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July 27, 2021

The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride

A Highland Feuding
The Clan MacLerie

Betrothed by duty

To his enemy!

To strengthen an alliance between their clans, future chieftain of the mighty Cameron Clan, Robbie Cameron, must marry Sheena MacLerie. Only she is the last person he would have picked after her betrayal years ago. Now she is as infuriatingly elusive as ever―and, worse, seems intent on breaking their betrothal! Just what is his inconvenient bride hiding? Uncovering her secrets means earning her trust…but that also ignites a simmering passion!

Robbie Cameron’s clan learned the hard way what happens when a man does not do his duty and chooses love over loyalty to his clan. His father’s error in judgement nearly destroyed the Camerons and Robbie will not make that same mistake. Even if it means marrying the one young woman who managed to shame him before her powerful father—the Beast of the Highlands.

Sheena MacLerie has lived almost her whole life in fear—fear of her father but especially fear of having her secrets exposed. Secrets that could destroy her and her family. When her marriage to the one man who hates her more than she hates him is settled, Sheena knows it’s only a matter of time before her shame is revealed. Unless she can convince him to break the betrothal, all will be lost.

Now, as they work together to find a way out, unanticipated things like unexpected passion, sincere affection and an inconvenient love make them question their decision. But will that love be enough when Robbie and Sheena are faced with the demands of duty and honor and loyalty?

THE HIGHLANDER’S INCONVENIENT BRIDE is a crossover story – connecting the MACLERIE CLAN series with the A HIGHLAND FEUDING series! Fan favorites from the MacLeries Clan stories return in this story that focuses on the next generation of both powerful families. Look for Connor MacLerie (the Beast of the Highlands!), his wife Jocelyn and even Rurik Erengislsson to make appearances.

ISBN-13: 978-1335407252   ISBN-10: 1335407251   Harlequin Historical

Robbie is showing Sheena around Achnacarry and has taken her to a special, hidden place known to few in his clan. He wants privacy as they discuss their relationship. . . .

Something was wrong.

As soon as he entered and his sight adjusted to the darkness within the cottage, he saw the pallor of her face. She held onto two battered cups as though they were her only hope. Her mouth was drawn into a tight thin line, constricting the usual fullness of her lips and cheeks. Robbie put the bucket on the table and crossed to her in two strides.

“What is it, Sheena? What is wrong?” He tugged the cups free and dipped one in the bucket. Holding it to her mouth, he waited for her to take it. “Here. Drink.” He watched her even as he retrieved the chair and placed it behind her. “Sit.”

Robbie crouched before her, as she sipped the cool water and hoped it would improve her condition. What had caused the change in her, he knew not. She’d seemed well as they rode and even the climb up the steep hillside had not tired her. She was fine until he left the cottage with the bucket.

. . . then we can talk about our betrothal and forthcoming marriage. . . .

His words came back to him and revealed the cause for her distress. Her gaze flitted to his and away when he met it. She held onto the cup and took small sips as he waited. Moving back so as to not crowd her, he grabbed one of the stools for himself and placed it next to the table. He sat and waited on her.

Soon, the water was gone and he asked his question.

“Does the thought of our marriage upset you so much that it brings on such upset?”

He’d thought he had approached her well this morn. He’d planned an outing that he knew she would enjoy. Horses. Riding. He knew that the sight of the falls from below would impress her and saw how she was intrigued when he’d led her to the hidden path upwards. Her curiosity was one of her strongest traits and had led her into trouble, or discovery, throughout her life. From her nervousness and hesitation now, Robbie suspected that they’d slid back to the hostilities of her first two days here.

“Do you wish my honesty, or should I dissemble and give the expected answer?” she asked.

Robbie could not help himself—his first reaction to her disgruntled expression and tone of voice was to laugh. Aloud and loudly.

“I think you just answered me, Sheena.” She glanced away, seeming to study the way the roof set on the walls around them. She huffed out a breath and faced him.

“And you, Robbie? Do you want to marry me?

When their eyes met, he shook his head. Another little huff and nod from her before she looked away at the damned corner of the walls were the only reactions.

“So, why did you agree to it?” she asked, shifting in the chair as she placed the empty cup on the table.

Damn it, but he should be angry about her lack of enthusiasm to marry him. He should be insulted. And yet, a deep sense of relief filled him as he understood that, after years of being opposed to each other, at least they agreed on something.

“Loyalty and duty to my clan and to my father.” It was the reason behind almost every one of his actions. “I will be faithful to my promises and to the duties I carry out as tanist.” The left corner of her mouth lifted, whether beginning to smile or sneer, he could not tell. “And you?”

