Authors: Mary Wine
“Aye.” He was warming the sheets up nicely. “Perhaps that is what to take away from
this event. A willingness to welcome change.”
“Aye,” he agreed.
They didn’t touch, but their body heat mingled. The scent of his skin teased her senses,
in spite of the wind blowing through the chamber.
She’d never expected a man to smell enticing.
Yet she could not deny it or ignore it. She was still awake when the moon climbed
high enough for her to see it through the window. Her body was still pulsing with
strange yearnings that excited her more than she cared to notice. Yet she’d be lying
if she didn’t admit she had a new knowledge of her own nature. One she liked. One
that gave her hope for her future, as well as a solid confidence in what had just
that morning been her worst enemy. All in all, the earl had managed to begin bringing
about the change he wanted.
Even if their marriage was going to be annulled.
There was still hope for a bright future.
* * *
Ailis shifted, enjoying the soft word spoken so close to her ear. She wiggled closer,
drawn by the warmth. The darkest part of the night brought howling winds that chilled
So she had buried it against a warm body.
A little sigh of contentment left her lips, and she heard an answering grunt before
she was pulled closer.
Still locked in sleep, she didn’t bother to consider what she was doing. There was
only impulse and reaction. She was being drawn toward that warmth. Seeking it out
to satisfy some yearning inside her. It felt bone deep.
This time, the words brushed her neck, followed by warm lips pressed against the sensitive
skin. She twisted, her body alive with pleasure. She reached for him, sliding her
hands along his chest and delighting at the feeling of his crisp hair between her
He shifted, pressing her onto her back. She rolled easily, happy to take his weight.
It felt so good, so very right as he pressed a kiss against her lips. His mouth was
softer than expected, his lips smooth and silken.
He tasted good.
The knowledge burst inside her head, bringing her closer to consciousness.
Men didn’t taste good. But Bhaic did.
She pulled away from the kiss, but he cupped her face and pressed his mouth over hers
again. This time his kiss was demanding and harder. She struggled to recall why she
had to resist. It wasn’t because it was distasteful. Pleasure was flowing down her
body from the sweet contact. She wanted to kiss him back and lost the battle to think
at all for several long moments. Beautiful moments of their lips slipping across each
other’s, sparking a hundred different sensations that both shocked and surprised her.
But it was Bhaic MacPherson.
It was the word “husband” that broke the last of sleep’s hold over her. She tried
to back away from him, her knee connecting with his member.
He snarled, bolting up as he woke completely.
“Ye…must…not.” She meant to sound stern but managed only a soft plea. Her tone was
He recoiled, taking the comforter with him. It was pitch-black in the room, the moon
on its way to the horizon. She strained to see him, but in the darkness, the only
hint of his presence came from the sound of his breathing.
The wind howled, and she shivered, her teeth chattering. It was the slap she needed
to return to reality.
“Ye’re a dangerous creature, Ailis.”
The bed ropes creaked as he sent the comforter back over them both.
“Ye kissed me,” she retorted as she dug her fingers into the bedding to hold it against
“Because ye pressed up against me. I warned ye. I am a man who enjoys the comfort
of a woman’s body.”
“Even when it is a Robertson? I heard ye enjoy Grants.” It was her wounded pride talking.
There was no other possible reason for her to crave his response to such a question.
“So that’s the game, is it?”
He rolled onto his side and propped his head with his hand. She could feel him watching
her. She should have kept her mouth shut.
He suddenly chuckled. “Brenda Grant was me mistress, and she enjoyed the position
well. Her husband was a selfish bastard, and once she was widowed, she was woman enough
to want to know if there was pleasure in bed sport. I assure ye, I did nae disappoint
His tone was wicked but at the same time enticing. The darkness only added to the
temptation brewing inside her to needle him until he lost control again. Perhaps she’d
not be disappointed either.
The desire shocked her. She shouldn’t want anything at all from him.
