To Defy a Highland Duke | COLLETTE CAMERON

To Defy a Highland Duke 19To Defy a Highland Duke

Heart of a Scot Book 6

Highlander, Keane Buchannan, is on a mission. His duchy’s reputation is in tatters thanks to the long line of selfish dukes who came before him—and if he wants to repair the damage, he’ll need to mend the rift between the feuding branches of his family. Unfortunately, his cousin’s widow seems intent on making his mission more difficult. The flame-haired beauty has good reason to despise him. But Keane soon realizes just how thin the line is between love and hate … and just how badly he wishes he could cross it…

Marjorie Kennedy’s only mission is to be the best mother she can be to her girls. She has no interest in spending time with Keane. But when he invites her family to a Hogmanay celebration, she knows her days of avoiding the arrogant—and sinfully handsome—Highlander are over. Declining his invitation isn’t an option, but surely she can ignore the inexplicable pull of attraction she feels for him…can’t she?

Though neither can deny the sizzling attraction between them, Keane and Marjorie are at odds. But when an enemy emerges and threatens everything they love, can they set aside their differences and realize that maybe their purposes—and hearts—aren’t so far apart after all?


This enthralling enemies to lovers Scottish historical by a USA Today bestselling author will have you guessing with bated breath what will happen to Keane and Marjorie next. Will they put aside their carefully laid plans and give love a chance?

If you enjoy reading dukes, widows, and Highlander love stories brimming with mystery and suspense, a dash of humor, and gripping emotion, then you’ll adore Collette Cameron’s mesmerizing HEART OF A SCOT Series. Buy TO DEFY A HIGHLAND DUKE and settle into your favorite reading nook for a rousing Highland adventure you can’t put down.

Though this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, most readers prefer to read the series in order.

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To Defy a Highland Duke 20

Release Date: April 14, 2020

 

Flourish

Chapter One

Scottish Highlands
29 December 1720

I’m out of my mind for agreeing to this. Completely and utterly mad.

With that peevish thought, her fingers ice-cold despite her gloves, Marjorie Kennedy shivered and burrowed further beneath the weight of the heavy coach blankets. Only the crown of her soundly sleeping daughter’s head peeked from within the cocoon she’d swaddled six-year-old Cora in.

On the opposite seat, her sister-in-law, Berget Kennedy, also buried in a swath of thick coverings, cuddled Elana, Marjorie’s seven-year-old daughter.

The bricks now skidding around the coach floor had long since lost any semblance of heat and had been abandoned as foot warmers. Wishing for a roaring fire to warm the soles of her feet, Marjorie wiggled her cold toes against the bottom of her sturdy shoes.

“I canna imagine ’tis much farther, Marjorie.” Every bit as exhausted and miserably cold as she, Berget offered a weak upward sweep of her mouth, empathy shining in her kindly gaze. “The last time we stopped, Graeme vowed we’d arrive within the hour.”

With chipped teeth, bruised bums, and our blood frozen solid.

Well, Berget might not be frozen through and through. Her bright eyes and flushed cheeks, and the smoldering glance her husband bathed her with when they’d emerged from the inn’s private parlor, suggested Graeme had found a creative and effective way to warm his young bride.

Overseeing her daughters’ use of the necessary behind the posting house meant Marjorie had never completely thawed before the troupe reboarded the coach, and lurched away on the rutted excuse for a road.

It wasn’t precisely envy that pricked her, for she didn’t begrudge Graeme and Berget their happiness or love. True, Graeme resembled her dead husband Sion strongly, and for a brief period, she’d developed a tendre for him.

But the sentiment hadn’t been love. He’d reminded her so much of Sion, and she did so miss her husband.

So what, precisely, was this disgruntlement chafing her? Abrasive and persistent?

If she must put a name to the aching, fluttering behind her breastbone, she’d call it yearning. For what she’d once had and mightn’t—probably wouldn’t—ever have again: the love and devotion of a strong, loyal, devoted husband and father.

Could one grieve such things?

Love? Devotion? Companionship?

Should one?

How could she not?

Her heart and spirit had wills of their own these days.

Burying her fingers deeper in the furs, Marjorie attempted to ignore her discomfort while keeping her complaints constrained to mutinous musings. Vocalizing her displeasure served no useful purpose since aught could be done but to endure the remainder of the bone-rattling trip.

Besides, it wasn’t her nature to be churly or snipe.

This journey, however, reinforced her abhorrence of coach travel, which was why her last prolonged trip had been from England as a bride of eighteen. Starry-eyed and bubbling with hope and expectations as the young bride of Laird Sion Kennedy.

She’d been blessed with three and a half joyful years with Sion before he’d died, far too young, five years ago. Her brawny, strapping husband, felled by a gash. A stupid infection of his foot that had turned putrid and poisoned his blood, claimed the doctor.

Sion had left her a widow at two and twenty, in a new homeland, with an infant, a toddler, and a shattered heart and broken spirit. Her daughters were what kept her going.

Maternal pride blossomed in her chest as she swept a love-filled gaze over the sleeping lasses. Thank God for Elana and Cora. She didn’t know how she would’ve borne the grief and loneliness without them.

The constant rumbling, jerking, and bouncing of the coach had whittled her mischievous daughters’ good humor to grumpy pouts and, eventually, frustrated tears before slumber claimed the pair. Experience had taught Marjorie that they would awaken energized and quite ready to engage in more shenanigans.

For certain, the propensity for impishness came from their Scots’ blood.

