From a USA Today –bestselling author: Star-crossed lovers are torn between clan loyalty and forbidden romance in the Highlands of medieval Scotland. For decades, a feud has divided the Mackintoshes of Clan Chattan and the Comyns of Raitt. Though Raitt Castle lies not far beyond the next ridge, headstrong Lady Catriona “Katy” MacFinlagh of Clan Mackintosh has never seen it. When her curiosity and rebellious spirit compel her to scale a nearby peak in hopes of catching a glimpse, Katy loses her footing, and a broad-shouldered stranger, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, saves her from a fatal fall. Spellbound by the young tawny-haired beauty he has rescued, William Comyn neglects to reveal his full identity to her. As Will and Katy begin to meet in secret and their strong mutual attraction deepens toward love, the clan feud once again erupts in violence, making it harder and harder for Will to reveal that he is a Comyn. But when Will learns that Katy’s clan is in imminent danger, he must decide between his newfound love and his sacred honor, and Katy must choose between her pride and her heart. Set in the same north central Scottish Highlands as The Reluctant Highlander , The Kissing Stone is a historically rich and fiercely passionate Scottish romance from the Rita Award–winning author “frequently credited with creating the subgenre” ( Library Journal ). The Kissing Stone is the 2nd book in the Highland Nights series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
A fourth-generation Californian of Scottish descent, Amanda Scott is the author of more than fifty romantic novels, many of which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Her Scottish heritage and love of history (she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose, respectively) inspired her to write historical fiction.
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Scottish Highlands southeast of Castle Finlagh, 25 May 1433
"When one is having an adventure that is strictly forbidden, one should be able to enjoy it," eighteen-year-old Katy MacFinlagh muttered to herself as she inched her way up the almost perpendicular granite slope toward the formidable crag above it.
With an old gray kirtle hitched up under a belt to leave her bare legs and leather-tough feet free, she had been enjoying her adventure immensely.
Pausing for a breath and to see what she could see from her present position, with her head turned so that her right cheek pressed against the warm granite surface, she grinned at the sight of the vast landscape beyond.
She could see northward to the town of Nairn's harbor and the Moray Firth, four miles away, their water sparkling blue in the afternoon sun. The town sat at the mouth of the winding river from which it had taken its name. Katy could even make out the tall stone tower of Nairn's castle and could see a good portion of the river, which had its headwaters in higher mountains to the southwest.
The town, with its thousand or so inhabitants, looked smaller from where she sprawled on the peak than it did from the ramparts of Castle Finlagh, hundreds of feet below her on its own two-hundred-foot knoll above the floor of the strath.
What she could not see and had hoped to see was Raitt Castle, but she was still on the west side of the crag, and Raitt lay somewhere northeast of the ridge of hills. Six months ago the villainous Comyn of Raitt who lived there had illegally hanged four of her fellow Clan Chattan kinsmen for no more crime than taking the main road from Glen Spey to Nairn. A portion of that public right of way crossed Raitt land, to be sure, but Comyn de Raite had insisted the men were trespassing.
Katy's father, Fin of the Battles, controlled the west slope of the ridge and the peak she was climbing. They were part of Castle Finlagh's estate. Fin had told her that Comyn de Raite oft sent watchers to the ridgetop to spy on Castle Finlagh.
In return, her father set guards to watch for Comyns. Knowing that she would be wise to avoid meeting MacFinlagh guards or Comyn watchers alone, she had brought her mother's wolf dogs, Eos and Argus, as her companions. By keeping to thinning bits of woodland, she had walked up the steep slope to the base of the even steeper south crag and begun carefully to climb.
Aside from the awful hangings at Raitt, the area had been peaceful for nearly eighteen months. Moreover, although the west-facing slope lacked cottages, the homes of Finlagh's cottars, men-at-arms, other tenants, and families of those who worked in the castle occupied the woods west of Finlagh and much of the strath. Guards watched from the castle ramparts, too, and might even have seen her come up the slope, so if she ran into danger, a good scream would swiftly bring help.
That she had reached the crag's lower portion without drawing attention was a good omen, though. Likely, neither side had sent up watchers that day.
