Beyond the Highland Mist

He would sell his warrior soul to possess her...

An alluring laird...

He was known throughout the kingdom as Hawk, legendary predator of the battlefield and the boudoir. No woman could refuse his touch, but no woman ever stirred his heart—until a vengeful fairy tumbled Adrienne de Simone out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Captive in a century not her own, entirely too bold, too outspoken, she was an irresistible challenge to the sixteenth-century rogue. Coerced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne vowed to keep him at arm's length—but his sweet seduction played havoc with her resolve.

A prisoner in time...

She had a perfect "no" on her perfect lips for the notorious laird, but Hawk swore she would whisper his name with desire, begging for the passion he longed to ignite within her. Not even the barriers of time and space would keep him from winning her love. Despite her uncertainty about following the promptings of her own passionate heart, Adrienne's reservations were no match for Hawk's determination to keep her by his side...

REVIEWS

"Highly original...sensual, hard-to-put-down romance. Karen Marie Moning is destined to make her mark on the genre."
~RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)

"Terrific plotline...an intriguing story...it will remind readers of Elizabeth Lowell's Untamed."
~Publishers Weekly

"Oh, my, are you in for a treat with this delectable, magical, mystical romance by new author Ms. Moning...fast paced, humorous, sexy and pure reading enjoyment."
~Old Book Barn Gazette

"Moning’s world building is something incredible to behold. She has the ability to weave magical and fantastical elements into her settings that still make them appear authentic."
~The Book Vixen

"This book is fun! fun! fun! And exciting. And sexy. And passionate beyond compare."
~Maryse's Book Blog

EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1

S C OT L A N D
1 A P R I L 1 5 1 3

SIDHEACH JAMES LYON DOUGLAS, THIRD EARL OF DALKEITH, stalked across the floor. Droplets of water trickled from his wet hair down his broad chest, and gathered into a single rivulet between the double ridges of muscle in his abdomen. Moonlight shimmered through the open window, casting a silvery glow to his bronze skin, creating the illusion that he was sculpted of molten steel.

The tub behind him had grown cold and been forgotten. The woman on the bed was also cold and forgotten. She knew it.

And she didn’t like it one bit.

Too beautiful for me, Esmerelda thought. But by the saints, the man was a poison draught, another long cool swallow of his body the only cure for the toxin. She thought about the things she had done to win him, to share his bed, and—God forgive her—the things she would do to stay there.

She almost hated him for it. She knew she hated herself for it. He should be mine, she thought. She watched him stalk across the spacious room to the window which opened between fluted granite columns that met in a high arch twenty feet above her head. Esmerelda sneered at him behind his back. Foolish—such large unprotected openings in a keep—or arrogant. So what if one could lie in the massive goosedown bed and gaze through the rosy arch at a velvety sky pierced by glittering stars?

She’d caught him gazing that way tonight as he’d slammed into her, exciting that bottomless hunger in her blood with the rock-hard kind of maleness only he possessed. She’d whimpered beneath him in the greatest ecstasy she’d ever experienced and he’d been looking out the window—as if no one else was there with him.

Had he been counting the stars?

Silently reciting bawdy dittys to prevent himself from toppling over and falling asleep?

She’d lost him.

No, Esmerelda vowed, she would never lose him.

“Hawk?”

“Hmmm?”

She smoothed the lavender silk sheet through her trembling fingers. “Come back to bed, Hawk.”

“I’m restless tonight, sweet.” He toyed with the stem of a large pale blue blossom. A half hour earlier he’d swept the dewy petals along her silken skin.

Esmerelda flinched at his open admission that he still had energy to spare. Sleepily sated, she could see that his body still thrummed from head to toe with restless vigor. What kind of woman would it take—or how many—to leave that man drowsing in fascinated satisfaction?

More woman than she, and ye gods, how that offended her.

Had her sister left him more sated? Her sister who had warmed his bed until Zeldie had found a way to take her place?

“Am I better than my sister?” The words were out before she could prevent them. She bit her lip, anxiously awaiting his answer.

