Muse Books
Guardians of the Isles, Book 6
Release Date:

May 23, 2024



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Enchanted by the Highlander


Gerri Russell

He meant to rescue the beauty, instead she saved him.

Stolen by the fairies as an infant and finally returned to the human realm by his clan, Keiran MacLeod has cultivated a wall of aloofness. To hide his differences from years in a magical realm, he focuses his attention on managing his brother, the laird’s, many estates. But when he risks his life to save the alluring Rosalyn de Clare from an attack by the English and heals her with magic, the temptress destroys his ability to remain detached from society and romantic entanglements.

Reluctantly traveling to Scotland to force-marry an ambitious English nobleman determined to occupy the Scottish Highlands, Rosalyn de Clare, is injured in a battle. Rescued by a handsome Highland warrior, Rosalyn now has a new fear—losing her heart. Keiran is unlike any man she’s ever met, and his sorrow and loneliness call to her to heart.

Keiran fears bringing Rosalyn to Dunvegan Castle. Their countries are on the verge of war, but a mock marriage may be the only path to ensure her safety as enemies gather close.

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Chapter One

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Saturday, April 20th, 1743

As the sun set in the window behind him, Keiran MacLeod moved to the door of his chamber, hesitating for a moment. This evening marked that it had been a fortnight since he’d returned to Dunvegan Castle and his clan. He drew a tight breath. And every day since, his marriage-minded sisters and sisters-in-law had been parading at least one local lady before him with the hopes that she would catch his eye.

Tonight, he was certain they would bring forth Arabella, Gwendolyn’s sixteen-year-old sister, as a potential mate. At least that was what Gwendolyn, his brother Alastair’s wife, had intimated early in the day. Drawing a fortifying breath, he stepped from the chamber and was met by his sister Rowena.

“There you are. I was just coming up to look for you,” Rowena said. The fact that she had been leaning against the wall belied her statement. She’d been waiting for him to emerge. “What took you so long?” Her dark eyes narrowed.

It gave him a start every time how much Rowena looked like their mother. Dark hair, dark eyes, but with a kindness that seemed to shine from within. “I had a little trouble with my tartan.” It was a partial truth and as good an excuse as any for why he had lingered in his chamber so long.

“Come.” Rowena looped her arm through his, trying to pull him forward. “Arabella waits in the great hall for you.”

Keiran remained where he stood, resisting. Stolen by the fairies as a child, he’d been magically aged from only a month old to three and twenty by the fairy king who had no liking for infants. Oberon had aged him maturity-wise as well, though at times he still felt childlike in that he wanted to rage sometimes against all that had happened to him. He was a fairy, yet he was human. He belonged to two different families, two different worlds. His human family wanted so much for him to be like them, to pretend he’d never left them. But he had. He’d been a fairy for a while. Could he ever fully leave that part of himself behind and be the MacLeod they wanted?

Every day he tried to adjust to his new life among not only his kin, but also humans and their strange ways, such as why all the women of the castle seemed to want him to marry before he even figured out who he truly was in this realm. “Why are all of you so eager to see me wed?”

Rowena’s features fell. “We simply want you to be happy.”

“Wouldn’t I be happier if I was allowed to choose a bride myself? And in my own time?” he asked.

“It is just that since you’ve returned you have been so aloof, so sullen. I know all of us and this castle are unfamiliar to you, but we . . .” Rowena’s features pinched. “I want to see you settled or at least happy before Marcus and I leave on the morrow.”

There was a long silence before Keiran spoke. “I have been away a long time. I need more than another evening to readjust to my new life. Please give me the freedom of discovery at my own pace without rushing me into marriage.”

A pink tinge stained her cheeks. “But—”

“Sail off with Marcus to follow your dreams, Rowena. Mine will be found elsewhere and on my own time.”

She nodded. “You cannot blame a sister for trying.”

