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Passion and Plaid - Her Highland Hero

Her Highland Hero

excessica publishing

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 69,500
Available Formats
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ePub
Mobi

From the author of the best-selling Scottish historical romance “Thistle and Flame”

This light-hearted, sweepingly romantic, full-length novel continues the story of Gavin Macgregor, the brave Highlander who left home to fight in the Bonnie Prince’s final war, and Kenna Moore, the girl he’d loved since he was a boy, who saved Gavin from peril even as he stole her heart.

If hearts are meant to be together, nothing will keep them apart...

Since they were children, Gavin and Kenna knew they were destined for each other. After almost losing Kenna in an arranged marriage to a crooked Laird, Gavin takes her north from Edinburgh to return to their hometown in the Highlands, in the hope of beginning their new life together.

But, when a small town mayor plots to destroy his own village, Kenna is torn between remaining with the man she loves, and helping the people of Mornay’s Cleft – what her heart knows to be right.

Can Kenna’s wit, Gavin’s courage, and their love for each other overcome the greed of a crooked mayor? Will Kenna fall back into Gavin’s arms, or will she fall much, much further?

With breathtaking romance, a hero and heroine who will do anything for each other, and a colorful cast of supporting characters, “Passion and Plaid” is your chance to fall in love all over again.

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Excerpt

“When I say to you ‘wedding’, Kenna, what is it you see?” Gavin looked across the top of the saddled horse, smiling at his bride-to-be, who couldn’t be more pleased. He walked around to the wagon they were pulling and looked in on Sheriff Alan, who the two of them were taking to Glasgow so he could stand trial. After that, they were going to Fort Mary, the place the both of them called home, where they were to be married.
Gavin very much liked that idea.
“Oh, I dinna know,” Kenna said smiling. “Just something small, supposing my Da and Ma would want to go. Your father too.”
In the back of her mind, she had images of a tremendous royal affair, a hall decked in white sheets and colorful plaids to mark the mixing of their families, and a drum, fife and pipe band to play as they danced. She imagined a big, swirling, poofy-skirted gown, and on Gavin, a fine Macgregor great-kilt with a huge sash, brooch, and a beautiful sporran that she’d make for him before the wedding. With their friends all around, John and Lynne, Red Ben and Alice, Rodrigo, Elena and of course Olga, the minister would say solemn words in front of the entire kirk congregation; they’d both take very solemn vows. Then, when it was all finished, Gavin would lean in and kiss her, and suddenly the whole place would explode into music and dancing and drinking and fun.
“You’re sure about that, wee li’l lass?” Gavin said with a smile. “Looks like you’ve something else in mind, aye?”
“No,” she said and laughed. “No, just a small ceremony. I canna imagine a big to-do.”
Behind them, in the wagon into which they’d packed a few supplies – and one very angry Sheriff Alan, who just wouldn’t stop sputtering and swearing – a crash interrupted their tender chatting.
“I better go see what he’s done,” Gavin said, but couldn’t tear himself away from Kenna and her big, semi-tamed mop of red hair, or the tiny freckles that dotted her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, or her big pale-blue eyes. “You know, actually, he’s probably just fallen over again and is making his best at a big scene to get attention.”
He stepped closer to her, she took his hand in hers and squeezed. “I canna believe this is all happening, Gavin. As a wee girl, I dreamed about it, but I didn’t even know you then. Not really, anyway. And now, here we are, about to go home and...”
“Aye,” he said sliding his arm about her waist and pulled her to his chest that was bare, save for the sash of his kilt. A few drops of water remained from the bath he’d just taken and she smelled the tiniest hint of cologne that Alice Black gave him to use, saying that it would make him seem more rugged and manly. She wasn’t quite sure how he could be any more attractive than he already was, but the scent was nice anyway. Curling her fingers against Gavin’s chest, Kenna purred softly and kissed his collarbone. He slid his hands up her back, and his thumbs along either side of her face.
“I canna believe it’s really happening either,” Gavin said. He stared straight into her eyes, straight into her soul, Kenna thought. His gaze warmed her and the two thumbs brushing along her cheeks made a grin creep across her face. Suddenly, she began to blink, fighting back tears she didn’t want to ruin the moment. “I canna believe it, but now I think I have to, because you’re right here and so am I. Nothing better has ever happened so long as I’ve lived, Kenna Moore.”
With that, she couldn’t hold it anymore, not for one second longer. Kenna threw her arms around Gavin’s waist and hugged him so tight that a moment afterward he began to act like he couldn’t breathe. The Sheriff made another whining noise and another crash, but they both ignored him, lost in their own little world.
“I’m choking you am I, Gavin? A wee girl like me keeping big, strong Gavin Macgregor who stole and stole from the English, from breathing? Gavin Macgregor, who every single Scot in Edinburgh sees as a mythical hero is being smothered by a tiny girl?”
“Ach! You’re no tiny girl! I’ve seen you fight!”
They held each other for a moment longer before Gavin bent his head to hers and kissed Kenna first behind the ear, and then on the jaw. As he ran his fingers up the back of her head to hold her close, Kenna felt his lips part around hers, and gently caress her full bottom lip. When he pulled away and gave her a gentle, playful little nibble, she let out a giggle and then squeezed him again before she let him go.
“I’ll check Alan,” he said. “And then we’re to be off. It’ll take us three days to Glasgow and then another couple to Fort Mary since Glasgow’s a wee bit out of the crow’s path. I dinna think you’d mind, but I should tell you now – after you fell asleep last night, I invited John and Lynne and all the rest of them to come up in a week or so and stay until the wedding.”
“Good!” She said, smiling broadly. “I wouldna have it any other way.”

