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Authors: Mary Wine

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BOOK: Highland Spitfire
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“Aye…” he ground out as he withdrew and pushed back in at the same angle. “We have
to find the right…position…”

She had no inclination to think about what he was saying. Only to feel. She lifted
her hips, straining toward him because it felt so incredible. She was poised on the
edge of something, something that was twisting tighter with every downward plunge
of his body into hers. All that mattered was meeting him, moving in unison with him
until she felt the world shatter. It was far more intense than it had been in the
stable. This time she cried out, unable to contain it all inside herself. The moment
seemed to hold her, keeping her inside it as pleasure burned through her.

Bhaic held her down, the only solid thing in her universe. He rode her through it,
his pace becoming wild in the last few thrusts before he arched back and strained
to bury himself inside her. She opened her eyes as his seed began to flow, spurting
deep against the mouth of her womb while he rocked her a few final times before collapsing
beside her on his back.

His breathing was harsh, his arm shaking as he reached up to stroke her face. She
suddenly noticed the silence in the room. Their breathing was slowing down, the blood
no longer roaring in her ears. Her body felt more relaxed, more sated than she’d ever
felt.

So unexpected.

While she hadn’t worried that marriage duties would be so painful she’d dread them,
she certainly hadn’t expected to feel so elated when it was all over and done with.
The darkness was the perfect place to experience it, allowing her the privacy to simply
be honest.

Of course, the sun would rise.

That hard certainty soured her mood.

Bhaic was still beside her. His breathing had slowed. She waited for a bit, listening
to the deepening sounds of his breath. At last, when she was sure he was asleep, she
pushed away from him, easing from the bed and slipping onto her feet.

She ached.

The pain surprised her, stopping her for a moment. Her chemise was lying on the floor.
She reached for it and put it on. She pinched out more candles on the way to where
her dress was. There was no point in getting into it, so she wrapped her arisaid around
herself and gathered up her things.

Finley jumped when she opened the door, staring at her in surprise. She passed him
and made it to her chamber before the first tears escaped her eyes. She let them flow,
the strength to hold them in beyond her.

It would be better tomorrow.

Of course it would.

But that was a lie, because she’d still be a Robertson.

* * *

She awoke at first light again.

Although, it was barely first light.

Still, she hadn’t slept much, so what was the point of remaining in bed? She got up
and found a chunk of bread left from the day before. The edges were hard, but she
tore them away and ate the rest. The pitcher still had some water in it too.

Helen would have taken it away.

Ailis scoffed at the tray. Most any chamber would have been righted. But of course,
she was a Robertson. It felt as though the walls were closing in on her. She went
through her clothing and found another dress that laced in the front. Made for days
when she needed to work as hard as everyone else, it was sturdy green wool that went
with her blond hair.

She tied up the front and put her arisaid on. Gaining a sense of satisfaction from
seeing to herself. At least no one would be labeling her helpless.

Don’t be peevish… Ye knew full well where ye were heading when ye wed.

She drew in a deep breath to steady herself. Aye. She’d known and struck her bargain,
so she’d have to be keeping it. Besides, she couldn’t very well expect to win over
many hearts in a single week.

What she needed was a ride. Some fresh air would see her feeling right again.

She pushed her doubts aside and headed down the stairs. The hall was still full of
sleeping retainers. They had their plaids pulled up and over their heads to stay warm.
More than one of them had a serving lass sharing those plaids.

She caught herself staring at them, trying to decide if she longed for the same. If
she were to be practical, she’d expect nothing more than contentment from her marriage
and be grateful for the pleasure Bhaic had made sure she found in his bed.

Was there more? The couples in the hall looked more intimate somehow. The sight stirred
up some longing she hadn’t realized she had. The couple she was spying on started
to move, stroking each other beneath their layers of wool plaid. The man cupped his
consort’s breasts as she reached down and boldly grasped his member. Their legs entwined
as they kissed, and finally the man rolled the woman beneath him. He shrouded her
with his plaid, but not before Ailis spied her clasping him between her thighs.

She’d done that too…

Her cheeks heated as she ducked out of the castle and headed up to the stables. It
was quiet still. But her mare gave her a warm welcome, tossing her head and pawing
at the ground.

