Authors: Elaine Coffman
|By Fire and by Sword|
With her sword for protection, Lady Kenna Lennox of Scotland defies social convention and reopens her family's ancient distillery. This feat of wit and daring captures the attention of the sadistic Lord Walter--the Englishman who nearly destroyed her beloved older sister, a man who is determined to bring Lady Lennox to heel.
When Colin Montgomery, an American privateer, appears on the scene Kenna is instantly wary, yet highly attracted to this man among men. Filled with fear that she will be betrayed by her longing heart, Kenna struggles between the love she feels, the independence she craves and the danger she must face alone.
As vengeful, vicious plots unfold around her, Kenna must take up her sword to face her enemy, and fight for her life and her newfound love.
“In addition to a well-drawn backdrop,
Coffman’s novel has authentic dialect and a
large cast of characters, giving this tale realism
as well as romance. Fans of brave Scot heroes will
adore Coffman’s latest.”
Romantic Times BOOKclub
Let Me Be Your Hero
“The bone-chilling dampness of Scotland and
the crackle of a hearth fire are nearly palpable in
Coffman’s atmospheric 18th-century Highland
romance. This lush, well-told tale will remind
readers why the Highlands are such a popular
and superb setting for romance.”
“Lusty, tension-filled romance…Coffman writes
a purely romantic tale that captures the essence
of the genre. Fans…will eagerly anticipate the
next volume in this trilogy.”
Romantic Times BOOKclub
Also by ELAINE COFFMAN
LET ME BE YOUR HERO
THE FIFTH DAUGHTER
THE BRIDE OF BLACK DOUGLAS
For my readers
Any port in a storm.
Edinburgh, Scotland, 1746
evered and ancient, the brooding black crags of Castle Rock came into view. An extinct volcano, its ridges carved by glaciers, it seemed proud of its past—Bronze Age fort, thriving Roman settlement, royal residence, military garrison, prison and place of refuge.
It was all of these and more.
Sitting atop the great rock, Edinburgh Castle loomed over the city—besieged, bombarded, block-aded and captured, it had looked down upon Edinburgh since the twelfth century. One had only to look at its history to see both the strength and weakness of mankind.
Battles, massacres, treasons and murder: All have
left their stained mark upon the familiar stones of the castle, but how foreign they seemed to her now, wrapped in a mantle of ice and snow; sins of the past frozen in time.
Like Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills; like Rome, it had been attacked and rebuilt numerous times. And like Kenna Lennox, it had a turbulent past that it seemed destined to repeat.
These were the thoughts that occupied Kenna’s mind as she waited for the yawl to dock at Leith harbor. Moments later, she walked down the plank and onto the pier. She was relieved to be in Edinburgh at last.
She dusted snow from her cape and continued on her way, beneath the ominous threat of dark clouds overhead. It had begun to snow shortly after she boarded the yawl at Alloa, but by the time they sailed down the River Forth into Edinburgh harbor, it looked as if it had been snowing there much longer.
She paused, and felt the easing of her troubled mind, for she saw there were a dozen ships or more riding anchor in the harbor. She was confident now that she would be able to find one to transport her to Calais.
A gusty wind blew swirls of snow, and drove them into drifting mounds around her. They looked as soft as milk. She walked on, her skirt skimming the snow and sending it spiraling around her like ethereal spirits, displaced and looking for a home. Perhaps they would find it at the castle—for it was said to be the most haunted place in Scotland.
She passed stone houses, where rows of chimneys
blew wraithlike smoke into the frigid air. Occasionally, sprays of glittering snow driven by currents of wind slid from the pitched roofs and fell onto the walkway. The afternoon would soon begin to fade, already the number of people she saw was diminishing. The world around her was cold and white and terribly silent, as if she were the only person left on earth.
Tomorrow was Christmas Eve.
She pushed the thought away, for it reminded her of home and family, neither of which she would see for a long time. The sting of separation was too new and raw, like a burn that would not heal. It was painful to think of the past, times both happy and sad, or the threat to her life by the evil Lord Walter Ramsay that drove her to leave. She quickened her step, not slackening her pace until she came to where she hoped she would find someone to row her out to a ship.
All she had to do now was to decide which one.
Her thoughts turned to her reason for being here, and she prayed she could find a captain who would be charitable toward her when she asked for passage to France. A thin ray of hope was born when she saw the snow starting to ease, then stop. She hoped that would last.