“I am more than certain Gwendolyn, Fiona, Isolde, and Aria will continue in your absence,” he said with a hint of humour.

She smiled as she shrugged. “You are on your own there, for I will be gone soon.” Her smile faded. “You may have been absent from Dunvegan Castle for nine years, but we all love you and only want what is best for you.”

“I can appreciate that, but I am still trying to reconcile my present with my past and learn how to be a human among humans.”

Rowena placed her hand against Keiran’s chest. “No matter where you have been or what has happened in the past, you are a MacLeod and not so different from the rest of your family.”

A jab of pain pierced his heart. If she only knew how different he was from everyone. “They accept me because they must, but I doubt any of you will ever truly understand me.”

“Give it time, Keiran. It was hard for the MacLeods to accept Marcus and even Aria at first, but they finally did.” Rowena offered him an encouraging smile. “Come along, we really must go to supper before the entire family comes looking for you.”

He remained rooted to the floor. “Only if you promise there will be no more matchmaking tonight.”

“I promise.” Without waiting for a response, she took his hand and dragged him down the stairs to the great hall. As expected, he had barely set foot in the chamber before Arabella was paraded before him.

“Good evening, Keiran,” Gwendolyn greeted at the doorway with one of her twin infants in her arms and Arabella at her side. “Might you sit with us tonight?”

Keiran offered the young girl a bow before tossing Gwendolyn an irritated scowl.

Rowena shook her head. “I promised Keiran a night free of entanglements,” she said as she continued escorting him past the pink-cheeked young woman. “Perhaps after a night spent talking about books with Orrick, battle techniques with Tormod, or the affairs of the estate with Alastair, he will be receptive of feminine companionship once again.”

Rowena finally released his arm as she approached the head table where his three eldest brothers—along with Graeme and Marcus—were seated. A large hand-drawn map was spread across the table before them. “I will leave you to your fate.” With a wink, she turned to rejoin Gwendolyn and Arabella.

“What was that all about?” Orrick asked, patting an open space on the bench beside him.

“A desperate attempt by Rowena to make me feel contrite for not falling into the plans your wives have for my future,” Keiran said as he slid onto the bench.

“You are safe with us,” Orrick said, his voice filled with affection as he clapped Keiran on the shoulder.

Alastair, his eldest brother and laird of their clan, poured then passed Keiran a mug of ale. He accepted it gratefully as he glanced at the men beside him. Next to his brothers sat Marcus, Rowena’s husband, and Graeme, Aria’s husband. Their faces were still unfamiliar, but their welcoming smiles were not. These men had been nothing but kind to Keiran since his arrival. They had walked him through every part of the estate, had battled with him in the lists—not going easy on him—for which he was thankful. That he had to work to succeed helped him feel a sense of accomplishment.

“Are you finding your way around the estate well enough?” Tormod asked.

Keiran sipped his ale then nodded. “Aye. I spend most of my days wandering around, since I have little else to do. Today I found a place on the northern side of the castle where the three of you—Alastair, Tormod, and Orrick—carved your initials into the stone.”

“I had forgotten about that.” Alastair laughed as supper was served.

Mrs Honey’s dinner was a simple affair. A fine stew of beef and vegetables braised in ale, with thick slices of yeasty bread, and more ale to wash it all down. When they had all finished, they returned their attention to Keiran.

“Are you feeling more at home?” Alastair asked.

Keiran raised his gaze to Alastair from the map that he had studied all through the meal. “I would feel more at ease if I had something to do besides surveying the estate. There must be some way I can contribute?”

“There is,” Alastair said, glancing once more at the map. “You have proven yourself to be intelligent and resourceful since you arrived here. It is time for us to start including you in the MacLeod family affairs. I would like you to become my estate manager.”

“Truly?” Keiran replied, his excitement growing.

“Aye. I shall go over each estate with you tomorrow and all the tasks managing them entails.”