“I’ve missed ye too.”

* * *

Marcus was in the hall when Bhaic made it down the stairs.

“I did nae expect ye to send the lass from yer bed,” Marcus said softly. “A bit harsh.”

“She left after I fell asleep,” Bhaic bit back under his breath. “Likely due to the
fine sense of welcome she’s been shown.”

There was a delicate scoff. Bhaic looked beyond his brother to see Helen sitting in
a chair. She had her arms folded over her chest and was perched on the edge of the
seat. Marcus was watching her, daring her to move.

“As if either of ye know a single thing about a woman’s feelings.”

Marcus’s lips curled. “Me brother knows something about moving a woman to ecstasy.
I have that on good report.”

Helen pushed her lips into a pout as Bhaic punched him in the shoulder. “Have done
with us, Marcus. Ye’ve had yer way enough.”

Marcus continued to look at Helen. “I always get me way.”

Helen looked right back at him and arched one of her eyebrows. “Every spoilt child
has an encounter with disappointment. Ye’re no different.”

Marcus looked past Bhaic. “What are ye doing down here without yer charge, Finley?”

Finley had a fresh mug of ale, his beard frothy with it. “The lass came out last night
looking well ridden. Ye said to watch her until the union was consummated.”

He drew off a long sip and belched, clearly thinking the job well done. Marcus started
toward him but turned back around when Helen moved.

“Sit back down, Helen.” Marcus spoke softly. It was a warning, one Bhaic knew well.

“I am no’ agreeing with this.”

Bhaic looked up to see several of their retainers lined up.

Marcus shrugged. “Ye can choose, or I’ll let them compete for ye.”

“Ye’re a bastard,” she snarled.

“I am.”

“Ye’re thieving from me father. That’s the truth about what ye’re set to do. Forcing
him to give me dowry to one of yer own.”

“Ye’ve been here too long,” Marcus countered. “Yer reputation is ruined if ye are
no’ wed.”

“That’s yer shame, no’ mine.”

“Which way is going to be, lass? I’ve got other things to see to today.”

She lifted one hand and gestured at the men who had stepped up. “What? Do I no’ even
get the chance to check their teeth? Should I select one simply by the way he leers
at me?”

Marcus slowly grinned. “Well now, lads. It seems the lass desires a bit of courting.
Make sure ye are attentive to her and do nae lose sight of her.”

His last words were delivered in a solid tone his men recognized well. They grinned,
several of them chuckling. Helen slowly stood. She turned to look at the men eyeing
her like a treat. Marcus had turned to look at Bhaic. Helen struck in that small moment
of inattention, claiming a pitcher from the tabletop and swinging it in a wide arch.
She caught Marcus on the side of the head, knocking him flat.

Bhaic stared incredulously as his brother landed in a heap. There was silence in the
hall for a split second before laughter erupted. People turned around in time to see
Marcus jumping to his feet. Helen had the pitcher in both hands, facing off with him.

But it was the sound of their father’s amusement that made them both turn. Shamus
was halfway up the steps. He’d stopped because he was laughing so hard, his age-worn
body was shaking. He struggled to make it up the last two steps.

“Just like yer mother,” he said at last. “She was never afraid of anything. No’ even
the church. She was a member of the new kirk. That’s why she never wed me.”

“He’s trying to force me to wed.” Helen appealed to Shamus. “Allow me to go home.”

Shamus made his way to a chair. He settled back into it and gestured her forward.
“Why are ye on me land, lass?”

“Yer son stole me to force me father to no’ make a fuss. He had me locked away when
me own laird was here so I could nae seek his protection. I am a Grant.”

“Me son Marcus, ye mean?”

Helen nodded. Shamus considered her for a long moment. “Well now, I stole his mother
too. A Highlander does that from time to time when he sees a lass worth keeping for
himself.”

Helen’s face paled, but she wasn’t ready to give in just yet. She took a deep breath
and considered her argument.

“Yet he is trying to force me on his men.” Helen gestured behind her. “I’ll have none
of it.”

People were moving closer, frowning at the tone Helen was using with their laird.
Shamus was pensive, clearly thinking the matter through.

