To Tame a Highland Warrior





  Featured Alternate Selection of

  Doubleday Book Club and Rhapsody Book Club

  Praise for the novels of

  karen marie moning

  the dark highlander

  “Darker, sexier, and more serious than Moning’s previous time-travel romances … this wild, imaginative romp takes readers on an exhilarating ride through time and space.”

  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  “Pulsing with sexual tension, Moning delivers a tale romance fans will be talking about for a long time.”

  —The Oakland Press

  “The Dark Highlander is dynamite, dramatic, and utterly riveting. Ms. Moning takes the classic plot of good vs. evil … and gives it a new twist.”

  —Romantic Times

  kiss of the highlander

  “Moning’s snappy prose, quick wit and charismatic characters will enchant.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Moning is quickly building a reputation for writing poignant time travels with memorable characters. This may be the first book I’ve read by her, but it certainly won’t be my last. She delivers compelling stories with passionate characters readers will find enchanting.”

  —The Oakland Press

  “Here is an intelligent, fascinating, well-written foray into the paranormal that will have you glued to the pages. A must read!”

  —Romantic Times

  “Kiss of the Highlander is wonderful…. [Moning’s] storytelling skills are impressive, her voice and pacing dynamic, and her plot as tight as a cask of good Scotch whisky.”

  —The Contra Costa Times

  “Kiss of the Highlander is a showstopper.”

  —Rendezvous

  the highlander’s touch

  “A stunning achievement in time-travel romance. Ms. Moning’s imaginative genius in her latest spellbinding tale speaks to the hearts of romance readers and will delight and touch them deeply. Unique and eloquent, filled with thought-provoking and emotional elements, The Highlander’s Touch is a very special book. Ms. Moning effortlessly secures her place as a top-notch writer.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Ms. Moning stretches our imagination, sending us flying into the enchanting past.”

  —Rendezvous

  Beyond the highland mist

  “A terrific plotline … Gypsies and Scottish mysticism, against the backdrop of the stark beauty of the Highlands … an intriguing story. Poignant and sensual.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “This highly original time travel combines the wonders of the paranormal and the mischievous world of the fairies to create a splendid, sensual, hard-to-put-down romance. You’ll delight in the biting repartee and explosive sexual tension between Adrienne and the Hawk, the conniving Adam, and the magical aura that surrounds the entire story. Karen Marie Moning is destined to make her mark on the genre.”

  —Romantic Times

  Dell Books by Karen Marie Moning

  Beyond the Highland Mist

  To Tame a Highland Warrior

  The Highlander’s Touch

  Kiss of the Highlander

  The Dark Highlander

  The Immortal Highlander

  This one is for Rick Shomo—Berserker extraordinaire;

  and for Lisa Stone—Editor extraordinaire.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Chasing a dream is a risky venture, one made considerably richer by the company and counsel of family and friends. My heartfelt thanks to my mother, who endowed me with her formidable will and taught me never to give up on my dreams, and to my father, who demonstrates daily the nobleness, chivalry, and infinite strength of a true hero.

  My deep appreciation to Mark Lee, a repository for the universe’s trivia, whose bizarre tidbits feed the writer’s soul, and to the special ladies of RBL Romantica for their friendship, insight, and of course the “Bonny and Braw Beefcake Farm.”

  Special thanks to Don and Ken Wilber of the Wilber Law Firm, who created the perfect fit for my dual careers, allowing them to work in synthesis with each other.

  Eternal gratitude to my sister, Elizabeth, who keeps my feet on the ground in so many crucial ways, and to my agent, Deidre Knight, whose professional guidance and personal friendship has enriched both my writing and my life.

  And finally, to the booksellers and readers who made my first novel a success.

  A CELTIC LEGEND

  Legend tells that the power of the Berserker—preternatural strength, prowess, virility, and cunning—can be bought for the going rate of a man’s soul.

  In the heather hills of the Highlands, the Viking god Odin lurks in shadowy places listening for the bitter howl of a man, brutalized beyond mortal endurance, to invoke his aid.

  Legend holds that if the mortal is worthy, the primal breath of the gods blows into the man’s heart, making him an undefeatable warrior.

  Women whisper that the Berserker is an incomparable lover; legend holds there is a single true mate for him. Like the wolf, he loves but once and for all time.

  High in the mountains of Scotland, the Circle Elders say that the Berserker, once summoned, can never be dismissed—and if the man does not learn to accept the primitive instincts of the beast within, he will die.

  Legend tells of such a man …

  PROLOGUE

  Death itself is better than a life of shame.

  Beowulf

  MALDEBANN CASTLE

  THE HIGHLANDS OF SCOTLAND

  1499

  THE SCREAMING HAD TO STOP.

  He couldn’t endure it another minute, yet he knew he was helpless to save them. His family, his clan, his best friend Arron, with whom he’d ridden the heather fields only yesterday, and his mother—oh, but his mother was another story; her murder had presaged this … this … barbaric …

  He turned away, cursing himself for a coward. If he couldn’t save them and he couldn’t die with them, at least he owed them the honor of scribing the events into his memory. To avenge their deaths.

  One at a time, if necessary.

  Vengeance doesn’t bring back the dead. How many times had his father said that? Once Gavrael had believed him, believed in him, but that had been before he’d discovered his mighty, wise, and wonderful da crouched over his mother’s body this morning, his shirt bloodstained, a dripping dagger in his fist.

  Gavrael McIllioch, only son of the Laird of Maldebann, stood motionless upon Wotan’s Cleft, gazing down the sheer cliff at the village of Tuluth, which filled the valley hundreds of feet below. He wondered how this day had turned so bitter. Yesterday had been a fine day, filled with the simple pleasures of a lad who would one day govern these lush Highlands. Then this cruel morning had broken, and with it his heart. After discovering his da crouched above the savaged body of Jolyn McIllioch, Gavrael had fled for the sanctuary of the dense Highland forest, where he’d passed most of the day swinging wildly between rage and grief.

  Eventually both had receded, leaving him oddly detached. At dusk, he’d retraced his path to Castle Maldebann to confront his sire with accusations of murder in a final attempt to make sense of what he’d witnessed, if there was sense to be made. But now, standing on the cliff high above Tuluth, the fourteen-year-old son of Ronin McIllioch realized his nightmare had only begun. Castle Maldebann was under siege, the village was engulfed in flames, and people were darting frantically between pillars of flames and piles of the dead. Gavrael watched helplessly as a small boy sped past a hut, directly into the blade of a waiting McKane. He recoiled; they were only children, but children could grow up to seek vengeance, and the fanatic McKane never left seeds of hatred to take root and bear poisonous fruit.

  By the light of the fire engulfing t