah and the Highlander
By Sabrina York
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Sabrina York
All rights reserved.
Barrogill, Caithness County, Scotland
She should look away. Really, she should. But Hannah Dounreay could not tear her gaze from the sight of the enormous man striding onto the field of combat like a warrior of old. It could have been the glorious fall of inky black curls riffling in the breeze, or the breadth of his shoulders, or the sharp cut of his chin ... or the rippling muscles of his bare chest, swathed only with the Sinclair plaid. But something had captivated her attention.
He stood, tall and proud, bare legged in the traditional kilt, head and shoulders above the other men. He was even taller than her father and Papa was not a small man.
Hoots and hollers rose from the throng as he surveyed the pile of logs — taunts from his competitors, who, one and all, wanted to break his concentration. They did not. His biceps bunched as he braced his thick legs and hefted a caber. Hannah sucked in a breath at the undeniable evidence of the sheer power of this man. An unfamiliar flutter danced deep in her core.
It was a shame he was too far away for her to make out the details of his face.
His body stilled, his energy hummed, as he studied the clutter of tossed cabers and took his aim. The catcalls rose. He ignored them and heaved back. With a great growl, he let fly. The log wheeled through the air like an arrow, arcing past all the others to fall with an enormous thud that shook the earth. A plume of dust rose, along with the cheers of the crowd.
Though she wasn't a fan of male posturing and ridiculous, archaic games such as this, Hannah couldn't deny she was impressed. This man had easily trounced all the others.
Her father approached him and clapped him on the back in congratulations. Papa said something and the tall, striking man threw back his head and laughed.
Hannah's heart hitched. The sound was like music, rising above the cacophony of the fair-like atmosphere, dancing on the wind to her ears. He turned then, and she caught a glimpse of his face. Hard. Harsh. As craggy as the moors. But, lit with his grin, striking.
Ach. She really should look away. But she couldn't.
Hannah whirled to frown at Susana. Heat prickled at her nape. First of all, because she'd been caught ogling. And second of all, she was tired of her sister's teasing about her reluctance to settle on a suitor.
Susana excelled at teasing.
And on the topic of suitors, there was much fodder.
"I have no idea what you mean." Hannah tried not to speak in a defensive tone but failed.
Susana smirked. "He's a fine bonny lad. I couldna blame you for drooling."
"I wasna drooling." And he wasn't a lad. He was a man.
"Although he's hardly your ... type."
Hannah snorted. She had no "type."
"I mean, look at him." Too late. She already was. Again. That Susana was now ogling him as well sent an odd ripple of annoyance through her. "Tall. Powerful. Domineering. It's written on every line of his face. That is a man you could never control."
"I doona need to control everything." A mutter.
There was no call for Susana to laugh as she did. Uproariously. The sound captured the attention of every male on the field. But then, it would. Of the three Dounreay sisters, Susana was by far the prettiest, statuesque and curvy. Her hair, a riotous fall of red, was her crowning glory. Lana, the youngest, was very pretty too, with honey-blond curls and sweet, delicate features. They each took after their father, but as they had had different mothers, they were very unalike in looks and temperament.
Beside them, Hannah felt like the cuckoo in the nest. She'd inherited her mother's coloring of dark, black tresses and pale white skin. Her eyes were too large and her mouth had a crooked slant. She was hardly stunning. Plain was a better word for it. Aside from all that she was, well, plumpish. Perhaps it was a blessing that, as the eldest, she also came with the fertile strip of land and bustling fishing village.
Likely, without that she couldn't catch a husband at all. Certainly not the kind of husband she would want.
It was quite lowering to be desired only for one's orchards. Well, there was the castle too. And the loch. And the lucrative salt mining.
Though it was naïve in this day and age, and probably ludicrous given what she saw in the mirror, Hannah reviled the prospect of marrying a man who only wanted her land. Deep in her heart she longed for a man who might want her for herself.
And, if she had to marry, she wanted what Susana had had with Gilley.
But she was not Susana. She was naught but a pale shadow in comparison. She was hardly a woman to engender blind devotion. When she married, her husband would, no doubt, see her as chattel, as a broodmare. He would expect her to follow his orders rather than issuing her own.
She'd never been adept at following orders and she'd certainly never met a man to whom she would willingly surrender her freedoms. And a husband would expect that, she supposed. The thought made her shudder.
Hannah frowned and turned her attention back at the field, where other men were now stepping up to try their luck. She winced as her gaze tangled with his. Indeed, he'd been watching her with a scorching stare that was fierce and assessing, almost hungry. And Susana was right. As attractive as he was, he was not what Hannah was looking for in a husband. Not that she wanted a man she could control. Above all things, she craved a sweet and romantic man, one with whom she could share confidences, laughter, and late-night chats. A man with whom she could have a connection.
This man was a warrior. There was probably not a romantic bone in his body.
