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Title: Dangerous Highlander
Series: Dark Sword #1
Release Date: December 29, 2009
First in a breathtaking new series, the bold and passionate Lucan MacLeod – one of three brothers cursed by dark magic for eternity – is driven by desire for the one woman he dare not let himself possess…
A DANGEROUS MAN…
He is magnificently strong — and dangerously seductive. One of the fiercest of his clan, Lucan MacLeod is a legend among warriors, inspiring fear in man and woman alike. For three hundred years, he has locked himself away from the world, hiding the vengeful god imprisoned in his soul. But then, a young lass caught in a raging storm awakens his deepest impulses…and darkest desires.
A DANGEROUS PASSION…
Cara doesn’t believe the rumors about MacLeod castle—until the majestic Highland warrior appears like a fiery vision in the storm, pulling her into his powerful arms, and into his world of magic and Druids. An epic war between good and evil is brewing. And Lucan must battle his all-consuming attraction for Cara—or surrender to the flames of a reckless, impossible love that threatens to destroy them both…
National Reader’s Choice Awards Finalist
Rhapsody Bookclub Alternate Selection
Rhapsody Heartthrob of the Month
Nielson BookScan Adult Fiction Bestseller List
Winner 2010 Historical category JABBIC Contest
Winner 2011 Paranormal category Golden Quill Contest
Finalist 2010 Paranormal category Nat’l Readers Choice Awards
“Sensual, dark and enchanting. DANGEROUS HIGHLANDER introduces a trio of sexy Scottish brothers who are eternally cursed and devastatingly seductive. Donna Grant charms with an historical fantasy series sure to leave readers craving more!”
— New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian
5! TOP PICK! “Dangerous Highlander is an absolutely must read! From beginning to end, it’s an incredible ride.”
– Wendy, Night Owl Romance
5 Tombstones! “Ms. Grant has delivered the first book in another fantastic series that melds the paranormal with the historical life of the Scottish highlander in this arousing and exciting adventure. The men of MacLeod castle are a delicious combination of devoted brother, loyal highlander Lord and demonic God that ooze sex appeal and inspire some very erotic daydreams as they face their faults and accept their fate.”
– Hockeyvamp, Bitten By Books
5 Hearts! “I definitely recommend Dangerous Highlander even to skeptics of paranormal romance – you just may fall in love with the MacLeods.”
– Amy, The Romance Reader
5 Blue Ribbons! “Donna Grant does it again, delivering a unique storyline…DARK SWORD promises to be a highly entertaining, addictive series. It is a read I highly recommend to all.”
– Pamela, Romance Junkies
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Lucan MacLeod stared out over the landscape he had loved since the first moment he had realized what it was as a lad. He leaned his forearm against the edge of the narrow window in his chamber in the castle that faced the south and gave him a view of the cliffs and the sea.
He never grew tired of the beauty of the Highlands, the rolling waves of the sea before it crashed into the cliffs. There was something amazing about the smell of the sea mixed with the heather and thistle. This land calmed the raging anger inside him as nothing else could.
It was the Highlands. His Highlands. And he loved it.
What he didn’t love was being trapped, and that’s essentially what had happened ever since he and his brothers had returned to their home over two hundred years ago.
That was their life now. And he hated it.
How many times had Lucan raged at the inability to leave the castle? How many times had he sat in his chamber as the fury over what had happened to him and his brothers consumed him? How many times had he begged God for a way to make it all go away, to free him from the dark torment that threatened his very soul?
But God wasn’t listening. No one was.
They were fated to hide away from the world, watching as time changed everything around them. While they endured. Alone. Forever alone.
He briefly closed his eyes and remembered what it was like before their lives had been ripped apart. It was a lifetime ago that he had stood at that very window watching the clan, hearing the children’s laughter over the roar of the waves. That time seemed like a dream now, a dream that faded with each day that passed, each beat of his heart.
