Can you believe it’s June already? I certainly can’t. But since we’re here, let’s talk about it for a moment.
Besides school letting out for the summer (if it hasn’t already) and trips to the pool or the beach, June is the traditional month for weddings. It’s also the last place where the word troth is in common usage – as in plighting your troth in wedding vows. An archaic form of the word truth and the root of the word betrothed, now it’s in the working title of my next book, Highland Troth.
Jamie Lathan is a favorite secondary character from my earlier books. My readers love him and wanted him to get his own book. So did I. Highland Troth is Jamie’s story! And yes, there’s a wedding. So it’s all good.
Jamie Lathan and fosterling Caitrin Fletcher were close as children, but after tragedy struck Jamie’s family, she was sent home. He never expected to see her again. He certainly never imagined he’d be called upon to escort her to be betrothed to another man.
Caitrin can always tell when someone lies, but she’s learned to hide her talent. Jamie hides a long-buried fury behind his affable demeanor.
When their attraction reignites, Caitrin must choose between her father’s plans for her marriage-of-alliance with a man her talent tells her is not what he seems, and Jamie, the lad she’s loved for years. He must find an honorable way to ensure Caitrin’s future, even if it means sacrificing his own.
I shared an excerpt in my last newsletter. What? You didn’t get my newsletter? Here’s the Link to Join so you’ll get the next one. Or click on that pretty blue envelope up near the top righthand corner of any page on my website. There’s no telling what I’ll share next month, but you can’t be the first to know if you don’t subscribe.
Highland Troth is going to my editor later this week. I’m hoping to have it in your hands before the end of the year.
In the meantime, I’ll take pity on those of you who missed the excerpt and share it. Here’s it is!
“Dinna think to wander away.”
Jamie was suddenly beside her the moment Caitrin took two steps downhill. Without slowing, she told him, “I’ll no’ go far, but I wish to refresh myself in the stream we crossed.”
“Then I’ll go with ye.”
She stiffened, acutely aware of every sensation in her body as the numbness from hours in the saddle wore off. “Jamie Lathan, hear me well. I’m no fainting lass to be guarded night and day. I can find a clump of bushes and be back before ye ken I’ve gone. Besides, from here ye can be at the stream in moments, should I scream.”
Jamie appeared to be counting under his breath. Caitrin hid her delight at having aggravated him. She figured she owed him six years worth.
Finally, he pasted a patient smile on his face. “I ken ye’re a canny lass, I do. But I also ken what would happen were I to lose ye or see ye harmed on the way to yer betrothed. So I will go with ye…”
“Jamie,” Caitrin interrupted, but he gave her no chance to finish.
“I’ll keep a proper distance, but I will be closer at hand than the top of this hill. Now go.”
Caitrin frowned but turned and made her way down toward the stream. Jamie’s expression had been pleasant enough, but she knew his iron will, and he had the right of it. Too much was at stake, now her father had involved the Lathans. Were anything to happen to her, not only would her father fail to make the match he hoped would improve his clan’s circumstances, but Lathan honor would be impugned. Clan war was not out of the question.
As she walked, she collected deadfall twigs and small branches in her skirt. Jamie gathered larger branches in his left arm, leaving his right hand free. He did that, she knew, not just to pick up more wood, but, if need be, to wield the short sword on his belt.
On the mossy slope, her foot suddenly slid out from under her. She gasped and fought for balance as her gathered twigs went flying. The slope of the hill defeated her. But instead of landing flat on her back as she expected, Jamie’s hands scooped under her arms and lifted. Distantly, she heard the clatter of dropped branches as he pulled her back against his hard chest.
The concern in his soft cry thrilled her. His heat against her back nearly scorched her through both their clothes. Her heart beat fast – from the near fall or from the touch of Jamie’s strong hands? The reason didn’t matter. This was a close as she’d been in years to the lad she’d never been able to forget. Her knees wanted to give way beneath her, but he held her securely as he shifted his hands to her waist. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
“Have a care, lass. Ye willna wish to limp to the MacGregor.”
She sighed, closed her eyes and leaned her head back against Jamie’s shoulder, promising herself she’d only steal this moment with him. Even with his arms around her, his fingers splayed on her ribcage, he was intent on delivering her to another man. The affection that had existed between them as youths was not enough to make him risk both their clans by claiming her for himself.
Then he lifted one arm across her breasts to grip her shoulder, pulling her tighter against his chest. “Are ye well, Caitrin lass? Did ye twist yer ankle?”
She dared not answer. His breath warmed her cheek so she knew he’d canted his head to the left to peer at her face, likely seeking tears of pain, thinking her injured. She held herself still, soaking in the sensation of being in Jamie’s arms, if only for this moment. Finally, Caitrin shook her head and opened her eyes to the waning daylight and the end of her dreams. “Nay, Jamie. I’m well.”