Five boys destined to become Highland lairds are fostered together as brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true loves.
Title: Highland Promise
Author: Alyson McLayne
Pub Date: October 3, 2017
When forced to choose between duty and honor…
Darach MacKenzie vowed never again to let a woman near his heart after his betrothed betrayed him. It sparked an intense feud between his clan and the Frasers. With all-out war on the wind, Darach can’t be distracted—not even by a sweet and charming lass who desperately needs his help.
This Highland Laird will find a way to have both
When Darach rescued Caitlin MacInnes from the clutches of vile Laird Fraser, she vowed to never let men or misery rule her life again. With Darach and the MacKenzie clan, Caitlin finally feels safe. But when Laird Fraser shows up to claim what’s rightfully his, or go to war, Darach will have to use all his brawn and brains to protect Caitlin—even if it means losing his heart.
“Do you think a lass like you with a horse like Cloud will even make it to Inverness without being accosted? You have no coin, no sword, no one to show you the way. ’Tis a fool’s journey. For the love of God, stay here.”
“Why e’re not?”
The familiar panic that she tried so hard to tamp down pushed up from her belly and threatened to close her throat. “My uncle and Fraser—they’ll find me. I willna go back! I’ll be free of them in France.”
“Nay, Caitlin, you’ll be abused or raped or dead in France—if you even get there. You’ll only be safe if you stay with the MacKenzies. ’Tis all right to be afraid, lass. You survived a horrendous ordeal. But you must think clearly. You canna go to France.”
“Am I your prisoner, then?”
He reared back from her. “Nay, of course not.”
“So if I wanted to ride Cloud through the gates tonight, I could?”
“You would die.”
“But would you let me pass, if ’twas what I truly wanted?”
His eye twitched steadily, along with a muscle in his jaw. Finally he said, “I took an oath to keep you safe, lass, but aye, you could leave. You can leave. But not alone. I will send men with you who know the way and will keep the brigands at bay.”
So he wouldnae control her, lock her away as her uncle had done.
The pressure inside her eased, and on a half sob, half laugh, she threw her arms around his shoulders, impulsively pressing her lips to his. They were as soft as she’d imagined. He stiffened for an instant, then wrapped her in his embrace, one hand sinking into her hair, the other sliding downward to anchor their hips together. A rumble sounded in his chest, and he angled his head, licking the seam of her lips. When she gasped in surprise, he slipped his tongue inside her mouth to rub against hers. Heat scorched her skin at the contact, and her breasts tightened—hard and aching. If he hadn’t been holding her, she would have collapsed to the floor like a rag doll.
The brush fell from her fingers and crashed to the floor. He yanked his head back, lids heavy, breath harsh and quick. Her own breath rasped in her throat.
“You shouldnae have done that, Caitlin.” His voice grated like he’d swallowed a handful of gravel.
A wave of remorse washed over her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I was just so happy. It willna happen again, I promise. Please, doona send me back.”
He groaned and pulled her close, tucking her head beneath his chin. “I willna send you anywhere, sweetling. No matter what you do. ’Tis just…you are such an innocent. I doona think you understand…”
Caitlin waited for him to finish. His hand stroked her hair, and she melted into him. She wanted him to keep caressing down her spine to her bottom. “Understand what?”
He sighed. “My point exactly. Most women wouldnae have to ask. ’Tis troublesome.”
“I’m sorry,” she said again, wavering between self-pity and annoyance. “I did not know my gratitude was so unwelcome.”
“That was not gratitude.” Now he sounded annoyed. He tilted her chin up with his finger so she looked at him. “Have you ne’er been kissed before?”
Heat flooded her cheeks. She tried to turn away, but he held her tight. “’Tis not your business. I willna tell you.”
“Aye, you will.”
She stepped on his foot, so he’d release her, but instead he wrapped his leg around hers. Trapped and off balance, she clung to him.
“Caitlin,” he prompted.
Her lips pressed together. It was mortifying that, at almost twenty, she’d only been kissed once—by an ogre who’d just told her not to do it again.
The ogre tipped her back farther.
“Hundreds of times,” she said.
“I doona think so. I think your father kept a good eye on you, and then your uncle locked you up. You know naught of kissing or anything else.”
“Fine. I have ne’er been kissed properly, but two did try. The first my father caught before the lad could do more than hold my hand. He was flung from the barn onto his backside. The second I kneed in his privates, a trick my father taught me after the first lad’s failed attempt. In return for my actions, I received this.” Caitlin pointed to her bruised temple.
“Fraser,” Darach ground out, then yanked her into a hug so tight she could scarcely breathe.
For someone who did not want her touch, he held her very close. What was the difference between a hug and a kiss? Surely they were just as intimate. So much so that if her father had seen them, he’d have done much more than throw Darach out onto his backside.