As the son of the laird, Lucan had never wanted for anything. Whether it was food and drink or female company. Women had always sought him out, and he readily accepted them.
He had taken their touch, their smiles, and their bodies for granted. Now, all he wanted was to feel a woman beneath him. He had forgotten what it was like to have the soft curves of a woman’s flesh against him, to have her wet heat surround him as he thrust inside her.
There were times his need had been so great that he had thought of leaving the castle and finding a wench. All it took was one look at his brothers and he would remember why they locked themselves away, why they didn’t allow themselves to be seen.
Lucan and his brothers were dangerous. Not to themselves, but to everyone else. There was great evil out there, and it wanted to use them. Three hundred years of confinement in the castle. But what else was there? They couldn’t be seen, not as they were, the monsters they had become. As the middle son, he had always been there to make peace for his brothers. A rock, solid and steady to keep them all together his mother had called him. He didn’t allow himself to think what was becoming of him and his soul.
Fallon had taken the role as heir to the clan seriously. Everything he did, everything he thought about was their clan. He hadn’t known what to do with himself when there was no clan, and with the beast constantly hammering for control and no way to reverse what had happened, he turned to the wine.
As for Quinn, they had nearly lost him to the beast. Lucan snorted. Beast seemed such an understated name. There was no monster inside them. It was a primeval god banished to the pits of Hell. Apodatoo, the god of Revenge, was housed within each of the MacLeod brothers. A god so ancient, there were no records or tellings of him. And he was far worse than any beast.
Whenever this despondent mood struck him, as if often did when it rained, Lucan took himself off to his chamber away from his brothers. They had their own worries. They didn’t need to see him grappling with his inner demons. He could wallow in his self-pity the rest of the day if he allowed himself. But he couldn’t. His brothers needed him.
He took a deep breath and started to turn away from the window when he something caught his eye. Lucan’s gaze narrowed as he spotted a breathtaking vision. It was a woman, a very young, shapely woman who had dared to come close enough to the castle that he could see the comeliness of her heart-shaped face. He wished he could see the color of her eyes, but it was enough that he saw her full lips that begged to be kissed and her high cheek bones that turned pink in the wind.
And the thick, dark braid that hung down her back to her waist. What he wouldn’t do to see that hair unbound and falling about her shoulders. He fisted his hands and he imagined running his fingers through the treeses.
Her gown was plain and worn, but it didn’t disguise her small waist and rounded breasts. She moved with a freedom of one who enjoyed being outdoors, of one who reveled in the beauty around her. The gentle curving of her lips as she looked out at the sea tugged at something inside him. As if she wanted the freedom to fly on the wind currents.
She picked the mushrooms with care, her fingers tender as she placed them in the basket. When she stared at the castle, she had looked as if it pained her, as if she had known what had taken place.
Something inside him shifted, cried out for him to learn about the woman. The more he watched her, the more she intrigued him.
No one dared come this close to the castle, much less looked at it with such curiosity. If he had known such a beauty was near, Lucan might have left the castle in search of her.
He ignored the wind that rushed past him and squinted through the driving rain to watch as she suddenly cried out and chased something toward the edge of the cliff. Thunder boomed and lightening lit up the darkening sky. Already they had had so much rain.
“What are you doing?” his younger brother Quinn asked as he walked into the chamber and moved to stand beside him. Quinn looked out the window. “God’s blood. Is she daft?”
Lucan shook his head. “She was picking mushrooms. Then she raced toward the edge of the cliff.”
Quinn snarled, his rage never far. “Stupid, wench. She’ll fall to her death.”
Lucan jerked away from the window as his enhanced hearing heard the shift in the earth. He wasted no time in brushing past his brother and running out of the chamber and down the corridor before jumping over the rail and straight down the three stories to the bottom floor. He landed on his feet in the great hall, his knees bent and his fingers on the ground to keep his balance. His skin tingled as the god surged within him.
