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Authors: Mary Wine

Highland Spitfire (20 page)

BOOK: Highland Spitfire
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He pulled her close, but it wasn’t really a welcome hug. “Are ye well? Tell me the
truth,” he whispered against her ear.

Bhaic was suddenly there, close enough to hear what Duncan was whispering.

“I do nae mistreat women,” Bhaic insisted.

Duncan released her and pushed her behind him. “I’ll be hearing what me sister has
to say on the matter, MacPherson. Make no mistake about that. If me father had nae
sent me out to deal with some bastard Gordons, I would have been there to deal with
the Earl of Morton and prevent this marriage.”

Bhaic chuckled darkly. “There was a time I would have risen to that bait, Robertson.”

Duncan pushed closer to Bhaic, clearly spoiling for a fight. She started to step between
them, but Bhaic captured her wrist and held her back, turning slightly and pulling
her behind him. Duncan didn’t miss it. Her brother’s eye narrowed with rage.

“And there ye see the reason why this marriage happened,” Bhaic explained in a low
tone. “Yer sister is more levelheaded than either of us. I offered me chest to the
earl’s marksmen, but she wasn’t willing to see her father hanged when there was something
she could do to prevent it. Even wed me. She shamed me well with the way she put the
good of both our clansmen above her own preferences.”

“Ye can bet ye were no’ her choice for husband.”

“Stop bickering,” she said.

Her brother’s gaze settled on the dark spot on her jaw, marking where Duana had slapped

“He was rough with ye,” Duncan growled menacingly.

“He was no’.”

But Bhaic turned around and looked at her jawline, his lips pressing into a hard line.

“Duncan,” her father called from where he was standing in the yard. “Bring yer sister
down here where I can see her.”

“Better ye come into the hall,” Marcus said.

Her father shook his head. “I’ve come farther than ever I thought to in this life,
but I will no’ be going into yer keep. I told ye, I’m here to see me daughter with
me own eyes and make sure ye MacPhersons do nae have any reason to be saying she did
nae arrive suitably outfitted as a bride should be.”

Her father aimed the last part of his answer toward the yard where every doorway was
filled with curious onlookers.

Ailis looked behind her father and realized there was a wagon. Marcus had his men
helping to unload several trunks. She was grateful and yet at the same time, her breath
got caught in her throat, because she realized her father had accepted her marriage.

Inside those trunks would be all of her possessions. While it would be wonderful to
have her clothing, she was fairly certain she was going to cry when she looked at
the pearl necklace her mother had left her, and her father had safeguarded for the
day she wed.

Duncan reached out and took hold of her arm. Bhaic glowered, clearly didn’t care for
the way her brother was taking charge of her.

“Ye have something to say, MacPherson?” Duncan asked.

“Ye’d like that, would ye nae?” Bhaic shot back. “Seems ye’re in the mood to stir
up something, alright.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Ailis hissed beneath her breath so her words didn’t carry.
“Have done, ye two. Ye will nae undo what good has been done. Duncan, I am fine. Me
husband”—she used the word on purpose—“has nae laid a hand on me that I did nae enjoy.”

She shook off her brother’s hold and shot Bhaic a hard look. “I am going to see me
father. Ye should come as well and greet yer father-by-marriage.”

Bhaic didn’t care for the tone of her voice, but he stepped out of her path. Duncan
made a noise under his breath that she snorted at. Bhaic stiffened but remained by
her side as she went down the steps and into the yard.

“Marcus is correct. Ye are a spitfire,” Bhaic said under his breath.

“Thank ye.”

He choked back his amusement.

It was harder than she’d thought to see her father. Tears tried to sting her eyes,
but she blinked them away.

“There’s me lass…” Her father peered at her and frowned. “And ye have the nerve to
tell me I did nae need to bring along her things? Me daughter is wearing the dress
she left home in…a week later!”

Shamus MacPherson turned to look at her. “Well now, me daughter is nae home, and what
would men know of such things? The lass might have spoken up.”

“Ye’ve got a Head of House, do ye no’?” Duncan demanded. “If she were worthy of her
position, she’d no’ need to be told how to look after her mistress.”

A ripple of conversation went through those watching. Many of the women looked at
the ground out of shame.