Exhilarated to have reached the exposed granite of the crag, she and the dogs had continued swiftly and agilely around boulders and over talus and scree until she had begun climbing the inviting, albeit more precipitous, stretch twenty or thirty feet below the top, where she sprawled now against its steeply angled surface.
The route had seemed to provide the fastest way with the fewest obstacles to the peak and looked easily approachable. Its southeastern section did plunge abruptly downward, but she could avoid that danger by keeping well to its west side.
That thought made her glad she had failed to persuade her twin sister to come with her. Clydia was less adventurous, though she would say more practical. She would likely insist that they avoid the smooth-looking slope altogether.
Commanding the dogs to stay and proceeding upward with caution, Katy eventually had to ease a few feet to her right to avoid a sheer upthrust looming before her. Above it, to its right, a vertical crevice between other upthrusts beckoned, offering a probable path onto the peak itself. Gripping a small knob with her left hand and leaning into the rock face, she stretched her right arm toward the crevice. Unable to reach it, she tried to shove herself upward with her right foot, only to feel it slip right out from under her as if it had struck ice.
A cry of annoyance and distress escaped her as she scrabbled with both feet and her flailing right hand for solid purchase ... for any purchase.
One of the dogs — likely the male, Argus — gave a sharp bark.
"Be still, laddie," she muttered. "I can do this." The last thing she wanted was for anyone else to catch her in such an undignified position. Nor did she want to fall, but she knew better than to let panic disturb her concentration.
Finding only the unforgiving slickness of a highly polished sheet of granite that refused to provide traction for either foot, she pressed her right hand hard and flat against a bit of rougher stone that it had encountered.
The weight of her body continued trying to drag her downward. Her left hand was losing its tenuous grip on the knob. Her bare feet found no purchase at all.
Raising her head barely enough to recognize that such movement further endangered her, she nevertheless discerned a tiny horizontal crack a few inches above her right hand. By stretching that arm hard to its length and beyond, she managed to dig the tips of her two longest fingers into the crack.
Fighting now to hold terror at bay, knowing she could not hold herself so for long, she forced herself to concentrate on relaxing into the rock and tried to imagine a way, any way, to escape her predicament before sliding to her death.
Will Comyn, under orders from his father to earn his keep for once, was supposed to be keeping watch on the residents of Castle Finlagh, their enemies to the southwest, from the ridgetop. Instead, to ease his boredom and armed with only his dirk, Will had spent most of the day tracking a deer while it wandered and grazed. Aside from birds and some rabbits, the only other sign of life that afternoon had been a lone woman strolling through a clearing in the trees below him.
Having tired of tracking and long since assured himself that Finlagh had no watchers out that day, he was heading home through the forest below the southern crag when he heard a feminine cry from above, followed by a dog's bark.
Curious, he strode uphill with deceptive speed in near silence until he saw a female, likely the same one he had seen earlier, on the west side of the crag with her skirts rucked up nearly to her bottom, revealing shapely, young-looking bare legs spread far apart in a clearly futile effort to find toeholds.
The foolish lass had evidently got herself onto one of the crag's slick spots and was holding herself with one outstretched hand while the other one, like her feet, gently and carefully sought anything to which it might cling. Well below her on the slope two large, visibly nervous wolf dogs watched her.
The larger one turned its head then with a suspicious look at Will.
Well acquainted with the ridge, Will knew the danger that lay below her to the east. If she lost her grip, she could fall a few hundred feet.
As these thoughts and others sped through his mind, he maintained his silence and quickened his pace, keeping a wary eye on the dogs but fearing to speak lest he startle her into losing what purchase she had.
At least she had had the sense to spread herself out widely against the rock.
The dog that had been eyeing him began to wag its tail as though approving of his swift approach to its mistress. The other had not shifted its gaze from her.
A stone slid from under one of Will's feet and rattled downward.
Both dogs raised their ears at the sound, but if the lass heard it, she gave no sign. The dogs stayed put, apparently tense yet content to watch him.
