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Scottish Highlander Ian MacGregor has come to the Lowlands to wed Margaret Kincaid. But when Margaret mysteriously vanishes, Ian claims her beautiful sister Sabrina in her stead. Though she fears the rumors of his past—and the whispers that blame him for her sister's disappearance—his stirring caresses speak of a noble, gentle heart...

 

 

 

A Promise Given

January 1998 · Avon Books
ISBN 0-380-78608-7

medieval romanceI love dropping people into the backdrop of history—the more tumultuous the period, the better. And after seeing the movie Braveheart, I was utterly captivated with that period of Scotland's history when William Wallace and Robert the Bruce were fighting against England for Scotland's history, and the Scots were fighting among themselves for the throne of Scotland ... I knew I had to set a book during those turbulent times, and A PROMISE GIVEN is the result.

Hero Ian MacGregor's home in the book, Castle MacGregor, is based on a photo my husband bought for me (he went to an art fair by himself, so I could have time to write-wasn't that sweet?) It's a picture of a brooding castle, with a wisp of fog curling around a high stone tower, with a misty mountain rearing in the background. I had it framed and hung it on the wall in front of my desk, and it still gives me shivers every time I look at it!

But, even better, while I was writing this book, we took our first visit to Scotland, where I got to visit even more brooding Scottish castles. The visit also inspired me to write two more books set in Scotland, HIS WICKED WAYS and HIS WICKED PROMISE.

The working title was HIGHLAND BRIDE.

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A PROMISE GIVEN was a Waldenbooks bestseller

A Promise Given

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A Promise GivenA Promise Given
Scotland, Late 1200s

Ian nudged his horse forward through the forest. The rich, pungent scent of trees and damp earth filled his senses.

The sound of a sudden splash snared his attention. Curious, he followed the sound toward its source—a small, sparkling pond hidden beneath a leafy green bower.

The splash came again. What he saw brought him up short. Now here was a woman ... aye, and one who could turn many a man's head—and no doubt had! She walked to a rocky ledge, her body naked in all its splendor, angled slightly away from him. Her hair was a dark, wet rope twined over one shoulder; it hung well past her buttocks.

Ian's mouth grew dry. Why, she might have been a wood nymph sprung from some secret glade solely to pleasure his eyes—and his senses. Indeed, he'd much rather gaze on this sweetly formed lass than dwell on the troublesome little sprite who had so tormented his youth...

He dismounted, his gaze never leaving her. She was small in stature, yet unusually beguiling. Her skin gleamed with the luster of a pearl. Her breasts were surprisingly full, tipped by rose-hued nipples that peaked hard and tight from the coolness of the water. Below the narrow indentation of her waist, her hips flared in sweet enticement. She raised one hand to her hair, sweeping back an errant lock and displaying the generous curve of one full breast before diving cleanly into the water. She broke the surface with a tiny splash, then swam toward the shore. Rivers of water sluiced from her body as her feet found purchase. She moved forward, coming closer to where he now crouched at the base of a stout oak.

All that was male within him surged to the fore. Bold gray eyes roamed avid and hot, for she had yet to glean his presence. His mind consumed by blatantly erotic fancies, he longed to attach a face, for the profile she presented foretold a beauty exquisite, a sweetness and youth he could only imagine. All he sought was but a glimpse. Ah, if she would only turn her head...

She did, shaking the water from her hair, her eyes squeezed shut.

Her face was small and oval. Her mouth was damp and dewy, the exact shade of pink as her nipples. The arch of slanted brows lent her a look that was almost elfish. An odd feeling knotted his belly, for she seemed almost familiar.

medieval romanceHer lashes lifted. Suddenly he felt he'd been struck in the chest with the butt of a lance. He stared into eyes as misty green as ...

As the hills of Dunlevy.

His mind balked. Nay, he thought numbly. It could not be ...

Their eyes locked endlessly. For one horrified moment, neither could move, nor speak.

It was she who broke the spell, and it appeared she had no such lapse where his identity was concerned. She scrambled backward, dropping to her bottom as soon as the water reached her thighs. Swiftly she dragged her knees to her chest and scowled at him.

Little did she realize she still afforded him a most tantalizing view.

"You-you rogue!" she sputtered. "What the devil do you think you're doing?"

He spread his hands wide, feigning affront. "What! I but enjoy the beauty of the day. And indeed" —he gave an exaggerated leer— "there's much to be seen."

He'd shocked her. He could tell by the way her eyes flew wide.

He sighed. "I know you, lass," he remarked mildly. "You're angry."

Her shock had begun to wane. If her glare could have blistered, he would be naught but a pile of ash.

"Of course I'm angry! You were spying on me!"