*

Morning turned to noon, and a quick lunch of bread and cheese turned into a long lounging on a blanket, with a lot of hand holding, and smiling and sweet nothings whispered into ears. By the time they got back on the road north, Alan had become so irritated that even bound up, he’d managed to start the wagon rocking quite dangerously back and forth by throwing himself against the walls. Gavin went to make sure he wasn’t actually hurt before they kept on the road.
“Did he do anything bad?” Kenna asked as Gavin threw his leg over his horse and they began to trot.
“Bad? To hisself, you’re meaning? No nothing of the sort, just his normal complaining. He did try to make me stop off and buy him another square of chew.”
Kenna looked at him in disbelief and laughed. “The man we’re taking to court, he presumed to have you stop off to buy him tobacco?”
Gavin nodded. “He had a little tiny bit of a plug left with him so I gave him that and told him if he deigned not use the cup I gave him as a spittoon, that he’d go to the Glasgow magistrate without any more of his stuff. I expect that’ll keep him from drooling all over our things.”
“You, Gavin, are a very wise man, I’ll have you know.”
With a somber, almost alarmingly serious glance to the horizon, Gavin nodded slowly and said that he knew he was before breaking out into one of his infectious, easy grins that made Kenna punch him in the arm.
“He’s handsome and witty, this one,” she said. “I wonder if he’s got any other secrets he keeps?” She turned to him with an impish look on her face.
“Aye, he does, but those are secrets to be kept until we’re wed.”
For a moment, Kenna did not register what he’d said, but as soon as she did, and turned back to him to feign offense and maybe hit him on the arm again, Gavin had already sped his horse to a trot, bumping the poor sheriff over a couple of humps in the road. Kenna just shouted that he had a naughty mind, then kicked her horse, took a deep breath and let it out in a contented sigh.

