AN UNEXPECTED DESIRE
Conan McTiernay will leave the joys of wedlock to his happily married brothers. He’s too busy mapping out Scotland to protect her borders from English invasion. . . . Until he’s dispatched to escort a cloistered Highland lass safely back to his family’s castle.
A FOREVER LOVE
Mhàiri Mayboill has embarked on her journey facing an impossible choice: Marry or take the vows of a nun. But she cherishes her freedom too much to be tied to any man. Yet this arrogant Highlander with his spirited ways and piercing eyes awakens more than desire. For two people who want nothing of love but have everything in common, emotions soon forge an unforeseen bond. But happiness is never simple for a McTiernay, and more surprises lie ahead . . .
Praise for The McTiernays!
“Sinclair entertains with noble self-sacrifice, double deceptions, sizzling attraction, and affectionate meddling.”
—Publishers Weekly on Tempting the Highlander
“Once again Sinclair demonstrates her ability to touch readers’ minds and hearts, keeping them enthralled.”
—RT Book Reviews on Desiring the Highlander
About the Author
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October 1317 Loch Coire Fionnaraich
"Chruitheachd! The damn man's naked! I told you to stay hidden and wait for me, not pull a sword on him."
Conan arched a brow at the angry older man yelling at his younger redheaded companion. Conan kept his expression unconcerned as the man's dark eyes wandered cautiously down his completely exposed body. He was aware that even in the nude he made a somewhat imposing impression. Like most of his brothers, he had thick dark brown hair, bright blue eyes and was unusually tall. But it was not those features the man was gauging. And while Conan did not possess the bulk of one who trained every day, his powerful, well-muscled body looked like what it was — that of a skilled warrior who was deadly even without a sword.
The older man's eyes continued their scrutiny until they reached Conan's feet. "Mac na galla! He's still standing in the fuar loch!"
Standing in ankle-deep water near the loch's shoreline with his hands on his hips, Conan shifted his gaze from the much heavier, angry man approaching his companion to the tip of the shaking sword the thin redhead had pointed at his chest. To survive, most Highlanders were tough men, regardless of how they made a living. If they weren't, they would eventually succumb to Scotland's harsh northern environment, which made the scrawny man in front of him an anomaly. The redhead was tall, but his thin frame was frail and the shaking of his arm indicated what strength he had was waning. It would take little effort to incapacitate him.
His hairy beast of a friend, however, was enormous. He was almost a half a head taller than Conan, and based on the sizeable gut he was carrying, the man easily outweighed both him and his friend together. The giant knew these facts as well, and by his assertive walk, Conan sensed his size gave him a false sense of confidence, which would make him hard to rattle. Things were about to get interesting.
"He ... he saw me." The thin one swallowed, keeping his malevolent gaze on Conan. "I had no choice. I didn't want him to get the upper hand."
"Well, he's obviously terrified," the darker-haired man sneered with sarcasm, making no effort to hide his disdain. "And now he knows about us and we don't even know if it's him!"
"It has to be! No one else has been around since we got here. Then he comes, exactly where we were told, to this loch. And ... and his tartan matches the piece we were given." The redhead used his chin to gesture to Conan's clothes lying on top of a large rock near the shoulder. "Look."
Dark brown eyes narrowed with warning at Conan before taking a quick glance at the rock. The man's gaze widened a bit, and he gripped the sword a little more firmly. "What's your name?"
Conan inhaled deeply, slowly licked his lips, and replied, "McTiernay."
The man's lips twitched, but instead of walking away in realization of his mistake as Conan had expected him to do, he did nothing. It was almost as if he had never heard of one of the largest and most powerful clans in the Highlands. The idea was so unthinkable Conan suspected the man was just extremely good at hiding his emotions. The real question was whether he knew that he was not just facing a Highlander who belonged to the powerful clan, but actually one of the McTiernays.
"I've heard of the McTiernays," the giant growled, cold dark eyes remaining steady on Conan's blue ones. "But that is not what I asked. What is your name?"
"Conan," he answered, keeping his look of boredom. The man's unreadable expression also remained unchanged.
Conor was his eldest brother and chief of the McTiernay clan and all its chieftains — two of whom were his brothers, three when including his brother who was to become the next Schellden laird. There were seven McTiernay brothers total, and though Conan was the second to youngest, he had a strong reputation of his own. Or so he'd thought, for it did not look like either the giant or the redhead recognized his name.
If they were ignorant, Conan was not interested in educating them on their mistake. He had not been in a good mood for days, and in just a few moments, he was about to add another reason to his long list of things for which to blame Laurel McTiernay.
