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Daniel Sinclair is a broken man with wounds that are physical and spiritual. He’s weighed down by grief and guilt that he could not save his friend, Graeme Lennox, and is convinced that a French lance left him less than a man. He has no prospects. Nothing left but his tarnished honor. But then he meets a vexing boy who makes him question even that.
Fia Lennox’s world turned on its end with her brother’s death. She’s gone in one fell swoop from lady to servant…to a woman on the run. The world is a dangerous place for a woman alone—even when she is masquerading as a boy—so when she meets up with a strong, valiant ex-cavalryman, she decides to become his traveling companion. Whether he likes it or not.
Battling villains, would-be-friends and their own finely-forged battlements, Fia and Daniel rush toward their destiny, a scorching passion and, hopefully, redemption. Can love conquer all? Even the ghosts of the past?
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There was no other word for it. Simply glorious.
Daniel tipped his face up to the sky and grinned. The sun was shining and the breeze was mild. The sky was blue and tufted with fat white clouds. It was a lovely day to travel—it could have been raining, could have been cold. But since he’d set out from London, on this lengthy journey to Inverness, each day had been prettier than the last.
His mood had improved too. He was swamped with the conviction that he’d done the right thing, leaving his haven. As much as he appreciated his position at the club, he’d allowed himself to sink into it, into the rut of it. He’d allowed himself to wallow in his woes.
There was no wallowing on the road; there simply wasn’t time for it.
It was energizing to be traveling again, invigorating to be out in the world, breathing fresh air and going somewhere. He enjoyed the solitude, the quiet, the absence of need to make conversation.
That left him alone with his thoughts, his regrets, his guilt, but such specters had haunted him for so long, they were like old companions. He wouldn’t know who he was without them.
Aye. This was far more healing than any medicine—the power of his mount between his thighs, the kiss of warmth on his face, the movement. Surprisingly, his leg hardly pained him at all, except when he moved suddenly. In fact, it even felt better after several days of riding. He hadn’t fallen off his horse once.
Hunnam was in good form as well. No doubt he’d enjoyed the fresh air and the chance to prance once again. An hour’s exercise a day was one thing, but for a Scots Grey, the chance to run and run wild spoke to his soul.
It spoke to Daniel’s too, so he put his heels to his mount’s sides and gave him his head.
And it was glorious.
He hadn’t realized how closed up he’d allowed himself to become. How isolated. He hadn’t realized how much he’d allowed his injury—and his guilt—to shrink his horizons.
Well, his horizons weren’t limited now. They spread before him in a verdant green wash that stretched as far as the eye could see. He passed a loch and paused to admire the sparkling waters, to watch an osprey swoop down to snatch a hapless fish.
And damn, but it was a fine thing to be back in Scotland. Daniel hadn’t realized just how much he’d missed hearing the lilt of his own brogue, or tasting a well-made haggis. The Brits didn’t care for haggis, a fact he’d never quite understood. When created by someone who knew what they were doing, it was delicious. And Scottish innkeepers, apparently, knew what they were doing. Or their wives did.
There was no doubt about it, he’d probably gained a stone since crossing the border to his homeland. He’d never felt so vibrant and alive. And while he had enjoyed the occasional chat with a fellow countryman, he had never enjoyed his own company more. There was something about being alone with one’s thoughts that was very peaceful. It allowed a man to explore his soul at leisure without interruptions. It allowed a man to process all that had happened in his life. To put everything in the place it belonged. Though he still had several days of travel, at most a week, he was already lamenting the journey’s end.
After he passed the Kinclaven Crossroads, the landscape changed from fields and farms to orchards. The looming trees shaded the road in a lacy pattern; the scent of crisp apples filled the air, tempting Daniel to reach up and pluck one for a taste.
He did not. That would be stealing and he was a man of honor.
He pulled back on Hunnam’s reins when he spotted a white mare standing in the road. She was difficult to miss. Her lines were exquisite, her saddle and tack were the finest…but she had no rider. His brow wrinkled as he rode closer. No one would ever abandon such a fine horse. It was—
The imprecation came from the leafy tree next to which the mare stood.
Daniel glanced up; the boughs riffled. An apple fell to the ground.
The mare whinnied and walked over to it, lipping up the treat.
Another apple fell and the horse made short work of that one was well.
“Stop eating them all,” the tree said. “Save some for me.”
Daniel cleared his throat. It seemed prudent to make himself known. “Hullo?”
The leaves rustled and a face peered out. Enormous blue-green eyes stared at him. Something flickered through them. Something that could have been construed as…guilt.
Daniel frowned. “What are you doing up there?” he asked.
The eyes blinked. “Nothing.”
“Nothing?” He drummed his fingers on his saddle. “Are you stealing apples?”
The chagrined expression on that elfin face was nearly whimsical. “Is this your orchard?”
“Indeed it is not.”
An entrancing, mischievous smile blossomed and the thief tossed him a fat red apple. “Then catch.”
He did not. He did not catch. The apple bounced off his pate.
“Oh really,” an amused voice echoed from above. “Let’s try again.”
Too late. Another apple flew in his direction. He missed it again. It fell to the ground and Hunnam gobbled it up.
“Sir, you are supposed to catch them.”
“I doona care to abet you in your thievery—” Another missile flew. By the grace of God, he caught this one. “Please stop throwing stolen apples at me.” It was large and red and shiny and looked delicious. Aside from that, it smelled quite tantalizing. As he felt he had earned it, he polished it on his lapel and took a bite. Flavor exploded in his mouth and juice dribbled down his chin. They were excellent apples.
The face disappeared, followed by more rustling. A satchel fell to the loam with a soft thud. Then a pair of feet appeared. Legs. Slim hips. Slender shoulders and then a mop of tousled black curls.
A boy dropped to the ground with an oof. He looked up at Daniel, his head tipped saucily to the side, and then he grinned. It was a rakish grin. “Not stealing,” he said. “Borrowing.”
This he said with such conviction, Daniel had to struggle not to laugh. This was no laughing matter. Thieves ended up in the gaol. “Ah. Borrowing. Surely you won’t mind explaining that to him.” Daniel nodded to the distance, where a farmer was running through the trees toward them, arms flailing.
The boy’s eyes widened. He picked up the satchel and hefted it over his shoulder. Then he bounded into the saddle and shot a glance back at Daniel. His grin was wicked as he urged his mount forward…leaving Daniel behind to explain to the farmer why his apples were missing.
And why apple juice dribbled from his chin.
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