By: Hannah Howell
Releasing March 3rd, 2015
New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell brings back the daring Murray family in a brand-new tale of dangerous love rekindled. . .
Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from
devastation, she must turn to the
one man she could never forget. . .
He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the
laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen's
wife. . .Lady Annys. Now the passion he still feels for the lovely
strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But
to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most
wrenching fears--and putting everything they treasure most at stake. .
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/01/highland-guard-murray-family-20-by.html
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/41630-murray-family
Hannah D. Howell is a highly regarded and prolific romance writer. Since Amber Flame, her first historical romance, was released in February 1988, she has published 25 novels and short stories, with more on the way. Her writing has been repeatedly recognized for its excellence and has "made
Waldenbooks Romance Bestseller list a time or two" as well as
was nominated twice by Romantic Times for Best Medieval Romance (Promised
Passion and Elfking's Lady). She has also won Romantic Times' Best British
Isles Historical Romance for Beauty and the Beast; and, in 1991-92 she received
Romantic Times' Career Achievement Award for Historical Storyteller of the
Hannah was born and raised in Massachusetts (the maternal side of her family has been there since the 1630's). She has been married to her husband Stephen for 28 years, who she met in England while visiting relatives, and decided to import him. They have two
sons Samuel, 27, and Keir,
24. She is addicted to crocheting, reads and plays piano, attempts to garden,
and collects things like dolls, faerie and cat figurines, and music boxes. She
also seems to collect cats, as she now has four of them, Clousseau, Banshee,
Spooky, and Oliver Cromwell.
It was not until she entered her
bedchamber that she realized Joan had followed her. Annys
told herself she had no reason to be surprised by that. The woman did act as
her maid after all. Yet she had taken no notice of Joan falling into step
behind her. She said nothing as Joan helped her prepare for bed. Sitting still
before a fire while Joan brushed out her hair worked to ease a lot of the knots
in her belly, however, and Annys was soon glad the woman had followed her.
it prey on you, m’lady,” Joan said as she sat down beside Annys.
“I dinnae want it to but I am nay sure I can stop it.” Annys stood and moved to her bed, sitting on the edge so that Joan could lightly braid her hair for the night. “So much has happened today.
Mayhap it is just that I am unaccustomed to so
many disturbances in my life.”
Joan laughed softly. “
Weel, six verra handsome men coming in answer to your request
for aid is certainly disturbing. It would be to any lass with blood in her
“True and it will be
verra hard to keep the maids in hand while they are here.” She
looked at Joan.
why I find one of them more disturbing than all the others, aye?”
“He is as handsome as he was all those years ago.”
“And looks so
verra much like Benet.”
ken to look for it.” She patted Annys’s arm when she saw the woman’s look of
doubt. “Truly. Our laird had black hair and brown eyes. And ye have that touch
of gold in your eyes. Any other features that may match Sir Harcourt’s willnae
show for many a year yet. But, in truth, there is a strong similarity betwixt
him and our poor laird. The mon is just bigger, stronger, than Sir David e’er
just saying such things to ease my worries?”
the truth. Only if ye ken what we do can ye look and see it. If ye dinnae ken
that he bred the lad, weel, then it isnae so clear to see.”
have enough to deal with now. I think ye should write to Sir Adam’s sire and
tell him what that fool son of his is doing.”
When Joan stood up, Annys settled herself in her bed as she thought over that suggestion. “And how
ken it by what the mon says in reply.”
“Ah, there is that. It
cannae make matters any worse, I suspect. I will think on what to
say. Sleep weel, Joan. I forsee a verra busy time ahead for us.”
“If only because we have six big knights to feed and tend to.”
Callum’s suggestion that poison may have caused her husband’s death, unable to banish the thought as she wished to. Having spent so many years at Glencullaich she found it hard to believe that anyone would hurt David. She did not even understand why Sir Adam would have done such a thing for it was not enough to place Glencullaich in his hands. There was still Benet
standing between him and
the laird’s seat.
That thought chilled her to the bone. If she accepted, or even proved, that David had been murdered, then her child was in terrible danger. If Sir Adam could get to David then he could get to Benet. He could claim his hands were clean if accused of poisoning David for he had not actually done the deed. All he needed was a way to be able to claim the same thing when he struck at Benet.
Her growing fear
for her child made it impossible to sleep. Annys got up and pulled on a
robe. She moved into the small room where there was a door that let her go up
on the battlements. A pang of grief went through her as she opened the door and
heard the soft bell ring. David had been so pleased when he had arranged that
warning to the men on the walls. It had allowed them some privacy if they chose
to go outside at night. She had never appreciated it more than she did now.
