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The Bard -- Maeve Greyson

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The Bard – Book 5 – Highland Heroes

The fiercer the battle, the sweeter the spoils

Sutherland MacCoinnich flirts his way into the hardest hearts and most forbidden beds. He’s such a charmer, even the lasses that he loves then leaves behind never hold any ill will against him. All the ladies adore him. All except one. As lovely as she is infuriating, the daughter of Chieftain Greyloch barely gives him a passing glance. When she does, it’s only to tell him he smells more like a horse than a Highlander. She even threatens to shoot him if ever sets foot on her land again. And to add insult to injury, the woman cost him a keg of fine whisky in a bet.

An enticing trinity of beauty, wit, and fire. She would be his. Forever.

If Sorcha Greyloch doesn’t marry soon, she’s sure to be the death of her father. Many a desirable suitor has come calling, butshe has refused them all. She knows who she wants. She’s loved Sutherland MacCoinnich since the first time he darkened her clan’s door. But she’s not about to tell him that until she has him on his knees. After all, most men share a particular trait. They’re driven to possess what they think they can’t possibly have.

The womanizer of Clan MacCoinnich is about to be tamed by the one woman he feared he would never win, but unexpected danger lurks in Castle Greyloch. A danger that threatens the dueling lovers’ future.

**If you love stirring tales ofbraw Highland warriors and the wily women who tame them, then this is the perfect novel for you! Passion, intrigue, and romance abound in this next installment of the Highland Heroes Series from bestselling author Maeve Greyson.

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Chapter One
Highlands of Scotland
Clan Greyloch's keep
Early March 1704

Three days into the visit and he still hadn’t been shot. Considering the intensity of Lady Sorcha’s threat, Sutherland MacCoinnich considered his lack of injury nothing less than miraculous.

He shifted in the sumptuous depths of a leather armchair. “Quite the library, eh? Rivals Tor Ruadh’s even.” The only space in the enormous room not covered with cluttered bookshelves was the entrance and an array of tall windows overlooking a dreary garden struggling to recover from winter.

Magnus de Gray, Sutherland’s long-time friend and brother in arms, slowly nodded while drumming his fingers on the armrests of a matching chair. “That it is,” he said as he looked around. The leather of his seat squeaked in protest as he leaned toward Sutherland and lowered his voice. “Ye’ve still not seen her or heard anything yet?” He cast a glance at the door. “Ihavena been able to glean a single hint of her whereabouts from any of the servants. Never have I seen such loyalty.” He shot another look at the entrance, then shook his head. “I dinna think she’s even here. Has Greyloch still said nothing? The man has to know what happened between the two of ye.”

“Not a bloody word about her gracing us with her presence nor last summer’s damned bet, no matter how many hints I place in every conversation.” Sutherland rose, angled his chair to better face the entry to the library, then sat back down. “And that is why I willna be exposing my back to any door until this feud between the lovely Lady Sorcha and myself is settled.”

The chieftain of Clan Greyloch had been agreeable enough at the prospect of a meeting to discuss business between the two clans. The congenial man had even welcomed them as though no undercurrent of hostility existed. Still, the first three days at Castle Greyloch had been strange. The chief had seemed too busy for them at every turn, barely sparing a moment long enough for a few words even during oddly rushed meals. Sutherland had mixed feelings about this visit that his brother, Chieftain MacCoinnich, had insisted upon.

Of course, he had wondered if hewould survive another encounter with Lady Sorcha. The thought of her triggered a wicked smile. He had to admit he looked forward to a fresh duel with the fiery lass. After all, she was one of very few women hehad never been able to charm.

In all honesty, he truly regretted his badly handled visit during the past summer. His careless wager had somehow reached the lady’s ears and not set well with her. It hadn’t set well with him either when it ended up costing him a barrel of whisky. Lady Sorcha’s promise to shoot him if he so much as rode past Castle Greyloch's gates again was disappointing as well. He couldn’t believe the woman had gotten so angry about his betting hewould have her bedded on his first night at their keep. Could she not see it as a compliment to her loveliness?

A narrow section of bookshelves behind the massive mahogany desk in front of them shifted with a low, groaning creak like the opening of a tomb. It slowly swung open.

He took to his feet and stepped behind the broad back of his chair, but stopped at drawing a weapon. Instinct bade him wait until he knew who approached, while at the same time his mercenary readiness tensed him tighter than a bowstring.

