Authors: Mary Wine
“Ye mean she walked right up and slapped ye,” Helen interrupted. “As well as calling
ye a spy. Yer damned men kept the mistress from giving that crone the slap she deserved.”
“Well now…she’d already turned the table over,” Finley said, defending himself. “There’s
a mess down there for sure. Cider and ale all over the floor, along with half the
bread for supper. The hounds made good use of the time. Tore into the kitchens and
ate everything they could. It will be a poor supper to be sure.” Finley was shaking
his head, Lyel joining his fellow retainer.
“The table turned over because I stood up so fast. God’s breath! I certainly didn’t
think she’d actually hit me for looking at the books,” Ailis said.
“Those are MacPherson books.” Marcus spoke softly. She recognized the tone now as
one of suspicion.
But what bothered her the most was the unreadable expression on Bhaic’s face. Any
hint of the man who’d teased her in the moonlight was gone. In its place was the man
she’d feared her husband would turn out to be.
Suspicious and unyielding, because she was his enemy’s daughter. She wondered if anyone
would ever trust her enough to let her make MacPherson land her true home. More than
one bride had faced such a fate, retreating to her chambers and weaving tapestries
because there was nothing else for her.
She nearly gagged on the horror of how real a possibility such a fate was.
“So what is me place to be then?” she demanded. “Am I naught but yer mare for breeding?”
She reached out and shoved him. “Perhaps I shall just go make meself comfortable in
the stable then, and wait for ye to decide it’s time for me to foal.”
Staying still was impossible. It felt as if a rock was pressing down on her. She picked
up her skirts and left, hearing Marcus mutter “spitfire” behind her.
She cringed. There seemed no hope of making a place for herself, as no one was willing
to let her squeeze even a marginal spot open.
She made it to the stable and was inside before Bhaic hooked her arm and turned her
“Ye’re putting words in me mouth, Ailis. Taking things too much to heart.”
She balled her fingers into a fist and took a swing at him. “Too much too heart? More
the fool I for trying to be anything other than yer enemy.”
He avoided her easily, stepping aside and wrapping his arms around her when she stumbled
past him. He pulled her against him and locked her in place in front of him.
“Let me go!”
“Nae a chance,” he said next to her ear.
She strained against his arms, but he held her easily, carrying her back into a stall
that smelled of fresh hay. He released her, and she spun away from him, but the stall
had solid sides as high as her chest, so all she did was end up facing him.
“The books…is that what women do during the day?”
His question caught her off guard. “Of course. If they do nae balance, ’tis me failing.
If any of the kitchen staff, right down to the smallest lad, go barefoot, it is me
shame for no’ keeping track of when they are due their measure.” She spoke as though
he were an ignorant child but stopped when she noticed he was truly listening to her.
Shame nipped at her when she realized he truly had no idea what she was so angry about.
“Aye…I suppose I recall seeing Duana tending to some of that.” He crossed his arms
over his chest, gripping the fabric of his shirt as though he was fighting the urge
to reach for her.
Her belly twisted, the privacy of the setting hitting her like a blast of heat. But
giving into the impulse would make her little better than a mare. Duana would still
be refusing to let her take her place when passion cooled.
She took a deep breath and locked gazes with him.
“Ye should know, for it will be yer name that is dragged through the muck if I fail.
There will be plenty saying ye have a poor wife, and that ye are a miser who doesn’t
appreciate devoted service. I’d just as soon no’ give any of them more reason to curse
He grunted and uncrossed his arms. “Do ye know what I do during the day, lass?”
Her anger was deserting her, melting away as she was forced to shake her head.
“We both have things to learn about being married,” he said. “I’ll have words with
“Ye will nae,” Ailis shot back.
He grunted and stepped toward her. “Ye’re me wife. If she slapped ye, she’ll be answering
“If I am yer wife, then ’tis me place to see to the staff, and I’ll be doing that
without ye. I am no’ a weakling. If yer cursed retainers had no’ dragged me away,
I would have given her what she had coming.” She drew in a deep breath and searched
her mind for a polite way to get her point across. “Would ye have me dealing with
yer captains when they are unruly?”
