Heart of a Highland Warrior
Connor Clan - 3
This book is dedicated to The Honorable Susan E. Cox; Jeffrey V. Mehalic, Esquire; Adam M. Salzman, Esquire; and Peter B. Morin, Esquire. Thank you.
19TH CENTURY CHARACTERS
Faelan Connor – Legendary warrior from 19th century who wakes up 150 years later in a time vault
Tavis Connor – 19th century warrior who follows his brother Faelan to the 21st century
McGowan (Aiden Connor) – Father of Faelan and Tavis
Ian Connor – Brother of Faelan and Tavis
Bessie – Ian’s wife
Alana Connor – Sister of Faelan and Tavis
Liam Connor – Brother of Faelan and Tavis who was killed young
Marna – girl who likes Tavis
Isabel and Frederick – Bree’s great-great grandparents who knew the Connors in the 19th century
Quinn Douglass – Warrior and Keeper of the Book
21ST CENTURY CHARACTERS
Anna MacKinley – Warrior
Bree Connor – Faelan’s wife and Shay’s half-sister
Shay Logan – Cody’s fiancée and Bree’s half-sister
Cody MacBain – Warrior and Shay’s fiancé
Marcas MacBain – Warrior and Cody’s brother
Lachlan MacBain – Warrior and Cody’s brother
Ewan MacBain – Retired warrior and father of Cody, Marcas, and Lachlan
Laura MacBain – Mother of Cody, Marcas, and Lachlan
Jamie – Warrior and Shay’s ex-fiancé
Samantha Skye – FBI agent who likes Jamie
Ronan Connor – Warrior and Declan’s twin
Declan Connor – Warrior and Ronan’s twin
Edward – Bree and Shay’s father
Layla – Bree’s mother who died at 25
Nina – Shay’s aunt who raised her
Matilda – Nina’s cousin
Angus – Deceased warrior and Anna’s friend
Niall – Warrior
Shane – Warrior
Duncan – Warrior who’s in love with Sorcha
Sorcha – Warrior who flirts with Duncan
Tomas – Warrior and clan medic
Brodie – Warrior
Sean Connor – Warrior and Keeper of the Book
Coira – Sean’s wife and clan nurse
Old Elmer – mysterious hermit
Voltar – Ancient demon
Tristol – Ancient demon
Druan – Deceased ancient demon
Malek – Deceased ancient demon
Bart – Dungeon guard
Lance – Dungeon guard
The Dark One – Creator of demons and vampires
HIS ARSE WAS numb from the stone pew. He’d been sitting here most of the night, staring out the window at his brother’s grave, thinking about what had to be done. About who would make the sacrifice and who would be left to go home and tell their mother. He had won, but it hadn’t been easy.
A shadow fell across the floor as his younger brother joined him on the pew. They sat side by side in silence, looking at the graveyard. “There must be another way,” his brother said.
“There’s not, and you know it.”
“Think what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’ll wake to. By then, the world might be naught but ashes.”
His gaze dropped to his hands spread across his kilt, and he remembered the blood, the torn flesh. “I have to take that chance.”
“Then I’ll go.”
“No. I gave my word.” He nudged his brother with his elbow, trying for a smile though he felt dry as leather inside. “You need to stay. You might be barmy at times, but you’re a thinker, a puzzle solver, and this trouble won’t be easy to sort out. Besides, I know what you’re hiding under that pretty hair. A mate mark.”
The teasing fell flat, and a surprised look crossed his brother’s face. He touched his neck. “How did you know?”
“I’m not an idiot. You’ve been letting your hair loose. You’ve never liked it down.” And he’d peeked while his brother was sleeping to make sure he was right. “For Bessie, I’d guess.”
“I can’t do anything about it for three years.”
“But she’s your mate. That’s a rare thing to find before your duty is up. I don’t have a mate and don’t intend to find one. It has to be me. Do you have the book?”
His brother nodded and patted a satchel hanging over his shoulder.
“We should hurry, before they get back.” The husband and wife knew some of the secrets, but not all.
The brothers rose and approached the front of the chapel. The youngest held the oil lantern as the elder one opened the secret catch in the wall. The door hadn’t been used in some time. It groaned and grated as the opening was revealed. Musty air covered him like a shroud as he walked down the rough steps to the suffocating darkness of his tomb. The cellar was smaller than the chapel above it. Only a portion of the area here had been dug out and the floor laid with stones. The box waited for him in the corner. It looked beautiful in the dim light. But they were all beautiful, despite what they were made to contain. He’d never given them much thought until this moment. They simply served a purpose. He swallowed and walked toward it, heartbeat drumming in his ears.
His brother touched his shoulder. “Let’s find another way. There has to be another way.”
“There is no other.”
He took the satchel from his brother and put it inside the box. Hands gripping the edge, he pulled in a shallow breath. It was hard to breathe now.
“This isn’t right.”
He didn’t turn to look at his brother. He didn’t want him to see his fear. “It will work,” he whispered. “It must.” He steadied himself and climbed in as his brother held the lantern high. The wood was cold and hard under his head. He shifted and pulled a dirk from his boot. Just in case.
His brother was crying. Silent tears streamed down his face.
“Do it,” he said, fighting back his own tears.
“I can’t.” His brother’s voice broke on a sob.
He reached for his brother’s hand and gripped it hard, feeling the calluses and scars from their childhood. “Do it now. Do it for him.” He pulled his fingers away.