Magnus remained seated, giving him a side eyed look as though he thought him mad. “Ye look a fool, ye ken?”
Sutherland ignored him, keeping his focus locked on the slowly opening panel.

Chieftain Robert Greyloch sidled his hulking frame into the room, giving the bookcase a critical up and down scowl as he shoved it back in place. “Damn thing. Sticking again.” His irritation disappeared as he turned and lumbered over to a chair large enough for three men. As he pulled it back from the desk, he gave an apologetic nod. “Forgive the delay in our sitting down to discuss business, gentlemen. It’s calving time. A verra busy season for our clan to ensure the continued success and growth of our prized cattle.” His apologetic look shifted to Magnus, then returned to Sutherland. “Since the MacCoinnichs are curators of the finest breed of horses in all of Scotland, I’m sure ye understand.” He hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his waistcoat and chuckled at Sutherland. “Ye’d do better to face the chair this way, lad.” He jerked a thumb toward the wall of books behind him. “When Sorcha returns from the village today, she’ll enter the library the same way I did. But ye do well to take cover. I feel sure she’s intent on keeping the oath she made the last time the two of ye met.”

So, Magnus had been correct. Lady Sorcha had been away all this time. But she returned today. Sutherland found himself looking forward to it more than fearing it. “I appreciate the warning, chieftain.” He returned the chair to its original position, thankful Greyloch's good humor appeared to be as massive as his size. While he matched the chief in both height and build, hehad never seen a man with hands so large. The old warrior’s fists were broad as shields.
Determined to ensure there was, in fact, no ill will between them, Sutherland held out his hand. “Since we are finally speaking openly about the matter, allow me to extend my apologies regarding my behavior last summer.” He twitched a shoulder, feeling a bit like a lad confessing about something he knew he shouldn’t have done. “I meant no harm or insult to the lovely Lady Sorcha, but I do regret behaving in such a roguish manner.”

Greyloch rumbled out an even deeper chuckle as he grabbed hold of Sutherland’s forearm and squeezed hard enough that he nearly crushed his bones. “I accept yer apology sir, but dinna fash yerself.” He winked, still holding tight to Sutherland. “My daughter can take care of herself quite well, and I understand yer position completely. There once was a time when I was known to throw down a wager or two when it came to a challenging conquest.”

Directing Sutherland to sit, he took his own chair. A glint in his eye, he settled back, stroking his closely cropped beard. “But all jests aside, ye would do well to tread lightly around her when she arrives. I fear she possesses her mother’s fire and tendency to foster a grudge—forever.” All levity left him as his silvery head tipped forward. “God rest her soul,” he added quietly.

“God rest her soul, indeed.” Sutherland wasn’t quite certain what to say next. When last theyhad visited, he’d realized the rumors about the great love Chieftain Greyloch and his wife had shared were not rumors but truth. The man still seemed as stricken with grief as he had last summer.

“It’s been well over two years now since that damned accident robbed me of my lady love.” Greyloch shifted, heaving out a deep sigh as he scrubbed a hand across his face. He sat taller and looked at each of them with a strained smile. “But we must try and move on, aye?”

Sutherland wished he could ease the man’s lingering pain, but all he could do was provide a distraction. “Aye, chief, and while Clan MacCoinnich’s losses canna begin to compare with yer own, we’re attempting to move on from our own sorrows as well.”

“I heard of the Neal uprising.” The Greyloch leaned forward, resting his forearms on the desk. “Shameful ungratefulness after all the MacCoinnich did for that clan. Prospered it well beyond what old Neal would ever have done.” The intensity of the man’s stare tightened like an arrow about to be released. Chieftain Greyloch might be getting on in years, but nothing about the man appeared diminished in any way. “Why did the MacCoinnich release them so easily from their oath of fealty? And gave them half the lands along with a share of the herds to boot? The man actually gave them the glens to the south? Those fine glens abutting the Campbells?”

“Aye, sir. But it was a complicated matter, ye ken?” Sutherland wasn’t about to lay out his brother Alexander’s choices and the why’s of them to the chieftain. The ending of the feud with the Neals had come at great cost, but the decisions made had been necessary. Not only for the good of the clan, but for the protection of the MacCoinnichs politically. Sutherland gave Chieftain Greyloch a look he hoped the man would understand and not take offense. “Such a story is better left for yerself and the MacCoinnich to share over a dram or two.”

