The Highland Chieftain


By Amy Jarecki

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$7.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 31, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Fans of “romance a la Outlander” (RT Book Reviews), will love this sexy, action-packed Scottish historical as a battle-hardened Highlander will fight with all he has to save the woman he loves–even if she can never love him back.

After being unceremoniously jilted by her betrothed, Lady Mairi MacKenzie is humiliated and heartbroken – but she’s not desperate. As the daughter of an earl, she won’t give her hand to just anyone, and she definitely isn’t swayed by a last-minute proposal from Laird Duncan MacRae. The powerful clan chieftain may be disarmingly handsome and charming, but he’s not a nobleman. Mairi doesn’t want his pity or his charity – even though his dark smoldering gaze makes her melt with desire.
Dunn may be a battle-hardened clansman, but he’s always had a soft spot for Mairi. For years, she tormented him with flirtation – only to reject him. But he’s not giving up. When Mairi is attacked by redcoats, Dunn goes after the woman he loves. Through brute strength and fierce action, he will protect her life at any cost. But to win her heart, he will have to show her the tenderness in his own.



To all the amazing people who have helped with this novel, I am truly grateful. To my agent, Elaine Spencer, who shares my love of well-bred dogs and who is the only woman I know who can make miracles happen. To my fabulous editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, who is not only tactful, she is right most of the time. To the Grand Central Publishing Art Department, especially Craig White and Elizabeth Turner Stokes, for their brilliance in creating smoldering Highlander covers that ooze masculinity and foreboding. To Estelle Hallick for donning her armor and guiding my books through the tempestuous marketing maze, and to Mari Okuda and Angelina Krahn for their fastidious and diligent copyediting, without whom all my typing faux pas would be shamefully on display.


I would also like to thank the volunteers at the various museums, castles, and estates I have visited in Scotland, especially the Highland Folk Museum for giving me a realistic glimpse into Highland life in the eighteenth century and more.

Chapter One

Bless it, you look worse than a rheumy-eyed ragamuffin.” Mairi’s father folded his gazette and slapped it on the bench beside him. “I’ve had enough of your moping. ’Tis time to sit straight and wipe away those confounding tears. There will be many influential men at the gathering, and I expect you to show the aristocracy of Scotland that the House of Cromartie is undaunted by your recent misfortune.”

Her insides hollow and drained, Lady Mairi MacKenzie wiped a hand across her face, her gaze shifting to her father. They’d been riding in the coach for hours upon hours, yet the Earl of Cromartie looked as crisp as when they’d set out at dawn. His long, curled periwig framed the hard angles of his face, his lace neckerchief tied perfectly beneath his chin. Da expected her to be thus composed regardless of if she was disgraced, ruined, and too mortified to ever again be seen in society.

How can I possibly face everyone and pretend nothing is amiss?

She’d pleaded with her father to allow her to remain home at Castle Leod, but nay, Mairi was given no choice but to hold her chin high and behave as if all was well. In the past, she’d enjoyed attending Highland fetes—the food, the dancing, meeting old friends, especially those of the male variety. But today, she was merely doing her duty. She didn’t want to laugh or dance or be sociable. She wanted to hide in her bedchamber with the shutters closed.

She could envision it now. As soon as she alighted from the coach, everyone would stare and the ladies would whisper behind their fans about her woeful state of affairs. Mairi could hear the gossip as well: Redheads are the devil’s spawn…Poor Cromartie, he’ll be lumbered with a spinster for the rest of his days.

All too soon, the coach rolled to a stop outside the crumbling gates of Urquhart Castle. Mairi closed the shutter, sat back, and crossed her arms.

Da reached over and tucked a curl under her bonnet. “Come, lass, ’tis time to put the past behind you. Square your shoulders, and hold your chin high.”

Mairi gulped. She’d rather be facing a smithy with a pair of tongs and submit to a tooth extraction than show her face. “Must I? If the coach turned around right now, we’d arrive home by—”

“Absolutely out of the question.” Da opened the door, climbed down the ladder, then thrust his hand inside. “Come, dearest, show the vultures you have a backbone of iron.”

She stared at the outstretched palm and drew a stuttering breath. Now she knew how a caged lion must feel, wanting to pounce but powerless to do so. Indeed, creating a scene would double her humiliation. With no other choice, Mairi took Da’s hand and climbed outside into the blinding sunlight. She swiftly opened her parasol, blinking rapidly.

Keeping her gaze downcast, she started for the drawbridge.

“Take heed!” a rider bellowed, reining a horse to a skidding stop as dirt and stones flew. The enormous black horse snorted and grunted, sidestepping. Mairi leaped out of the way while her parasol caught the wind, ripped from her hand, and flew to the ground.