The change in the weather and the thin slices of sunlight piercing the clouds left Kenna filled with optimism. Soon, she would be on one of those ships and on her way to France.
She began to search the harbor for a ship flying foreign colors, for it would be more difficult to trace her passage on a foreign ship. Her teeth were beginning to
chatter, and she pulled her cape more tightly about her, and then she saw it.
Even Kenna could see that the ship was a beauty and well cared for, and the best part was, she flew a pennant below the British flag that identified her as American. Probably a privateer, she thought, which suited her even better.
She could almost picture the ship sailing the West Indies, the sun shining, and waves made by the bow cutting through the water with splashes that sparkled like the glitter of an exploding star. It seemed as if the ship truly did dance upon the water.
Because of the dreadful weather, the waterfront and pier area were practically deserted, and Kenna was about to give up finding someone to row her out to the ship so she could make an inquiry.
And then she saw a man loading a few supplies in a small boat. She paused a moment to breathe deeply with hopes it would calm her jittery feelings. Up to this point, she felt confident and secure, for she was on her native soil. However, it occurred to her that once she set foot on a boat to be rowed into the harbor, control over her life and her person were no longer completely hers.
She knew she faced another problem: for women, especially of her social class, did not travel alone, but when one is running for her life, it is difficult to hire a traveling companion. In her mind, necessity outranked propriety.
She did her best to cover her mounting discomfort
by dusting a bit of the snow from her cape, and checking the clasp at her neck, her gloved fingers feeling wooden and numb against the metal.
The man was bundled in a jacket of coarse navy wool, and he took no notice of her until she cleared her throat and spoke. “Would you be available for hire? I need someone to row me to the ship,
He turned to look at her and she saw his lips were blue from the cold, and he was younger than she. A cabin boy, perhaps, she thought. When they began to discuss the price, she discovered he had no more mother wit than a bowl of oatmeal, but after a bit of bartering, she quickly changed her mind, for he was as shrewd as any man twice his age, and she ended up paying him quite handsomely to row her to the ship.
The only words he uttered during the entire trip were, “It is perishing cold for a lady to be out in the elements. I doubt you will be sailing today, even though the wind is strong enough to serve you well out of the firth.”
He spoke the words like a seaman, but there was something in his expression that made her think he was naught but a young boy doing a man’s work that was, more than likely, not of his choosing. She was disturbed by the look, which lay somewhere between stoicism and tears, in spite of all his rough ways and his attempt to hide it.
The wind whipping across the water was much colder than it had been on land, and she had to hold on to her hood to keep it from being blown back. As they drew closer to the ship she took one last look behind
her and thought, this is the last time I will be this close to my homeland for some time.
She came close to crying at the idea of being away, not only from Scotland, but her family, but she convinced herself that she was doing the right thing, just as she had that night a few years past, when she made a similar trip from Inchmurrin to Edinburgh.
But this time, instead of riding through the night to Edinburgh to save her sister’s life, she was fleeing to France to save her own.
Only God knew if she would be as fortunate the second time.
By the time they reached the ship, she could see a thin covering of ice coated the rigging, and everything was white, like a ghost ship. She was quite relieved to see there were a few crewmen milling about.
Once they helped her on board, she said, “I would like to speak to your captain.”
Ah, you flavour everything;
you are the vanilla of society.
—Sydney Smith (1771–1845),
English clergyman, essayist and wit.
Lady Holland’s memoir.
hat she got was a hot-blooded Latin. “I am Alejandro Feliciano Enrique de Calderón, and I am entirely at your service,” he said with a bow.
Fate had been extraordinarily generous to him when it came to the male beauty of long, black hair, queued back, smoldering eyes and smile whose sole purpose for existing was to persuade women. Charm clung to him like lichen to a tree trunk. Any woman attracted to him would have a difficult time saying no.
“You are Spanish,” she said.
, born in España, the youngest son of a noble Castilian family and a father with a name and title longer
than mine. I am completely at your service, my lady,” he said.
She was thinking he was as charismatic as Amphion, who built a wall around Thebes by charming the stones into place with the music of his magical lyre. Only in his case, he could use his smile in place of the lyre.
“Are you a member of the crew?”
He bowed extravagantly. “I am the best navigator in the world, and the most excellent friend of long standing of Captain Montgomery. I am an outstanding horseman, also exceptional with a sword. I dance and play the guitar with passion, tell stories, and make great love to beautiful women. And now, my lovely, I do apologize, but I must ask why you have gone to so much trouble to board our ship in such weather…and please…make it short, for you look like you are fast turning into a cake of ice.”
