The Highlander Next Door (Spellbound Falls)

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9780515153224: The Highlander Next Door (Spellbound Falls)

From the New York Time bestselling Janet Chapman comes this delightful tale of a young woman who's had enough of men...until she meets her spectacular new neighbor.

Legend has it love is carried on the rising mists of Spellbound Falls, and not even time-traveling highlanders are immune to its magic...
 
Birch Callahan has seen the trouble men can cause. After witnessing her mother’s four marriages, Birch now runs a women’s shelter and doesn’t want a man in her life. But there’s something about her neighbor, Niall MacKeage. Birch can’t figure out how the cop can be so big and gruff and yet so insightful and compassionate—and sexy. Or how she’s falling for a man who acts like someone from the twelfth century.
 
Niall knows that Birch is attracted to him, even if she seems to distrust all men. Yet he also knows she has a secret—something that drives her to place herself in harm’s way for the women of her shelter. Niall would gladly rush to Birch’s side to protect her from harm, but with their secrets standing between them, he’ll have to reveal his own truth if he wants to keep her...

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About the Author:

Janet Chapman is the author of more than twenty contemporary and paranormal romance novels, all set in the state of Maine, where she lives with her husband, surrounded by wildlife. Best known for her Highlander series (a family saga of twelfth-century warriors rebuilding their clans in modern-day Maine) and her Spellbound Falls series (an offshoot of the Highlander books), Janet also has several contemporary series set on the coast and in the mountains. With more than three million books printed in six languages, her stories regularly appear on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Despite knowing the orcas and sharks inhabiting the inland sea were under strict orders not to harm humans, Niall put more power to his strokes when he felt something brush against his leg—because, hell, he wasn’t completely suicidal. An idiot, maybe, for taking a moonlight swim, but he figured he’d rather face a killer whale than go chest-to-nose with a pint-sized spitfire determined to drive him crazy.

Birch Callahan hadn’t been on the job a week before she’d started telling him how to do his job; the only problem being that as chief of police, Niall was fairly certain that didn’t include stirring the good people of Spellbound Falls into more of an uproar. He really couldn’t arrest a man for being a penny-pinching grouch, and even if he could, it wasn’t like he had a jail into which he could throw the poor bastard. But if he caught wind of Mrs. Grouch poisoning her husband again . . . well, maybe sitting in some sturdy wooden stocks in the town park would cool off the couple.

He’d have to check if public punishment was legal in this century.

Not that there was anything private about the Kents’ domestic little war.

Niall stopped swimming and listened to the steady breathing off to his right, then silently sank below the surface when he spotted the broad head coming toward him. But remembering he wasn’t suicidal, he resurfaced well behind the dark mass of solid muscle and fangs to see his pet swimming in circles, its head craned out of the water as it searched the moon-bathed swells with obvious alarm.

“Hey, pooch,” he whispered, causing the huge Chesapeake to whip around with a startled snarl. “Ye worried a shark might mistake you for a tasty harbor seal?” he added with a laugh, heading for shore when the dog started paddling toward him. But not about to bite the hand that fed it, Shep merely powered past with a grumbling growl as Niall settled into an easy pace and let his mind return to his pint-sized problem.

For a woman who supposedly had enough university degrees in human behavior to be running Spellbound Falls’ new Crisis Center, Birch Callahan didn’t seem to know when she was being played. If Noreen Kent was being abused by her husband of forty-six years, Niall would place himself in those stocks.

He still wasn’t sure how wanting a new cookstove had turned into a full-blown war between the couple, much less how it had escalated into the townspeople taking sides. But hell, Logan was still unsteady on his feet from his bout of food poisoning, even though Noreen swears she hadn’t deliberately undercooked the now-infamous dinner. As for showing up at the women’s shelter and claiming she feared for her life after Logan shot the offending stove point-blank with both shotgun barrels . . . well, Niall couldn’t arrest a man for destroying his own property, considering his wife hadn’t even been home at the time.

Noreen was a drama queen, and Birch was only feeding the drama by publicly siding with the seventy-year-old woman. That Birch had personally escorted Noreen back to the scene of the crime to gather some belongings only further proved Niall’s point that the spitfire had more passion for her job than common sense. All of which was why, upon finding himself a bachelor, Logan was now eating three meals a day at the Drunken Moose—ironically spending more money than the cost of a new stove—although the poor bastard was dining alone as of late, since he apparently couldn’t operate a clothes washer any more than he could work a toaster.

