Historical Romance Mystery
If you had to make a choice, would it be loyalty or love?
Scottish Highlands - January 1892
Torn between loyalty to her family and refusal to marry a laird she despises, Rhona Davidson accepts a dangerous proposal from a man she knows only as Blackwood.
Leaving behind a life of leisure, Charles Blackwood bravely serves his country with honor and the skill of a trained British agent. When his newest case returns him to the wild Highlands of Scotland, he is faced with a choice between killing a man and saving the only woman he has ever loved.
Charles and Rhona join their lives, only to discover that their choices will result in bloodshed, unless they can uncover a truth long buried, deep in the Highland soil.
MK McClintock returns with swashbuckling heroes and courageous heroines in Blackwood Crossing, a story about buried secrets and second chances. If you enjoy clean historical romance with a touch of intrigue and adventure, then you'll love this "absolute thrill ride of a mystery."
A NOTE FROM MK
Sometimes a story comes along that you want to write but it's a struggle. Your characters take on lives of their own, and no matter how much you want to control them, you can't. Rhona and Charles are unlike any other characters I've written. Their personalities took some getting used to, I'll admit, but when I did, I came to love them as much as I have any others. In some ways, they are the strongest "people" I've ever known, and certainly written. They're fierce and uncompromising, and if they were to walk this earth, I would be honored to call them friends.
Be well, be kind, and enjoy!
from Chapter Three
CHARLES LISTENED TO the howls of wind beyond the glass window panes and contemplated Rhona’s glances. When she had first set her eyes on him in the study, her gray eyes expressed no emotion beyond the anger directed at them all. Davidson had joined them for supper, but Rhona had remained absent throughout the meal.
Now he lay on a bed in one of many rooms gracing the interior of Davidson Castle. Unable to find solace in sleep, Charles, still clothed, removed himself from the bed and looked around the dark interior of the room. Charles and the others had discussed everything they knew about Davidson and his family, including his wealth, as a possible motive for whatever happened to his son, Wallace.
None of them believed that Wallace Davidson had been kidnapped. That he found himself in dire circumstances because of his older brother’s illicit actions remained to be seen. Using Rhona as a cover did not sit well with Charles, but to refuse the plan would be to give her father a reason to question their true motives.
“Bloody hell!” Charles’s whispered frustration dissipated in the quiet of the room. Resolved that he would find no peace on this night, he slid his feet into boots, lit the lantern Graham left for him earlier in the evening, and halted. The faint knock at his door led him to believe that either Tristan or Devon had been of the same mind to go downstairs. He turned the lantern up and walked quickly to the door. The soft hand reached out and connected with the side of his face.
“Bastard!” Rhona’s whisper wasn’t much of a whisper, and she looked down both halls before pushing past Charles into his room.
“I wondered how long that would take.” Charles leaned into the hall to ensure himself that no one had heard her. He gently closed the door, the resounding click making them both fully aware that neither of them should be there.
“I assume you are not here for the reasons we enjoyed on my last visit.” Rhona closed the distance between them, her palm once again meeting his cheek.
Charles immediately regretted his nastiness. “I deserved that.”
“That and more.” Rhona turned abruptly and walked past the edge of the light’s reach. “I want to know why.”
“Not that I don’t enjoy your lovely company, but I do like my head where it is. If your father or anyone else caught us—you want to know why what?” Charles walked toward her. The past two years and his deception created a barrier that stopped him from reaching out for her.
She turned to face him. “Why come back? I’d almost let myself believe I felt nothing for you.”
“I didn’t choose . . .” Charles reached for her, ignored her efforts to tug her arm loose from his grasp, and pulled her out of the shadows. “I came back now for the same reason I left—orders.”
“Everything was an order. Get close to me and make me . . . betray my family. Those were your orders?” She pulled at her arm and his fingers reluctantly loosened their grip.
Charles shook his head. “Nothing between us was an order, and I won’t apologize for what I told you back then.” Charles expected to see tears or regret in Rhona’s eyes, but the grayish-blue orbs revealed nothing.
“I shouldn’t be here. My maid doesn’t sleep soundly and at times wanders the halls.” She hesitated. “We were close enough to . . . I thought you would come back.”
Incredulous, Charles stepped toward her. “I wrote letters, and I returned once I resigned. Your father said you visited a cousin, but I went north to Skye, and they’d not seen you.”
“You came back?”
Charles slowly nodded and traced her smooth cheek with his finger. “Given my line of work, I should have been able to find you, but I contacted your other living relatives. None claimed you’d been there.”
“I wasn’t. I spent six months with a distant cousin on my mother’s side. I was in Caithness, and I never saw your letters.” Rhona pulled the edges of her shawl close to her body and walked toward the door.
Charles deemed her last letter now irrelevant, certain it was not she who told him to stay away. “Why did you never to return to England?”
With one hand on the door handle, Rhona slowly turned around. “How do you know I didn’t?” Her hand slipped from the handle. “You watched for me?”
Charles remained silent.
Rhona closed her eyes and breathed deeply. “There was nothing for me there. When you saved me that day on the road, did you know who I was before you came north?”
“No, it wasn’t until I saw you again here. When I learned you were Davidson’s daughter, I tried to forget you, set you from my thoughts, but nothing I did worked. It was never my intention to cause you pain.”
“And yet, you did, but I made my choices, too.” Rhona steadied her eyes on his. “My father hates your people with such passion. He would not have told either of us the truth. If I had known you came back . . .” Rhona’s hand reached once more for the door.
“He hates the British, but you had an English tutor.”
“That was my mother’s doing.” She pressed down on the handle, but Charles stilled her movements.
“Did you ask for the marriage?”
Rhona attempted to push Charles away. When she failed, she turned angry eyes on him. “It does not matter because the deed is done.”
“When was it decided? Not when we were—”
She shifted and leaned back to look into his eyes. “No. There’s never been anyone else.”
“A few days ago. It’s not uncommon.”
Charles could have left it alone, asked her if she wanted to marry Crawford, but he let seconds pass. Rhona leaned toward him briefly, and Charles wondered if she might stay. He prayed she would. She smelled of heather and lavender, and the fragrant scents sparked memories of a night years ago when he held her in his arms as they lay in a blanket of heather near the woods.
“I’m sorry.” Her whispered words barely reached his ears before she quietly exited the room.
End of Excerpt
Excerpted from Blackwood Crossing by MK McClintock. Copyright © MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.