“Whatever I can do to help.” Keiran smiled. Had his family finally accepted him for who he was? He had a history with the fairies, but the MacLeods did as well. For they all possessed a hint of fairy blood since the time four hundred years ago when Laird Iain Cair MacLeod married a fairy princess. Their child had passed down that trait to all the MacLeods since.

“I am glad you are willing to assist us because we need your help in an urgent matter. The threat of an English invasion grows daily,” Tormod explained, drawing Keiran’s attention back to the moment. “There are reports of the British army stationed here and here.” Tormod pointed to two areas on the map well away from where Keiran presumed Dunvegan to be, based on the shape of the familiar coastline. “The English are sending more troops all the time, growing ever closer to the Isle of Skye. The clans are growing anxious.”

Keiran frowned. “I understand that an English presence here in Scotland is not a welcome thing, but how can I help with that?”

“We want you to go with us tomorrow morning to retrieve the latest troop movement report from Clan Nicolson,” Tormod said grimly. “The only way to keep the clans safe is to know where the English are positioning themselves. We have heard rumours of an impending attack on Scottish clans who are supporters of Charles Stuart returning to the throne of Scotland.”

“I am overjoyed at being included in your plans, but do not all of you need to see Marcus and Rowena off on their journey tomorrow?” Keiran asked.

All gazes shifted to Marcus. The dark-haired man’s features were pensive. “Rowena would be upset if her brothers were not there to bid her farewell, though I am also certain she would understand.”

“If this mission is to be a stealthy one, then perhaps it is best if one man goes instead of a whole contingent. It would be far less conspicuous, and easier to manoeuvre within the cover of the landscape.” Keiran pressed his lips together as he concentrated on the map. “Where is this meeting to take place?”

“Near Struan, along the west coast,” Tormod replied with a tilt of his head.

“Where is Struan on the map?” Keiran asked.

“Are you ready for such a mission?” Tormod asked as he pointed to a location along the western coastline.

“Nay, ’tis too dangerous for you to go alone.” Orrick’s brows came tighter as he regarded Keiran. “Besides, you are still unfamiliar with the human realm.”

Keiran flipped the map to hide it. “The west coast is approximately an hour’s ride on horseback from Dunvegan, continuing south on to Struan would take perhaps another hour. There are multiple woodlands, and plenty of hills where I can stay hidden and assess the situation as I proceed on my way.”

Alastair arched a brow. “How did you know all that?”

“I was always the scout sent out to assess conflicts between fairies in different regions of Fairyland. I learned how to read the landscape, judge distances, determine threats, and advised Oberon what actions to take.”

That his brothers stared at him wide-eyed brought a flare of warmth to Keiran’s chest. “Had you assumed I did nothing in Fairyland over the past nine years?”

Alastair recovered first and cast Keiran a contrite grin. “Forgive us. We are all still trying to reconcile that our baby brother is as old as we are and very skilled in certain things.”

“Are you certain you are up for this task?” Orrick asked.

“Aye.” Keiran straightened. “It seems simple enough.”

“Nothing is simple when the English are involved. Remember that,” Tormod said.

Keiran nodded.

Alastair looked to his brothers, then Marcus and Graeme. “It looks like we will all be here to see Marcus and Rowena off on their next journey.” His gaze landed on Keiran. “And you, dear brother, will take your place as the new family spy.”

The next morning, Keiran clutched his horse’s reins in his hands as he stood next to Alastair. It was not yet sunrise, so the lanterns in the courtyard of Dunvegan Castle had been lit. Golden hues sent the shadows writhing into the darkness beyond the castle gate. The earthy scents of dirt and grass mixed with the tang of the salty air. This was the smell of his home—a home still unfamiliar in many ways, especially the ways of his family.

Earlier abovestairs, determined to wear the clothing of his people, he had lain his clan’s tartan on the floor, pleating it the way his brother Callum had shown him. It had taken Keiran three tries before he had managed to create something akin to the lay of the garments his brothers wore.

