Authors: Taming the Highland Rogue
Laird Connor MacLerie is ruthless, a fact his wife, Jocelyn,
knows all too well—particularly when it comes to arranging marriages for
members of his clan. Though they found happiness and passion themselves, Jocelyn
had been bought as a bride for Connor herself and doesn’t want to see another
woman betrothed without consent. She hatches a matchmaking plot of her own—but
it will only succeed if she can tame her Highland husband!
Taming the Highland Rogue
Broch Dubh Keep
Lairig Dubh, in the west of
Summer, AD 1370
“There is a thief afoot in Lairig Dubh.”
Connor MacLerie, laird of the clan and Earl of Douran, checked
his strongbox again. The lock held even when he tugged on it, proving he had
secured it, but he knew it had been moved from the smudges in the dust around
it. Connor turned to his most trusted men, Duncan, the man who watched over the
extensive financial concerns of the Clan MacLerie, and Rurik, who was
responsible for the safety of the clan, in war and in peace. Both men reacted as
he thought they would.
“Here? Under our noses?” Rurik asked as he stepped closer to
peer over Connor’s shoulder at the box that held all the important documents and
records of the Clan MacLerie. Rurik was one of few who was tall enough to make
Connor feel short. “Nay, no one enters the keep without my approval.”
“Is anything missing?” Duncan asked, crossing his arms over his
chest. Always pragmatic, Duncan raised his chin and studied the lock. “I just
reviewed several agreements last week.”
“Nay, not that I can tell, Duncan. Once more they have only
just ruffled through them and left everything. Intact.” He’d even asked Jocelyn
if any keys had gone missing from her ring, but she’d said not.
Duncan shook his head. “That makes no sense at all. Why bother
breaking into the box and taking the chance they’ll be caught if they did not
want something from it?”
“Or they did not find what they were looking for?” Rurik asked.
“How many times has this happened?” Connor motioned for them to follow him back
into the main room of his, and Jocelyn’s, chambers before answering them.
“I noticed it first a few months and thought I’d done it. But
four times now it has happened, the last one only days ago.”
“And considering the wedding feast on the morrow that will
bring many visitors to the village and keep, that is suspicious timing,” Rurik
added, his brow furrowed and his gaze dark.
“Be on guard, Rurik. This chamber is not to be entered by
anyone. I will move these…” The door burst open and Jocelyn stood there, eyes
wide and out of breath.
Though married now for nearly two decades, she yet took his
breath away. Nary a gray hair marred the darker shades of her auburn locks and
her green eyes still gleamed with life. Bearing his bairns had softened her
body, but his readied now even as it did whenever he saw her. Though he feared a
day when he did not react so, it had not happened yet and she’d asked if he
would be randy into his old age! God willing, aye, he would…for her.
“Jocelyn?” he asked. She looked startled at finding them there
and pasted a smile on her face that did not reach her eyes. “Is aught
“Nay, Connor,” she stammered out. “Good day, Duncan. Rurik,”
she acknowledged the others with a nod at each. In spite of her words, Connor
knew something was amiss. She avoided his gaze, remaining at the door and
speaking to the others.
“Your uncle was looking for you earlier. Did he find you?” she
asked. She had yet to meet his gaze.
“Nay, but we are on our way to see him now.” Duncan and Rurik
understood that their discussion was at an end and strode over to the doorway.
As they left the chamber, he watched her enter and look around. “Is there
something else?” he asked hopefully, his body urging him on to more pleasurable
“Nay, only that,” Jocelyn replied stepping out of the chamber
Something was clearly wrong.
His wife had never misunderstood his invitation before and had
only declined on a rare occasion. This day, she either missed it or was avoiding
it. Connor took her hand before she could leave and entwined their fingers,
pulling her toward him. Their mouths touched, his tongue easing between her lips
to taste her. After only a moment of hesitation, she fell into it, kissing him
back and turning her body as he wrapped his arms around her to bring her
Her mouth grew hot, her kisses filled with passion and her body
melted to his. His own lust flared, as it always did for her. He slid his hands
up, tangling them in her hair and holding her mouth to his and possessing it.
She tasted of spices and sweets, as though she’d just eaten one of the special
treats the cook had prepared for the wedding of his foster son and his sister’s
daughter on the morrow.
But nothing was more appealing to him than the taste of her
skin as he moved his mouth away from hers and down onto her neck, kissing and
licking his way to that place near her ear that would make her shiver and sigh.
The sound of it heated his blood and he reached down to caress her breast.
And he would have gathered its fullness under his palm and
rubbed his thumb across her nipple to urge that sound from her once more if it
had not been for the—
“Connor!” Rurik called as he climbed the stairs below them.
