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Authors: Michelle Willingham

Tempted by the Highland Warrior

BOOK: Tempted by the Highland Warrior
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HIS SILENT STRENGTH REACHED OUT TO HER

After years of brutal torture, Callum MacKinloch is finally
free of his captors—but his voice is still held prisoner. He’d never let anyone
hear him scream.

Although Lady Marguerite de Montpierre’s chains may be
invisible, they threaten to tie her to a loveless and cruel marriage.

When Marguerite discovers Callum waiting to die, her heart
aches for the warrior beneath the suffering—but they can have no future. Yet she
is the one woman with the power to tame the rage locked inside him. Maybe he
can
find another reason to live...for her.

The MacKinloch Clan

Highland warriors prepared to fight
fiercely for their country...and for love

The troubled look in her eyes suggested that she didn’t know
the answer. When he removed the cloak she’d given him, his hand brushed against
hers. Her lips parted and he wanted to kneel at her feet, goddess as she
was.

Callum didn’t want her pity. Though his body and voice might
be broken, he wouldn’t allow her to believe that he was less than a man. His
hands threaded with hers, cold skin merging with warm.

He brought her fingers to his ragged cheeks, absorbing the
warmth. A few strands of her golden hair slipped from her veil, resting against
her throat. And when he brought her hand to his lips she inhaled a gasp.

He released her instantly, expecting her to pull back in
disgust. Instead, her eyes were shining with unshed tears, her fingers remaining
upon his face.

“I won’t forget you,” she vowed, pulling her cloak around her
shoulders. Then she picked up her skirts and disappeared into the night.

In the shadows, Callum caught a movement and turned his head.
The earl was standing there, watching.

And fury burned within his eyes.

* * *

Tempted by the Highland
Warrior
Harlequin® Historical #1098—July 2012

Author Note

When I wrote the first book in my MacKinloch Clan
series—
Claimed by the Highland Warrior—
I was
intrigued by the characters Callum and Marguerite. Their situation reminded me
of the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. As a broken hero who cannot speak,
Callum worships Marguerite…and yet he believes he can never win the heart of a
duke’s daughter. Marguerite is deeply sympathetic to Callum’s plight, but as she
loses her heart to him she has the challenge of standing up to her father and
casting off the duties that bind her.

This book was quite difficult to write, especially since the
hero cannot speak. It presented unique dialogue scenes, but I tried to give a
strong sense of the emotions and words Callum wanted to convey. I hope you’ll
enjoy this third book in the MacKinloch Clan series—if this is the first book
you’ve tried, there are several other connected stories.

Claimed by the Highland Warrior
is the first book, which tells the reunion story of escaped prisoner-of-war Bram
and his childhood sweetheart, Nairna.
Seduced by Her
Highland Warrior
is about the estranged marriage between clan chief
Alex and his wife, Laren, a stained-glass artist. Finally,
Craving the Highlander’s Touch
is a novella that gives Lady Alys of
Harkirk her own chance at happiness with Finian MacLachor, a man seeking
redemption.

Will Dougal MacKinloch ever get a story of his own? Time will
tell.…

You’re welcome to visit my website at
www.michellewillingham.com
for excerpts and
behind-the-scenes details about my books. I love to hear from readers, and you
may e-mail me at
[email protected]
or
write via P.O. Box 2242, Poquoson, VA 23662, USA.

Available from Harlequin®
Historical and
MICHELLE WILLINGHAM

*
Her Irish Warrior
#850
*
The Warrior’s Touch
#866
*
Her Warrior King
#882
*
Her Warrior Slave
#922
*
Taming Her Irish Warrior
#966
**
The Accidental Countess
#981
**
The Accidental Princess
#985
*
Surrender to an Irish Warrior
#1010

Claimed by the Highland Warrior
#1042

Seduced by Her Highland Warrior
#1054

Tempted by the Highland Warrior
#1098

Available in Harlequin Historical
Undone!
ebooks

The Viking’s Forbidden Love-Slave
The
Warrior’s Forbidden Virgin
**
An Accidental
Seduction
Innocent in the Harem
Pleasured by the Viking

Craving the Highlander’s Touch

*The MacEgan
Brothers
†The MacKinloch Clan
**Linked by character

Did you know that these novels are also
available as
ebooks? Visit
www.Harlequin.com
.

