For more than a decade, Elaine Coffman has dazzled readers with her moving historical romances. Hailed as a star of the genre, she captured the hearts of fans everywhere when she created the magnificent Mackinnon family saga featuring five memorable brothers and the women who loved them. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY is wild Ross Mackinnon's story, a captivating tale of old feuds and new beginnings. . . .
Lady Annabella Stewart had lived a pampered life in Scotland. Then handsome, blue-eyed Texan Ross Mackinnon turned her sheltered world upside down. He had come to Scotland to claim his ancestral home; instead, he found a beauty who would claim his heart. But she was already betrothed to a man she didn't love, destined to live in a place she hated. Yet Annabella couldn't resist Ross's rebellious spirit and the passion in his soul. Ross would do anything to help her escape. But first he had to accept his birthrighta title that could stop him from winning his lady of the Highlands.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.33(w) x 6.69(h) x (d)|
About the Author
She lives in Washington, D.C.
Read an Excerpt
Her mother made a big to-do about straightening a few books on the bookshelf beside her, her cheeks suffused with bright red color. She did not look away until the duke cleared his throat and said, "I think I'll join you."
Distracted by the pillar of meekness her mother had suddenly become, Annabella found her attention momentarily diverted from the catastrophe at hand. She almost smiled at the novelty of it.
The duke took advantage of this unexpected lull and bolted for a finely made wine cellarette and opened it. Taking out an elaborately gilded decanter inscribed BURGUNDY and removing the cut spire stopper, he poured himself half a glass. A second glance at his wife made him hastily fill it to the brim. He finished that glass and half of another before he spoke. "When I fell in love with your mother and wanted to marry her, her father wasn't too keen about marrying his daughter to an Englishman, regardless of the fact that I had Scottish ancestors."
"He must have warmed to the idea," Annabella said. Then looking suddenly horrified, she sprang to her feet and asked, "Don't tell me you aren't married."
The duke laughed and regarded his youngest with loving fondness. "Of course we're married."
Relieved, Annabella sat back down as her father continued. "Old Donald McCulloch agreed to the marriage, because he was a shrewd old buzzard and knew uniting his family with such an illustrious English family as mine was a wise decision. But he made on stipulation: If we had only one daughter, she was to marry a Scot."
"You have six daughters," Annabella put in.
"There's more to it than that," the duke said. "If we had severaldaughters, the youngest one had to marry a Scot."
To be singled out to suffer by her very own grandfather was a fate she didn't deserve, and she cursed the solitary event that would change the course of her life. How unfair it was--but there was nothing she could do except ache for what might have been and hate the callousness of her unfeeling grandfather--which did nothing to endear anything connected with Scotland to her.
"Donald McCulloch is dead now. What difference does it make whom I marry?" Like a mouse in a trap struggling to free itself, Annabella felt her emotions go from anger, to desperation, and back to anger. "You aren't afraid of a dead man, are you?" The moment she uttered the words her head flew up and her eyes widened. She wondered if it was fear or anger that drove one insane, for surely she must be so to speak so to her father.
But if he was offended by her pinprick of a challenge, he took no notice. "No, I'm not afraid of a dead man," he said thoughtfully. Then, shaking his head with disbelief, he added, "although I do feel that if anyone could make it back from the hereafter to haunt me, old Donald McCulloch could. He was a superstitious man, a believer in bogeys and warlocks, kelpies and monsters. And all this was sprinkled with a daft streak." The duke glanced at his wife, and seeing Anne wasn't taking any of this too badly, he went on. "You were born at midnight and Donald believed any child born in the wee sma' oors was destined to be different."
"Different," Annabella repeated. Then as if it had suddenly become apparent, she added, "And he made certain that I would be different, by forcing you to such an agreement." A sudden afterthought made her eyes widen. "You don't have to keep your promise," she said meekly. "He's been dead for a long time. Probably no one remembers such a promise."
"He had it written into our marriage contract, so he could rest easy. If you don't marry a Scot, Bella, we would be guilty of breaching the contract."
"Isn't there any way we can get out of my being forced to obey? What if I never married?"
"You don't have that choice," the duke said, looking away from her.
"And if we refuse? If we breach the contract, what happens?"
"Our marriage could be invalidated and all of our children declared illegitimate."
Rising to her feet with a swish of ruby red Chinese silk, Annabella walked to the ornately carved library doors and paused. "I wish Grandfather were still alive," she said to her mother. "So I could tell him just what I think of him and his stipulation." Then Annabella did something she had never done before. She slammed the door behind her.
