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Highland Valentine (A Highland Secrets Story) from Paper Dragon Publishing!
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This story is a companion story to THE PARCHMENT SCROLL and takes place AFTER their story. It was originally released in the USA TODAY BESTSELLING Anthology to benefit Autism, ONCE UPON A VALENTINE! (ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL 3/14/17!)
A Highland Secrets Story!
Jules MacDonald thought her happily-ever-after was secure with her barbarian laird. She journeyed through time, to seventeenth century Scotland in search of her sister, and fell in love with Hugh MacDonald.
Her forever started over a year ago when she decided to stay. Now she’s expecting her first child, and can’t be happier. The problem is her husband doesn’t share her joy.
After losing his first wife and wee son in childbirth, every day his sweet Juliette’s stomach grows is proof of her probable demise. Memories haunt Hugh and he closes himself off from her, rather than deal with the pain.
Jules is devastated by losing the man she loves, when he’s right beside her. She seeks refuge with her sister’s clan, the MacLeods, in an effort to bear her child where they’ll both be loved and wanted.
Hugh must face his worst fears to win back his wife and child before she flees to the future. Or will he be too late?
Jules folded her softest sleeping chemise and put it on top of the bundle. If she could manage a trunk, she would’ve, but a few dresses and what passed for underwear in 1676 would have to do.
She sniffled, refused to give in to her hovering tears. If she thought about the devastation rocking just below the surface, she’d crumble. Or worse—lose her nerve. She pushed it all away, concentrating on the task at hand.
I have to do what I have to do. Like always.
She hadn’t been able to get a bag, so she’d set her belongings at the center of a fresh bed sheet she’d had one of the servant girls bring her. Not that she’d ever be questioned, but she wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. For Hugh’s sake, if nothing else. Gossip ran rampant around this place.
Jules wrapped it up like a present and tied the bundle off.
The baby moved and her hand shot over the spot on the left side of her distended tummy, but she didn’t rub there. It was as if her husband’s child was protesting her plan.
Tears burned her eyes.
She shook her head and swiped at her cheeks. The room she’d shared with the big Highlander for just over a year blurred despite her resolve.
He’d lived alone in this room for many more years than she’d been with him, so the furniture was all masculine, oversized, and dark wood—except for the trunk at the end of their bed he’d carved and given her the day they’d been married.
That day—the happiest of her life—felt like a sad memory right now.
The work on the piece was intricate. Hugh had used his talent to the fullest. The border was made up of detailed swords, thistles, and swirls in a pattern. It almost looked as if he’d had modern day computer and engraving equipment for such a delicate design.
He’d put her name at the center, but the surname ‘MacDonald’ dominated next to it and shook her soul as she gazed down on what she couldn’t take with her. Jules was his wife, the Lady of Armadale, but lately she didn’t feel that.
She avoided looking at the bed they’d made love in so many times. She could feel the warmth of the fire behind her and smell the fresh peat burning. This room had comforted her many a time since she’d traveled back in time to seventeenth century Scotland in search of her sister. Her surroundings were him, like nothing she’d ever wanted before, and now something she couldn’t keep.
“Juliette?” His voice made her jump.
She crushed her eyes shut and took a fortifying breath. She was going to need any strength she could muster. Jules whirled toward the man she loved.
The love of her life.
She made no effort to hide the clothes she’d packed—he’d know her intentions in moments, and to say he wasn’t going to be happy about it was putting it mildly. Hugh always yelled and barked orders, so she had to be ready for it. Her insides wobbled—and this time it wasn’t the baby she carried.
Their eyes locked and she hollered at herself to not get lost in his beautiful midnight orbs like she always did. She held on to the hurt from the past months with both hands. Talked herself out of second and third, fourth, maybe even the hundredth chance she’d given him to stop smashing her hopes. Talking to him, or trying to, had gotten her nowhere.
The only thing Hugh MacDonald hadn’t destroyed was her love for him, but at that moment, Jules wished she didn’t love him.
Maybe she wouldn’t be dying inside if she could hate him.
Her eyes trailed his tall form, broad shoulders, trim waist. His ebony hair was messy as usual, and in need of a good cut as it fell to his shoulders. His face was clean-shaven; his chiseled cheekbones and jaw lines begging for a touch even across their room.
Looking at his full mouth made Jules swallow, because she wanted to taste him. But kissing Hugh was out. He’d barely looked at her in months, let alone touched…kissed…held her. He hadn’t made love to her since the night she’d told him she was pregnant.
Her husband usually wore trews, but today he was clad in a kilt of his clan’s tartan pattern, and she shut down the zing of awareness that hit her. His ivory tunic, or leine as they called them, wasn’t tight, but the defined muscles of his chest were as beautiful as his rare smile. She couldn’t see them, but she remembered every inch of his body. Even mad as hell at him, he was the hottest thing she’d ever seen.
Mad’s not right.
She wasn’t mad. She was…
“Juliette?” he repeated.
Her name rolled over her in his thick brogue. It got her every time, as well as his refusal to call her by her nickname, even after a year of marriage. He always said her name was too beautiful to shorten.
She jolted. Cleared her throat. Tried to shut down her draw to him. “I’m leaving, Hugh.”
Silence fell, but Jules couldn’t look away. To keep her hands busy, she lifted the bundle of her belongings and held it in front of her. It wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t much.
Hugh’s gaze fell to her tummy, but then he averted his eyes and shifted in his boots. Like evidence of their child on her body burned him.