A Highland Werewolf Wedding Page 2

He’d seen the uncertainty in her dark brown eyes, the guarded hope he might rescue her from this nightmare. He’d felt a twinge of need—to protect her.

He picked up her wolf scent and headed for the wharves. Then he saw Robert Kilpatrick and the McKinley brothers and overheard Robert saying, “We have to get her before Whittington does.”

Were they kin to the Hawthorn brothers? Most likely they wanted the same information from her as Cearnach did: where was the stolen property the Hawthorn brothers had hidden in Scotland?

She didn’t stand a chance unless Cearnach could reach her first.

Chapter 1

Present Day, Scotland

Pacing across his brother’s office in the solar of Argent Castle, Cearnach MacNeill was determined not to back down on this issue with Ian, his older brother, clan chief, and pack leader of their Highland gray werewolf pack. Cearnach had promised Calla Stewart that he would show up at her wedding to lend moral support. Friends did that for friends. He would attend because she had asked him to, even though he knew his being there could stir up real trouble.

Why did she have to marry into the McKinley clan? Pirates, every last one of them, even though the pirating stopped a century ago. As far as he was concerned, they were still a bunch of ruthless brigands.

Determination was etched on Ian’s scowling face as he studied Cearnach while remaining seated at his dark oak desk. He was struggling to allow Cearnach to attend his friend’s wedding, worried about his safety, not happy about it, but reluctant to take a stand and say no. That was one of the reasons Cearnach loved his older quadruplet brother. He was a born leader of men with a heart of gold. Though no one would say the latter to his face. Ian was certain that he hid that part of himself well enough so he could take on the world and them when he needed to.

His people knew better.

The weather was dismal this fall day at Argent Castle, and the room itself was dark and gloomy. The bookshelves were filled with leather-bound volumes of the history of their clan. The rich, burgundy Turkish tapestries covering the floor, the brown leather chairs, and Ian’s oak desk all took on an ominous cast, like a scene from a gothic novel.

Ian’s jaw clenched like it did when he gave one of his brothers an order or at least a strong suggestion, or when any of them disagreed with him on an issue. Since Cearnach was the second eldest brother and next in command, Ian usually gave him more leeway, knowing Cearnach’s heart and head were normally in the right place.

“I don’t understand,” Ian said finally, his dark brown eyes gauging Cearnach’s resolve like a wolf attempting to see the inner workings of someone’s thoughts. “You’re not looking for a fight, are you? Attending Calla’s wedding could stir up bad feelings we don’t need with another Highland wolf clan. Especially that one.”

“You’re right. You don’t understand. You would do whatever it took to be there for family or in choosing a mate. But you’ve never had a female friend who wasn’t family. With me, Calla’s just a friend. Being there for her is important to me.”

“Aye, a friend. She tossed you a rope to keep you from drowning in the swollen river when you were a wee lad, and now you feel you owe her the same. She’s made her choice,” Ian reminded him, though Cearnach didn’t need the reminder. “She doesn’t believe she needs rescuing.

“Alpha males don’t take kindly to other wolves crossing the line. You’ve tried to talk her out of the mating, but she’s making the commitment to Baird McKinley anyway. Neither her family nor the McKinleys will be happy to see you, Cearnach. You’ll be the enemy in their midst. Some will know you tried to dissuade her from marrying the brigand. We all know what he’s like. She’s too stubborn to see it.”

Aye, she was, but Cearnach didn’t want to hear Ian telling him so. “She asked me to be there. I have to go, Ian. I’m already running late.”

Ian furrowed his brow at his brother. “You’re never late to anything. You’re always early or on time. Doesn’t that say something to you about this whole ludicrous venture? That you shouldn’t be going? That you don’t really want to go?”

Cearnach looked out the window at the Caledonian Forest beyond the castle walls, where the hearty breeze stirred the branches of the Scots pines while smoky gray clouds stretched across the sky. He didn’t answer.

“You’re not going to object to the marriage, are you?” Ian said as more of an observation than a question.

Cearnach straightened. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got there.

Sounding deeply exasperated, Ian let out his breath. “Couldn’t you have worn something less… antagonistic?”

At that, Cearnach couldn’t help but smile… an evil smile. He turned to face his brother. “What? My kilt? I’m proud of being a MacNeill.”

“Aye, and the sword?” Ian said, motioning to it.

“Part of the formal dress. All wolves wear them to Highland weddings. I wouldn’t be caught dead without it.”

