Sword of the Raven
Paranormal Fantasy Romance
 
 
When destiny calls, you don’t hit ignore...

Delaney Morgan’s ho-hum life begins to fray around the edges when her cop brother is framed and imprisoned. Determined to exonerate him, she starts poking her nose where it doesn’t belong. Things go from extra-ordinary to extraordinary with her discovery of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Naked washed up on a deserted Oregon beach.

Rowan MacLachlan’s no ordinary man. He’s a semi-Immortal Highlander. A Water Mage, a Supernatural Enforcer…and since the slaughter of his entire family, Chieftain of his Clan. 

Recently escaped from the clutches of the Sorceress Cearde, he’s drawn to Delaney’s intense, newly awakening Powers. She learns her brother possessed similar Powers, and his "situation" is entangled with the magical forces he tried to shield her from.

Pulled into an epic battle of light and dark…with a kick-ass pair of boots and a Bon Jovi inspired battle cry…Delaney vows to help Rowan avenge his family, and free her brother from the dark forces holding him captive. First, Rowan must teach her to control and wield her new Magic.

When passion flares between mentor and student, so do their Powers. With Delaney’s help, Rowan plans to vanquish the evil bitch who killed his family. 

Even if it means betraying the woman he’s come to love.

One of them may be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Can love really conquer all? Betrayal. Evil. Even death?

Delaney’s about to find out. Because she’s destined to be the Sword of the Raven.
 
EXCERPT

 

 

 

Delaney Morgan didn’t find an unconscious naked guy on the beach every afternoon.

 

The wild Oregon Pacific had spilled out shells, driftwood, sand dollars…and at sunset last night, a Celtic pewter and garnet triadic knot pendant she’d hung on a chain as a good luck charm. 

 

But a nude man was a first.

 

She lowered the high-powered binoculars, then slid a hand into her coat pocket to touch the cold steel of her borrowed—okay, technically stolen—gun. A ribbon of suspicion snaked through her. If the guy was a player in the deadly game she was investigating, he was in a lot more danger than exposure to the brutal October weather. 

 

Delaney cautiously approached the big man sprawled face down in storm-etched dunes. He lay oblivious to the salty gale, head to one side, right arm flung out as if he’d crawled from the water’s icy grasp. Wind-whipped ebony shoulder-length hair obscured his profile. His muscular torso was gritted with sand…and mottled by bruises and scrapes. Her throat tightened. Naked Dude had taken a savage beating.

 

Hugging her sheepskin-lined suede jacket against the wind, she hastily assessed his visible wounds. No tan lines marred the smooth expanse of tawny skin from the strong column of his neck to his long, shapely feet. If he’d been bronzing his birthday suit on a boat, he’d drifted far from a forgiving climate. She scanned the secluded beach. No other people. No debris from a boating accident. The punishing waves had spit him out and left him to die. Her pulse thundered in sync with the ocean’s roar.

 

Was he dead? 

 

Roiling black clouds dimmed the meager daylight, and Delaney squinted in the gloom. He had to be alive. His complexion didn’t look blue like the prop corpses on CSI. “H-hey. Can you hear me?” 

 

He didn’t respond. 

 

Delaney dug her cell out of her jeans, but couldn’t get a signal on the cheap-assed prepaid phone. She stuffed it back in her pocket, shoved tangled copper curls from her face and sank to her knees beside the stranger’s head. The binoculars around her neck nearly hit him, so she tugged them off and balanced them on a chunk of driftwood. 

 

Fierce gusts slammed into her and the sea lashed at the man’s feet, trying to reclaim its sacrifice. Crouched over to shelter him, she brushed aside his hair. Mystery Man possessed beautiful, rugged masculine features. Dark brows tilted in an intriguingly wicked slant, and sooty lashes bracketed high, stubbled cheekbones. His nose was long and straight, his sculpted lips slightly parted. The set of his bold, square chin hinted at a stubborn streak. 

 

His gorgeous face hadn’t escaped injury. Purple bruises blossomed near his temple, and a sand-encrusted gash over his right eyebrow oozed blood into his hairline and down his face. 

 

“Please don’t be dead,” she whispered. She tentatively touched his cheek, rough bristle over cool skin. 