“Maybe the lass has nae needed much clothing.” Shamus puffed his chest out. “Any lass
wedded to a MacPherson does nae.”

“That’s me daughter,” her father insisted crossly, “so mind how ye talk about her.”

“Oh, stop it,” Ailis said, trying to end their argument. “As if ye have nae said something
as…colorful about weddings before, Father.”

Her father suddenly grinned and reached out to slap Bhaic on the shoulder. “Ye’ll
have yer work cut out for ye with me daughter. She’s got spirit.”

“That’s the truth,” Marcus said.

Duncan snarled softly at Marcus.

Bhaic stuck his hand out. Her father looked at it for a long moment. His gaze shifted
back to her, sweeping her from head to toe before he clasped Bhaic’s hand. A ripple
went through those watching. Heads nodded; expressions eased. Surprise brightened
Duncan’s eyes before his complexion darkened slightly with guilt.

Duncan offered Bhaic his hand. The two stared at each other for only a moment before
they clasped wrists.

Her father turned to her. “Now come and kiss yer father. I’ve got to get going. The
sun is nae going to wait for me, and I will sleep better closer to me own land.”

She went to his embrace, feeling as if a live coal had somehow gotten caught in her
chest. Her father folded her in his arms, squeezing her before he sniffed and pulled

“Alright, me lads! Let’s take ourselves home and prove we can go through MacPherson
land without spilling blood. More than one wager is going to be lost over it, for
certain. I think I’m going to enjoy knowing I am nae so old I can nae learn a new

Duncan helped her father up onto the back of his horse before he took a moment to
stare at her.

She was sure it was the hardest thing she’d ever done to look him straight back in
the eye and smile. He nodded and mounted.

“But mind ye”—her father turned his horse around and looked at Shamus—“I’ll be expecting
me son-in-law there to be bringing me daughter home for a visit in a few weeks. Seeing
as how I’ve come out here first to prove me commitment to this…peace.”

It was a challenge. Cast down right there in the yard. Ailis couldn’t help but be
proud of her father for his brazen tenacity. It made her smile as they turned and

Her emotions started to boil though as she watched the last of her clansmen disappear.
The MacPhersons were clustered around one another, talking intently about what had
just happened. Shamus had both his sons near him.

Which left her standing alone.

Although on display might be a better description.

People looked at her, pointing, nodding—obviously discussing her. For certain, no
one stuck in the pillory had ever endured more scrutiny.

She backed away from it. Retreating into the keep. But that allowed her only to walk
into a wall of women, all waiting to see what had happened. The suspicion in their
gazes broke the hold she had on her feelings. Despair clawed its way up from where
she’d locked it away on May Day.

Now, there was no way to shield herself from it. The tears she’d blinked away began
spilling down her cheeks as she fled toward the stairs to hide her lack of composure.

Somehow, she ended up back in Bhaic’s rooms, pressing against the window to gain the
last glimpse of her kin. She didn’t hear Bhaic arrive, but he was suddenly there,
embracing her.

She shifted, shamed by her wet cheeks.

“Easy, lass…” he cooed against her head, tucking it beneath his chin.

She wanted to be stronger.

But fate hadn’t been in the mood lately to grant her what she wanted.

Her tears fell, her breathing rough. “I’m sorry… I do nae know why I came here…”

She pushed away from his hold, wiping her eyes hastily on her sleeve before she turned
to find her way to the door.

“I’ve been waiting for ye to come here, Ailis. Ye know that.” There was a trace of
promise in his tone.

She recalled it all too clearly from the night in the stairwell.

Behind him, his bed was lit with the rays of the afternoon sun.

“Somehow, I do nae think this is the circumstance ye were hoping for.”

He chuckled, smoothing his hand down her arm. “Maybe because I’m new to being a husband.
I’ve never had much dealing with women beyond…well…”

She slapped him on the shoulder, but since she was in his embrace, the blow lacked
any real power. “I know what ye mean.”

He tipped her chin up, but his gaze moved to the dark spot on her jaw. “I’m going
to have words with Duana.”

“Ye will no’. It’s me house and me place to see to the running of it.”