In memory of Rafiq Salim Soufan, with special thoughts for his
wife, Fatin, and their children.

Chapter One

Scotland—1305

T
he sound of a man screaming awakened her
from sleep.

Marguerite de Montpierre jerked upright, clutching the coverlet
as she stared at her maid Trinette. ‘What was that?’

Trinette shook her head, her eyes wide with fear. ‘I don’t
know. But we should stay here, where it’s safe.’

Marguerite moved to the tower window, staring outside at the
darkened moonlit sky. The man’s screams had fallen into silence now. Already,
she sensed what that meant.

Stay here
, her mind ordered.
Don’t interfere.
What could she do, after all? She was
only a maid of eight and ten. Both her father and Lord Cairnross would be
furious if she went out alone.

But if someone needed help, what right did she have to remain
in her chamber? Fear shouldn’t overshadow the need for mercy.

‘I’m going to find out what it was,’ she informed her maid.
‘You can stay here if you want.’

‘My lady,
non.
Your father would
not allow this.’

No, he wouldn’t. In her mind, she could imagine her father’s
commanding voice, ordering her to remain in her bed. She took a breath, feeling
torn by indecision. If she remained behind, she would be safe and no one would
be angry with her.

And someone could also die. This wasn’t about obedience; it was
about trying to save a life.

‘You’re right. The Duc would not allow me to leave. But he’s
not here, is he?’ Marguerite murmured. She prayed her father would return as
soon as possible, for with each day he was gone, her life became more of a
nightmare.

Guy de Montpierre, the Duc D’Avignois, didn’t know what was
happening here, for her betrothed husband had behaved with the greatest courtesy
toward their family. The Duc was a man who valued wealth and status, and Gilbert
de Bouche, the Earl of Cairnross, would provide a strong English alliance. A
youngest daughter couldn’t hope for a better marriage.

But although the earl had treated her with respect and honour,
his cruelty horrified her. He was a man who firmly believed the Scots belonged
in servitude. He’d captured several prisoners of war, and she’d observed them
building walls of stone for hours on end.

Trinette shivered, looking down at the coverlet. ‘I don’t think
you wish to anger Lord Cairnross by leaving this chamber.’

Marguerite didn’t disagree. But the prisoner’s cry haunted her,
digging into her conscience. She’d seen Cairnross’s slaves and the men were so
very thin, with hopelessness carved into their faces. Two had already died since
her arrival. And she suspected, from the screaming, that another man lay
dying.

‘I can’t stand by and do nothing,’ she murmured. Otherwise it
made her no better than the earl.

She pulled on a closely-fitted cote with long sleeves, a
rose-coloured surcoat, then a dark cloak. Her maid gave a resigned sigh and
helped her finish dressing before she donned her own clothing.

It was past midnight, and soldiers were sleeping along the
hallways and in the larger chamber of the main wooden tower. Marguerite kept her
back to the wall, her heart trembling as she stepped her way past the men. Her
father had left half-a-dozen soldiers of his own as her guards; no doubt they
would stop her if they awakened.

She left the wooden tower and moved towards the inner bailey.
There, she saw the cause of the screaming. A man, perhaps a year older than
herself, was lying prostrate upon the ground. Blood covered his back and his
ankles were chained together. Long dark hair obscured his face, but she saw his
shoulders move. He was still alive…for now.

Marguerite whispered to her maid. ‘Bring me water and soft
linen cloths. Hurry.’ Though she didn’t know who the man was, she wouldn’t turn
her back on his suffering. He needed help, if he was to live through the
night.

Trinette obeyed, and after the girl disappeared, Marguerite
took tentative steps toward the man. When she reached the man’s side, she saw
him shudder, as if he were cold. She didn’t want to startle him, but whispered
quietly in English, ‘Would you allow me to tend your wounds?’

The man tensed, his palms pressing into the ground. Slowly, he
turned his head and his battered face was swollen and bruised. But the man’s
dark brown eyes were empty, as if he felt nothing. She knelt down beside him and
saw his blood staining the ground.

