He's not going to take this treatment lying down. At least, not for
1460 ~ St. Andrews, County Fife, Scotland
“Because of your brother my husband and babe both lay in the kirk yard. Your brother, Callum owes me a life, Ewan Fraser, two lives to be exact, and I mean to collect payment on the debt through you.”
“My brother had no hand in your lord’s death. I swear it upon mine honor.”
In the midst of vouchsafing Callum’s innocence, the significance of her statement struck him like yet another fist to the gut. God’s blood, she meant to murder him! Until now he’d assumed she would hold him prisoner and then ransom him back to his brother but not so it seemed. Panic slammed into him, the force exceeding any physical blow he’d so far received.
Scenes from his past twenty-two years skittered through his thoughts. He found himself regretting no deed in particular but rather the many deeds he’d now never have the chance to do. Travel to Edinburgh. Teach his future son to fish. Give Brianna MacLeod a proper kiss. After the clumsy embrace they’d shared as children, he’d spent years hoping for the opportunity to do better by her. Who knew how long he had before she sent him off to meet his Maker, but for certain traveling and procreating would never happen for him now. Looking up into her cool gaze and composed face, it occurred to him that one final wish might yet be fulfilled.
“Your honor, indeed,” she scoffed. “Fraser honor holds no worth in this hall, sir.”
“In that case, lady, I commit myself to your tender mercy. I only ask that you grant me a warrior’s death and have the big one over there—” he gestured to the graybeard towering behind her “—strike my head from my shoulders with a claymore or a sword as befits my station.” After all he’d suffered, subjecting him to disemboweling or burning at the stake hardly seemed sporting.
“Strike off your head!” Her green eyes popped and the luscious lips he contemplated kissing fell open as though making way for his tongue.
Ignoring the hammering inside his skull—he’d be past all fleshly feeling soon enough—he nodded. “Aye, but before you see the deed done, I crave a boon. One kiss from milady’s honeyed lips and then I’ll greet St. Peter with a hearty hey ho.”
The corners of her full mouth twitched, the closest she’d so far come to a smile. “You’re a knave, Ewan Fraser, and like as not you deserve to be drawn and quartered in payment for all the maidenly hearts you’ve broken.”
Drawn and quartered, dear God what a bloodthirsty wench she was. He’d best make the kiss a good one, lingering and deep, whilst he still had the full complement of his manly parts. “First let us have that kiss, milady.”
He started up from his knees to claim it. Head swimming, he struggled to find his footing on the stone flagging. Before he could, the chamber dipped and swayed, the floor falling in beneath him. Stars poked through the encroaching blackness, performing a dizzy dance before his burning eyes.
Watching her prisoner fall over onto his side, Brianna could scarcely credit the proof of her eyes. Ewan Fraser, bold warrior and tanist to his clan, had fainted. Dark hair plastered his damp forehead and his handsome face looked flushed whether from fever or temper or both she couldn’t say. One powerful arm locked about his torso. The protective posture stretched the soiled saffron shirt across his broad shoulders and back, revealing the whip marks bleeding through the torn cloth. Whip marks!
Fury lanced through her. She swung about to Duncan, who’d followed her to the edge of the steps.
Aware of the petitioners watching goggle-eyed from the benches as though a passion play was in progress, she dropped her voice and hissed, “I told you he was not to be harmed.”
She might have had him abducted to serve a greater good, but she was no torturer. Once her end was achieved, she meant to return him to his kinsman hale and whole. Hurting him had never been a part of her plan. Still, badly beaten though he was, at least they wouldn’t have to call in the bonesetter. Bruises and scrapes and torn flesh would heal with time but more often than not a broken bone meant lifelong laming.
Duncan bowed his grizzled head. “I have failed you, milady, and yet I canna say how I could have brought him to you any other way. Fraser or not, a bolder, braver warrior I have never before faced.”
She swiveled to Duncan’s son, Hugh. The young warrior had been charged with guarding Ewan and keeping him out of sight until the court was dismissed. Bruises rimmed his one eye and his stance was markedly hunched.
Voice still lowered, she said, “And you were to have kept him away from the court.”
“And so I would have, milady, only he…”
The smooth-shaven faced flushed, and Brianna prompted, “He what?”
“He kneed me in the uh…ballocks.” Darting a look in Duncan’s direction, he added, “My father speaks true, milady. The Fraser’s own stubbornness causes him to come to you thus. He fought like Satan’s own. Earlier today it took the three of us to subdue him and even then he wouldn’t leave off his fashing.”
Three warriors had been charged with abducting him, and Ewan had come close to besting them all. Brianna felt her chest tightening with ill-placed pride and some other emotion she had yet to name. Face flushing, she returned her gaze to the fallen man. It was too late to undo the clumsy capture, but from there on she meant to see Ewan made as comfortable and treated as civilly as circumstances would allow even if it meant tending him with her own hands. The latter thought sent a starburst like thrill shooting through her.