The duchess released a long-held sigh. "Dear me," she said to the duke. "Do you suppose we have a rebellion on our hands?"
"No," the duke said. "It's just some of that wild blood from your side of the family that's boiling. But don't worry. Annabella has been reared with a firm hand and a strong understanding of what is expected of her. Good breeding and discipline will carry her through when common sense won't. She'll come around."
His wife was still staring at the door. "I'm not so sure," she said.
"My love, our daughter is an English lady through and through. She won't let us down."
"I know, but she reminds me so much of my father. Every so often I feel that wild Highland spirit lives on in Annabella."
"Your father was dead before she was a year old. She's never even been to Scotland."
"That doesn't matter. My father always said it took two generations to breed Scots blood into a man and two to breed it out. Annabella is only the first generation."
"I still say we just need to give her time. She'll come around and see things our way."
Over the weeks that followed, Annabella hadn't warmed to the idea, nor had she begun to see thing their way, but she had accepted it, as she did all dictates from her parents. She might be half-Scot, but she was, just as her father had said, all English lady. She had been reared to fear the Lord, honor her mother and father, and exhibit the suitable qualities of a gently born English lady, behaving with well-bred appropriateness at all times. The proper upbringing of the daughters of the Duke of Grenville was of prime importance, and great care was taken to see that all six of the duke's daughters learned to display, by their restraint, the superior birth and breeding. For all of her young years, Annabella Catriona Stewart had behaved, not as she pleased, but as was expected of her. Never, not even once, had she been a disappointment to her parents in that regard.
And now, several weeks later, she was far from the civilized life she had known at Saltwood Castle, or even at the Duke of Grenville's town house in London. Here she was at Dornoch Castle, a place of bleak landscapes and swirling, dark waters, where even the roar of the sea couldn't drown the harsh echoes of the Scottish tongue. Even in her bitterness, she tried to remind herself that this was her mother's home, the place of the duchess's birth.
Reminding herself of this fact, Annabella looked at the gilt-framed paintings that lined the damp stone walls. Her own history stared back at her. Within these cold gray walls lay part of her past. But her future? What of that?
Annabella looked at her mother's concerned face and felt her legs tremble. What had her mother said? Smile, Bella, and try to look happy. Looking happy was impossible, but knowing how important it was to her mother, she did her best to smile. Smiling was difficult. Especially when one was crying inside. Never had she felt so helpless or so hopeless. She had been given no time to adjust to the horrible shock, to the surprise revelation that she was to marry a man of her father's choosing--and close to her father's age--when the next thing she knew, her father had announced she would marry a Scot.
Never to live in England again? She felt her eyes burn with repressed tears as she stole a look at her betrothed once more. What a travesty. What an insult. She would never be ready to marry him, the man they called John Gordon, the Earl of Huntly.
She had known it since yesterday, from the moment she had first set eyes upon him. Perhaps it was only the difference in their ages that made her think of him more as a father figure than a lover, but after Colin McCulloch had introduced them, Annabella could only stare, her eyes huge with alarm and disbelief. Through a bleary haze Huntly had cupped her chin in his hand and turned her face to the light.
For a moment he stared down into her pale green eyes, seeing something one could call only hopeless resignation in their depths. He released her. A cold hardness settled within her heart.
"So you're Colin McCulloch's niece," he said, glancing at Colin, as if to see if there was any resemblance.
"Yes," Annabella said, feeling tortured by her own misery.
"No one bothered to tell me you were such a bonny lass."
And no one bothered to tell me you were so old. Despair welled within her.
After a miserably long dinner, they had parted. Annabella offered her hand and felt a shiver as his cold lips pressed against it. At that moment, she knew this man would never be capable of "igniting a fire within her and bringing the slumbering coals of passion to life," as she had overheard her father say to her mother. The Earl of Huntly didn't look as if he could ignite a trail of gunpowder with a blazing lucifer.
With sublime effort, Annabella forced herself to give her attention to yet another toast. At least all this champagne was dulling her senses and quelling the desire to cry. She listened to more comments and wishes for married bliss. Her head ached and she felt strange, as if she were watching all this from some place far away. Surely this was all a dream--a nightmare for which she would soon awake. Trying to shut out the reality, she closed her eyes, remembering, wishing, knowing even as she did it was all fruitless. Everything was lost to her now. Her future was sealed. Last night she had slept in Dornoch Castle for the first time. Just one night ago she had fallen into a deep, troubled sleep and heard voiced--voiced that made her remember the tales told at dinner, tales of how the McCullochs had always been known for their courage, and how they would ignore the opinion of the world and risk death and damnation for what they believed in.
