He ignored her pity. “If I am to choose a bride, she would have to be someone I deem worthy. Someone who wouldn’t perish during the first winter storm or hide under the bed if troops came to take the castle.”
“I am actually noted for my resistance to illness,” she said, intertwining her slender fingers together before her skirts. “As well as my reluctance to crawl under furniture.”
He moved closer, an idea forming. The woman was brazen, unpredictable, and she thought she had the upper hand with that bloody camp of English just across the way. But if she thought it best to break the betrothal, he would accommodate her. And the best way to scare off a virgin, even a brazen virgin, was to give her a taste of fire.
“How about passion, lass?” He leaned down to her ear. “Are ye reluctant to crawl under my sheets?” She inhaled quickly as he pulled her against his body, one hand guiding her head while the other pressed against her back. Her eyes widened as he descended for the kiss.
He met her mouth with every intention of being frightening and hard. How dare this Englishwoman come onto his island, demanding he drop his mountainous pile of obligations as chief and sacrifice his freedom to wed her? But the moment he felt the soft warmth of her lips, the ripe feel of her body in his arms, against his length, the kiss changed. She tasted of woman and innocence wrapped together with awakening heat. He threaded his fingers through her hair to cup her face without breaking contact. Her cheeks were smooth against his rough palms, and instead of yanking away, she remained rooted to the ground.
With a slight tilt of her face, their lips melded intimately as she met him with the same intensity, moving in rhythm with him like they’d been tupping for years. The thought made a low growl creep up his throat before he realized it, nearly escaping as a groan. But he wouldn’t give her that triumph.
Dainty but strong fingers curled into his shirt, holding her to him as he bent to surround her on three sides. Yet he gave her room to escape. If she’d just step back, surrender to the contest, but she didn’t. Were her heels dug into the floor?
His pulse thrummed as fire swept through his body, and thoughts of victory turned to smoke. Tor’s fingers loosened pins and curls as he slid his fingers through her bound hair.
A gasp. “Tor, unhand that lass this minute.” His mother’s voice doused his desire with ocean spray.
As if breaking through the surface of the sea, Tor released Ava’s lips, but he still held her body. Her eyes were closed, her lips damp, cheeks flushed, hair tumbling free around her shoulders. She blinked, waking to stare straight into his eyes. But instead of fear or better yet, barely controlled passion, he saw something that cooled his blood more thoroughly than his mother’s scolding.
Her words were a soft issue from kiss-swollen lips. “So then,” Ava whispered. “You are a beast.”
The Beast of Aros Castle
Highland Isles #1
By: Heather McCollum
Releasing February 20, 2017
On the run from a dangerous man, Ava Sutton flees to the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland. Masquerading as a titled, English lady, Ava must convince the cynical and darkly handsome chief of the Macleans of Aros to wed her before the devil tracks her down.
Tor Maclean, the new chief of Aros Castle, has sworn off marriage after his first wife tricked him into it. Despite his efforts to scare away the Englishwoman, his father arranged for him to wed, Tor is drawn to her fire, courage, and beauty. But when truths are revealed, and hearts as well as lives are on the dagger’s edge, Tor doesn’t know if he can forgive or if he will truly become the solitary Beast of Aros Castle…
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Heather McCollum is an award-winning, historical and YA contemporary paranormal romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay, and was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist.
When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own hero & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.