Beyond the Thistles (The Highlands #1) Read Online Samantha Young

Categories Genre: Alpha Male, Contemporary, Suspense Tags Authors: Series: The Highlands Series by Samantha Young

Total pages in book: 119
Estimated words: 112762 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 564(@200wpm)___ 451(@250wpm)___ 376(@300wpm)

He's a brooding bodyguard. She's a single mom on the run. And in a town this small, they can't hide from their fierce attraction...

It’s been a long time since Walker Ironside left behind Scotland and the memories that haunt him. Yet after years of traveling the world as a bodyguard, Walker misses his homeland enough to return. To a village in the Scottish Highlands that plays host to an exclusive members-only club, Ardnoch Estate. If not happy, Walker is content working with the elite security at the club and maintaining his bachelor lifestyle. What he doesn’t need is distraction in the form of the enticing but too-young newcomer, single mother Sloane Harrow.

Sloane never imagined she’d get pregnant at sixteen. Or that a decade later she’d escape from California with her daughter, Callie, to start over in the Scottish Highlands. Hidden and safe from Callie’s dangerous father, Sloane is satisfied with their new lives. Her daughter is happy. Sloane has a stable job, a quaint cottage, a passion for baking that might just be turning into a business, and a huge crush on brooding security guard Walker Ironside. Unfortunately, the grumpy Scot seems immune to Sloane’s charm, but she can’t help but try to seduce him with cupcakes and baked treats whenever the opportunity arises.

However, when someone arrives in Ardnoch intent on destroying Sloane’s life, Walker is the first to step forward to protect her and Callie. Even if it means giving into temptation and awakening his own demons. Because in doing so, Walker faces failing not only to shield Sloane from her past, but to safeguard her against his own.

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“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”

—Robert Burns, My Heart’s in The Highlands



Fourteen months ago

If I told anyone I was sick of palm trees and sunshine, they’d think I wasn’t in my right mind, especially since I was someone people described as having a sunny personality. However, I’d been sick of the monotony of endless summer since I was fourteen. My dad afforded me the sweet taste of travel as a kid, and it had made me long for something different. To be anywhere but in LA.

You know what they say—the grass is always greener. Literally. Grass in my part of town dried up. Not just because of drought, but because no one around here had time or resources for such things as lawn maintenance.

I’d never wanted to be anywhere else more than I did as I stopped outside my apartment door and saw the eviction notice posted to it.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I whispered hoarsely, pinching my nose to stop the sting of tears.

An overwhelming powerlessness threatened to seize hold of me. I fought through the panic tightening my chest, thinking of the little girl on the other side of the door. Had she seen this? Or had Juanita shielded Callie from the truth? Dread settled in my gut. My Callie might appear shy and quiet, but she was sharp as a tack and missed nothing. It made trying to shield her from the crappiness of our circumstances extremely difficult. But I was determined.

Bracing myself, my stomach roiled as I snatched the eviction notice off the door.

Today I was fired from the receptionist job I’d lied my way into. A colleague who’d had it in for me from the beginning looked into my claim that I’d worked as a receptionist for another casting agency. She knew someone at said agency, and they told her they had no record of me ever working there.

So, I got fired, even though I was more than competent at my job. Yeah, I knew the lie was wrong, but when you’re a single mom, you’ll do just about anything to make enough money to put a roof over your child’s head. The irony of being fired from a casting agency for lying on my résumé was not lost on me. The agency lied on people’s résumés all the time.

I’d spent the rest of the afternoon using most of the gas in a tank I couldn’t afford to refill, following up on ads I found on my phone for positions. Out of ten, one—for a receptionist at a beauty salon—offered me an interview. I took it, even though they paid way less than what I’d been earning, and I was already behind on my rent.

Exhibit A: Eviction notice.

Even renting in Crenshaw, in one of the cheapest studio apartments I could find, where my kid didn’t even have her own bedroom, I was behind on my rent.

Because my useless, scumbag ex forgot we existed half the time.

In a perfect world, he would forget we existed, period. His reputation preceded him, and the man I’d stupidly had sex with at sixteen and gotten pregnant by had become someone so dangerous, I barely recognized him.

I’d never regret my Callie.

I only wished her father was someone different.

Someone I didn’t have to track down and beg for money, even though knowing where that money came from made me nauseous. But for Callie, I’d not only throw pride out the window, I’d throw my morals out too. I’d do anything for her.

So I called Stacie.

It was a short, snippy call. Afterward, I took a deep breath, opened the apartment door, and walked into the studio. During daylight hours, it was light and bright and airy. Even with our twin beds crowding half the space, we tried to keep it as nice as possible.

I buried my worries and grinned at my kid like I had none.

“Mom!” Callie dropped her book and launched herself off her bed, hurrying across the apartment to throw her arms around me.

Love and determination filled me as my daughter rested her head against my chest and I wrapped my arms around her. Bending, I pressed a kiss to the top of her blond head. When she was a baby, I’d felt overwhelming love for her, but I’d felt overwhelming terror too. I was only a kid myself. What did I know about raising a daughter? The love had grown to impossible depths over the years, and the terror became manageable, sharpening in moments like this.

Callie pulled away to stare up at me with the only beautiful thing her father gave her—big, gorgeous blue eyes.

I smoothed her hair off her face. “How was your day, baby girl?”

“I won the class spelling bee. Ms. Francis thinks I should join the school team.”