HIS HIGHLAND BRIDE (His Highland Heart 3)

Coming Fall 2017

A Dutiful Daughter No More
When Mary Elizabeth Rose’s father marries a much younger lass in hopes of siring a male heir, Mary sees her chance to escape her role as his chatelaine, but fears his next step will be to betroth her to a stranger. She has a different future in mind—with a sometimes charming, sometimes difficult and arrogant wounded Highlander.
 
He Owes Her His Life
Cameron Sutherland is not too delirious to recognize Mary Rose is the first woman he could seriously consider taking as his bride. He’d like nothing better than to spend years repaying the debt he owes his angel of mercy for taking him in and saving his life. First, he must convince her to defy her father one last time.

Will They Put Love Before Duty?
For Mary, Cameron has become the man whose every smile has the power to bring her to her knees. But he is as duty-bound as she is, and responsibility calls him back to Sutherland, where she fears he will stay, forgetting her and all they’ve shared. With another powerful clan’s interests at stake, Cameron’s return sets events in motion that will have life-changing consequences for the woman he can’t forget.


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EXCERPT

That evening, Mary asked a serving girl to take Cameron’s supper tray to his chamber. She couldn’t face him again. Not yet. Not with what, to her, felt like a betrayal hanging between them. The fact that her father was forcing her to do it made little difference. In Mary’s heart, she knew the right thing to do was stay with Cameron. But her head argued for the duty she owed her father and laird.

She had just finished her own meal in the great hall with some of the clan, when the serving girl came running back and stopped below where she sat on the raised dais.

“He’s acting tetched again, milady. I think ye need to come.”

Mary stood immediately and joined the girl in hurrying out of the hall. “Fetch the healer,” she ordered when they reached the stairs. “Then bring cold water and some cloths. I’ll go on up.”

“Aye, milady.” The lass hurried away and Mary ran up the stairs.

Cameron tossed his head as she entered his chamber.

She rushed to his side and put a hand on his brow. “Damn it,” she muttered under her breath. His fever has increased again. “Cameron, ’tis Mary. It appears ye did a wee too much today. How do ye feel?”

“Like hell. Sorry, lass.”

“Apology accepted.” She pulled the covers aside and untied his shirt. It was already wet and clammy with his sweat. What had happened between earlier today and now? “Cameron, let me pull up yer shirt. I need to see yer wound.”

His eyes remained closed underneath a fierce crease between his brows, but his hands pawed at his waist, trying to help her. At least he wasn’t so far gone in fever he couldn’t understand what she said to him.

It took effort, but she got his shirt free just as the healer bustled in, followed by the serving lass.

Mary stepped aside to let the healer examine the wound. “I’ll take those,” Mary told the serving girl, who waited by the door with the water and cloths she’d asked for earlier. “Fetch some watered ale, too,” Mary saw the concern written in the girl’s wide-eyed expression and cocked her head.

“He’ll no’ die, will he?” the servant asked softly. “I like him. I wouldna want him to die.”

“He willna die, nay. We dinna want him to, either.” Mary gave her a reassuring smile and sent her on her way.

The healer stood and moved away from her patient. “I canna understand what set him off again. The wound looks to be healing well.”

“So ’tis the blood fever again?”

She shook her head. “I dinna ken. What did he do today?”

“I found him in the garden. We sat and talked, then walked—not far—before I brought him back up here. He claimed he needed some fresh air. He did seem better.”

“Well, we’ll resume the willow bark tea…”

“Ach, nay,” Cam objected. “That bitter stuff.”

“Twill save yer life, ye daft man. If ye’d stayed abed as I told ye to, this might no’ have happened.”

“Ye told him to stay abed? When?”

“Just this morn. I found him in yon chair.” The healer gestured at the wooden seat by the fireplace.

“Bored,” Cameron complained. “And now Mary will leave me. More bored. Need water.”

Mary rolled her eyes and saw the healer smile. “Ye are no’ so sick as all that. I’ll get ye a book. But for now, we need to cool ye.” She dropped the cloths into the pitcher to let them soak, then pulled one out and wrung it out. “This will be cold.”