 

An unexpected burst of energy jolted her body, as hot and jarring as if she’d grabbed a downed power line. Fog swirled, obliterating her vision. Vertigo spun her senses as wailing bagpipes, Celtic war cries, and clanging swords rang in her ears. 

 

Yanking her hand away, she fell backward. The haunting sounds vanished and the beach reappeared. Temples pounding, body shaking, she lay panting for breath as nausea churned in her stomach.

 

What the—?

 

When she finally got her about-to-be-tossed cookies under control, she eased upright. What the hell had just happened? She didn’t normally have seizures or hallucinogenic space-outs. And as far as she knew, the mushrooms in her breakfast omelet had been the non-magic variety. 

 

Delaney knelt at the man’s side again. After a freaky trip on the woo-woo train, she didn’t quite trust herself to touch him. But her next course of action depended on whether she had a live nude male on her hands or a stiff one. Swallowing apprehension, she braced herself and gingerly pressed two fingers to his throat. 

 

A steady pulse throbbed beneath her fingertips. Thank God. She retrieved the pistol from her coat pocket and tucked it into the waistband of her jeans beneath her bulky fisherman’s sweater. Then she yanked off her coat and draped it over his back. The jacket barely covered him from wide shoulders to his admittedly excellent butt, but was better than leaving him bared to the harsh weather. “Hey, buddy, can you hear me? Wake up.” 

 

Though his eyes remained closed, he uttered a low groan.

 

She rechecked her cell and swore, tempted to hurl the worthless piece of crap into the ocean. Should she run for help? Her borrowed cabin didn’t have a phone. By the time she scrambled back up the bluff and drove ten miles to the sheriff’s office, the storm would’ve blasted in full-force. The rural four-officer department had their hands full battening the hatches against the incoming gale, and locating a cop would take a while. 

 

Mr. Tall, Dark and Naked might die before she returned.

 

Not to mention that she didn’t want to attract attention. Especially from the cops. 

 

Delaney leaned closer, afraid to move him until she knew the full extent of his injuries. “C’mon,” she demanded.

“Open your eyes.”

 

He groaned. The thicket of black lashes fluttered, drifted upward. 

 

“There you are,” she said. “Welcome back.”

 

He slowly raised his head, and her gaze collided with eyes the same crystal gray as the hungry sea thrashing behind him. Despite his beat-up condition, it was a warrior’s stare—calculating, unafraid, and sharply intelligent. That laser look jolted her as strongly as touching him had.

 

His silent question rang clearly inside her head. Who are you?

 

Even weirder, she felt compelled to answer. “I’m Delaney Morgan. Are you all right?”

 

His glance flicked to her pendant. “The Morrigan,” he murmured in a husky, rolling Highland burr. “So…’tis dead I am.” He blinked. “Come to guide me to the Otherworld, have you?” 

 

The stranger’s lyrical speech slid through her like a long-forgotten memory, the odd familiarity warming her insides more insidiously than potent Scottish whisky.

 

She preferred pomegranate mojitos. 

 

“Delaney Morgan. If you believe I’m some kind of angelic escort to Heaven, you whacked your skull way harder than it appears, pal.”

 

“I ken.” His eyes narrowed. “I’m thinking the temperature should be far warmer, then.” 

 

A smile sneaked out. “You’re not in Heaven or Hell, you’re lying on a beach near Cape Hope. How badly are you hurt?”

 

 “From the neck up, it’s foggy.” He went silent for several beats. “But I’m fair certain everything else works fine.” 

 

Cutting him slack because of the head injury, she let that ride. “What’s your name, and what happened to you?”

 

“I…I’m…” Another, longer, pause. “Rowan…” An uncertain frown. “Rowan…MacLachlan. And a wee bit…murky on details.” 

 

He abruptly rolled over and levered to a sitting position, draping her coat across his lap. Delaney jerked backward, sprawling in the damp sand.

 

“No need to run away, Morrigan,” his low voice soothed. 

 

Maybe. Ted Bundy had reportedly been good looking and charming, too. “Morgan. I wasn’t running away. I tripped.” 

 

His frown deepened. “I’m not a serial killer, lass.” 

