Never before have we seen a title that was as delightful to read in different voices and intonations as it was to read an excerpt of! Check out this fantastic sneak peek of Every Time With a Highlander by Gwyn Cready, out now!
Peering from the shade of the massive copper beech on the banks of the sparkling Tweed, Lord Bridgewater’s feast set out on long, low tables under the shade of the nearby elms, Undine looked from guest to guest and lover to lover. She was, they said, a fortune-teller, and it was little challenge to read the thoughts on the faces of those she called her friends at the party—Abby Kerr, chieftess of Clan Kerr, and Abby’s steward, Duncan MacHarg, standing at opposite ends of the makeshift quoits court, hiding their infatuation about as well as a peacock hides its plumage, and soon-to-be shipowner Serafina Innes and her new husband, Gerard, innocently playing whist, though any careful observer could tell by the gleam in their eyes the prize at stake was far from innocent.
Hidden truths and visible lies. The world would be a very dangerous place if one believed in appearance.
“Sherry, ma’am?” the servant asked.
“Thank you. I believe I’ll stay with my ginger water.”
A sleek, tortoiseshell cat stole her way back into the party after being shooed away not once but twice by one of the estate’s fastidious servants. The cat added to her list of crimes by neatly snagging a half-eaten quail from the plate of Bishop Rothwell, the archbishop’s chief catch fart, who was speaking animatedly—and at yawn-inducing length—to those seated on the lawn near him of the plans to replace the draperies at his estate.
The brazen thief made her way, quail in mouth, under several tables to the copper beech, where she gave Undine an impatient look.
“I’m not moving,” Undine said firmly.
The cat stared, undeterred.
“Is there no other place to feast upon that?”
The answer, it appeared, was no. The cat placed the carcass on the ground, and Undine shifted a few inches on the blanket to give the creature room to enjoy her prize.
Rothwell’s injured gasp cut through the buzz of the crowd. Stripped plate in hand, he looked left and right. The servant, instantly gleaning the nature of the transgression, wheeled around, scanning the grounds with murder in his eyes.
Undine obscured the transgressor with a lift of her knee.
“You will put my poor servant in his grave,” said Colonel Lord Bridgewater, sinking onto the blanket opposite Undine. Without looking, she felt the collective stiffening of her friends, and she sent them an unspoken wave of reassurance.
Handsome, blond, cruel, and powerful, Bridgewater was the most feared man on either side of the border, though the soldiers in the English army grudgingly admired his political and battlefield skills as much as they chafed under his stringent command. This was his parkland, his party, and his house, leased only, as his ancestral home was ensconced in a far more civilized part of England, not straddling the bloody divide between the country he loved and the one he would drive to its knees unless someone stopped him.
That someone was Undine, and she, as it had come to pass, was his fiancée.
“Who’s this?” he asked, eyeing the cat, who continued her noisy evisceration of the quail.
“An admirer of your cook’s talents, it seems.” Undine looked across the patchwork fields of green and gold and the scattering of buildings in the small town across the Tweed to the east over which rose the ruins of the ancient priory gate—a gate that once held the severed heads of traitors to England. The land did not make distinctions between countries. The river curled and stretched its way through both places, favoring neither one nor the other. If nature didn’t, why did men have to? It brought them such misery.
“John, do you think it odd that, without conscious thought, I situate myself facing the Scottish hills and you the English vale?”
He chuckled, and the sound had only the tiniest edge to it. “I don’t think our differences over this war will be a barrier to our happiness. ’Tis why I took this house, you know—for you. To demonstrate compromise is possible.”
The potion he’d swallowed, created by Undine for another pair of lovers, bound the heart of the swallower to the first person he saw for whom his regard had already begun to warm. But someone had stolen the potion from her, and it had fallen into Bridgewater’s contriving hands. Driven as always by a reckless and unrelenting sense of entitlement, he’d drunk it thinking it was an aid to carnality. That part hadn’t surprised her. But what had surprised her was that the person with whom he had fallen in love was her. She’d been shocked by the revelation he had feelings for her. He was a man of many repulsive appetites who used his power to take what he wanted. He had once beaten Undine nearly to death for the secrets she held, and he’d blackmailed Abby and attempted to rape Serafina, among many other crimes. Undine had no sympathy for the involuntary transformation he’d undergone. A man who took a potion—especially one of Undine’s potions—not knowing what it was got exactly what he deserved. And though the potion had been strong enough to render him almost docile, she knew its power would eventually weaken and the true Bridgewater would reemerge. When it did, he would unleash his fury on her and anyone else he thought was responsible for his humiliating transformation to a mere thrall to a woman working to defeat him.
If she were wise, she would run. But while she would ensure her friends stayed beyond his reach, she was too dedicated a spy to pass up the opportunity afforded by agreeing to his offer of marriage, no matter how close to harm it may bring her.
She gave him a smile. “And that’s what you’re doing? Demonstrating compromise?”
“It is. ’Tis the only house I know which is half in England and half in Scotland. I know the mission of the English army seems unkind to you, but I believe in my heart that uniting Scotland and England is the best way to bring the Scots security and peace. ’Tis something I truly hope for. In that, at least, I think we are the same.”
He stroked her arm, and in his touch, Undine could still feel the cold steel of command.
“Besides,” he added with a wolfish smile, “I’ve dedicated myself to winning you over. I’ve won your hand. Now I wish to win the rest of you. And the day you forget the border there,” he said, tilting his head toward the river, “is the day the border between us will fall as well.”
“You’re a cunning strategist.”
“You’re a prize worth winning.”
About Every Time With a Highlander
Third in the Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series from Gwyn Cready, the “master of time travel romance” —Booklist
She can work her magic on any man
In a quest to bring peace to her beloved Scottish borderlands, fortune-teller and spy Undine Douglas agrees to marry a savage English colonel. Desperate to delay the wedding long enough to undermine the army’s plans, Undine casts a spell to summon help and unexpectedly finds herself under the imperious gaze of the handsome and talented Michael Kent, twenty-first century British theater director.
But in this production, he commands the action
Though he abandoned acting years ago, Michael will play whatever part it takes to guard Undine’s safety—he’s used to managing London’s egocentric actors and high-handed patrons, after all. But not even Shakespeare could have foreseen the sparks that fly when the colonel’s plans force Undine and Michael into the roles of their lifetimes.
Gwyn Cready is a writer of contemporary, Scottish, and time travel romance. She’s been called “the master of time travel romance” and is the winner of the RITA Award, the most prestigious award given in romance writing. She has been profiled in Real Simple and USA Today, among others. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 25 years in brand management. She has two grown children and lives with her husband on a hill overlooking the magical kingdom of Pittsburgh.