The Highlander's Unexpected Bride
Publication: Harlequin/Mills and Boon (September 2023)
Escape to Medieval Scotland, where a Highlander searches for a bride…
Is the wife the Highlander seeks
…already by his side?
Back from battle, Hamilton of Clan Graham makes a bet with his brother to find a wife by summer’s end. So, the Scottish warrior enlists the help of his childhood friend, Beileag, to help him woo his perfect woman. But like Hamilton, Beileag has changed whilst he’s been away…and she intrigues him like never before! His focus should be on winning a bride. Yet why is Beileag all he can think about?
‘Get that from the top shelf,’ her mother said in that clipped precise voice that descended dread into Beileag of Clan Graham every time.
It didn’t matter if her mother was talking to someone else. All Beileag had to do was hear that particular tone, and all the insecurities of her past, present, and bleak future weighted her body until everything she did the rest of the day seemed like too much.
Her mother whirled. ‘Why are you still sitting there?’
Because she knew the moment she stood, her mother’s passive derision worsened. No hope for that though. It wasn’t like she could do anything about the length of her legs, and she was far too old to be wishing otherwise.
Setting down the knife she’d been sharpening, Beileag hunched her shoulders, stood and walked to her mother’s side.
She didn’t have far to go. Their three-room home was barely large enough for her parents, who shared one room while she shared the other side room with her three younger siblings. This room was the heart of the house. The area where they prepared food, ate, sat by the fire and sewed their clothes for winter.
It was also the room she avoided the most when she could and the reason was exactly these moments when the only occupants were herself and her mother.
‘What do you want down?’ she said.
‘The large linen chest.’
There were three identical chests on the top shelf which contained the carefully folded and stored linens. There was no identification of which would be housing the large linen.
Of course, her mother knew this and Beileag knew better than to ask. So she took the one on the far left and brought it to the table on the other side of the room.
‘That’s not the correct one,’ her mother said.
Keeping her expression neutral, Beileag put the closed chest away, and stretched for another. She did it slowly to give her mother enough time to offer assistance on which one she wanted. She needn’t have bothered.
‘Oh,’ her mother said. ‘It must be nice to be your height where you can waste other people’s time as you easily retrieve wrong item after wrong item. It’s the last one, which you should know since you put them up there last summer.’
She tried to forget any time she was with her mother. No doubt her putting away the chests was equally unpleasant last summer.
Beileag held her tongue as she slowly pushed back the second chest and pulled out the final one to place down on the table.
After a disgruntled breath from her mother, Beileag opened it, only to see contents that weren’t large linens.
‘It’s that one.’ Her mother pointed to the first chest on the shelf.
If she argued now, even in the tiniest of bits, it would be worse for her.
Still her palms drew damp and her heart raced as she thought of all the retorts she wanted to say burning just under her skin. If she stayed much longer, she wouldn’t be capable of holding them back.
Closing the chest with a resounding thud, she shoved the last chest back on the shelf and grabbed the first.
With a tight smile, she said, ‘It is good we’re not wasting anyone’s time, isn’t it?’
She flopped the lid open, grabbed the largest linen in a tight fist and turned. ‘Now where do you want this?’
Her mother turned that darker shade of anger and Beileag’s racing heart twisted and locked up tight.
For one flaming moment she was a child who wanted to flee again. No matter the years, her sense of worth crumpled under that familiar glare. She hated it.
Hated it more because her mother noticed.
Her mother always noticed her even when she tried to be as small as possible...