Her legs were very shapely. If her skirt were to shift just an inch higher —
Briefly shutting his eyes, collecting his wits enough to speak calmly, he looked up at her and said, "I am below you to your left, lass. I'll not let you fall, so relax into the rock as much as you can and keep patient for a few moments more."
She stiffened at his first few words but did not speak. Her head was tilted upward, and she made no attempt to move it, but when he saw her body sink closer to the rock, he knew she was doing her best to relax.
"Good lass," he said. "My name is Will, and I'm climbing toward you. Soon I'll be near enough to get my right foot under your left one."
"Stop talking then, and hie yourself," she said clearly.
Will grinned, glad to learn that she had spirit.
She was muttering something else, but he could not make out her words. Nor did he care what they were. He cared only about getting one foot solidly under hers.
"Mercy, my skirts!" Katy muttered as she heard him coming closer. "Just how much can he see?"
The man's voice was calm, though, as if he removed impulsively rebellious young damsels from precipitous granite slopes every day. His voice was soothing, too, making it easy to relax into the rock. Even as that thought crossed her mind, she became aware of shaggy brown hair and broad shoulders a short way to her left and felt the firmness of his much larger bare foot beneath her left one.
It was warm against hers, comforting. She felt herself going limp with relief.
"Dinna move yet," he warned. "I've got only my one foot there. If you'll tilt your chin down some, though," he added with a touch of humor, "you'll see me more clearly. When I decide the best way to proceed, I'll help you come down."
"But I don't want to go down," she protested, now looking right at him. "Faith, sir, I've got this far, I want to see what I can see from the top."
She knew nearly everyone for miles around Finlagh by sight, and she could see him well enough now to know he was a stranger. Noting the determined look on his handsome face, and his clear, dark hazel-green eyes and thick, dark lashes, she was certain that, had she seen him before, she would remember him.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I told you, my name is Will, and you have not yet told me yours."
"I'm Katy." She felt a tingling thrill at his wanting to know but hoped he would not ask for more, since he had offered her only one name for himself.
To her relief, he nodded and said lightly, "Well, Katy, if you do want to get to the top, I'd be fain to help you. It may even prove easier to make our way down the northwest side than to get you safely down off this slope from here. I'm coming right up alongside you now, so dinna take offense when I touch you."
"Good sakes, sir, I am not stupid," she said, wondering why the thought of him touching her had stirred more tingly feelings inside her. "If you can get me off of this devilish slippery rock, I shall be indebted to you forever."
"Nae, then, not forever," he said with a chuckle. "Lasses, in my experience — lads, too, come to that — rarely maintain any such feelings forever. You could easily decide that you want my head on a charger within a sennight."
"I could never be so ungrateful," she retorted.
"We may just learn the truth of that, given time," he said, meeting her gaze — nae, capturing it and warming her all through.
Even so, she was astonished that he could think such a thing of her. Various people — mostly family — had called her thoughtless, impulsive, even rebellious, but she could not recall anyone ever calling her ungrateful, even for small favors.
And, much as she would hate to admit it to anyone else, considering likely repercussions, this chap had already done her much more than a small favor.
Watching her, Will knew he had surprised her, but the plain truth was that, if he told her his surname, he was certain it would alter her opinion of him.
Her manner of speech indicated that she was wellborn and accustomed to getting her own way. Therefore, she had likely come from Castle Finlagh, but whether she was a guest or a family member he could not know. Instinct would plump for her being family were it not for one detail.
Put simply, the likelihood was small that Fin of the Battles would encourage any daughter of his to wander off by herself, let alone to climb granite peaks. However, as small as that possibility seemed, Will thought it less likely that Fin of the Battles would allow a female guest or servant to do such a thing. Nevertheless, he dared not ask for her family name lest she press him for his.
Now was no time for unnecessary talk, in any event. She seemed content with silence, so he focused on helping her reach the peak, gently gripping an arm to steady her when necessary and feeling a bit disappointed that she needed help only until they were above the dangerously polished area. She moved deftly then and with confidence up onto the craggy peak, where she cushioned herself with the hinder bits of her kilted-up kirtle and smock underneath her as she sat on a boulder and gazed raptly at the admittedly splendid panorama below.
