Once Upon a Highland Season # 3
By: Lecia Cornwall
Releasing December 9th, 2014
Lady Alanna McNabb is bound by duty to her family, who insist she must marry a gentleman of wealth and title. When she meets the man of her dreams, she knows it's much too late, but her heart is no longer hers.
Laird Iain MacGillivray is on his way to propose to another woman when he discovers Alanna half-frozen in the snow and barely alive. She isn't his to love, yet she's everything he's ever wanted.
As Christmas comes closer, the snow thickens, and the magic grows stronger. Alanna and Iain must choose between desire and duty, love and obligation.
But it's Christmas in the Highlands, and there are bound to be a few surprises.
Fiona closed her hand tight, and the scent of lavender rose to rival the peat smoke from the fire. There was nothing threatening about a wee bit of lavender. Still, she hesitated. “You go first,” she said.
Elizabeth tossed her bundle into the fire. “Show me my true love, and send him to me by Christmastide,” she said fervently. The flames pounced on her offering, flared with a hungry whoosh, and devoured the tidbit.
The girls leaned in, looking for a sign in the flames. “D’you see anything?” Fiona whispered.
Elizabeth screwed up her face and squinted. “Nothing that could be mistaken for anyone’s true love. Throw yours.”
Fiona wrapped her hair around the bundle. She took a breath and flung it into the heart of the fire. “Show me my true love, and bring him to me—” She hesitated. “Does it have to be by Christmas? Why can’t it be by spring, or even next summer, perhaps?”
Elizabeth sighed in exasperation as the fire finished its second treat. “It’s burned up now, so you’ll have to wait for spring.”
There was a sudden roar from the wind outside, and the windows rattled. The gust slipped under the door and swept down the flue, making the room suddenly cold. The chimney gasped and sucked hard on the fire, making the flame hiss and leap, drawing it upward, and breaking off sharp red sparks that clung to the soot for a moment and twinkled before being carried away on the icy breath of the wind. The fire sighed and sank back, subdued, and the flames fluttered nervously.
The girls looked at each other, their eyes wide. “What was that?” Elizabeth said. “What did it mean?”
Outside, the wind howled again, high and wild. Fiona pulled her shawl around her shoulders and rose to light the candles, driving the shadows back into the corners, where they hid behind the settee and the chairs. Elizabeth went to the window. “My, but the weather changes suddenly here in the Highlands. It wasn’t snowing a minute ago, was it?”
Fiona looked. The snow had started suddenly, and frenzied white flakes were rushing across the brown landscape, driving toward the castle to dash themselves against the windows and stones with icy fury, clattering like the claws of an angry creature that desperately wanted in. Fiona’s gut clenched. There hadn’t been a single cloud in the sky an hour ago. She glanced at the fire again, but it burned sedately in the hearth, oblivious to the sudden storm raging outside. She swallowed. The herbs, and the spell … surely it was impossible.
Elizabeth stared out the window, hypnotized by the thickening flakes. “The snow—it’s Christmas magic! Look, the garden is almost covered already!”
Fiona went to sit beside her cousin. The first snowfall was always beautiful, and magical—as if folk had forgotten what snow looked like over the seasons. Surely that’s all it was.
She stared, mesmerized as the snowflakes danced intricate patterns in the air.
Show me my true love, and send him to me by Christmastide.
Outside the ancient walls of Craigleith, the sparks joined the snowflakes in a frenzied waltz around the castle’s pointed tower in the thickening twilight, once, twice, and again.
Then they flew away across the moor, chasing the wind.
Lecia Cornwall lives and writes in Calgary, Canada, amid the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with four cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate Lab, and one very patient husband. She is hard at work on her next book.
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