Finlay Cameron, the bastard son of an English earl and a Scottish mother, weds stunning, outgoing Blair Macnab to ensure her clan’s loyalty to King Charles. She’s everything he’s ever wanted in a wife, but he suspects she may be plotting his murder.
Always considered to be nothing more than a pretty face, Blair Macnab yearns to prove her worth. She refuses to be used as a pawn for political gain, but when confronted by a blackmailer, her only option is to marry the brawny Finlay Cameron.
In Finlay’s arms, she feels safe for the first time ever. Until she learns that her blackmailer is hot on her trail and her secrets could soon be exposed…
Each book in the Highland Pride series is STANDALONE:
* Highland Deception
* Highland Redemption
* Highland Temptation
* Highland Salvation
* Highland Obligation
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About the Author
Lori Ann Bailey is a winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award and Holt Medallion for Best First Book and Best Historical. She has a romantic soul and believes the best in everyone. Sappy commercials and proud mommy moments make her cry.
She sobs uncontrollably and feels emotionally drained when reading sad books, so she started reading romance for the Happily Ever Afters. She was hooked.
Then, the characters and scenes running around in her head as she attempted to sleep at night begged to be let out. Looking back now, her favorite class in high school was the one where a professor pulled a desk to the center of the room and told her to write two paragraphs about it and the college English class taught by a red-headed Birkenstock wearing girl, not much older than she, who introduced her to Jack Kerouac. After working in business and years spent as a stay-at-home mom she has found something in addition to her family to be passionate about, her books.
When not writing, Lori enjoys time with her real-life hero and four kids or spending time walking or drinking wine with her friends.
Visit Lori Ann Bailey in the following places:
http://loriannbailey.com - be sure to sign up for her newsletter for exclusive content and so that you don't miss any news.
Read an Excerpt
Scotland, June 1643
The Macnab laird's study
How do ye tell a lass the man she is betrothed to is dead?
Finlay Cameron, the bastard son of the English Earl of Middlesbrough and the Cameron laird's aunt, had practiced the words over and over on the endless journey north from the successful, but bloody, melee in Edinburgh to the Macnab lands. A battle that had been fought in a futile attempt by the Covenanters to eliminate any Royalist lairds still loyal to King Charles.
But now, as the sun set both on the day and his time, he felt as if he had not adequately rehearsed the words he knew would change Blair Macnab's world.
It would most likely be easier if he didn't have a tender spot for the beauty. Not because of her looks, but because he'd seen there was more to her when he'd accompanied the Cameron laird to visit the man's sister and her friend Blair. He'd always harbored hope that the bonny lass would look his way.
After entering the castle's gates and stabling the horses, feet heavy as if he'd walked the journey instead of riding comfortably astride his mount, he rubbed his hands together and trudged toward the Macnab keep with Blair's brother John. Dread spiked its way into his lungs like the thick mist that floated on the morning moors, making it hard to take a full breath.
Hell, he'd never been good with words.
What would he do if she cried?
"Are ye certain ye wish for me to tell her?" He'd done his part and delivered the news to John Macnab, but the man had taken a few moments then looked him over as if he were the answer to some prayer.
"Aye. 'Twill be best if the news comes from one who saw it happen." Blair's brother's lips quirked to the side, and he wasn't certain if the man wanted to avoid witnessing the pain it would bring to the lass or if he was worse than Finlay with women. "I had left before the fighting started. She may no' believe me," John insisted, but he had a strange gleam in his eye, more like he was plotting versus mourning the man who had been slated to become his brother by marriage.
"All right then, but ye should be there in case she needs someone to cling to."
The thought of Blair trembling in his arms over another man would be almost as bad as watching helplessly as that same man mistreated her only two weeks earlier. If it had been within his rights, he might have killed the man himself for the way he'd abused the lass.