 

How did he know exactly what she’d been thinking? Then again, lurching away the moment he moved was hardly subtle. “That could be one of your missing details. If you were a psycho, I’m sure you’d out yourself, right?” She stood and slapped sand off her pants. “You have a cut on your forehead.”

 

He touched the wound. Shrugged. “It won’t kill me.” His teeth started to chatter, and he swayed. 

 

She admired the effort he exerted to hold himself steady. This determined man probably went after everything he wanted, no-holds-barred. And probably didn’t often lose. Her scalp prickled with foreboding. “Can you stand?”

 

“Aye. In a minute.” 

 

Dangerous strength pulsed from his huge frame, but the energy radiating around him didn’t feel malevolent. When it came to evil, Delaney possessed 20/20 hindsight. And the Glock she was teaching herself to use. She’d often watched her big brother load the magazine, slap it into the gun, chamber a round, and fire.

 

But unlike Connor, she wasn’t sure she could shoot a human being. 

 

She looked away from the rise and fall of Rowan MacLachlan’s broad, dark-hair-dusted chest, toward the raging ocean. Her instincts insisted she was safe with him. From physical harm, anyway. Not so much the assault on her libido. “Better make it thirty seconds.” 

 

“Not a patient wench, are you?”

 

Wench? The wind slashed icy fingers through her sweater, making her shiver. “Get a move on. That storm is about to kick our butts.”

 

“And I’m betting you don’t let anything—man nor nature—defeat you, Delaney Morgan.” He shakily maneuvered to his feet, tying her coat around his waist. She figured he did it more for her comfort, because other than looking flash frozen, he seemed perfectly at home buck naked. “I’d return your jacket…however…”

 

“Keep it. I like the coat exactly where it is.”

 

His mouth slanted. “‘Tis warmer.”

 

She tilted her chin to look up at him. Well over six feet, a foot taller than her own five-five. And totally jacked. From the stunning width of his shoulders tapering into sinewed arms, broad, capable hands, and all the way down his hard torso to the coiled muscles in his solid thighs and long calves, this was one huge Scottish hunk. 

 

Unease slithered up her spine. If he tried anything… 

 

But she couldn’t leave him at the storm’s mercy. Prolonged exposure would kill him. Her fingertips brushed the reassuring bulge beneath her sweater. If she let fear rule her actions, she’d have crawled into a cave two decades ago. Delaney retrieved her binoculars. “We need to go.”

 

MacLachlan arched a brow at the binocs, then winced. “Sodding bad day for bird watching.” 

 

“I’ve seen several ravens, but they were watching us. Are you able to walk?”

 

He swayed again. “Aye.” 

 

He didn’t appear steady enough to stay upright, much less hurt anyone. Her innate empathy toward victims of violence kicked in. She and her brother wouldn’t have survived if a stranger hadn’t cared enough to gamble on them. “My cabin is on top of the bluff, and you’re not up to the hike. Lean on me.”

 

“I’ll manage.” He staggered several wobbly steps.

 

“I’m stronger than I look. I run, do yoga, and kick-boxing.” Delaney scowled into the wind’s tangy bite. “Let me help you.”

 

“Nay.”

 

“Testosterone poisoning can be fatal, Braveheart.”

 

His husky chuckle rumbled in tandem with a peal of thunder as he doggedly shuffled forward. “If I can’t die with my boots on, I’m not going.”

 

“You were a lot more cooperative when you thought I was a guardian angel.” 

 

“Not an angel, nay. A Celtic goddess with North Sea eyes and a waterfall of sunset curls. Wearing the Eye of Eternity around your neck.” 

 

Her hand closed around the pendant. Who would’ve thought beneath all his macho stubbornness, the big guy possessed a poet’s soul? Delaney fingered the charm’s intricate knots. She’d been thrilled at the unusual find, but the necklace hadn’t seemed significant. Yet, suddenly she was collecting stray Scotsmen and hallucinating Highland battles. 

 

Trepidation wormed inside her as she led the way up the incline, her hiking boots slipping on damp pine needles. “Save your energy for climbing, laddie. I’m not interested in men.”

 

“Bloody shame, that.”

 

Delaney rolled her eyes. “Don’t sprain anything jumping to conclusions. I just meant I’m…discerning.”