“M’lady?” boomed the rider in a deep brogue—a familiar, rumbling voice that sent a shiver across the back of her neck.

Before she could stop herself, Mairi looked up. A tempest of butterflies swarmed in her stomach. Gooseflesh rose across her skin, making those tingles skitter down her spine. As far back as she remembered, Dunn MacRae had an unnerving effect on Mairi’s insides. The laird was braw and rugged, his midnight-blue eyes arresting and haunting. When standing, he towered over everyone with shoulders as wide as a horse’s hindquarter. He rarely smiled, and his shoulder-length hair was coarse and dark—just like the man. This day, he’d clubbed it back with a ribbon, but an errant strand hung to the side of his face, making him look dangerous and menacing.

But those eyes grew narrow and filled with bitterness. He bowed his head. “Are you well, m’lady?” he asked, his tone gruff.

“What were you thinking, MacRae?” demanded her father, collecting the parasol. “Did you not see the coach?”

“Forgive me, m’lord. My mind was elsewhere.” He tipped his hat to Mairi. “Good day.”

Mairi nodded, watching the backside of Laird MacRae’s stallion disappear, tail swishing while horse and rider crossed the old drawbridge. Sighing, she took the parasol from Da and reassembled the shreds of her pride.

“Lady Mairi!” A happier voice came from the crowd. As she turned, Janet Cameron grasped her by the elbow. “’Tis so good to see you. I was afraid you mightn’t come.” A close friend, Janet had charming blue eyes and a delicate face framed with blonde curls.

Wishing she were still home in her bedchamber safely concealed from society, Mairi gave the lass a look of exasperation. Everyone kens I’ve been cast aside and disgraced.

Da stepped in and clasped Janet’s hands. “It is good to see you as well, Miss Cameron. My daughter is in sore need of companionship. I trust you can impart some of your bountiful cheer.”

“Oh my.” Janet’s eyes grew wide. “’Tis usually Her Ladyship who keeps me up all hours laughing.”

Mairi forced a smile. “I’m afraid I’ve lost my ability to make merry for the rest of my days.”

“Rubbish. If I ken your nature, m’lady, you’ll be dancing reels afore the gathering’s end.” Janet pulled her away and toward the drawbridge. “They’ll be serving the evening meal soon. Clan Grant have outdone themselves. Even my father was astonished.”

Grateful for something new to talk about, Mairi arched her eyebrows. “Is he not still feuding with the Grants? I’m surprised you are here.”

“Me as well, but Da pushed aside his differences for the gathering.” Janet leaned closer while she lowered her voice. “The cause, ye ken.”

Mairi nodded. Presently she couldn’t give a fig about the Jacobite cause or plans for the succession.

Janet didn’t seem to notice as the lass stepped up the pace. “You absolutely must see the great hall. They’ve made it look so medieval, ’tis like traveling back in time two hundred years at least.”

Twirling her parasol, Mairi rolled her eyes. “Do not tell me there are knights wearing full suits of armor.”

Janet winked. “I haven’t seen one as of yet, but there’s still hope.”

Mairi tried not to laugh, but stifled a snort before it blew through her nose.

“Is this the latest fashion?” asked Janet, flicking the scalloped brim of the parasol. “’Tis bonny.”

“Aye, Da brought it from France—said all the ladies of the gentry are using them on the Continent.”

“Your father dotes on you. I’m lucky if mine remembers my saint’s day.”

Mairi shook her head. Janet didn’t know the half of it. “Mine is a little too overbearing, I’m afraid.”

Once inside the curtain walls, noise came from the enormous hall on the shore of Loch Ness. Mairi had only been to Urquhart once, and Janet was right. It was a relic from ages past and it bore many a battle scar. The sound of boisterous laughter made her stop short and grasp her friend’s arm. A hollow emptiness swelled in her chest. “I cannot go in there.” Dear Lord, she might swoon.

“Oh my, you are melancholy, are you not?”

Blinking back sudden tears, Mairi drew her hand to her forehead. “Ever so much.”

“Come, you must tell me everything afore the evening meal. I ken just the spot.”

Janet pulled Mairi through the grounds to the abandoned dovecote. Inside it was cool and the light dim. After folding the parasol, Mairi sat on a stone shelf while Janet joined her. Exhausted by the journey preceded by days of crying, Mairi allowed her shoulders to droop. Quite possibly, Janet was the only soul at the fete to whom she could pour out her woes. “I’m ruined,” she whispered as her throat constricted.

