Shake Loose the Border
(Thunder on the Moor, Book 3)
With Will and Maggie’s wedding just a week away, the last thing they need to stumble upon is Johnnie Hetherington’s dead body tied to a tree, especially one that’s so close to their cottage. Recognizing it as a sure sign that Johnnie has betrayed the family once too often, Sergeant Richie Carnaby gathers Will and his family together for questioning, though it seems obvious only a fool would kill a man on his own land. Then who did murder the rogue, and why?
Feeling confident it wasn’t any of the Fosters, Richie allows Will and Maggie’s wedding to proceed, but the couple has barely exchanged vows when the Armstrongs attack in force. Geordie is determined to rescue his niece from the clutches of Will Foster, whether she wants to go or not. And if he happens to make her a widow, so be it. Will senses the danger and implores Dylan to get Maggie away to safety, no matter where — or when — that may be.
Though Maggie protests, Will assures her he will follow as soon as he is able. Yet how can that be possible when Dylan whisks her back to the twentieth century? Sharing her fears about Will, and unable to forget his own love, Annie, Dylan attempts to return to the past one last time despite his growing concerns over the disintegrating amulet stone. But will he make it in time to rescue Will, or will the villainous Ian Rutherford, who has already killed in cold blood once, win the ultimate battle and see Will and Maggie separated forever?
Sex and violence
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Read an Excerpt
Johnnie Hetherington had spent the last few days skulking around the Foster peel, even going so far as to join them as they rode out with Richie Carnaby. It wasn’t that he was a particularly brave man, but with that crowd he felt safe enough, and he liked a good bit of Jedburgh justice as well as the next man. He even managed to pocket a shilling or two that conveniently dropped from one of the miscreant’s saddlebags. And why not? Lord knew Carnaby would never pay him for such service. It was hard enough squeezing a half crown out of the scoundrel when he had some vital information. But that was neither here nor there.
The real reason behind his sudden familial loyalty had to do with something else entirely. What he truly wanted, what he had been waiting for with bated breath, was an opportunity to step in and claim Maggie Armstrong for himself. He’d failed to stop the handfast, true enough, but that could be broken without too much effort on his part. In fact, when the young couple began to argue, he saw his prospects improve greatly. Then yesterday, Will had actually given both rings back to her. Johnnie thought sure if he bided his time, he could step in and console the poor lass. But it was not to be. Before he even had the chance to make his feelings known, they had reconciled, leaving him out in the cold once more.
To make matters worse, that fool Pete Hetherington had chosen that very moment to come riding from Otterburn to announce that Father Michael was in the area, and that had pretty well ended any hope he had. For the past two days, the entire household had been bustling about, like a bunch of bees around their hive, and here he sat, virtually ignored. There had to be a way to stop this wedding.
Grabbing a piece of bread, he slopped up another mouthful of Betty’s famous stew. Not bad, a bit heavy on the salt for his taste, but far better than anything he could make. He definitely needed to get himself another wife, for he was sick to death of making his own meals. Maggie would fill that role quite nicely.
Pouring himself another tankard of ale, he sat back and rested against the wall of the peel tower. Will and a few of the others were hanging garlands of rosemary and heather with dainty blue forget-me-nots and white fairy flax interspersed throughout. The dais was being set with crisp linen tablecloths and embroidered banners of blue, green, and gold. Johnnie laughed to himself. We’ll see how long it all lasts if the Armstrongs attack. Or more likely when!
The kernel of an idea formed in his head, nearly causing him to laugh out loud. Wouldn’t it be fortuitous if both Bonnie Will and Ian Rutherford met tragic ends in the midst of the fray? Such a devastating turn of events would leave Maggie vulnerable to his comforting embrace. After all, why shouldn’t he claim the Scottish wench for his own?
He scratched his head, contemplating the inevitable. Perhaps it wasn’t wise for him to be spending so much time at the Fosters, though. If he was still here when the Armstrongs did descend upon them, he’d be forced to fight—a prospect he found quite distasteful. On the other hand, if he wasn’t here, someone else might step in to console the grieving widow, and that was even less acceptable. What if he made a secret pact with the Armstrongs, one the Fosters knew nothing about, guaranteeing his safety? He could achieve his objective with the least amount of risk to himself. Slapping his knee, he drained the last dregs of ale from his cup and stood.
Only one way to guarantee the desired outcome. Head north and inform the Armstrongs of the upcoming nuptials. Surely they would be grateful for such information, and then after Ian had taken Will’s life, Johnnie could descend on the unsuspecting Ian, blame it on the Fosters, and step in to claim the wench for himself. Delighted at having concocted such a foolproof plan, he grabbed his cloak from the table and headed down the peel tower steps.
“Leaving us so soon, Johnnie O’Dell?” his cousin Duncan said. He put down the large barrel he was carrying and wiped an arm across his head.
Johnnie suppressed a sigh. His Foster kin were always questioning his motives, thinking themselves better than him.
“Much as I enjoy yer hospitality, Cousin, I do have to head home from time to time. After all, I’ve a son to check in on.”
Duncan narrowed his eyes. “I was of a mind ye fostered wee Eckie off to yer sister?”
“She cares for him, ’tis true, with me wife having passed on and all, but he’s still me bairn, make nae mistake.”
“I’m sure he is,” Duncan said, his lip turned up in an unmistakable snarl of disgust.
Johnnie fought the urge to challenge him on it. No, his cousin would get his comeuppance soon enough when the Armstrongs rode against him and his kin. “I’ve kye to see to as well.”
“’Tis yer sister what keeps them for ye too, does she no’?”
“Her man does, aye . . . for a price. The same as ye and yer brothers do for yer da, nae doubt.”
Duncan chuckled. “No’ quite the same, but ye take care now, Johnnie O’Dell. ’Tis a good ride ye’ve ahead of ye. If ye leave now, ye should make it by the twal hours.”
“I just might that,” Johnnie said, though it would be Eskdale he rode toward, not his pathetic little cottage.
Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science, and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. She is the author of the Thunder on the Moor series set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Border, and the Cross of Ciaran series, where a fifteen hundred year old Celt finds himself in the twentieth century. Andrea is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Long Island Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society.
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