The winner of a Facebook banner by Cora is Eileen Richards. Congratulations Eileen. Historical Heartbeats appreciates the interest in Cora’s interview. She is a talented artist, so continue to follow her work and watch for the pretty covers she produces.
Cora designed the cover for A Highland Ruby, the second book in the Highland Treasures series. Readers of the Historical Heartbeats blog are first to see the beautiful cover.
She must choose between a life of adventure with the man she loves or a settled, secure life with her betrothed. Flora Vass put Gavin Munro out of her heart and mind until his return to Scotland after an adventurous five years in the New World. Gavin leaves no doubt he returned to make the bonnie Flora his own and intends to fight for her. Flora’s betrothed, Iain MacKay, and Gavin’s brother, Chief Andrew Munro, have other plans. Andrew needs her to marry the MacKay to bring peace between the two clans. Iain MacKay desires an heir. War with England looms on the horizon, forcing Flora to choose between her heart’s desire and her logical choice.
Excerpt from A Highland Ruby:
Scottish Highlands, 1513
Ferindonald, Easter Ross
He watched her through the grey mist, walking along the shore of Cromarty Firth. The hood of her arisaid covered her bonnie russet locks, but he imagined them bouncing with each step she took. She came every morn, sometimes with the wee curly-headed laddie in tow, but now, she walked alone. His heart beat a fast rhythm like a lad watching his first love. How foolish to be hiding behind a rock when he could speak to her, hold her hand, and look into her dark eyes.
Gavin gathered courage and stood to his full height when Flora walked past the rock where he hid. “Flora,” he said in a quiet voice. She continued to walk, not hearing him above the moaning wind.
Quickly, her took a place beside her, then grabbed her arm. She screamed as she turned to face him. Her eyes widened with fear, she tried to jerk her arm free, then beat his chest with the fist of the other hand, and kicked his shin with the toe of a pointed boot.
Gavin jumped from the boot’s path, but kept her arm secure. “Stop. ‘Tis I, Gavin.” She stopped kicking and the free hand went to her mouth while she studied his face. A small squeak emerged from between full red lips. He watched her lips for a moment, then bent to place a kiss on the inviting mouth. She became rigid and with no response.
He released her arm then backed away. She continued to stare as though he were a stranger, and he very well may be to her now. After all, five years in the wilderness of the New World can change a man beyond recognition. An image of his brother popped into mind. Would Andrew welcome him back to Fàrdach Castle after all these years? Gavin doubted he would receive a warm welcome.
Flora’s hand raised for an instant then came across his face with a stinging blow. He rubbed at the burning cheek. “How dare you,” she screamed above the wind. “You left me. You left me.” She hit his chest with both fists now.
Gavin grabbed her wrists bringing her close. “Stop. I only want to see you, be near you once more. May I walk with you? Just a short distance?”
Flora stared. Her brown eyes larger now with surprise or mayhap shock. She stopped struggling and rested her head on his chest. A seagull called overhead and waves lapped against the shore of the firth. Gavin pushed the hood of her arisaid back, stroking her hair while wrapping an arm around her slender waist. The russet locks felt soft to his fingers. They smelled with the sweet fragrance of heather and salt air, just as he remembered and dreamed. The mist had damped one small curl so that it clung to her neck. He touched the softness of her skin when the curl lay. They stood for a long time. Flora now seemed reluctant to move and Gavin did not wish to spoil the moment.
Finally, she stepped back and looked into his eyes. A line creased her fair brow. “Why did you come back? I made a life without you.”
“I wanted to see you and the boy. Andrew sent a message while I was still in Barcelona waiting for a ship to the New World.”
Flora searched Gavin’s face. “You look older, tanned, hardened.”
“Aye. I’ve been living in a wilderness, defending myself from the wild natives and animals. Searching for gold while starving for food. Takes a lot out of a mon.”
“I am betrothed to a fine mon. One who loves and wants me and my bairns. I will nae have you back, Gavin. You left me carrying your bairn. I’ll nae have you back.” She beat his chest once more. Tears spilled over to her cheeks.
He grabbed her wrist. “I understand, Flora. I understand. I’ll leave you alone, I will. But I do want to see my son.” He kissed each tear-filled eyelid, then her cheeks, and not being able to resist the temptation, her inviting lips.
Flora didn’t resist, and when the kiss grew more passionate, responded. Her arms went around his neck, her body melted into his so her warmth reached his very soul.