Authors: Mary Wine
But he was. His fingers teasing those curls, parting them, stroking that forbidden
place until he boldly thrust one of his fingers right into the folds of her sex.
“A husband can… I’m going to show ye what pleasure awaits ye in me bed.”
There was a confidence in his tone.
A dark, wicked, tempting confidence that sent her thoughts scattering. He’d touched
some spot that sent a bolt of pleasure through her. In fact, the sensation redefined
pleasure. She’d never experienced such a spike of pure delight. Her thighs opened
for him, shamelessly eager for more. For certain, there must be something wrong with
what they were doing, but she couldn’t think of it. His touch was reducing her to
a pile of quivering yearning.
She lifted her hips, feeling empty inside. He teased her folds, stroking over the
pulsing spot hidden between them. Somehow, her flesh was wet, making it easy for his
fingers to glide across that little pearl. He pressed against it, wringing a cry from
her. Her body was pulling tighter, urgency filling her before it became true desperation.
He seemed to be in tune with the tempo of her blood, stroking her in time to her heartbeat.
He caught her nape, holding her in place as he pressed a kiss against her mouth. It
was hard and demanding, just like his fingers. Pressing her forward into something,
It wrung her out, twisting and pulling at her with a burst of pleasure that exploded
inside her. He caught her cry, smoothing it as she twisted and bucked against him.
“There now…” he growled softly against her lips.
His words didn’t really make sense. She was only half aware of the world, still floating
on a cloud of sensation. He rolled onto his back, settling her head on his bare chest
as she sighed. He toyed with her hair, stroking her arms as the sound of his heartbeat
filled her ear. She recovered by degrees, becoming aware of her bare breasts pressing
against his side, only the thin fabric of his shirt between them. She had her hand
thrust through the opening of that same shirt, her fingers resting on his chest.
Her knee was bent over his thigh, her skirts raised and pushed up to bare her legs.
Nothing between her sex but her chemise and his plaid.
Oh, Christ, she was definitely that.
But, well…he was her husband. She took a deep breath, forbidding herself to fret.
“Well… I can nae see…”
She stiffened, recognizing Finley’s voice, even in a whisper. There was a scuffle,
and she jumped when he peeked around the opening of the stall.
“Get ye gone!” Bhaic snarled.
He tried to pull her close again, but she’d already rolled away, putting her back
to the door as she tried to close up her bodice.
“Where’s Helen when we need her?” Bhaic snorted. He was on his feet, braced in the
doorway of the stall as he glared down the stable. “I’m going to let her beat ye senseless!”
There was a scuff and a snarl as Finley ran for the outer door of the stable. Bhaic
cursed before turning back to consider her. “Damned nuisance.”
“Oh, they’re that, but it’s yer brother that set them on me.” She’d managed to right
her clothing, her cheeks on fire.
Bhaic grunted, but the sound was far too smug for her smarting sensibilities. He lowered
himself to a knee beside her.
“Be easy, Ailis. We were nae misbehaving.” His face split with a grin as surprise
flashed across his eyes. “And that is a first for me. I think marriage is going to
agree with me.”
She swallowed the lump that had managed to lodge itself in her throat. “No’ going
to miss the lectures on hellfire and brimstone?”
He shrugged. “Know those, do ye?”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Oh, aye. Women are the descendants of Eve, ye see, and
therefore, by me very gender, I am predisposed to mortal sins.” She shook her head.
“Bunch of drivel. Men dally their lives through, but it is me blood that must be shown
on me wedding sheets if I am to escape disgrace.”
“Well now…” Bhaic was starting to chuckle and fighting to hold his amusement in. “A
young lad’s first time is marked only by the rather stupid look of bewilderment that
is stuck on his face for hours on end afterward.”
She rolled her eyes. “Have some decency. For all that I only met ye, I do nae need
to be hearing about yer conquests.”
He reached out and scooped her up. She’d had no idea he might lift her so easily when
he was still sitting as well. She landed in his lap, hay falling off her.
“I can certainly find something else to do…” He nuzzled against her neck, pressing
several kisses along the column of her throat.