“I’m quite looking forward to a hot bath, and a steaming cup of tea,” Marjorie admitted, realizing she’d forgotten to respond to Berget. Tiny, frosty puffs accented her words and emphasized precisely how frigid the temperature had become inside the coach since the sun began its slow descent behind the Highlands’ craggy horizon.

A tot of bracing brandy or whisky in the tea wouldn’t go amiss, either.

“Aye, I do, too,” came Berget’s muffled reply.

Hours of trundling along in this inhospitable weather had chilled Marjorie to the marrow. A glance out the coach’s window revealed a cranky, charcoal-gray sky. She pulled her mouth downward and leaned forward a couple of inches, then clamped her teeth together in another bid to tamp down the wave of frustration billowing upward from her chest.

Perfectly wonderful.

If she weren’t mistaken, and she’d lived in the Highlands long enough to know she wasn’t, those pregnant clouds portended snow.

Had Berget noticed, too?

Mayhap that accounted for the single crease between her russet brows, the only indication she was less than satisfied. Berget hadn’t uttered a word of protest the lengthy journey, and she’d been traveling longer than Marjorie. Her sister-in-law was a saint and had become a good friend in recent months.

She and Graeme had returned from Liam and Emeline MacKay’s Yuletide house party to collect Marjorie and her daughters for the trip to Trentwick Castle.

Marjorie sincerely believed she would’ve been half-mad by now had she been required to jostle about in a conveyance as much as Berget had the past few months.

And yet her sister-in-law remained as cheerful and patient as ever. Marjorie couldn’t help but admire her daughters’ former governess’s stamina and good nature. It was no wonder Graeme had fallen in love with Berget.

Fending off the beginning of a headache, Marjorie pressed two fingers to the bridge of her nose and wondered for the umpteenth time why she’d agreed to spend Hogmanay at Trentwick Castle.

Not just Hogmanay, but a full week of festivities, God help her. A week amongst strangers. More on point, in the home of the Duke of Roxdale.

Loneliness and boredom, that’s why.

Pshaw. She silently but emphatically disregarded the impudent thought. Utter twaddle.

She was the mother of two adorable, vivacious daughters, and she lived with her charming brothers-in-law, Graeme and Camden Kennedy, kind-hearted Berget, and a good-sized, devoted staff.

She most assuredly was neither lonely nor bored.

The pair of red-haired minxes currently—blessedly—sleeping soundly made certain of the latter. As for the former? Well, Marjorie refused to contemplate it. Widows with high-spirited daughters had other things to occupy their time and thoughts.

Neither, however, was she contented.

Eyeing the pewter, slightly pink-tinged sky, she schooled the frown once more trying to pull her mouth downward at the corners. Most definitely snow. Marjorie almost rolled her eyes heavenward in silent rebellion.

Had that devil, the Duke of Roxdale, summoned the foul weather? Nae. Devils preferred roaring fire, not snow.

Despite her determination otherwise, a sigh filtered past her lips.

All they needed was to be snowed in with the austere, ill-disposed Keane Buchannan, Duke of Roxdale.

To think, last summer—for all of five foolish minutes—she’d believed him disarming and interesting. Before his true colors had emerged. Rather, his true personality: Surly. Dour. Judgmental. His midnight, severe brows pulled together and thunderous censor heavy in his arrestingly beautiful, hazel eyes.

The devil cannot have beautiful eyes, she argued to herself.

No? Well, that one does.

Probably to enchant his victims into sinning like the sly serpent in the Garden of Eden.

With deliberate intent, and perhaps the merest thrust of what she considered a too square chin, Marjorie pointed her thoughts in another direction and stared out the grimy window.

In the freezing mist, she could make out the outline of Graeme’s huge horse plodding along to the right of the team.

Always mist and fog and rain and gray. Yet, she’d grown to love the Highlands.

Her brothers-in-law preferred to ride, rather than stuff their large frames into a cramped coach. Not that she blamed them. Towering well over six feet and boasting legs and arms to rival small trees, each was as out of place in a conveyance’s small confines as an elephant in a canary cage. But surely, they must be half-frozen themselves, even if they were Scots and accustomed to the cold clime.

A particularly powerful shiver scuttled up Marjorie’s spine, spreading across her shoulders and raising the flesh. Shuddering, she silently cursed the weather, her sense of duty, and most of all, the domineering man she’d encounter all too soon.

Come now, she chided herself, are you going to allow the likes of that bounder to keep you in a temper?

Aye. The duke abraded her worse than scraping her naked bottom upon splintered wood.

Hunching lower in the blankets’ folds, Berget offered a sympathetic smile.

Marjorie’s frustration must’ve shown in her expression despite her efforts to appear unperturbed.

Trentwick Castle cannot be much farther. It cannot.

Marjorie hoped as she clamped her teeth against another shiver and burrowed into the furs pulled to her ears.

This gathering would be the first time the feuding Kennedys and Buchannans had marked Hogmanay together in over three decades. Roxdale’s father had impregnated Graeme’s aunt, and Gordan Buchannan had been forced to marry Winifred Kennedy at blade point. She’d been as reluctant a participant as the old duke.

According to Camden, family lore claimed his aunt had wept copiously throughout the ceremony, and all the while, the fifth duke had vehemently vowed he’d never bedded the lass. She’d died a mere month after giving birth to Roxdale—some said from a broken heart.

Roxdale’s strong resemblance to his sire—the entire ducal lineage, in truth—refuted the old duke’s adamant claims that he hadn’t fathered the bairn.

Henceforth, the families had avoided each other. Until now.

And she was to blame, in part.

Blast her interference and attempts at peacemaking.

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