The lid started to lower, and he heard a ragged cry from outside as darkness swallowed him. His throat tightened until he couldn’t breathe, and finally, one tear slid—
BREE STARED AT the rotting coffin, wondering who was inside. On the other side of the open grave, the big white cat stared at Bree, its hypnotic green eyes so similar to Bree’s as Ronan frequently reminded her.
“It could be someone local,” she said to the cat. “But why dig up some old farmer’s grave? Maybe it’s a soldier from the Civil War.” Sometimes the bodies had to be buried wherever they lay. But this wasn’t the first grave near her house that had been disturbed. Her favorite grave, the unmarked one in the graveyard behind her house, had also been dug up. She’d thought Druan might have opened it in his search for the missing key to Faelan’s time vault. But Druan was dead now, and this hole was fresh.
Could have been a Civil War buff looking to add to his collection. Or her collection. Not all Civil War buffs were male. Bree was proof of that. The Civil War was her area of expertise. She’d spent untold hours taking part in reenactments and searching fields for buried treasure with her father. He wasn’t her real father, but an uncle who’d pretended to be her father. She still had a hard time with that. They’d been so close, like two peas in a pod, her mother said. The mother who wasn’t really her mother but her aunt.
Bree rubbed her belly and wondered how she’d explain all the craziness to her little girl or little boy when the time came. How would they tell the child that her—or his—father was over a century old? That one set of grandparents were even older, one of them perhaps a vampire hunter, and the other set was really a great-uncle and great-aunt who had pretended to be Bree’s real parents in order to protect her? She still had so much to learn about her real parents, Edward and Layla.
The best part was that Bree had gotten a sister out of the craziness. Shay. They had different mothers, but Edward was also Shay’s father. Bree had always wanted a sister, so much so that sometimes she’d pretended Emmy the panda was her sister.
A glint of metal along the bottom of the coffin caught Bree’s eye, pulling her from her musings. “There’s something under the coffin,” she said, partly to herself, partly to the cat as she peered into the hole. “I wonder if I have time to check it out before Faelan and Ronan get back from Albany.” They were at the castle meeting with the other warriors. Jamie had something urgent he needed to discuss. She thought the cat rolled its eyes, but it was probably her imagination. “Faelan will kill me if he catches me even messing with a grave in my condition. That’s what I get for marrying a Highland warrior from the nineteenth century.”
He still didn’t get the whole women’s lib thing. Modernizing him was turning out to be a slow process. She smiled, picturing his handsome scowl. Not that she wanted him totally modernized. His chivalrous, protective nature was a pain in the butt sometimes—actually, a lot of the time—but he was just so hot when he went all he-man on her.
The cat continued to watch her, not answering—not that she expected it to. But this cat wasn’t quite normal. He had shown up at Shay’s house in Virginia. No one knew where he’d come from, but he appeared intent on hanging around. He’d sort of adopted himself into the clan.
Why shouldn’t she check it out? She was an expert. This is what she did. She looked around to make sure Faelan hadn’t arrived, then started climbing down into the hole. “Hiss if you see my husband coming,” she said to the cat, who moved closer to the edge of the hole, watching her with what appeared to be a scowl.
“Don’t scowl at me. You’re the one who led me here.” It took some delicate maneuvering to get down. In the past, she would have jumped, or shimmied down like a kid, but she had to worry about jolts and jarring the baby inside her. She noticed the lid of the coffin was slightly ajar, as if someone had already tried to open it. Or get out. Everyone had heard stories about people being accidentally buried alive. They had been only stories to her until she’d seen a coffin in England with bloody claw marks inside the lid.
Shuddering just a little, but not enough to make her leave, she knelt on top of the coffin since there wasn’t enough space to reach the other side. Leaning, she grabbed for the shiny object. She heard a crack, and the lid shifted. “Drat.” She tried to see inside, but it was too dark. Stretching again, she dug until she’d freed the object. “Oh my.” It was a dagger. Still kneeling on the coffin, she cradled the dagger in her hands. It was covered in dirt. She used her shirt to wipe it clean, and her breath caught as the metal emerged. It was stunning. Old. Seventeenth or eighteenth century.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Blast. Bree looked up at Ronan, who was glaring at her. “I found a dagger.”
“I don’t care if you found the pope buried down there. Are you insane? Do you know what your husband is going to do to you if he sees you there?”
“Where is he?”
“Right behind me.”
“Thanks for the warning,” she muttered to the cat, and then she saw it was gone. She looked up at Ronan. “Help me climb out before Faelan gets here.”
“I don’t want to be here when he finds you. I’ll get blamed for another one of your fiascos.”
“Don’t you dare leave me in here.”
“You got yourself in.” He looked at the mud on her shirt. “Good God. Did you fall in?”
“No. Come on, help me. Getting out of here isn’t going to be as easy as it was getting in.”
With a scathing sigh, Ronan bent down and reached for her. Bree stuck the dagger into her waistband and took his hands. Ronan pulled her slowly out of the grave but didn’t let go even when she was on solid ground. He looked like he wanted to shake her, but his hands on her shoulders felt more like a caress. “You’re driving me crazy.” A look too similar to longing crossed his face, and even though she was madly in love with Faelan, she couldn’t deny the tingle she felt. Ronan was gorgeous, not to mention sexy as hell. He left a trail of broken hearts behind him, or so the other warriors said. Ronan begged to differ, but Bree was certain the trail was there whether or not he had anything to do with it. Women turned to mush whenever Ronan was around. He must be giving off mega-pheromones or something if even she wasn’t immune.