Okay, White Wolf Christmas is not up for preorder yet, but will soon be. I’ll post when it is. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is available for preorder. They’re working on the cover now.
Excerpt from The Highlander, copyrighted by Terry Spear
His side and the back of his head throbbed with pain and the sound of flowing water filled Niall MacNeill’s ears. Where in God’s wounds was he and what had happened to him? He opened his eyes to low morning light—made grayer by a thick mist. His mind, cloaked in a hazy fuzz, finally cleared enough for him to realize he was on his belly beside a river. He groaned, his head pounding, and he recalled the Murray clansman striking the blow that had knocked him out.
But Niall wondered where in the world he was.
He stared at the river, his thoughts so groggy, he couldn’t think straight. The… the Scottish Lowlands. He must have been left for dead.
The back of his head and his side burned.
He twisted too quickly to see if his Viking friend, raised as a brother, was nearby. Pain jabbed Niall where he’d been injured—a glancing sword wound in his side, and his head felt like it would split open if he moved again. He moaned a curse.
“Gunnolf,” he called out low, trying not to call attention to himself if any of the Murray clansmen were still about.
Gurgling water slipped over the stones near his head, the rushing sound of the river in the deeper part, but he heard no voices. No sounds of human movement. Just the river’s flow and birds twittering in a nearby tree.
He prayed Gunnolf was well and not worse off than Niall was. Or worse… dead.
His head throbbed with a perpetual dull ache now. Reaching up, Niall felt the back of his skull. A sticky wetness covered his fingers. Blood. His blood. His thoughts jumbled, he could barely remember how he came to be here.
Ambushed! The brigands had struck right after he and Gunnolf had washed in the river, dressed in fresh clothes, and intended to sleep the night. The Clan Murray, he thought coldly, after they’d run into them earlier in the day and asked one of the men if he knew anything about a Frenchwoman living in the region.
Another ragged jab of pain radiated through the wound in his side, and he reached out to scoop up some water in his hands and splashed it on his face, the cold river jarring him from his stupor. Devil take the bastard who’d cut him and struck such a blow to his skull that the man had knocked him out. The man most likely believed him dead.
But where was Gunnolf? Niall had to find him as soon as he was able.
He thought he heard the bleating of sheep off in the distance in the glen and roused himself to a sitting position. Pain in his skull and side stabbed him so sharply, he fought drifting into a cave of blackness again. The groan he heard, he belatedly realized, was his own. Somehow, he managed to conquer the dizziness and focus again on his surroundings.
Woods, green hills, jagged gray stone topping taller mountains in the distance, and the blue river behind him filled his view.
Sheep meant a sheepherder would be nearby, and he could seek his help. As long as the man wasn’t one of Cian Murray’s men. Though, he didn’t think it could be as the Murray Clan had settled farther west, mostly living in the Highlands.
Niall surveyed the brush and trees along the river, his gaze fixing on his sword half hidden in the long grasses and heather. He smiled darkly. He could lose most anything else, but he couldn’t live without his sword. Although not having his horse provided more of a challenge also. He needed him back just as much.
Niall attempted to stand, and every move filled him with excruciating pain. He fought an overwhelming lightheadedness and the blackness that threatened to overcome him. After finally standing, listing to the side a little, he retrieved his sword and sheathed it. Then he began the slow walk in the direction of the sheep’s calls, remembering the task his cousin, Laird James MacNeill, had put before him. He and Gunnolf were to accompany the Chattan brothers and their kin on the way to see their McEwan cousin and his ward. During the journey, Niall and Gunnolf were to split off from them and continue on their way to the Lowlands, to the area around Banbh. There, they were to locate a French lady whose father had once saved James’s life in combat during the Crusades and now needed the MacNeill’s protection—without alerting anyone as to their business.
She was here, somewhere in the region, if Niall could discover her location. As soon as he had her in hand, he and Gunnolf would return her to James’s safekeeping. But he had to find his friend first. Once they accomplished the task, he and Gunnolf would find some other worthy cause to champion.
For now, Niall concentrated on putting one foot before the other and not collapsing in a bloody heap in the tall green grasses again, worried about Gunnolf, their horses, and another encounter with Cian and his men.
An impenetrable mist cloaked the lands in a chilly grayness late that morn, and the area appeared dark and more formidable, Anora thought as she returned home after selling several of her sheep at market in Banbh. A strange red glow in the sky to the north of her stone cottage caught her attention. A campfire? She studied the sight as she latched the gate to the pen.
