From the Back Cover
Bestselling author Julianne MacLean unleashes the epic passions of a Highland warrior who won’t go down without a fight—and will take no prisoners in the name of love…IN LOVE AND WAR
The fierce and powerful Laird of War, Lachlan MacDonald has conquered so many men on the battlefield—and so many women in the bedroom—that he is virtually undefeated. But one unlucky tryst with a seductive witch has cursed him forever. Now, any women he makes love to will be doomed for eternity…IN DANGER AND DESIRE
Lady Catherine is a beautiful lass of elite origin—or so she is told. Suffering from amnesia, she is desperate to find the truth about who she really is…or, at the very least, meet someone who inspires an intense memory or emotion. When she first lays eyes on Lachlan MacDonald, Catherine has a sixth sense that he holds the key that will unlock her past—and maybe even her heart. But how could she know that the passion she ignites in this lusty warrior’s heart could consume—and destroy—them both?“Captivating!”—Teresa Medeiros, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author with degrees in English Literature and Business Administration. She is a three-time RITA finalist, and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers' Best Award, the Book Buyers Best Award, and a Reviewers' Choice Award from Romantic Times for Best Regency Historical of 2005. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter, and she is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Drumloch Manor, Scottish Borders
FROM THE PRIVATE JOURNAL OF LADY CATHERINE MONTGOMERY
I have decided that today, since the weather is fine, I will write my first entry at the stone circle. I cannot explain it, but something about this place comforts me, and I am in dire need of comfort. It has been four months now since my return. Though return is not at all the proper word for my status here.
I still remember nothing of my life before, despite the doctor’s many efforts and tireless attempts to experiment with my head. He is both perplexed and shamelessly enthused, and I am beginning to think he will be disappointed if he ever cures me of my malady. He frowns at me when I say this, but I feel as if my spirit is in the wrong place—as if I have taken possession of another woman’s body and claimed all that she once had as my own. I feel like a charlatan, and sometimes I wonder if that is what I am—a wicked, scheming imposter—even though Grandmother and Cousin John assure me on a daily basis that I am she.
Lady Catherine Montgomery. Daughter of a Scottish earl. A woman who went missing five years ago.
They tell me my father was a great war hero, and that he died fighting for the Scots in the recent rebellion (on the side of the Jacobites, which I allegedly supported, and quite passionately so). I remember none of that. All I know of myself is what I have been told, and what I experienced since the spring, when I was discovered in a farmer’s stable in Italy, huddled in an empty stall, hungry and shivering.
Nuns took me in, and I was, in a way, reborn in that convent abroad, nursed back to health, questioned relentlessly, and finally identified as the long-lost Drumloch heiress.
Am I truly she? I do not know. The portraits of Catherine Montgomery all show a rather plump and innocent-looking young girl. I am neither plump, nor am I quite so young any longer. I am six weeks shy of my twenty-fifth birthday, they tell me. And no longer innocent. The doctor at the convent confirmed it.
I am not sure how to feel about that. Sometimes it disturbs me, when I imagine what I do not remember. In my mind, I am still a virgin.
I am also very slim, which is why some of the servants did not recognize me. They all agreed that I had the same hair as Catherine—which is a rather unusual shade of red—but other than that, some of them believed I looked nothing like she did. They were promptly dismissed.
But what if they were right? Sometimes I feel as if Grandmother is hiding something from me. She says that is not so, but I am suspicious. Could it be that some part of her simply needs to believe that I am her grandchild, even when she knows I am not? She has already lost her son, after all—the great war hero who was my father. I am all she has left of him.
If I am, in fact, the heiress.
Either way, heiress or not, I cannot seem to keep from watching over my shoulder. I am always expecting the real Catherine Montgomery (or her ghost) to appear at any moment and expose me as a fraud.…
Catherine closed the leather-bound journal and tipped her head back against the flat standing stone, wishing she did not have to write about all this, but Dr. Williams had encouraged her to record her thoughts and feelings, suggesting it might help unlock something in her mind.
Another experiment. Would he insist on reading it?
Flipping the book open again, she glanced over what she had written about her virginity and considered scratching out the part about his shameless enthusiasm.…
No. She would leave it. It was honest, and if the point of this exercise was to cure her strange illness and solve the mystery of her five lost years, she would need to open her mind completely and let everything spill out like a bag of pebbles onto the floor.
Feeling tired all of a sudden, she set the journal aside and stretched out on the grass in the tall, cool shade of the standing stone. For some reason she felt great comfort whenever she came here.
She crossed her legs at the ankles and folded her hands over her belly while staring up at the bright blue sky, dotted with fluffy clouds. They floated by at a leisurely pace, shifting and rolling. It helped to relax her mind. Perhaps today would be the day when the past would come out of its box.