“Speaking of which.” Greyloch thumped both hands on the desk and pushed himself to his feet. “It appears I have forgotten my manners. I’m sure yer throats are dry, and yer bones are cold from this dreary day. ’Tis still bitter cold for this to be early March.” He went to an amply stocked sideboard and filled three glasses. Waving them forward, he held one up. “Come, gentlemen. Irefuse to risk spilling this fine whisky by toting it over to ye.”

Sutherland and Magnus didn’t have to be invited twice. Both joined Greyloch and gladly accepted their drinks. Sutherland relished the rich burn down his gullet while the heady fumes filled his nose. Nothing warmed a man’s soul nor relaxed his mind quite like a good whisky.

The creaking of the bookcase door behind him and the click of a pistol abruptly interrupted his appreciation of the Greyloch's fine blend.

“Ye will do me the courtesy of turning, Master MacCoinnich. I prefer to look a man in the eyes when I shoot him.”
Lady Sorcha’s melodious voice was laced with more venom than any adder. Sutherland fought the urge to rub at the hairs standing on end across his nape. Instead, he downed the rest of his drink in one gulp and returned the glass to the sideboard. Hehad been warned more than once that his womanizing ways would be the death of him. He reckoned death by the hand of a beautiful lass was as good a way to go as any.

Slowly turning, he held out his arms. Might as well provide the lady with a broader target. He came close to stumbling as he faced her. May the heavens help him, the woman was still lovely as hell even with a pistol pointed at his chest. Tall and slender as a graceful willow, with long hair the tawny coloring of a red deer’s newly born fawn. Eyes a startling greenish gold, honed in on the sighting of her prey. Lady Sorcha Greyloch possessed a fierce, untamed beauty. She was definitely more intoxicating than any drink.

“Would ye grant me one last request, dear lady?”

“Why should I?”

Fire and fury flashed from her. What passion this bonnie lass possessed. Damnation, he wished she didn’t feel so ill toward him. What he wouldn’t do for a chance to win her over. Perhaps he might accomplish it yet. After all, as long as he wasn’t dead, there was hope.

With a contrite dip of his chin, he took a step forward, keeping his arms extended. “Aye, my dearest lady, ye speak the truth of it. Yeare in no way bound to grant me a last request, but still, I beg ye to search what I’m certain is yer generous nature and choose to hear me out even though Iam so undeserving.”

“Come now, daughter,” Chieftain Greyloch urged, utterly failing at hiding his amusement. “It wouldna be Christian to shoot the man without hearing him out.” He moved to stand beside Sutherland. “Be a good lass, now, and let the man speak his piece, aye?”

Weapon steady and still leveled at her target, Lady Sorcha’s eyes narrowed even more. Sutherland could tell she knew her father thought this all a jest. He prayed she wouldn’t kill him just to prove the man wrong. After a few moments, she gave a regal nod. “Speak yer request then. But know this, just because I hear it doesna mean I shall grant it, ye ken?”

Just to buy himself a bit more time and maybe even a tad of the lass’s favor, Sutherland dropped to one knee. Surely, the woman wouldn’t shoot a man kneeling at her feet. “All I ask, m’lady, is that ye grant me yer forgiveness for behaving like an ill-mannered cur. Please, I beg ye find it in yer heart to understand why I couldna help myself. The temptation was just too great. Yer beauty addled me so, I lost all ability to reason.”

The pistol didn’t waver. Lady Sorcha’s head tilted slightly, as one of her delicate brows arched higher. “So, ye’re saying the fault of yer uncomely behavior is mine?”

“Aye, m’lady.” He was a dead man for sure. He could tell it by her tone. Since he was already condemned to die, maybe he should ask for a kiss as well. Might as well leave this world with the taste of a fine lass on his lips. “Dear woman, truly, I had never beheld such a rare loveliness as ye possess, and a man is always more motivated to win a fair lady’s approval when a wager is involved. Ye ken it’s our nature to compete—to strive for our lady love’s hand. The bet drove me even harder to win a sweet kiss from yer divine lips.”

“My divine lips?” she repeated. Her contempt appeared tempered with the amusement of a spider toying with its prey. “I’m the fairest woman ye’ve ever met, ye say? And ye needed the bet to give ye the courage to try and seduce me?”

“Absolutely, m’lady. ’Tis the honest truth. I swear it.” Sutherland assumed the most woeful look he could manage. “I pray the angels are as lovely as yerself, m’lady. My death willna be so bad then, although, I’m certain, theywillna be able to console me if ye dinna grant me yer forgiveness and maybe even a last kiss so I might find rest in the hereafter.”

