To Love a Highland Laird

Heart of a Scot Book 1

She’s determined to end her betrothal, but he must make her his, no matter the cost.

As an infant, Mayra Findlay’s hand was pledged in marriage to Logan Rutherford by order of the king. She’s only seen Logan once since; when they were still young children. After a chance encounter with an irresistible rogue she can’t stop thinking about, nor stop secretly meeting, Mayra is resolute she’ll marry for love. Though it’s risky, she initiates a bold scheme that’s certain to force Logan to call off their union.

Until Laird Logan Rutherford returned to Scotland and inherited a near bankrupt estate, he had no intention of wedding the lass he was betrothed to as a wee lad. He’d planned to honor Mayra’s ever-more demanding requests to dissolve their marriage contract.

But when he prevents Mayra from taking a nasty tumble, he’s immediately intrigued with the intelligent lass. Mayra doesn’t recognize Logan, and after she reveals her utter contempt for her betrothed, he impulsively assumes his cousin’s identity. A decision that soon has Logan snared in a tangled web of deceit, because he’s fallen in love with Mayra.



This sigh-worthy Scottish historical by a USA Today bestselling author will have you sitting on the edge of your seat! You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens to Mayra and Logan next as their romance blossoms.

If you enjoy reading strong heroine, alpha male, and second chance love stories overflowing with mystery and suspense, a dash of humor, and riveting emotion, then you’ll adore Collette Cameron’s mesmerizing HEART OF A SCOT. Grab TO LOVE A HIGHLAND ROGUE and settle into your favorite reading nook for a rousing Highland adventure you can’t put down. You’ll stay up past your bedtime!

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


Flourish

Prologue Excerpt

Dunrangour Tower, Scottish Highlands

6 September, 1701

 

“Logan, my boy, ye sign here.” Artair Rutherford pointed to an empty space below his and Laird Roderick Findlay’s bold, slanted signature.

Och, cow turds.

Despite his frustration, Logan obediently propped his battered toy sword against the table’s leg. After carefully dipping the quill into the inkwell, he lifted his uncertain gaze to his father.

“My full name, Da?”

“Aye, Son.”

“And when I do, it means I must wed her? When I’m a mon?” He pointed the quill at a wee lassie in an elaborate wooden cradle, gnawing on her wet fist.

“Aye, lad.” Inclining his head, Da patted Logan’s shoulder, the gesture more prodding than reassuring. “She’ll be yer wife.”

Logan sucked in his cheeks and crimped his mouth, mutinously. “I dinna want to marry her.”

What need have I for a wife? Da disna have one.

“Ye’re no’ actually marryin’ her right now, Son,” Da cajoled gently. “Ye’re just agreein’ to later, when ye’re both adults.”

That brought Logan a little relief. “I still dinna want to.”

“It’s a good match. A brilliant one, truth to tell.” Bending over a little, Da put a hand on Logan’s shoulder and peered intently into his eyes. “But more importantly, Son, the union benefits Scotland. Ye should be proud.”

Findlay, Dunrangour’s giant of a laird, snorted loud as a draft horse and shook his shaggy blond mane. “So say some.”

Craning his neck, Logan gulped and took a reflexive step backward.

“Ever heard such a colossal jobby before, Fergus and Hamish?” Findlay bit out, his jaw muscles jumping and huge hands clenched into powerful balls.

Such a pile of shite?

Which part?

The stupid match or the benefitin’ Scotland part?

A pair of Dunrangour clansmen acting as witnesses, their flinty gazes unyielding and faces granite hard, grunted and smirked their agreement.

“Nae, canna say I have, Findlay,” the one called Hamish said, giving Da an evil scowl.

“And of course, Mayra’s dowry—particularly the land portion—be of nae interest to ye, be it, Rutherford? But, ye canna touch either yet, can ye? No’ until our children actually wed. And then it’ll be the lad’s to do with as he pleases, no’ yers. How that must set yer teeth on edge and stick in yer greedy craw.”

Findlay’s low chuckle, more sinister than humorous, filled the tense silence. Satisfaction, or mayhap even gloating, tinged his words and ignited his vivid blue eyes.

Viking eyes.

Ruthless and cold and unforgiving.

Da said Dunrangour’s laird was descended from the barbaric Norsemen, and Logan could well believe it.

His sweet-faced wife didn’t join in his mirth. If anything, she hunched deeper into her chair, more distraught.