Still ... that body. Heat blossomed on her cheeks at his frank survey and she yanked her attention to something else. Anything else.
Unfortunately, it landed on Niall Leveson-Gower, who was also staring at her. His attention made her uneasy. Then again, Niall always made her uneasy. He offered a toothy smile and she nodded in response but quickly looked away. She didn't want to encourage him. Niall was one of her suitors. His father, the Marquess of Stafford, had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to acquire Reay, a feat that could only be accomplished through marriage. To her.
Aside from the fact that she found Niall physically revolting, there was a greater peril to consider. The marquess had followed the example of the southern lairds and cleared his land, evicting his tenants to import sheep; should Reay fall into his hands, he would, no doubt, do the same there, destroying everything her family had built for generations.
She owed her people far too much to allow that to happen.
"Ooh," Susana gusted. "Now there is a fine figure of a man." She waggled her brows, which should have served as a warning.
Hannah glanced at the field just as Olrig waddled up to the caber toss. She grimaced. Another of her suitors, Olrig was as wide as he was tall, which she didn't mind as much as the fact that he tended to spray when he spoke. And then there was the farting.
It was unfortunate that Olrig bent over to survey the logs. The bright flash of twin fleshy moons nearly blinded her. "Good lord," she murmured.
"Such a tempting target." Susana fingered the bow draped over her shoulder; she was rarely without it.
"Nae doubt Olrig would object to an arrow in his hindquarters," Hannah advised her sister.
"Do ya think?" Susana's green eyes sparkled, but then, they always did.
With something between a screech and a bellow, Olrig tossed his caber. It didn't go far, clattering into a pile of the others and rolling even farther back. He grumbled and kicked at a hummock, as though blaming the earth for his shortcomings.
"Just think. One day, all that could be yours." Susana excelled at a dry tone.
But Hannah excelled at glares. She affected one. "I would rather marry a rutting pig."
Susana's shoulder rose. "Same difference. But his lands, merged with yours, would make an enviable holding."
True, but when it came to choosing a husband, a man's lands were her last concern. If she was going to bind herself to a man, give herself to a man, she wanted something in the bargain. Love, passion, a tiny voice within her whispered, but she silenced it. Love was a fool's dream. And passion? A hopeless hope.
Without conscious thought, Hannah scanned the crowd for another glimpse of that dark warrior, the one who made her body warm in a way it never had — though she would have denied it had anyone asked. Her mood drooped when she realized he was gone. "I think I've had enough of this," she said. There was no point in staying if there was nothing truly impressive to see.
"Oh, doona go," Susana cooed. "Olrig might bend over again."
"Precisely." Hannah swallowed a laugh. Once a decade was often enough for that view. Too often. "I think I may go visit the castle library."
"There's a shock."
"Do come with me."
Susana wrinkled her pert nose. "Stare at a room full of dusty tomes? I'd rather watch the games."
"And imagine how you could defeat them all?"
"Hardly a flight of fancy." It wasn't a boast. Susana had an aim so true, she could shoot a bird from the sky. Hannah couldn't hit the broad side of a castle. Unless, of course, she was aiming for something else. Likely Susana could outshoot every man in attendance. A pity she would not be invited to do so.
The gathering was for the men. Leaders from all over the region and their families had converged on Barrogill for this important meeting. The tiny village was no match for such an influx and the castle could hardly accommodate them all, so most of the lairds had set up tents on the lands surrounding the castle. The result was much like a festival. The games this afternoon would be followed by the convocation of lairds, to which none of the ladies had been invited.
Papa had dragged her to this gathering of the clans in hopes that she would settle on a husband, but the up close and personal inspection of the contenders had done nothing but harden her heart against them all.
She glanced at her sister, whose attention was fixated on the field. "I'll see you later then?"
"Hmm." Susana didn't even look up. The archery competition had begun.
Hannah sighed and started up the path leading through the assembled tents to the castle, which was perched on the top of a rise overlooking Pentland Firth. Though the keep was very old, dating back three hundred years, it had been well tended. It rose like a sparkling jewel, surrounded by a verdant swath of green lawn.
It was rumored to have a superb library.
And ghosts. Lana would have loved that. It was a pity she had not come to the gathering. Lana didn't care for crowds and had stayed home with Susana's daughter, Isobel.
Now Isobel? Isobel would have loved this. She was far too much like her mother.
The sounds of laughter and music faded behind her as Hannah made her way through the sprawling gardens, glorying in the stiff, salt-tinged breeze and the desolate vista of the churning sea beyond. The sun slanted in the sky, bathing the trees and flowers with a soft, peaceful glow. A kestrel wheeled overhead and she paused to watch its flight. She loved nature, in all its glory, and nothing was more glorious than an afternoon in Scotland on a lovely day in May. It was —
"There ye be."