Soon she was dreaming about autumn leaves blowing across an endless bed of lush green moss. She could hear the faint rustle of footsteps through the grass, a horse nickering on the breeze.…
In the dream, she saw herself in a looking glass and heard her own voice calling out from across the distance. She reached with a hand and tried to speak to the woman in the glass. “Come and find me. I am here. I’ve been here all along.”
Suddenly the woman vanished in a rush of fear—like a ghost that did not want to be seen.
Stirring uneasily, Catherine felt a presence all around the stone circle, but it was not the spirit from the dream. Her body tingled with awareness, and she moaned softly into the breeze.
Someone was watching her, circling around the outside of her private sphere. She could feel his eyes on her, waking her with a strange power of will that aroused all her senses. It compelled her to sit up, but she could not move. She was still asleep, and her body seemed made of lead.
At last, her heavy eyelids fluttered open, and she blinked up at the sky. She sat up and looked around.
There, just outside the ring of stones, a wild-looking Highlander was seated high upon a massive black warhorse. The man observed her with an eerie silence that made her wonder if she was still dreaming—for he was a breathtaking, godlike image in a shimmering haze of sunlight.
His windswept black hair matched the shiny mane of his horse. It reached past the Highlander’s broad shoulders and wafted lightly on a whispering hush of a breeze. He wore a dark tartan kilt with a tarnished silver brooch at his shoulder, a round shield strapped to his back. Upon his hip, he carried a claymore in a leather scabbard.
Everything about him oozed sexuality, and the shock of such an improper awareness took Catherine beyond her depth.
She wanted to call out to him, to ask who he was, what did he want?—but she could not seem to find her voice. It was as if she were still floating in the dream.
Or perhaps this was not a dream but a hallucination. She’d had a few of them lately, often seeing herself moving about, doing everyday things, and she never knew if they were memories of her life or the lazy inventions of a woman who simply had no past.
But there was nothing lazy about this man, she realized with a dizzying swirl of fascination as she rose to her knees. He was a warrior, clearly, who looked as if he’d spent days, maybe weeks, in the saddle. The evidence was all there to behold—in his weapons, his brawny strength, and the dark shadow of stubble on his finely sculpted face, the grim hue of his exhausted, angry eyes, and the grimy appearance of his shirt.
The horse snorted fiercely and tossed his huge head, and Catherine gasped at the sound. It was exactly what she needed—something temporal, something vociferous, to finally pull her out of her reverie.
She knew now that this Highlander was no hallucination. He was true flesh and blood. But why he was staring at her like that, with such angry, bold intensity?
Did he know her?
Slowly, she gathered her skirts in both fists and rose to her feet, prepared to confront this man from her past, whoever he was.
His gargantuan warhorse sensed her movement and spun in a skittish circle. The Highlander whipped his head around, never taking his eyes off her.
“Be still!” he commanded the great black beast, in a guttural voice that made all Catherine’s nerve endings quiver.
She braced herself, steady on both legs.…
The animal instantly obeyed, and the Highlander swung out of the saddle, landing on the ground with a heavy thud.
He and Catherine faced each other squarely.
Her heart beat like a mallet in her chest.
She struggled to recognize him. Surely she knew him, if only she could remember.…
God! Why couldn’t she? It was inconceivable that she would ever forget a face like that. His black eyes were piercing. They blazed wickedly at her with a savage determination that almost knocked her backwards against the stone.
She should run. Her instincts were telling her that she was in grave danger, but her feet would not move.
The Highlander’s eyes narrowed, and he began to stalk toward her, entering the ring of stones that had, until that moment, been her own private domain. This man’s fortitude, however, seemed to conquer and invade the whole world.
His gaze never veered from hers as he strode across the grass, his muscular legs taking long, sweeping strides, his big hand wrapped around the brass hilt of his claymore. At any moment he would reach her, and what would he do?
Catherine backed up against the stone, crashing into it. She sucked in a breath.
Suddenly he was upon her.
“Surprised to see me?” he asked in a deep Scottish brogue, pushing his big kilted knee between hers and pinning her to the stone. Whether he wanted to ravish her or rip her to pieces, she had no idea. Perhaps he intended to do both. One right after the other.
The firm pressure of his body, so tight up against her own, sent a hot ripple of shock through her veins.
“Should I be?” She was determined not to show fear, even while her body quivered and her breaths came hard and fast. “Do we know each other?”
“Don’t tell me you don’t remember our last encounter.”
Now that he was closer, she noticed a small scar across his left cheek—one small imperfection on an otherwise perfect canvas.
He placed his hands fl...