Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Excerpt: The Warrior by Margaret Mallory


Meet Margaret:
Margaret Mallory started out as a Midwest girl. Except for two years in Africa, she grew up in small towns in northern Michigan, where her dad was a county extension agent. She received degrees from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan Law School, and then headed to Washington, DC to save the world. When that failed, she packed up and moved to the Pacific Northwest for no reason except that it was beautiful and far from her last jobs and boyfriends. She admits to having a vague notion of finding herself a park ranger with a dog. The man she met was not a park ranger, but he was willing to get the dog. Marriage and children soon followed.

Margaret spent many rewarding—but rather wearing—years in jobs devoted to improving services for abused children and care for the elderly. Not long ago, she surprised (shocked?) her friends and family by abandoning her legal career—and steady job—to write novels. She is thrilled to spend her days writing stories of love and adventure, instead of going to endless meetings. After all, she has always loved romantic tales, heroic deeds, and happy endings. And, at long last, she can satisfy her passion for justice by punishing the bad and rewarding the worthy—in the pages of her novels.

With her two children off to college, Margaret spends most of her time working on her next books. She loves to hear from readers.

Connect with Margaret: Author Site | Facebook | Twitter




PROLOGUE
Isle of Skye, Scotland
1508

Duncan MacDonald could defeat any warrior in the castle—and yet, he was powerless against his chieftain’s seventeen-year-old daughter.

“As soon as my father leaves the hall,” Moira whispered, leaning close enough to make him light-headed, “I’ll meet ye outside by the ash tree.”

Duncan knew he should refuse her, but he may as well try to stop his heart from beating.

“I’ve told ye not to speak to me here,” he said, glancing about the long room filled with their clansmen and the chieftain’s guests from Ireland. “Someone might notice.”

When Moira turned to look straight at him with her midnight-blue eyes, Duncan felt as if a fist slammed into his chest. That had happened the first time she looked at him—really looked at him—and every time since.

“Why would anyone take notice if I speak with my brother Connor’s best friend?” she asked. Perhaps because she had ignored him the first seventeen years of her life? It was still a mystery to him how that had changed.

“Go now—Ragnall is watching us,” he said when he felt her older brother’s eyes on him. Unlike Moira and Connor, Ragnall had their father’s fair hair, bull-like build, and short temper. He was also the only warrior in the clan Duncan was not certain he could defeat at arms.

“I won’t go until ye say you’ll meet me later.” Moira folded her arms, but amusement quirked up the corners of her full lips, reminding Duncan that this was a game to her.

Yet if the chieftain learned that Duncan was sneaking off with his only daughter, he would murder him on the spot. Duncan turned and left the hall without bothering to answer her; Moira knew he would be there.

As he waited for her in the dark, he listened to the soft lap of the sea on the shore. There was no mist on the Misty Isle of Skye tonight, and Dunscaith Castle was beautiful, ablaze with torchlight against the clear night sky. He had grown up in the castle and seen this sight a thousand times, but Duncan was a young man who took nothing for granted.

His mother had served as nursemaid to the chieftain’s children, and he and Connor had been best friends since the cradle. From the time they could lift wooden swords, the two of them and Connor’s cousins, Alex and Ian, had trained in the art of war. When
they weren’t practicing with their weapons, they were off looking for adventure—or trouble—and they usually found it.

Moira had always been apart, a coddled princess dressed in finery. Duncan had little to do with the lovely, wee creature whose laughter often filled the castle.

Duncan heard the rustle of silk skirts and turned to see Moira running toward him. Even in the dark and covered head-to-toe in a cloak, he could pick her out of a thousand women. Though she could not possibly see what was in her path, Moira ran headlong, expecting no impediment. No stone tripped her, for even the faeries favored this lass.

When Moira threw her arms around his neck, Duncan closed his eyes and lost himself in her womanly softness. He breathed in the scent of her hair, and it was like lying in a field of wildflowers.

“It’s been two whole days,” she said. “I missed ye so much.”

Duncan was amazed at how unguarded Moira was. The lass said whatever came into her head, with no caution, no fear of rejection. But then, who would refuse her?

