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Authors: Kathleen Morgan

Child of the mist

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Child of the Mist

These Highland Hills 01

Kathleen MorganContentsPrologue

 

Chapter One

 

Chapter Two

 

Chapter Three

 

Chapter Four

 

Chapter Five

 

Chapter Six

 

Chapter Seven

 

Chapter Eight

 

Chapter Nine

 

Chapter Ten

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

Chapter Twenty

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

"Wonderfully evocative and wildly romantic,Child of the Mistwill enrapture romance readers. Kathleen Morgan is a a marvelous storyteller!"Romantic Times

 

PASSIONATE ADVERSARIES

 

"O' all the greedy, thieving"

"Listen to me!" Niall gave Anne a small shake. "I'll be chieftain soon. If we legalize our union at year's end, in a sense we will have joined our lands anyway. So you see, there's really no problem."

It took all of Anne's control not to slap what she saw as a smug look off Niall's face. "A year is too late! You legally own your lands as o' today. 'Tis no longer ours, don't you see? No wedding will change that!" She turned her back to him. "I beg leave to return to my people."

"Don't even think it!" Niall growled. "We are handfasted for a year. Willing or no, you'll stay here for that time and not a moment less."

He began to walk away from her when her tear-choked voice halted him. "I hate you, Niall Campbell. Mark well my words. If 'tis the last thing I do, I'll make you rue the day you brought me here."

Other Leisure Book by Kathleen Morgan:CRYSTAL FIREHEART'S LAIRTHE KNOWING CRYSTAL

Acknowledgment

 

Acknowledgment is made toComplete Book of Witchcraftby Raymond Buckland, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota, for use of the ritual on pages 97 98.

A LEISURE BOOK

January 1993

 

Published byDorchester Publishing Co., Inc.276 Fifth AvenueNew York, NY 10001

 

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

 

Copyright © 1993 by Kathleen Morgan

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

The name "Leisure Books" and the stylized "L" with design are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

 

Printed in the United States of America.

To Karen Johnson and Deborah Ulin. You sustained me during some pretty dark moments for that I am deeply grateful. You were there to share the joy of my first book sale, a day I will cherish forever. And then, there were all those Saturday shopping sprees to the Chosun Gift Shop and  Itaewon. . . . For the good times as well as bad, this book is dedicated  to you.

Prologue

 

March, 1563Kilchurn Castle, Argyllshire, Scotland

 

"N-Niall!"

The weak but insistent cry rose above the muffled sobbings, carrying desperately across the large, stone-walled bedchamber to the fireplace. A man, tall and powerful, jerked upright. With a resolute straightening of his shoulders, he released his white-knuckled grasp on the mantle and was at the bed in a few quick strides. Waving aside the midwife and maidservants, he lowered himself onto the soft down comforter. Gently, he grasped his wife's hand.

"Aye, lassie?" Try as he might, he could not hide the catch in the dark register of his voice.

Her slender fingers squeezed his. "Och, my brave, sweet Campbell." She smiled wearily up at him.

" 'Tis sad I am . . . to leave you. I would never willingly cause you such pain . . . not in a hundred . . . thousand years."

He gathered her to him. "Hush, lassie. Don't worry about me. Save your strength for what matters. You . . . Your healing."

"N-nay," she quavered. " 'Tisn't a time . . . for false hopes. I pray only that our babe lives" A sharp hiss of pain escaped as yet another contraction shuddered through her.

Niall swallowed hard against his angry, helpless anguish. Dear God, why must she suffer so? His grasp on her tightened, and he willed all the strength of his heart, his body, into hers.

The babe be damned. All he wanted was his sweet, bonny wife. How would he go on without her? Shemustlive. She must. . . .

"Youm-must go on. Take another wife." Her eyes, bright with understanding, stared up at him from a waxen yet still hauntingly lovely countenance. "A wife . . . who'll give you . . . a son. A wife . . . to love . . . as you have loved me."

"Love again?" Niall's bitter laugh pierced the air. "And how can that be, when you're the only one for me? Nay." He vehemently shook his head. "There'll be no othernow or ever!''

"P-promise me!Promise" Her words were lost in a strangled scream. Her eyes widened in sudden comprehension. "The babe. Och, sweet husband. At last . . . our babe comes!"

For one final, exquisitely tender instant they clung to each other. Love, deep and bittersweet in this moment of truth, arced between them. Then there were hands, pushing them apart, drawing Niall away.

"Your pardon, m'lord," came the anxious voices. " 'Tis time. 'Tis women's work now. Step aside."

The tortured sounds followed Niall as he stumbled back to the hearth. Muted cries, choking sobs, mingled with the snapping, crackling clamor of the hungry fire. Time passed with lumbering slowness as Niall stared into the agitated flames, hearing it all from some place far away even as the night's horror charred its memory into his soul. Lord, never had he hurt so, not from any wound in battle, not from. . . .

He paused in his tormented thoughts. The sounds had ceased. His ears strained for some word, a babe's first cryanything. There was none.

An awful fear flared. Niall turned.

His anguished gaze sought the form in the bed. She was still now, her beloved features relaxed, peaceful. A tight, smothering sensation constricted his chest. Niall wrenched his attention to the women surrounding her.

All but one averted their eyes. Niall's glance riveted on her. His features twisted in pain even as he sought to harden his heart against the imminent truth.

Old Agnes, his wife's loyal maidservant, returned his gaze, the answer to his question flickering despondently in her eyes. A shudder wracked Niall's big, hard-muscled frame. He shook his head, his black mane of hair grazing his broad shoulders in a movement of anguished disbelief.

The agony burgeoned, growing to explosive force even as he fought the inevitable acceptance. A cry rose in his throat, tearing past the strict control, the years of well-schooled discipline. His glance moved back to the frail, lifeless form in the bed, oblivious to the small bundle of white lying in her arms.

"Nay!"

The shout echoed across the room, reverberating off the walls to carry far beyond the chamber's thick wooden door. With staggering, stumbling strides, Niall returned to the bed, throwing himself down to gather his wife into his arms. Soundless spasms shook his body as he rocked the limp form to and fro, endlessly murmuring her name.

Quietly, the servants drew back to afford the grieving husband a semblance of privacy. They stood there, huddled in the shadows, uncertain what to do. All, that is, but one.

A dark-haired maid slipped out of the room. As she closed the chamber door, her glance swept the dim, torchlit corridor. A beckoning movement from a dark corner caught her eye. With a knowing smile, she scurried over.

"She is dead then?" a deep voice demanded.

The girl nodded.

"And the bairn?"

"Stillborn, m'lord."

A mirthless sound rose from the shadows. "Good. Very good. Then there's still time for the misfortunes ofmyfamily to be righted. Still time for the clan chieftainship to pass from Niall Campbell to me.

"Aye." He chuckled, an icy rim of triumph sharpening his voice. "Time enough indeed. . . ."

Chapter One

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