Despite the fact the garment was crafted from marvellously soft wool, the human-made cloth itched against his skin. It took great strength not to scratch his upper thighs as he slipped his feet into equally unfamiliar leather boots. These were the garments of his people. No matter how uncomfortable they were, he would wear them until they felt as though they were a part of who he was—the last-born son of a Scottish laird, not the favoured yet stolen son of the fairy king.

“Keiran, are you listening to me?” Alastair asked, bringing Keiran’s attention back to the courtyard and the men beside him. “Perhaps you are not yet ready for this task.”

Keiran straightened, terrified that his wandering thoughts might cost him the very thing he had sought since he’d returned: the trust of his family.

“Nay. I am ready. I can do this, Alastair. Please.” He’d never had to beg for anything in the fairy realm. Oberon had allowed him anything he asked until the enchantment over him had been broken by his fairy sister, Aria. Then Oberon had called him a fool.

Keiran bristled at the memory. He was no fool and he would prove such to his kin. He needed them to look upon him not as a sad charity case who had lost his childhood, but as someone who could grasp his future and mould it to his liking. Keiran needed this simple task Alastair asked of him to prove to himself and to his family he was ready to be a man, not a youngling in the nursery. “I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t.” Alastair still hesitated, studying Keiran intensely. “Are you certain you want to do this mission alone? I could send a small contingent of soldiers to accompany you.”

Keiran shook his head. “I will be less conspicuous as a single rider should I come upon the enemy.” He could ride a horse, navigate the land better than most humans—having learned his navigating skills in Fairyland—and could hold his own in battle, making him the perfect choice for this mission. “A simple enough task even for me. I can do this, Alastair. Give me a chance to prove my worth.”

Alastair nodded. “The Nicolsons will meet you past the village of Struan at the iron-age broch, Dun Beag. The meeting shall take place as the sun reaches its zenith, meaning you will be able to ride there and back well before sunset.”

Keiran mounted the horse and turned towards the open gates. “Then I shall see you at supper.”

The silence of morning surrounded Keiran as he passed through the gates, following the path to the south-east. With a renewed sense of determination, Keiran urged the horse beneath him into a faster gait as he watched a yellowish-white glow spread across the land before him. His breath hitched at the sight. He still could not believe the differences in the light between the human and fairy realms, especially at sunrise.

As the sun crested over the horizon, he felt his whole being warm, stretch, as though he too were embracing the new day that was upon him. As the crisp white light intensified, he drew in a slow breath, connecting momentarily with the source beyond his reach, the source of all life, hoping today would not be the day Oberon, the king of the fairies and his one-time father, would force him back to Fairyland.

Keiran turned to look behind him at the fading image of Dunvegan Castle. The MacLeods were happy to have him back, and he was eager to find his place among his human family. Yet, a part of him also held back, waiting for something to happen, for Oberon to show himself. The MacLeods assumed Keiran would be safe in the human realm forever because Oberon had vanished under a wave of fairy magic. But Keiran had witnessed Oberon’s ability to survive when defeated previously. There would be a day in the future when the fairy king would reappear to take his revenge against both Keiran for leaving and the MacLeods for taking what Oberon believed was his—both Keiran and the magical Fairy Flag.

Keiran sighed as he pulled his thoughts back to the present. Perhaps he should have told his brothers about the possibility of Oberon returning, but Keiran hadn’t wanted anything to stand in the way of his going on this mission for his clan. It might take years for Oberon to retaliate. Or he may never come for the MacLeods again. Instead of dwelling on what might happen someday, Keiran watched the morning light illuminate the leaves and branches of the trees with a gentle caress. The trees welcomed the light, stretching their limbs and swaying in the breeze. With a second sigh, Keiran encouraged his horse into a gallop, feeling suddenly alone and longing for something he could not name.