“Asinine requirin’ me to provide half of the lass’ marriage settlement now. Reeks of extortion.” Findlay’s hefty glower encompassed Da and Mr. Hyde, the king’s agent.

Logan scrunched his forehead and mouth, gazing between the wrathful laird and his gentle lady.

Didn’t they want this stupid troth thing either?

As a lad, he couldn’t disobey Da’s order, but they were grown-ups. And adults could do what they wanted.

Why didn’t they just say no then?

He’d be well-pleased if they did.

He looked at the slobbering baby again and couldn’t prevent his lip curling.

Reddish brows drawn into such a severe vee they almost touched, Da glared hard at Findlay until Logan’s tugging on his coat finally drew his father’s attention.

“What’s a cowry, Da?”

“Dowry.” His father’s stern features softened a wee bit. “It’s a legal token promisin’ ye and the lass will wed.”

A sneer curled Findlay’s mouth as he crossed his thick arms and planted a bulging shoulder against the fireplace. “I’d call it extortion and a forced match between a wee six-year-old lad and an infant lass. Neither of which have any say in their futures.”

“Give careful thought to yer words, Findlay. Some might consider them and yer attitude treasonous. Ye wouldna want a hint of anythin’ untoward to reach His Majesty’s ears, would ye now?” Mr. Hyde, tsked disapprovingly, his eyes gone squinty and suspicious. His pointy nostrils even twitched in reproach.

Like a giant wharf rat.

Logan pinched his nose and pointed his face away. Reeking of dirty feet, stale sweat, and rotting teeth, the agent stank worse than Leith’s docks.

Lady Findlay had raised her handkerchief to her nose several times as well.

“Go ahead, sign, and be quick about it,” Da urged Logan. “We need to be on our way.”

Rebellion pounded against Logan’s ribs, and he thrust out his lower lip.

Something about this didn’t feel right—made him slightly afraid and his tummy waffy.

Like when he awoke during the middle of the night and the castle was too quiet. Too ghostly and strange. And he lay alone in his chamber with only his sword and a carved dog for protection. Too scared to move or rise, but just as terrified to stay buried beneath the weighty bedcoverings.

“Why do I have to wed her? Why canna someone else?” Logan veered the fretting bairn another troubled glance, and leaning toward Da, whispered, “She’s no’ verra bonnie.”

“Yer king asks it of ye, lad. As do I.” Da indicated where Logan should sign again.

So he must marry a strawberry-faced, drooling baby for a prissy king he’d never met?

Unfair!

Logan wasn’t supposed to swear, but he could think oaths with no one the wiser. And right now, he wanted to think whole bunches of them.

Bloody hell. Blister and damn. God’s toenails.

Bampot. Diddy. Scunner.

Shite. Shite. Shite!

What would Da do if Logan stomped his feet and hollered, “Nae!” at the top of his voice or threw the quill on the floor, mashing it beneath his foot, cursing all the while?

If he was required to wed that red-faced bairn, shouldn’t he have something in return like the adults?

Hmm...

Maybe…

“Can I have a puppy then?” Logan skewed a hopeful brow and chewed the side of his lower lip.

He really, really wanted a puppy, but Da always stalled, saying mayhap when he was older. And older never, ever—ever—came.

Logan squared his shoulders and jutted his chin. “If I be auld enough to become”—what was the word?—“be…trussed, then I’m auld enough to have my own dog.”

Let Da argue against that.

“Be-trothed,” Mr. Hyde muttered crossly beneath his breath, stressing each syllable. “The word is Be. Trothed. And the nerve of the lad. Askin’ for a mongrel when he should be thankin’ His Majesty for the honor he’s bestowed upon the child.”

Mr. Hyde shook his head and tsked reproachfully again.

Showed what the cranky old tosspot knew, comparing honor to a puppy. Lads didn’t play with honor. Or have it curl up in their beds and keep them warm. Or lick their giggling faces until they gasped for air. Or keep them company in drafty, scary, old keeps.

Logan held his breath, afraid Da would say no. Again.

But this time, Da laughed, his smile folding his face clear to the corners in amusement, and even Findlay’s lips twitched a mite.

“Aye, ye can have yer puppy. Now sign the document. We need to depart soon if we’re to make the first lodgin’ house before nightfall.” Da closed the dowry chest’s lid and, after securing the lock, tucked the key into his sporran.

Logan murmured each of his five names, Logan Greer Wallace Robert Rutherford, as he laboriously wrote them, remembering to carefully shape the letters as his tutor demanded.