Despite their quarrelsome relationship, Conan loved his sister-in-law and appreciated her loyalty to his brother Conor, but she was by far the most exasperating, annoying, and altogether frustrating person he had ever met. And he would not be in this humiliating situation — naked, wet, and weaponless — if it were not for her. Worse, if Laurel ever learned of it, she would laugh until she cried, sharing her mirth with anyone with working ears.
Important details, however, would be lost. Laurel would not ruin her storytelling with pesky truths, such as that he had not been taken unawares or that, despite being temporarily weaponless against two men who did have swords, he was not in any real danger. Nor would she remember to relay that he had spied the two would-be thieves long before they approached. All Laurel would care about was that he had been caught unarmed in the nude by two men who had mistakenly been bold enough to wave a sword at his chest while demanding he answer their questions.
Conan prayed he could scare them into silence because he was not in the mood to kill anyone. Death was messy, and he had just gotten clean. Last thing he wanted to do was deal with bloody bodies.
"You would have to be one of them," the large man snarled as he stared Conan in the eye.
Conan lifted his chin slightly in surprise, and then nodded once. An odd sense of joy went through him at learning that his name was as recognizable as he had thought.
"Unfortunately for you, it doesn't change anything," spat the redhead, recapturing Conan's attention. The man had bright red frizzy hair with a matching beard. The color matched the almost tangible anger rolling off him.
The giant lifted his hand to hush his mouthy partner. "It might."
Conan arched a brow at the comment. Perhaps he had been wrong to assume these two men were mere thieves. Both were more interested in him than they were in his horse or his sword, which was still sheathed to his saddle. And Conan had no idea why, but the redhead's hate seemed personal as if he wished him dead — and that was before he'd had any idea who Conan was. His partner, however, had gone suddenly quiet.
"Just take my clothes and leave," Conan prompted, testing his new theory.
"We don't want your clothes, cac," the frail figure snarled.
Unfazed by the insult, Conan sighed. Not thieves, he thought unhappily. "Well, if you do not want them, I do. My toes are numb and I would like to get out of the water."
The thin arm that was holding a sword stiffened. "Don't move."
Conan renewed his bored look. The redhead jabbed his weapon in his direction, in an obvious attempt at intimidation. Running out of patience, Conan threw his hands up in the air. "What do you want?"
The thin man laughed in a pathetic attempt to show bravado. "We don't want anything. It's —"
"Cum do theanga ablaich gun fheum!" his companion shouted, cutting him off. The redhead closed his mouth and glowered. Whether it was from being told to shut up, being called an idiot, or just his hatred for Conan was unclear. What was clear was the giant did not care. "This would have been a hell of a lot easier if you had simply listened to me. Now he knows our faces, and neither of us have ones that are easy to forget."
"We could kill him." The redhead's thin lips smiled at the idea.
If not thieves, Conan thought, ensuring he kept his face impassive despite the threat, assassins?
The giant scoffed. "Nay, we take him with us. He's a McTiernay. That means I want more money."
So not assassins. They were mercenaries. If Conan had to guess, they had been sent here on reconnaissance. But by whom? No one knew he was coming this way, which meant they were not looking for him.
The redhead opened his mouth to argue, but the giant cut him off. "And if I'm wrong, he can have the honor of killing a McTiernay."
Capture, death, threats ... all three annoyed Conan and it was becoming increasingly clear that he was not going to learn anything more this way. He needed to end this.
With hands already in the air, Conan took advantage of the brief sideways glance the larger man gave his companion and lunged for the redhead's weapon. When his fingers circled the grip, he spun, yanking it out of the man's weak grasp just in time to block an attack from the larger foe.
Conan deftly twirled the blade, leaving no doubt at his level of skill with a sword. The scrawny attacker's eyes grew wide before he scurried back, letting his friend take charge. The large man did not look worried. Conan grimaced, knowing how this was going to have to end. "Go n-ithe an cat thú is go nithe an diabhal an cat," he murmured, cursing Laurel once again under his breath.
Thinking fear was the reason behind Conan's mutterings, the giant's stony expression broke into a malicious smile. His dark gaze quickly swept down and up Conan's naked form and his smile grew larger. Conan stifled a sigh. The man was an imbecile if he thought nudity diminished a man's ability to fight. The state of one's dress — or lack thereof — had nothing to do with wielding a weapon. The only reason Conan cared even a little about his lack of dress was that if this ever got back to his brothers, or especially his sister-in-law, he would never hear the end of it.
The massive man changed his stance and adjusted his grip, announcing not only that he was about to attack, but how. Believing his size compensated for his lack of skill, the giant swung wide, and Conan easily dodged the blade before thrusting his sword up and at an angle, forcing the large man to stumble backward.
"I'll ask one more time. What do you want with me?" Conan knew he was giving the man time to regain his balance, but he wanted him to feel empowered enough to answer his question.