As he rode, the bright and fresh morning light came over the landscape ahead of him, changing the colours and shapes of everything it touched. The green grass and the rusty-gold moss that covered the moorland looked more alive and vibrant than anything he had ever seen in Fairyland.

Two hours later, Keiran held the reins loosely in his hands as he navigated the unkempt road leading into Struan. Instead of entering the village, he headed for the grassy terrain along the outskirts, not wanting to bring any attention to himself. He continued, pausing only for a small herd of deer to bolt across his path and disappear into the sparse woodland on the other side.

When finally, he came to the top of a ridge, he peered into the distance, seeing the broch. Keiran frowned. The iron-age fort had seen better days. The roof had collapsed, and the stones of the once mighty tower lay in crumbles about its base. He had assumed the Nicolsons resided here, but clearly, he had been wrong. No one could live in such a derelict place.

Keiran rode down the hillside until he pulled his horse to a halt in front of the ruined doorway, then jumped down. Allowing his horse to graze on the grass nearby, he walked along the overgrown path that led to Dun Beag. Suddenly, the heavy door of the broch swung open, and a young man stepped out, a sword in his hands. His clothing was covered in dirt and blood and his eyes were wild. “Leave immediately if you value your life.”

The hard metallic snap of firearms being cocked sounded behind him and Keiran turned to see two men had stepped from the treeline towards the broch. For a terrifying moment, violence thickened the air.

“I am no threat to you.” Keiran stopped, splaying his hands at his sides in a gesture of surrender. “I am here to meet the Nicolsons.”

“And you are?” asked a voice behind him.

“Keiran MacLeod from Clan MacLeod. My brother Alastair sent me.”

The sword in the young man’s hand lowered. “Apologies. We needed to be certain. We are still gathering our wits. The English set upon us only an hour ago as we waited for you to join us.”

Keiran looked behind him. The rifles lowered. One older man handed his rifle to the other red-headed man before reaching inside his sporran for a folded and sealed missive that he held out to Keiran. “Take this and protect it with your life. If the English find you with a map of their whereabouts, they will show you no mercy,” the elder Nicolson said.

Keiran accepted the missive and tucked it into the tail of his tartan, close to his heart. He must return with the news, and quickly, especially if the English were roaming the area. “Thank you for the information. I will make certain Alastair sees it before nightfall.”

The elder Nicholson offered a nod. “Safe journey, MacLeod.”

Keiran returned to his horse and set off at a swift trot back up the hilly terrain. He would find a safer place well away from Struan to allow his horse a rest. For now, they had to journey on and keep the information he’d gathered from the Nicolsons safe.

After a brisk hour of riding, Keiran slowed his horse to a stop near a creek that was just deep enough for horse and man to refresh themselves. The afternoon sunshine filtered through the trees, lending a quiet peacefulness to the area. For a moment, Keiran allowed himself to relax near the creek, reclining on a bed of tall grass. He closed his eyes and listened to the gentle rustling of the wind as it moved through the tender blades.

He wasn’t certain how much time had passed when the whispering of the wind shifted to a soft thumping, then a sharper thudding. He sat upright just as a horse shrieked in the distance, followed by the clanging of steel against steel.

Keiran’s heart pounded wildly as he saw ten men dressed in bright red coats surge towards another contingent of five men dressed in drab travel clothes. A heartbeat later, Keiran saw a splash of green silk, a length of brown hair, and a slim figure among the drably dressed men.

A woman. His breath caught as the men in red set upon the entire travelling party, savagely slicing anyone in their path.

A feminine cry pierced the air.

Abandoning sanity and self-preservation, Keiran mounted his horse and drew his sword. He shifted his weight forward. His horse understood the command. Together they charged through a sea of red towards that strangely misplaced femineity floating on a sea of death.

His mission had been to stay in the shadows, but how could he when a woman’s life was at stake?

End of Excerpt

Enchanted by the Highlander is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-96-1

May 23, 2024

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