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Sue-Ellen Welfonder - [MacLean 02]

 

 

 

 

Copyright Š 2003 by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

 

Excerpt from
Wedding For A Knight
Copyright Š 2003 by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

 

Warner Books, Inc.

 

237 Park Avenue

 

New York, NY 10017

 

Visit our Web site at www.twbookmark.com [http://www.twbookmark.com]

 

First eBook Edition: December 2008

 

ISBN: 978-0-44654730-7

 

 

Contents

 

Acknowledgements

 

The MacLean Bane

 

Chapter One

 

Chapter Two

 

Chapter Three

 

Chapter Four

 

Chapter Five

 

Chapter Six

 

Chapter Seven

 

Chapter Eight

 

Chapter Nine

 

Chapter Ten

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

Epilogue

 

About the Author

 

A Preview of Wedding for a Knight

 

 

RAVE REVIEWS FOR SUE-ELLEN WELFONDER

BRIDE OF THE BEAST

“Larger-than-life characters and a scenic setting. . . . Welfonder pens some steamy scenes.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“A wonderful story . . . well told . . . a delightful mix of characters.”

—www.Romanticreviews.com [http://www.Romanticreviews.com]

“BRIDE OF THE BEAST is a thrilling story. . . . It is so sensual at times it gives you goose bumps. . . . Ms. Welfonder spins pure magic with her vibrant characters.”

—
Reader to Reader Reviews

“This tale by Ms. Welfonder will leave an indelible mark on readers’ hearts and minds. Marmaduke is a hero to dream about and you’ll be as much under his spell as Caterine. . . . Ms. Welfonder secures her place as a writer on the way to stardom.”

—
Romantic Times

KNIGHT IN MY BED

“Exciting, action-packed . . . a strong tale that thoroughly entertains.”

—
Midwest Book Review

“The perfect blend of intrigue, forbidden love, and danger. . . . a story you will want to devour.”

—www.TheRomanceReadersConnection.com [http://www.TheRomanceReadersConnection.com]

“Ripe with sexual tension. . . . The fast pace, flawless narration, vivid and vital characters, sharp and witty dialogue, and an interesting and suspense-filled plot all make this book a must-read. Breathtaking!”

—www.RoadtoRomance.ca [http://www.RoadtoRomance.ca]

“Steamy . . . sensual. . . . Readers will enjoy this book.”

—
Booklist

“Electrifying . . . provocative . . . lushly descriptive . . . a ripe and willing offering for romance readers who thrill over anything Scottish.”

—www.RomanticFiction.com [http://www.RomanticFiction.com]

DEVIL IN A KILT

“A lovely gem of a book. Wonderful characters and a true sense of place make this a keeper. If you love Scottish tales, you’ll treasure this one.”

—Patricia Potter, bestselling author of
The Heart Queen

“As captivating as a spider’s web, and the reader can’t get free until the last word. It is easy to get involved in this tense, fast-moving adventure.”

—
Rendezvous

“FOUR AND A HALF STARS! This dynamic debut has plenty of steaming sensuality . . . a dusting of mystery. You’ll be glued to the pages by the fresh, vibrant voice and strong emotional intensity. . . . Will catapult Welfonder onto ‘must-read’ lists.”

—
Romantic Times

Also by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Devil In A Kilt

Knight In My Bed

Bride of the Beast

For the love of wild places, the roots in the land, and quiet moments. For ancient yews, old stone, and Highland sunsets, the splendor of golden afternoons.

And for a long-ago Highlandman, Iain of Lochaber, whose lot in life should have been as bright and shining as his noble and valiant heart.

Acknowledgements

As always with deepest appreciation and eternal gratitude for the intrepid heroines of my real life, my agent and friend, Pattie Steele-Perkins, for always being there, even in the storms; and my editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, who is so great of heart she’d make a splendid heroine in any Scottish Medieval. Ladies, I am indebted to you both.
And for my handsome husband, Manfred, my real-life hero, whose patience and support allows me to hide away in my turret and chase my dreams; and, too, for my own wee four-legged champion, my little dog, Em, who loves me despite my long hours at the computer and never fails to brighten my day.