Hannah's step faltered as a deep male voice wafted toward her. She turned and raked her hair from her eyes; the wind had kicked up, dancing her tresses about her face.
Oh, bother. Niall had followed her.
Skating a look around the garden, she realized, with a tightening in her gut, no one else was about. Likely, they were all watching the games. She sucked in a breath and braced herself for his presence. Part of her mind began planning the excuses she might offer to slip away. Of all the people she'd like to meet in a deserted garden — however pleasant it was — Niall was at the bottom of the list.
He stumbled as he scampered up the rise and then he stumbled again as he came abreast with her. Even without those clues, she would have known he'd been drinking. He stank of whisky.
He fixed a thin grin on his face as he dabbed the sweat from his brow. "Ye walk fast."
A complaint? Hannah didn't care. She hadn't wanted his company to begin with. She glanced toward the castle, where the legendary library awaited ... and sighed. Perhaps she could see it another time. It didn't seem wise to venture there with a drunken Scotsman by her side.
When she turned to head back toward more populated surrounds, he skittered to keep up. "Hannah." A gasp. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Aye?" She didn't stop. Indeed, she walked faster. Something about him set her teeth on edge, and the vast solitude that had been so pleasing a moment ago was now unnerving.
He halted her with a hard hand on her arm. She frowned at him. He didn't take the hint. "I said I wanted to talk to you," he said sharply.
The thread of command in his voice irritated her and the avaricious glint in his eye made the hairs on her nape prickle. "You can talk as we walk."
"Nae." His grip tightened.
"Niall, let me go." She tried to jerk free but couldn't.
His brow furrowed; anger simmered in his eyes. "I've offered for you twice," he said. "You denied me both times. Why have you not accepted my suit?"
Hannah tugged impatiently. "I haven't accepted anyone's suit."
His eyes narrowed to piggy slits. "I'm hardly just anyone. My father is a verra powerful man."
"Yes, well, I wouldn't be marrying your father, now would I?"
She should have known better than to taunt him. He was petulant and childish and a bully. His grip tightened to the point her fingers went numb. There would, no doubt, be a bruise. He leaned closer and hissed, "It willna go well for you, and your family, if you refuse me."
A threat? Fury rose within her and she yanked at her hand. He did not release it. "I will marry when I am damn good and ready. Now let me go."
He looked her up and down with a sneer. "Yer practically on the shelf."
Charming. Granted, at twenty-two she was well past the age most girls wed — indeed, Susana had married years ago — but Hannah was hardly on the shelf. Aside from which, if she was to marry it would not be this man. It would never be this man.
"Niall ..." A warning tone.
He was not warned. He edged closer. "I willna be denied, Hannah." His breath was fusty and foul as he spat, "Perhaps you need some incentive."
Ach. She didn't like the sound of that at —
Her thoughts scattered as he yanked her toward him, whipped her around, and slammed her against a tree. Then he pinned her body with his and smothered her with his mouth.
She nearly retched. For one thing, she didn't like being manhandled — she never had. For another, he tasted sour.
Without thought she plowed a fist into his soft gut. He doubled over with an oof, releasing her. She spun away, to sprint back to safety.
But he snatched at her skirts and caught her. She reached the end of her tether, as it were, and the impact caught her off guard; she tripped over her own feet, falling to the ground. The air whooshed out of her as she landed hard and smacked her chin against a stone. The impact dazed her, so she didn't move away quickly enough. Before she realized it, he was on her.
With a snarl he flipped her over onto her back and covered her, his hard groin an uncomfortable pressure against her belly. He fisted his hands in her hair and held her still as he pressed yet another kiss on her mouth. She thrashed from side to side to escape the noxious fumes, bellowing at him as best she could around the gag of his tongue.
"Shut up," he snapped, leaning up to work at something at his waist. With horror, she realized he was undoing his breeks. She tried to bring her knee up into his crotch, as she'd been taught, but he sidled between her legs, pinning her with her own skirts. When she flailed him with a series of blows to the head, he caught her hands and pinioned them with one of his.
He hovered over her, staring at her hungrily. His avid expression made something unpleasant slither through her. She knew — just knew — what would happen next if she didn't stop him. The prospect sickened her.
Frustration, anger, and revulsion slammed through her with every beat of her heart.
"My father is going to kill you," she hissed. And he would. If Susana didn't do so first.
Niall just laughed and tried to kiss her again. She turned her head away. Undeterred, he landed slobbery busses along her jaw. "Ye'll be ruined. Ye'll have to marry me."
"I'll never marry you."
Probably not the best thing to say to such an ardent suitor. It only infuriated him more. His eyes narrowed. A red tide crept up his face. "I will have ye," he muttered, wriggling around to yank up her dress.
Excerpted from Hannah and the Highlander by Sabrina York. Copyright © 2015 Sabrina York. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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