“If ye stole her, Marcus, ye’ll keep her or return her to her father,” Shamus said
firmly.

“Her family was making trouble,” Marcus informed his sire. “Better one woman change
her thinking than blood spilt.”

Shamus took to stroking his beard.

“I was giving the men leave to court her,” Marcus added when his father didn’t speak.

“After listing me dowry,” Helen argued. “Ye’ve given them a fine reason for rough
wooing sure enough.”

There was a rise of sound from the back of the hall—women were shaking their heads
in disapproval.

“Me son’s choice to take ye was valid. Unless ye would like to tell me that ye would
prefer spilled blood over a peaceful settlement?” Shamus suddenly sounded exactly
like the laird he’d been ten years earlier, before age had stolen his strength.

Helen opened her mouth but shut it without uttering a word. She nodded a single time,
clearly frustrated by her circumstances but wise enough to see the matter for what
it was.

Shamus grunted with approval and turned his attention to Marcus.

“Ye stole her. If ye can no’ convince her to wed ye, it falls to ye to return her
to her father and account for yer actions. Her father will account for his actions
if he persists in causing trouble. It’s true a Highlander may steal a woman, but no’
to make a mockery of her and her father’s good name. However, if she does nae favor
ye, she may choose another.”

Marcus opened his mouth to argue at the same time that Helen did. Shamus slapped the
table, making it clear the matter was closed. Which left them staring at one another.
“Now. On to yer brother.”

Shamus took a drink from his mug before he looked around. “Where is that sheet?”

“Father…” Bhaic said quietly.

His father paid him no mind. Duana finally came into sight, her breathing labored
and sweat trickling down the sides of her face. But she came up onto the high ground
and held up a sheet. The dark stain on it was clear in the morning light.

“Well now.” Shamus nodded approvingly. “That’s settled.” He slapped the tabletop again
but looked around. “Where is the lass? Still sleeping? Well now…that’s me son after
all! Let her rest. She’ll be needing it.”

The hall filled with laughter.

Duana started to direct the serving of the high table. The retainers moved the tables
and benches into position so they might enjoy breaking their fast.

The day was beginning, but his wife never appeared.

Well, tonight he’d see about making sure she had reason to seek him out.

* * *

Her mare was eager for a ride, setting off the moment Ailis gave her leave to. The
hills were covered in green, and the heather was blooming. Ailis leaned low and let
her mare run. The castle fell out of sight before she pulled up on the reins.

Her chest felt lighter. Her circumstances no longer seemed so overwhelming.

Well, she wouldn’t say she felt hopeful, but at least she wasn’t hopeless any longer.

It was something.

She smiled ruefully.

Well, her marriage was something too. Something she’d best avoid putting a label on.
It was done now, and there was part of her satisfied by the knowledge. Part of her
hoping for another night of passion. Was that to be the way she found meaning in her
new life? In those dark moments when she surrendered to the bliss Bhaic’s touch unleashed?

Well, it had certainly been better than what the marriage bed held for some daughters
of lairds who needed to marry with alliances in mind. He wasn’t old enough to be her
father—more than one bride had suffered such a fate.

She wasn’t wed to Marcus.

That idea made her snicker. Bhaic’s brother was well suited to his position as War
Chief. Ruthless to his core. She couldn’t see him taking her to the astrologer’s house,
and the idea of Marcus courting her was laughable. He would hunt his wife, not court
her.

At least her mood was lightening. She eased her mare up an incline, coming to a crest.
Below her, a river was roaring with spring melt off. The power of the moving water
was incredible. It was churning so much, it created its own mist. The sun was coming
up now, chasing away the night shadows. The moment was magical, that time between
night and day when fae roamed and the specters of night were no longer able to move
about.

There was a crack behind her. She started to turn but was suddenly falling off the
horse as pain ripped across her shoulders and a shower of splinters rained down on
her. She hit the ground, more agony tearing through her. Her mare reared up, and Ailis
willingly let herself start tumbling down the incline. The newly risen sun flashed
off the horse’s hooves as the animal pawed at the air before coming down.

BOOK: Highland Spitfire
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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