SPECIAL EXTRA FEATURE
out these letters from
Meredith and Cameron
to you, the book's readers.
of the Clan MacKay and
Meredith of the Clan Munro
are avowed enemies--the
longstanding feud between
their clans has been filled
with treachery and deceit. Bent
on vengeance, Cameron abducts
Meredith, and the contest
begins anew, with tempers
high and passions flaring
. . . Is it Cameron who
will claim your sympathies? Or
Meredith? For both
have been wronged most
grievously . . .
not afraid. I'd known for a
very long time I'd wanted to
start a book with the words.
I maintain a list of story
ideas—bits and pieces
of thoughts, conversations,
scenes, characters and situations,
a little like a "honey-do" list!
But those words ... Be not
afraid ... were my sole inspiration
Wicked Ways. No characters.
No plot. The rest of the story
came after my husband and I
had visited Scotland the previous
year. Feuds between Scottish
clans were notorious -- remember
the Campbells and the MacDonalds?
At one of the castles we visited,
the tour guide recounted some
colorful history. One story
I found intriguing was this
one: as a means of ending bad
blood between two warring clans,
there was a woman forced to
marry the man who had murdered
her father. I used a variation
of that scenario in His
Wicked Ways, but that's
what started the wheels turning,
and I knew I had the perfect
story to fit with my opening
line.I originally named the
heroine Rosalind rather than
Meredith. It didn't take me
more than a chapter or two
to figure out that Rosalind
just wasn't the right name
for Meredith!My working title
for this book was CAMERON'S
Wicked Ways is Book
1 in a two-book series. The
main characters, Cameron
and Meredith, also make a
brief appearance in the spin-off
"Be not afraid."
The words slid past her ear, cold
as a loch in the midst of a wintry
freeze. Hearing it, Meredith Munro
felt a chill that reached the very
depths of her soul . . . a chill
she'd known but once before.
Her prayer beads slipped to the
floor. Be not afraid, the
voice intoned. Alas, but she was afraid!
Indeed, she was terrified, for
within her tiny cell stood three
men—she'd caught a glimpse
of two hulking figures from the
corner of her eye . . .
And the one whose hand clamped
tight about her mouth.
Men did not belong here at Connyridge
Priory. Father Marcus was the only
man who came here, and 'twas in
order to say Mass and hear the
transgressions of the nuns and
novices who resided within these
ancient stone walls.
Her mind reeled. Dear Lord, she
was on her feet—snatched
from her knees as she prayed at
her bedside! The one who held her
. . . His hand was immense. It
covered her nose and mouth so that
she could scarcely breathe; all
she could hear was the pounding
of her own blood in her ears.
Fear pumped through her with every
beat of her heart, a fear nourished
by the dire certainty that these
men meant her harm. A dozen questions
tumbled through her mind. Where
was Mother Gwynn? Sister Amelia?
How was it possible they had invaded
these hallowed walls? There were
three of them . . . three! Had
no one heard a sound? An awful
thought reared high in her mind.
Mayhap the others had heard nothing,
for they were already dead!
Nay. Nay! She could not think
thusly, for she could not bear
As if to remind her, the arm about
her waist tightened ever so slightly.
Warm breath rushed past her ear. "A
word of warning," came the grating
male whisper anew. "Do not scream,
for 'twill do no good, I promise
you. Do you understand?"
His tone was almost pleasant,
yet Meredith sensed that such was
not his intent. Scream, she thought
faintly. Shock and terror held
her motionless. Why, the very notion
was laughable! The muscles of her
throat were so constricted nary
a sound could have passed had she
if you understand."
Somehow she managed to raise and
lower her chin.
"Excellent," he murmured. "Now,
Meredith Munro, let's have a look
The world whirled all about her.
He knew her. He knew her by name!
How could that be?
Slowly, the man who held her lifted
his hand. Meredith felt herself
turned bodily so that she faced
As if to oblige him, the light
of a full moon trickled through
the narrow window set high in the
outer wall. Meredith
felt the full force of his gaze
dwell long and hard upon her. Though
she still wore her coarse gray
robe, she flushed, for she had
neither wimple nor veil to cover
the length of her hair. No man
had seen her thus since the day
she'd said good-bye to her father
those many months ago.