There was no time to explain to Fallon, the eldest of them, what he planned. The girl’s life was at stake. Lucan hurried from the castle, unmindful of the rain and wind that whipped at his hair and clothes.
He ran under what was left of the gatehouse when he heard her scream as the soil moved beneath her. He leapt into the air and landed a few feet from her just as her hand closed over a necklace and the ground began to give way.
Lucan dove across the space and latched onto her hand before she could plummet to the rocks and water below. Hanging by his hand, her feet dangling over open air, she blinked up at him, her dark eyes wide with fear.
“Hang on!” he yelled over the storm.
Her muddied hands slipped in his grasp and her feet scrambled for purchase in the rocks of the cliff. She screamed, her tears mixing with the rain.
“Please!” she cried. “Don’t drop me!”
Lucan used his strength and began to pull her up when the earth moved once more. He held onto her as he slipped over the side. At the moment when they both would have fallen, his fingers grabbed hold of a rock.
He looked from the edge of the cliff to the woman. He would have to swing her up, it was the only way to save her, but if he did…she would see him for what he really was.
He couldn’t get a better grip without dropping her, but if he didn’t do something soon, she would slide out of his grasp. He tightened his hold, but the more he fought against losing her, the more she slipped.
Until suddenly, he held nothing.
Her scream echoed through him, wrenching his gut. Without a second thought he unleashed the god within him, the monster he kept locked away. In two leaps down the cliff, he was at the bottom amid the rocks with enough time to hold out his arms and catch her.
He waited for her to screech in terror once she saw his face, but when he looked, he found her eyes closed. She had fainted.
Lucan let out a sigh. He hadn’t thought beyond saving the girl, but now that she was in his arms, he didn’t regret it. It had been decades since he had held a woman, and her lush curves and soft body made him instantly hard. And wanting.
The rain continued its assault, but Lucan couldn’t stop staring at her heart-shaped face and high cheek bones. The gentle curve of her neck as her head titled toward him.
“Shite,” he mumbled and bounded back up the cliffs.
He landed as softly as he could so as not to disturb the woman and found Quinn watching him with narrowed eyes full of malice and hate. It was a look he had gotten used to over the course of three hundred years.
“Well, well, brother,” Quinn said between clenched teeth. “What have you been keeping from us?”
Lucan pushed past him and strode to the castle through the driving rain. There would be time for questions later.
Quinn caught up with him. “What in God’s bones do you think you’re doing? You can’t bring her to the castle.”
“I cannot leave her in the weather either,” Lucan argued. “Do you want to take her to the village like this? Besides, she’s fainted, and I don’t know where she lives.”
“It’s a mistake, Lucan. Heed my words.”
They might be monsters, but that didn’t mean he had to act like one. For too long they had hidden in the castle, watching the world through the windows of their crumbling home. This was his one chance to do something good, and he wasn’t about to pass it up.
Not when she felt this delicious in my arms.
Lucan cursed his body and tamped down any more thoughts of the woman’s full breast pressed against him or her scent of heather and earth that filled his senses. The soaked material of her gown molded to her body like a second skin and gave him a glimpse of a hardened nipple.
He swallowed, wanting to close his lips over the tiny bud and suckle. His balls tightened and his blood heated until he shook with need.
With a kick, he opened the castle door and walked into the great hall. Fallon sat up from lying on the bench in the center of the room and raised a dark brow in question.
“Lucan, I’m drunk, but I’m not inebriated enough to miss the fact you have a woman in your arms. In the castle. Which isn’t allowed, I might add.”
Lucan ignored his brother and took the stairs two at a time to his chamber. It was one of the only ones in good enough condition to put the girl in. Fallon never used his chamber, and Quinn had destroyed his in one of his many fits of rage. None of the others had ever been seen to. There hadn’t been a need.