As if sensing her nearness, his closed eyelids fluttered. He blinked, and then opened. His right eye was swollen shut but his left appeared unharmed. The moonstone pale orb pierced hers, stealing her breath and muddling her thoughts.
“Sweet Brie, whatever befell the braw, bonny lassie who was to have been my bride?” His voice trailed off, his eyes rolling back in his head and his body slackening.
So he remembered their betrothal pact. An invisible knot cinched Brianna’s throat. Tender emotions she thought to have locked away with his flute flooded her. Their fair day meeting must have meant something to him, too.
She started toward him, but Duncan’s hand found her elbow. “He speaks in riddles, milady. With your permission, I will see him removed to the dungeon until he is well enough to be brought to you.”
Brianna shrugged free of his hold. “You will do no such thing. Lord Ewan is not a common criminal but a noble hostage. He doesna belong in a dungeon cell but in a chamber befitting his rank and station. Have him carried to the laird’s chamber, my chamber, and mind this time your men do my bidding with a gentle hand.
An hour later, Brianna strode down the rush lit corridor to the laird’s chamber, a chalice in one hand and a taper in the other. Looped over her wrist was the basket filled with Milread’s special salve. After dismissing the court, she’d sent her old nursemaid to minister to Ewan’s needs, including bathing. Mention of willow twigs, rose petals, or true love was strictly forbidden.
Her steps slowed as she approached the bedchamber. For the past ten years she’d carried about the memory of Ewan Fraser as a lanky boy with crystal clear eyes and a good-natured grin. The eyes hadn’t changed a whit but everything else about him had altered mightily. The Ewan Fraser waiting for her within was very much a man and a braw beautiful man at that. A braw beautiful man she would bed assuming the thrashing they’d dealt him hadn’t rendered him incapable.
A guard stood outside her door. She recognized him as Seamus, the “broken man.” The young warrior was without kith or kin though Duncan swore he was one of his most trustworthy guards and able fighters. Still, his long pointed chin, narrow darting gaze, and scar puckered cheek reminded her of a rat.
Seamus bowed. “Good eve, milady. Lord Duncan bade me stand watch over the prisoner and…you.”
Ewan’s barging into her great hall while her court was in session had wrought havoc with her intention to keep him quietly confined until her plan bore…fruit. By now the whole castle must know that he’d been brought to her private rooms.
Glad of the early evening shadows to mask the heat that must be branding her cheeks, she nodded. “So I see.”
“Sleep well, milady.” He held the door for her, his gaze brushed over her, his mouth twisted into a smirk.
Telling herself guilt must be making her imagine things, she stepped inside and drew the door closed behind her. Shadows engulfed her, relieved only by the flickering of the fire set in the grate and a brace of candles mounted in wall brackets. Her gaze swung to the bed—and the dark form lying chained in the center. Ah, Ewan…
Iron manacles banded his wrists, his powerful arms drawn high over his head, the carved bolsters serving as anchors for the heavy chains. Seeing him thus, her heart lurched, her regret as piercing as any physical pain. If only they’d been free to fulfill their fair day covenant, they might have come together as man and wife with open arms and free wills and joyous hearts instead of this travesty of a union forged of regret and revenge.
She walked up to the chest at the foot of the bed and paused. Shadowed though it was, she fancied she felt Ewan tracking her movements with his eyes. She’d ordered him stripped and bathed for the practical purpose of needing to care for his wounds. Until now she hadn’t given much thought to how she would feel about putting her own less than perfect body on display. Tall, full-breasted and full-hipped, she wasn’t the plump, pretty child who once had fit so neatly against Ewan’s lean, boyish form.
But they weren’t children anymore or lovers or even friends. A wave of sadness struck her. Steeling herself to ignore it, she set the candle down atop the desk along with the basket and chalice. Reaching up, she removed her veiled headdress. Beneath it, her hair was gathered into a single long braid. She had the fleeting thought she ought to comb her fingers through the waves and leave it loose as she had on her wedding night, but decided against doing so. Drawing any parallel to that ill-fated night would seem like a portent of doom.
Instead she unpinned her plaid. She unwound the length of wool and laid it aside along with the broach that bore her clan crest, a bull’s horns and the motto “Hold Fast” in Latin. She cast another glance upwards to the bed. He hadn’t stirred. Mayhap he truly was asleep. Fingers clumsy, she unfastened her sleeves and then unlaced the front of her gown; the latter she pulled over her head. Modesty had her stopping at her shift. The fine linen whispered just above her ankles. She took off the chain with the seal ring, too, and put it in the drawer. Making a mental note to remember to put it back on later, she folded her clothes and set them in a neat stack on the chair seat. By the time she finished, her hands were clammy cold and shaking.