His stern expression cracked, his lips twitching into a grin that transformed his
face into something far too roguish for her to be truly furious with.
“Marcus is correct. Ye’re a spitfire sure enough.”
“I am nae,” she argued, but part of her enjoyed knowing he thought she had spirit.
His eyes glittered with anticipation as he started to close the distance between them.
She was cornered, but she tossed her head, refusing to surrender. Her cursed female
body was warming, tempting her to recall just how much she enjoyed his touch.
“Stand aside. I am going back down to the kitchens and getting me house in order.”
He only took another step toward her, opening his arms to make it harder for her to
edge around him.
“If ’tis yer house, lass, that means ye’re me wife…”
She nodded, understanding him perfectly. “Aye. I told ye, I keep me promises.”
He shrugged out of his sword belt and hung it on the post that made the doorway to
the stall, crocking his finger at her. “Then come here. Wife.”
“Why?” She lost the battle to stand in her place, backing into the stall and trying
to slip along its wall toward the opening.
His lips curved into a huge grin. “Because I want to roll in the hay with ye.”
Her eyes widened, her attention shifting to the newly laid bed of hay beneath her
feet. She was actually sinking into it, all the way to her ankles.
“Why so much hay?”
“I’ve got a mare ready to foal.”
She jerked her attention up, but he was right in front of her. Just a half step from
her. She might have recoiled if he’d touched her. But he stood there, waiting for
her to do something. The only thing she could manage was a soft gasp.
She felt as though she was melting, everything inside of her warming to his presence.
She’d never been so aware of a man before. Never felt her nipples tingle because one
Bhaic was only a breath away. His scent mixed with the aroma of the hay, his blue
eyes full of promise.
He reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. Her heart skipped
a beat, her knees suddenly feeling weak.
“Is this another attempt to impress me?” She wasn’t really sure what she was saying.
Thoughts felt difficult to form, impossible to make sense of.
He slipped his hand into her hair and plucked a hairpin from it, and then another,
and a third before he answered.
“I did nae crush ye to me and kiss ye quiet,” he offered.
“Maybe that’s what I wanted.” It was a terrible thing to voice, but true nonetheless.
He chuckled at her. “Aye. I know it’s what ye crave, lass. Give me credit for giving
ye the time to be easy with it.”
Easy? She couldn’t grasp how being with him might ever be easy.
She shifted back, the hay rustling as she moved. He’d found more of her hairpins,
and her braid started to sag onto her nape.
She turned around, completely unsure of why she was letting him take her hair down,
only sure that she was enjoying the way it felt to be free with him.
“That’s it, lass…” He stroked her neck, setting off ripples of delight that raised
gooseflesh across her skin. “Let me woo ye gently. We’ll get to the passion, once
ye trust me.”
His voice was deep and sensual, luring her past her reservations. He tugged the last
pin free, and her braid dropped down her back. She felt the ribbon tie slipping loose
before the strands of her hair started to free themselves.
“Ye’ve a fine mane…” He was combing her hair loose, her eyes slipping closed at the
intimacy. She’d never realized how lonely she was. How much she craved being touched.
It was as if a wall had been broken down inside her, in a place that she thought was
as big as it might ever be. Now, there were more chambers, secret ones that she was
eager to explore.
He buried his face in the strands of her unbound hair, inhaling and making a soft,
male sound of enjoyment. She opened her eyes, turning around to see his expression.
“Ye doubt how attractive ye are?” he asked.
She lifted one shoulder in a soft shrug. “It’s no’ as if any of me father’s men were
allowed to tell me I was ugly as sin. I was nae vain enough to take such as confirmation
of how pretty I might be.”
“More likely, he spent a fair amount of time making sure they minded how they looked
He cupped her cheek, taking that last half step toward her. “For ye are a fine-looking
woman.” He slipped his hand into her hair, cupping her head, and tilted his head to
the side so that he might press his mouth to hers.