 

“Discernment.” His ragged breaths were almost as loud as the ocean crashing behind them. “Wise policy.” He patted her shoulder. 

 

She flinched, breaking contact. “You can touch me for help. No other reason.”

 

“Don’t get yourself into a swither, lass.” His voice sounded fainter behind her, revealing how much the steep ascent was costing him. “I won’t be harming you.”

 

She crested the bluff and hurried toward the cabin. Evergreen trees flanking the dirt path trembled in the wind, perfuming sea-damp air with sharp pine. “You’re dead on, there. I can handle myself.”

 

A jagged streak of lightning scalded the black clouds. Ozone supercharged the air, thunder cannoned again and the sky split open and dropped a cold, drenching curtain. Delaney broke into a run, digging in her pocket for keys. Rain hammered the roof of the old cabin’s front porch as she unlocked the door. Shoving it open, she scurried into the sturdy warmth of the 1940’s forest green and ruby living room. 

 

She turned, watching her exhausted, uninvited visitor labor to catch up. He tottered over the threshold, and she ruffled her wet curls, scattering raindrops on the braided entry rug and knotty pine floors. “If you have any hinky ideas, MacLachlan—for your own good, don’t go there.”

 

“No plans to.” Panting, he leaned against the jamb, his face paler than the watery daylight shimmering around him. “Otherwise, I’d have confiscated your gun the moment you turned your back on me.”

 

Then his eyes rolled back and he crashed to the floor.

 

Well, balls. Wasn’t that just like a man? The obstinate Scot could spot a concealed weapon at twenty paces, but refused to admit his limitations and ask for help. If he weren’t already unconscious, she’d smack him upside his Stonehenge skull.

 

Her cell, fifty percent reliable from the cabin, remained signal-free. She couldn’t leave Sleeping Braveheart in the open doorway, and he weighed a freaking ton. Pushing and shoving, she wrangled him far enough inside to slam the door. She blew a soggy strand of stray hair off her face. Getting him to the couch—much less on it—would take all night. 

 

She finally rolled him onto the braided entry rug and dragged it toward the stone fireplace, where embers still glowed. After pitching in more logs, she sprinted to the bedroom for blankets and pillows.

 

Her best friend Vanessa had stuck out nursing courses for six semesters before incurable sympathetic vomiting had scuttled those career plans. As Van’s college study buddy, Delaney had absorbed basic first aid. MacLachlan’s injuries didn’t appear fatal, but he might have a concussion. Shock combined with hypothermia could kill him. 

 

Delaney covered him with blankets and a quilt, cushioned his head on one pillow and propped his feet on two more. The fact that he’d managed to bully himself up the bluff in such battered condition was a miracle. She looked at his haggard face. No, it was a testament to MacLachlan’s steely will. A chill shivered over her.

 

A warning lurked there somewhere.

 

He seemed to be resting comfortably, his breathing normal. She collected the first aid kit, a bowl of warm water, and a washcloth. 

 

Delaney knelt and touched his head wound with the damp cloth, and the wracking, foggy vertigo clobbered her again. This time, ancient war cries magnified the sight of slashed tartans and hideous gaping wounds. Terrified women…children…running, screaming. She smelled blood and fear. 

 

Death. 

 

The fog evaporated, along with the horrible visions. She bolted to the bathroom and lost her lunch.

 

Trembling, she huddled on the cold tile floor. What was wrong with her? Unlike Mommy Dearest, she’d never done drugs. Drank only moderately. If stress was going to unhinge her, she’d have flipped her lid long before today. Raw breaths sawed in her throat. Oh, God, maybe she had a brain tumor. Brain tumors caused hallucinations, nausea,

and phantom odors.

 

Delaney inhaled slowly. Exhaled. Chill. She shoved to her feet and rinsed out her mouth, then brushed her teeth.

It was food poisoning, or a virus. She couldn’t afford to be out of commission. She was her brother’s last chance

for rescue.

 

Delaney returned to kneel at MacLachlan’s side again. The spook-fest hit only when she touched him. And was it coincidence that she’d seen and heard Scottish weirdness? She studied his closed eyes and slightly parted lips.

“If you’re pulling some kind of mind-freak on me, knock it off. Or I swear, I will get in my car and leave you to fend

for yourself.”