Her bare calves were smooth and shapely, and the tops of her bare feet were, too. Their soles were doubtless as tough as his own, though.
Will scanned the area for Finlagh watchers. His cousin Dae, visiting from the Lowlands, had walked with him along the ridgetop for a short time that morning but had headed home much earlier. So, while de Raite did often keep watch on Castle Finlagh and other estates held by the Mackintosh — or "the Malcolmtosh," as de Raite and other Comyns, of Badenoch and elsewhere, called him in disdain — Will was confident that he, himself, was the only Raitt man currently on the ridge dividing Raitt lands from Finlagh's.
"It is beautiful from here today, is it not?" she said quietly, gazing eastward.
"Aye," he replied, studying her. She was older than he had first thought, at least sixteen or seventeen. Her face was smudged, her clothing tattered, but the tatters were, he thought, due mostly to the predicament into which she had got herself. She seemed remarkably composed, considering that he was a stranger.
She, or likely a maidservant, had plaited her long, thick, wheat-colored hair into two long plaits, but strands had come loose, and a light breeze across the ridge fluttered the wisps around her oval face.
She seemed unaware that she might be enjoying the view with an enemy.
Turning her head toward him, she said, "That is a lovely loch yonder, with the forested islet in it, but I had hoped to see Raitt. Do you know that castle?"
"Aye," he said, firmly controlling his tone and expression. "You cannot see it from here, for it lies farther northward," he added, gesturing. "Undulations of the eastern slopes below conceal it from us."
"Can one see it from that higher crag yonder?" she asked, pointing toward the peak a mile or so north of them.
"Likely, one can," he admitted. "But you would be a greater fool to climb that one on your own than you were to climb this one today. That other crag is both higher than this one and more precipitous."
"I am not a fool," she said, shooting him a fierce look. "I can take care of myself and have been able to do so for quite a long time. I know the terrain and the people around here as well as anyone."
Suppressing an urge to grin at the irony of that statement, he said, "Then you do know that, had I not come along, you'd likely have fallen to your death, aye?"
"Aye, but look at those mountains far to the west of us," she said, pointing at the still snowcapped range in the distance. "If this one had had snow on it ..."
He shook his head, "Dinna think about that, lass. Had it been snow-covered, you would have had common sense enough to stay off of it."
Her lovely, dark-lashed gray eyes suddenly twinkled. "Art sure of that, sir?"
He wished he had nerve enough to steal a kiss, but the plain fact was that they were still precariously positioned on the rugged peak, so if he were to startle her or she resisted ... He did not even want to think about possible consequences. However, perhaps as they walked more safely through the forest below ... On that thought, he said, "Do you not think we should head back down now, Katy?"
Grimacing — for Raitt Castle or none, she was enjoying the view and the company — Katy looked away. As she did, she abruptly remembered Eos and Argus. "Good sakes!" she exclaimed. "Did you chance to see my two wolf dogs below?"
"I did," he said in the even tone he had used before. "They wait in that wee clearing you can see where the shrubbery ends. I hope you were not thinking that you had only to call them up that polished slope to rescue you, though."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Kissing Stone"
Copyright © 2018 Lynne Scott-Drennan.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love Amanda Scott books and was anxious for the release of this one. By page 110 I was just anxious for it to end and kind of regretting my self imposed rule of finishing every book I buy. The entire book could have been summed up in two chapters, it was that drawn out. I really wish I could put my finger on precisely why I feel this way about it, but all I can come up with is that it was so contrived and repetitive that the violence toward the end was the only real welcome respite in the whole thing. When a reader looks forward to an impending battle more than getting to know the characters and swooning over the romance it's disappointing. And I do know about falling in love quickly and for good. Like Amanda Scott I knew my husband for only 6 days before becoming engaged and facing a separation, and we just celebrated our 50th anniversary. Sorry. I think I'll just reread the Templar series to renew my affection for this author.
Love the way Amanda Scott blends history into her romance story. Enjoyed reading this book as much as her other ones. ****