A Bride for the Tormented Highlander Preview

A Historical Scottish Romance Novel

 
 

About the book


The only light in his otherwise dark life… 

Lady Katherine Hamilton’s life has been with her being on the outside. Her parents want her out of the house as quickly as possible, so they set her up with a marriage of convenience, but with her worst nightmare: a brute from Scotland.

When his castle burns down for the third time, Laird Duncan Knox knows he has to take extreme measures. Marrying for money was never his intention, but he has to do it. Yet, his new wife is the moon in a starless night.

Duncan quickly realizes that his bride is not as weak as she looks. He falls for her spirit and mind, and Katherine feels loved for the first time in her life. However, not everyone is excited for the happy couple. What happens when your enemy is closer than you think? Will Duncan choose to save his Sassenach wife, or his clan?


Chapter One


1614


Morris, Scotland


Duncan caught a whiff of smoke in his sleep. It rapidly grew stronger, choking him until he stirred awake from his restless sleep. He jerked up when a fist rammed into his door, and every nerve in his body came alert.

The rays of early morning light seeped into his chamber from the window, and a chill raced up his spine. He inhaled the stench in the air deeply, and his stomach coiled.

He sensed something was wrong because whoever was on the other end was persistent, banging the door with urgency.

In a swift move, he threw his legs over the bed, slipped into his robe on the chair, and crossed over to the door. “Who is it?”

“My Laird,” the petrified voice on the other side called. “Please open the door, My Laird.”

Duncan unlatched the bolt, and opened the door. A tiny servant boy stood before him, his eyes wide, and pale skin stained with grime. “What is it?”

“A fire, My Laird,” he replied and bowed. “It took the east wing at night, and has destroyed everythin’ that was left of the repairs. The men are tryin’ to put it out as we speak.”

The news made his insides twist into knots, and his heart sank. “I’m on my way,” he said in a gruff voice, and shut the door. He dressed in his kilt, and leine immediately and headed to the east wing of the Castle.

Thick smoke darkened the clouds as he approached, and the putrid stench made him cough. His men tried to quench the fire, and the servants offered help. They hauled pails of water to the burning building, every man and woman actively trying to put it out, but the flames continued to lick higher into the sky.

Duncan clenched his fists.

Who would do this? I’ve worked so hard to repair the damages done in the last fire, and three months have barely passed since it happened.

He spotted his adviser, Jamie, and rushed over to his side. Jamie led the men trying to tame the flames, and Duncan joined him. “When did the fire start?” he asked.

Jamie Keyfore, his adviser, lived in the east wing, and from the look of the damage done, it had burned for a long time.

“After midnight,” Jamie replied, and wiped the beads of sweat on his forehead with his arm. “I was out patrolin’ the village when a guard informed me.”

Duncan focused on the building. “I dinnae ken about it until a servant came to my chamber. Why did ye nay send for me the minute ye found out?”

“I hoped to keep it under control.”

They struggled for hours to keep the flames at bay, and finally succeeded when daylight broke fully. Duncan and Jamie stood alone by the destroyed quarter of the Castle after the men and servants had dispersed, and Duncan stared in silence.

“This keeps happenin’,” Jamie said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“At this rate we will use all of our taxes for the repairs.”

“We dinnae have much left,” Duncan replied, and shoved his fingers through his thick, wavy brown hair. He had gone over the treasury yesterday after Jamie submitted the latest tax reports, and he knew any more repairs would ruin the Clan.

How can I care for my people at this rate? How do I protect them?

“I ken someone is behind this,” Duncan muttered. “I just cannae prove it.”

Jamie sighed, and patted his shoulder. “We will figure it out,” he said.

Duncan gave the building one last look, turned around and walked back to the Castle. Inside, the servants loitered around, and he heard their hushed whispers as he walked past them and headed for the first landing.

“Ye have a meetin’ with the councilmen later today. They have arranged this meetin’ as a petition to ye, so ye address the Englishman’s letter sent a week ago.”

“I have read the letter and I have made my decision,” Duncan replied as they entered his study. “I willnae take a wife… and certainly nay an English one.”

Jamie shut the door. “Did ye at least consider the benefits? I dinnae ken this Baron, but I trust he sent the letter in good faith.”

Duncan turned to him, a wary look on his face. “Do ye support this arrangement? Ye believe I should take a wife because the King thinks it will benefit both Scotland and England?”

“English lass’ are always bonnie,” Jamie replied, smiling. “Takin’ a wife wouldnae be such a bad idea if ye think about it.”

Duncan shook his head. “Dinnae be coy with me. Ye have a chance, tell me what ye think.” He liked to listen to Jamie’s opinion because he considered him a friend, and not once had Jamie given him wrong advice.