“Did you get him good?” he asked.
“Aye. He fell to his knees, then onto his side and curled up like a bairn. When he could finally stand, he hit my face and then my belly while his men held me. I fainted shortly after. I think maybe he kicked me too, for I have a large bruise on my hip and one on my thigh.”
“I will kill him.” He grasped her waist and gently moved her back to look down at her torso, as if to see the damage.
She moaned again, but this time from fear. “I doona want you hurt. Any of you.”
“He dared lay hands upon you, Caitlin. For that alone, I will gut him. None hurt what is mine to protect.”
A stay-at-home mom of twins and award-winning writer, Alyson McLayne is a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the west coast where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband. Website | Twitter | Facebook
Letter to the Reader
Hello Lovely Readers!!
My name is Alyson McLayne, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to introduce you to my book, HIGHLAND PROMISE, a Scottish Highlander Romantic Adventure!
It’s the first book in my historical romance series, THE SONS OF GREGOR MACLEOD, starring five Highland Lairds, who were fostered together as lads to become brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin, and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true love.
These Highland Lairds are a band of brothers, who will defend each other to the death—if they don’t kill each other first with their sharp wit and hilarious banter. They take their oaths seriously, whether it’s to bring peace to the Highlands and defend one another as friends and allies, or to razz each other so hard, only one brother is left standing—and then they’ll take him down too.
And the women they love? They have spirit, and tenacity, and they take care of others before they take care of themselves. They’re all different—their backgrounds, their struggles, their interests and talents—but at the core of each woman is a strength, compassion, and a capacity to love that brings their man to his knees.
Before I tell you about HIGHLAND PROMISE, here’s a little about me. J I live on the west coast of Canada with my adorable (aka annoying) 5 year old boy/girl twins; my sweet yet sarcastic husband (who just said he’s not sarcastic at all, he’s ironic!); my counter-surfing puppy, Jasper, who turns one year old the same day HIGHLAND PROMISE debuts (Happy Birthday, baby!!); and my 86 year old dad who gets a look on his face every time it’s mentioned there are—gasp—sex scenes in my books…but then goes on to tell me young people (meaning me) did not invent sex.
Ears…burning…must pour…hot oil…inside…
Speaking of ears, as I’m writing this, I have ear plugs in because my son is beside me in my office (aka my bedroom) building a fort under the covers on the bed, while my Slytherin-declaring daughter waits to knock it down, which results in WW3; Jasper hovers at the edge, barking, until he can’t stand it anymore and jumps onto the bed with the monsters, er, I mean children; my husband comes in and says something “ironic” about the chaos; and I stare fiercely at my computer screen determined to ignore it ALL—and thanking God my dad can turn his hearing aids OFF.
Just grist for the mill…grist for the mill…said all writer-moms everywhere.
Okay. Onto the important part: HIGHLAND PROMISE! I started writing HIGHLAND PROMISE almost 10 years ago after reading ALL of Julie Garwood’s medieval-set historicals, most of which were set in the Highlands. I LOVED them. I don’t read a lot of books over and over, but I did hers. I found them completely captivating.
I think HIGHLAND PROMISE captures that same tone and spirit: Caitlin MacInnes is the archetypal Waif/Free Spirit who turns the archetypal Chieftain, Laird Darach MacKenzie’s life upside down—and then spins it around and dribbles with it for a while. As Lachlan MacKay, Darach’s foster-brother, says of Darach’s and Caitlin’s courtship:
“I doona know when I’ve laughed so much as watching Darach trying to control [Caitlin] over the past few weeks. Her intentions are good, but she’s trouble. It follows her around like a faithful hound.”
Darach is undone by her. His heart, which he swore he’d NEVER give to another woman, is torn from his body and becomes putty in her hands. Of course, he doesn’t know that at first, and even when he finally figures it out, he doesn’t tell her—he’s a warrior, a leader of his people, not a poet. And Caitlin, who is determined to make Darach happy whether he wants her to or not, doesn’t believe there’s any possible way she can stay with him. She needs to leave the Highlands immediately and find her mother’s family in France.
’Cause there’s a whole lotta trouble on her tail (some might call it a shite storm—haha!) heading straight for Darach. But what Caitlin fails to realize is that Darach, along with his brothers and their clans, is strong enough to handle it.
War is coming. Caitlin didn’t start the blood feud between the Frasers and the MacKenzies, nay, Laird Fraser and his sister, Darach’s former betrothed, did that, but she will be the catalyst that ends it—pinning the good men of the Highlands against a monster.
And hopefully winning.
(Well of course they win, and of course Darach and Caitlin live happily ever after—it’s a romance, after all!!)
Now go—before I start rambling and give too much away. Read the words and feel the feels. Fall in love with both Darach and Caitlin…and prepare yourself for Lachlan’s story next.