Shaking his head, his steps carried him under the ornately carved crest above the entrance to the Macnab stronghold. Despite the motto etched into the stone, Let Fear Be Far From All, he had the urge to turn and charge for the familiar embrace of the battlefield. Swords he knew how to face, but his tongue went numb when he tried to talk to a bonny lass, and it had been no different the times he had been around Blair.
"Did she love him?" His lips moved before he could stop the question that had been plaguing him for the last few nights. His parents had loved each other, but it hadn't been enough to change the circumstances of his birth or the life he'd been forced to live.
Bloody hell, he was certain she'd had relations with Henry Montrose. She'd spent a couple nights in the arse's room.
His steps faltered, and he froze. His blood drained from his head so quickly he thought he might tip over.
The thought that churned in his head now solidified like the weight of a great oak felled by a mighty wind, leaving the landscape changed forever.
She can't be with child.
Images of his mother, hardier than the petite Blair Macnab who looked as if the slightest breeze would work against her, toiling to keep them fed and refusing help from his father flashed in the back of his mind. A boy tossed back and forth between parents who were like thunder and rain when they came together, but oil in water when it truly mattered. No child should have to live with the stigma of being a bastard.
"Who really kens with a woman's heart?" He detected a hint of bitterness in the reply as if John was speaking of someone other than his sister.
He turned his gaze to meet John's. Blair's brother wore the expression of a man doomed to the gallows, but his thin lips also hinted at currents hidden beneath the surface. "But truly, I think Henry may have only been the best choice in a line of no options."
Turning appraising eyes in his direction, John peered at him a moment, sighed, and apparently deciding he could be trusted, blurted, "I was hoping to make a match for her with a Royalist clan. She had options, but none as well-spoken and comely as Henry. The others were also twice her age."
"I'd assumed The Macnab had made the arrangements."
So, she'd probably had little say in the matter.
Finlay had known Henry Graham for years and had always been aware the Earl of Montrose's cousin was an egotistical bastard, putting himself above others. The man had no heart, risking the future of a vulnerable lass only to take his pleasure with her before seeing to it they were properly wed first.
Why had Blair Macnab chosen him? Were her other options that much worse? Aye, the arse was easy on the eyes, but as far as he knew, it was his only redeeming quality.
"Nae. I had to talk my father into it. His health is failing, and I'm afraid it affects his judgment."
"What will ye do now about her?"
A grin spread across pale skin as eyes the same sapphire blue of John's sister's glanced upon him with a glint that raised the hair on his arms. "Ye will marry her."
Pulse pounding in his neck, he pushed away the odd thrill that shot through him, along with the dread that tightened his muscles. "Nae, ye cannae mean that. She willnae want me."
It was time he took a wife, and he'd considered looking, but he had visions of a wife who would care for him, one who would remain by his side no matter the odds, and one who wouldn't be tempted to leave him when he was torn between two homes that both required his loyalty.
And, he'd seen the way Blair had looked at the Graham arse and the way she'd not given Finlay a second glance; the lass had no interest in him.
Still, the thought of coming home to a bonny lass like Blair heated his blood and made him ache for the gentle touch of a woman, something he'd only let himself indulge in a handful of times.
"Trust me. 'Twill be a solid match. She would be in good hands with yer ties to the Camerons and the king. I cannae trust Father no' to marry her to a Campbell Covenanter. I bet he'll be planning it as soon as he hears the news of Henry's demise."
"There has to be someone else."
He hated the way his heart thumped, the shortness of breath. But, most of all, he despised the part of him that was denying he wanted Blair Macnab.
The lass would likely want nothing to do with him. Henry had known how to woo a woman with words and a charm his half brothers taunted him that he could never possess.
"Nae. It must be ye. I've kenned ye long enough to trust ye with her, and there is nae time to find someone else before my father marries her to a Campbell who I will have to stand against if it comes to war."
"Are ye certain?"
"Aye, she will be amenable."
But that's not what he wanted in a wife.
Could he grow to care for her? Would it be enough that she had the intelligence to help him with his complicated life? Could he settle for a wife who didn't want him?
