The Highlander’s Secret Avenger

The Brothers of Wolf Isle #4
August 21, 2023
Entangled Publishing (Scandalous)
Available in: e-Book

The Highlander’s Secret Avenger

Drostan Macquarie, the fierce battle-hardened Highlander, was still a young lad when his dad first warned him of the ancient curse on the Macquarie clan. Should any of our kin sire a bastard, the entire clan will be cursed to die out. Drostan vowed then to live his life alone, far from the reach of the curse. But on the eve of Beltane, a sizzling kiss with a mysterious lass ignites Drostan’s blood…and threatens his vow.

Amelia MacLeod is on the run, escaping from an abusive home and her secret shame. Her only hope of redemption is to conquer her clan’s enemy, the Macquaries. So she journeys to Wolf Isle with a desperate need to doom their clan. But she imagined Drostan as a hideous brute, not a big, brawny, and kind-hearted Highlander who stirs her blood.

Now that Amelia has discovered a way to destroy the Macquarie Clan for good—can she bring herself to infiltrate the clan, seduce Drostan, and bring about the Macquarie curse? When her own past catches up to her, and secrets are revealed, the trust between Amelia and Drostan is destroyed, and betrayal threatens their very lives.

*Enemies to Lovers* Forbidden Love * Secrets

An allergic reaction to Amelia's kitten:

Lia coughed, trying to clear the thickened airway. The sound was different from a cough from an illness. It was dry, almost like a dog’s bark.

“The cat,” he said, stepping up to her and ducking to look into her face. “Yer whole body is reacting to her.”

Lia coughed more, but the sound was muted by lack of air movement. She lifted her head, her eyes wide. “What do I do?” The whisper was stifled. She tried to suck in air through her inflamed mouth and throat, making her cough more.

Drostan grabbed her. “We need to get ye free of the fur. ’Tis all over ye.” Before she could agree, he yanked the ties of her petticoats and shoved them down her body. He threw her shawl away and unlaced her bodice, shoving it off her shoulders. The freedom of not being squeezed helped, but she still struggled to suck in air.

He swooped her up into his arms, holding her against his chest. Shifting her, he yanked open his door and raced them outside into the storm. Her heart leaped into a race as she fought for air.

Coughing helplessly, she held tightly to his neck while being jarred as he ran them through the slashing rain around to the back of his cabin. He stopped, letting her feet down but still holding her.

Eyes closed, Lia tried to focus on pulling air inside her body. Panic pounded through her, and she shook in the whipping wind and rain, while trees mimicked the desperate flight of thoughts in her head. Will I suffocate here? How could a cat do this? Poor Sia. I can’t touch her again. If I live. Cats don’t feel guilt, do they? Not like people. Not like me for my wicked relief. She was drowning in regret and suffocating.

“Her fur,” Drostan said as he started to wipe his hands down her remaining smock. The cold, wet wind sent chill bumps over her skin as if every inch of her body reached out to grab in the air that couldn’t make it to her lungs the usual way. Lost in muted coughing, she nearly fell over when he yanked down each of her stockings, leaving her barefoot in the growing puddle. She’d once again lost her slippers.

“Sit here,” he called over the thrashing sound of the leaves, and she realized they were beside a cistern that collected water from a stream that must flow toward the sea. Drostan yanked another rag looped over his belt and dunked it in the clear, collected water. He wiped her face and neck, all the way down her chest as far as her smock would allow, followed by damp strokes over her arms and hands. His fingers raked through her rain-heavy hair as if trying to free it of cat fur.

She began to shake from the cold, and he pulled her up, lifting her again to carry her against his bare chest. At some point, he’d removed his own tunic and sash, maybe even his woolen wrap. The kitten had been all over him while they rode to his cabin.

He paused near the porch of the house, stared at the door for a moment, and then reversed direction, striding through the gusting rain. Lia pressed a hand against her chest that ached from the battle to breathe. The muted wind made her open her eyes to see they were standing in the barn.

Drostan held her, breathing hard. “Daingead,” he murmured, leaving the door open to let in some more light. “Where is that blanket?”

She wanted to tell him that he was warmer than a cold blanket, but whatever breath she could pull in couldn’t be wasted on words. He set her down on a stool, waiting to see if she could balance there. She nodded, and he ran off. If she weren’t nearly smothering to death, she’d have better appreciated the tight perfection of Drostan’s bare arse. He’d indeed stripped down to remove all cat hair from himself. And his muscles contracted in long lines from his shoulders to his chiseled calves as he moved.

He turned back from a chest against a wall with two blankets before him. “Ye aren’t sensitive to horses, are ye?”

She shook her head no, her shoulders moving with each stuttered inhale. He ran back, crouching before her to wrap one blanket around her shoulders, clasping it closed in front. “’Tis clean, but some of Maise’s hair might be on it.” His large, warm hands pushed clumps of wet hair from her face, and he stared into her eyes. “Lia, breathe with me. Ye are trying to pull in air too fast. We need to calm all of ye, so slow, even breaths.”

He breathed in while counting. “One… Two… Three… Four… Hold for two seconds. Now out. Don’t force it. Let it slide out evenly with the count.” He nodded when she did. “Close your eyes.”

She would have refused. She never shut her eyes, not when the unexpected could befall her at any moment. Iain had taught her that. But this was a different situation, and Drostan wouldn’t let anything happen to her in the darkness. Lia let her eyes flutter shut.

“Now imagine your throat as a…long pipe or a thick grass stalk. And imagine the hole running through it getting larger around, opening into a bigger hole.” They breathed slowly together for several long minutes while Lia imagined her throat opening.

Drostan’s counting, with his strong, deep voice, kept her going, soothing her panic. He tucked a stray hair into the barely contained braid down her back. He inspected the blanket around her, plucking off anything that could be animal hair, and continued to count slowly.

He hadn’t bothered to cover himself, and he crouched before her like a sculpted hero. “That’s it,” he said. “In for four, hold for two, and out for four. All the hair is gone.”

Little by little, more air came to her until she could speak. “Better,” she croaked softly.

Drostan huffed, and his head dropped to hang for a moment like he was overcome with relief. The movement caught her, and she felt the sting of foolish tears. He cared enough for her to show such relief, such weakness at her possible injury or death? No one since her mother had cared for her comfort or health.

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