“Oh, my dearest, I hate seeing you so miserable.” Janet patted Mairi’s hand. “Please tell me what happened. Gossip is rife that the Earl of Seaforth married his ward.”

“Ayeeee,” Mairi cried, hiding her face in her hands, trying to keep her tears at bay. “I still cannot believe it.”

“Good riddance, I say.” Janet waved her hand through the air as if breaking an engagement was but a trifle.

“Good riddance?” Unable to believe her ears, Mairi’s spine shot to rigid. “He’s an earl, the man my family expected me to marry. Our fathers agreed to the betrothal when I was still in the cradle—a pact sealed by two great men.”

“Over a dram of whisky, rumor has it.”

“Curses to those scandalmongers!”

“I am truly sorry you have been hurt. It pains me to see you so melancholy.”

“Thank you. Your concern means a great deal to me.”

Taking Her Ladyship’s hand, Janet rubbed the back of it soothingly. “As I recall, you once complained to me that the earl was never overly cordial toward you. Certainly, he was well mannered, but no more so toward you than anyone else.”

Forcing herself to swallow against her urge to sob, Mairi dabbed her eyes. “I have no idea what I did wrong.”

“The fault does not lie with you. Not in the slightest.” Janet huffed. “Remember what you said last summer? You were worried about marrying Seaforth because you felt him distant. He was forever away and you scarcely had a chance to speak with him.”

Shaking her head, Mairi refused to listen. “But Da always said the earl was acting like a typical bachelor—said he’d face his responsibility once he was ready to wed.”

“Mm-hmm.” Janet looked away.

Mairi’s breath caught. Da’s reasoning had always been so convincing, and she’d just blindly accepted it. Had Seaforth meant to rescind the agreement all along? Good Lord, she’d made a fool of herself time and again. “What must everyone think of me?”

“’Tis not you the clans are gossiping about. ’Tis Seaforth who must atone for his behavior. Everyone kens ye are a witty, bonny, and vivacious young woman who has limitless potential.” Janet clapped her hands. “And I hear you’ve already shunned one suitor—a most braw Highlander at that.”

“Duncan MacRae?” Mairi asked, using his given name rather than the moniker of Dunn, which everyone knew him by. “Och, the man offered for my hand hours after Seaforth took his nuptials—’twas merely an act of charity. My father avowed he only offered out of loyalty to the earl.”

“I think not. He’s a chieftain—one who can wield a mighty sword, with lands and riches of his own. MacRae has earned the respect of Clan Cameron for certain.”

“Aye.” Mairi heaved a sigh, her heart heavy. No matter how tempting MacRae’s offer may have been, Da had already imparted her refusal, and there was no use harboring regrets. “The Highlander has always been rather imposing.”

“Imposing? I’d say he looks like a gladiator—almost as handsome as Robert Grant.”

“Almost?” Mairi might be melancholy, but she wasn’t blind. Dunn MacRae was as handsome as he was braw—far more fetching than Grant.

“Mm-hmm.” Janet’s eyelashes fluttered.

Forming an O with her lips, Mairi gasped. “Are you smitten?”

“Never.” The lass blushed clear up to her blonde tresses. “The Grants and the Camerons are always feuding about something. My admiration for Mr. Grant is simply a distant appreciation of a braw Highlander—his character is a different matter, however.”

Mairi almost chuckled. Janet was smitten, whether she believed herself to be or nay. “What is your father feuding about now?”

“Another spat over lands.”

“Aye, just like it has always been between men for the past two thousand years.” Mairi stuffed her kerchief back into her sleeve. “Da says the feudal ways of the Highlands are doomed.”

“That mightn’t be such a bad thing.” Janet sighed. “But it will not happen today. Come, why not cast aside your woes and bat your eyelashes at Mr. MacRae?”

She groaned, giving her friend a look of exasperation. “Because I have rejected him, that’s why. Besides, Da insists he will not approve of my marriage to anyone less than a baron.”

“Earls can be inordinately difficult.”

“Tell me something I do not already ken. I’ve lived with an earl my entire life, and it hasn’t been easy.”

“You make living at Castle Leod sound like a great burden.”

“And what about you? Achnacarry has opulence all its own.”

“Aye, but my da leaves me be. He has my brothers to occupy his time.”

“I see. So you do not believe he’s scheming to arrange your marriage this very minute?”

Janet cringed. “He wouldn’t dare—n-not without speaking to me about it first.”

Mairi heaved a sigh and looked to the rounded ceiling of the dovecote. “Fathers. ’Tis a miracle they are not the death of us.”

