The Dark Highlander





  Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Praise for Karen Marie Moning

  First Prologue

  Second Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Quotes

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Quote

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Sources

  Dear Reader

  About the Author

  Dell Books by KAREN MARIE MONING

  Copyright Page

  This one is for the women

  who made it possible through their extraordinary encouragement, support, and patience:

  Deidre Knight, Wendy McCurdy,

  and Nita Taublib—thank you!

  Time is the coin of your life.

  It is the only coin you have,

  and only you can determine how it will be spent,

  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

  —CARL SANDBURG

  Praise for Karen Marie Moning’s

  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

  “RITA award–winning romance author Karen Marie Moning pens another contender for that coveted award. Kiss of the Highlander belongs on everyone’s list of best novels of the year.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Kiss of the Highlander IS WONDERFUL. . . . Her 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

  “If you enjoy a brisk-paced book, an ingenious plot, good humor, and erotic love scenes, then you won’t want to miss Kiss of the Highlander.”

  —Romance Fiction Forum

  “Kiss of the Highlander is a showstopper.”

  —Rendezvous

  FIRST PROLOGUE

  In a place difficult for humans to find, a man, of sorts—it amused him to go by the name of Adam Black among mortals—approached a silk-canopied dais and knelt before his queen.

  “My queen, The Compact is broken.”

  Aoibheal, queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, was silent for a long time. When finally she turned to her consort, her voice dripped ice. “Summon the council.”

  SECOND PROLOGUE

  Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, there settled in Ireland a race called the Tuatha Dé Danaan who, over time, became known as the True Race, or the Fairy.

  An advanced civilization from a faraway world, the Tuatha Dé Danaan educated some of the more promising humans they encountered in Druid ways. For a time, man and fairy shared the earth in peace, but sadly, bitter dissension arose between them, and the Tuatha Dé Danaan decided to move on. Legend claims they were driven “under the hills” into “fairy mounds.” The truth is they never left our world, but hold their fantastic court in places difficult for humans to find.

  After the Tuatha Dé Danaan left, the human Druids warred among themselves, splintering into factions. Thirteen of them turned to dark ways and—thanks to what the Tuatha Dé Danaan had taught them—nearly destroyed the earth.

  The Tuatha Dé Danaan emerged from their hidden places and stopped the dark Druids moments before they succeeded in damaging the earth beyond repair. They stripped the Druids of their power, scattering them to the far corners of the earth. They punished the thirteen who’d turned dark by casting them into a place between dimensions, locking their immortal souls in an eternal prison.

  The Tuatha Dé Danaan then selected a noble bloodline, the Keltar, to use the sacred knowledge to rebuild and nurture the land. Together, they negotiated The Compact: the treaty governing cohabitation of their races. The Keltar swore many oaths to the Tuatha Dé Danaan, first and foremost that they would never use the power of the standing stones—which give the man who knows the sacred formulas the ability to move through space and time—for personal gain or political ends. The Tuatha Dé Danaan pledged many things in return, first and foremost that they would never spill the lifeblood of a mortal. Both races have long abided by the pledges made that day.

  Over the ensuing millennia, the MacKeltar journeyed to Scotland and settled in the Highlands above what is now called Inverness. Although most of their ancient history from the time of their involvement with the Tuatha Dé Danaan has melted into the mists of their distant past and been forgotten, and although there is no record of a Keltar encountering a Tuatha Dé Danaan since then, they have never strayed from their sworn purpose.

  Pledged to serve the greater good of the world, no MacKeltar has ever broken his sacred oath. On the few occasions they have opened a gate to other times within the circle of stones, it has been for the noblest of reasons: to protect the earth from great peril. An ancient legend holds that if a MacKeltar breaks his oath and uses the stones to travel through time for personal purposes, the myriad souls of the darkest Druids trapped in the in-between will claim him and make him the most evil, terrifyingly powerful Druid humankind has ever known.

  In the late-fifteenth century, twin brothers Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar are born. As their ancestors before them, they protect the ancient lore, nurture the land, and guard the coveted secret of the standing stones.

  Honorable men, without corruption, Dageus and Drustan serve faithfully.

  Until one fateful night, in a moment of blinding grief, Dageus MacKeltar violates the sacred Compact.

  When his brother Drustan is killed, Dageus enters the circle of stones and goes back in time to prevent Drustan’s death. He succeeds, but between dimensions is taken by the souls of the evil Druids, who have not tasted or touched or smelled, not made love or danced or vied for power for nearly four thousand years.

  Now Dageus MacKeltar is a man with one good conscience—and thirteen bad ones. Although he can hold his own for a while, his time is growing short.

  The darkest Druid currently resides in the East 70s in Manhattan, and that is where our story begins.

  PRESENT DAY

  1

  Dageus MacKeltar walked like a man and talked like a man, but in bed he was pure animal.

  Criminal attorney Katherine O’Malley called a spade a spade, and the man was raw Sex with a capital S. Now that she’d slept with him, she was ruined for other men.

  It wasn’t just what he looked like, with his sculpted body, skin poured like gold velvet over steel, chiseled features, and silky black hair. Or that lazy, utterly arrogant smile that promised a woman paradise. And delivered. One hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed.

  It wasn’t even the exotic golden eyes fringed by thick black lashes beneath slanted brows.

  It was what he did to her.

  He was sex like she’d never had in her life, and Katherine ha