Jamie dropped on the chair opposite his desk, and met his gaze. “I think ye should consider it.”

“What?”

“I ken it is nay the reply ye want to hear, but it is the truth. This might be the only way left to help the Clan.”

“She is an Englishwoman… a stranger… she kens nothin’ about Scotland or the Highlands.”

Jamie remained quiet. Duncan sighed, and paced his study. A part of him knew Jamie was right. This arranged marriage could help his Clan… he could use her dowry to make sure his people survived.

“Ye have a choice to make,” Jamie said on a final note, then left his study.

Alone, Duncan dropped on his chair, and buried his head in his hands.

I have a choice to make.

He squeezed his eyes shut, and stilled his mind. A battle raged in his mind, but even in the midst of the chaos, he knew what he had to do.

***

Hours later, the air was lighter, and the darkish gray of the clouds indicated rain. Duncan filled his lungs with the crisp air as he looked far beyond from the window of his study. I thank the Heavens for sending rain.

He just returned from the east wing of the Castle, and the spot where the walls once lay was covered in heaps of ash. Duncan hoped the rain would wash away what was left of it.

With a sigh, he turned to his desk, and picked up his handwritten letter to Baron of Kerr. After mulling over Jamie’s words for hours, he knew this was the right decision even though he hated to admit it.

An alliance between his Clan and the English Baron would not only help his people, it would also benefit Scotland as a whole.

Duncan had heard tales about the Baron’s success in England. He was a prominent business man, and the youngest man to ever inherit the title. Duncan hoped the man was someone he could admire for the sake of their alliance.

He read through the words one last time and carefully folded the paper. The deal was to wed the young miss so he could help his people, and this way he would also satisfy the pleas of his men who wanted him to have an heir.

A soft knock came, and the door to his study opened. His uncle, Malcolm, walked in and Duncan greeted him in Gaelic.

“Duncan, how are ye doin’?” Malcolm asked. “Why do ye have that sullen look on yer face?”

“I have made a decision on the Baron’s proposal,” he announced, and handed over his reply letter to him. Malcolm took the paper, and read Duncan’s words out loud.

He frowned, and handed it back. “Are ye sure about this? Ye are nay rushin’ into this decision because ye feel pressured?”

Duncan didn’t know if it was pressure, all he knew was his Clan came first. “I have nay choice… it is the only way to save the Clan.”

Malcolm objected. “Ye always wanted to marry a lass ye loved, and this woman is a stranger, regardless of what the proposal has to offer. Ye might end up unhappy for the rest of yer life—”

“My mind is made up, Uncle,” Duncan cut in. “I will go on with the proposal.”

Malcolm’s lips formed a tight line, and Duncan knew he didn’t approve of his decision, but he wasn’t changing his mind at this point. He would send the letter tomorrow, and await the Baron’s reply.

“I heard about the fire in the east wing,” Malcolm said. “Do ye ken who is behind it?”

“Nay… just like the other times, I have no proof or clue as to who the culprit is,” Duncan replied. He adjusted his leine, and rubbed his jaw. He had to meet with his councilmen in a few minutes, and he planned to announce his decision to honor the Baron’s message, regardless of what any of his men thought.

“I’m meetin’ with the councilmen now to announce my decision, will ye be attendin’?” he asked.

Malcolm nodded, and stood up from his seat. “I will come with ye.”

They walked to the great hall together to make his announcement, and Duncan hoped he was not making a wrong decision inviting a stranger into his Castle.


Chapter Two


Three Days Later…


Kerr Manor, West England


“Good evening Father,” Katherine greeted when her father walked into the dining room. She curtsied, and took her seat by her mother’s right side.

Her father, Oliver Hamilton, Lord Kerr, ignored her greeting, and smiled at his wife. He kissed her cheeks, and sat at the head of the table. Katherine lowered her gaze to her plate, and waited until the servant served her portion of fritters and stew.

She ate in silence while her parents laughed and chattered. Katherine couldn’t wait for the night to end.

Most times, she dined in her chamber alone, but today was different. After a long day of sewing with her best friend, Lily Donovan, her servant, Kelly had informed her of her father’s request.

“Lord Kerr asks that ye join him for dinner tonight, My Lady. He has important news to announce.”

What does my father want to announce?

The question kept gnawing at her as she toyed with her food. It was the first time in months she was dining with them, and she didn’t think they ever noticed her absence.

“Katherine, do you not like your food?” her mother, Elizabeth asked.

“I do, Mother,” she replied quickly, and forced a smile. “It’s delicious.”

Elizabeth smiled. “It is… your father has joyous news so I made certain the servants prepared a worthy meal.”