Caught up in the rush of heat in his blood and love in his
heart for her as he was, Connor almost allowed their passionate embrace to be
witnessed by Rurik…and Duncan…and Hamish and several other men who all seemed to
need his attention now. Jocelyn tugged her gown in place, ran her fingers
through her hair and licked her lips, adjusting herself before turning to face
this unwelcom onslaught. The last gesture, the glide of the tip of her tongue
across lips swollen from his kisses, made his cock harden even more.
He would kill them all if no good reason brought them to his
chambers at this moment! War had best be at the gates to justify this
interruption. Before he could take her hand and bid her to remain, Jocelyn
slipped away, passing the men as they arrived.
* * *
A stupid mistake brought near disaster, Jocelyn thought
as she made her escape. Passing the men on the stairs, she nodded and smiled and
did not speak to them or slow in her direction down to the main hall. Tomorrow’s
wedding was the first in what she hoped would be many successes to come and she
should not endanger this one, or future ones, by rushing too quickly to gather
information about other possibilities. She reached the chamber she called her
own and entered it, closing the door and facing one of her fellow
“Did you find them?” Margriet, Rurik’s wife, asked, twisting
the end of her long, blond braid in her fingers.
“Nay,” Jocelyn answered. Sitting in her chair before the hearth
and slumping down into its comfortable cushions, she shook her head. “Connor was
there.” Her heart yet raced from his brief but hungry attention.
“He caught you?” Margriet asked, approaching and sitting in the
chair next to hers.
“I walked in on him, so I did not have the opportunity at all.”
Her husband kept all important papers and contracts in his strongbox in their
chamber. The same papers she needed to search before the wedding on the
“Mayhap after supper? He will be busy with his visitors.”
As the laird’s wife and as Countess of Douran, her presence
would be required at his side until he retired. Knowing his love of celebrating
and talking with visitors from all parts of Scotland, Jocelyn knew they would
return to their chambers late.
“I will think of a way,” she promised.
Connor MacLerie was a hard man; ruthless, some would say. Known
as the Beast of the Highlands for too many years, he had changed during their
marriage, but not enough for anyone to consider him a man who would give in to
the softer feelings when managing the affairs of the clan. Decisions and
alliances were made for the good of the clan and not to fulfill the whims and
wishes of those under his care…and direction.
Not even hers.
Jocelyn sighed. Sometimes, he did listen to her counsel, but
she wished he’d pay more heed to her suggestions. Marriage agreements were her
Since law and custom gave him the right and privilege and
responsibility to arrange marriages for those under his protection, Connor saw
little need to consult any but the father of the young man or woman involved.
That was simply the way things were done. But having been bought as a bride for
the MacLerie, she understood the difficulties of the situation for the woman so
matched. Then, when she had raised objections to some of the matches he did make
and he ignored what she considered clear, logical reasons for not approving the
marriages under discussion, Jocelyn understood that speaking directly to him and
making her arguments would never work.
Hence her matchmaking scheme.
But without access to the contracts and documents Connor stored
in his strongboxes, she would not be prepared for the wedding on the morrow. She
had not had the opportunity to examine the marriage agreement that would join
Connor’s niece to the young heir to the neighboring clan. Or to see if other
arrangements for other marriages had been included.
To learn if her husband had already pledged their daughter’s
hand to someone. Jocelyn shivered and caught Margriet’s worried gaze.
Though Margriet’s daughters would not inherit titles or
properties, they would be marriage prizes because of their father’s connection
to the Earl of Orkney and the wealth bestowed on them from his family. As a
mother and another bartered woman who had luckily found love with her husband,
Margriet shared Jocelyn’s concerns about their daughters’ future. So, she had
agreed to help Jocelyn in this endeavor.
As had Duncan’s wife, Marian, who had a daughter of
marriageable age. And with her own Lilidh approaching her fifteenth year, the
concerns were even more grave—it would be time to betroth her soon and Jocelyn
worried over her eldest daughter’s fate.
The steward sent for her, asking for help with some of the
preparations for the wedding feast and so Jocelyn found the day speeding by her
with no chance to think on how she could get into the clan’s records. But, as
the day passed and the evening approached, the sick feeling in her stomach
She had never, in their nearly two decades of marriage, lied or
misled Connor, and her actions now, though for the good of others, did not sit
well in her heart. Should she tell him? Would he hear her out or simply blame
her actions on her too-soft heart? Worse, would he believe that she did not
trust in his decisions?
By the time she saw to everything and climbed the stairs to
their chamber, she wondered if she was truly doing the best thing.