Lady Sorcha blew out a very unladylike snort. “If our stables were filled with as much shite as ye just spewed, our livestock would drown in it. I shouldha worn my boots. Ye’ve piled it arse high in here.”

“Daughter!” Chieftain Greyloch strode over and plucked the pistol out of her hand. “Such language! Enough of this foolishness now. Accept the man’s apology and be done with it. At least he asked yer forgiveness, and might I also add, he didna spread unseemly rumors about ye like some wouldha done once ye spurned them.”

“A man will apologize for anything when he’s facing the barrel of a gun.” Lady Sorcha lifted her chin and pinned a damning glare on Sutherland.

Even without the gun pointed at his chest, Sutherland remained on his knee. Timing was everything in battles such as these.

Magnus stepped forward. “I assure ye, m’lady, that is the most heartfelt apology from this man that I have ever witnessed.”

Sutherland kept his gaze locked on the lady, but the sound of liquid being poured told him Magnus had stepped forward to pour himself another drink—not swear to Sutherland’s character. Magnus then appeared at his side, whisky in hand.

“And gun or not, I swear Sutherland is far too short-sighted and too stubborn to say anything he doesna mean—well, for the most part.” Magnus lifted his glass in a toast, then downed it. “The man is honest to a fault. Most times. I swear it.”

“Ye are not helping,” Sutherland said, ready to knock Magnus on his arse. Raising his voice, he turned his attention back to Lady Sorcha, determined to win at least an amicable look from the lass and maybe even the hint of a smile. “All flowery words aside, m’lady, I am sorry for the bet. It was childish, pompous, and a poor choice indeed. My mam wouldha cuffed me hard were she still walking this earth. I do beg yer forgiveness—whether ye’re still intent on killing me or not.”

The lady rolled her eyes, gave the men a wide berth, and poured herself a glass of wine. “Why did Chieftain MacCoinnich send the two of ye rather than come here himself? Does he think so little of Clan Greyloch? It might be true we’re a small clan, but it’s apparent we have something he not only wants but needs. Would that not warrant a visit from the chieftain himself rather than a meeting with two of his lessers?”

“Sorcha Elaine! Where in heaven’s name are yer manners?” Greyloch pointed toward a sitting area in front of the windows. “Let us all sit and get to the meat of this matter. That is, if my sharp-tongued daughter hasna already dissuaded ye with her insults.”

Dissuaded? Nay. Intrigued? Aye, and for certain. Lady Sorcha possessed the sort of fire Sutherland admired. She always had. And if there was anything he loved more than the lasses; it was a challenge. He rose from his knee, poured himself another drink, and joined them. Raising his glass, he hid a smile as Chieftain Greyloch and Magnus seated themselves in the only pair of chairs available, leaving a small two-person sofa as the only remaining place to sit.

“Da!” Lady Sorcha glared at her father; her clenched teeth bared.

Greyloch gave her a sharp look then jerked a nod at the sofa. “Nay, daughter. Ye will sit beside the man and behave yerself. ’Tis yer penance for yer unladylike language and forgetting yer manners after Master MacCoinnich did his part by offering a heartfelt apology.”

“Heartfelt apology, my—”

“Sorcha!” Greyloch’s tone rang with parental warning.

“I shall be happy to stand,” Sutherland offered with a gallant bow. “Please, m’lady. Have the sofa all to yerself with my blessing.”

The lady bristled even more. She stomped over to the couch, dropped down with a huff, then smacked the cushion beside her. “By all means, Master MacCoinnich, please do sit beside me. I promise not to bite.”

Bite away, lass. Hewouldn’t mind a nibble or two from this fair darling. His man parts took even more notice of the situation, forcing him to adjust the folds of his kilt to hide the bulging in his trews. He settled down beside her, pleased to discover that the cozy piece of furniture tucked them together quite nicely. In fact, if he dared shift the barest bit to his right, his shoulder and flank might actually brush against her. He resettled himself in the seat, taking care to rest a forearm across his lap to cover the evidence of his interest. He cleared his throat. “Now, as to yer question about Chieftain MacCoinnich assigning this visit to myself and Master de Gray?”

“Aye?” Lady Sorcha encouraged with a defiant glare.