“Is that why the earl thought I’d fall for this plan?” he asked softly. “Did the man
think all he had to do was get ye into me bed and I’d lose all control?”
She scooted away from him, shivering as she touched the icy-cold sheets. “I did nae
know of the earl’s plans. I’d be a poor daughter if I let my sire be hanged when there
was something I might do to prevent it.”
“Unless yer father was never in any danger.”
His tone was thick with accusation. She sat up. “I would nae have wed ye for any other
Her tone was equally as distrusting. The peace she’d fallen asleep dreaming of was
nothing but a forgotten fantasy.
“The Robertsons do nae have the strength to defeat us,” he growled. “It’s only our
mercy that keeps yer land from being overrun and burned. Little wonder ye joined with
Morton to lock me into this marriage.”
“I did nae.” She lost control, reaching out to slap him. “Brute.”
The sound popped loudly, bouncing between the walls of the chamber.
“Harpy,” he snarled, capturing her wrist and pinning it to the surface of the bed.
He was strong, holding her wrist down easily. In the dark, he seemed even larger than
he had during the day.
“I do nae lie.” Her voice cracked, tears easing from the corners of her eyes. She
knew she had no right to expect mercy from him. By divine law, her body was his. Submission
and obedience her duty.
He snorted before releasing her wrist. The bed ropes groaned as he landed on his back.
“Maybe, maybe no’.”
The icy night air was a balm for her overheated skin, carrying away the heat of his
body. She rolled over, scrambling to escape. The chill made her suck in her breath,
but she wasn’t staying in the bed with him.
“Come back here… ’Tis too cold, lass.”
He caught a handful of her chemise and pulled her back. The fabric ripped, her body
weight too much for the thin cotton.
“We shall have to suffer each other for a few more hours, Ailis.” He dropped her in
the center of the bed and tossed the comforter over her. He locked an arm around her
waist and settled against her back. She tried to wiggle away, and he snorted next
to her ear.
“Be still, woman. Yer flesh entices me, so stop struggling, and we might yet make
it to see the sun rise without being stuck with each other.”
As far as compliments went, she had never heard a worse one.
Yet she had never enjoyed one more. For without a doubt, he was sincere.
It completed her humiliation. Tears escaped her eyes.
Bhaic shifted, his touch becoming something very unexpected.
But she knew it could so easily change. Despair clawed at her, making her breath catch
on a silent sob. Helplessness was a cruel beast that threatened to crush her as the
wind howled through the open windows, making her cringe with the cold.
“I owe ye an apology, lass.” He smoothed his hand along her cheek, capturing her tears.
“Ye called me brute justly.”
His chest rumbled with a soft chuckle. “Agreement between us. What would our fathers
She choked on a laugh. “Naught civil, I imagine.”
She heard a chuckle behind her. For one insane moment, they laughed together.
He rubbed her arms, and she relaxed. She didn’t plan to; his touch just seemed so
“I hope yer father might think kindly upon the fact that I have nae enjoyed the treat
Morton tried to make of ye.”
Her insides felt as though they were tightening again.
“Yer father as well,” she countered, trying to sound as unconcerned.
He grunted. “Aye.” She was trying to edge away from him again. He released her, and
she made it a few inches before the cold became unbearable. She ended up on her back,
so very aware of him. It was pure insanity. Her very skin seemed more sensitive than
it had been when she awoke that morning.
He chuckled softly. The sound drew her attention.
“I have never been in bed with a virgin.”
She lost her resolve to ignore him. “I should think there are worse fates.”
He laughed softly.
He reached out and picked up a lock of her hair resting near his elbow. “I’ll say
this for Morton, he baits his traps well, for ye are a bonny thing.”
His words shouldn’t have pleased her.
Yet they did.
He raised the lock of hair to his face, inhaling the scent of it. Something shifted
inside her. A jolt firing off some place deep inside. She looked away from him, uncertain
to say the least.
A moment later, he’d captured her hand and lifted it into the air between them, their
fingers mingling intimately. Her breath lodged in her throat. His touch was intense,
igniting a storm of sensation that flowed through her more freely than French wine.