Climbing the narrow stone stairs, Annys fought to calm her fears. She could find reasons for someone to betray them all by helping Adam rid Glencullaich of its laird. Yet, try as she would, she could find none for anyone helping him murder a small child. She simply could not believe any of the people she knew would be capable of such a heinous crime. If she did not convince herself to accept that possibility, however, she would be putting her son’s life in danger.
Resting her arms on top of the wall, Annys looked out over the moonlit lands of Glencullaich. She had no trouble at all in understanding Sir Adam’s greed for the place. It was too far from the border to suffer from raids, and too out of the way of the roads to the cities or the king’s court to have to worry overmuch about an enemy force sweeping through. It was good land and well watered. A man would not have to work hard to have a very comfortable life here, a rare thing in Scotland. David had even managed to keep them out of any local feuds.
Sir Adam MacQueen was not a man to appreciate such things, however, she decided. He would settle into Glencullaich and immediately want more. He was also of a temperament to tangle the clan up in feuds with the neighboring clans. Yet, she could think of no way to get him to end his quest to gain hold of the lands.
“Weel, I could just kill the fool,” she muttered.
“Kill who?” asked a deep voice from right behind her.
Annys squeaked in alarm and looked behind her. She was relieved to see that it was Harcourt but also annoyed that he had frightened her. The way he looked at her as she stood there in her nightclothes wept both feelings aside, leaving her struggling to crush the warmth of welcome and womanly interest.
“Who do ye think ye should just kill?” he asked again as he stepped up beside her.
“Sir Adam.” She looked back out over the land. “I dinnae think he will e’er stop trying to get his hands on Glencullaich.”
“Nay,” agreed Harcourt. “He willnae. ’Tis good land.” He patted the wall. “With a good strong keep.
And that has ye worried?”
“If your friend is right, then he has already killed David. The only one left standing between him and this land is Benet, a little boy. My son. Aye, I am worried.”
“Good.” He smiled at the way she frowned at him. “Then ye will be keeping a verra close watch on the lad and all who draw near him. I ken ye do now, just as any mother does, but ye have always trusted everyone in this keep, probably everyone in the clan.”
“Aye, I do.” She sighed. “Did.” She shook her head. “I try to deny that my husband was murdered with poison yet it answers too many questions about the strange illness that took his life. I have seen most illnesses a mon can get and I had ne’er seen one quite like that. The learned men we brought in to help were uncertain as weel, although they did their best to hide that. I e’en ken most of the things that can poison one and what happens but ne’er that. The way it can be slipped into food or drink by an unseen hand is the most frightening. How does one fight that?”
“Weel, some kings have someone taste their food first.”
Annys smiled. “Benet may nay like that. But it does give me something to think about. Mayhap his meals should be prepared only by one I completely trust until the threat to him has passed.”
“And who would that be?”
Harcourt was finding it difficult not to touch her, to reach out and stroke the thick braid of hair hanging down her back, touch her soft cheek, or even just hold her small hand in his. He wanted her but knew it could be something that would only add to the troubles she now carried. The whole keep would know as soon as they became lovers. Even if that did not make everyone look more closely at Benet, it could weaken her position as lady of the keep, as the one acting in the stead of the laird.
“Why did I hear a bell?” he asked, trying desperately to get his mind off how sweet she smelled and how badly he wanted to pull her into his arms.
“Ah, David fixed that. I have always liked to come out here if I am too restless to sleep. He wanted me to be comfortable in doing so nay matter what I was clothed in.” She blushed as she ran a hand down the side of her robe. “Some nights he would join me and we found it helped us sort out some problem to stand here looking at the stars and talking quietly. He wanted no one to interrupt those moments, either. So the men move away from this small part of the wall when they hear the bell.”
“Clever. And have ye been able to sort out the problem that brought ye here tonight?”
“Aye. I must accept that someone in this keep helped kill my husband and may be convinced to try and kill my son.” The moment she said those words she knew she had finally accepted that chilling truth and nodded. “I ken it now and so now I will work to keep Benet safe and find out who betrayed us all.”
She looked at him standing so close to her that she could feel his warmth. He awoke something inside her that had been sleeping since he had walked away a little over five years ago. Annys was not sure what she should do about that. A part of her insidiously whispered that she should take what she wanted but the practical side of her hesitated, mulled over how complicated that would make her life, and reminded her of how her heart had broken when he had just walked away. It was just another thing she had to think about.
But not tonight, she told herself. Not when he was standing so close her hands itched to reach out and touch him. Not with the night sky bathing them in a soft welcoming light that had her memories of their time together rushing to the fore of her mind. None of those things made a rational, practical decision possible.
“I had best get inside,” she said even as she started to move away from him. “It has been a verra long day and it appears there will be many more to come. Adam will make certain of it. Sleep well, Sir Harcourt.”
“And you, m’lady,” he replied and watched her until she went back into the keep.