No longer did he touch her, though
they stood nearly toe to toe. She
knew instinctively that this man
was their leader. Gathering her
courage, Meredith inched her gaze
a long way upward to his face.
In the frenzied brew of her mind,
he embodied all manner of evil.
His features were indistinct and
blurred in the darkness, yet never
had she seen such intense, glittering
eyes, like chips of stone. Her
insides turned to ice. Was this
the face of death?
Her gaze dropped to the sword
at his side. On the other side
hung a dirk which looked just as
deadly. A shudder coursed through
her, for she was suddenly quite
certain . . .
If there would be blood spilled
this night, 'twould be hers.
One of the other men lit the stub
of candle at the wooden table. "She
is the one?" he asked.
Those eyes never left her. Indeed,
they seemed to pierce through her
very skin. "She is," was all he
"Aye," the man said. "She's the
look of a Munro."
Her mouth had gone dry, yet she
forced herself to speak. "What
do you here? I do not know you,
yet you know me."
He neither agreed, nor disagreed.
"You mean to kill me, don't you?"
He did not deny it. Nay, no denial
sprang forth from him.
Instead he asked, "Are you deserving
Nay, she longed to cry.
Instead her fingertips crept to
the small silver crucifix which
hung about her throat—it
had been a gift from her father
the day he'd brought her here.
She fingered the finely etched
surface, as if to draw both comfort
and strength from it. Once again
she heard his parting words to
her, "Remember, daughter, God
will always be with you . .
. as will I."
She gave a tiny shake of her head. "That
is not for me to judge."
His smile did not reach his eyes. "Mayhap
'tis for me to judge."
Meredith gasped. Did the man have
no respect for the Lord? Oh, silly
question, that! a voice within
her chided. His very presence here
dictated the answer.
"'Tis for no man to judge, only
God himself." She sought hard to
keep the quaver from her voice.
"Yet such is hardly the case,
is it not? How many of God's creatures
die from sickness?" He did not
ponder, nor seek an answer from
her. "Children and the aged, mayhap.
But men . . . Ah, well, men kill
other men . . . and sometimes women,
A chill went down her spine, for
this time there was no mistaking
the threat implicit in his tone.
Meredith could not help it—she
felt herself go pale.
"The others." Her voice quavered. "Mother
Gwynn. Sister Amelia. Are they—"
"They are alive and well, and
snug in their beds."
Her breath came in and held. Slowly
she let it out, trying desperately
not to panic. Why had he come for
her? Surely not to fetch her for
her father! Oh, but she must escape
this lunatic, for only a lunatic
would dare to intrude into this
holy place as he had done! Escape
was foremost in her mind. In her
heart . . .
Oh, but she should have known!
Quick as she was, he was quicker.
She managed not three steps and
he was upon her. Strong arms encircled
her, thwarting her cold. She felt
herself dragged backward, her entire
length brought upright against
his body—'twas if she'd hit
a wall of stone.
Her reaction was more instinct
than conscious thought. She twisted
and writhed, trying wildly to escape
the shackle of his arms.
"Be still!" he hissed.
Nay. She could not. She would not.
She renewed her struggle with vigor,
only to hear a vivid curse resound
in her ear.
"By God, cease!"
The forearm about her waist tightened,
threatening to crush her ribs and
cutting off her breath. She could
feel the strength in him, feel
it in every muscle of his body.
As she gasped for air, only then
did the realization come to her
that he might break her as easily
as he snapped a twig from a tree.
Her body lost all resistance.
Her head dropped. A choked sound
emerged from her throat, a keening
sound of despair. She hated the
way she trembled . . . and hated
the awareness that surely he must
feel it too. If she was to die—saints
forgive her for being such a coward!—she
prayed that death would come swiftly,
a dagger sheathed in the heart
It was not to be.
Without further ado, she felt
her feet leave the cold stone floor.
She was stunned to find herself
deposited on the bench before the
"Now then, you will do as I say."
But one thought ran through her
mind, like the rush of the wind
through the trees. Once before
she'd been dragged from her bed
in the midst of the night. Would
the outcome be the same? Pray God,
no. For if it was, she could not
bear it . . . not again.