“I ken it. ’Tis no’ like ye have no’ done this to me before.”

In answer, Mary dropped the cold cloth on Cameron’s chest.

“Ach, shite! Could ye warn me?”

“Ye could open yer eyes.” She spread the cloth across his chest, then reached for another. “Does the light hurt them?”

“A little.”

Mary took pity on him and used the next to wipe his face, then laid it across his brow and eyes.

“That feels better.”

“I’ll get the tea and be right back,” the healer announced and left Mary to her cranky patient.

“I dinna ken why yer fever came back,” Mary soothed, “but we’ll make it better.”

“I want ye to stay, Mary. No’ to go with yer da. No one cares for me as ye do.”

“Nonsense. Why, even that serving girl said she likes ye and doesna wish ye to die. Now, stop being a child. Ye’re no’ three years old. Ye’ll get better whether I have the care of ye or nay.”

“So ye have made up yer mind to go.”

“I dinna have much choice, now do I?” Mary wrung out another cloth and stroked it along Cameron’s neck and throat. “Brace yerself. I’m going to put this one on yer belly.”

“Ye dinna think yer da can take care of himself without ye?” Cameron challenged as she spread the cold cloth below the one on this chest. His only reaction was to tighten the muscles in his abdomen.

Mary was glad he couldn’t see her face. She enjoyed looking at Cameron’s muscles, and the trail of hair that disappeared into his trews. She knew where it led, of course, but that didn’t make it any less compelling. “I dinna ken what that Grant woman is planning, or expecting to achieve with this visit. So, nay, I dinna think he can. I’m sorry, Cameron. ’Tis my duty to him and to this clan.”

The healer came back with a cup of the willow bark tea in her hand. “Ye must drink all of this,” she reminded him.

Cameron threw an arm over his eyes. Though she couldn’t see the upper part of his face Mary knew his expression had to be one of long suffering.

“Let’s sit ye up,” she told him and stripped the damp cloths from his body, then tugged the one he’d trapped between his arm and forehead. “So ye can drink it faster.”

The serving girl returned then, too, with another pitcher. Mary nodded and gestured for the girl to set it down. “Then ye can have some ale.”

Cameron grunted and rolled to his side, swung his legs off the bed and sat up. He wiped his face with the cloth, then handed it to Mary. He accepted the cup from the healer and tossed it back, wincing as he swallowed. “Ale…please.”

The serving girl poured some into a clean cup and handed it to Mary. Mary passed it to Cameron.

He tossed it back, then held the cup out. “More. I can still taste that bitter tea.”

The healer nodded, so Mary let the girl refill the cup and gave it back to him. “Slower this time, aye?” He surprised her by obeying. When he finished, he held the cup out to her.

“That’s enough for now,” the healer told him. “I’ll check on ye in an hour. I expect to find ye asleep.”

Cameron gave her a wry smile. “I’ll do my best.” Then he turned his gaze to Mary. “Will ye stay?”

“Aye, if only to torture ye some more.” She waved the serving girl out and reached into the water pitcher for another wet cloth. “Lie on yer belly if ye wish and I’ll try to cool yer back.”

Cameron nodded and did as he was told, stretching out on his belly, resting his head on his arms, his face to the side.

Mary wrung out the cloth and laid it over this head, leaving his face uncovered, but trailing a corner of the cloth over as much of his forehead as she could reach.

Cameron sighed.

After warning him, she placed another cloth on the back of his neck and was rewarded with a groan of pleasure.

Then she covered his back, though it took three cloths to span his shoulders and reach down to his waist. She longed to trace the dip in his lower back, but dared not touch him in any way that was not clearly meant to help him heal. Despite his flirting, she was certain he thought of her only as a friend and a woman who helped care for him, nothing more. When the cloths warmed, she replaced them with cool ones until his breathing slowed and evened out. Then she removed them and placed a hand on his forehead. Cooler. Something had helped.