Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Naughty New Year with Heather McCollum

Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical romance writer. Her current focus is on 16th and 17th century Scottish romance. She currently has seventeen published novels and two published novellas. She is a member of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart finalists and a 2015 Readers’ Choice winner.

When she is not creating vivid characters and settings, she spends her time educating women on the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. She has recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own Highland hero and three spirited children in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.

The longer Aiden and Scarlet work together to run the Highland Roses School, while her sister and the chief are gone to England, the more they are pulled together despite the wounds from their dark pasts. In this scene, Scarlet is wearing her Hogmanay (New Year’s) gift of tight woolen trousers while she was training with her dagger. Aiden has just found her in the practice room.

Aiden watched her, his one brow rising only slightly. He was close to her, close enough to pull her into him. What would it feel like to have a man so wild and powerful wrap his arms around her, hold her with true affection? Not judging her as a valuable pawn to use.

Scarlet’s heartbeat picked up, thudding behind her breast. It wasn’t the rhythm of panic but something else entirely. “Do you want to touch me?” she asked, her voice soft, almost a whisper.

She watched the strong lines of his face. So handsome, even with two days’ growth of beard along his jaw, his short hair ruffled by wind and dampness. Finally, his lips turned up slightly. “If I say aye, ye may split me in two for being a rogue. If I say nay, ye may split me in two for being…a liar.”

Scarlet swallowed, her pulse flying faster as they stared at one another. Only the occasional whistle of the wind outside broke the silence surrounding them. She slowly raised her arm out straight to the side, the dagger tip pointed down. Fanning open her fingers, one at a time, the blade slipped down to hit the floor, clattering. The noise jarred a blink out of her. “I am… unarmed.”

He took a step closer but stopped, as if waiting for her to surrender the small distance to bring them together. The pull was mountainous, a yearning like none other she’d felt. Almost fearful, Scarlet met Aiden in the middle of the room. His hands came up slowly, as if she were a shy horse. They cupped her cheeks, thumbs grazing her skin.

She closed her eyes at the sensation, her lips parting. “Look at me,” Aiden whispered, and she blinked open. “See who I am,” he said, his eyes kind and clear. “A man ye can trust not to take anything from ye that ye don’t want to give, Scarlet.”

He leaned in, his lips meeting hers. They were soft and warm. As if the touch had the power to break a mighty dam, Scarlet pressed into Aiden, lifting her arms to capture his shoulders. His arms wrapped around her to slide down her back, pulling her into the curve of his hard body. He slanted across her mouth, and she tipped her face to deepen the kiss. Her heart fluttered like she’d felt before, but instead of teetering on unease, she just wanted more. More of this powerful, wild, honest man.

He played no games with her. She felt it in his heavy breathing. Laying her hand on his chest, she felt the deep thud of his heart and knew it to be real. Her fingers pulled at his shirt, untucking it from his kilt so she could slide them up the taut muscles of his stomach to his chest. A fine sprinkling of hair graced the perfect form of strength and restrained power.

Aiden slid a hand up to cup the back of her head, a low growl coming from his throat. His mouth moved along her jaw to her ear. “Och, lass, I cannot stop devouring ye.”

“Don’t stop,” she said, her damp lips missing the taste of him. She guided him back to her mouth with one hand, while her other fingers grasped his waist to reel him tighter into her. She could feel his thick rod upright between them and remembered the massiveness of it from the night she’d seen him naked. But it didn’t bring panic, only a heaviness in her abdomen.

His hands trailed down over her backside, and in the thin wool of the trousers, she could feel every stroke. She moaned into his mouth and sucked in a quick inhale as he lifted under her thighs. Her legs wrapped around his waist, fitting her intimately against his hardness, where he began to rock her.

“Oh God, yes,” she murmured against him as they found a rhythm. Heat flooded her body, coursing like strong whisky with every thump of her racing heart. She ached. She wanted. She needed. “Aiden—”

Crash! “Demon!” a woman shrieked. Scarlet sucked in a silent gasp. Before she could finish a blink, Aiden turned them, lowering her to press her behind his back. Scarlet’s fingers curled into Aiden’s untucked shirt as she leaned around him, her breath coming from her kiss dampened lips.

“You’re sucking the soul right out of her,” Molly yelled from the doorway, a tea tray on the floor at her feet.

Scarlet stepped to Aiden’s side. “All is well, Molly,” she called. Glancing down, she was relieved to see that her breasts weren’t hanging out. A few moments later and they very well could have been.

She followed Molly’s wide eyes down the front of Aiden, where the man’s kilt pitched forward with his arousal. “Good God,” Molly said, hand to her mouth. “All is certainly not well.”

Scarlet dodged in front of Aiden. She heard him snort softly. Molly’s hands went to her thin hips as she squinted her eyes to glare at Aiden. “What exactly were ye doing to Lady Scarlet, then?”

He cleared his throat. “I—”

“I was sucking his soul out,” Scarlet said, interrupting. “Poor man.” She shook her head then bent to pick up her dagger, which laid on the floor near her feet. The movement made her backside brush against Aiden, and a rush of longing reignited. But with a maid in the room, wide-eyed with shock, there was no help for it.

She turned to look at him and fought to keep her composure. His hair stood on end where she’d raked it with her fingers. His tunic was out from his kilt and untied at the neck. He looked…ravished. She couldn’t help a small grin.

“You should learn to carry a mattucashlass to fend off the lasses, else they each steal a bit of your soul. Greedy ones might not leave anything behind.”

Stepping away from him was like stretching a bowstring between them. At any moment she might snap right back into his arms. Molly’s worried gaze was the only thing pulling her away. Tucking her blade into the scabbard she’d belted around her waist, she met Molly at the door. “Let’s gather this up and see about that glue you made. Maybe we can make some repairs.”

“So sorry, milady,” Molly said, tears in her voice. “I really thought—”

“We will make another pot of tea, and you can tell me where you’ve seen someone’s soul sucked from them.” With one quick glance at the tall, broad Highlander standing speechless, she lifted the tray filled with broken pottery and left with Molly.

December 1684, Scottish Highlands

With few other options, Scarlet Worthington flees from her home in England to the wild Highlands of Scotland to help her sister run a school for ladies. There, Scarlet begins to rebuild her own shattered confidence by recruiting a fierce Campbell warrior to teach her and the students how to protect themselves from villains and scoundrels. The intimidating Aiden Campbell both infuriates Scarlet and ignites a fire inside her as she works closely with him to hone her new skills.

Burned in a fierce fire, set by English soldiers, Highland warrior, Aiden Campbell, has finally healed enough to take temporary command of his clan. That's where his focus should be instead of dealing with the feisty, beautiful Sassenach who asks him to teach her students.

When Scarlet's past stalks her up into Scotland, her nightmares come alive, and Aiden's lessons are put to the test. With his own ghosts from the past making him despise English women, Aiden fights the inferno of passion that's grown between them, a different kind of wild fire that could prove just as deadly.

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Up For Grabs:
  • 1 eBook copy of A Rose in the Highlands + Swag Pack
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