She retrieved the chalice and basket and rounded to the side of the bed. Leaning over, she whispered, “Ewan, do you sleep?”
His eyes were closed. Long lashes shadowed his high cheekbones. Either the brutal handling had worn him out or he was pretending, for he didn’t as much as blink. Skin heating, she skimmed her gaze over his body, naked except for a swathe of linen thrown over his thighs. Even blanketed by cuts and bruises and angry red welts, he was impossibly beautiful. Broad of shoulder and lean of waist and hip, pale skin stretched taut over sinewy muscle and long bones, he brought to mind a statue carved in marble or alabaster, only Ewan was no cold tomb statue but a living breathing man.
She drew back, a foreign throbbing settling between her thighs. At least one order of hers had been obeyed. He was clean. His damp skin smelled of Milread’s rosemary mint soap as well as some other scent that was his alone; the latter had her thinking of the smell of air just after a cleansing springtime shower. The old woman had washed his hair as well. The pillow beneath his head was damp and the dark tresses shone like polished ebony. One damp lock fell over his forehead and over his swollen shut eye. Overcome by a sudden tenderness, Brianna reached down to brush it back.
Ewan snapped open his good eye and glared up at her. “Come to gloat, milady?”
She jumped back, dripping tallow onto the bedcovers. “You startled me.”
“Really?” The black brow framing his good eye arched upward. “You’ll pardon me if I find that a wee bit difficult to fathom.”
In the thrall of his moonstone gaze, Brianna felt the breath lock inside her lungs. Even masked in bruises, his lean face was a masterpiece of male beauty. She ran her gaze over his high bow, molded aquiline nose, and firm, full mouth—the very same mouth that had gifted her with her first real kiss all those many years ago—and felt a spurt of sticky warmth trickle down her leg.
Embarrassed by her body’s response, she set the basket down and held out the cup. “I’ve brought you something.” She hesitated and then settled next to him, her hip brushing his side.
He pressed his lips together and cut a wary glance to the cup. “What is it?”
“Caudle.” Reading the question in his eyes, she elaborated, “Mulled wine with bits of brown bread, sugar, eggs and spices to render it flavorful. It is an English recipe. My old nurse taught me to make it. It will ease and nourish you.”
“Poison me, more like.” He clamped together his swollen lips, beautiful all the same, and shook his dark head. “I’ll no drink so much as one drop. If you mean to murder me, then do the deed out in the open as a laird would. Poison is the weapon of cowards—and women.” His disdainful expression conveyed he considered the two to be cut from the same cloth.
Leaning over him, Brianna found herself fighting the urge to laugh. She slid her arm beneath his neck and shoulders to raise him and pressed the rim of the cup to his swollen lips. “If I wanted you dead, Ewan Fraser, you’d be dead ere now, so drink.”
In the end hunger and thirst took precedence over pride. He drank, gingerly at first but then with great greedy gulps. Brianna felt a stab of guilt but tamped it down by reminding herself that fair day memories aside, Ewan Fraser was still her enemy. His brother’s crime made him so and they not shared the same blood but as twins had bided together in their mother’s womb. Beyond the necessities of shelter and sustenance, he didn’t deserve her consideration.
She eased his head down on the pillow, and then set the empty cup aside and reached for the basket. Though his upper body was immobile, his gaze followed her every move. She brought out the jar of Milread’s special salve.
Twisting off the top, she warned, “This might sting a wee bit but mostly it should soothe.”
“What is it?”
“It’s no poison if that’s what you’re worried for.” She dipped two fingers inside and then held up cream-coated fingers to show him. “There’s yarrow, red clover, and yellow wood sorrel and other ingredients that aid in flesh mending.”
He sniffed, one dark brow lifting again. “Don’t tell me you’re a healer, too?”
She shook her head. Keeping her touch light, she started on his shoulders. “What little I know of herbs and such my old nurse taught me. Her remedies include everything from amulets to remove evil eye curses to love potions…for silly young maids,” she added, not wanting him to think she’d ever sought out such nonsense.
“Love potions, aye?” He eyed the basket with open skepticism. “Are there any in that wee basket?”
Heat hit Brianna’s cheeks. She shook her head. “Nay, I wouldna wish the curse of being in love on my worst enemy.”
He shrugged and then winced as though the movement caused him pain. “What would you wish on me then?” Not giving her opportunity to answer, he added, “If its ransom that you seek, you should know my brother would just as soon see my head on a pike as part with his coin.”
Gathering her thoughts, she capped the jar, dropped it back inside the basket, and set the latter aside. Lifting her gaze, she said, “It’s not ransom I seek but peace—and a baby. A child with both our bloods will heal the hatred between our clans more so than any treaty. That, Ewan Fraser, is why I’ve brought you here.”
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it? Order It!