Niall stopped swimming again when he heard Shep’s excited barks mixed with the shouts of their neighbor, then powered toward shore with a groan of defeat at the realization he was going chest-to-nose tonight after all. He waded onto the beach and ran up the lawn, but broke into a grin when he saw the tug-of-war taking place in the driveway he shared with the shelter. Aye, Birch might be driving him crazy, but it was more from lusting after the beautiful woman than wanting to throttle her.

Shep finally ended the tug-of-war by simply snapping the broom handle in half, only to quickly grab up the bristled end and tear around the dooryard with his prize.

Niall reached Birch just as she straightened from picking up what remained of the handle and plucked it out of her hand when she headed after Shep. “For the love of God, woman, do ye truly have no sense of self-preservation?”

Birch rounded on him, even as she pointed at the small white dog peeking out from under the car parked next to the main house. “He was terrorizing Mimi again.” She then pointed at Shep. “Next time I’m going to take a shovel to the amorous idiot.”

Niall speared the broken handle clean over the roof of his tiny cottage. “You don’t go after a powerful dog with nothing more than a broom.”

“I’m not afraid of a mutt that’s too dumb to even realize Mimi’s been spayed.”

Niall closed his eyes and tried counting to ten, but only made it to five. “Then I suggest you become afraid,” he said softly so he wouldn’t shout. “Because a less understanding dog would have latched on to you rather than the broom.”

Birch reached in her pocket as she turned toward Shep, who had stopped running victory laps in favor of dropping his prize in front of Mimi. “Maybe a mouthful of bear spray will knock some sense into him.”

Niall plucked the small canister out of her hand and threw it past his pickup in the direction of the camp road.

“Hey!” she yelped, rounding on him again.

“I ever catch wind of you spraying Shep,” he said, not even trying to disguise his anger, “and I will arrest you for cruelty.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, even as she took a step back. “I see. You refuse to do anything about an abusive husband, but you won’t think twice about arresting a woman for defending herself. Is that how the law works for you, Chief MacKeage?” She then muttered what Niall assumed was a French curse before he could respond, and spun on her heel. “I can see why this town needed a women’s shelter, if you and your stupid dog are examples of the male population.” She suddenly stopped and turned to him again. “And I want you to start wearing a robe when you go swimming.”

“Excuse me?”

“This place is a sanctuary,” she whispered tightly. “And the last thing my residents need is to be traumatized by an all-but-naked man strutting down to the beach every evening and reminding them of the hulking brutes they’ve run away from.”

For the love of God, Logan Kent barely came up to his wife’s nose, Macie Atwater’s man was a pacifist, and the new girl, Cassandra, had run away from her slap-happy aunt. “Those traumatized residents?” Niall asked, gesturing at the four women lined up along the shelter’s porch rail, two of whom were smiling, one who was scowling, and—good Lord, Birch’s mother just winked at him. Niall smoothed a hand over his naked chest. “Are ye sure my size and lack of clothes is bothering them, Birch?”

Obviously realizing she was the only one being bothered, Birch crossed her arms under her lovely bosom. “I told you I prefer you call me Miss Callahan.”

Niall made it all the way to the count of six and calmly said, “We’re on the same side, lass. I care about your residents as much as you do.”

“Then go arrest Logan Kent.”

“It’s not against the law to shoot a cookstove. Nor is it a crime,” he added softly, in deference to their audience, “to call your wife an old windbag during an argument.”

The poor woman gasped so hard that she took another step back. “Verbal abuse is just as victimizing as physical.”

“What about relentless nagging?” he shot back, still keeping his voice low. “Is harping on a person until he explodes also considered abuse?”

“It’s not the . . . That doesn’t mean . . . Mon Dieu, you are such a man.”

“Why, thank you for noticing,” he said, smoothing down his drying chest hair.

“You’re impossible!” she hissed as she turned and stormed off.

“Then we’re even,” he whispered. “Come on, Shep,” he said when Birch kicked the broom out of her way and crouched on her hands and knees to retrieve Mimi.

“I want you to start chaining that mutt,” she called out as Niall headed to his cottage. “Or do you also have a double standard when it comes to leash laws?”

Only able to guess what a leash law was, Niall turned to see Birch clutching the small dog to her bosom, her chin lifted in challenge. “A chained dog isn’t much help against an intruder looking to cause trouble for one of your residents. Why don’t ye try seeing Shep as your first line of defense instead of as the enemy?”

