Colin MacLean has always felt like a black sheep—especially after his brothers are slain before his eyes in the Battle of Culloden. A smuggler by trade, Colin makes for an embarrassing chieftain. He can’t even save his friends from their British pursuers without getting himself captured. But before he is martyred by the hangman’s noose, Colin escapes with his cellmate, a brave lad he’s come to admire. It’s only in the depths of the Highlands that Colin discovers the lad is a lass—and a bonnie one at that.
Raised by her older brothers, Maggie Sinclair can drink a pint in no time flat and wield a dagger with the best of ’em. Still, men have always excluded her and women have always shunned her. Colin makes her feel different. His wild spirit and rugged good looks have Maggie reconsidering her less than ladylike ways. For the first time, she’s tempted to put on a gown, just to see how Colin would react. She can only imagine what might happen next: a kiss . . . a touch . . . and perhaps enough sultry heat to melt a cold Highland night.
Look for all of Sharon Cullen’s delightful historical romances:
The All the Queen’s Spies series: WED TO A SPY | BOUND TO A SPY
The Secrets & Seduction series: THE NOTORIOUS LADY ANNE | LOVING THE EARL | PLEASING THE PIRATE | HIS SAVING GRACE | SEBASTIAN’S LADY SPY | THE RELUCTANT DUCHESS
The Highland Pride series: SUTHERLAND’S SECRET | MACLEAN’S PASSION | CAMPBELL’S REDEMPTION
Praise for the novels of Sharon Cullen
“This Regency romance has it all—danger, blackmail, passion, love, and characters that draw you in and leave you wanting more.”—Fresh Fiction, on Sebastian’s Lady Spy
“Heart-wrenching and full of real emotion, proving that love is always the answer, His Saving Grace is the best book I’ve read this year!”—USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans
“A sizzling, smart relationship that evolves beautifully to capture readers’ hearts as well as their imaginations.”—RT Book Reviews, on Pleasing the Pirate
Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Margaret Sinclair was finding it more and more difficult to keep her back straight and not put her arms around the warrior in front of her. She desperately wanted to lean her head against his back and close her eyes for a moment.
The past few hours had been miraculous and surprising and frightening, and she still couldn’t believe that she was free and riding through the forest on the back of a horse with Colin MacLean.
For weeks her sole mission had been to keep her gender a secret. If the English discovered she was a woman . . . well, she had a fairly good idea what would happen, but she refused to think about it. She kept quiet, didn’t speak, and used the privy bucket only when everyone was asleep. Though it had made for some very uncomfortable days, she’d managed for weeks.
Her cellmate, the man sitting in front of her, had blessedly left her alone, making it easier for her to keep up her facade. She’d liked that, although she had to admit there had been times she desperately wanted to talk to him only because she hadn’t spoken to anyone in weeks.
But that would have been deadly, so she’d kept her mouth shut and watched him from her corner of the cell.
He was a large man. Wide. Not overly tall, like her brother. He was quiet, brooding. Those green eyes saw right past her, which was a good thing.
He was beaten quite regularly. Strangely enough, it was through his beatings that she’d come to admire him. He was stoic afterward, although clearly in quite a bit of pain.
She’d known that he was scheduled to hang the next day, and that had made her sad and afraid. She appreciated him as a cellmate because he didn’t ask questions, and she worried that the next occupant wouldn’t be quite so reticent. She also worried that her hanging was next, and she didn’t want to die.
But something miraculous had happened. Lord Campbell had given MacLean whispered directives, and just as unexpectedly, Colin was walking out of the cell and telling her to follow him.
And now they were riding hell-bent through the Highlands. The only problem was that the more time they spent together, the more likely her secret was to be discovered, and she wasn’t at all certain what his reaction would be.
He coughed and she frowned. She’d known he wasn’t feeling well. One didn’t spend every minute of every day with someone and not get to know that person well. His breathing had become harsh over the past day, and his cheeks had turned rosy beneath his thick black beard. And now he was coughing, and even through all of their layers of clothing, she could feel the heat radiating off him.
The sickness had swept through the prison. The already weakened prisoners had succumbed to it, many dying as a result. She’d prayed that she wouldn’t catch it because she couldn’t afford for her jailors to cart her off to the surgeon.
Slowly, she leaned forward to press her cheek against his solid back, mindful of the cuts of the whip. Even after weeks of being held prisoner, he was still muscular, and she could feel the flex of those muscles as he guided their mount through the darkness. Even though she could well take care of herself, she still felt safer knowing those broad shoulders shielded her.
Her eyes drifted closed. She straightened and shook her head, forcing herself to search the path behind them. It was automatic, and she was glad to be helping in even this small way. She’d hoped the dogs would have followed Campbell, but apparently they had not, for she could still hear them.
MacLean turned the horse to the right, causing their mount to stumble before finding his footing. She ducked when MacLean ducked and leaned when he leaned. They weren’t following a path any longer but making their own way through the lush underbrush. She understood his reasoning. He was making it more difficult for the dogs to follow.
They eventually came upon a stream. She could hear the soft gurgling of the flowing water before she saw it in the moon’s glow.
“The dogs will no’ be able to track us through the water,” he said, his voice vibrating through his back and into her chest. She hadn’t realized that she was leaning on him again and instantly straightened so they weren’t touching. She needed to stay alert, but his unnatural heat drew her to him.
They trudged through the stream for what seemed like eternity, soaking her boots and the bottom of her trousers. Her toes lost feeling first and then her calves, all the way to her knees. She’d gladly sacrifice feeling to escape the English prison, but she did hope they would exit the stream soon.
Just as dawn was cresting the majestic mountains, MacLean directed the horse out of the stream and up a slight rise. Maggie breathed a small sigh of relief to be out of the frigid water, even though the cool air didn’t offer much improvement.
MacLean leaned over the pommel and coughed hard, his body shaking with the effort. Maggie reared back, watching him with a frown. She wasn’t certain what she should do. Offer support? Pat him on the back? What did one do with a sick man? At home, she stayed far away from ill people. Unlike most Scottish lasses, she had not been trained in the art of healing and did not know the first thing to do.
He straightened with a groan. She placed a hand on his back, then instantly pulled away. It felt as if her hand had been singed.
“Ye’re hot,” she whispered in a low tone, trying to disguise her voice.
“No’ much farther,” he said in response. Was that supposed to appease her?
The horse continued to climb up a steep rise with the stream behind them and the mountains in front of them. The sun crested the peak of the mountain, bathing everything in pinks and yellows. It had been weeks since she’d seen the sun, and she realized that at some point she’d given up hope of ever seeing it again. It was breathtaking, and she vowed never to take it for granted.
“We leave the horse here,” MacLean said, and slid off, startling Maggie. Quickly, she dismounted, automatically feeling for the dirk and sgian dubh Campbell had given her. It felt good to be armed again.
MacLean loosely tied the horse’s reins to a low-hanging branch. “This way,” he said, and started to climb the steep rise.
Maggie scrambled after him.