Once Lucan laid her on the bed, he built up the fire to help warm her and tried to calm his raging body. The need, the hunger he felt for her alarmed him. When he straightened, he wasn’t surprised to find Fallon and Quinn stood in his doorway.
“Should we undress her?” Fallon asked, his eyes focused on the girl. “She looks soaked through.”
“She is.” But Lucan wasn’t about to test himself with that kind of temptation. Not until he held his hunger in check. His hands fisted just thinking about pulling the material away from her body and drinking in the sight of her creamy skin. Would her nipples be as dark her hair?
Quinn stepped forward and lengthened his claws. “I’ll remove her gown.”
With lightning speed Lucan moved between his brother and the bed on the opposite wall. The girl was his responsibility. If he left her to Quinn he would likely tear her in two with his wrath, and Fallon would forget her when he turned to his next bottle of wine.
“Leave her to me,” Lucan said.
Quinn’s lips pulled back in a snarl. “All these years you’ve lectured us on how I’ve given in to the god inside when all along, Brother, you’ve done the same.”
Fallon ran a hand down his face and blinked his red rimmed eyes. “What are you talking about, Quinn?”
“If you’d stay off the wine long enough you would have known,” Quinn bit out.
Fallon’s dark green gaze, so like their father’s, narrowed on Quinn. “The wine is better than what you’ve become.”
Quinn laughed, the sound mirthless and hollow. “At least I know what day it is. Tell me, Fallon, do you recall what you did yesterday? Oh, wait. It was the same thing as the day before and the day before that.”
“And what have you done besides tear up everything Lucan builds?” Fallon’s eyes snapped with fire and a muscle in his jaw jumped with his anger. “You cannot control the beast long enough to take a piss.”
Quinn smirked. “Let’s find out.”
“Enough,” Lucan bellowed when the two took a step toward each other. “Get out if you’re going to fight.”
Fallon chuckled, the sound empty. “You know I won’t fight.”
“That’s right,” Quinn said, resentment lacing his voice. “We wouldn’t want the great Fallon MacLeod to tempt the beast.”
Fallon closed his eyes and turned away, but not before Lucan saw the despair in his elder brother’s eyes. “We all have our curses to carry, Quinn. Leave Fallon be.”
“I can take care of myself,” Fallon said and faced Lucan. He glanced from the girl to Lucan. “What were you thinking bringing her here? You know no human can enter our domain, Lucan.”
The girl shifted on the bed, and all three of them stilled, watching to see if she would wake. When she didn’t, Lucan blew out a breath and motioned for them to leave.
“I’ll be down in a moment,” he promised.
Once they were gone, he pulled off her sodden shoes. He needed to get her out of her gown lest she caught a chill, but he didn’t trust his body – or his hands – to keep away from the temptation her curves.
Her hair, a glorious chestnut, had darkened with the rain. He moved a lock of hair that stuck to the side of her cheek and marveled at the feel of her smooth skin. Her face, fair and unblemished, captivated him with her high forehead and delicate structure.
Though his only impression of her eyes had come when they were wide with fear, he remembered they had been the deepest brown he had ever seen. Now he noticed the long, dark lashes that fanned her cheek as she slept.
Lucan hadn’t dared touch a woman since that fateful day so long ago. He didn’t trust himself or the god. But now, a woman lay in his bed, asleep and oh, so enticing. It took but a heartbeat for him to decide to touch her. He ran his finger down her face to her full, plump lips. The scent of heather drifted over him. Her scent. God, he had forgotten how soft a woman’s skin could be, how sweet they could smell.
Unable to stop himself, he traced her mouth with his thumb. He longed to bend down and place his lips over hers, to slide his tongue into her mouth and hear her moan of pleasure, to taste her.
It might have been centuries since he had a woman in his arms, but he still recalled the feel of breasts pressed against his naked chest, of cries of pleasure as he thrust inside them. He still recalled the feel of a woman’s hand as she caressed his shoulders and wound her fingers in his hair.
He remembered much too well.