Little by little she raised her
head. "If you mean to . . . to
. . . " Faith, but she could not
find it within her to even say
Not that there was any need. "To
She felt her skin heat with the
flood of embarrassment. "Aye," she
His laugh was mirthless . . .
and merciless. "I think not, Meredith
Munro. Were I in need of a woman,
of a certainty 'twould not be you.
Indeed, I must force myself to
suffer your presence."
Such assurance hardly brought
her ease. She heard the snap of
his fingertips. One of the others
moved, producing parchment, quill
and ink. This was set down before
"You will write a note to Mother
Gwynn, stating that alas! you cannot
give your life over to God, nor
can you remain on this earthly
world, for you are deeply ashamed
that you are so weak in devotion
Meredith gaped. God above, he
would have her forfeit her own
"Nay, I cannot do it! Why, to
take my own life would be mortal
The dark stranger had only to
place his hand on his dirk.
She shook her head. "I cannot
write," she began desperately.
"You lie. You keep accounts for
How did he know that? Who was
he, that he knew all about her?
Her attempt at a glare was pitiful—as she was
had Meredith despised herself as
she did this very moment! She lowered
her gaze that he would not glimpse
her despair, then reached for the
quill. Her eyes misted with tears,
she watched as the words took shape.
Mother Gwynn, and my dearest
sisters in Christ,
Though it pains me deeply,
I have no choice in this matter.
I fear I can no longer remain
in the service of the Lord. I
am deeply ashamed that I am so
weak in devotion and in spirit,
and so I must end it all. Forgive
me, sisters, for what I must
do, and pray for me, that my
soul does not dwell in eternal
Trying desperately to still the
trembling within her, she signed
her name. A crushing feeling deep
in her breast, she looked up.
He was watching her, his
gaze like the point of a lance.
He picked up the letter and quickly
scanned it. "'Pray for me'," he
quoted. "Let us hope that someone
does." He lowered the letter, leaving
it on the table in the center of
"Up," he ordered.
It crossed Meredith's mind to
defy him . . . but only for an
instant. In truth she was so relieved
to still be alive, that for one
mind-spinning instant she feared
her legs would not hold her.
"Your hands, pray."
Mutely she obliged. At a nod from
him, one of his men dutifully stepped
forward. Her hands were bound together
before her with a length of rope.
When the task was done, the man
stepped back and opened the door.
Those burning eyes snared hers. "You
will come," was all he said.
Meredith instinctively recoiled,
but it was no use. His fingers
curled around her elbow. She endured
his touch as best she could. She
had no choice but to follow, battling
both a helpless frustration and
a numbing fear. Who was this man?
What did he want with her? Why
hadn't he slain her? Indeed, why
should he want her dead? Why should
he want her alive? Or did
he truly mean for her to slay herself?
They had passed Mother Gwynn's
quarters. Meredith's gaze skipped
forward, then quickly bounced away.
She bit her lip, her pulse quickening
its tempo. They were nearing the
door to the dormitory, where the
nuns slept. If she were to call
her name and raise the alarm, one
of the sisters might awaken. Indeed,
mayhap someone was already awake,
for surely it was nearing time
to gather for Prime in the chapel.
Then the intruders would be discovered—
He jerked her against him. The
notion disappeared mid-thought.
The breath was jarred from her
lungs. Her heart surely stopped,
for suddenly they were wedded together,
breast to breast, thigh to thigh.
Meredith froze, even as it vaulted
through her mind that his chest
was like an immense wall of iron.
Panic raced through her, for he
bent his head so that his lips
brushed hers. Had he not held her
in his grasp, she would surely
have leaped from her very skin.
Sweet Christ, surely he did not
mean to. . .
"Do not," he warned in a voice
meant for her ears alone, "for
they would only be hurt should
they seek to aid you. 'Tis a fight
they cannot win . . . nor can you.
I am set on this course, lady,
and no one will stop me . . . no
one." The arm around her back
tightened ever so slightly before
he stepped back—oh, aye,
a warning indeed! she decided bitterly.
Despairing her weakness—despising
it—Meredith clenched her
bound hands into fists. To deepen
her humiliation even further, those
hard lips pulled into a tight smile,
causing her own to press together.
