Authors: Mary Wine
“We’re going to starve if she does nae get down here,” Lyel groused. “Let’s go and
“Well ye can just go first. That way, that she devil of a Grant will use up her spite
on yer skull.”
Lyel hesitated, but he finally set his mind to it and started up the stairs, Finley
on his heels.
“Now’s our chance, lass.”
She bit back a giggle as Bhaic tugged her through the passageway, hugging the walls
to stay in the shadows. There was a swirl of excitement in her belly, a hint of anticipation
stroking her insides. Other girls could sneak into the shadows for a kiss, but not
her. No, not the laird’s daughter.
But she’d thought about it more than a time or two.
It was strange to have Bhaic MacPherson helping her experience such a forbidden thing,
but then again, maybe he was the only man who could take her away into the night.
She blushed, grateful he wasn’t looking at her.
Well, maybe there would be kisses… What was wrong with that?
He was her husband, wasn’t he?
He clicked his tongue when they neared the outer doorway. There was a snort in response.
Fires were being lit on the walls so the sentries could keep watch, but the castle
was still shrouded in darkness.
“Here now, lass, give me yer foot.” He’d cupped his hands to offer her a step up.
His stallion was eying her as she pulled her skirt out of the way and let Bhaic help
her gain the back of the beast. The stallion was intimidating, in height and sheer
bulk. Bhaic swung up behind her, sending a shiver through her as she ended up pressed
against him. A light rain had started to fall.
“Do ye mind the rain, lass?”
He’d pressed the horse into motion, riding away from the castle and heading for the
“Less than the scrutiny of the hall.”
He covered her head with Helen’s arisaid and locked his arm around her waist to secure
her against him. They moved in unison with the motion of the horse, his body chasing
the night chill away. The sentry eyed them but didn’t cry an alarm as Bhaic rode through
* * *
“Ye’ll get yer hand off me…”
Finley snarled something in Gaelic as he tugged Helen down the last few steps. Lyel
was behind the woman, doing little good, because he was loath to actually put his
hands on her.
Marcus stood there, offering her a glare that unsettled most men.
Helen tossed her head and boldly stepped up to face him. “Ye did nae need to have
yer hounds collect me. I am no’ afraid of ye.”
“So ye have mentioned before, mistress.”
Helen glared at him. “Well? What do ye want from me?”
Marcus’s lips slowly curved. Helen’s eyes narrowed. She started to flounce past him,
but he put his arm out, cupping her shoulder and turning her around so her back was
against the wall.
“Leave us,” he said.
The position gave her an excellent view of Finley and Lyel making haste toward the
hall. Her insides twisted as she realized she was quite alone with Marcus.
“Where did yer mistress go?” he asked.
Marcus was accustomed to getting what he wanted, either by sheer force of will or
cunning. Fortunately, she was immune to him.
“Me memory is clouded.” She tried to slip along the wall.
Marcus pressed a hand on the wall next to her, caging her. “We can stay here as long
as it takes for ye to recall.”
His gaze dropped to her cleavage. “But if me behavior unsettles ye, best ye recall
“Unsettles?” she scoffed. “I hardly recall ye draw breath. Is that no’ the same way
ye feel about me?”
“Longing for me attention, are ye?” He continued looking at her cleavage, in defiance
of every rule of decent conduct.
“I long to be free to return home,” she shot back. “Ye dropped me in yonder courtyard
without a backward glance, and a warning that ye’d burn me father’s house if I went
He raised his attention to her face, abandoning his attempts at intimidation. “Ye
seem to have fared well enough.”
She didn’t care for the compliment. No, not at all, because there was nothing she
wanted to like about the burly War Chief.
She lifted her foot and he curled in, expecting an attack on his groin, which left
his shin wide open. He jerked and jumped back as she landed the blow. Helen made full
use of the opportunity and escaped into the hall, where supper was being served. Marcus
was on her heels. He cupped her elbow.
“We’re nae finished, mistress. Ye can be sure of that.” Yet he seemed loath to drag
her back in the face of so many watching them.