‘I am Marguerite de Montpierre,’ she said, switching to Gaelic
in the hopes he would understand her. Though she was good with languages and had
been learning the language of the Scots for the past year, she worried about her
speech. ‘What is your name?’

The man studied her, but didn’t speak. Pain darkened his
expression and he eyed her with disbelief, as though he couldn’t understand why
she would show pity. A lock of hair hung down over his eyes and she reached for
it, moving out of his face.

It was meant to help him see better, but the moment she touched
him, his hand captured hers. Though his palm was cold, he held her hand as
though it were a delicate butterfly.

The gentle touch startled her. Marguerite’s first instinct was
to pull her hand back, but something held her in place. When she looked past his
injuries, the planes of his face were strong, with the resilience of a man who
had visited hell and survived it.

She waited again for him to speak, but he held his silence and
released her palm. It made her wonder if Lord Cairnross had ordered the
prisoner’s tongue cut out. She lowered her gaze, afraid to ask.

When Trinette brought the wooden bowl of water and linen,
Marguerite saw the man’s shoulders tighten with distrust. ‘Stay back,’ she
whispered to her maid, ‘and call out if anyone approaches.’

Marguerite dipped the first cloth into the water and wrung it
out. Gently, she laid it upon the prisoner’s bloody back and he expelled a gasp
when she touched it. ‘Forgive me. I’ve no wish to harm you.’

Though his mouth clenched at her touch, he made no move to push
her away. Marguerite tried to wipe away the blood and dirt, hoping the cool
water would soothe him. She’d never tended wounds such as these, for her father
did not allow her near the soldiers when they were injured.

The sight of his blood bothered her, but she forced away her
anxiety. This man needed her. As she cleaned his wounds, she kept her touch
light, knowing how it must hurt. The whip lash had gouged his skin, leaving
harsh ridges that would form scars.

‘Why did he do this to you?’ she asked, soaking the cloth
again. She moistened his cheek with the cool cloth and he touched his mouth and
throat, shaking his head as if to tell her he couldn’t speak.

‘It was you who cried out in pain earlier, wasn’t it?’

The man shook his head. Then he stretched out his arm and
pointed into the darkness.

And Marguerite saw the motionless body of a prisoner with
sightless eyes.

* * *

Every bone in Callum MacKinloch’s body ached, his limbs
raging with pain. He couldn’t move if he’d wanted to. The English soldiers had
beaten him bloody, then continued with twenty more lashes.

They hadn’t killed him yet, but they would. It had become a
test of endurance. Although his body was weak and broken, his mind had
transformed into an iron band of strength. He hadn’t cried out in pain, for he’d
lost the ability to speak, almost a year ago. After all the nightmares he’d
witnessed, he supposed it wasn’t surprising.

Another wet cloth covered the lash wounds and he shuddered.
This woman had offered him compassion when no one else would. Why? She was
betrothed to the earl, a noblewoman who shouldn’t have left the sanctuary of the
keep. From his peripheral vision, he caught glimpses of her. Her rose gown
accentuated her slim form, and, as she leaned forward, long strands of golden
hair hung from beneath her veil.

Callum didn’t deserve her sympathy. He’d been locked away for
the past seven years, ever since he was a boy. His father had died in the raid
and he’d been taken captive, along with his older brother Bram.

He lowered his face to the ground, wondering if Bram had
escaped after all. It had been a while since he’d left and though his brother
had sworn he would return to free him, Callum didn’t believe it. How could
he?

No one would save him. It wasn’t possible. He was going to die,
likely tortured to death.

Callum closed his eyes, wincing when Lady Marguerite sponged at
one of the deeper wounds. The feminine scent of her skin cut through the fetid
air, like a breath of mercy. He held on to it, inhaling deeply, as if he could
absorb the memory of her.

When she’d finished, she lifted the cloths from his back and
tried to ease him to sit. Callum glimpsed her face and wondered if he had died
after all. Her clear skin and heart-shaped face were fragile, with soft lips and
blue eyes that would haunt him for ever. He’d never seen a more beautiful
creature in all his life.

‘You’re cold,’ she whispered and removed her cloak, settling it
around his shoulders. Her scent clung to it, along with her body heat. He
smelled exotic flowers and a hint of citrus, like perfumes from a distant land.
As he stared at her, he took in the signs of her wealth—not only the expensive
silk gown, but also the softness of her hands and her pale skin.