It was a firmer kiss than she’d been expecting. His mouth claiming her with the passion
he’d obviously been holding back. It stunned her, but it also stroked something inside
her that seemed to be waiting for her to let it loose. A boldness that once recognized,
refused to be ignored.
She reached for him, wanting to know what he felt like. He groaned, his chest rumbling
with the sound as she flattened her hands on him and fought to undo the buttons on
What she craved was his skin.
The kiss changed again. Bhaic pressed her lips open and teased her mouth with the
tip of his tongue. She froze, trying to decide how to move her lips. He eased her
into it, teaching her the motions.
He let her go, keeping his mouth on hers as he ripped open his doublet and shirt.
He tossed the doublet down and scooped her up, cradling her against his chest as he
lowered her to the ground.
Everything around them seemed so insignificant. The only details she seemed to have
a mind to focus on were ones associated with Bhaic.
She reached for him, sliding her hands up his chest and threading her fingers through
the crisp hair there. He came to rest beside her.
But he wanted to be on top of her…
She saw the strain in his jaw as he reined in his desire. His eyes glittered with
it. But he leaned down and kissed her cheek, and then her neck, and then she really
lost track of everything she’d been trying to think about. There was only the touch
of his mouth against her skin and the yearning to have him kiss more of her.
He popped the lace on her bodice, freeing her breasts with a few sure motions of his
fingers. Her insides twisted, but she decided she enjoyed it now.
God in heaven did she enjoy the way he touched her…
It was a wicked confession. One that made her open her eyes wide and stare at him.
All she saw was his dark hair as he kissed his way across her chest. He gently cupped
one of her breasts, sending a jolt of pleasure through her. He lifted his head and
locked gazes with her.
“Do ye like that?”
He was smoothing his fingers around the globes of her breasts, watching her as he
brushed his thumb over the tips of her beaded nipples.
She rolled her lips in, unbearably shy. He made a soft sound under his breath and
kissed her until she relaxed her mouth.
“I want to know that ye like me touch”—he moved his hand to her other breast—“that
ye lay with me out of more than duty.”
Bhaic MacPherson had never struck her as someone who doubted anything. Yet she could
see a flicker of need in his eyes.
“I like yer touch,” she whispered. “And yer kiss…”
She reached up and cupped the back of his head, pulling him down as she lifted her
head off the ground to meet him. The kiss was hard, full of passion, and she eagerly
met him. He pushed her back down, giving her a taste of his strength, and she gave
it right back to him.
She was twisting toward him, aching for something. Her skirts felt impossibly heavy
and hot, the air against her bare breasts absolutely perfect. He caught her hip and
pulled her against him. She gasped, arching back as she raised her thigh to hook her
leg over his hip.
It was so natural, so instinctual. So very necessary.
She was burning and completely uncaring of anything besides him. All that mattered
was feeding the craving flickering through her insides. She wanted more, needed something
Bhaic pulled her skirt up, freeing her from its suffocating folds. He cupped her knees
and stroked her thigh.
She arched toward him, humming with pleasure.
“Aye, lass, ye like being petted.”
“By ye.” She stole a peek at him, her breath catching when she saw his expression.
He wanted to possess her.
The desire was glittering in his eyes. His jaw was tight with need, shocking her.
He reached around and boldly cupped one side of her bottom, pulling her toward him
as he settled between her open thighs. She closed her eyes, letting the heat consume
her. Her hands had formed into claws on his shirt. She was straining toward him, certain
satisfaction was within reach. If she only knew how to achieve it.
He slipped his hand over the curve of her hip and across her belly.
“Aye, by me,” he whispered next to her ear, his tone dark and husky. “I’ll show ye
why coming to me bed is what ye need…”
His hand glided over her bare belly, beneath her chemise, down to where her curls
guarded her sex.
“Bhaic…ye can nae touch me…