 

Steeling herself, Delaney picked up the washcloth and cautiously dabbed his cut. Nothing happened. The tension eased from her shoulders. She cleaned and bandaged the wound, touching him as little as possible. Since none of

his other scrapes were actively bleeding, she left well enough alone and kept him covered. 

 

She sat cross-legged on the floor, watching Rowan MacLachlan. Even lost in unconsciousness, his face revealed strength of character. The man had a sex-god mouth…the bottom lip sensually full, the top lip chiseled into a fine arch. That luscious mouth could tempt angels into carnal sin. 

 

And her past proved she wasn’t even casually acquainted with sainthood.

 

Delaney got up and stalked into the bedroom. She wasn’t in the market for a man. Especially not a hunk of prime Highland real estate. She changed into dry jeans and a lime green T-shirt, and then zipped on a turquoise hoodie, secreting the heavy Glock inside the front pocket. 

 

If Connor found out she was packing his gun, he’d blow a gasket. Three years her senior, her brother had always looked out for her. Though just a kid himself when their dad had died, it was Connor who’d fed her when she was hungry, Connor who’d bandaged skinned knees and scared away bad dreams. He’d helped her solve math problems and conjugate verbs while their mother drifted through their childhood in depressed apathy.

 

Her brother had given up his life to save her. 

 

And Delaney would give anything—everything—to save him. Nobody was going to hijack her mission.

 

Thunder rattled sturdy pine-paneled walls, and rain assaulted the roof and streamed down the windows as Delaney paced the living room, eyeing the still oblivious man on the hearth. She was stuck in a tiny cabin with a huge problem. But trouble had become her specialty.

 

Especially this past year. 

 

She strode across the open space into the adjoining red-accented kitchen where her laptop sat on the scarred tabletop. Sliding into a chair, she booted up the computer. No cell service, but the local wireless connection worked. She couldn’t call 9-1-1, but could surf eBay. Technology. Go figure

 

Her job had taught her how to access classified intel, and she was equipped with a photographic memory. “Time to cough it up, MacLachlan.” She used every resource, searched everywhere. And found nothing. 

 

Delaney dug deeper, nationally and internationally. Nada. 

 

She had the time, the tools, and tenacity. And found zilch on Rowan MacLachlan. As if he didn’t exist. 

 

Impossible.

 

Though she’d shielded her information, anyone with ‘Net savvy could dig up basic stats on her own obscure existence. Despite her vigilance, too much info and speculation was floating around about her and Connor’s “situation.” 

 

And if the wrong person saw it… Her chest constricted as her hand again sought the comforting weapon. Exactly

why she was packing Glock insurance. 

 

Yanking her thoughts from what-ifs, she Googled Celtic knots. Many designs symbolized eternity, but she couldn’t find anything like her knotted charm with its four garnets. A search of Morrigan turned up myriad legends about a Celtic goddess of prophecy and war who could transform into a gigantic raven. 

 

Delaney snapped her laptop shut. Well, that was helpful. 

 

Restlessness drove her to the vintage stove. By the time MacLachlan stirred two hours later, beef stew simmered in a cast iron pot, and cornbread muffins and a marionberry cobbler wafted fragrant steam from the oven.

 

Rowan’s guttural groan sent her rushing to where he lay beside the fire. The vivid flush that stained his cheekbones made her stomach jump. That couldn’t be good. “Rowan? How do you feel?” 

 

Wary diamond eyes glittered. “Like I could quaff the whole of Loch Fyne,” he croaked.

 

“I’ll get you some water.” Anxiety gnawing at her heels, she sprinted to the kitchen, filled a glass, and then hurried to kneel beside his head. “You look feverish.”

 

“‘Tis no wonder.” The strapping Scot propped himself on one elbow, the blanket sliding off rock-hard biceps to his tapered waist. “You’ve swaddled me like a wee bairn.”

 

Delaney kept her eyes locked on his as she handed him the tumbler. Well, as focused as possible with acres of hard, tanned pecs and a washboard eight-pack staring her in the face. “I didn’t want you to get hypothermic.”

