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Surrender to the Highlander

The MacLerie Series
Harlequin Historicals
February 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0373-294862
ISBN-10: 0-373-29486-7

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TORN BETWEEN HONOR AND DESIRE...

Innocent Margriet Gunnarsdottir carried a heavy secret. She faced a perilous journey to the wild and distant north of Scotland, and her safety lay in her adopted disguise—a nun’s habit! But her only protector, a proud, rough-hewn Highlander, made her ache to share her crushing burden.

Rurik Erengislsson had sworn to see her home and unharmed. A woman promised to the service of God should be shielded and honored—not desired! Yet Rurik was tempted beyond reason to make this beautiful waif his own.

 
 

 


 


"After spending the last 10 years in exile, Rurik Erengislsson has the opportunity to return home and take his rightful place as his father's heir. First, though, Rurik has to complete one task: bring Lady Margriet Gunnarsdottir home to her father. But when Rurik arrives at the Convent of the Blessed Virgin, he's surprised to find that Margriet is a nun. The key elements in Terri Brisbin's "Surrender to a Highlander" are a carefully crafted plot spiced with a realistic measure of deadly intrigue and a richly detailed, fascinating medieval setting."  — John Charles, Chicago Tribune Book Reviews


"Brisbin's medieval is excellent. She's colorful and graphic when describing murder and violence, and the villain is a nasty piece of work, but his dastardly plot moves this tale along. The quick-moving story contains several twists readers may not see coming." — Romantic Times BOOKCLUB – 4 stars


"Terri Brisbin paints a picture of life during the 1300s with her beautifully written, Surrender to the Highlander. Filled with surprises, passion and danger, Surrender to the Highlander has something for all our reading pleasures. Terri Brisbin pens another excellent read."  — Cataromance.com


"SURRENDER TO THE HIGHLANDER is a seductive, vivid love story between a sexy hero and a strong heroine. Rurik and Margriet are so well depicted and their circumstances are so sympathetic that readers are immediately caught up in their journey, both the figurative one and the literal one. Rurik’s predicament over his feelings for a “nun” is an interesting trial for a hero and one that creates all sorts of turmoil for Rurik and Margriet. The sexual tension runs high between the two, but both are desperate to repress it. This adds to the inner burdens that they already carry. Rurik is struggling to find his place with his family and Margriet’s secret is huge, one that could cost her much. Her plight is particularly poignant, pulling at the heartstrings so much so that readers cannot help but care for her.

Rurik and Margriet are, in effect, star-crossed lovers with seemingly insurmountable obstacles hindering their way to happily ever after. This, however, makes for a highly emotional tale that is vastly entertaining. It’s rich in historical detail, laced with the perfect amount of passion, and enhanced with intrigue coming from Rurik’s crafty but villainous half-brother. Thorfinn’s devious scheming leads all the players to a climactic moment in the book when Margriet’s secret is revealed, Rurik’s loyalties are tested, and agonizing choices are made.

Ms. Brisbin continually delivers highly satisfying romances and SURRENDER TO THE HIGHLANDER is another winning effort from her; don’t miss it." — Romance Reviews Today

 

 


She had no idea of how much time had passed or how much distance she covered, but now the sun was gone and the birds of night were calling out their warning. There was enough moonlight to see around her and she found a large rock to sit on while her temper cooled.

This was exactly what she feared when she donned the nun’s habit for protection. Men who lost control when faced with the least bit of provocation. Men who behaved like pigs, rooting for their pleasure. Margriet kicked a few smaller stones into the stream as her anger pulsed through her. She was so wrapped within it, she almost did not hear him approach.

Almost.

He stood a few paces behind her and said nothing. Probably for want of words, for what could be said? She leaned down and picked up another handful of pebbles, tossing each one as far as she could into the water and hearing them plop on the surface.

“I worried that you might have fallen in the water,” he said softly.

Margriet would credit him on his approach, for he avoided all the sticky subjects and chose a more humorous one. Of course ‘twas only humorous if she admitted to lying about that event.

“I tripped,” she said, not yet willing to admit anything to this man whose face had lately been looking down a whore’s gown.

Tossing another of her pebbles into the stream, she slid off the rock, dusted the dirt from the habit and walked to the edge of the rushing stream. Though she could be mistaken, it appeared to be shallow, but the light of the moon was not enough to tell truly and accurately. Footsteps behind her warned that he was coming nearer.

“Do you feel the need to trip now? Again?” he asked, his voice coming over her left shoulder. She’d thought him farther away.

Margriet released the rest of the stones from her hand and sighed. “’Tis colder than that night.”

“Ah, so you only trip when the air is hot then?”

His words were like a caress to her, drifting softly and slowly around her, lulling her into letting down her guard. The night birds sang in the trees behind them, although she recognized none of the songs. The land and its creatures were different the farther north they traveled, away from all that was familiar and safe to her.

“Aye, ‘tis then that the danger is greater,” she said playing along with the lie. Then, it was over and she needed to say some of the words bubbling inside. She needed to ask the questions that plagued her the most. “Do they not know that it is a sin?”

“Do you mean the men or the women?” he asked with no levity in his voice. “Is temptation the sin or is it only when we give into it and commit the trespass?”