Her eyes found his through the
shadows. "There are ways to fight
other than with swords." Where
her words—or the courage!—came
from, she would ever wonder.
There was a short, harsh laugh. "Aye,
but there are indeed."
With that cryptic remark, he reclaimed
her arm and led her into the passageway,
down the narrow stairs. His men
trailed behind them.
He seemed to know precisely where
he was going, leading her through
the nave of the chapel. They skirted
the chancel and hurried through
the cloister, turned left near
the refectory. All too soon they
emerged into the moon-drenched
freedom of the night. His bold
stride never faltered. Onward they
continued, past the wooden outbuildings,
weaving through the gardens and
into the orchard. Before long they
were outside the high stone wall
that enclosed the priory, and only
then did they halt.
They stood before the ringed granite
cross of St. Michael, a cross which
had been here for centuries. The
smell of the sea was pungent and
sharp, but Meredith scarcely noticed,
for the ache of remembrance battered
her. She fought a sudden, scalding
rush of tears. Her lungs burned
with a pain so intense it nearly
brought her to her knees. It was
here, on this very spot outside
Connyridge Priory, that she had
said her goodbyes to her father.
She had beseeched him not to return,
not until she asked—unless she
asked; for Meredith feared that
if he did, she might be tempted
to leave with him, to return to
Castle Munro and the home of her
youth. Her heart wrenched, for
she could almost see him again,
the blue eyes so like her own shimmering
with tears he made no effort to
hide. He had wept openly . . .
So had she.
It seemed so very, very long ago
. . . it seemed like yesterday.
She vividly remembered how she
had hated herself—hated that
she had disappointed him. As his
only daughter, his only child,
she knew it was his heartfelt wish
that she would someday marry and
give him grandchildren.
Meredith knew that she would never
marry . . . never.
She had not told Papa of that
horrible night. She never would.
In truth, she'd never told a soul
on this earth! Though it tore her
apart to leave Castle Munro, she
could not stay! Nay, she could
not live her life afraid of every
man she saw, wondering if it was
he who had touched her, who had
shamed her so. Nor could she tell
Papa the truth of what had happened
that horrible night . . . indeed,
even she did not know the
truth of it.
It was why she had left the father
she loved so dearly . . . why she
would never return to her home.
When Meredith had asked that he
bring her to Connyridge to join
the sisters here, he hadn't refused.
She was achingly aware that he
fully expected her to remain cloistered
She had come to Connyridge solely
to seek refuge. And it was here
that the terror that night had
wrought had finally begun to ease.
She had found sanctuary within
these walls; she had begun to regain
a measure of the peace she had
feared was forever lost to her.
Though it had taken time, she had
come to feel safe here at the priory,
no matter that the cold seeped
through her sandals and into her
very bones. Not so long ago, she
had made the decision to give her
life over to God. As a nun in the
service of the Lord, she would
be shielded from the lustful appetites
of men . . .
Yet her struggle had continued,
oh, in other ways! For she had
been so very confused—in
truth, she still was. Though the
choice was hers . . . she was no
longer certain . . . Would she
be doing the right thing in taking
her vows? Was this her chosen vocation?
She should have known it in her
heart, yet she did not! These past
weeks she had prayed daily for
guidance in that one particular
endeavor—that she had made
the right choice.
She was to take her vows within
the month . . . but would she even
be alive then?
To some, such a life might have
been a prison, for life at the
nunnery was comprised solely of
prayer, work, study, sleep and
meals. Idleness was believed to
be an enemy of the soul. With her
mind thus occupied, she need not
think of . . . other things.
But the sanctuary she sought was
no more. All because of him . .
A man who had yet to reveal his
Meredith could not help it. She
stared at him warily. In the gloom
of the night he appeared dark and
featureless. She shivered, wondering
what he might look like in the
full light of day. She sensed he
was young, not so aged as her father
and Uncle Robert. Oh, but surely
such a wicked man would be ugly
as the devil's own sin! No doubt
his teeth were gaping and yellowed
and rotting, his skin mottled and
pock-marked and dark as a heathen's.