The MacLean Bane

Farther back in time than any living clansman would ever dare to question, two notable characteristics began distinguishing MacLean males, setting them apart from all other men: the fierceness of their heated blood and their ability to love, truly love, only one woman, the latter trait being either a blessing or a curse.
Depending.
And, willingly or unwillingly, in the early days of summer 1331, on the fair Isle of Doon, the most hot-tempered MacLean of them all was about to challenge tradition.
Chapter One
Baldoon Castle, The Isle of Doon, 1331
E
XACTLY ONE YEAR TO THE DAY since his sweet lady wife breathed her last, Iain MacLean’s black temper un leashed the disaster his clan had e’er dreaded, and neither the frantic labors of his kinsmen nor the deceptive beauty of the unusually calm night could undo his calamitous act.
The damage was too severe.
His family’s private chapel would soon be little more than soot and ash, its much-praised splendor naught but a memory.
Guilt bitter on his tongue, Iain scanned the smoke-clogged great hall for a hapless soul to vent his wrath upon, but his clansmen dashed right past him, hastily filled water buckets clutched in their hands, each one paying him scant, if any, heed.
Iain’s brows snapped together. He couldn’t hasten anywhere. Fury and disbelief twisted through him, turning his legs to lead and rooting him to the spot even as all his darker emotions coiled into a cold knot of self-contempt deep in his gut.
Scarce more than a grim-faced shadow of the carefree man he’d once been, he raked shaking fingers through his soot-streaked hair and mentally prepared himself to glower at any poor soul foolhardy enough to glance his way.
Eager to reward any such effrontery with a blaze-eyed glare hot enough to wipe the disapproving mien off a gawker’s face, he was sadly impotent against the fine Hebridean gloaming that sought to mock him by spilling its fair light through the hall’s high-set window slits.
The wide-splayed recesses glowed with a soft, luminous gold, wholly uncaring of the torment whirling inside him . . . or the blasphemy he’d committed.
Iain blew out an agitated breath. He preferred stormy, cloud-chased skies, knew well the perfidy, the seductive illusion, of a placid-seeming summer’s eve.
And naught spoiled the deception of this one save the acrid smoke tainting the air and the cold darkness in his own heart.
The emptiness.
That, and the harried shouts of his kinsmen as they fought to extinguish the flames of what, until a short while ago, had been the finest oratory in all the Western Isles.
The pride of the MacLeans . . . destroyed in a heart beat.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk.” A particularly annoying voice pierced the din. “You’d best hope for divine forgiveness, laddie.” Gerbert, Baldoon’s seneschal since time beyond mind, thrust his bristly chin forward, clearly bent on pushing Iain past the bounds of endurance. “This night’s sacrilege will cast a pall o’er every man, woman, and child who bear the name MacLean.”
Making no attempt to hide his perturbation, Iain fixed his darkest look on the scrap of a graybeard who’d dared disrupt his brooding. “If the saints are as all-seeing as a certain white-haired goat e’er claims, they’ll be wise enough to ken I alone shoulder the blame.”
Gerbert matched Iain’s glare, his rheumy blue eyes narrowed in unrepentant ire.
“Aye, the good Lord will be having His finger on you,” he prophesied, swatting a knobby-knuckled hand at the thick tendrils of smoke drifting between them.
“His finger?” Iain scoffed, his vexation mounting. “Some would say He’s burdened me with more than a finger.”
Try having your wife fall prey to a power-hungry uncle, then live with knowing you couldn’t save her, that she met her fate on a tidal rock, tied fast by her own tresses, and left to drown.
Iain’s chest grew so tight he could scarce breathe. Ire pounded through him, the image of Lileas cold and still, seaweed entangled in her unbound hair, stirring his rage with all the fierce intensity MacLean males were said to experience upon recognizing their one true soul mate.
A ridiculous notion if ever there was one.
The only wildly intense emotions
he’d
e’er experienced were those borne of vexation, not mindless passion.
His blood heating, he squared his shoulders and stepped closer to the seneschal, hoping his formidable height and hard-trained body would intimidate the clack-tongued elder, but the ploy failed.
The belligerent old rotter continued to bore holes in him with a decidedly pointed stare.
Iain drew a series of long, deep breaths until the tension beneath his ribs began to lessen. “Aye,” he conceded at length, raising his voice to ensure the seneschal under stood his every word. “Would the pearly-winged saints peer inside me this very moment, they’d find more than a finger weighing heavy on my heart.”
“I’ve known you since before you could say your name, laddie.” Gerbert’s scrawny chest swelled with importance. “’Tis you, and you alone, heaping burdens on yourself.”
Sheer weariness kept Iain from giving a derisive snort. “Think you?” he asked instead, the cool smoothness of his tone enough to send a less courageous man sprinting for shelter.
Gerbert nodded, his silence speaking worlds.
“And what else do you think?” Iain pressed, full aware he’d regret asking. The graybeard’s unnerving perception could cut to the quick.
“What I
know
is that you’ve made your own sorry bed, and”—Gerbert poked at Iain’s chest with a you’d-best listen-to-me finger—“mayhap if it weren’t such a cold and empty bed, you’d not be stomping about wound so tight you fail to see where you’re heading.”
Fail.
Iain cringed, the very word plunging like an expertly wielded knife straight into his heart.
He knew more about failing than all the men of the Isles and Highlands combined.
“A lass in my bed on this of all days? Have you gone addled?” He shoved Gerbert’s thrusting finger from his ribs. “Wenching is the last—” he broke off, indignation closing his throat.
In another life, he would have laughed aloud at the absurdity of the thin-shouldered seneschal even mentioning such things as manly needs and bare-bottomed lasses.
But in
this
life, Iain MacLean, possessor of the loneliest heart in the Hebrides, had forgotten how to laugh. So he did what he could. He scowled. “Light skirts and lust-slaking.” Leaning forward, he narrowed his eyes at the old goat. “What would you know of such pursuits?”
“Enough to ken what ails the likes o’ you.” Gerbert’s face scrunched into an odd mixture of pity and reproach.
Iain stiffened, a vein in his temple beginning to throb. He wanted nary a shred of sympathy. Not from Baldoon’s cantankerous seneschal, not from any man.
Nor did he need censure.
Or a lass in his bed.
Most especially not a lass in his bed.
In the year since his wife’s passing, he’d become quite adept at stilling his baser urges. He scarce remembered what it was like to have his blood fired, much less feel his loins quicken with need.
He took a deep breath, wincing when the acrid air stung his lungs. “One year ago today, Lileas was stranded on the Lady Rock. She drowned there,” he elaborated, carefully enunciating each word. “That, and naught else, is what ails me.”

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