For all that he’d satisfied her, it seemed her appetite was yet to be truly sated.
She let out a little sound of enjoyment, twisting her hands around his neck and arching
back as he made his way to her cleavage.
“Such perfection…” He growled as he kissed the swells of her breasts. He cupped her
bottom and lifted her up. She shifted herself, opening her thighs so that her knees
ended up on either side of his lean hips when he lowered her.
Her breath caught on a gasp. The hard presence of his erection pressed against her
sex. She opened her eyes and discovered Bhaic watching her.
Waiting for her.
It was a tender concern, one that stroked something inside her. He still cupped her
hips, rubbing them with slow motions as she started breathing again.
“Ye’re a kind man.”
His lips twitched. “Do nae be sharing that little secret. It will ruin me fine barbaric
“We would nae be wanting that,” she teased him softly.
“They’re back at it…”
She stiffened. The sound of Finley’s voice was like a bucket of icy water. Bhaic grunted
“We are going to have to take this to a place with a solid door,” he said before he
lifted her off him. “Or risk having the details fodder for winter evenings.”
Her face exploded in heat at the mere idea. Ailis kicked at her skirts, trying to
gain her footing. Bhaic hooked her under her arms and lifted her.
“I can nae believe yer brother set them on us both.”
“Meaning ye would understand them trailing yer heels, but no’ mine?”
Bhaic scooped up his doublet and shook it to dislodge the straw. He shrugged into
it. “Marcus takes his duties as seriously as ye do. Besides, ye can choose yer friends
but no’ yer family.”
He reached out and plucked some straw from her hair.
“Where are me pins?”
He contemplated her for a moment as he worked the buttons halfway up his doublet.
“I’ve half a mind to not give them back to ye.”
“Then everyone will know—”
“Aye,” he confirmed smugly. But he reached over and collected her hairpins from the
top of the stall wall. “No’ that we could expect Finley to keep his jaw shut.”
He offered her pins to her. Reaching out to take them felt horribly exposing.
“I suppose ’tis a good thing we’re wed, Ailis. For yer reputation is sure to be tarnished.”
She looked up and locked gazes with him. “I’ve enough troubles without worrying I’ll
end up in the pillory for loose morals.”
His grin faded. “Aye. Duana. She slapped ye?”
There was a look in his eyes that caught her by surprise. The man was feeling protective.
It was a hard idea to grasp.
“Stay out of it.” She was likely bound for the pillory for being disrespectful to
her husband now, but she didn’t regret the words or her tone. “I’d have settled it
meself if Finley and his lot had nae brought me up here. I will get me house in order.”
“I suddenly see a bright side to me brother’s orders.” He nodded gravely. “At least
I will nae have to worry about finding ye dead on the kitchen floor.”
“Oh…enough. I am no’ about to go sit in me chamber and cry because yer father’s Head
of House is as stubborn as yer brother.” She went to pass him, but he captured her,
binding her against his body as he buried his face in her flowing hair once more.
“Sweet Ailis, that was nae nearly enough. Come to me bed, and I’ll show ye how much
more there is.”
He kissed her again, letting his passion free. It was a hard, blunt merging of their
mouths. He mastered her, moving her to suit his needs. Holding her head in place while
his lips ravished hers.
And left her sagging against the stall wall.
She was certain she couldn’t take anything else.
Yet very sure she was wicked enough to desire to attempt it.
* * *
Clansmen started filling the yard early in the afternoon. They were men who had farms
farther out from the castle. They set up cooking fires, suspending large black iron
pots from tripods. More than one unlucky rabbit was hanging from a belt as they arrived.
There were a few women, but Highlanders knew their way around a cooking fire. Many
of them had bread cooked by their wives and chunks of cheese that always traveled
Ailis headed up to her chamber, needing to right her hair. Helen was nowhere to be
found at the stable, forcing Ailis to walk back to the castle with her hair flowing
down her back. A few men turned to look at her, their faces splitting with grins until
they recognized the Robertson colors of her arisaid. Their expressions turned harsh,
but they held their insults, likely due to Finley and Lyel following her with their
hands on the pommels of their swords.
