Sun
Nov 12 2017 12:00pm

Heather McCollum Excerpt: The Devil of Dunakin Castle

Heather McCollum

The Devil of Dunakin Castle by Heather McCollum

Englishwoman, Grace Ellington, has made a home in Scotland, but to escape from the meddling people around her who seem to think she needs to wed right away—because women need saving, right? —she volunteers to journey north to aid a friend in childbirth.

Keir MacKinnon, the younger brother of the MacKinnon clan chief, has been raised to strike fear in people, on and off the battlefield. Trained to uphold MacKinnon law, he has hardened into a lethal warrior. Caught in a Highland blizzard with the feisty Grace, Keir realizes the beautiful woman who saved him can also save his nephew’s life.

Sparks fly when he takes her against her will to his home, and Grace’s courage is put to the ultimate test. Is Keir MacKinnon the passionate, kind man she saved in the Highland blizzard, or is he truly the cruel executioner who seeks to solve all issues by the sword?

Get a sneak peek at Heather McCollum's The Devil of Dunakin Castle (available November 13, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Grace had wanted adventure, and by God she’d found one. And damnation, it was going to kill her.

Grabbing another blanket tied to the saddle, she lowered it over the man. Recalling the advice Thomas had given her, she trudged to an evergreen, its limbs heavy with snow. Using her sgian dubh, she sawed at several bushy evergreen boughs. Panting, her arms shaking with the effort, she dragged them back and jumped away as the horse lowered to the ground next to him.

“Oh, no, no,” she said, leaping up to fix the blanket over the animal. Stepping back around, she squatted at the man’s side and pushed against him, trying to roll his heavy frame toward the horse. “I…have…to…get…these under you,” she said, her teeth gritted as her heels dug in behind her. “Sard it all!” she yelled, using the flame of anger to give her something besides fear to hold onto.

Grace shoved the pine boughs up against the man’s side and laid two over the horse’s back. She cut a few more, dragged them back, and laid them over the man, who was now completely covered with the blanket, snow, and evergreens. Yes! She’d done what Thomas had explained, well, most of it. And the horse would help keep the man warm. Hands on her hips, she turned in a tight circle and let her arms drop back down. Now what?

She had absolutely no idea which way to go. She’d wandered through the storm for nearly an hour before trying to duck into the cave where she’d come face-to-face with an immature wolf. Adorable in its youth, its parents were anything but. Now, as she struggled against the buffeting wind and snow that stung her eyes, she realized that her efforts for rescuing anyone were at an end. There was nothing else she could do. Gloved hands pressed to the side of her head, Grace looked down at the lumps of man and horse. At least she’d be warmer up against them, under the boughs and blanket and accumulating snow.

She looked out at the white where she could hardly see to the evergreen. There was no choice. Grace dropped to her knees, digging in the snow to find the edge of the wool blanket. Shaking flakes from her clothes, she lifted it and crawled underneath. The horse lay against one side of the stranger, a massive boulder of warm flesh. It was either lay half in the cold or on top of the man, so she wiggled her way across him, fixing the edge of the wool blanket to block the wind. Body heat filled the space, and the wool and boughs muted the bite of the gale. Grace worked the scarf away from her face for easier breathing, arching her back where she pressed over the massive body under her. In the dimness of the crude tent, she stared at the stranger, studying him for the first time.

Dark lashes lay against his skin that she guessed would be tanned from the sun. The shadow of a beard coated a strong, square jaw. His lips were the perfect shape, adding to the overall ruggedly handsome look. The strength and courage he’d shown in saving her, the compassion for not slaughtering the wolves and thus dooming the wolf pups, combined with his handsome face and thick, dark hair that fell in waves to his broad shoulders… “Good God,” she whispered. “I’m in love with you already.” She huffed at her ridiculous declaration. The cold was numbing her mind.

His chest filled with an inhale, lifting her under the shelter, and she braced her legs over his to stop from rolling off. Grace watched, unmoving, as the man’s eyes blinked open.

“Oh,” she whispered and inhaled past the fear tightening her throat. “Hello.” He stared up at her, a crease forming between his brows.

“I am dead,” he said. “Finally.”

Finally? Did he wish to die?

His lips rubbed together, and she felt him shift, his gaze connected to hers. Before she could utter anything, his hand came up to cup her cheek. “And ye are my reward.”

Chapter Three

Disoriented, Keir gave in to the desire that woke his aching body. He guided the angel before him, her wide eyes and smooth skin shadowed in the dimness. Her lips were cold but soft as he met them. He caught her gasp in his mouth but pressed on, lifting his other arm to hug her against his body. The pangs of pain shot through his thigh as she shifted against it, and the throbbing in his head made him pause. She’d slanted her mouth against his, returning his kiss, but when he stopped for the space of a heartbeat, she reared back.

Ice slammed against the side of his face. “Mhac na galla,” he yelled and wiped the snow from his cheek. The angel had hit him.

“I know enough Gaelic to know what that means,” she yelled back, rolling off his body, her leg hitting his thigh. He grunted, the pain clearing more of his mind.

“What the bloody hell is all this?” He turned his head from one side to the other, and his arms came up to throw off the heaviness overtop of the two of them.

“You’re ruining our shelter,” she said. “And there’s a bloody blizzard still going on.”

The heavily clothed woman rose, throwing the blanket, snow, and what looked like branches down over his face. “There’s a tree on me,” he called up through the layers. He remembered the branch breaking, knocking him out, but this seemed to be a pine. Och. Beaten by a dead tree limb. If Brodie found out, Keir would never hear the end of it.

The woman cursed again, but the rest of her words were caught in the wind. Keir pushed up on his elbows and realized Cogadh was lying beside him. “Shite,” he said and threw off the blanket and tree limbs. “Cogadh,” he yelled, rising despite his leg.

“He’s lame,” she said. “I wrapped the wound on his right hock.”

Keir rubbed a gloved hand along his horse’s side under the wool blanket, feeling his friend’s strong breaths.

“He’s well enough for now,” the woman yelled over the wind. “But we all need to find shelter.”

Keir turned, sitting against Cogadh in the snow. The lass stood, white swirling around her, making her look like a small snow goddess come to earth. The lowering sun, blocked by the thick clouds, obscured her coloring, but her long hair whipped out from around her hood. The fur-lined cloak framed a heart-shaped face and large eyes. Brave and fierce, ignoring the gales shoving against her, molding her clothes to her body, she frowned. She wasn’t afraid of him, didn’t look like she was afraid of anything.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Heather McCollum.
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Learn more about or order a copy of The Devil of Dunakin Castle by Heather McCollum, available November 13, 2017:

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Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical paranormal and YA romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart finalists.

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