"I don't want anything," the giant snorted. "All I know and all I care about is the coin being offered to the one who finds the man who bathes in this loch and wears that tartan. That seems to be you."
Conan's eyes widened in shock hearing the flimsy description. They could be looking for anyone. "These are McTiernay lands. Anyone bathing here would be wearing a McTiernay tartan," he retorted.
The large man sniggered. "We've been here weeks. No one ever comes to this loch. That is, until you."
Conan inwardly groaned. Whoever this giant mercenary was looking for, it was not him. It probably was not even a McTiernay. That he was even here was sheer coincidence and prompted by his miserable attempt to prove to his sister-in-law that he was not someone willing to address any whim she had, even if she was Lady McTiernay. That was his brother's job. Conor was laird and Laurel was his wife.
"This is my first time at this loch. I'm not who you want," Conan stated unequivocally, still clinging to a little bit of hope that this could end without bloodshed.
"Maybe not." The large man gave a half-hearted shrug. "Don't matter. You're coming with us, and that dull blade isn't going to stop me from making that happen."
Conan exhaled, all hope gone. His trip was ruined, and the possibility of studying the area any further was as dead as the man in front of him was going to be. Conan cursed under his breath. He really was not looking forward to bringing a colossal, fetid corpse with him for the remainder of his journey.
The man grinned, largely this time, exposing rotten and missing teeth. Then, with none of the speed necessary to make his thrust effective, he attacked. Conan easily blocked him. He took several steps back, knowing a quick way he could end this battle victoriously despite using a dull blade.
The man took the bait. He raised his sword high above his head and surged forward, preparing to put all his weight behind his downward thrust, knowing it would be impossible to block. Only at the very last moment did he realize that Conan had no intention of blocking his attack and instead had planted his feet. With a single lunge, Conan impaled the man's stomach so that his arm dropped as he fell forward. The dull tip pierced his chest all the way through his back.
The sound of hooves riding away captured Conan's attention. He spotted the bright red hair of the dead man's companion as it disappeared behind the large rocks that partially surrounded the small loch. Conan groaned. He could go after the man and had no doubt of his ability to catch him eventually, but it would not be until after nightfall. And when he did, Conan was not sure what good it would do. The coward knew nothing more and was undoubtedly stupid enough to attack rather than answer questions if confronted. The only thing almost guaranteed in a pursuit was that he would have two bodies to carry back to Cole's.
Conan knelt down and stared at the immense man as he took his dying breath. He studied the man's filthy tartan and thanked God he had not killed a MacCoinnich — even if the man had deserved it. There were dozens of small clans that ran up Scotland's western coastline and he knew very few of them, but like the McTiernays, the MacCoinnich clan was well known, just as large, and arguably almost as powerful. While Laird MacCoinnich and Conor respected each other, neither felt inclined to be anything more than civil toward the other.
Conan took one more look at the dead man and wished he had asked for the name of the one who actually sent him and his friend. He wondered just why they were so interested in the man who supposedly regularly visited this remote area. While the loch was nestled on the far eastern edge of his brother Cole's territory, he had not seen signs of someone living this far out. It was cold, rocky, and impossible to farm, and had practically nothing for cattle to graze on.
Most clansmen lived closer to Fàire Creachann, Cole's home. The castle was set on a stretch of land that extended out into the blue waters of Loch Torridon, where one could glimpse the An Cuan Sgìth, the strait of sea separating the homeland from its islands. With only one access point, it was protected by the sea with enormous cliffs on almost all sides and therefore nearly impenetrable to attackers. Living close to the fortress gave clansmen protection.
This loch was so far from Fàire Creachann, it was highly unlikely his attackers were looking for an actual McTiernay. Whoever swam in these waters was probably a squatter, a nomad, or even a thief. He could have just found a McTiernay tartan and been using it as his own, thinking the appearance of being aligned with a powerful clan beneficial.
Conan put his hand on his knee and pushed himself back up to his feet. Speculating was a waste of time. Cole was his best chance of learning who had attacked him and why. As the third brother and McTiernay laird for this region of the Torridon Hills, Cole knew the tartans of all the larger clans in the area, and hopefully a majority of the smaller ones.
Conan went to the shore and quickly washed the blood off his arms and stomach. He then walked over to the boulder where his clothes lay drying and yanked on his leine. He grabbed his tartan and belt and was about to put them on when he spied the dead body near the shoreline. The man reeked. Everything about him was dirty, and Conan did not relish hauling his corpse up onto his horse.
One puffy hand floated in the water, and Conan considered rolling the mass into the water and rinsing it off in an effort to help reduce the stench. "Damn you, Laurel," Conan hissed and pulled off his leine so that he was naked once more. The idea of the man's dirt and grime on his skin was enough to turn his stomach, but unlike his clothes, his body was easy to wash and quickly dried.