In the distance a bell sounded, announcing the evening meal. Janet grasped Mairi’s hand. “We’d best not be late. Besides, I wouldn’t miss tonight’s meal for a dozen golden guineas.”

“Just so you can ogle the lads?”

Janet gave a wink. “The men, mind you.”

Mairi took in a deep breath and allowed her friend to pull her toward the rising voices of the crowd. Most often Mairi would be the flirty one eager to join the throng and Janet would be aghast. How circumstances had changed in a mere fortnight.

However, the trip to Urquhart was not a complete debacle. Thanks to her friend, the despair clawing at Mairi’s heart had eased a bit…until they strode inside the hall.

Chapter Two

After crossing the drawbridge, Dunn, chieftain of Clan MacRae, glanced over his shoulder. Thank God Lady Mairi hadn’t followed him across. He’d naturally assumed she’d send her apologies for this gathering and stay home. Late for a meeting with Robert Grant, he’d been riding at a brisk canter when the woman stepped in front of him without looking where she was headed. Dunn had almost run right over the lass.

Why Her Ladyship, and not any other woman in the Highlands?

Well, she was Cromartie’s burden, and Dunn wouldn’t give the lass another thought.

Robert Grant, laird of Glenmoriston, had planned a fine midsummer’s gathering in the medieval remains of a once-formidable fortress. Presiding over the shores of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle still commanded a sense of awe—even with the turret of the gatehouse upside down in the dry moat, having been ravaged by Cromwell’s cannon during his invasion of Scotland sixty years prior.

A cool wind caressed his neck as he searched for Robert inside the grounds. Aye, air cleansed by the waters of the loch gave him a refreshing sense of freedom. There was nothing he enjoyed more than riding the Highlands with a dirk in his belt, a sword at his hip, and a flask of whisky in his sporran. Aye, Scotland pulsed through his blood with the rush of a roaring river.

Robert Grant bounded toward Dunn with a grin as wide as Black Rock Gorge—a grin as sincere as Highland hospitality. “You’re late, MacRae.”

“’Tis still Friday, is it not?” Dunn dismounted and passed his reins to a groom. “Give the big fella an extra ration of oats. Beastie’s a Scottish-bred champion, none faster or stronger.”

“Aye, sir.” The lad smoothed his hand along the stallion’s neck. “He’s a beauty.”

“That he is,” said Grant, grasping Dunn’s hand in a firm handshake.

“Och, ’tis good to see you this fine day.” Dunn tossed the lad a coin before the boy led the horse into the stable. Then he squeezed his friend’s arm, giving him a challenging grin. “Are ye favoring muskets in the games?”

Affecting an affronted grimace, Grant thwacked him on the shoulder. “I can give you a right royal thrashing in the wrestling arena any day, any time.”

Dunn threw his head back and laughed. If ever he had heard a bold-faced lie, Robert Grant just spewed a gross fabrication. Too right, Dunn hadn’t been bested since he’d achieved his majority, and everyone knew it well. “Forever the combatant, are you not?”

“Life wouldn’t be nearly as fun without a healthy feud to keep one amused.” Grant, renowned for feuding with most of his neighbors, gestured toward the manse. “Come, allow me to treat you to a dram of whisky to wash away the dust from the trail afore the others arrive.”

That brought a smile to Dunn’s lips. He wasn’t surprised he’d arrived first. And he’d hoped to catch up on the latest news with his old friend. “Words to warm a man’s heart.”

“And his gullet,” added Grant.

Once inside the tower, Robert led the way to the old solar. “I’ve brought in a table and chairs for meetings during the gathering. ’Tis rustic, but will do in a pinch.”

Dunn looked between the ancient stone walls while the heavy oak door closed behind them. “I think this is the perfect spot for the gathering. It will remind the Highland Defenders of their purpose—the reason why we’re still at odds with the English. Tell me, when was Urquhart last occupied?”

“A Jacobite garrison in 1692. It’s been falling into decay ever since. It would cost a king’s fortune to make it livable again.”

He looked to the rafters. “Well, at least she still has a roof.”

Grant gestured to a high-backed chair before he moved to the sideboard and pulled the stopper out of a newfangled decanter. He poured two drams. “What trouble has the Earl of Seaforth encountered of late?”

Sitting, Dunn scratched the stubble on his jaw. He’d shaved that morn, but his unruly beard always made a showing in the afternoon, the damnable whiskers. “Now that His Lordship is married, it seems his strife has gone on holiday for the time being—but it has only been a fortnight.”

Grant placed both glasses of whisky on the table. “I reckon that’s a good thing. At least it affords you a chance to tend your own affairs.”

“And ’tis about time, too. I’ve been watching Seaforth’s back for so long, my rents haven’t been collected in two years.”