Shaking his head, John held up a hand, "Dinnae decide now. Stay the night and think about it. I'll talk to Blair."
Finlay thought to protest, retrieve his horse, and leave for England. He kept his objections to himself, because he was exhausted and needed to rest. But if he was honest with himself, he wanted to see the bonny lass one more time.
* * *
"Nae, Father. Ye cannae mean to sign that document."
Blair Macnab's father had always been able to drive her mad with anger, but this was the first time his actions had inspired disgust. Fisting her hands on her hips, she glared at The Macnab as he sat at his desk, ignored her protestations, and studied the papers in front of him as if they were a shield against her words, ones which held no sway with him.
"Aye, I do." He peered over the top with his imperious gaze that implied nothing she ever did would break through his tough facade, and she'd never live up to his expectations. But that no longer mattered to her; he was not the hero she had once believed him to be.
How could he sell his soul to his highest bidder or to the man who offered safety at the expense of denying the very principles that had held their clan together for centuries? But then, their people's desires wouldn't matter to him, because the best option he'd given her was to be betrothed to a man who had forced her to do things she would never be able to confess. She shivered and pushed away the thoughts of her impending marriage and the poor choice she'd made.
"Then ye will be sending Macnab men to England to fight for a cause they dinnae believe in."
Balling her fists so tightly that nails dug into her palms, her voice barely rose above her normal calm demeanor, but 'twas a strain to keep the tenor down to a somewhat respectable level when she had the urge to scream in defiance. It was the one emotion she'd never let her father see, always doing her best to be a loyal daughter and devoting her entire self to being the best at all she set her sights on, proving a woman was valuable as something other than a vessel to an heir.
"Ye dinnae ken what has to be done to keep a clan safe."
She understood more than her father believed. Signing the papers she'd discovered on his desk meant he'd be sending Macnab men to England to help the English Parliament defeat King Charles. It was suicide, on top of a betrayal of their country.
"And 'tis why ye agreed to let Henry Graham ask me to be his wife." Fingernails dug into her palms. Had her father known the man she'd been fooled into accepting had the temperament of Satan when he was challenged? She was furious with herself for being fooled by Henry's charm. She prayed her father had been unaware of the man's true nature, because it would destroy him completely in her eyes, if he'd known of the man's proclivities.
"Aye, he is a good match. If 'twill keep the Grahams from raiding our lands 'tis worth it." Setting down the papers, he swept his hand across the parchment reverently then turned his full attention to her. His face darkened to a shade of red that made her think of the blood of the men he was willing to sacrifice.
It was too late for her, but perhaps she could persuade her father to save their clan. "Ye cannae play both sides, Father. 'Tis dangerous." Shaking her head, she sighed. He'd not give her words the credence he would give those of a minstrel spinning some farfetched tale about chivalry and true love.
"I'm doing what I need, and I will discuss it with ye nae further." Flattening his palm on the table, a loud thwack echoed through the room.
She flinched, but it jolted her anger to an escalation point. "When I'm ensconced in the Graham household and yer Covenanting friends come in the night to slit our throats, 'twill nae matter to ye."
"My signing that agreement may be the only thing that keeps ye safe." Standing, he towered over her and glared down with the full weight of his wrath and the disapproval he'd always held for her.
This time, she didn't cower. "How could ye no' stand up for yer clan's beliefs and support yer countrymen?" Lips pinched and jaw ticking, he pointed toward the door.
She stomped for the exit, determined to hold back the fury that bubbled over before she said something she would regret.
Her father had used her yet again, based on her supposed attractiveness, not only devaluing her skills but selling her to the bidder with the most political clout, not caring that his actions would put her life in danger.
After pulling open the door, she marched through, only to freeze at the sight of two hulking forms stalking toward her from the main hall. Instinct screamed at her to flee. But, this reaction was new to her, brought on by her recent traumatic events, and she wondered if she'd ever be able to look at a man again without questioning his nature. Most likely not, once she was wed to the man who had instilled this panic in her.