Her words dragged his smoky gaze from the starry night, across the wide expanse of the bedchamber, to rest on the sultry, raven-haired Gypsy. “Esmerelda,” he chided gently.

“Am I?” Her husky contralto soared to a shrewish pitch.

He sighed. “We’ve had this discussion before—”

“And you never answer me.”

“Stop comparing yourself, sweet. You know it’s foolish . . .”

“How can I not when you can compare me to a hundred, nay a thousand, even my own sister?” Shapely brows puckered in a scowl above her flashing eyes.

His laughter rolled. “And how many do you compare me to, lovely Esmerelda?”

“My sister couldn’t have been as good as me. She was nearly a virgin.” She spit out the word with distaste. Life was too unpredictable for virginity to be a prized possession among her people. Lust, in all its facets, was a healthy aspect of the Rom culture.

He raised a hand in warning. “Stop. Now.”

But she couldn’t. The poison words of accusation tumbled out fast and furious at the only man who had ever made her pagan blood sing, and his boredom between her thighs had been chiseled in granite upon his perfect face this very eve. In truth, for many evenings now.

He suffered her rage in silence, and when at last her tongue rested, he turned back to his window. The howl of a solitary wolf ruptured the night and she felt an answering cry well up within her. She knew the Hawk’s silence was his farewell. Stinging with rejection and humiliation, she lay trembling in his bed—the bed she knew she would never be asked to enter again.

She would kill for him.

Which is precisely what she meant to do moments later when she rushed him with the silver dirk she’d slipped from the table by the bed. Esmerelda might have been able to leave without swearing an oath of vengeance, if he had looked surprised. Momentarily alarmed. Sorry, even.

But he exhibited none of these emotions. His perfect face lit up with laughter as he spun effortlessly, caught her arm and sent the dirk hurtling through the open window.

He laughed.

And she cursed him. And all his begotten and any subsequent misbegotten.

When he shushed her with kisses, she cursed through gritted teeth, even as her traitorous body melted for his touch. No man should be so beautiful. No man should be so untouchable. And so damned fearless.

No man should be able to forsake Esmerelda. He was done with her, but she wasn’t done with him. She would never be done with him.

✶ ✶ ✶

“It wasn’t your fault, Hawk,” Grimm offered. They sat upon the cobbled terrace of Dalkeith sipping port and smoking imported tobacco in purely male contentment.

Sidheach James Lyon Douglas rubbed his perfect jaw with a perfect hand, irritated by the perfect shadow of stubble that always appeared just a few hours after shaving.

“I just don’t understand, Grimm. I thought she’d found pleasure with me. Why would she seek to kill me?”

Grimm arched a brow. “Just what do you do to the lasses in bed, Hawk?”

“I give them what they want. Fantasy. My willing flesh and blood to serve their every whim.”

“And how do you know what a woman’s fantasies are?” Grimm wondered aloud.

The Earl of Dalkeith laughed softly, a heady, confident rumble of a purr that he knew drove women wild. “Ah, Grimm, you just have to listen with your whole body. In her eyes she tells you, whether she knows it or not. In her soft cries she guides you. In the subtle turnings of her body, you know if she wants you in front or behind her lush curves. With gentleness or with power; if she desires a tender lover or seeks a beast. If she likes her lips kissed, or savagely devoured.

If she likes her breasts—”

“I get the picture,” Grimm interrupted, swallowing hard. He shifted in his chair and uncrossed his legs. Recrossed them and tugged at his kilt. Uncrossed them again and sighed. “And Esmerelda? Did you understand her fantasies?”

“Only too well. One of them included being Lady Hawk.”

“She had to know it couldn’t be, Hawk. Everyone knows you’ve been as good as wed since King James decreed your betrothal.”

“As good as dead. And I don’t want to talk about it.”

“The time draws near, Hawk. You’re not only going to have to talk about it, you’re going to have to do something about it—like go collect your bride. Time is running out. Or don’t you care?”

Hawk slanted a savage look Grimm’s way.

“Just making sure, that’s all. There’s scarce a fortnight left, remember?”