Margriet turned now to look at him, not trusting her judgment that he did not jest in his question. His face, outlined by moonbeams, appeared stern and serious, but she had the deep sensation that this was a different side of him than he showed to most. Recalling the lessons of the convent, ones she’d failed in the last few months, she repeated Mother Ingrid’s words to him.

“If temptation is offered apurpose to draw someone into sin, then the tempter sins as well as the one who falls.”

He leaned in closer and whispered, “And if the tempter knows not what they do?”

Memories assailed her, images of Finn and his soft words and touches that drew her along a path to her own sin. Now thinking on it, she behaved with him the same way the men behaved with the harlots at the inn. He enticed her, making her want more, making her want things she did not know possible between a man and woman, things best kept from innocents with no defenses. Then he taught her to respond to his call, whether it was his touch or his voice or the love he offered her.

Oh, aye, she’d fallen hard and fast into the sins of lust and of fornication. Calling it love, calling it temptation, did not change its true nature. . . or her own. It was a sin and she’d trespassed greatly.

Tears gathered in her eyes and she blinked to hide them from him. This realization, how much alike she was to the men inside clamoring for what the women offered and how much like the women, clamoring to give their virtue away, hurt deeply. She would be called ‘whore’ when her condition was known, proving her sin to one and all.

“Sin is sin,” she answered back, without the true conviction that a daughter of the Church should have.

Did she know the temptation she offered, just by standing and speaking? With every movement of her hands or every step she took, she called to something inside him, something that should know better than to answer. But answer it did, and the desire for her grew with each day.

His plan to befriend her failed only moments after he’d decided upon it. His years of appreciating women, and all they offered, had taken his control and crushed it cruelly, making him consider that it was an apparition and never truly there at all. Rurik did not know which was worse, which more a threat to him and to her—the enticement of her flashing eyes, soft bow mouth, and womanly curves or the pain that lashed through her now.

When she lifted her head and he caught sight of the tears that filled her eyes, he searched them for the truth—what could Gunnar’s daughter know of sin? Her life, at least the part of her life when her conduct was her own, had been in a convent, sheltered from the worst life had to offer. Yet, pain seeped into her voice as she spoke and into every part of her that he could behold.

Rurik felt his own pain well up inside him. The rejection by his father and the insult to his mother’s honor brought about by his birth and their life stung and made him recognized something in her gaze. Something he wanted to ease and to soothe and to warn away. He forgot himself in that moment. He forgot what she was and all the reasons why he should not touch her.

He leaned down to touch his lips to hers, just as he’d been craving to do since the first time he’d glimpsed her beauty and felt the desire rise within him. Rurik slid his finger under her chin and tilted hers higher so that he could taste the mouth that drew him in.

“Temptation is temptation, Rurik,” she whispered.

He heard the words and felt them, too, since his lips were nearly touching hers now. Then her hand slid up and pressed against his chest, stopping him from moving that last fraction of distance between them. He ached to taste her now, especially now that he could feel her breath on his face and smell the scent that was hers alone. His manhood swelled and he shifted closer to her as his whole body throbbed in readiness.

And then he did taste her lips and he felt her surprise as he touched his lips to those that bedeviled him in his sleep and all his waking hours, too. If she had pulled back, Rurik would have stopped himself, but when she pressed against him, he slid his tongue along her lips until she opened to him. He released his hold on her chin and slid his hands down to grasp her shoulders—steadying him or her he knew not. He only knew that she was as delectable and enticing as he suspected she would be.

Rurik tilted his head and covered her mouth completely with his, dipping his tongue now in the heat of it, hearing and feeling her gasp as he continued his invasion. Not willing to retreat or relent, he played now with her tongue, drawing it forward and sucking on it gently. Margriet softened against him, and he took it for permission to deepen the kiss.

Using every bit of persuasion he’d ever learned in loving women, Rurik teased her mouth while he pulled her closer. Lifting his mouth only long enough to draw in a ragged breath and to allow her one, he possessed her once more. . . and then again. . . and again. He reached up slowly, not willing to disturb the growing passion and slipped his hand under her veil. Tangling in her hair, he began to unravel the braids he found, when she suddenly stepped from his embrace.

Rurik met her desire-filled gaze and smiled at her, reeling from the very taste and scent of her. Margriet shook her head and looked away.

“I cannot.”

The words, spoken almost too low to be heard, were like a battle cry to his ears. Her words had vibrated against his lips before, but this time he heard them and they were words he could not ignore. As if to confirm that this was unseemly at the least and sacrilege at the worst, Sven’s voice called out through the silence. Her hand remained on his chest until that moment, when she reached up and touched her lips.

Sven broke through the trees and whether ‘twas Rurik’s action or hers, Rurik stepped away from Margriet so quickly that she stumbled. When he reached out to steady her, his hand slipped knocking her away. Putting some distance between them was a good thing, but what was not was that Margriet stood on the edge of the stream. His slight push was enough to send her stumbling off-balance and off the uneven ground and into the water.

Sven yelled.

Rurik yelled louder.

And Margriet screamed as the icy water sucked her down under its surface.


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