“And ye may be certain that I will never help ye with a single thing so long as I
She jerked her elbow from his grip, but not before she heard a husky chuckle.
Her heart was pounding as she made her way away from him. Damned brute. It always
unsettled her to see the man who’d so easily ordered her abduction.
That was the only reason she’d allow into her mind for her accelerated heart rate.
The only one.
* * *
Bhaic had guided them across the land bridge and through the village until he could
once again climb onto the high ground. A body of water stood between them and MacPherson
Castle. The moon shone off its smooth surface as the stars came out.
“There used to be an astrologer here,” Bhaic said. “He died a few seasons past.”
There was a small building that might have been called a home as easily as it could
have been labeled a workshop. It was an odd, two-story structure, perched on the highest
point of land. There was even a single-stall stable built onto it.
“When he grew older, his knees were nae so good, so me father had a horse here for
him to use when he needed to get about.” Bhaic slid off the back of the stallion and
reached up to help her down. “Me father enjoyed the man’s predictions and rarely made
a business move without first consulting with old Maeburn.”
He led the stallion around and into the stall. There was a trough Bhaic filled with
“Ye keep the place stocked?” Ailis asked.
“Aye.” He removed the bridle from the stallion and rubbed the beast’s nose before
the horse went looking for the feed. “Ye are nae the only one who feels the weight
of those watching in the hall.” He looked up at the building. “Sometimes I come here
to look up at things that are far removed from anything MacPherson.”
He offered her his hand, and she laid hers into it, earning a grin. Excitement glittered
in his eyes. “The second floor is quite interesting.”
He pulled her inside and shut the door, releasing her in order to lower the bar. He
took a good look around the room before moving farther into it. As far as rooms went,
it was a good size. There was a hearth, with an iron bar for roasting meat, and a
hook to suspend a pot from. Wood was stacked up beside it.
“Lighting a candle will ruin the view,” he said. “Do ye mind the darkness?”
“It is nae so dark.”
In fact, the second floor of the structure seemed to be glowing. There was a loft
with a steep stairway. Bhaic gestured her up behind him. “Hold on.”
“Easy for ye to say,” she said with a laugh. “Ye are nae wearing a skirt.”
She struggled to keep her skirt out of the way of her feet. “I wish Helen had left
me my belt.”
Bhaic was watching her from the second floor. “Aye, I can see how that would have
made things simpler. But I’m grateful she took yer colors from ye.”
She’d almost reached the top when he grasped her waist and pulled her the rest of
the way up. He held her against him, the scent of his skin filling her senses.
“Because now I have ye all to meself.”
His tone had turned husky. She ended up resting her hands on his chest, her fingertips
suddenly becoming far more sensitive than she’d realized they might be. His breath
teased her temple, tempting her to raise her face for his kiss.
Instead, she turned to look at what was glowing. She felt him hesitate to release
“Aye…this is what I wanted to show ye.”
He hooked his arm around her back, resting his hand on her hip as he guided her forward.
There was a huge glass window that went from waist high to the roof. It was made of
squares of glass, all set with thin lengths of iron between them.
It surely was. The moon was full and looked like a glowing ball across the lake. All
of the stars were in view, but without the harshness of biting wind.
“Aye, a truly stunning sight.”
Bhaic wasn’t looking at the view. He was watching her. She turned her face toward
his, drawn to the husky promise in his voice. It wasn’t something she thought about.
No, she was responding to something she felt deep inside her belly.
He cupped the side of her face, holding her steady for his kiss. She saw it coming,
felt time freeze as he came closer and closer, finally making contact. He tried to
start softly, but she lifted up onto her toes to meet him, craving the connection.
He shifted, pushing his hand along her cheek and cupping her nape to hold her steady.
The kiss turned demanding, his mouth moving across hers in a firm motion that made
her thoughts spin. She let it all go, kissing him back, searching for the motion,
trying to mimic the way he was using his mouth against hers. Sweet sensation tore
through her, racing down her spine and curling her toes. It stole her breath, leaving
her feeling as if she’d been spun around and around until she was ready to fall down.