How could she not like this passionate Latin, with his playful, wicked wit, brimming self-confidence and that mischievous gleam in his eye? He had to be the most flagrantly outrageous and perfectly charming man she had ever met—and so unlike the Scots. With his savoir faire and good looks, he did not have to tell her—she knew instinctively that he possessed a flair for attracting the ladies.
She liked him immediately, and that made her relax about following her intuition by choosing this particular ship. And since he was a good friend of the captain, then it stood to reason she would like Captain Mont-gomery and find him as charming as his navigator.
She gave him a weak smile—weak being all she could muster, due to the cold weather that was beginning to chill more than just her skin. She introduced herself, then said, “If you would be so kind, Señor de Calderón, I would like to see your captain.”
He looked her over with all the attention to detail he would use when scanning the horizon for an enemy ship. “Aah, but not half as much as he would like to see you, I think.”
Kenna struggled against a flare of displeasure and did her best to temper her words. “Do you always look a lady over in that manner?” she asked.
“Of course. Is it not better to be looked over than to be overlooked?”
She could get dizzy talking to this man who seemed to flavor a conversation the way a dash of vanilla does a cake. “Are you going to take me to see the captain, or make me stand on deck until I freeze to death?”
“I will take you, of course,” he said. “Please, come with me.”
She fell into step with him, just as he said, “I am puzzled why the captain did not tell me he had a woman coming.”
She stopped suddenly.
He paused. “Is there something wrong?”
“I think we need to clarify something here. I do not know your captain, and I can assure you I am
here for the captain’s
,” she said, emphasizing the word. “I have a business matter to discuss with him, and that is the sole reason I am here.”
“What kind of business?”
“I have a request to make of him, and if you please, might I go someplace warm? I have never been so cold. My blood thickens.”
“Pardon my lack of manners,” he said. “You do look very cold. We will get you warmed up, but slowly. Have you been out in this weather long?”
“Too long,” she said. “And the more we stand here, it grows longer.”
He laughed. “Allow me to take these,” he said, and reached to take her traveling bags, which she had dropped to the deck beside her with a thud.
“Please, if you will come with me, I will take you to see the captain.”
As they made their way down the passageway, he told her the ship’s owner was also the ship’s captain—an American privateer by the name of Colin Montgomery.
“Of sorts? I don’t understand. What do you mean, of sorts?”
“It is quite simple. He is a privateer when it suits him, and a merchant the rest of the time. However, it is not something you should worry about. We are on friendly terms with Scotland.”
“I would hope, considering you are anchored in the middle of the firth. And your captain does have a Scottish surname.”
“I had nothing to do with it,
His grandfather is responsible for that.”
“His grandfather,” she repeated.
“Sir Hugh Montgomery, twelfth Baron of Fairlie.”
“The ship is flying an American pennant. I had no idea the captain was a Scot.”
“Don’t let Colin hear you say that. He is American by birth. His father was a Scot who found himself besotted by an American, so he married her and chose to live in America.”
“If Colin’s father was the son of a baron and chose to leave Scotland, he must have loved her very much, or else there was an older brother in line to inherit.”
“No, his father was the only son, but he and his father did not look through the same spyglass. As for Colin, you couldn’t entice him to live here with a ship made of solid gold. He is too much like his father when it comes to the grandfather, and Colin hates your Scottish weather. Unbelievable though it is, Baron Fairlie lives in a place colder than this. I went there once, and a more remote and foreboding place I have never been. It took only five minutes for me to understand why Colin’s father left. One would need to have pure Viking blood to live there. They should have let the Norsemen keep it.”
She smiled. “Caithness or Sutherland?”
“Sutherland,” he said. “It would appear you have been there.”
“Hmm,” she said, and fell silent, for the thought of northern Scotland brought back memories of her own grandfather, and the happy times she had spent at Durness Castle as a child. They were all dead now…her grandparents and her mother, too, and now Durness belonged
to her, but Kenna had not been there since she was a child.
When they came to the end of the corridor, Alejandro knocked on the cabin door. “Captain…”
While she waited beside him, she was thinking herself quite fortunate to have met Alejandro instead of some waterfront ruffian, for it was apparent that he was from a more privileged class.
It stood to reason that she would find Captain Montgomery as likable and charming as his navigator, not to mention that she and the captain had something in common—they both had grandfathers from northern Scotland.