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Donna Grant

Forbidden Highlander

Dark Sword — 2

Dedication

For Lisa Renee Jones— Your advice, encouragement, and friendship are priceless. I’m lucky to call you friend, and I know my world is a better place with you in it.

Love, DG

Acknowledgments

This series wouldn’t be here without thanks to many people.

Thank you to my family for being so supportive! To my husband for coming up with great ideas for fight scenes, and my children for being so proud of my books. To my parents for always being there when I needed them.

To my exceptional editor, Monique Patterson. Thank you for all the support, encouragement, and marvelous editorial input and vision. You rock! To the best assistant out there — Holly, you’re amazing. Thank you to the art department for putting the torc around the model’s neck. Thanks also to everyone at St. Martin’s working behind the scenes to get this book on the shelves.

To my extraordinary agent, Irene Goodman, for having such passion and belief in me.

To the other great Dangerous Authors for being so supportive. I’m lucky to be involved with such a wonderful group of authors.

Chapter One

Summer 1603

Edinburgh Castle

Fallon stood in the corridor outside the great hall, his fists clenched at his sides as he struggled to keep his breathing steady. The sounds within were deafening. He’d been in Edinburgh Castle for only a few hours, but the need to run, hard and fast, to the shelter of his castle on the west coast of Scotland consumed him.

Calm. Stay calm.

An image of his brothers flashed in his mind, and he was reminded of why he had left the safe haven of his home for a nest of vipers.

I’m here for Lucan and his mate, Cara. I’m here for Quinn. I’m here for our future.

Fallon licked his lips and forced himself to open the doors and enter the great hall. As soon as he was through the doors, he moved to the shadows to watch and observe. His gaze took in the long hall, the hammer beam ceiling, and the candelabras that stood around the room offering light in addition to the sun that poured through the windows on either side.

Edinburgh Castle was massive in size, and the great hall was no different. Unlike Fallon’s hall, Edinburgh Castle’s bespoke opulence that could only come from the king himself. Everything was polished to a sparkle.

Fallon’s chest tightened at the number of bodies in the hall. He was used to having his own space and, sometimes even, the entire castle to himself. He didn’t like the crowd or how close they moved around him, brushing against him as if it were all right to do so.

It amazed him that they had no idea what he was, what was inside him that could unleash at any moment and rip them to shreds. To them, he was just a man. But he knew the death and destruction the primeval god inside him was capable of.

His heart pounded violently in his chest. If he didn’t concentrate, he would run from the hall and make his stay at the castle that much longer. With that frightening thought in mind, he forced his lungs open and leaned against the stone wall to let his gaze move around the room.

Edinburgh Castle was a fortress, a magnificent work of art. The castle, on its rocky outcrop, dominated the city. Long ago, a Celtic tribe had built a fort atop the hill for they had known the advantage of the rock. The future kings of Scotland had also seen the benefit.

“You look ill at ease, friend.”

Fallon tensed and glanced at the scrawny, pale man who sidled up next to him. He was tall, but his face was long, his nose hawkish, and his lips so thin they were almost nonexistent.

When Fallon didn’t respond, the man shifted his feet. “I’m Baron Iver MacNeil.”

“Baron,” Fallon said with a small incline of his head. He didn’t have time for pompous idiots, especially the skinny lump beside him.

A smile pulled at Fallon’s lips at the thought that he could break the baron in half with a touch from his pinkie. It was no wonder Fallon didn’t see many brawny Highlanders at the castle. They preferred to stay on their land and rule their clan. It was the oafs, the ones more interested in furthering their own ambitions, that preferred to stay as close to the king as they could.

It sickened Fallon to a degree that he wanted to lash out at everyone. Rage filled his vision. He felt his skin prickle, the telltale sign that he was about to lose control and let the beast out.

“Are you here to see the king?” Iver asked, unaware of the turmoil inside Fallon.

Fallon swallowed and fought to keep from rolling his eyes. By sheer will alone, he pulled his anger under control. “Aye. I’ve a need that I’d see settled posthaste.”

“You know the king isn’t in residence,” Iver said with a smirk. “He rarely visits Scotland anymore.”

This was not what Fallon wanted to hear. “He’s not here?”

“Not at the moment, though I did hear a rumor that he was on his way.”

Shite. “Thank you for the information.”

Iver cackled, the sound harsh and loud to Fallon’s enhanced hearing. “I’m as close to the king as any. If you’d like, I can help you. Who are you, friend?”

“I doubt you can aid me. And my name is Fallon MacLeod.”

Just as he expected, Iver’s eyes widened. “MacLeod?”

“Aye, you heard correctly.”

Iver’s licked his lips nervously. “The MacLeod lands are long gone. They were divided by other clans centuries ago.”

As if Fallon didn’t know that already. “I know.”

“What does your laird want? Does he think King James will be able to gain him back his lands?”

Fallon turned his head to look the weasel beside him in the eye. He didn’t trust Iver and knew the insignificant man couldn’t help him in the least. Yet, Fallon got perverse pleasure in seeing him squirm. “I am laird, and though my family may have lost our lands, the castle still stands. It’s mine.”

“Ah, I see,” Iver said with an anxious laugh. He licked his lips again and glanced around him. “I truly may be

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