She dropped her chin into her pet’s head of curly white fur. “Then make him stop terrorizing Mimi.”

“You don’t think terrorizing is a bit extreme to call a good-natured dog trying to get to know his pretty new neighbor?” Like his owner is trying to do, Niall refrained from adding. “If you’d give them some time together instead of always rushing to the rescue, you’d realize Shep is only wanting to play.”

Her chin lifted again. “Mimi was mauled by a large male dog when she was a puppy and nearly died. She’s perfectly fine with females and only gets snappy and defensive around huge males.”

Just like her owner, Niall decided. “I will keep better track of Shep,” he said with a nod, heading for his cottage and breaking into a grin at her muttered thank-you—even as he tried to imagine all that spitfire passion in bed.

· · ·

“Niall’s right, you know. If you would just spend some time with Shep, you’d realize he’s nothing but an overgrown puppy.”

Birch stopped searching for her can of bear spray and aimed the flashlight beam at her mother’s chest. “That monster is no puppy.”

“Shep’s barely three. Niall rescued him from an abusive owner a year ago.”

“He told you that?”

“No. Peg told me.”

Birch went back to working her way up the driveway. Peg was married to Duncan MacKeage, who was Niall’s cousin. Besides being a town councilman, Duncan owned a construction company and worked almost exclusively for the ultraexpensive Nova Mare and Inglenook resorts in town, which were owned by Maximilian and Olivia Oceanus.

Olivia was the one who had hired Birch as director of the Spellbound Falls Crisis Center a little over a month ago, although the shelter and equally new Birthing Clinic in the basement of the town’s only church were really the pet projects of five local women. Olivia’s mother-in-law, Rana Oceanus—whose husband, Titus, was reputed to be richer than God—seemed to be the head benefactress, while Olivia, Peg, and Julia Salohcin did most of the hands-on work. Director of special events for Nova Mare, Julia was married to a veritable giant named Nicholas, who also worked for the Oceanuses as head of security for both of the resorts. Rounding out the close-knit, civic-minded group was Vanetta Thurber, owner of a restaurant named the Drunken Moose and a bar aptly named the Bottoms Up.

Near as Birch could tell, with the exception of Vanetta, all the women were spending their husbands’ money as fast as the men could earn it. Come to think of it, all the women were married to giants—again, except for Vanetta. Everest Thurber managed the Bottoms Up for his wife and seemed to be the only normal-sized male in the lot, as well as the only one of the men who was from Maine. Well, Niall and Duncan were supposedly from a town south of here, but their accents didn’t really fit, as Mainers living this close to the border usually sounded more Canadian than American, much less Scottish.

Not that Birch cared who was bankrolling the Crisis Center, as long as everyone left her alone to do her job. Even though she’d been hoping to get a position at a prestigious university close to Montreal, she’d snatched up the first job she could find, even if it was in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country, to protect her mother from the last parasite she’d married—husband freaking four.

Honest to God, most twelve-year-olds were less naive than her mother.

Hazel Callahan (Birch had once again insisted her mom take back her maiden name after divorcing The Leech two months ago) had never met a person she didn’t like. And if that person happened to have a Y chromosome and buckets of charm, Hazel usually fell in love with him—usually within days. In fact, she’d married parasite number two, His Highness the King of Nowhere, not three months after Birch had left for college. Her mother had then shown up at her graduation four years later with The Loser, and married The Leech when Birch had made the mistake of leaving Hazel alone to go after her doctorate. Husband number one had managed to hang on through most of Birch’s teenage years, but The Bastard had hit a tree and died—and hopefully was rotting in hell—while celebrating his wife’s thirty-fifth birthday by using her money to take his mistress skiing in Europe.

Ironically, Hazel had never married her prom-night sperm donor, although that hadn’t prevented Birch from having to deal with his family.

Basically, calling the men her mother seemed to attract like magnets likeable was about the same as calling a hundred-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever a puppy.

“Word is Niall caught the guy beating Shep,” Hazel continued. “Only no one knows for sure, because he refuses to talk about it. Peg said Niall was living in Pine Creek with his cousin at the time when he just showed up one day with the thin, badly limping dog.”