 

His too-bright gaze cruised down her body, then slowly up again, spiking her temperature into the stratosphere. “Nary a chance of that, is there, now?” His hand wasn’t quite steady as he tipped the glass and gulped.

 

She did not watch his mouth greedily cup the rim, or the glittering trickle of water slide over his chin and trail down the strongly working column of his throat. Instead, she forced her attention to the crackling red-orange flames. He had a point. The cabin was plenty warm. “Who are you? What are you?”

 

“Odd question, Delaney Morgan.” The way her name rolled off his tongue in that low, melodic purr made goosebumps shiver over her skin. “Considering you’ve seen all my worldly goods.”

 

Not quite. Another mental podcast attacked her…of MacLachlan’s impressive bod sprawled face down in the sand. Not one of the new weird whirl and spew visions. More like frustrated fantasies. Yeah, she’d admit to having had a couple of those in the past few years.

 

Blatant assessment smoldered in his intent gaze and his sensual lips curved, as if he knew exactly where her thoughts had wandered. She snatched back the empty cup. Rowan MacLachlan should have “flammable” stamped on his hard-muscled ass. “I know it’s an oxymoron, but you are an exceptionally exasperating man.”

 

His attention wavered over her shoulder. “Delaney—”

 

“No more evasions. Look at me. I want answers, and I want them now.”

 

“Right.” One brawny shoulder lifted. “But you may also want to know your kitchen’s on fire.”

 

“Oh, hell!” Delaney bolted across the room. On fire was an exaggeration, though not by much. She snatched the smoking pot off the burner, then dropped the pan into the sink and cranked on the cold water faucet. Choking, swearing, she flung aside red gingham curtains and shoved open the window to let in storm-drenched air. Peering into the oven, she flipped the dial to off. The stew was charcoal, but at least she’d salvaged the muffins and cobbler.

 

“You’ve quite an impressive vocabulary, lass. Are you burned?” Suddenly directly behind her, Rowan grasped her hand, and she yelped in surprise. 

 

How had he moved so fast? Pulse pounding, she turned and yanked her fingers from his grip, which was warmer than the overheated cookware. Her attempt was successful only because he willingly released her. “N-no.”

 

Mere seconds ago, he’d been flat on the floor, fevered and sick. Now he was too close, looking too dangerous, too capable—even wearing just a blanket slung low on angular hipbones. Delaney swallowed. Gun or not, this man could easily snap her neck. In a heartbeat. Surrendering, and hating herself for it, she retreated from the heat that radiated from his big body. 

 

“Sure you’re all right?”

 

“Yep.” Sort of. Unless totally freaked-out counted.

 

His focused scrutiny didn’t waver. “While I was unconscious, did you ring the police?” 

 

“I—” Lose/lose. If she said yes and he was avoiding the cops, he might get agitated. If she admitted she had no phone service, he’d know she was vulnerable, with no access to help. “They’re busy handling fallout from the storm.”

 

Was that disguised relief flickering in Rowan’s expression…or just a lightning flash through the windows? “We won’t bother them with a non-emergency just yet, then.” 

 

“As soon as the weather eases up, I’ll call. So, about how you got here...”

 

“Sit down at the table.” Thunderclouds overhead rolled an eerie hypnotic echo to his deep brogue. Thick, suffocating power seemed to emanate from him, and an odd trick of the shifting light shaded his irises from gray to sea green. “Tell me about yourself.”

 

The fine hairs on Delaney’s body stood on end and she couldn’t breathe. I don’t want to. Denial jammed in her throat, she edged farther away.

 

“Delaney?” He offered his hand. “Don’t be afraid.” 

 

Penetrating green eyes pierced clear to her soul, sent her staggering backward. She should not, would not touch him. 

 

Rowan’s brows lowered. “Look into my eyes, Delaney.” Her temples throbbed with pain as his voice pulled at her will, compelled her to obey. Uncanny knowledge glinted in those endless jade pools. “Just take my hand. ‘Tis easy.” 

 

Her back hit the sink. She couldn’t run any farther. 

 

Both body and mind aching from the onslaught, she fought to force her gaze downward, to reject the intimate invasion. “No,” she finally managed to choke out, flinging her hands up as if to deflect a punch. “Stop it!”