She would not let Henry's actions rule her, especially not in the home she'd spent years managing. No other man had ever made her feel threatened.
She stood tall, even as she shut her lids to bolster her courage.
"Blair," broke into her thoughts as a familiar voice reached her ears. She opened her eyes.
Her brother, John, halted just shy of her. She'd not seen him since she'd left Edinburgh almost two weeks ago. As she threw her arms around him, hope and comfort replaced the despair that had taken root. He returned the embrace then drew back.
"Och, I'm so glad ye have made it home."
"I'm happy to be back."
Blinking, she took in the man beside John, and the panic from before melted. It was Finlay, a clan member and guard to Kirstie. She'd seen him on many occasions when he'd been here with the Cameron laird to visit her friend, who had been living with her the last few years. Swallowing, she met his gaze, tamping down her confusion. "Is Kirstie with ye?"
"Finlay has news for ye," her brother cut in. Curious, she tilted her chin toward him.
Dread settled into her chest. John hated delivering bad news. And it would be just like him to bring in another to do the deed. "Och, no, where's Kirstie?"
"Henry Graham is dead." Finlay seemed to put himself between her and her brother, as if shielding her from the news he stated so calmly.
Time stopped, and her heart pounded as the men in front of her stilled, blurred, and faded into the background.
Stunned for the first time in her life, she didn't know what to say. Her mouth fell open as if she should reply, but nothing came out. Only two weeks earlier, she might have broken down in tears, but she'd gotten to know her betrothed too well on her recent trip to Edinburgh. It only felt like yesterday that Henry was looming over her, forcing her to do things she'd not wanted.
Ramifications spun through her head. Bile rose in her throat, and her hand flew up to cover her mouth. She lowered her hand and gripped her skirts, leaning into the wall for support. "How?"
Finlay studied her, and he looked as if he wanted to take her in a reassuring embrace but didn't want to intrude on her personal space. She wished he would; she needed to be grounded as the world was swept from under her feet.
What would her father do now? At least with Henry she'd been able to choose, even if he had been an awful decision. She fought back the tears that threatened to spill as she imagined being required to wed a man who would force her to follow the Covenants and denounce the things she held dear.
"A group of Covenanters attacked us in Edinburgh the day after the meeting." Finlay broke into her thoughts as he imparted the rest of the story.
Maybe there was hope for a better match.
Och. She was being insensitive. Henry had lost his life — she should show some concern for the man who would have been her husband, despite the indifference he'd shown for her well-being. The man had treated her like a whore.
But, he was dead.
Her stomach knotted, and her limbs numbed. What would happen when she was ordered to marry and her new husband discovered she was no longer a maiden?
Nae, now was not the time to think about herself.
Lifting her gaze to the Cameron man, she said, "Was he in pain? What happened?"
Finlay answered, "I was near him when it happened." His hand took hers as those hazel eyes met hers. She was surprised she didn't flinch and wasn't repulsed by the gesture. His touch was reassuring, kind, and she found herself being pulled toward him without really moving.
"'Twas swift, and I am certain he didnae feel much." Licking his lips, he swallowed then broke from her stare, tilting his head down only to once again give her a reassuring glance. Was he hiding something?
Trembling now, she wondered if it was from pain at the loss or fear of what was to come. She'd worked so hard to find a husband that both she, John, and her father could agree on. Her friend Kirstie had been certain there was real danger waiting for the Royalists in Edinburgh. She'd never once considered Henry might be in peril or that he had been the threat she should have feared.
Knees wobbling, she struggled to calm her breathing and think logically. "I need to sit." She regretted the words immediately because Finlay released her hand, and it fell limp to her side.
"Come," John said as he moved, raising his hand to knock on their father's study. Shaking her head, she backed from the door.
"Nae. He doesnae wish to see me just now." Her eyes pleaded to beg off.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Highland Salvation"
Copyright © 2019 Lori Ann Bailey.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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