“The decision was made for me and, as is expected for the daughter of a powerful man, ‘twas made without consulting me. I was a child when the betrothal was signed and no more in charge of myself or my future when I was told to travel here a few weeks ago.”

She stood and filled a cup from the bucket, holding it out to him. He accepted it and she filled hers once more before walking outside. Robbie followed her around the side of the cottage to the garden. She approached the first of the well-tended plots that lay in an orderly pattern and were covered with an assortment of plants, flowers, herbs and bushes. Anna used everything grown here to treat those in her care.

Sheena stood, facing the sun with eyes closed and chin raised. The winds, though gentle breezes now, lifted loosened strands of her hair to catch the flickering rays of the sun. Glints of gold and auburn made it look like her tresses were aflame. A few moments passed in silence and she opened her eyes and met his.

“I cannot marry you, Robbie.” The stark admission hung in the space between them.

Cannot? Cannot? Robbie searched her expression for something more to explain her meaning. A shrug of her shoulders and a shake of her head was all she gave him.

“You cannot? Or will not?” he asked.

Crossing his arms over his chest, he faced her and waited for her words. Was she being wilful as he’d known her to be in the past or was something else going on here? One breath expelled followed by another and another as she paused before giving him an answer.

“Cannot.” Regret tinged her words and it surprised him.

“Is there another you prefer? Another you. . . love?” he asked, unable to keep the words behind his teeth. A quick shake of her head answered his question.

“If neither of us want this, we must find a way out of it,” she said. “Will you help me, Robbie? Help me find an escape from this well-woven betrothal?”

Of all the things he expected her to say, that was never something his wildest imaginings would have considered. Though, he was not against finding a way out of their betrothal. Truth be told, he did not wish to find them married either. He lifted the forgotten cup to his mouth and drank the water down while trying to find the words he needed.

“Give me a reason why you cannot marry me, Sheena? I do not understand your objection?” His gaze narrowed. “Mayhap there is another whom you wish to marry in spite of your denial?” A sudden and unexplainable pang of jealousy rushed through him at the thought that she had some other man in mind rather than him.

“Nay!” she cried out. Shaking her head, she continued, “nay, I told you. I want no one else.”

He nodded, trying to accept her words even while puzzled about his reaction to the thought of her affections lying elsewhere. That would make this strange request more fathomable than her words so far.

“Robbie, did you ever have a moment, even one single moment, when you smiled as you thought of marrying me? When your father told you of the plan, did you think you were blessed at such an arrangement? Even for the blink of an eye? Or the length of a breath? Did you ever want to marry me?”

Robbie did not wish to be mean, but she seemed to want the truth. Yet, she was younger than him by nigh to six years and clearly had the softer disposition that women did. Admitting the truth—that he’d never wanted even for a moment to marry her—would insult and injure her in a way he did not wish to do. Before he could speak, she did.

“As I thought. And I understand how much you hate me after. . . after. . . .” She paused and motioned with her hand as she tried to describe the incident that had ended in his humiliation. “And I cannot say that I blame you.” She let out another sigh and shook her head. “I have always known I would not marry for love, but I do not wish to marry a man who cannot stand the thought of being my husband.”

“As you cannot stand the thought of being my wife?” he asked. His sharp tone evident to even him, he looked away from her. Her hand on his arm surprised him.

“I cannot be your wife, Robbie. I am not. . .able.”

He could tell from the pain that entered her gaze that the words, the admission of such a truth, cost her. Robbie frowned at her.

“But you will not tell me why that is? Why are you not able?”

Now, he took a step closer to her, forcing her to look up at him. He saw nothing about her that would be a deformity serious enough to call off a betrothal. She had her wits about her, for a dimwitted woman would never say such things to the man involved. An angry woman. An obstinate one, mayhap. The realisation struck him hard.

“You do not trust me.”

The truth was right before him in the way her emerald green eyes widened at his words. If a man, a warrior or villager or any Cameron, had insulted his honour like that, he would have challenged them without hesitation. In some deeper way he could not understand or explain, her mistrust struck him at his heart. His anger flared at her.

“You do not trust me and I do not want you,” he cried, releasing the words of the harsh truth that lay between them. “’Tis the usual way of most marriages between people and families of our position.”

Sheena stiffened at his deliberately hurtful words and threw the cup she’d been clutching at him. Not waiting to see if it hit her target—and it had—she turned and ran back around the cottage. Whatever good intentions he’d had at the beginning of this day mattered little now for, once more, he had lost control with her and allowed his temper to rule. Robbie gave himself a moment to yell out his remaining anger, before following her.

And, she was gone.

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