Series: Hardy Heroines #4
Published by Short Dog Press on March 17, 2018
Genres: historical romance
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Caught between two kings vying for sovereignty of the Isles and Western Scotland, Hanna of Hällstein has lost everything—and vows to repay the Scots for the deaths of her husband and children. Fleeing the smoldering ruins of her village, Hanna crosses the Strait of Mull and chooses the Laird of Clan MacLean as the object of her revenge.
Alex MacLean has buried a wife and three children. Ignoring the clamors for him to wed again and produce an heir, he finds himself drawn to a Norse refugee who defies him and tests the limits of his patience—and his power as Laird.
Torn between revenge and honor, Hanna fears setting aside her vow of vengeance means she has lost her reason for living. Alex is determined to save her, even if it means defying the king.
Hanna snatched a platter from the table, slamming the trenchers she’d gathered onto the broad surface. Gripping the handles with white knuckles, she braced against the overwhelming waves of grief.
It mattered to no one when my daughter died. Or my son. No one hesitated to destroy my family, my life. Nay, the cursed Scots relished the task.
Tears slipped from burning eyes and she blinked to clear her vision as she bore her burdens to the kitchen.
Something tugged at her skirt.
“Hanna?” a small voice chirped.
Hanna whirled. Her platter slammed against a broad chest mere inches away, and the trenchers crashed to the floor. She released the platter, freeing her hands, the tip of a dagger appearing magically from her sleeve. Her gaze slid from the child to the man immediately in front of her. He grabbed her forearm in a bruising grip, immobilizing her, rendering her threat ineffective. His dark eyes pierced hers, reminding her the man did not succeed as laird by being weak.
The tense line of his jaw echoed the taut muscles of his body, weight poised slightly forward, ready to counter her next move. Forcing back her anger, she relaxed, tearing her gaze away to indicate at least partial surrender. His grip loosened, though she knew she’d bear the marks for a few days, yet he did not completely release her. His touch burned her skin. His half-step closed the remaining distance between them, trapping the threat of the dagger between them.
“Are ye well?” he asked, his voice sliding smooth as aged whisky through her ears.
Hanna eyed him warily. Her heart raced. “I was told ye did not tolerate abuse of women.” With a supreme effort, she kept her tone barely within the range of civil. Something flashed in his eyes, but was quickly gone.
“’Tis understandable ye wish to protect yerself. And fortunate none has seen the glint of steel between us.” A moment of tense silence slid past. “Put away yer dagger,” Laird MacLean growled. “Yer safety is assured. And the mess easily put to right.”
The dagger disappeared into the narrow sheath beneath her sleeve, Hanna’s hesitancy brief and unremarked. She remained of half a mind to plunge the blade into his chest and be finished with her torment. Joining her family in the afterlife held great appeal, and she’d no doubt she’d not last long once her vengeance was sated. But a quick death for the laird weighed against his lifetime of the same sorrow and loss she felt? She needed more time to plan her revenge.