She shuddered, thinking that mayhap
'twas better this way. In daylight
he might have frightened her to
She stood awkwardly as he spoke
in hushed tones to his men; she
could not hear what was said. The
men nodded and strode away. Her
mouth dry, she watched as he walked
to a small cart that she hadn't
noticed until now.
apprehension spiraled as he turned
back to her, then beckoned to her.
A heavy tightness in the pit of
her belly, Meredith moved forward. Unable
to help herself, she peered inside
the cart. A woman lay within, long
reddish-blond hair dirty and snarled,
strewn across the wooden boards.
Her head was turned at an odd angle;
dull, unblinking eyes stared back
The woman was dead.
A scream curdled in her throat.
She felt herself sway, but mercifully
remained on her feet of her own
Lean fingers curled around her
arm. "Remove your robe," came his
voice . . . a voice she had already
begun to dread.
Meredith looked on as he removed
the rope around her wrists, wondering
if she'd lost her wits. Was this
naught but a dream, a horrible
trick of her mind? Her eyes squeezed
shut, telling herself she was back
in her cell, huddled in her bed.
Swallowing, she allowed her lids
to drift upward.
Male, booted feet came into view.
Alas, he was there, a presence
as unwelcome as ever . . .
And just as forbidding.
His jaw thrust out. "I'll not
tell you again."
A foggy haze seemed to dance all
around her. Nay, she thought, she
couldn't have heard him aright.
Her mouth opened. She felt her
jaw move, yet no sound came out.
"Fine, then. It matters little
to me." Peremptory hands dropped
upon her shoulders, seeking the
neck of her robe. A jolt went through
her as warm fingertips brushed
her bare skin.
wrenched away as if she'd been
scorched. "Nay!" she gasped.
"Do it. . . else I shall."
She could well believe he meant
precisely what he said. She need
not see his features to know that
he meant it. She could hear it
in his tone, see it in the set
of his shoulders. Aye, there was
an unswaying purpose about him
that could neither be denied nor
His threat resounded all through
her. Her fingers were clumsy with
fright . . . and with wrenching
shame, knowing that she would be
naked before him . . . Awkwardly
she did as he demanded, berating
herself all the while. Ah, but
she was a fool to comply so readily!
Why couldn't she be stronger? she
raged inwardly. Would she ever
be meek and spineless? She was
a weakling, in mind and heart and
in body, for she was powerless
to fight him. Nay, she could not
overcome his strength . . . nor
his will, she thought, brutally
Her eyes downcast, she stepped
from the coarse dark fabric now
puddled on the ground at her feet. Burning
with shame, she tried to shield
her body with her hands—not
just from the cool night air, but
from the prying of those steel-edged
Yet he spared her nary a glance
as he bent and scooped her robe
from the damp ground. Instead he
strode to the cart, where he proceeded
to strip the gown from the dead
woman. To her surprise, he tossed
it at her.
"Put this on!"
This time Meredith did not delay.
With shaking hands she donned the
dirty, ill-fitting gown, glad of
the chance to cover herself once
By the time she finished, his
men had reappeared, leading three
horses. Meredith's heart leaped.
Did they plan to take her with
them? Her mind had scarcely formed
the thought than the two men stepped
toward the nude woman who still
lay on the ground. Stunned, she
watched as they dressed the woman
in the robe she'd discarded . .
. her robe! When it was
done, they glanced enquiringly
at their leader.
"Do it," came the low-voiced command.
One man grabbed the woman by her
left arm, the other by her right.
Together they dragged her some
twenty yards to the east. What
happened then shocked Meredith
to the marrow of her bones.
She was cast down the cliffs to
the jutting rocks below. Of course
there was no scream—yet Meredith
could hear it in the soundless
chambers of her mind. There was
only a dull thud. . .
Meredith cringed. The rocks below
would tear into her flesh like
the gnashing teeth of a sea monster,
leaving her body bloodied and broken
. . . that poor creature! Perhaps
'twas a blessing that she was already
dead . . . yet why would they kill
her? Why kill her only to throw
her over the cliffs . . .
A paralyzing dread seized hold
of her. Would she be next? No one
could survive a fall from the cliffs.
