Terror reigns in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. As British troops obliterate the last traces of the Jacobite cause, Brice Sutherland, the Earl of Dornach, risks everything to arrange a covert escape route to Canada for his fellow Scots. But when he encounters a dying Englishwoman, hauntingly beautiful though scarred by manacles and unable to speak, Brice’s true courage is put to the test. Nothing but ruin could result from helping her, or worse: falling in love.
The pampered daughter of a marquess, Eleanor Hirst was the talk of the London season when she wed the Earl of Glendale. Little did she know that his posting as an officer in Scotland would be their undoing. Now her husband is dead and Eleanor is a fugitive in a hostile country. Desperate for help, she throws herself on the mercy of Brice Sutherland, a handsome Scottish warrior who should be her enemy. Instead, he cares for her tenderly, reviving her shattered spirit—and awakening urges unlike any she’s ever known.
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 Sutherland’s Secret
“Fast-paced and intriguing, Sutherland’s Secret is the perfect historical read! A sexy, courageous hero and a strong, beautiful heroine find love in the face of danger. I enjoyed every page.”—Pamela Labud, author of To Catch a Lady
“Rich and romantic, Sutherland’s Secret captured my heart. What’s better than watching a pampered lady turn into a fierce Highland lass, willing to face any danger so long as she keeps her man?”—Violetta Rand, author of the Sons of Odin MC series
“Cullen’s first installment in the Highland Pride series reads well as a stand-alone novel, while hinting at adventures to come with some of Brice’s clansmen. Fans who crave a bit of mystery mixed with their romantic historical fiction will be drawn to this story of love, loyalty, and honor.”—Library Journal
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
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Brice and his men were still two days’ ride from home, and he was itching to get back. He’d been gone far too long for his peace of mind. There were too many things to get done and, as usual, not enough time to do them. As he’d been doing since Graham’s meeting, he tried to decide which men he could sacrifice for the Tèarmannair.
Brice would have liked to have discussed Graham’s plan with MacLean. But MacLean had ridden off in the direction of his land immediately after the meeting. Maybe they could split the duties and Brice would have to supply men only half the time. ’Twas worth speaking to MacLean about.
Galad, his mount, sidestepped and tossed its head, pulling Brice from his thoughts and causing him to yank hard on the reins to remain seated. Damnation, but he needed to keep his head about him, especially with English soldiers patrolling these roads.
Brice spotted the cause of his mount’s fright. A pile of rags lying in the middle of the road. The hairs on the back of Brice’s neck prickled, and he held up his fist in a silent command to stop the line of warriors behind him.
Brice quickly glanced up and down the path, pulled his broadsword, and dismounted. Behind him were the sounds of swords being unsheathed and pistols cocked.
Using his broadsword, he poked at the rags. They were disgustingly filthy, caked with mud and what looked like blood and any other manner of muck that he didn’t want to contemplate. And they stank. No wonder Galad wouldn’t step over them. But what was odd was that they were lying in the middle of the road. It wasn’t even really a road. A wide path would be a better description.
Lachlan, Brice’s second in command, stepped up beside him and peered down at the refuse. “’Tis nothing but rags. Let’s move on.”
Brice bent down and pulled at the rag. Beside him, Lachlan gasped and Brice shot to his feet with a curse. ’Twas no pile of rags but a body.
“Saints above,” Lachlan said. “What the hell is this?” He crouched down and peered closer. “A woman.”
“The hell ye say,” Brice growled.
“My lord.” Calum, one of his youngest warriors and still in training, came running up from behind the line, breathing hard. “Redcoats,” he said, fear in his eyes. “Coming up behind us.”
Lachlan began ordering the men into the trees while Brice made a fateful decision. He picked up the pile of rags, shocked by how little the girl weighed. Why, he had dogs that weighed more than she did. Clucking to Galad to follow, he hurriedly made his way into the trees and crouched behind a boulder. He slapped Galad on the rump, and the horse trotted off into the forest.
His men fanned out behind him, finding cover where they could while Brice held the woman close to him. He was fully prepared to cover her mouth should she awaken as the soldiers were passing.
Saints preserve him, but if he’d just stepped into a trap, he would be mighty displeased. He had no ready excuse as to why he was riding with a retinue of men. That alone was enough for the English to stop him and possibly arrest him.
He looked down at the lass. Her face, caked with dirt and grime, was pressed against his chest. Her nose was small, her eyes . . . Well, they were closed, so he couldn’t tell much about them, but her brows were nicely formed and her lashes fair and delicate. Her hair was an indeterminate color, matted and covered in filth. Her stink reminded him of his dogs when they rolled in something they’d found on the ground.
The English soldiers crested the hill, riding in a straight line, their red coats and gleaming silver buttons too bright against the forest’s muted backdrop. Just more proof that the English were a blight upon the Scottish landscape. There were only six of them. Brice and his men could easily take them, but to what end? To be hunted by more soldiers? It wasn’t worth the trouble. Best to let them pass. Brice just prayed that the lass wasn’t a trick to trap him.
The soldiers were joking, talking about the women they’d been with the night before. Their language was crude, their descriptions despicable, and it made Brice’s stomach turn. Limey bastards. They cared not for anyone but themselves.
He gritted his teeth and controlled the urge to put the woman down, pull his weapon, and step out from behind the boulder. That would be something MacLean would have done. Impulsive and deadly. Brice didn’t wish to be dead this day.
The soldiers passed out of sight, but Brice and his men remained unmoving, giving the soldiers plenty of time to put distance between them.
Lachlan appeared at his side and looked down at the woman with a frown. “That was risky,” he said.
“I couldn’t leave her on the road. Ye heard them. They would have misused her.”
“They were so unaware of their surroundings, they would have stepped right over her,” Lachlan said in disgust.
Brice grunted his agreement. The soldiers would have been dead if he’d had the inclination to kill them. They had not been vigilant, and that could have been a fatal mistake. Did they realize how close they had come to death?
“What are ye going to do with her?” Lachlan asked.
Brice carefully laid her on the ground. Her head lolled to the side. One hand fell lifelessly to the dirt while the other rested on her stomach. Her clothing looked like it once was a gown. A fine gown.
In the English style.
Brice quickly looked at Lachlan to see if he’d noticed. He had.
“Put her back,” Lachlan said flatly. “We don’t need that kind of trouble.”
He was right. The last thing Brice needed was to be caught with an English woman who no doubt had been ill used.
Brice looked more closely at her. Her shoulder bones were prominent. Her neck looked too fragile to support her head. Her wrists were small and delicate and covered in raised scars, as if she’d been manacled. He touched one with his finger, trying to imagine what scoundrel would clap manacles on a woman.
He well knew the abuse that the Scottish women received from the English soldiers, but he hadn’t been aware that the English treated their own women the same way. If in fact she were English. But how else would she come to be wearing an English gown?
Lachlan stood and wiped his hand on his kilt. “We need to keep moving.”
Brice kept looking at the woman. She hadn’t stirred. If not for the shallow rise and fall of her chest, he would have thought her dead.
“My lord,” Lachlan said with a note of warning.
“I know.” Brice stood and picked up the woman.
Lachlan’s eyes widened. “Ye can’t think to take her withus. She’s a Sasannach.”
“Ye do no’ know that.”
“She’s wearing Sasannach clothing. If those soldiers backtrack and ye’re caught with her . . .”
“Look at her, Lachlan. She’s dying. I canno’ let her die alone.”