03 November 2011

Excerpt Thursday: The Sinner by Margaret Mallory

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming regular contributor Margaret Mallory, as she celebrates the release of THE SINNER, her second book in THE RETURN OF THE HIGHLANDERS series. It is available now. Join us Sunday, when Margaret will be here to talk about her novel and give away a signed copy!


Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can't prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties.

Alex MacDonald is known for his skill as a warrior, his prowess with women, and his vow to never take a wife. But now his chieftain has asked him to make the ultimate sacrifice: wed Glynis MacNeil, a lass famed throughout the Highlands for her exquisite beauty-and defiant ways.

Familiar with heartbreak, Glynis refuses to fall for another handsome scoundrel. Yet when Alex's past sins force an unlikely union, Glynis gives in to temptation and becomes his wife. Will their newfound passion be strong enough to fight the enemy that threatens their home, their clan, and their very lives? 

**An Excerpt from THE SINNER**'

“What were ye thinking, asking me to meet ye at this hour?” Alex said as he rammed the torch into the sconce on the wall.
“I’m glad ye came,” Glynis said.
“Ye gave me no choice,” he said. “I couldn’t have ye wandering around a castle full of warriors—half of them drunk— looking for me in the dark.”
Alex took a deep breath. He had wanted to say good-bye to her—and to explain about what she’d seen when she walked in on him and Catherine—but he didn’t have a lot of time.
“Why did ye want to see me?” he asked.
“When I talked with your friend Duncan this afternoon, he told me you’re going to Edinburgh.”
How had she’d gotten closemouthed Duncan to share their business with her?
“I want ye to take me with ye,” she said.
Alex could not have been more stunned if she’d sprouted fairy wings and flown over the pots and bags of grain in the storeroom. Just what was Glynis suggesting? His heart gave a big lurch as he considered the possibility that she might actually want to run off with him.
But it seemed so unlikely that he had to ask. “Why?”
“I’ve decided to live with my mother’s family in Edinburgh,” she said.
Alex waited for the relief he should feel upon learning that her request had nothing to do with him, but it didn’t come. A bad sign.
“Ye know verra well that I can’t just run off with ye across Scotland,” Alex said.
“Ye must,” she said, clenching her fists. “My da wants to marry me to Alain.”
Alex wanted to hit something. He didn’t have time for this, but he wanted to help her if he could. “Do ye know where your father is? I’ll speak with him.”
“Does my father strike ye as the sort of man who takes advice well?”
She had a point, but he said, “I can be verra persuasive.”
“So I’ve heard,” Glynis said with more than a touch of sarcasm. “But it will do no good. My father is too stubborn by half.”
As was his daughter. “Have ye considered a compromise with your father? Is there no man ye are willing to wed?”
Glynis gave her head a firm shake and folded her arms. “Ye said ye would be my friend.”
“Stealing a lass away from her father is no being a friend,” he said, though his words felt hollow. Her mother’s family could hardly do worse by her.
“Take me, Alexander Bàn MacDonald,” she said, her gray eyes turning to hard flint. “Or I’ll go tell the Maclean chieftain right now that I saw ye swiving his wife.”
“That wasn’t what it looked like!” Alex was so used to having committed whatever offense he was accused of that he hardly knew how to defend himself. “My clan needs ties to the Campbells, so I couldn’t offend her.”
“Ye sacrificed yourself for the sake of your clan, did ye?”
“I didn’t do what ye think,” Alex protested. “Though it wasn’t easy, mind ye.”
Judging from the grim line of her mouth, Glynis was not impressed with his forbearance.
“Catherine is close to her brothers,” he explained. “If you’ve forgotten, they are the Earl of Argyll and the Thane of Cawdor, so I had to be verra careful about how I told her nay.”
“It looked like ‘aye’ to me—your being naked and all.”
Ach, she was full of sarcasm tonight. Glynis took a step closer and tapped her finger against his chest. Despite the anger in her eyes, the point of her finger sent heat radiating through his body.
“How about I tell Shaggy Maclean what I saw and let him sort it out?” she asked.
God preserve him. If she went running to Shaggy with this tale now, none of the MacDonalds would escape tonight. Alex ran his hand through his hair. He could tie her up and leave her in the storeroom. But he didn’t like the idea of leaving Glynis helpless, not knowing how long she might lie here—or who might find her.
“If ye tell Shaggy, he’ll kill me,” Alex said, attempting to reason with her.
“It wouldn’t be my fault,” she said. “A man should pay for his sins.”
“Ye wouldn’t be that heartless,” he said, though Glynis was looking as if she damned well would. “And I’m telling ye, I didn’t sin with Catherine.”
Not this time, anyway.
“I’ll do what I must,” Glynis said with that stubborn look in her eyes. “There are hundreds of men here. My father won’t know it was you I left with, if that’s your concern.”
“The truth has a way of coming out.” Alex folded his arms across his chest. “Have ye thought of what your father will do if he finds out I’m the one who stole ye away? Angry as he would be, he’d demand a wedding.”
For the first time, Glynis looked uncertain. It grated on Alex that the possibility of being forced to wed him was the only part of her ridiculous plan that gave her pause.
“I’ll have to take the risk,” she said in a hard voice. “Now, do I go bang on Shaggy’s bedchamber door, or will ye take me?”
See Margaret's slide show for readers of photos from castles and settings that appear in THE SINNER here, then click on “show info” on the upper right for descriptions. Enjoy!