They were deadly; their height
alone was enough to kill. Indeed,
though Meredith had no fear of
heights, she had always avoided
Her heart twisted as she thought
of the woman. She'd been pretty.
That much had been clear. Young
and pretty and far too young to
die . . .
Even as she sent a quick prayer
heavenward for the woman's soul,
she blanched. Only then did Meredith
begin to realize the significance
of what she had just witnessed.
The blond hair . . . dressing the
dead woman in her robes . . .
eyes slid to him. He stood motionless,
his gaze upon her, as if awaiting
"Saints above," she said faintly. "I
. . . They will think that . .
. " She could not go on. Swallowing,
she tried again. "You mean for
the sisters to think that . . . "
"That the woman is you." His smile
was rimmed with satisfaction, a
satisfaction she could not even
pretend to understand. "Her body
will hit the rocks," he stated
matter-of-factly. "'Twill be mutilated.
Bloodied and broken."
God's mercy, he was right. Shortly
after she'd come to Connyridge,
the body of one of the villagers
had washed up on the rocks—he'd
been a fisherman. His flesh was
torn to shreds, his face bloated
and white so that he was unrecognizable.
It had sickened her so that she'd
nearly lost the contents of the
stomach. Oh, aye, her note was
damning indeed. The nuns would
see the reddish hair of the woman
and think that she had thrown herself
from the cliff.
Meredith's heart wrenched. At
least the poor woman had already
been dead . . . Suddenly her breath
caught. "You killed her, didn't
you? You killed her!"
The tension spun out endlessly.
He said nothing . . . a stifling
silence that said far more than
Meredith shook her head. For one
awful moment she feared she would
be sick there and then. "Why?" Her
throat ached so that it hurt to
speak. "Why would you do such a
Again that debilitating silence.
"And I am next, am I not?" Drawing
upon a daring she hadn't known
she possessed, she straightened
her shoulders and struck her breast
with one knotted fist. "Kill me
then, if you will! Kill me now!"
"Kill you?" His laugh was harsh
and brittle as he gestured to the
cliff. "Come now. Do you truly
think I'd have gone to such trouble
if I meant to kill you? Now then.
Will you come or must I bind your
Meredith lowered her head, battling
within herself as never before.
A woman lay dead because of her,
and all she could think was how
she might save her own soul! She
was not only weak but selfish as
well, and she could only hope that
God would forgive her! Yet something
within her protested—something
refused to let this vile man win
Meredith knew she'd been dismissed
as he glanced away. He made a sign
to his men, who led the horses
forward. He did not even deign
to glance at her as he motioned
"Come," was all he said.
Meredith took a deep fortifying
breath. "Nay," she said clearly.
Now she'd done it, it seemed.
She felt the touch of those ice-fire
eyes return even before she forced
herself to meet his regard.
"Y-you are a madman, and I'll
go nowhere with you."
Beside her there was a curse.
There was a stunning blow to the
middle of her back that sent her
toppling forward. It was he who
caught her and saved her from falling
headlong before his feet.
"Nay, Finn, leave her be!"
Meredith was half-afraid to breathe.
She could feel his hands around
her wrists like clamps of iron,
imprisoning her as surely as a
trap. Oh, aye, she could feel the
strength in him and knew that were
it his will, her life would be
Slowly she raised her head from
the awesome breadth of his chest.
"I'll go nowhere with you."
"Ah, but you will, Meredith Munro.
"I will not," she stated again.
She raised her chin, all at once
not so sure of herself. In her
heart she was appalled at her audacity.
Mayhap she was the one who
"Who are you? Why are you doing
this? What do you want with me?"
He released her. Meredith resisted
the impulse to turn and flee. Instead
she held her ground, her bare toes
digging into the dew-draped earth.
"Who are you?" she said again. "You
pretend to know me, yet I vow I've
not laid eyes on you before this
"Nay, lass, you have not."
"Then who are you?" Determination
swept away her fear and uncertainty.
If she was to die, she would at
least know why—and she would
at least know the identity of the
man who would slay her!
"Who are you?"
His eyes scraped over her, like
a sword of molten steel.
"I am Cameron" —he stated
but one thing . . . and alas, 'twas
all that was needed— "of
the clan MacKay."
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