Her dog suddenly growled a low warning, and she turned to watch him, trying to discern what the matter was. His rusty brown and white fur stood on end, his long flappy brown ears perked up, listening to only sounds he could hear. He sniffed at the air, his white fringed tail stiffening. Then he sniffed at the ground.
“What is wrong, Charlie?” Anora whispered.
He looked up at her and wagged his tail, then turned his attention to the cottage again.
Not taking any chances, Anora grabbed a pitchfork from the haystack. She had her sgian dubh tucked in its sheath at her waist, but she was afraid someone still might get the best of her if she used the shorter knife.
Curses on anyone who might have slipped inside her home to steal from her, again. Just because she lived alone, did not mean she was without resources.
Barely breathing, she crept toward the cottage. The tiny stones along the path crunched with every step she took, setting her nerves on edge. With the prongs of the fork, she pushed the door aside. The rusted hinges creaked, and the noise made her stop dead. Her heart thundered so out of control, she could scarcely hear anything else.
The flap of sheepskin over the window on the north side of her house fluttered with the breeze, drawing her attention as Anora peered into the dim light. Not seeing anyone inside, she took a step into the main room. The door to her sleeping room rested slightly ajar, catching her gaze next. Her mind raced as she tried to remember how she’d left it that morning. Closed, she thought. Emitting a low growl, her dog still stood at the front door, and Anora frowned.
“Some guard dog you are,” she whispered.
Bringing her pitchfork back to the ready, she steeled herself and angled the weapon up. Holding her breath, she gingerly walked across the stone floor. Charlie ran into the middle of the main room growling more loudly this time, but remaining behind her—her rearguard.
“Shh, you are scaring me more than anyone else, Charlie,” Anora whispered, holding her finger to her lips, fearing he would alert whoever might be in her cottage that she had arrived. Not that the creaking door wouldn’t have already done so. Though if the intruder was still here, he was being very quiet.
Panting, Charlie settled his rump on the floor and waited for her next command. Her hands clammy as she gripped the pitchfork tightly in her clenched fists, Anora inched forward.
When she reached the simple slat door, she pushed at it with the sharp prongs of her pitchfork, but finding the door resisted her efforts, she paused, trying to figure out what could be blocking it.
Hand on the door, she pushed again and found a chair held it partly jammed in place. She knew she should leave. Someone was still in the room. But it was her cottage. Well, she rented it from the local laird, but still, she had nearly always lived here and it felt as though it was hers. She had nowhere else to go and no one else who could take care of this for her. She wasn’t going to allow it.
Steeling her back, she again tightened her grip on the pitchfork. If she sucked in her breath, she could slip in through the sliver of the makeshift entrance.
Heart thudding and holding her breath, Anora inched her way through the doorway, careful not to make a sound on the cobblestone floor in here. The windowless room was fairly dark, the scant bit of light filtering in from the main room, allowing her to see the closest objects, the bed and the small table next to it. Everything else faded into the darkness.
Once inside, she saw a large lump of a figure sleeping in her bed, half-buried in sheepskin covers. Her breath escaped in a whoosh. She clasped her hand to her mouth to muffle her gasp. Even though she knew someone had to be in her sleeping chamber, she still couldn’t contain her surprise. Not when that someone was a large man—half naked!—and sleeping in her bed.
The Highlander, Book 5
Anna, the shepherdess, finds a half-naked man in her bed, so what’s a woman living alone in a cottage in the Lowlands of Scotland supposed to do? Prod him with her pitchfork to chase him off! Only the man is not just a traveler seeking her bed for a rest—but a wounded Highlander, who fights back, swinging his sword!
Niall MacNeill is searching for a Frenchwoman of nobility to escort to his brother’s castle for safekeeping, when he and his friend, Gunnolf, are attacked by another Highland clan, seeking the same woman. The other Highlanders wish to sell her to the highest bidder—English or French—it does not matter.
Niall takes refuge in a sheepherder’s cottage to heal up from his wounds and discovers the shepherdess taking care of him may very well be the woman he seeks. He has no intention of doing anything but what his brother requests of him—ensure her safety on their way to Craigly Castle—but when the lass so bravely wields her pitchfork at him, he is thinking of other, more interesting possibilities.
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Have a great one!!!
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”
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