It was a welcome reprieve. One she would be best not to look at the details of.
“There she is.”
Ailis stopped with her foot on the bottom stair of the staircase that led to her chamber.
She turned to see Skene and Kam standing down the hall. Skene reached over and opened
a door to one of the cells lining the passageway.
“Ye can come out now. Yer mistress is here.”
Helen appeared, the two retainers backing well out of her reach. Skene tried to placate
her. “Now, we were only following orders.”
Helen gave him a look that told him how little she thought of him before she turned
to look at Ailis.
“Let’s get ye put together, mistress. I’d certainly no’ have made ye walk all the
way up from the stables looking like a strumpet if I had nae been locked away. Little
wonder no one respects ye.”
“There will be respect as well as courtesy,” Bhaic interrupted as he came down the
aisle. He stepped aside, revealing Duana and two of the head cooks. They had the kitchen
books in their hands.
Ailis felt her cheeks catch fire.
“It seems I did nae notice I was thrusting a duty on Duana that was no’ hers to shoulder,”
Bhaic said. “I’ve asked her to forgive me ignorance in no’ knowing it was the lady
of the castle’s duty to make certain the books were kept in good order.”
“I enjoy serving ye,” Duana said clearly.
“Aye but ’tis a poor laird I’d be if I did nae learn no’ to overburden those who serve
this castle. Forgive me,” Bhaic informed her smoothly. It was clear to one and all
what they were truly discussing. Duana didn’t want to bend. Her lips were pressed
into a hard line, but Bhaic didn’t budge. The Head of House finally nodded and lowered
“Naught to forgive. I knew ’twas only a matter of time until ye or yer brother took
Neither of them meant what they were saying, but the words granted everyone a measure
of pride. Duana and the cooks brought the books to Helen and piled them in her arms.
Duana managed a nod before she turned and left.
Bhaic watched her leave, casting a look toward Ailis once the Head of House was gone.
His lips curved just a marginal amount, and he winked before disappearing.
“Well, it seems we have something to set our attention to,” Ailis said.
Her mind was already full, but the books offered a diversion from the matter truly
weighing on her.
Come to his bed?
Bhaic MacPherson had best watch himself, because she just might take his offer. After
all, a wife had rights too.
* * *
The household books were spread out on the long table in Ailis’s chambers. The rows
of numbers looked impossible to make sense of. There were half-finished computations
and an entire basketful of slips of paper with amounts written on them that had yet
to be entered into the books. All of it was smeared with flour and drops of dried
In short, it was a disaster.
Either there were some six hundred chickens penned up somewhere, or the slips of paper
accounted for them. She had no idea how Duana had managed to keep a decent meal on
the tables when there was no clear record of what was in the storerooms.
Ailis was fighting to make sense of it all when someone rapped on her door.
Finley pushed the door in. “The laird will be starting manorial court soon.”
Clearly the retainer wanted to enjoy the spectacle. He was jerking his head toward
the stairs, trying to encourage her to leave her chamber.
“We’ll be along in a bit.” Helen had appeared outside the chamber door, holding a
large platter with a cloth covering it. “The mistress needs to eat.”
“She’s no’ the only one,” Finley groused.
“Off with ye then.” Helen paused in the doorway.
Finley shrugged but aimed a pleading look at them. Considering the way he so often
glared at her, it was nearly friendly. “I can nae. Lyel is nae here, likely down in
the kitchen making wagers on tonight’s cases, and Marcus said she’s no’ to be left
“I’m attending her,” Helen responded.
Finley rolled his eyes. “As if ye are any different! Both of ye were brought here
to keep yer kin under control. Naught but hostages.”
Helen had brought her burden into the chamber. The scent of fresh bread came from
beneath the cloth. She sat the tray down with a clunk as she turned on Finley.
“Why thank ye, Finley, for such a charming description of me new home,” Ailis said.
He bristled. “I did nae bring either of ye here. Besides, Duana weighs double what
ye do. If I had nae been there this morning, she might have crushed the breath from
ye by just sitting on ye.”