She pulled away, turning toward the windows. “I should…thank ye for offering me an
alternative to supper in the hall. ’Tis truly a majestic sight here.”
She was struggling to catch her breath, but so was he. That surprised her. She could
hear him breathing heavily, heard the slight scuff of his boots against the floorboards
as he came toward her.
“I had planned on stealing kisses after I fed ye, but well, what can I say? Ye’re
a Robertson. I feel the need to do me stealing first thing.”
There was a playful note in his tone, and it touched something inside her. She’d never
thought she’d feel this way with a MacPherson. She laughed and shoved him in the shoulder.
“I should cuff ye for it. Did nae yer mother teach ye any manners at all?”
In that moment, he might have been anyone. Heat teased her cheeks as the moonlight
highlighted his features.
He shrugged. “Nay. She died when I was still waist high.”
He turned and picked something up. It was a large wicker basket with a cloth covering
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He shook out the cloth and let it settle on the floor. “Yers did too, did she nae?”
He offered her a hand and eased her down to the floor.
“Aye. Just after me second brother was born. Childbed fever took her. I do nae remember
He set the basket between them and settled on the floor on the other side of it. He
started rummaging through it. “I had to grab what I could before Duana noticed what
I was about.”
He started tossing things to her. A plate, a goblet, a napkin.
“Ah…port,” he exclaimed victoriously as he held up a bottle.
“Better confess later,” she said, “else some poor kitchen lad is likely to be blamed
for thieving that.” Ailis held out her goblet as Bhaic poured her some. “Duana is
nae one to let something like port go unaccounted for.”
“Aye, she likes to run the kitchens her way.” Bhaic didn’t find another goblet in
the basket. He shrugged and took a swig directly from the bottle. “But she’ll be doing
She was caught in an odd moment of both embarrassment and contentment. Both stemmed
from the fact that he was willing to champion her.
“I can fight me own battles,” she said with a touch of determination.
He took another swig from the bottle and put it down so he could rummage through the
basket again. “Marcus would enjoy having you trying to kill him a little too much.
He’s a rogue, never doubt it.”
“I didn’t mean I’d actually try to…well, brawl.”
He pulled another plate from the basket; this one had a roasted chicken on it. The
scent teased her nose and made her belly rumble. A chunk of cheese was shoved onto
the side of the plate, the heat from the meat melting part of it. Bhaic placed it
between them and offered her an eating knife.
He tore into the chicken and sliced up the cheese. There was a round of bread and
some sweet butter for it. The silence grew as the meat disappeared between them. The
port was easy to turn to as a remedy for her nerves, but she stopped when she realized
she was losing her wits.
“Aye,” Bhaic said, setting the bottle away. “We’ll both end up babbling like fools
and wake up trying to remember if we consummated our union or not.”
“Is that why ye brought me out here?”
His features tightened. “I did nae have to bring ye here for that, Ailis. Grant me
a wee bit of credit for trying me hand at courting ye.”
She looked up at the moon, feeling foolish and a bit unkind. “It
an impressive view.”
“Aye.” He lifted the basket away and took its place. “But we’re no’ enjoying it quite…right.”
He scooted right up beside her. She shivered, feeling small beside him. He laid an
arm across her back, slowly, almost hesitantly as he waited to see her reaction.
He didn’t have to woo her.
Ailis drew in a deep breath and relaxed. It took all of her nerve.
He was overwhelming her again.
The smallest contact between them felt extreme. Her skin prickled, her heart pounded,
and her breathing sped up when she caught the scent of his skin. Never once had she
decided she liked the way anyone smelled, besides a baby.
She liked the way Bhaic smelled.
But in a completely different fashion.
Oh yes. What she liked about his scent was the way it made her feel small. He was
stronger, and that fact didn’t alarm her—it set her blood to racing as he teased the
side of her neck with his fingertips.