Katherine looked at the full table. There was meat, fresh vegetables, salad, and wine. It made her wonder if there was a feast. Whenever her parents dined like this, she was never invited.

They preferred to ignore her existence.

“I got news from Scotland,” her father began, and she raised her gaze to his. A brilliant smile played on his face as he wiped his lips clean with a napkin, and picked up his cup. “The Laird has agreed to my proposal.”

Katherine didn’t understand the excitement on her parent’s faces as they laughed and clicked their cups. What Laird? What news?

“It is a complete deal now, and I will write him tomorrow to set a date for our journey to Scotland,” Oliver continued. “My cousins in Sussex will be thrilled to hear this news.”

“I’m sure they will,” her mother replied, and turned to her. “You heard your father, your marriage with the Laird is set.”

Katherine froze. She choked on her food, and coughed. She reached for her cup, and gulped down its contents quickly. The liquid eased her cough, but not the tightness that formed in her chest at her mother’s words.

“Wh… what are you talking about? I’m getting married?” she asked.

“Yes, Katherine. I have found you the perfect husband,” her father replied.

Katherine blinked in confusion as their words registered in her head.

“Yer marriage to the Laird is fixed, he has accepted my proposal and things are moving quickly,” he continued. “We should leave for Scotland soon.”

A dull ache formed in her temple, and she pushed back on her chair and stood up. “Why am I the last to know of this?” she asked in a shaky voice, trying to contain her agitation. “You planned to marry me off without my knowledge?”

“Sit down, Katherine, and hear your father out,” her mother replied in a sharp voice. “Where are your manners?”

She scoffed. “You speak of manners? You are about to wed me off to some stranger and I am the last to know of it,” she cried out. “Do you even care about how I feel about your decision?”

“How you feel is irrelevant,” her father replied, shocking her, and she turned to her mother, hoping she would say something in her defense.

Her mother said nothing, as expected. She always supported her father’s every decision.

Katherine had never stood up to her parents before. In the past, they had ignored her, made decisions without her input because she was female, and she had overlooked it.

She got used to being neglected while growing up, but this was simply outrageous.

This is my life, and they are trading it away to some stranger for what reason?

“My decision is final, Katherine. This is your duty to your family, and you will fulfill it. You will marry the Laird, and bear him children,” her father growled. He hit the table hard, and rose to his feet. His icy glare landed on her, and chilled her to the bones.

She straightened, and drew in a shallow breath, raising her chin defiantly. “I will not. I refuse to do your bidding this time, Father,” she retorted, spun around and hurried out of the dining room.

Katherine sagged against her door, when she got to her bedchamber, and she closed her eyes. Her insides churned, and bile rose in her throat threatening to force the contents of her stomach out.

How can they do this to me?

Tears stung her eyes, and she wiped at them furiously. She knew her mother would march into her chamber in a few seconds, so she quickly locked the door.

Her bed was a few meters away, but she didn’t mind. She dropped to the floor, and shut her eyes tight, willing her mind to stop racing. Her chest rose and fell with rapid breaths, and panic engulfed her.

She would stand her ground on this, and refuse this marriage proposal until the very end.

***

Katherine finally opened the door the next morning when her servant brought her bath water. She sat quietly by her bedside mirror as Kelly brushed her hair, and her mother walked into the chamber.

Elizabeth Hamilton was beautiful. Her massive blonde curls matched the golden color of her eyes, and her plump round face gave her a young appearance regardless of her age.

Katherine had her mother’s looks. Whenever she looked in the mirror, she saw the flawless resemblance, and sometimes she hated it.

“Ye will apologize to your father immediately,” she said when she stopped by the chair. “I raised you to be a graceful lady, Katherine, and walking out on your father is unruly behavior.”

“I will not wed the Laird, Mother,” Katherine insisted, avoiding her mother’s gaze.

Kelly stopped brushing her hair, and scurried out of the chamber. When the door closed, Katherine rose to her feet. “It is unfair that you and Father make decisions about my life without informing me.”

“We are your parents, we know what’s best for you.”

“And what’s best is wedding a stranger? Mother do you even know what my life will be like? I will be unhappy and I will hate my husband. Is that the life you wish me?” she asked, searching her mother’s face.

Katherine’s countenance fell at her mother’s stony stare. “You do not care,” she muttered, and turned away. Her heart heaved, and nothing hurt more than her mother’s negligence.

What did I expect? They never cared about me anyway.

“Preparations are in place, and you will obey. The Laird is rich and powerful. He will take care of you.”

Her mother left the chamber, and Katherine walked over to her window and pulled the drapes open. She allowed the tears to flow on her cheeks, and wiped them away with both hands.