*

“How’s this one look?” Gavin said as he and Kenna came to a stop in front of a small inn on the Edinburgh side of the tiny town of Mornay’s Cleft. It was a village which sat between two hills. A tiny place, it was used as not much more than a gathering spot for the surrounding farmers, and the seat of the mayor who administered them. The sign on the inn had a pair of what seemed to be silhouetted legs on it, which made Gavin laugh, though Kenna seemed not to know why. The sign indicated that it shared a name with the town. Probably, Kenna thought rightly, it was the only place anywhere within four or five hours’ ride with a bed to let.
“Not much choice, aye?” she said. “Anyway, it looks fine to stay for a night.”
Dusk had by then set in, and though the two of them planned to ride on further, their slow pace and long lunch kept them from getting to Duncraig, the next town along the road. This one suited Gavin just fine, because aside from the naughty sign out front, he’d always heard good things from John about the ale and sausages.
“Right, good,” he said. “You go on in and get us a room and I’ll get the-”
“One room? Bit forward, aren’t you, Gavin Macgregor?” Kenna chuckled as she spoke.
“I’ve been thinking that it’s probably best we travel as a married couple. You know, just to keep from having anyone know us. I’m sure there’s not much of a danger, but it’s better to do it this way, I think.”
Kenna studied his face. He seemed very serious, but then, he was very good at playing jokes.
“And by that, you mean that’s the easiest way for us to have to sleep together?”
He pursed his lips.
“I canna say I mind,” Kenna said and then laughed at Gavin’s shocked expression as she turned and pushed open the door to the inn which creaked with age and rust on the hinges.
“Halloo!” Shouted the innkeeper, “lonely road for a lovely lass as yourself to travel alone. Needing a room?”
“I’m not alone,” Kenna tisked. “My...my husband, he’s stabling the horses.” Just saying that made her cheeks flush.
“Fine,” he said. “I’m Duggan. You are?”
“I am Ken – sorry, long day on the road. Mary Macintyre. My husband is Hamish, he’s sta-”
“Aye, stabling the horses you said. Good to meet you, Mary Macintyre. You’ll be needing a room? Food? Drink?”
“A room, aye, food for me. We’re famished and I’m tired out, though Hamish might drink with you a while.”
“My pleasure. Specialty is sausage and wee heavy ale. And by specialty I mean that’s all what I’ve got.” The burly innkeeper had an honest smile, a tremendous red beard, and laugh lines in the corner of each eye that went on and on. Something about his look made Kenna relax her guard. By the time Gavin came in from the stables and told her everything was fine, and that he’d paid the stable hand extra to keep their guest quiet, Duggan was busy clanking away in the kitchen and shortly reappeared with two plates and two mugs.
“Here we are,” he said. “You must be Hamish, then?”
For a moment Gavin stared blankly until Kenna nudged him in the ribs. “He’s a mite clouded sometimes,” she said.
“Oh, yes, yes, very sorry. Long day on the road, you know. Hamish, that’s me. Nice to meet you...”
“Duggan.” He stuck his hand out, and Gavin shook it.
“Duggan,” Gavin said as he bit into a sausage. “I’ve heard good things about this sausage and this beer.” He tipped his mug and took a long swallow. “My friend dinna lie, this is excellent.”
The barrel-chested innkeeper smiled and slapped his bar. “Good to hear!”
“Did my...er, my wife pay you for the room?”
“Not yet, but – wait, wait, pay me when you leave.”
“Are you sure?”
“Aye, she reminds me of someone dear, though I imagine my daughter’s got a few years on your lady there. You’ll pay in the morning if you pay at all.”
Gavin smiled and tucked his purse back in his sporran.
“Oh, Hamish?” Kenna said. “We should give some food to the...er...prisoner.”
“Prisoner?” Duggan said with a cocked eyebrow.
“Aye, it’s a bit of a strange mess we’ve got ourselves in. We were hired to transport a rather wretched beast to Glasgow. Could I bring him in? I canna possibly let him go.”
“You’re wanting to house a prisoner in my inn? I’d think that being chained in the stables would be more appropriate.”
“But your stable boy, no matter what he says, and how large he might be, he is just a boy. And this prisoner can be very persuasive.”
“He’s shackled, I assume? Or you’ve got some say to do so?”
“That’s another issue. There was such haste in our leaving that we were given only ropes to bind him.”
“Ropes? This isn’t some kind of trick is it? You two aren’t the criminals?” Duggan squinted, studying the two people standing opposite him.
“In truth, our prisoner is the sheriff – the former sheriff – from Edinburgh. He’s a cunning man, no matter how foul his manners and his appearance may be. Cunning and dangerous. He’ll take the boy’s life to escape.”