The chieftain had sent Duncan to attend university in the Lowlands with Connor and Connor’s cousins, and he’d learned about Helen of Troy there. Moira had a face like that—the kind that could start a clan war. And worse for his jealous heart, she had lush curves and an innate sensuality that made every man want her.

The other men only lusted after her for her beauty. But for Duncan, Moira was the bright spark in his world.

Moira pulled him down into a deep kiss that sent him reeling. Before he knew it, his hands were roaming over the feminine dips and swells of her body, and she was moaning into his mouth. They were in danger of dropping to the grass at their feet, where anyone could happen upon them, so he broke the kiss. One of them had to keep their head—and it wouldn’t be Moira.

“Not here,” he said, though he knew damned well what they would do if they went to the cave. Anticipation caused every fiber of his being to throb with need.

For the first weeks, they had found ways to please each other without committing the last, irrevocable sin—the one that could cost Duncan his life if his chieftain knew of it. He felt guilty for taking what rightfully belonged to Moira’s future husband. But it was a miracle that he’d held out against her as long as he had.

At least he was confident that Moira would not suffer for what they had done. She was a clever lass—she would not be the first to spill a vial of sheep’s blood on her wedding sheet. And Moira was not one to be troubled by guilt.

Once they were inside the cave, they spread the blanket they kept there, and Duncan pulled her onto his lap.

“The Irish chieftain’s son is rather amusing,” Moira said, poking her finger in his side.

Moira’s father had not taken another wife after Connor and Moira’s mother died. So when they had guests, Moira sat on one side of her father, charming them, while her older brother Ragnall sat on his other side, frightening them.

“The man was looking down the front of your gown all through supper.” And Duncan thought Moira let him. “I wanted to crush his head between my hands.”

All his life, he’d minded his temper, both because he was bigger than other lads and because his position was precarious. He hated the way Moira made him lose control.

“That’s sweet.” She laughed and kissed his cheek. “I was trying to make ye jealous.”

“To make certain ye would meet me, because we need to talk.” Her voice was serious now. “Duncan, I want us to marry.”

Duncan closed his eyes and, for one brief moment,let himself pretend it was possible. He imagined what it would be like to be the man so blessed as to sleep with this lass in his arms each night and to wake up each morning to her sunny smile.

Moira was accustomed to having her way. Her father, who had no other weakness, had spoiled her, but he would not give in to her on such an important matter.

“Your father will never permit his only daughter to wed the nursemaid’s bastard son,” he said. “He’ll use your marriage to make an alliance for the clan.”

Duncan pulled out his flask of whiskey and took a long drink. With Moira talking such nonsense, he needed it.

“My father always lets me have what I want in the end. And what I want,” she said, her breath warm in his ear as she ran her hand down his stomach, “is you, Duncan Ruadh MacDonald.”

With all his blood rushing to his cock, he couldn’t think. He pulled her into his arms, and they fell across the blanket, their legs tangled.

“I’m desperate for ye,” she said between frantic kisses.

He still found it hard to believe Moira wanted him—but when she put her hand on his cock, he did believe it. For however long she wanted him, he was hers.

Excerpt from The Warrior ©2012 by Margaret Mallory. All rights reserved.


THE WARRIOR:
Genre: Historical
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Forever (October 30, 2012)

Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can't prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties.

STAR-CROSSED

From the Isle of Skye to the battlefields of France, Duncan MacDonald has never escaped the memory of the true love he left behind. Deemed unworthy of a chieftain's daughter, Duncan abandoned the lovely Moira to prove his worth in battle. Now, when called upon to rescue her from a rival clan, one thing is certain: Moira's pull on his heart is stronger than ever.

Bartered away in marriage to a violent man, Moira will do anything to ensure she and her son survive. When a rugged warrior arrives to save her, the desperate beauty thinks her prayers have been answered-until she realizes it's Duncan. The man who once broke her heart is now her only hope. Moira vows never again to give herself—or reveal her secrets—to the fierce warrior, but as they race across the sea, danger and desire draw them ever closer.
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