Authors: Suzan Tisdale
Copyright © 2016 Suzan Tisdale
ll rights reserved
. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
to extend a very special thank you to Barb Massabrook and E.M. Thank you for helping me with the Gaelic!
Thank you to Tanya Anne Crosby and Kathryn Le Veque. Without you, I wouldn’t have survived the last two years.
The Clan MacDougall Series
The Clan Graham Series
The Clan McDunnah Series
The Mackintoshes and McLarens Series
The Bowie’s Bride - 2016
Brogan’s Promise - 2017
Moirra’s Heart Series
or my warrior princess
Thank you for helping grandmamma write this book.
an Mackintosh had inherited
his father’s long and infamous stubborn streak. While that stubborn streak proved a useful skill on the field of battle, it was oft his undoing in other matters. Especially where matters of the heart or his pride were concerned.
Standing in the courtyard next to his older and equally pig-headed brother, Frederick, the two proud — and at times obstinate — men awaited the arrival of long over-due guests. It had been raining almost non-stop for three days and nights, only adding to the somberness of Ian’s mood. Drenched to the bone, sick at heart, he wanted nothing more than to be inside the keep with vast amounts of ale to keep him company.
Torches lined the pathway to the heavy gate and along the upper walls. They sizzled and hissed, fighting valiantly against the steady rain. The flames flickered with the gusting breeze, casting shadows hither and yon. Dancing shadows that at times Ian believed were mocking him.
Whilst Frederick was excited to be awaiting the arrival of his wife’s newly discovered family, Ian was not so exceedingly cheerful. There was much on the young man’s mind. More specifically, there was a woman on his mind. A beautiful woman with hair the color of honey and blue eyes that darkened if she was angry and brightened when filled with delight. Lately, those exquisite eyes were nearly obsidian, filled with sorrow. Sorrow brought on by his behavior.
A woman who consumed nearly every waking thought. A stubborn, confusing, bewildering and beautiful young woman named Rose. And as much as he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, building a future together, it was not meant to be.
Since their return to his family’s lands, he had tried to keep his distance, to stay away from the lovely lass. They had met more than a year ago, when his foolish brother had agreed to marry a young woman he’d met only once. Frederick had offered for her hand within an hour of their first meeting. Ian had done his level best to talk his brother out of it, especially after they had seen Aggie McLaren’s keep for the first time, then again after meeting her father, Mermadak McLaren — may his soul now be burning in the bowels of hell for eternity.
Somehow, the young woman had won Frederick’s heart, as well as every member of their family’s, including Ian’s. In retrospect, Ian’s first impression of Aggie McLaren had been wrong and he could say without hesitation that she was the best thing that had ever happened to his brother.
Rose was Aggie’s dearest friend. The two women had gone through much heartache and hell together.
He and Rose had formed a deep friendship during their time at the McLaren keep, a friendship that grew into something he had not expected. He loved her, and that alone scared the bloody hell out of him. Though he knew she felt the same toward him, had even accepted his proposal of marriage months ago, he felt wholly unworthy of her love. He believed she deserved far better than what he could offer, which was, at the moment, nothing at all. ’Twas why he had broken their secret troth. He had nothing to give her but a lifetime of poverty and: She deserved better.
“Could ye at least
excitement, brother?” Frederick asked as he frowned at Ian.
Ian’s forced smile made Frederick chuckle. “Why do ye no’ just go ask fer Rose’s hand and be done with it?”
Ian’s smile evaporated in an instant. His brother could not possibly understand his fear or hesitance. Aye, he’d asked for her hand before they had come here and she had happily agreed.
But when they’d arrived on the safe and hallowed lands of his family, he began to realize several things. One, he had no way to support a wife, not on a warrior’s wages. And that was all he was good for: swinging a sword, battles, defending his homeland and his people. Two, there was no way he could give her anything but heartache. He’d not be able to give her lovely dresses such as those Frederick gave his own wife. There’d be no fancy slippers or baubles or fine linens and silks for the woman he loved more than life itself. Nay, he could give her nothing and that was the cold, hard truth.
He could not give her anything other than love.
And sometimes, love simply wasn’t enough.
He would, however, love her until the day he died. There would be no other woman. No one would ever be able to take her place. ’Twas both the easiest and most difficult decision Ian Mackintosh had ever made. But Rose hadn’t seen it that way. She felt betrayed, more than let down, and he could not rightly blame her. But in the end, he knew he had made the right decision. Even if it had left him feeling empty and miserable and as broken as a bit of fine glass thrown against a piece of granite.
As he brooded silently, hating the rain, the night, and for the lot life had given him, a rider approached the gates. The lad bore news that Aggie’s family was several hours away, delayed by the God-awful rain. Frederick was disappointed. Ian was relieved. Now he could go and skulk and drink his misery away.