“Ha! Rory, aye, he can take care of himself. Don’t you worry on that count. And, aye, I’ll take some food. Is he to have beer as well?”
“Duggan, I think he’ll be fine for a night without a meal or drink. He hasn’t missed many in his life,” Gavin said.
Kenna clicked her tongue, “Now Hamish, we mustn’t be cruel. We’re after justice, not revenge.”
“Ach, if you’re putting it that way. Fine, let him eat. No beer though – only water.”
Kenna smiled and patted Gavin’s hand. “Fine then, no beer. Thank you Duggan, you’re a wonderful help.”
“Think nothing of it. I’ll make sure he’s nice and secure as well. Do what I can for the law, and all.”
“I dinna mean to question you, Duggan, but this still doesn’t sit easy with me. If he escapes-”
“Think nothing of it, Hamish. I gave you my word. He’ll be secure.”
“The man gave his word,” Kenna said. “Leave it be, dinna worry.”
After studying Kenna’s face for a moment, Gavin nodded and thanked the inn keeper.
Gavin and Kenna inhaled the meat and drank their beer as Duggan sipped at a cup of his own. When they stood up, he tossed Gavin a key.
“I canna get in there if you lock it from the inside, Mr. Macintyre. See you in the morning?”
“Aye, thanks Duggan. Maybe the morning next if I sleep as long as I feel like I want to.”
Up the stairs and to the right, Kenna and Gavin found their room. It was small, but certainly ample, though the bed was a bit on the small side.
“Cozy,” Gavin said as he held the door open for her to enter. “Shall I sleep on the floor to preserve milady’s dignity?”
Kenna collapsed in a decidedly un-dignified fashion upon the mattress and watched as Gavin took off his boots, his sporran, and the five knives he had tucked in various parts of his clothing. She pushed herself up on an elbow and smoothed part of her riding skirts, then pushed her own boots onto the floor with a clunk.
“Seems a bit odd for a husband to sleep on a floor instead of with his wife, don’t you think, Mr. Macintyre?”
“I suppose,” he said. “Mrs. Macintyre.”
She turned away from him as Gavin slid under the covers behind her and draped an arm about her middle. She reached back and grabbed his hand, pulling his other arm underneath her neck and snuggling backward against his hard, warm chest.
“Did you notice there was no one down stairs?”
“Aye, I did. I’d think nothing of it. It’s late, inn’s quite a ways from where people live,” he said. “Something bothering you?”
“No, well, it was, but what you say makes sense. What would I do without you, Gavin Macgregor?” she whispered as she closed her eyes and felt lips press on the back of her neck where her hair parted. Instinctively, her hand went to the tiny thistle flower he’d given to her when they were children and her Ma put into a pendant for her. It never left her neck.
Gavin said something she could barely hear.
“What was that?”
“I said you’d probably have gone through a whole lot less trouble without me.” There was guilt in his voice that Kenna didn’t like.
“Don’t say that. Without you, I’d be home in Fort Mary knitting. There’s nothing I have ever wanted more than the life that I – that we – have.”
He hummed softly and kissed her neck again.
“I do have one question,” he whispered.
“And that is?”
“When I was a lad, that first time you saw me, why did you come up to me?”
“If you’ll recall, Gavin Macgregor, it was you who come to me the first time.” She pulled one of his hands up and kissed his finger.
“Ach, I suppose you’re right. But the next time, at the games when you watched me toss the caber, what was it then? You could have ignored me then, too.”
“Well,” she said thinking back. “That time, it was you who asked me to come see you. I don’t remember ever approaching you.”
He pinched her stomach and laughed.
“You great brute!” she laughed and elbowed him. “I suppose I did have an eye for you.”
“Aye, you did. But why?”
“If you’ll remember, you spent a great deal of time flexing your legs, showing them off before you threw that log. I was a wee lass, couldn’t help myself. My baser interests took over.” She giggled softly.
“So that’s it, then, you like me only for how I toss a log?”
He pulled her tighter against his chest and she let out a contented sigh.
“I saw something in your eyes, even as a boy, Gavin. I knew you were different than anyone else in Fort Mary. I can’t say how I knew, or even what it was, but it turned out to be right, aye?”
No words came in response, only a soft brush of lips behind Kenna’s ear that sent a chill around her shoulder. She closed her eyes, secure, safe, and warm in Gavin’s arms.
Sleep came quickly and held her – held them both – until well past dawn.

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