He was a MacPherson.
He raised her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss against it. “Aye, ye’re likely right.”
“I did nae say anything.”
He released her hand when she withdrew it, but her skin continued to tingle where
he’d kissed it.
“Yer wide eyes say plenty, Ailis. Intimate conversation is something ye have no practice
“Certainly no’,” she muttered, feeling her cheeks heat. “No unmarried girl is.”
He shrugged. “Do nae be so naive, lass. There are plenty of daughters in the Highlands
who have nae kept their innocence for their wedding night. Ye are no meek maid, so
it stands to reason that ye might have followed yer passions.”
She shifted, shaking her head before she thought better of letting him know so personal
a detail about her.
His grin faded, his expression becoming pensive. “Ye deserve respect for holding on
to yer virtue. It means ye have integrity and deep respect for yer father’s name.”
He lay down on his back. For a moment, she couldn’t quite believe he was truly going
to leave her in peace.
Respect from a MacPherson. Truly, it had been a day full of surprises.
She was certain she couldn’t take another one.
* * *
Ailis woke to the sound of the door being unlocked. She blinked, still groggy from
too little sleep and too many thoughts churning inside her head.
“At last,” Bhaic growled next to her. “Damned night lasted a month.”
“It did,” she agreed and then regretted her words when she witnessed the hard glint
that appeared in his eyes. Clearly she wasn’t ready for marriage, for men needed meek
words when they woke. Bhaic’s pride was wounded, and no mistake.
She had rolled onto her belly sometime during the night and had to push herself up.
The door opened, and the Earl of Morton appeared in the doorway. He was wearing a
fur-lined half coat and a thick, felted wool hat. She glared at the warm clothing.
“Chilly night,” he remarked as he strode boldly into the room.
“It was warm enough,” Bhaic remarked before standing up.
Two other men entered the room, and she realized one was her father. His lips were
white from being pressed together so tightly. The other man was Shamus MacPherson,
and he went toward his son with his kilt.
Her father held out a dressing robe for her. Ailis sat up and eagerly left the bed
behind. But her father froze, his gaze on her. She looked down to see her chemise
gaping open where the sleeve had been torn. One cuff was secured around her wrist,
while the edges of the sleeve fluttered loose.
“Ye bloody bastard,” her father accused.
Ailis reached for the dressing robe and wrapped it around herself.
“There is nae a mark on the lass,” Bhaic responded. He was pleating his kilt on the
edge of the bed, folding it with a practiced hand before slipping a belt beneath it
and buckling it around his lean waist.
“I am fine, Father.”
“And wed,” the earl announced.
With both of them out of the bed, the earl had pulled down the comforter to expose
the sheet. The blood had dried, turning a dark brown that stood out plainly.
“You are free to return to your land, Laird Robertson,” Morton informed him before
he looked at Bhaic. “You’ll be expected to take your new bride home.”
Bhaic brushed past the earl and captured Ailis’s upper arm. He swept her from the
chamber without a word. She squelched the impulse to protest.
What was she going to do? Stay in the chamber? Admit she was a maiden still?
No. Every fiber of her being rebelled against that idea. The morning sun was bright,
and she itched to get into it. Escape filled her thoughts as she spied the Head of
“I’m off to find me dress,” Ailis said.
Bhaic made no protest. She felt an odd little twinge of regret, but it wasn’t enough
to stop her from following the servant to a chamber where her dress was hung up neatly.
There were times she didn’t care for the long stays in fashion, but today, she enjoyed
feeling the laces closing the stiff undergarment tightly against her body.
She felt buffered against the harsher facts of reality.
But when she emerged, the Head of House led her to the high table once more. This
time her father sat there, and so did Shamus MacPherson. The two spaces between the
lairds were for her and Bhaic. There was something symbolic about the scene at the
high table, and she would be lying if she said she didn’t think it was attractive.