“I shall go tell Aggie the news,” Frederick said. “And da and mum and everyone else who awaits them indoors.”
Ian shrugged his shoulders, truly not caring about anyone or anything at the moment.
“What the bloody hell is wrong with ye, Ian?” Frederick demanded as they headed into the keep.
Standing in the narrow entryway, they left puddles of water on the stone floor as they shrugged out of their sodden cloaks.
“Ye’ve been in a piss poor mood fer weeks now,” Frederick pointed out. “If ye can no’ find yerself in better spirits before Aggie’s family arrives, I’d appreciate it if ye’d stay away from everyone.”
“’Twill be me pleasure,” Ian said as he bounded down the steps and disappeared from sight.
Frederick stared after him for a long while.
Mayhap if Ian will no’ tell me what is the matter, Rose will.
* * *
easy enough to locate Rose. As soon as Frederick walked through the door to the bedchamber he shared with his wife Aggie, he regretted his decision to seek her out. The two women sat side by side on the bed and both had been crying. It took no great mental acumen to realize his brother Ian was the source of their tears. His assumption was immediately verified by the angry glare his wife shot at him.
“Yer brother is a c-cad!” Aggie informed him as if he hadn’t been aware of that fact for most of his life. “He’s b-broken p-poor Rose’s heart!”
Frederick’s anger began to flame brightly. Not at his wife, but at his brother. Aggie had suffered for years with a speech impediment, a very profound stutter that he had thought she had all but overcome. The only time it was noticeable was when she was terrified or upset.
I’m going to kill him,
he thought to himself,
fer upsettin’ me wife.
“Aggie,” Rose sniffled, “I asked ye no’ to tell anyone!”
Aggie gave her a reassuring hug. “Aye, but I d-did no’ promise I wouldn’t.”
Frederick took in a deep breath and steeled himself for whatever his wife was about to say. Instinct told him this was no typical lover’s quarrel, but a real and profound heartache. One that his wife felt almost as deeply as Rose.
“What did he do?”
Rose blew her nose into a bit of linen, unable to speak. Aggie took it upon herself to inform her husband of his brother’s cowardice. “Did ye k-ken he had asked f-fer Rose’s hand?”
“Nay, I did no’,” he said.
“He did,” Aggie said as she wiped her own tears away with her fingertips. “When ye were all still b-back on M-McLaren lands. They were t-to marry when ye returned.”
Nay, he was not going to like this at all.
“Two weeks ago, he came to her and broke the troth! And he would no’ give a good reason why!” She’d gone from being hurt to being angry. He could handle an angry wife, but not one who’d been hurt.
“Did he give any reason at all?” he asked.
“Nay, the coward did no’! He simply told her ’twas better fer Rose if they parted ways. Can ye believe he’d do such a thing?”
Letting loose a heavy sigh, he shook his head. “Nay, I can no’ believe such a thing. Ian has never broken his word, at least no’ that I be aware of.”
Rose looked up at him, the anguish in her heart evidenced in her eyes. “One day, we were verra happy and the next, he tells me he can no’ marry me.” She sniffled again and dabbed at her eyes. “I do no’ ken what I did.”
“Ye did no’ do a thing,” Aggie assured her. “The fault lies entirely with that c-coward, that c-cad
He wasn’t necessarily sure why his wife was behaving as though his brother’s behavior was
fault, but he wasn’t up to arguing that point. He was cold, soaked to the bone, and tired. “I be terribly sorry fer what Ian has done, Rose. I shall do me best to make it right. I will no’ make ye any false promises, but I will do me best to find out what he’s thinkin’ inside that thick skull of his.”
Rose let loose a very unladylike moan. “Do no’ bother. ’Twill do neither of us any good. He simply does no’ love me anymore.”
“He’s an arse,” Aggie offered by way of consolation.
Frederick couldn’t necessarily disagree with her appraisal of his younger brother.
“Why would he do such a thing?” Aggie asked, looking into her husband’s eyes as if she might find some answer within them.
“I do no’ ken, love. I simply do no’ ken.” If he did, he’d certainly rectify the situation at once. For now, he had to move on to more pressing matters. “Aggie, we’ve received word on Douglas. His arrival has been delayed by the rain.”
Her shoulders sagged in disappointment. The wait for the arrival of the man who had fathered her, a man she’d never met, was maddening. Tears of worry filled her gold-brown eyes. He went to her, bent down on one knee and took her hand in his. They had spent most of last night discussing Douglas Carruthers’ impending arrival. She worried and fretted he would not like her any more than Mermadak, the man who had raised her, had. Frederick knew nothing could be further from the truth. “Do no’ fash yerself over it, sweeting. He’ll love ye, of that I am certain.”
“Thank ye, husband.” She smiled at him. “But what are we to do about Rose and yer arse of a brother?”
He chuckled at her tenacity. “I do no’ ken, but I’ll think of somethin’.”