Grabbing his sword, he went off to find the man's horse. Minutes later, he returned, glad that it had been easy to locate with reins wrapped around the tree. It also served as further proof that the dead man's companion had been an idiot since he had not freed the animal when he was making his own getaway.
Using rope, ingenuity, and a lot of energy and strength, Conan managed to get the large dead bulk lying across the saddle. After tying the body down so that it would not slide off, Conan once again headed toward the loch's shore and dived into the icy waters, thinking of ways he might take revenge on his sister-in-law without it costing him his own life.
Excerpted from "The Most Eligible Highlander In Scotland"
Copyright © 2018 C. Michele Peach.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hope Conor doesnt die.
Not as good as some of the others in the series but good none the less. Conan is waylaid on the way to do Laurels bidding. One of the men accuse him of impregnating his sister. After Conan kills one of the men the other runs away. Conan then makes it to Coles to help escort Mhairi to their castle to stay a few months awaiting her fathers return. Conan at first believes she is a nun, which is far from the truth. Mhairi and Conan actually have so much in common. When his nieces scheme to get the two together it becomes apparent that others think it’s a mistake. A wonderful read with fights and make up which the McTiernay bothers are famous for. A blow to the family happens at the end which I assume will lead into the next boom.
Did not hold my attention the same way others in this series have.
A little slow at the beginning, but once the rhythm was established it built to her usual spectacular ending along with a cliff hanger that makes you wish you had waited to read this one until the next on was out!
Very good read .
Having read book 6, Never Kiss a Highlander, I can see this author still tends to take a very leisurely pace when telling a romantic tale. There is quite a bit of time spent on several different types of commentary (from the scenery, to the heroine’s first impression/introduction to the hero’s family castle/inhabitants, to drawing lessons, to sub-characters gossiping/trying to intervene/get the main couple to become a romantic couple, even details about the building of bookshelves). It will be up to you to decide if you feel it adds to the story line or makes it feel overly drawn out. Be prepared to see the spotlight also shared with others (i.e., Maegan/Seamus), which was another sub-romantic plot in and of itself. I did love how Seamus had fallen for this sweet side character, who clearly needed to get over a McTiernay lad she had not seen in three years. I must confess I stopped reading at 33%, out of frustration and boredom, but was glad I continued as Conan and Mhairi, the main couple, started to become the main focus. With Conan convinced he would not be swayed into taking a wife and refusal to deviate one step from his mapping career plans, I at times found myself wishing he would just pack up and leave and find out the hard way how miserable he was going to be without her. I did enjoy seeing her go toe to toe/nose to nose with him as they tried to prove their points and didn’t want to back down. It is assumed Conan is a good guy at heart, but he sure had some knucklehead moments and lashed out with some hurtful words/actions, aimed at pushing Mhairi away, even after eventually being intimate with her. No, it doesn’t sit well with this avid romantic at heart to see the hero actively avoiding the heroine, leaving her to fight for their future happiness/prove they would make a great couple, especially after her declarations of affection. Sure, she proved she had grit, determination, survival skills, but more than once I wanted her to tell him off and make him beg for her attention. It did help to see him at one point scared out of his mind when he thought she had come to harm and may have disappeared from his life forever. With an epilogue that seemed to meander, I was quite shocked it wrapped up with such a violent, brutal ending involving a somewhat central character. It obviously set the stage for the next sequel for a character up to this point had not even been introduced. I was just surprised of the finality of the heartbreak/ramifications now to come. Title: The Most Eligible Highlander in Scotland, Series: The McTiernays (Book 7), Author: Michele Sinclair, Pages: 400, stand-alone but part of a series, determined not to wed hero, sassy heroine, hurtful at times hero, some eventual very graphic steamy scenes, finally comes to his senses, slow paced, back and forth confrontational banter. (I received an advanced reader copy via NetGalley. I was not given any payment or compensation for this review, nor is there any affiliation or relationship between this reviewer and the author/publisher/NetGalley.)
Can two people who want only freedom, find themselves thrown together? Conan McTiernay, the only McTiernay brother left unwed, is happy. More of a scholar with his love mapping the countryside, he is in no hurry to be tied down. He is asked to retrieve a Mhairi Mayboill to his family's castle for safety. Mhairi on the other hand really only wants her freedom but she is being forced to make a choice. She must marry or become a nun and with her spirit it would be worse than death to be locked up away from life itself. As Conan retrieves her and they begin their journey, he is very surprised to find her so intelligent and that they have a lot in common. The author pulls you in with her descriptions of the times and the characters. What the two find is that not matter how hard you resist, fate has a different idea! Loved these this couple and you will also!!