 

The smothering power lifted. “Stop what?” Rowan’s even tone sounded as careful as if he were juggling live grenades. “Delaney? Are you all right?” 

 

She risked a glance at his face. His puzzled eyes were a lovely shade of silver-gray. Oh, man. He probably thought she was Looney Tunes. 

 

She swallowed again. Reality check. She normally kept her feet planted solidly on terra firma. Stress must be frying her brain cells. Or maybe she was PMSing. Sci-fi and fantasy were her brother’s thing, not hers. 

 

Connor. Like a lifeline, she clung to thoughts of her brother. She could almost hear his warning. I taught you better, Lanie. Letting an opponent know you’re scared gives him the advantage. Get a handle on it. 

 

“Nothing. I’m not—” She turned around, fumbled to shut off the cascading water. “You must be starving.”

 

“Aye. I’m a mite peckish.” 

 

“The stew’s a goner, but there’s sturgeon in the freezer and a six-pack of Henry Weinhard’s in the fridge. I’ll whip up beer batter and fry fish and chips to go with the muffins.” She’d veered from mute to a raging case of runaway mouth.

 

“Sounds brilliant. But first, would you have a shower?”

 

She stopped on her way to the freezer for a startled moment before she processed his request. Singular, not plural. “Sure. Yeah, you should clean your other wounds. I’ll get you something of Connor’s to wear. He stashes extra clothes here. We both do.” Connor was a 6’2” former high school quarterback who’d kept in peak physical condition. Though Rowan was nearly three inches taller and twice as muscular, Connor’s jogging clothes should stretch enough.

 

“Connor?” Barely perceptible tension edged his tone.

 

“My brother.”

 

“Ah. Where would this brother be, and how is it that he lets you stay in such a harsh, remote area alone?”

 

“Bathroom’s the first door on the left.” Scowling, she gestured at Rowan to precede her down the hallway. She

wasn’t about to turn her back on him a second time. Or tell him the truth. “Wait here, outside the bedroom.”

She blustered past him—past the painful half of his question—as she stalked inside to open the bedroom closet. “Newsflash, Braveheart, this is the twenty-first century. We wenches do whatever we want.” 

 

“What do you want, Delaney?” 

 

That compelling power pressed against her again. The harder she resisted, the worse her head pounded. 

 

She concentrated, gave the intrusion a hard mental shove. Back off!

 

From the doorway, Rowan grunted. 

 

She gritted her teeth. Coincidence. On top of the fever, he must have a mother of a headache. Probably why he was acting so…strange. 

 

What was her excuse? 

 

She pulled out black jogging pants and a faded yellow and green University of Oregon Ducks sweatshirt and hugged them to her chest. Just last fall, which seemed like an eternity ago, she’d tackled her brother during her traditional birthday picnic football game in the park with their friends. Connor had toppled into crisp autumn leaves, laughing while his best bud Zack had swept Delaney up, kissed her, and wisecracked about her ball-handling ability. 

 

She buried her face in the worn fleece as scalding sorrow fought for release. Sometimes a photographic memory

was a blessing…and other times a curse. Zack was nothing but a bad memory, and Connor seemed beyond

her help. 

 

I want my life back. I want my brother safe. 

 

“Delaney?” Concern warmed Rowan’s soft brogue. “What’s wrong?”

 

She cleared her throat. Tears never solved anything. Marching to the doorway, she handed him the pants and sweatshirt, then gestured at her concealed pistol. “Be straight with me. You’re not under the delusion that you’re

some sort of…uh…vampire or something, are you?”

 

His lips twitched. “I’m sky-clad and battered, not barmy.”

 

“Do you believe you’ve traveled here from another time?”

 

“Points for imagination, but no.” 

 

“An alien scout on an earthbound mission?”

 

“Absolutely not.” 

 

“An immortal 16th century Highlander who believes ‘There can be only One?’”

 

He snorted. “Bloody hell, lass, you watch too much Syfy Network.”

 

Desire and deep regret twisted inside. How could she be so attracted to this enigmatic Scot…while at the same time so very afraid of him?

 

Delaney studied the sincerity stamped on Rowan’s striking features, and every instinct clamored in warning. 

 

Despite his protests to the contrary, Rowan MacLachlan was no ordinary man.

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