How could she marry someone like the Earl of Cairnross? The
idea of such a man possessing this innocent maiden made Callum’s hands clench
into fists.

You couldn’t stop him even if you
tried
, came the voice of reason. The whipping had nearly killed him.
He still wasn’t certain why the soldiers had stopped. They’d left him here, no
doubt believing the exposure to the cold air would finish his life.

Instead, Lady Marguerite had intervened. Though he wished above
all else that she could help him to escape, tonight it would be a futile effort.
A dozen guards patrolled the gate and he lacked the strength. He could hardly
stand, much less run away from Cairnross.

Callum struggled to rise, but his knees seemed to fold beneath
his weight. Lady Marguerite reached out and helped him balance himself. Though
her face flushed at having to touch him, she offered, ‘Let me help you.’

He shook his head in refusal, steadying himself against a stone
wall. He’d rather crawl on his knees like a dog than make her lower herself in
such a way. She’d tended his wounds and given him her cloak for warmth. He
couldn’t understand why she would want to help a stranger and a Scot at
that.

Closing his eyes, he heard her murmur words of comfort in her
own language. He heard the softness of her French accent, the soothing tones
sliding over him like silk.

When he tried to take a step forward, his legs gave way and he
nearly stumbled from his chained ankles. Lady Marguerite moved to his side,
bringing her arm around his waist for support. He wanted to tell her no, for he
was filthy and bloodstained. She shouldn’t have to endure contamination from
him.

But she walked at his side, guiding him across the fortress.
‘You’re going to be all right,’ she whispered. ‘I’ll come to you and bring food.
Perhaps when you’re stronger, I’ll petition the earl for your release.’

He sent her a questioning look.
Why? Why
would she spare a moment for someone like him?

The troubled look in her eyes suggested that she didn’t know
the answer. When he removed the cloak she’d given him, his hand brushed against
hers. Her lips parted and he wanted to kneel at her feet like the goddess she
was.

Callum didn’t want her pity. Though his body and voice might be
broken, he wouldn’t allow her to believe that he was less than a man. His hands
threaded with hers, the cold skin merging with warm.

He brought her fingers to his ragged cheeks, absorbing the
warmth. A few strands of her golden hair slipped from her veil, resting against
her throat. And when he brought her hand to his lips, she inhaled a gasp.

He released her instantly, expecting her to pull back in
disgust. Instead, her eyes were shining with unshed tears, her fingers remaining
upon his face.

‘I won’t forget you,’ she vowed, pulling her cloak around her
shoulders. Then she picked up her skirts and disappeared into the night.

In the shadows, Callum caught a movement and turned his head.
The Earl of Cairnross was standing there, watching.

And fury burned within his eyes.

* * *

‘I saw you with him last night,’ Lord Cairnross began,
when Marguerite joined him in breaking their fast. ‘The prisoner who was
punished.’

Marguerite kept her eyes averted to the floor, showing no
reaction at all. If she appeared dismayed, no doubt the earl would have the
prisoner killed.

‘I heard a man suffering,’ she murmured. ‘It awakened me from
sleep.’ She kept her tone even, as if she were speaking of a wounded animal.

‘You are so young, Lady Marguerite,’ the earl chided. ‘These
are not noblemen, as you are accustomed to,’ he explained, making her feel like
a small child. ‘They are ignorant Scots who dared to rise up against the King.
They should be grateful that I’ve given them the chance to atone for their
sins.’

Sins? She forced herself to stare at her hands, wondering what
he was talking about. Although some of the men were, no doubt, rebellious toward
the English, the prisoner was only a year or so older than herself. From the
look of him, he’d been imprisoned for years.

A shiver crossed over her skin, for the look in the man’s eyes
had been deliberate. She didn’t doubt that he could kill his master without a
trace of regret.

‘Do not punish the prisoner for my ignorance, my lord,’ she
murmured. ‘I saw him bleeding and meant only to tend his wounds.’

The earl took her hand in his. ‘Lady Marguerite, Callum
MacKinloch dared to touch you. And that I cannot forgive.’

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