The shorter but solid chieftain took the chair opposite. “Good Lord, the crofters will never be able to meet the back payments.”

Dunn raised his glass. “I do not aim to make them.”

“What? Are you going soft in your old age?”

“Old age? I’m thirty.” Dunn wasn’t soft, either. The harvests for the past two years had been lean, and his kin needed respite. What kind of man was he if he did not give it?

“’Tis generous of you.” The Grant laird gave him a once-over. “What other news? At thirty the chieftain of Clan MacRae ought to be thinking about settling down.”

The whisky burned all the way to Dunn’s gullet. Moreover, it burned with his friend’s words. When was he supposed to find time to marry? Not that he wanted to marry anyone, especially after Lady Mairi’s quick refusal. He looked at his glass and, rather than replying to his friend’s probing question, took another healthy swig.

Grant stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. “A tender subject, is it? I heard about your proposal to Mairi MacKenzie. But knowing you, I figured you’d brush it off, go out and wrestle a bull.”

“Och, I was daft to think the lass might favor me,” Dunn said with more of an edge to his voice than he’d intended. At every gathering he’d ever frequented where Lady Mairi had been in attendance, the lass had flirted with him mercilessly. And he’d done nothing but think back on all those encounters for the past several days. Had her favor been a figment of his imagination? All those smoldering looks, those coy glances across the many halls—her compliments and her light touches on his arm. Had she vexed him because she was promised and therefore unavailable? None of it made sense—but then Dunn had never met a woman who wasn’t confounding.

“If you ask me,” said Grant, “she has her head up her arse on account of being the daughter of an earl.”

“But I always thought her amusing. I reckon her father has soured her—the bastard is hell-bent on marrying her off to a peer.”

“Mairi MacKenzie?” A loud snort rumbled from Grant’s nose. “It had best be a Scottish peer.”

The sarcasm in his friend’s voice made Dunn’s entire body tense. “Why do you say that?”

“Because the wee lassie will be a handful, and I reckon she’d ride roughshod over any English nobleman. Sassenachs are just too damned soft.”

Dunn chuckled and swirled the liquid in his glass. He wouldn’t mind having Mairi MacKenzie ride roughshod over him—or try. It certainly would make for good sport. Then he scowled, internally admonishing himself. I need to erase the woman from my memory.

“What you need is a good romp with a sturdy Highland wench.”

He raised his glass. “Now that’s the most agreeable thing I’ve heard in days.”

*  *  *

After Dunn and Robert enjoyed two drams of whisky, they moved to the hall and switched to ale. The festivities were just beginning. Clan chiefs were expected to lead the merriment, and Dunn never slighted his duty. A stalwart devotion to clan and kin had been ingrained in him by his father from the cradle. MacRae’s lot wasn’t only to protect his own, but to protect and serve the lofty MacKenzies. An oath of fealty had been pledged centuries past, and the two clans had held up their side of the bargain ever since. Though it did chap him a wee bit to always walk in the shadow of Seaforth, Dunn knew his purpose and he would never turn his back on it.

No matter how pleasurable it was to sit in the sanctity of the solar with Robert Grant and sip fine Scotch whisky, social duty called, and ale would have to suffice for the duration of the night. The hall was already filled with shouts and laughter rising above the fiddlers and drummers on the mezzanine. A serving wench swished in from the kitchens, her hips swaying with her every step. She had ample curves both top and bottom, and a saucy smile to boot. The woman’s gaze shifted to Dunn, her expression growing bolder, looking as if she wanted to give him more than one of her frothing tankards of ale.

Possibly Grant was right. Dunn might enjoy a raucous toss in the hay with a buxom lass. God knew he needed it.

The corner of his mouth turned up as he assessed her from head to toe. She wore a corset atop her kirtle with a neckline scooping scandalously low. “I’ll have one of those ales, lassie,” he said, beckoning her nearer.


On Sale
Jul 31, 2018
Page Count
384 pages

Amy Jarecki

About the Author

Award winning and Amazon All-Star author, Amy Jarecki likes to grab life, latch on, and reach for the stars. She’s married to a mountain-biking pharmacist and has put four kids through college. She studies karate, ballet, yoga, and often you’ll find her hiking Utah’s Santa Clara Hills. Reinventing herself a number of times, Amy sang and danced with the Follies, was a ballet dancer, a plant manager, and an accountant for Arnott’s Biscuits in Australia. After earning her MBA from Heroit-Watt University in Scotland, she dove into the world of Scottish historical romance and hasn’t returned. Become a part of her world and learn more about Amy’s books on

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