Only the nib scritching against the crisp parchment and the bairn’s coos interrupted the eerie calm entombing the great hall.

A shiver juddered across his shoulders, and he hesitated.

“Go on. Ye’re almost done.” Da nudged his arm.

Once he’d finished, Mr. Hyde all but snatched the quill from Logan’s hand and proceeded to scribble his name, sprinkle sand atop the ink, and lastly, affix a fancy seal to the scarlet wax at the bottom.

“Can I play with Coburn now, Da?”

Beaming in a very pleased way Logan had never seen before, his father dipped his square chin.

“As soon as ye say yer farewells and give the lass the gift ye brought, ye can play with yer cousin.”

Logan opened his pouch and sticking his tongue between his teeth, fished around in his sporran for the pin. He’d assumed it was a present for Lady Findlay when Da asked him to carry the heart-shaped, crown-topped token.

Once he’d pulled the piece free, he turned it over and picked out a bit of fuzz—probably from his plaid—from the bright blue stone in the center.

“It matches her eyes.” Palm upward, he extended the Luckenbooth brooch.

The bairn snatched it from his hand and promptly stuffed the scrolled end into her mouth. However, Lady Findlay gently took the clasp from her daughter at once.

“Nae, sweetin’. Ye’ll hurt yerself.”

Her voice sounded funny and tight, as if she tried not to cry. Her eyes looked strange, too. Wide and watery and accusing.

Grabbing his wooden sword, Logan made to join Coburn. Barely one year older and often mistaken for his twin, his cousin was also his best friend ever since Coburn came to live at the keep.

“Logan?” Lady Findlay’s lyrical voice stopped him.

Holy rotten haddock.

What now?

Eager to find Coburn and slay all manner of mythical beasts from dragons to trows, Logan fingered the sword’s smooth hilt and slowly faced her.

“M’lady?”

Her ladyship offered him a brave, if somewhat wobbly smile.

“I ken ye be young, and ye dinna fully understand what has transpired here today. But I ask ye to be kind to Mayra, to no’ hurt her—to keep her from harm. And someday, perhaps, ye can come to love her. Can ye promise me that, Logan?”

After coming to stand before Lady Findlay, he cocked his head.

“Aye, m’lady. I surely can.”

Bracing his hands on his upright sword, Logan peered into the cradle.

Covered in lacy stuff, the infant gurgled, waved her chubby fists, and blinked her big blue eyes. Whitish bumps covered her face, and drool ran from one corner of her slobbery mouth.

Och.

He pinched his features tighter.

“Why’s her face all puckered? And riddy and blotchy?” He touched his own smooth cheeks while eyeing her doubtfully. “Are ye sure the bairn is a lassie? She has nae hair.”

Just like Mr. Hyde—bald as a stone or a goose egg.

“Aye, Mayra is a lass.” Lady Findlay lifted the wee one from the cradle and, after arranging the bairn on her lap, brushed her fingers across the lass’ head. “She’s fair, like her father. It may take a while, but she’ll have hair. Would ye like to hold her?”

Nae!

Logan shook his head and backed away. Horror of horrors. He’d rather cuddle a selkie or a kelpie. He never wanted to hold or touch the wriggling bairn.

Ever.

“I would have an oath from ye, too, lad.” Findlay went to one muscled knee before him, and still Logan had to crane his neck to meet the laird’s eyes.

By jiminy, he’s huge. Way bigger than Da.

“Court my wee lass beforehand,” Findlay said. “And wait until she’s passed her twentieth birthday to wed.”

“Now see here,” Mr. Hyde spluttered, his eyebrows writhing like great, giant, fuzzy, gray worms. “That’s no’ part of the settlement.”

“Nae age nor courtship restrictions were specified, Hyde. Sloppy on yer part.” Findlay’s frigid smile nailed the nasty wee man to the hall’s paneled wall. “If the lad likes, he can wait until he’s in his fifth decade.”

“We’ll see what His Majesty has to say about that,” sniffed the agent with a jerk of his head, sending another waft of foul odor from his person.

Dunrangour’s laird leaned in and whispered in Logan’s ear. “And when ye are an adult, and if ye dinna want to marry Mayra, petition the monarchy to grant ye a reprieve. I shall ask, too, if that’s what ye want. But ye need to return her dowry else she canna marry another.”

Logan veered a brief glance to the squirming infant. Not have to wed that blotchy-faced lass? Aye, that Logan could promise.

“Sir, it shall be as ye request.”

Flourish

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