Setting: Brianna’s beloved castle is loosely based on Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, the seat of Clan MacLeod for more than seven centuries and reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Europe. The MacLeod motto is “Hold fast,” a principle that, as clan chief, Brianna struggles to uphold in her personal as well as public life. To learn more about the fascinating history of Clan MacLeod, including the saucy legend behind the bull horns on the crest, visit the castle website at dunvegancastle.com.
Hero Worship: Okay, even the best of us are allowed to have a Fan Girl Moment every now and again and author girls are no exception. My hero, Ewan is the classic fairytale hero, a warrior with a poet’s soul, not to mention raven dark hair and a sexy, penetrating gaze. Who better to serve as a role model-cum-muse than multi-talented actor, Christian Bale?
Yes, I realize I also used him as the model for Gavin, the hero in Enslaved—that’s why it’s a mega-watt Fan Girl Moment!
Though the actor is a decade older than twenty-something Ewan, still he embodies all the physical traits that make Ewan well…so very yummy, along with the almost metaphysical intensity of presence—those eyes!—that make them both more than just pretty faces with six-pack abs.
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Of course heroes aren’t limited to the bipeds of our species. Brianna’s feline sidekick Muffin has a very important supporting role in Bound to Please. He’s based on my own real-life, Muffin kitty, my last rescue before leaving Virginia.
I’ll never forget the blistering hot day when Muffin walked into my humane rescue trap. He and his colony mates were holed up in a group of boarded buildings recently sold, and suffice it to say the new owner wasn’t too keen on the cats conveying. So far as food went, though, Muffin had been living large—leftover prime rib and shrimps and other mouth-watering fresh water seafood courtesy of the kind owner of an adjacent restaurant. He wasn’t hungry and even if he had been, a humble can of albacore wasn’t likely to impress. Fortunately in this case curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It saved him. Lured by catnip, curiosity, and maybe just maybe my silent prayers, Muffin strolled into that trap. A good thing, too, because it turned out he had an abscessed tooth that required immediate extraction and several weeks of mega-strength antibiotics to clear the infection.
Today Muffin is living the princely life as one of several adored in-door darlings in his new home. It goes to show that Happy Endings, or rather Happy Beginnings, aren’t just the stuff of fairytales or romance fiction.
To find out how you can give a Happily Ever After life to a former stay or abandoned dog or cat, visit pets911.com. Once there, type in your zip code and receive an up-to-the-minute listing of your local animal shelters and rescue groups.
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One year later and this book is still pleasing readers!
"This entertaining quick read is perfect for that rainy afternoon when you want to be in a far off place dreaming about kidnapping your very own alpha male. I know it's one of my fantasies."
Awarded 5 Blue Ribbons!
"Hope Tarr is a must read in any genre, but this one is definitely a must read and it deserves a place on the reader's keeper shelf."
Awarded 4.5 Stars and a Top Pick!
"In 1460, the Laird of the MacLeod arranges a kidnapping from the Fraser clan, determined to produce a child that will unite the two fighting families, even if it means chains and unwilling sex. What makes Bound to Please (4.5), by Hope Tarr, a not-to-be-missed book is that the Laird is young Brianna, named by her late father as his successor, and the Fraser she kidnaps is Ewan, the brother to the Laird of the Frasers. The two have a past that binds their hearts as well as their bodies. When they met as teenagers, they vowed to marry each other, and Ewan never forgot. The humor and heart flow in this story, which has wonderful lovers, a complex heroine, a nasty villain and constant turns on the sex roles."
4 1/2 Stars!
"Blaze launches Blaze Historicals with this saucy Scottish story...a tender and carnal pleasure."
Bound to Please is a June Fresh Fiction Pick!
"A sensual and steamy Scottish Medieval Romance! ...so good, you'll want to keep the pages turning to find out what happens next."
"If you are looking for a sexy romance with hunky Scottish heroes and a bit of intrigue in a historical period, you will not want to miss Bound To Please!"
"Bound to Please is a fabulous historical romance... Hope Tarr uses gender bending in the positions of leadership, captivity, and the boudoir to refresh the Scottish historical theme."
“Wow... this was great! My first Blaze Historical and I could not put it down. Bound to Please has it all; a smokin' hot Highland warrior, a smart and sexy female Laird, a bit of star crossed lovers, a believable revenge plot and it is all nicely wrapped up into a Harlequin Blaze romance. This story was Fun and Spicy!!!”
Steamy hot Scottish medieval
“A Blaze historical?... entertaining story with an engaging couple. Lots of love scenes (more in fact than the average blaze book) and a pretty decent revenge plot make Bound To Pleasure a good choice for summer reading. So if your in the mood for some steaming hot brawny Scot romance that's low on the historical mumbo jumbo, you might want to pick this one up.”
“The best of the Blaze books that I've read, the story is well constructed and interesting throughout.”
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