The noise woke him.
The scraping of something along the stone floor dragged him
awake and Connor reached for the sword always by the bedside. Reaching out to
draw Jocelyn closer, protecting her if necessary, he felt an empty bed. Pushing
out of the bed, he gripped the sword before him and moved silently toward the
sound. He heard her breathing before he saw her walking toward him from the
shadow of the alcove.
“Jocelyn? What are you doing?” he asked, sliding the sword back
in its scabbard. He took a candle over and lit it from the embers of the hearth,
holding it up to brighten the chamber.
“I could not sleep,” she said, gathering a bed robe closer
around her. “I thought to walk but there are too many visitors within the keep.”
She looked back toward the darkened corner. “Then I decided to sit over there
where I would not disturb your sleep.”
Something was not right.
He walked closer and saw the chair she’d dragged across the
floor, waking him…and the strongbox not three feet from there. An unlit candle
sat next to the box.
“Is aught wrong, Jocelyn?” he asked, watching her face in the
flickering shadows thrown by the candle. He stepped closer and took her hand.
“Is there something that is worrying you?”
Jocelyn looked as though she would answer, but then she shook
her head, denying what he suspected.
“Is it the bairns?” he asked, waiting for some sign in her eyes
of the matter at issue. Though she liked to believe she could bluff, he could
read everything in her expressive eyes and on her face.
Their children were long since infants but ’twas their habit to
call them such when speaking of them together. He thought Jocelyn tried to stave
off the time when they would leave her side and have their own families. If it
were so, he would not argue, for he knew she had the softest of hearts when it
came to her—their—children. He even delayed speaking to her of his plans to send
their youngest son, Adhamh, to foster with the Robertsons, their allies and
Marian’s family, in Dunalastair for fear of causing her heartache.
“All is well, Connor,” she said, smiling at him. “Truly.”
She approached him, glancing down and making him realize he
stood naked before her. He stepped back, but she followed, her hand outstretched
now, reaching toward his chest. “I worry that all the arrangements will go
well.” She did touch him then, sliding her fingers across his own nipples and
making him hiss at such a caress.
“I worry about Ailsa and Angus and if their wedding day will be
“Do you mean unlike our own?” he asked, trying to lighten the
seriousness in her voice now. Connor thought she must be concerned over all the
preparations and how they would reflect on his honor as laird and earl. Jocelyn
always put him first, ever since their marriage, and it would seem she did so
“Ours ended well,” she assured him, still teasing his skin with
the tips of her fingers and acting as though she did not do it. His cock
responded even as his skin tingled beneath her touch.
“If you consider your falling asleep and then calling me by
another man’s name when I did bed you ending well, then…”
He laughed then, for she looked insulted at his words until the
true memories of those first nights came back to her.
She had called him by another man’s name when he’d claimed her
for the first time—the name of the young man she’d loved and from whom he’d
bartered her away. But they had found happiness together and he never doubted
her faithfulness a day in their marriage. But was that happiness gone now? Was
that the reason behind her melancholy demeanor?
He focused on her eyes once more and sought the real reason for
her strange behavior earlier…or he tried to, for when her hand slid down, down
over his stomach and into the crisp curls that surrounded his erection, he could
not do much but feel.
All rational thought escaped into the night as she wrapped her
fingers around his flesh and caressed it to hardness. He almost remembered his
concerns, when she licked her lips and dipped her head down to add to the
arousing actions of her hand. He tangled his fingers in her hair, guiding her
and encouraging as she tasted and licked and then took his length in her
She did this to him—turned him from a man who controlled
himself and hundreds of others’ lives into a ravening beast who could think only
of claiming her as his own. But did Jocelyn do this apurpose to distract him
from his questions? Another minute and he lost even that thought.
His blood heated and pounded through his veins as she drove him
to madness. Connor breathed slowly, forcing his hands to his sides until he
could not. He grasped her shoulders and lifted her until he could take
possession of her mouth. This time, unlike earlier, she launched herself into
his embrace, lifting her legs until they hugged his hips, rubbing the moist
place between them against his maleness. It took only a few steps and a turn and
then he laid her on their bed and plunged into the warmth of her core until he
could go no farther and neither could take a breath.
No matter how many times he experienced this, no matter how
many times he claimed her and melded their bodies together as one, he would
always be amazed and awed at the power of their joining. He released her mouth
and she closed her eyes, leaning her head back and gasping at every thrust he
made. She moved with him, her body reacting to his in a familiar rhythm born of
their many times together. Her body trembled as she began to reach her peak, her
muscles spasming around him, forcing him to his own release.