“And ye are me wife, Ailis,” he countered. “I should be making it clear I agree with
this union. Ye were right to wed me. Shamed me properly for no’ thinking beyond what
me father taught me of yer clan. Yer brother saw it just now.”

“Aye. For the first time, I believe.” She clung to the victory of that truth.

Bhaic stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “Ye’re a woman to be reckoned with,
but Duana is taking advantage of yer tender heart. I aim to put a stop to that.”

“I will do it in me own way and time,” she insisted.

He wasn’t going to allow her to sway him, but she dug her fingers into his kilt when
he started to move away. His outer belt popped. Startled, Ailis released the fabric,
and the wide belt slithered to the floor.

The sound of it hitting the floor made her eyes go wide.

Had she really just

undressed him?

“Well now, that’s one way to win the argument,” he said with a husky chuckle. “Taking
me clothes off. Maybe ye’re the spitfire Marcus claims ye are.”

“I am not biddable,” she admitted, “especially when I am dealing with pigheadedness.”

His eyes narrowed as he contemplated her. “In that case, I need to make sure ye do
nae find me too weak willed to handle ye.”

He reached out and caught the lace holding her bodice closed. With a sharp tug, he
opened the knot and pulled the lace free with his fingers from the first two eyelets.

“There,” he said smugly. “Now ye see that I am no’ too weak willed to face the challenge
ye present.”

“Oh?” She tugged on the front of his doublet, freeing several of his buttons. She
almost stopped, but undid two more for good measure. “I like me challenges far more

It was a ridiculous battle, but she was enjoying it too much to stop.

“Well now, I would nae care to see ye disappointed.”

He reached out with both hands and pulled the lace through her eyelets with quick
motions. She ended up reaching around and finishing off his buttons. Her bodice sagged
open at the same time his doublet did. Bhaic shrugged out of it, letting it drop to
the floor, and faced off with her in his shirt.

She hesitated, feeling the air against her breasts through her thin chemise.

Dare she continue?

“Come, lassie…” He tapped the button on his shirt. “Finish what ye started.”

It was tempting.

Far better than waiting for him to decide when to claim her.

She reached out and opened the button, and then another. Bhaic was slowly working
the lace holding her skirt free. But he held her gaze. The passion shimmering in his
eyes captivated her.

“Kiss me.” Her voice was raspy and unsteady, her body starting to quiver. “Quiet me

“It almost killed me to wait for ye to ask.” There was a harsh edge to his voice that
made her shiver, and in his eyes a hint of the desire he’d been holding in check.

He leaned down and kissed her with enough passion to send her thoughts scattering.
She rose on her toes to get closer as he pushed her skirts down and over her hips.
They puddled around her ankles as she went searching for the buckle on his second

The metal was cold, but the plaid was warm from his skin. She pulled the leather tail
free and then loosened the buckle. There was a soft sound as the wool hit the floor.
A swift sense of satisfaction filled her as she let him press her lips apart and tease
her tongue with his.

She shuddered, shaken to her core.

He scooped her up, carrying her away from their clothing. Kissing her with a hunger
that ignited a storm of need inside her.

There was no reason to think. Sweet sensation reigned supreme, offering her a feast
of delights. She had some dim awareness of him carrying her through to the darker
room where his massive bed was and lowering her onto it. He cupped her head, holding
her in place as he sent his tongue into her mouth.

It was so bluntly sexual.

And she loved it.

He gathered her close, holding her against his body as he moved her farther up onto
the bed. It was soft, taking her weight as he let her down and lowered himself on
top of her. He was hard against her thighs. He lifted her knees, parting them so he
might settle between her legs. She was pulsing, throbbing with need, caught in a moment
of anticipation as she waited for that first intimate touch against her sex.

He stroked her breasts first, soft, delicious strokes, before he leaned down and suckled
one of her nipples. She gasped, arching up as it felt as though his mouth was burning

But it was a wonderful sort of torment, one she craved more of. She threaded her fingers
through his hair, holding him to her. He kissed his way to her other breast, the sensitive
skin of her nipple puckering tight in anticipation. Every little second felt impossibly
long while she waited for him to claim that peak with his mouth.

BOOK: Highland Spitfire
12.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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