I have written a lot of novellas the past two years, mostly for anthologies. Today, I am very happy to announce my return to big books.
Ian's Rose is my first full-length novel in over two years. In honor of this momentous occasion, I am going to give you a BIG sneak peek. Not just a wee snippet or two, but the Prologue and first two chapters! Ian's Rose will also launch a brand new series, The Mackintoshes and McLarens. This new series will have at least three, possibly four new full-length novels. I hope to have the next two books in this new series released by the end of 2016. You can pre-order Ian's Rose at ibooks and Amazon.
March 1356, The McLaren Keep in the Highlands
There is a special place in hell for men like Mermadak McLaren.
Those who had suffered at his hand for too many years to count, celebrated openly and joyfully at the news of his death. Many believed whoever ’twas that took the auld son-of-a-whore’s life should be sainted, made king, or at the very least given his weight in gold as a blessedly deserved reward.
’Twould be no lie to say none would miss him.
As for the whereabouts of Donnel McLaren, the man who had helped the former laird steal, lie, and cheat Clan McLaren near to utter ruin, ’twas anyone’s guess. Hopefully, he was burning in hell right next to the McLaren. There weren’t many who were as vile, cruel, or evil as the two of them. Those few clansmen who remained were content for now to believe evil would never touch them again, or at least not for a very long while.
The McLarens had suffered through a cold, bleak, and harsh winter, living in the old granary, making plans for the future and dreaming of spring. The one thing that kept them going even at those times when it felt God had forsaken them, was knowing Mermadak McLaren could never hurt them again.
But on this dark, windy night in early spring, Ian Mackintosh’s thoughts were as far away from evil men as they could get. Nay, he was thinking only of Rose, the woman he loved without equivocation. Never in his life had he met anyone such as she. Quick witted, smart, and never afraid to be blunt and to the point. And God’s teeth, she was beautiful. Long, wavy blonde locks that turned gold in the sunlight, blue eyes as bright and vivid as the Highland sky in springtime, and a smile that melted his heart like honey in the sun. Though she was wee, the top of her head barely reaching his heart, she was as mighty as a shield maiden from the north lands. She possessed a body to shame Aphrodite herself and Ian wanted desperately to discover that secret paradise.
They were alone now, just the two of them, in one of the few rooms of the keep not destroyed by the fire Mermadak had set months before. The rest of the clan — those dedicated souls who had remained behind to brave the harsh winter — were hunkered down in the granary.
“I love ye, Rose, with all that I am.” Ian’s voice was as soft as the smoke rising from the brazier, and just as warm against her skin. “I want ye to be me wife. I want to build a life with ye, if ye’ll have me.”
Looking into those mesmerizing deep blue eyes of his, she had no doubt he spoke from his heart. He held her hands in his, but whose were trembling more was an unanswerable question. Though his grip was gentle, she could not help but think he was holding on for dear life. Her answer, she knew, would either make his heart soar amongst the heavens, or shatter into inestimable pieces. Before she could say aye or nay, they needed to have a very important discussion. A discussion that, in the end, could change both of their lives forever. Either for the better or for the worse; ‘twould be up to Ian.
With all her heart she wanted to shout Aye! I will marry ye! Never had she met anyone quite like him, even if she did believe to a certain extent he was like most men, with only three things usually on his mind; food, coin, and loving. Aye, he was interested in those things, but there was more to Ian than that. He adored her, was kind and generous, and she often found him humorous even when he wasn’t intending to be. He was also quite handsome. So handsome in fact that her mind often wandered to lustful and delicious thoughts of what it would be like to share the man’s bed.
Aye, without a doubt, he adored her. He would protect her and love her until he took his last breath on God’s beautiful earth. What more could a woman ask for in a man? Strength, honor, good looks were a welcome change to the men she’d known before the Mackintoshes arrived and changed all their lives forever.
It took several deep breaths to calm her nerves before she could speak. “Ian, I love ye with all that I am as well. I never felt this way before, not even with Elmer, my first husband.”
The smile that broke on his face was a blend of relief and pride. Certain that what she was about to say next would make that smile disappear, she burned the image into her memory. Every bit of his handsome face from the way his full lips were curved upward and the sparkle in his intense blue eyes that crinkled slightly at the corners. The tiny freckle in the corner of his mouth just under his bottom lip that was often hidden for he typically went days without shaving.
If she were to be struck dead at this very moment, she would die a most happy woman. She could take this beautiful image of him with her to keep her warm and content throughout eternity. But that would have been the coward’s way out of a potentially ugly situation. And Rose was never one to behave as such.
“I fear there is something we must discuss first, Ian. Somethin’ of great importance.”
Although he continued to smile, his eyes were filled with question. “Great importance?” He was confident that it was not so important as to change his feelings toward her.
“I can no’ give ye children, Ian,” she told him sadly.
As the morning mist evaporates against sunlight, so did his smile, when the reality of her words slowly sank in. “Ye be barren?”
Rose gave a slight shake of her head as she swallowed back tears. “Nay, I can get with child, but I can no’ carry past me third month.”
Pain and sorrow filled her eyes and he could feel both to his very core, just as deep as if it had been his own personal loss. Possessed with the overwhelming urge to take her into his arms, he pulled her close. They clung to one another for comfort, solace, and strength. “It matters no’ to me,” he whispered against her blond locks with a voice that cracked.
Although nothing was between them but the pounding of their hearts, Ian sensed something hanging in the air, something more she wanted to say but he knew his heart could not bear to hear the words. He’d not give her the chance to tell him she could not marry him.
“I am one of many sons,” he began, still clinging to her as if she were a mast on a sinking ship. “I’ll never be chief, so I’ve no legacy to build. I’ll no’ need many sons or even daughters. I will be content all the rest of me days if it is just ye and me, alone in a croft, farmin’ the land. As long as I can grow old with ye, spend each morn watching the sun rise with ye at my side and watch it set at the end of the day, me life will be complete, Rose. All I shall ever need or want for, is ye.”
Oh, how she wanted to believe him. “But what if ye someday change yer mind? What if ye realize later that ye do want children and I can no’ give them to ye? I could no more bear that than losing yer babe.”
Squeezing her more tightly, he pressed a kiss against her head. “Then ye have me permission to remind me of this moment in time before ye beat me senseless.”
She knew he was using humor in an attempt to assuage her worries, but this time, it did not work. Hiding her damp eyes against his chest, she murmured perhaps the one thing that bothered her most. “I could no’ bear to lose yer child, Ian. ‘Twould be me undoin’. ’Twould be a loss I could never overcome.”
A babe of their own was the one thing she wanted most to give him, but the fear of losing his child was far stronger than that singular desire.
“Wheest, now, my love. Ye and I are neither foolish nor lacking in knowledge. We both ken there be ways of enjoyin’ one another as man and woman without the worry of creatin’ a babe.”
Slowly, she pulled away to look into his eyes. He was filled with hope for the future and adoration for her and ’twas as contagious as the ague. After the loss of her last babe, Almer had stopped sharing a bed with her. Not out of anger but out of his love for her. He had known how much the losses had hurt and he refused to put her through such pain again. Even after she had told him there were ways they could love one another without the fear of another loss looming over their heads, he still refused.
Now, she was staring into the eyes of a man who wanted to marry her regardless of what she could not give him. Knowing what he did, he still desired her, still wanted to enjoy her as his wife. He would not turn her away.
“Ye be certain?” she asked, only out of the need to hear him say it once again, to be certain she had heard him correctly.
A most wondrous, wicked smile lit on his his face, answering more questions than she had put to voice. “Aye, I be certain.”