This week's except is from the novel that started the series. Just Beyond the Garden Gate, the first tale in the Highland Gardens series...
Patrick drummed tense fingers on the table, ignoring most of the discussion going on around him. His insides boiled. How dare Lamont take out the argument over the disputed marriage proposal on the MacLachlan clan?
He glanced at the men sitting at the two long tables stretched out in front of him and the others standing around the chamber. This was his family, and he’d failed them. His fervent denial of a marriage contract between himself and Iain Lamont’s daughter Isobell brought them to the precipice of this hostile confrontation. Yet a feud with the Lamonts had existed for generations. The recent raid was only the most current act of treachery.
His gaze drifted to the ceiling, his thoughts on the chamber above. The chamber his precious Laurie slept in, his bedchamber, the one where Ruari now lay unconscious.
Patrick took full responsibility for what happened to his herdsmen. If only he’d agreed to Iain Lamont’s demands—married Isobell—Ruari wouldn’t be lying in the bedchamber above, insensible from a bang on the head. And the others wouldn’t be dead.
Lamont had prodded him ever since Patrick lost his father. This time the man pushed too far. Patrick would have to retaliate. It was an issue of honor. This latest infringement couldn’t be left unpunished. It was a matter of his clan’s survival.
Was he wrong? Should he break his oath, marry Isobell, and hope in doing so, he’d end the feud? It wasn’t that Isobel was undesirable. She’d make someone a good wife. She possessed a fine dowry and was comely. But he felt nothing when she was near. Certainly not the burning fire he experienced with Laurie. Isobell had no warmth. She was like cold stone. He’d never even had the desire to steal a kiss.
Archibald thought him daft. Repeatedly, he reminded Patrick of her value. After all, she was the co-heir of Iain Lamont. Now, that was the problem. How could he be expected to marry her? He believed her father responsible for his parent’s disappearance.
And possible death? No, he wouldn’t consider the possibility.
When he learned his parents had gone missing while chased by Lamont clansmen, he swore from that day forward Iain Lamont was his enemy. He vowed never to agree to a marriage between the two clans.
He raked his fingers through his hair. What of Laurie? What was he to do about his lass from the future?
Stephen poked his arm, interrupting his contemplation. “The full moon is two days next. ’Tis the best time to raid.”
“Aye. A good time for a raid,” Jamie agreed, a brutal grin spreading across his face.
“’Tis not the time to raid.” Donald pinned Patrick with his gaze. “Marry Isobell. End the dispute.”
Patrick glared at his uncle. “I will agree to marry the lass on the day my father stands afore me and requests it of me.”
An anxious hush fell across the chamber.
“You cannae yet believe your father alive. If he were, he would be here with us now.”
“For all I ken, he and my sweet stepmother suffer in Lamont’s pit,” Patrick said, his tone sharp.
Across the chamber, Aine’s husband Angus stood, slamming his palms flat on the table. All gazes shot to him. “Leave off, Donald. ’Tis time we seek revenge for the insults wrought by the Lamonts. I say we raid.”
Most of the men roared in agreement, raising fists and shouting. Donald glowered. His gaze circled the chamber from man to man. “Decided, is it? You will rue this day.”
Just Beyond the Garden Gate
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Hope you enjoyed this wee snippet from Just Beyond the Garden Gate, a Highland Gardens Novel.