“Rest assured that Chieftain MacCoinnich holds Clan Greyloch in the verra highest esteem.” He paused, glancing over at Chief Greyloch to ensure the man knew he wasn’t just dancing about and flattering with words to make peace with the man’s daughter. “The size of a clan doesna guarantee its greatness. It is a clan’s courage and honor that matters.” He looked back at Lady Sorcha and smiled. “It hasna been so many years since Clan MacCoinnich’s ranks were decimated to less than a dozen. But we didna give up after the morbid sore throat tried to kill us all. We pushed onward and fought hard to get where we are today. Even survived the massacre at Glencoe. We sense that same courage and honor in Clan Greyloch, and we are proud to call ye allies.”

“Be that as it may…” Lady Sorcha gave a graceful nod paired with a sly smile. “Ye didna answer my question. Why are ye here rather than yer chieftain?”

Sutherland held his breath to keep from laughing aloud. Bless his soul, she was a stubborn minx, and he loved it. “I know horses and their needs far better than my brother. Alexander shines when it comes to planning battles, but when it comes to the precious breed that all of Scotland craves, Alexander only knows which end eats and which end shites.”

By all that was holy, had the lady actually almost smiled? Not wishing to lose any progress he might’ve made with the enchanting mistress of Castle Greyloch, Sutherland turned his attention back to her father. “That is why I am here rather than Alexander. Our stable master and I are in agreement. The glens remaining within Clan MacCoinnich’s borders are not large enough for our stock. Without more grazing choices, we’ll not be able to increase the herds as we had planned. Grazing rights on Clan Greyloch’s lands would help us continue the growth wehad hoped to achieve over the next few years.”

Greyloch didn’t respond. Instead, the intensity of his glare sharpened as he locked eyes with his daughter.
Lady Sorcha gave the slightest shake of her head.

“Ye wish us to turn over our lands to the MacCoinnich herds?” the chief clarified. “When ye ken as well as I that yer herders will accompany yer horses and could verra well interfere with the effective grazing of our own prized Highland cattle? Is this yer poor attempt to expand yer borders and swallow up Clan Greyloch like ye did Clan Neal?”

This time it was Magnus’s turn to give a warning shake of his head in Sutherland’s direction. The silent signal advised that words needed to be chosen with care and not allow tempers to speak. Sutherland dipped his chin in acknowledgement that the message had been received, but Magnus’s warning was unnecessary. Chieftain Greyloch’s inquiry was valid. Sutherland expected no less from the man. “We would never attempt such, sir. Our solicitor would draw up a document stating our full intent for the benefit of both clans that would also offer Clan Greyloch a percentage in the profits from the sale of any herds rotated through yer lands.” That should ease some of their doubts. MacCoinnich horses brought a dear price, and buyers traveled from far and wide to purchase the much sought after breed.

“What percentage?” Lady Sorcha asked.

He had wondered how long she’d be able to remain quiet. Shehad fidgeted beside him like a worm in hot coals. The Lady Sorcha was not a woman content to sit quietly and keep her thoughts to herself. Curious, he decided to see just how much she would say instead of allowing her father to negotiate the agreement. Just a wee test to see if this lass was as clever as she was beautiful. Rumors hinted that it was she who truly ran the clan. The whispers had also claimed her father was too addled with age to handle the duties of a chieftain. Sutherland barely controlled his amusement at that idiocy. Chieftain Greyloch was definitely in full possession of his faculties. Rumors of his weaknesses were false and probably a sham propagated by the chief himself out of craftiness. So, what of the rumor about Lady Sorcha’s assistance with controlling the clan?

“Twenty percent,” Sutherland said in a tone that dared her to argue. Alexander had given him permission to go as high as fifty, but they didn’t have to know that—at least, not yet.

She gave him a look that said he could go straight to hell. “Preposterous! Ye mean to have yer horses clip our pastures clean and only offer us twenty percent? Nay, I say! Keep yer beasts on yer own land or risk getting shot.”
He warmed even more to the game, daring to shift so close the delicious heat of her caressed his thigh. “Iam quite open to negotiation, m’lady. What do ye propose?”

Her gaze dipped to the lack of space between them, but she held her ground—even dared to scoot closer so the length of her fine long leg pressed firmly against his. Damnation. The woman was trying to kill him. He resettled his arms across his lap to conceal his admiration that was growing stiffer by the minute.

“Sixty-five percent,” she said, pausing for a sip of her wine. Lowering her glass, she graced him with a calculating smile. “Whilst horses and cattle graze in different ways, the herds will have to be managed carefully to prevent stripping the land bare and rendering it useless for either of them. Not only will we be sharing our land, itwill take more of our herders to ensure the animals are moved properly from glen to glen without issue.”