“Aye, but in this case they might consider you a threat, thinking possibly you have plans to steal the bride away, a time-honored tradition in the Highlands and still among wolves. Here’s hoping you won’t have to use your sword. Call me when you get there and after it’s done. I want to know if I have to send the troops out to rescue you.”

Cearnach bowed his head slightly in acceptance. “I’m off, Ian. Wish me luck.”

Ian shook his head. “You may need it, Brother.”

Feeling disconcerted about Calla and what she was about to do, but not worried about his own safety as he could hold his own against any of the McKinley clan, Cearnach stalked out of his brother’s solar. He walked down the corridor where paintings of past clan chiefs and their mates hung on the walls, keeping watch as if to guide the clan on its way.

Cearnach hurried through the great hall, shoved the massive oak door to the keep open, and closed it behind him. His boots tromping on the ancient stone pavers, he crossed the inner bailey to the garage near the stables where he and his brothers’ cars were parked.

The gray clouds were darkening, the smell of a rainstorm gathering power and a cold breeze whipping around him. He hoped the rain would hold off until after he reached the church. Two of his cousins were practicing fighting with swords, their weapons singing as steel met steel.

Another couple of men were wearing their wolf coats, lying on their stomachs, heads raised, ears perked, while they enjoyed observing the sword play, always looking for tips and techniques they could use themselves. They turned to see him and bowed their heads in greeting as the men who were sparring stopped briefly to acknowledge their second-in-command.

He nodded and continued without stopping. If he was to make it to the wedding on time, he would have to drive a wee bit faster than he’d intended. He didn’t want to think too deeply about why he was going to arrive a little late. Ian was right. He never was late to anything.

But he wanted to ensure that he wasn’t thrown out of the church before Calla knew he had arrived, and he wanted Baird McKinley to know that Cearnach wouldn’t be stopped from making an appearance.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Anlan, one of their Irish wolfhounds, racing to greet him. “Not now, Anlan,” Cearnach said as one of the men and the two wolves headed the dog off. Thwarted, Anlan woofed, telling Cearnach that he wanted to go for a ride.

“Fatherhood already getting you down?” Cearnach asked. Anlan’s pups were two months old and ready for new homes as soon as Ian or his mate, who was the holdup really, offered them for sale.

Anlan whimpered, standing still and looking so longingly in Cearnach’s direction that Cearnach knew the hound wanted desperately to go for a ride with him. Cearnach could just envision the sight, him in Highland dress with his long-legged, lanky, bristle-furred hound at his side as he entered the church.

Cearnach climbed into the silver minivan, turned over the engine, and headed out of the garage wishing he had something grander and faster to drive—like a Mercedes-Benz roadster or a Ferrari. If it wasn’t about to rain, a Lamborghini convertible would have been nice.

He drove through the open castle gates and then through the outer bailey. Out on the main road, he tore off in the direction of the church and cursed the wind for impeding his progress.

Trying to get his mind off the drive ahead and the dwindling time, he thought about Calla and the regret he felt that he couldn’t have been the one for her. They just didn’t have what it took to be a couple.

No matter how many times he told himself Calla understood what she was doing, he knew Baird McKinley didn’t deserve her. She was making a big mistake.

An hour later, only halfway to the church and with the strong headwind thwarting his progress, Cearnach came around a bend in the hilly road to see a black Mercedes hogging the pavement in his lane. Since the other driver wasn’t budging, Cearnach jerked his car off the road before they collided head-on.

Hell and damnation!

With the rate of speed he was going, the car sailed over the rocks littering the terrain, ripping up the rear tires with a boom! And another boom! The tires exploded before he could brake the car enough to stop it.

Cursing a blue streak, he cut the engine and climbed out of the car to see who the idiot driver was. Probably someone who had been celebrating a wee bit too much. He grabbed his sheathed sword and strapped it around his waist.

The black car had pulled to the side of the road, the driver hidden behind tinted windows, the engine purring.

The chilly wind tugging at his hair and kilt, Cearnach stormed toward the vehicle. He was ready to commandeer it to drive to the wedding, while letting the driver sleep the liquor off in the backseat.

When the driver’s door opened, a long-legged brunette stepped out of the car. He had a hell of a time shifting his gaze from those shapely legs and a pair of sexy high-heeled pumps—her clingy red dress having risen to mid-thigh before it settled lower—to see how good the rest of her looked. Especially since he’d expected some sloppy-drunk male type.

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