Eternity's Mark -- Out now from Kensington Brava
A sexy Scot. A mystical inheritance. What could go wrong?
Veterinarian Hannah MacPherson knows better than to believe in love at first - or any - sight. True, being swept away by Taggart de Gaelson to the vast Scottish castle she's mysteriously inherited is uber-romantic. The legacy is totally legitimate, and its messenger is big, broad-shouldered, and smokin' in more ways than one...
Too bad Taggart forgot to mention that Hannah's also a Guardian of magical dragons called the Draecna. And as Hannah's sworn otherworldly protector, Taggart is honor-bound not to lay a hand on her, no matter how close he gets...
But turning duty into pleasure is just too tempting. And for Hannah, mastering her powers and saving two worlds from evil will be way easier than showing one hardheaded warrior that breaking all the rules means they are eternally made for each other...
Greyson won last year’s Writing With the Stars contest with this story, inhabited by both sinister and likable creatures. Her attention to detail, such as the endearing mannerisms of the young dragons, results in characters that are really fleshed out — or, maybe we should say “scaled out,” since the dragons seem as real as the humans. A strong heroine, fantasy, a battle of good vs. evil, magic and romance — what more could you ask for? Reviewed by Joyce Morgan, RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“What doesn’t make sense?” Taggart mumbled, scanning the uppermost branches of the treetops and dropping his gaze to the darkest shadows beneath the bushes. He did his best to keep his voice low; to keep her calm, something neared, something meaning them both ill will. Had a minion followed them? Where the hell was it?
Hannah frowned down at Taggart’s hand on her arm then huffed as she slid out from under his grasp. “If the Guild of Barac’Nairn has watched over Taroc Na Mor for untold centuries and you’ve known all about my family, then why didn’t my grandmother or mother hear anything about this wondrous Scottish Disneyland and inherit Taroc Na Mor before either of them died? That’s the part about your little story that doesn’t make any sense.”
With a warning growl exploding from his chest, Taggart lunged, grabbed Hannah by the shoulders and dove over the railing of the bridge. He folded Hannah up against his chest and rolled with her underneath the structure. He cradled her head just above the water as she spit and sputtered against his chest.
“What the hell are you doing? Are you out of your fu− are you insane?” Hannah clawed and kicked against him as the water rushed between their bodies.
“Shut up woman, so I can hear them!” Taggart jerked her hard against his chest, pressing his back tight against the base of the bridge. He reached out with his senses and listened across the dimensions, strained to hear the slightest sound.
They had disappeared into the wind. Attack and leave, like they always did. A quick strike and then fade into the wind or the rain to ensure no one detected the destruction was their magic. They couldn’t risk those on this side of the threshold discovering their existence.
Taggart slogged his way out from under the bridge and unrolled Hannah out of his embrace. He patted her arms, felt the top of head, then finally tucked a finger under her chin and tilted her face up for a closer look. “Are ye hurt? Did I scrape ye when I yanked ye over the railing?”
“Bend down here.” Blinking the water out of her eyes, Hannah hissed from between gritted teeth.
“What?” Taggart asked, bending closer to peer into her dripping face.
Hannah wadded up her fist and punched him right in the mouth, giving a satisfied huff as blood spurted from the split welting in his lower lip.
With a yelp of surprise, Taggart clapped his thumb to his mouth and backed a few wary steps away. “Now what did I do to deserve that, ye wicked little beast?”
“What did you do to deserve that?” Hannah’s chin dropped to her chest as she paused from wringing out her ponytail. “You drag me off the bridge, yank me into the creek, tell me to shut up and then you ask me what you did to deserve a punch in the mouth? Are you kidding me? You’re lucky that’s all I did. And then you call me a wicked little beast?”
“Look over there!” Taggart pointed just beyond the bridge to the stand of trees just even with the height of her throat. Several good-sized oaks stood twisted off as though they’d been the size of toothpicks and now their splintered trunks lay scattered across the path like over-sized stalks of harvested broccoli.
Hannah stared at the downed trees. Her fingers traveled to the base of her throat as she caught her lower lip between her teeth. She turned and scanned the surrounding area, searching for the source of the destruction. “We just walked down that path.”
Taggart nodded. “Aye. We did. That verra same path.”
Hannah looked back at the trees. “Those trees weren’t down then.”
Taggart shook his head. “No. They were not.”
Hannah wrapped her hand in the hem of her wet tee shirt and stretched on tiptoe to blot at Taggart’s bloody lip. “Bend down here. I’m sorry. −I guess.”
Taggart bent to accept her reluctant apology. He didn’t have the heart to tell her he’d stopped bleeding within a few seconds. The lass hadn’t hurt him; she’d just surprised him when she’d popped him in the mouth. He came from the other side. He healed at a much faster rate. Besides, he rather enjoyed the sight of her creamy white belly teasing up at him as she used the hem of her wet shirt to dab the dried blood at his mouth.
