Series: His Highland Heart #3
A Love Denied
Kenneth Brodie offered for young Mary Catherine Rose but her father declined, then a year later accepted an offer from another clan. Furious at hearing Cat would be married soon to someone else, Kenneth fled to France and drowned his disappointment in wine, women and war.
A Love Lost
Two years after her father demanded they wait until Cat was older, she doesn't understand why Kenneth hasn’t returned for her. Broken-hearted, Cat spurns yet another betrothal her father arranges and runs away to her cousin in St. Andrews, vowing never to marry.
A Love Worth Fighting For
By the time Kenneth returns home, trouble is brewing in Scotland. Sent to St. Andrews as hostage for his clan to the Warden of Scotland, Kenneth resents being exiled—until he encounters his lost love, Cat Rose. When war breaks out, they must escape. And even though he betrayed her with more than one mademoiselle, he’s the only man Cat trusts to get her home to the Highlands. Can she forgive his past and renew the love they once shared?
Catherine’s crestfallen expression nearly swayed him from his purpose, but her safety was more important than how much he wanted her. “What are ye doing here? Is yer husband with ye?” He kept his tone neutral, as though his question was only meant to be polite conversation, not to give voice to the longing of a man who hadn’t seen her in much too long.
“Ye are the one who agreed to be betrothed,” he challenged, recalling the pain of that news and how foolish he’d been after hearing it, to leave for France.
“I did no such thing. I was forced…”
“So ye are married now.” The confirmation stung. Yet… “Why no ring? Where’s yer husband?”
“My…? Nay, I am no’ wed. Though Da has tried often enough. I came here to avoid his latest attempt.”
The upwelling of joy in Kenneth’s chest nearly overwhelmed him into reaching for her, but he fought the urge. “I heard ye were betrothed to a Makintosh.”
“The first time. I convinced Da to break it off. I wanted ye, but ye never came.” She took a step forward. “Da has tried his best to find an alliance—and a husband—I will accept.” She crossed her arms and glanced around the room as if making sure they were alone. “The only husband I want…the only man I ever wanted…is ye. So why have ye no’ come for me? We had an agree--”
“Childish fancy,” he said, cutting her off before her words could wound him any worse. She’d waited for him, fought her father to honor her promise to him and his to her. All the while he’d been fighting in France, and whoring with Marilee and others he could barely recall. He was not worthy to have her regard, much less her love.
She blinked and took a step back.
It hurt him to do it nearly as much as it probably hurt her to hear it, but Kenneth could not let her get involved with him again, not while he languished in Albany’s care, and given his past, not ever. So he twisted the knife. “I canna believe ye thought any of that was serious. Ye were a wee lassie, and I no’ much more grown.”
Her lips thinned.
Kenneth expected her chin to wobble as she fought back tears, but instead, a muscle in her jaw jumped.
“And we are so much older now, aye?” she retorted. “Or ye are so much more experienced a lass like me can no longer satisfy ye…”
Ach, Cat. Still spitting and hissing and going after what she wanted. She made him proud, and terrified him. What if someone came in and found them together?
“Ye canna,” he lied, fighting the urge to cross himself for doing it under the bishop’s own roof. “And ye must no’ be seen with me. I’m no’ here because I wish to be. So flee, Cat.”
“Catherine. I’m called Catherine now.”
He ignored her attempt to take on the mantle of mature dignity. What he had to tell her was too important. “And dinna speak to me, or of me, again. Yer da will do what is best for ye.” He waved a hand as if pushing her away. “I canna.”
Tears glimmered even though the fierce frown never left her face. “Ye were always what was best for me. Why do ye think that has changed?”
Damn it, he was going to have to tell her. “My feelings for ye changed when I met a lass in France.”
Cat’s hand flew to her throat and she gasped as if he’d punched her in the belly.
“She taught me everything a wee country lass like ye never could,” he continued, fury at having to hurt her this way making his voice gruff and sharp. “Now any lass I bed must--”
Kenneth’s throat closed on an icy knot of shock that quickly melted into burning—unquenchable--desire. He should have known better than to trade challenges with Cat. She’d always taken any dare of his and thrown it back in his face. She’d just done it again and by God, if they were anywhere else, he'd do just what she asked. He’d always enjoyed their battles of wits, but not this time. This time, there was too much at stake.
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