He gave a slight inclination of his head. "Why, thank you, madam. I'm pleased to note I did not frighten you."

She let loose with a scathing denunciation that left no doubt as to her opinion of him. Ian paid no heed. Boldly he strode forward. Bending low, he scooped her clothes from the bank and flung them over his shoulder.

Her tirade ceased mid-stream. "Ian! Wh-what are you doing?" She lurched forward, only to remember her state of undress. She plopped back down in the water.

His gaze lingered on the bareness of her shoulders. Remembering himself, he gave a low, gallant bow. "I but return the favor from so many years ago."

Her face turned the color of the dawn.

He continued. "Surely you've not forgotten the time you watched me running naked from the stream, searching all about for my clothes."

Her voice was but a whisper. "You-you knew?"

Ian gave a robust laugh. "I knew, lass, though I was far less amused then than I am now. But I've often wondered ... did you like what you saw?"

Her eyes flashed. "As I recall, there was little to see," she retorted sweetly.

Ian laughed even more gustily. "No doubt you're right," he agreed good-naturedly. "I was but a lad—a bony one, at that. And coming from a cold stream as it were, no doubt that which you sought to see was but a shriveled little carrot."

A Promise GivenHis regard dropped to her breasts, hidden behind the shield of her arms. "But you, Sabrina," he said softly, "ah, lass, you've grown a bounty I'd not expected."

"And you are still as insolent as ever!"

"And you, I see, are still the bonny bratling."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "You'd best come out. Your lips are turning blue. I will act as your maid."

Her mouth opened, then closed. "You will not!" she managed at last.

He braced his legs wide apart and raised a brow.

Thus began a contest of wills. He meant it to be a joke, to tease her, but her regard flamed hotter than a blazing sun in the desert.

"You are a jackass!"

He inclined his head. "Indeed."

"A wretched beast. The most loathsome creature ever to walk this land—"

"I've no objection to waiting all night, if need be." His tone was smooth as oil.

She fell silent. The minutes dragged, one into another. Her teeth began to chatter. Ian was faintly irritated at her stubbornness when at last she spoke.

"Turn your back."

It spun through his mind to refuse, for her tone was no less than a demand. One dark brow came up. But she must have gleaned his intent, for she made a faint choked sound.

"P-please." She blinked, those brilliant green eyes suspiciously bright.

Ian stared. Tears? From the bonny bratling? He scoffed. Nay, not Sabrina.

He heard the long, ragged breath she drew in. "Ian—"

"Just a moment." His tone was gruff. Abruptly he turned his back. Yet some devil had seized hold of him, for he did not leave, nor did he remove her clothes from his shoulder. Instead he remained where he was.

Behind him, water splashed.

He could feel her directly behind him. Her linen chemise was snatched from his shoulder as if she feared he would turn at any instant. And indeed, he was tempted—mightily tempted. Deep within him, he was startled by that temptation. Yet another part of him was appalled. Oh, he could not deny he enjoyed a beauteous face and form as much as the next man. But this was Sabrina, his bonny bratling ...

"All right. I'm finished." Her voice was slightly breathless.

Ian turned, only to behold a stare as frigid as the lochs of the Highlands. So this is how it would be, eh? he thought. She was still as feisty as ever.

He whistled to his horse, who was lazily grazing on lush green grass. He gestured grandly as the animal trotted up. "Shall we be off?"

Her chin tipped high. "I cannot return with you."

The challenge in her eye grated. "And why not?"

"'Twould not be proper," she informed him loftily.

"Proper? And when were you ever proper, I ask?"

"'Tis obvious where I've been! What would everyone think? If they knew you'd come upon me n—" All at once she stopped.

His grin was utterly wicked. "Naked?" he supplied.

Her chin snapped shut. "You must go first," was all she would say.

Ian ran a callused fingertip down her nose. She looked as if she'd like to bite it off. "I suppose you're right, lass." But he would have the last word after all, by God. He allowed his gaze to wander, a blatantly thorough inspection of her form, lingering with flagrant interest on her breasts.

Ian couldn't help it. The merest hint of a smile tugged at his lips. He had but one thought. Foolishly, he'd somehow thought of Sabrina as still a child. Oh, but he'd been wrong, for there was a difference—a vast difference. Aye, there was grace where before there had been only a gangly clumsiness. A supple ripeness where before had been breasts as flat as a washboard.

"I must say, lass," he drawled. "You've changed. And quite delightfully so."

Her eyes flamed. "Blast you ... you ... you vile Highland wretch!"

Ian chuckled as he swung up into the saddle.

She was still sputtering and cursing as he rode off into the forest.

He threw back his head and laughed again. Now this was the Sabrina he knew. He felt a lightness of spirit he'd not felt in ages. God, but it was good to be back.


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