She had opened her eyes. She wasn't at Dornoch Castle, or even Saltwood, but a strange place, a place of swirling mists with the crashing sound of the sea nearby. She was standing at an altar beside her betrothed, when a strange, dark mist began to fill the room and the sound of bagpipes saturated the air. And then she saw him, tall and straight as a Scottish fir, his hair as black as midnight and eyes as blue as a bonny loch, his strong body wrapped in yards of plaid and swirling mist.
Suddenly he was between them, taking her hand from her betrothed. Shouts erupted. A dozen swords were soon at his throat. Yet the sound of his laughter rent the air. His plaid drifted like the mist, all about her, and Annabella felt herself lifted and borne away. She fought against the plaid that covered her face, tried to see his face, to ask his name.
Then she awoke.
The memory of that dream brought the rise of emotion to the back of her throat. Maintaining her composure was difficult, but she called to mind all she had been taught, remembering who she was and what was expected of her. With firm resolve, she began to take hold of herself. She wasn't a child who believed in fairy tales. Lord Huntly was her reality, her betrothed; there was naught she could do about it, short of dying, and she wasn't quite ready for that yet. Her dark brows drew together. As Huntly turned to speak to her mother, Annabella looked him over.
AS far as gentlemen went, she could do worse, she supposed. He was handsome enough--for an older man--but nothing about him or his manner stirred any feeling to life within her. At least he wasn't fat, or ugly, or illiterate and uncouth. At least he looked very much the English gentleman, with his sandy blond hair and pale blue eyes. And he dressed very much in the manner of an English gentleman. As far as manners were concerned, he was as proper as any English lord, and that was just it. Everything about him was proper and dull, and she couldn't shake the feeling that her life with this man stretched before her as bleak and barren as these windswept moors. In Annabella's opinion, Lord Huntly was plain as English pudding.
Gordon, as if sensing her study, turned toward her and smiled fleetingly. But Annabella knew all about practiced smiles. Hadn't she spent hours herself in front of a mirror under the tutelage of her governess practicing a smile, a flutter of eyelashes, or the opening of her fan with a flick of her wrist? Women of the English ton would give up a London season for such a man. The thought distracted her, and she immediately found fault with not only his appearance but everything about him. How odd, she thought, that in a place overrun with wild, unruly men I should find his genteel appearance, his gentrified manners, his very Englishness, so annoying.
And then again, perhaps it wasn't any of those things. Perhaps it was only the fact that she was being forced to marry him that she found so distasteful.
Annabella shivered, as if a cold hand had brushed over her. She glanced around the room: nothing was out of the ordinary, yet she felt another presence. She pushed the feeling away and returned Huntly's smile. Although her smile was frozen and weak, he looked pleased by it. She sensed concealed mysteries behind his light-colored eyes.
Suddenly, and without warning, the doors to the hall broke open and a great wind filled the room, swirling and moaning and gutting candles. Two servants quickly closed the doors and an eerie silence followed as the candles were relit, one by one. The wind howled down the chimney, then was still. A light knocking was heard. Tap. Tap. Tap.
"A raven," Colin said. "Tapping at the window."
"A sign of death," someone behind Annabella whispered.
"Come, my lady," Huntly said. "Let them fall victim to their silly superstitions. It's naught but a tree branch scraping against a windowpane."
Annabella's benumbed mind reacted dumbly and she blinked in confusion at the man standing beside her. The earl held out his arm. "Shall we go?" he asked.
Annabella nodded and placed her trembling hand upon his arm, her touch whisper light. Together they led the way to dinner, Annabella's mind not upon the meal they would share, or even the lifetime they would spend together.
As they walked slowly toward the great dining hall of Dornoch Castle, she was thinking how she wished everything had been different. If she were going to be forced to marry a Scot, why couldn't it have at least been one like the famous Highland chiefs of old--the clan leaders she had always heard so much about--a man who would risk ruin or death for a dream of passion as wild as the Highlands, a bonny fighter with an adventurous spirit who would invade her life and conquer her heart, a man as passionate as he was reckless?
A man like the man in her dream. A man who would risk death and defy the world for what he believed in. A man who would laugh in the face of danger