Well, that would explain his reaction when she’d threatened to spray Shep. Birch went back to searching for the bear spray her next-door nemesis had thrown into the night—likely wishing he could throw her instead. The conceited jerk—thinking she even noticed his hulking size and broad chest and sculpted muscles.

She sure as heck never noticed his piercing green eyes.

“You wouldn’t really have sprayed Shep, would you?” Hazel asked, awkwardly bending to move a fern out of the way.

“Of course not. I was just trying to make a point.”

“And what point would that be? That Niall better not mess with you any more than Shep better mess with Mimi?”

“I was letting him know I’m not afraid of him or his stupid dog. And who does the guy think he is, anyway, lecturing me about going after any dog with a broom? Does he think I’m just going to stand back and watch Mimi get mauled again?”

“I believe Niall was pointing out that you could have been mauled. It’s his nature to be protective.”

“Why? Because he’s a cop?” Birch muttered, thinking the man’s nature ran more along the lines of being bossy. He was condescending, too, dismissing her concern for Noreen and apparently only enforcing the laws he wanted to.

“No. Because he’s a highlander.”

Birch stopped searching again. “A what?”

“If you would get your nose out of those emotionally draining women’s fiction books long enough to read a good steamy romance, you’d recognize an authentic Scottish highlander when you saw one.”

Birch kicked an ankle-twisting rock off the driveway into the woods. “Mon Dieu, Mama, you have to stop downloading those stupid novels off the Internet. And you need to stop flirting with Chief MacKeage.”

“My word of honor,” Hazel said, obviously fighting a smile as she held up her hand in a Girl Guides of Can...

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Descripción Jove Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the New York Time bestselling Janet Chapman comes this delightful tale of a young woman who s had enough of men.until she meets her spectacular new neighbor. Legend has it love is carried on the rising mists of Spellbound Falls, and not even time-traveling highlanders are immune to its magic. Birch Callahan has seen the trouble men can cause. After witnessing her mother s four marriages, Birch now runs a women s shelter and doesn t want a man in her life. But there s something about her neighbor, Niall MacKeage. Birch can t figure out how the cop can be so big and gruff and yet so insightful and compassionate--and sexy. Or how she s falling for a man who acts like someone from the twelfth century. Niall knows that Birch is attracted to him, even if she seems to distrust all men. Yet he also knows she has a secret--something that drives her to place herself in harm s way for the women of her shelter. Niall would gladly rush to Birch s side to protect her from harm, but with their secrets standing between them, he ll have to reveal his own truth if he wants to keep her. Nº de ref. de la librería LIB9780515153224

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Descripción Jove Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the New York Time bestselling Janet Chapman comes this delightful tale of a young woman who s had enough of men.until she meets her spectacular new neighbor. Legend has it love is carried on the rising mists of Spellbound Falls, and not even time-traveling highlanders are immune to its magic. Birch Callahan has seen the trouble men can cause. After witnessing her mother s four marriages, Birch now runs a women s shelter and doesn t want a man in her life. But there s something about her neighbor, Niall MacKeage. Birch can t figure out how the cop can be so big and gruff and yet so insightful and compassionate--and sexy. Or how she s falling for a man who acts like someone from the twelfth century. Niall knows that Birch is attracted to him, even if she seems to distrust all men. Yet he also knows she has a secret--something that drives her to place herself in harm s way for the women of her shelter. Niall would gladly rush to Birch s side to protect her from harm, but with their secrets standing between them, he ll have to reveal his own truth if he wants to keep her. Nº de ref. de la librería LIB9780515153224

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Descripción Jove Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. From the New York Time bestselling Janet Chapman comes this delightful tale of a young woman who s had enough of men.until she meets her spectacular new neighbor. Legend has it love is carried on the rising mists of Spellbound Falls, and not even time-traveling highlanders are immune to its magic. Birch Callahan has seen the trouble men can cause. After witnessing her mother s four marriages, Birch now runs a women s shelter and doesn t want a man in her life. But there s something about her neighbor, Niall MacKeage. Birch can t figure out how the cop can be so big and gruff and yet so insightful and compassionate--and sexy. Or how she s falling for a man who acts like someone from the twelfth century. Niall knows that Birch is attracted to him, even if she seems to distrust all men. Yet he also knows she has a secret--something that drives her to place herself in harm s way for the women of her shelter. Niall would gladly rush to Birch s side to protect her from harm, but with their secrets standing between them, he ll have to reveal his own truth if he wants to keep her. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780515153224

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