Hawk stared out into the crystalline night, heavy with glowing stars. “How could I forget?”

“You really think James would carry out his threats if you don’t wed the Comyn lass?”

“Absolutely,” Hawk said flatly.

“I just don’t understand why he hates you so much.”

A sardonic smile flitted across the Hawk’s face. He knew why James hated him. Thirty years ago Hawk’s parents had humiliated James to the seat of his vain soul. Since the Hawk’s father had died before James could avenge himself, the king had turned on Hawk in his father’s stead.

For fifteen long years James had controlled every minute of the Hawk’s life. Days before his pledge of service was to expire, James contrived a plan to affect every future moment of it. By the king’s decree, the Hawk was being forced to wed a lass he didn’t know and didn’t want. A reclusive spinster who was rumored to be quite hideous and unquestionably mad. It was King James’s twisted idea of a lifetime sentence. “Who fathoms the minds of kings, my friend?” Hawk evaded, pointedly putting an end to the topic.

The two men passed a time in silence, both brooding for different reasons as they stared into the velvety sky. An owl hooted softly from the gardens. Crickets rubbed their legs in sweet concerto, offering twilight tribute to Dalkeith. Stars pulsed and shimmered against the night’s blue-black canopy.

“Look. One falls. There, Hawk. What do you make of it?” Grimm pointed at a white speck plummeting from the heavens, leaving a milky tail glowing in its wake.

“Esmerelda says if you make a wish upon such a falling star ’twill be granted.”

“Did you wish just now?”

“Tinker talk,” Hawk scoffed. “Foolish romantic nonsense for dreamy-eyed lasses.” Of course he’d wished. Every time he’d seen a falling star lately. Always the same wish. After all, the time was nearing.

“Well, I’m trying it,” Grimm grumbled, not to be swayed by Hawk’s mockery. “I wish...”

“Yield, Grimm. What’s your wish?” Hawk asked curiously.

“None of your concern. You don’t believe.”

“I? The eternal romantic who enchants legions with his poetry and seduction—not a believer in all those lovely female things?”

Grimm shot his friend a warning look. “Careful, Hawk. Mock them at your own risk. You may just really make a lass angry one day. And you won’t know how to deal with it. For the time being, they still fall for your perfect smiles—”

“You mean like this one.” Hawk arched a brow and flashed a smile, complete with sleepily hooded eyes that spoke volumes about how the lass receiving it was the only true beauty in his heart, a heart which had room for only one—whoever happened to be in the Hawk’s arms at the moment.

Grimm shook his head in mock disgust. “You practice it. You must. Come on, admit it.”

“Of course I do. It works. Wouldn’t you practice it?”

“Womanizer.”

“Uh-hmm,” Hawk agreed.

“Do you even remember their names?”

“All five thousand of them.” Hawk hid his grin behind a swallow of port.

“Blackguard. Libertine.”

“Rogue. Roué. Cad. Ah, here’s a good one: ‘voluptuary,’” Hawk supplied helpfully.

“Why don’t they see through you?”

Hawk shrugged a shoulder. “They like what they get from me. There are a lot of hungry lasses out there. I couldn’t, in good conscience, turn them away. ’Twould trouble my head.”

“I think I know exactly which head of yours would be troubled,” Grimm said dryly. “The very one that’s going to get you in big trouble one day.”

“What did you wish for, Grimm?” Hawk ignored the warning with the devil-may-care attitude that was his wont where the lasses were concerned.

A slow smile slid over Grimm’s face. “A lass who doesn’t want you. A lovely, nay, an earth-shatteringly beautiful one, with wit and wisdom to boot. One with a perfect face and a perfect body, and a perfect ‘no’ on her perfect lips for you, my oh-so-perfect friend. And I also wished to be allowed to watch the battle.”

Hawk smiled smugly. “It will never happen.”

✶ ✶ ✶

The wind gusting sweetly through the pines carried a disembodied voice that drifted on a breeze of jasmine and sandalwood. Then it spoke in laughing words neither man

heard. “I think that can be arranged.”

    Comments are closed.