He clenched his jaw as his seed spilled, thrilling to the feel
of being so deep within her that their breaths mingled and were as one. His
flesh remained hardened within her softness and he watched as her face blossomed
with the satisfaction they shared. Arching his hips once more, she had him
firmly there and smiled at him. Connor did not doubt that he could begin anew,
but the dark smudges beneath her eyes reminded him of her arduous schedule these
last days and this next one as well. Keeping her awake for pleasure’s sake
appealed to him, but so did having a well-rested wife ready to face the
challenges coming toward them on the morrow.
“I love ye, lass,” he whispered as he kissed her cheek and
eased his body from hers.
A tear trickled from the corner of her eye and she reached up
to wipe it away as she moved to the other side of the bed. Tugging the bedcovers
over them, she said nothing in reply. He settled in behind her, pulling her
close and resting his head near hers.
“And I you,” she whispered, though the sadness in her voice
tore him apart.
He did not like this. She hid something from him and he hated
not knowing. Connor could order her to speak on the matter, but he’d faced
Jocelyn’s stubbornness before and understood he’d meet with failure if he did
As her breathing leveled and he felt her relax into sleep, her
body resting with abandonment against his, he tried to find the patience within
himself to wait for her to tell him the truth. And he tried to remember she
would never betray him.
The birds of morn began their waking song, but he still lay
awake pondering the matter of his wife and her problem.
* * *
Whether he’d done it deliberately or not, Connor’s
passion had pushed her over the edge to sleep. Between trying to see to the
plans for the wedding feast and consulting with Connor’s sister Margaret over
arrangements and taking care of her children and husband and deceiving that same
husband into believing that nothing was awry, she’d slept little. Now the sun
rose on the day that would see her first match-made couple married, she realized
that she woke alone.
Sliding her hand across the bed, she felt the warmth of his
body that yet remained there, so she knew he had not risen too much earlier.
Jocelyn dressed quickly, making a list in her mind of all the tasks to be seen
to before the festivities began at noon. Glancing over to the alcove and then at
the closed door, she decided that this might be the only time she had to search
for information about two clans that seemed to be gathering favor in Connor’s
eye and in his plans for alliances. Clans that would be perfect, in his opinion,
to forge bonds with through marriages.
Searching through the keys she carried, she found the one for
the strongbox and inserted it into the lock, turning it slowly and as quietly as
she could. The sound of the metal scraping seemed to echo through the bedchamber
and she kept her gaze on the door for any sign of Connor’s return. After two
tries, Jocelyn knew the key did not work. Pulling it out and sliding it in once
more made no difference.
Jocelyn examined the key and knew it was the same one, for
she’d scratched a mark on it. As she lifted the lock to look more closely at it,
she knew then that it was a different lock! She dropped it and stood back,
searching for another explanation. None was possible. And if the lock had been
replaced, the only person with the key to open it was…
Standing at the doorway to their bedchamber.
The expression on his face reminded her of his earlier
reputation as a beast, for his gaze darkened and his brow gathered into a
furious frown. He strode to where she stood, and from the way her heart raced
and sweat beaded on her neck, she discovered that he could yet intimidate
“Jocelyn,” he growled as he walked toward her. “You will tell
me what this is about now.” He crossed his arms over his chest, looking like the
formidable warrior he was. Worse, he looked like a husband who would brook no
delays in getting an explanation from a reluctant wife.
Though she knew she was not in danger, her body reacted to the
threat in his voice. If she revealed her deepest fears, would he laugh them off?
As laird, he was used to not being second-guessed about his decisions and she’d
observed his reactions in the past to such actions.
“Are you the one who has been searching through the strongbox
these last months?”
He knew? He’d known all along?
“Connor, I can explain this,” she began. Clasping her hands
together to make their shaking less obvious, she stepped back to give herself a
bit of space. “I…”
Startled, they both looked toward the door, the opened door, as
both Margriet and Marian called to her.
“The cook has changed the recipe for the cakes,” Margriet
complained. “I think them too sweet now.”
“Gair thinks to sit Ailsa and Angus next to their parents at
the high table,” Marian added. “He will not relent without your permission.”
Both women stood with their hands on their hips and met her gaze as they
They were rescuing her!
Connor’s gaze narrowed and he glanced from her to them and back
again to her. She tried to remain calm and raised a brow in question. Would he
allow her escape?
“Connor?” She waited for his permission before stepping around
him and heading to the door. Just as she moved around him, he grabbed her arm
and pulled her close, close enough that no one would hear his words.
“We will have this discussion and you will tell me the truth of
Before he released her, he searched her face and then nodded at
her. “See to your duties then.” This time he spoke so the others heard.