A loud crash followed by a roared curse brought her attention back to the bedchamber. Taggart stood in the doorway, sword drawn, eyes glowing with a murderous light. A tall, wispy man with thin trailing hair stood slightly behind him.
Padding into the room, Hannah crossed her arms over the front of her skimpy nightgown and scooted for her robe draped across the end of the bed. She glanced at the strange man behind the breakfast cart, then turned to Taggart with a frosty hiss. “Would you mind telling me what you think you’re doing? All you had to do was give me a few minutes and I would’ve eventually answered the door.”
Taggart sheathed his sword with an irritated thump as he scanned the room. “Why in the hell did ye no’ answer the door when Thaetus knocked and asked ye to allow him entry?”
As she yanked the belt of her robe tight about her waist, Hannah envisioned wrapping it around Taggart’s neck. How dare he talk to her as if she was a child! Who did he think he was? “He only knocked twice and I was busy. All he had to do was wait a minute. Since when do you break somebody’s door down when they don’t open it after a couple of knocks?”
“Actually, I knocked thrice.” Thaetus cleared his throat and folded his pale, narrow hands atop the brass handles of the cart. “And I called out to ye twice and asked if ye were unwell. When ye didna answer, I could only assume something had gone awry and ye needed immediate assistance.”
“Thaetus.” Hannah stalked across the room, hands clenched into the folds of her robe, struggling to channel her irritation. “Do you know what happens when you assume?”
Thaetus raised his chin, his spectacled eyes narrowed as he replied with a delicate sniff. “No. What would that be, Lady Guardian?”
Hannah glared at the stone-faced servant. She itched to fire back her standard smartass reply of it makes an ass out of you and me. She gritted her teeth and decided the phrase would be lost on the stoic-faced man. She might as well save her breath. She doubted Thaetus would get it. “Never mind, Thaetus. You’d never understand.” This was ridiculous. They guarded her like she was some national treasure. There hadn’t been any attacks since they’d left Jasper Mills. Surely, she was safe here at Taroc Na Mor.
“What were ye doing, Hannah? Why did ye no’ call out and answer Thaetus?” Taggart slapped at the twisted hinges dangling from the chamber doors, scowling at the damage he’d done to the paneling and the surrounding doorframe.
“I don’t believe that is any of your business.” With a huff, Hannah poured a cup of coffee and curled up on the settee to return Taggart’s fuming stare. She had to admit she rather enjoyed irritating him. And this was the second time she’d gotten a little more than breathless by seeing him rush to defend her. When he brandished his sword, his wondrous muscles bulged, leaving no doubt he’d slay anything foolish enough to cross his path. Hannah cradled her cup between her palms, remembering the warmth of Taggart’s essence when she’d helped him heal Septamus. She shifted on the settee, drawing in a rapid breath. These chambers suddenly seemed very warm.
Thaetus’ eyes widened with a horrified look and he tapped nervous fingertips atop Taggart’s arm. “Ye need to leave this room and allow the Lady Guardian to compose herself. Ye have upset her and you know that is forbidden.”
With an arched brow, Taggart studied Hannah closer then sidled a glance back to Thaetus’ bug-eyed expression. A roguish grin crept across his face as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Truly? Are ye absolutely certain, Thaetus?”
“Aye, Taggart. Ye know the rules. The Lady Guardian must be left alone.” Thaetus plucked at Taggart’s tunic with long, narrow fingers and jerked his head toward the door.
“Thaetus, I know we might’ve gotten off on the wrong foot and please don’t take this the wrong way. But you are acting strange. What exactly is your problem?” Hannah stretched forward, sliding her china cup onto the marble slab table squatting in front of the damask settee.
Taggart’s warm, rumbling chuckle bubbled up from the depths of his chest and echoed off the walls of the high-ceilinged room. “I have to tell her, Thaetus. ‘Twould no’ be fair to keep the lass in the dark. Ye’ve already given yourself away.”
Thaetus shook his head and backed against the wall, pulling the breakfast cart in front of his body as though it were a shield. “She will not be pleased. Consider yourself warned, Taggart. And ye might want to step behind here with me.”
Taggart rubbed his nose with the back of his hand as he gave a wink and a nod toward Thaetus. “Thaetus is an empath, Hannah. Ye might say he’s very sensitive to your…um…needs.”
Hannah looked from Taggart to Thaetus and then back to Taggart’s knowing grin. That son-of-a-. Thaetus had picked up on her very private case of the hornies and alerted Taggart in code. Embarrassed heat of this revelation stormed its way through her body. Her cheeks burned hotter than they had in high school when the zipper split on her jeans during her speech in the middle of assembly.
“Get out.” Hannah pointed at the door hanging off the hinges while fixing her gaze on the center of the coffee table.
“It’s all right, Hannah, I understand how ye might be excited by−”
“I said get the hell out!”
Thaetus took the lead and hurried toward the door, dodging the coffee cup Hannah lobbed at their heads. He only paused long enough to hiss to Taggart. “I advised ye she would not be pleased.”