Lily came by the Manor later that evening to cheer her up, but nothing she said helped. All Katherine could think about was her future husband, and how much she already hated him even though they had never met.

Preparation for her journey began in the days that followed, but Katherine remained in her chamber the entire time, refusing to see anyone except Lily.

“It might not turn out to be as bad as you think,” Lily encouraged sitting beside her on the bed, one afternoon. “I’ve heard stories about Scotland from my father, and he says it’s a beautiful land.”

“They are barbarians,” Katherine interrupted. “Their men are savages and their women unruly. My parents hate me and they are sending me to Scotland because they wish I was never born.”

“Don’t say that—” Lily whispered.

“It’s the truth, Lily,” she grumbled.

They’ve always hated me.


Chapter Three


Katherine stared outside the window of her carriage. She surveyed the lush green fields, and clear-blue sky. Spring lilacs graced the land, their lush scent filled her nostrils and calmed her nerves.

The Highlands are beautiful.

She never imagined it would be exhilarating traveling through England to the North, and when they started the journey days ago, she had concluded she was traveling into waste lands. The inns they stopped at every night since were nothing like she expected.

The people were warm and tolerant even though she could barely understand their words most times.

“Oh my, look at that,” Katherine exclaimed, turning to Lily. Her friend agreed to come to Scotland for the wedding, and Katherine was relieved she had her close by.

 Katherine stuck her finger out of the window and pointed at the red deer leaping through the fields. Her lips curved into a smile, and she inhaled deeply.

“I love it here, already,” Lily exclaimed.

Lily’s excitement washed off on Katherine, and she found herself longing to see more of the lands. The carriage bounced down the rough road, and stopped by a clearing beside standing water.

Katherine and Lily stepped out, and walked around it to find the guards leading them conversing in English.

“Is there a problem?” Katherine asked, and looked around. “Why have we stopped?”

“There is no problem, My Lady. Your father would take a detour at this point to visit an old friend and we will continue to Morris. It’s not so far off from here.”

“Let’s take a break,” she replied, and the guard bowed. “I’m exhausted and I’m sure the horses need rest to.”

She turned away from the guard and strolled the clearing. The still water caught her attention, and she crossed over to it, and crouched by the shore.

“You still think this is a waste land?” Lily asked coming up to her. “I think it is a lovely place.”

“I hope the Castle is as lovely as the outlands,” she replied in a flat tone, her gaze not leaving the water. The scenery was not enough to make her want to be here.

“Well, I am taken,” Lily replied, and rose to her feet. She laughed, and swirled around, her long black hair scattered all over her face when a gust of wind hit them. “You should be too. You are wedding the most powerful laird in Scotland.”

“Do you want to trade places?”

Lily’s smile dropped, and she shook her head. “My point exactly.”

Katherine rose to her feet and exhaled. “We should head back to the carriage,” she said, and took Lily’s hand.

They continued their journey into the main village, and Katherine noticed how easy the people she saw were. The women minded their stalls of farm produce, most of the men busied themselves with clearing the fields, and carving wood.

She also couldn’t understand the language they spoke. It spewed rapidly from their tongues in a fascinating manner, and she wondered what they talked about.

When they crossed the small village, and entered grasslands again, the carriage came to an abrupt halt again, and a low groaning sound bubbled from the horse.

Katherine tensed, and thousands of thoughts flowed through her mind in a second. Her eyes widened, and she turned to Lily who had a similar reaction.

Footsteps pounded closer, and she sucked in a deep breath anticipating the intruder. She relaxed when she heard Harry, her father’s guard, speak.

“Miss, we are at the Castle.”

“Oh,” she whispered, and turned to Lily. All her nerves became jumbled up in one place, and the composure she fought to achieve throughout the journey was meaningless.

This is it, Katherine. I’m finally here

She swallowed, and blew out air from her mouth when Lily reached out a hand and placed it over hers. Katherine squeezed the fabric of her gown, and held her friend’s gaze.

“You will be fine… he might not be as bad as you think.”

Katherine hoped Lily was right. The door opened, and she stepped out, holding the hem of her dress in place so she didn’t trip.

“The Laird is here to receive you,” Harry said.

Katherine walked around the carriage, and stopped in her tracks when her gaze landed on the short, balding man standing by the gates. She became faint when a smile appeared on his face, and he took a step toward her.

The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk

~ Cicero 


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  • Oh my, I am so looking forward to reading your new book Lydia! I really enjoy reading your books of the Highlands and this will be a good one.

  • I’m anxiously waiting. Can’t wait to get into it. But tell me what do u mean when u say it will be live?

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