“Forty percent.” Maybe if he made her negotiate longer, shewould move closer still. Lord Almighty, what he wouldn’t give to get her into his lap.

She didn’t blink those gorgeous eyes of hers that had shifted to a piercing golden shade rather than the earlier hazel green. “Seventy percent.”


Chieftain Greyloch barked out the word, but Lady Sorcha held up a finger to silence him without breaking her gaze from Sutherland’s. “What say ye Master MacCoinnich?”

“I say ye’re going the wrong way, m’lady.” Emboldened by her daring, he took her hand and lifted it for a kiss. “Fifty percent and the finest colt born to the herd this spring belongs to ye personally. Ishall see to its training myself so ye’ll have a fine new mount to ride when it comes of age.” He allowed his lips to linger on the silkiness of her skin a bit longer to help her decide.

“Fifty percent and my pick of the foals born to the herd every year ye make use of our lands. Be it a colt or not that I choose, one foal comes to Greyloch stables each year. What say ye?” With a smug look, she pulled her hand free of his.

“Fifty percent, yer pick of the foals every year, and a kiss to seal the bargain.” He couldn’t resist. Her full lips looked as delectable and succulent as fresh berries. Damn, he was starving for a wee taste.

“Done, sir.” She brushed a glancing kiss across his cheek as she rose and hurried to take a stance beside her father’s chair. “A fair and suitable agreement. Do ye not agree, Da?”

Chieftain Greyloch beamed with a self-satisfied grin. “Well done, daughter. Shall we drink on it, sirs? Then I shall have our own solicitor draft the document for yer clan solicitor’s perusal, aye?”

“Not yet,” Sutherland said as he slowly stood. The woman might think herself clever with that harmless peck on his cheek, but he wasn’t about to let her off that easily. “Our bargain isna sealed as yet, m’lady. Thereis still the matter of the kiss.”

“Ye received yer kiss, sir. On yer cheek.” Victory sparkled in her eyes. The lass was so pleased with herself; she could barely stand still.

“Nay, m’lady. That wee pecking was little more than a greeting to a friend or a brother.” He took a step closer. “I am neither. Iam a man looking to seal an agreement until papers are drawn and signatures are rendered.” He moved forward again until he stood close enough to take her in his arms. “Or are ye afraid?” he asked softly.

“Afraid?” She spit out the word like throwing down a gauntlet.

Sutherland resettled his stance. Aye, he’d read the vixen correctly. The lady wouldn’t tolerate anyone thinking her fearful of anything. “Aye, m’lady. Afraid. We’re hardly unchaperoned. Yer father sits right here. What else could it be holding back yer gift of a proper kiss other than fear of me?”

“My own good sense and ensuring ye realize ye’ve not been forgiven for being such an arse!” She didn’t retreat, but nor did she step forward.

Chieftain Greyloch sidled around in his chair to improve his view, his grin stretching into a full-blown smile.
Sutherland held out a hand as though asking the lady to dance. “A genuine kiss to bind our bargain is just that, and I assure ye, m’lady, I know damn good and well ye’ve not forgiven me.” It took every ounce of control he possessed to keep from pulling her into his arms and crushing her against him. A groan almost escaped him at the sight of her wetting her lips. He refused to retreat. She would learn he was as stubborn as she.

It was when her eyes narrowed the slightest bit and her jaw tightened that Sutherland knew hehad won.

Lady Sorcha closed the space between them, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pressed her curves against his hardness with daring tightness. Her lips brushed across his as she spoke, “Well? Get on with it then.”

He tangled his fingers in the braid at the base of her neck, tilted her back, and wrapped his other arm around her waist. With her locked closer, he took her mouth, pouring every ounce of frustration, desire, and admiration she had stirred within him into the kiss. She tasted of wine and the firm realization that one kiss from this rare woman would never be enough.

Her embrace tightened, and she opened her mouth wider, returning his ferocity. She inflamed him more than any woman ever had before. Hell’s fire, if she didn’t kill him with a pistol, shewould surely kill him with the sheer obsession to possess her. Before he could stop, he groaned and pressed his hardened length into her softness even more.

Lady Sorcha broke the kiss. Pushing herself out of his arms, she straightened her clothes as well as her hair. “There, sir. Is that kiss a good enough seal to our bargain until proper documentation is available?”

“Aye, m’lady,” he managed to utter. “That kiss most definitely sealed everything.”