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Authors: Mary Wine

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BOOK: Highland Spitfire
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It was the cruelest sort of torment, which bred a growing longing inside her. It made
no sense, unless Bhaic had been correct about her being old enough for marriage.

Was it so simple?

She hoped so.

Fleeing from him wasn’t sitting well with her. It was cowardly, and there was no way
to soften it. She’d run from him. Fled from the intensity, from the overwhelming sensation
his touch unleashed.

Maybe she was ready for marriage.

“Father, I am looking forward to May Day.”

Her father paused, looking at her as he tried to drop the subject of how terrible
the MacPhersons were. A renewed sense of guilt assaulted her when she witnessed how
much effort it took. It was sad indeed to see that they didn’t know how to talk about
anything except the feud. She felt a hint of responsibility for keeping the fighting
going, because they never stopped fanning the flames. Well, it was time.

“Aye, it will be a fine market fair.”

He returned to talking to his captains, but Ailis felt a bit of relief.

May Day was the perfect time to begin looking for a husband.


May Day was one of those few days when clan rivalry was abandoned. At the crossroads
of the MacPherson, Robertson, Grant, and Gordon lands, merchants arrived to set up
their stalls. There were metalworkers, cloth sellers, and leather craftsmen. The time
when a castle produced everything for itself was passing into the pages of history.
Now, there were merchants who made their living by bringing exotic fruits inland from
the ports. Even so early in spring, there were oranges and pomegranates brought by
ship from Spain. There were spices brought in from faraway lands.

The merchants were joined by jugglers and musicians. The air was festive, and the
four clans mixed freely, their animosity displayed only in games of strength. Instead
of wielding swords against one another, they tossed cabers—long poles as big as trees—and
tried to get them to flip end over end.

Ailis brushed out her hair and put on a wreath of spring greens to celebrate the new
season. Many girls had risen at dawn to wash their faces in the morning dew to ensure
their youthful beauty. More than one young maiden had celebrated spring with more
than dew.

She hadn’t, because she was a laird’s daughter and expected to remain a virgin until
she wed, so she wasn’t allowed to join the other girls in the predawn hours. At least
she was able to go to the fair every year. The rest of the castle inhabitants had
to take turns, because it would never do for the castle to be left empty.

But for some girls, taking a lover on May Day was a way to decide upon a husband.
Ailis envied them the opportunity to make sure they would have no unpleasant surprises
on their wedding nights.

She’d certainly had a shock on hers.

Ailis shook her head. She would not think of Bhaic MacPherson or her wedding night.
She was not married. But only because she hadn’t been bedded.

She shivered, but she honestly wasn’t sure if it was caused by revulsion or excitement.

Yes, ye do know.

Heat teased her cheeks as she admitted it was excitement. She had enjoyed his kiss.
It would be a lie not to admit that she had also wondered what else she might enjoy.

Which was why she wandered out into the fair, smiling at the men who passed. It was
time to apply her attention to getting some offers she was actually interested in

* * *

“Ye’re a beast of a man, Bhaic MacPherson,” Symon Grant shouted across the green where
they had been tossing cabers. Bhaic smirked and bent his arms at the elbows to show
off his muscles. His chest was bare, sweat trickling down his abdomen.

Symon closed the distance and offered him a slap on the back. “Damned lucky too. I
thought I had ye on that last toss.”

“Almost,” Bhaic admitted.

“Which is nae enough, so ye can buy me some ale.”

Bhaic chuckled and bowed. The winner bought the ale. He scooped up his shirt, but
didn’t put it on as they walked toward the food merchants. There were Robertson retainers
sitting nearby, but they only cut him and his men stiff glances.

Bhaic gestured his captain forward. The merchant’s eyes lit up as Bhaic counted out
the silver. The man snapped his fingers at the serving wenches, and they began to
bring out frothy-topped wooden mugs.

Bhaic drew off a long swallow and grinned. The men surrounding him raised their tankards
high, toasting him before they tasted the brew.

But he lost focus, his gaze settling on the cloud of blond hair floating around the
shoulders of Ailis Robertson. There was a happy smile on her lips as she spun around
and around in a dance. She laughed when she reached the end of the row and picked
up her skirts to run back to the beginning of the set.

“Now there is something interesting,” Symon remarked as he stood beside Bhaic. “Is
nae that yer wife?”


Symon cut him a somber look. “Marriage is nae one of those things ye say

“In this case, it’s true.”

Symon drew off another sip of ale. “I suppose that accounts for why Lye Rob Gordon
is dancing with her so openly, and her with her hair down. So a wedding but no’ a
bedding? Was that the way of it? And ye’re happy to have it known by one and all?”

Bhaic felt his body stiffen. There was more than one man looking at him. The news
of his wedding had traveled fast. People gathering around the dancers, pointing at
Ailis and her unbound hair.

A tradition that only applied to maidens.

It was a public declaration of the truth of their union. Lye Rob Grant was making
a bold statement by dancing with her for all to see. Ailis had on a different dress
today, one that left no doubt she was a woman. It had a square neckline, and her plump
breasts were clearly on display. Lye Rob looked at them often, reaching out to cup
her slim waist every time the steps of the dance allowed him. Bhaic felt his nostrils
flare, a surge of possessiveness filling him.

She belonged to him.

It wasn’t about facts or words spoken in a holy place. It was a feeling rooted deep
inside him, that place where he still recalled what she smelled and tasted like. A
recognition that had taken root in the darkest hours of the night, when she had shattered
his control like he was an untried lad.

Lye Rob pulled her close and tried to kiss her.

Bhaic abandoned his ale and went after what he truly craved.

* * *

Ailis laughed and shook her head.

“Do nae leave me now, lass!” Lye Rob pleaded.

She shook her head again, her heart racing too fast for her to draw enough breath
to answer him. She backed away from the couples dancing, lifting her chin so the breeze
might cool her neck. She did not want his kiss.

It was disappointing, because she wanted to find a man who stirred her the way Bhaic
had. But it was clear it wasn’t Lye Rob. He was fun to dance with, and his brown eyes
were warm, but they did not excite her.

Not like Bhaic.

She turned around, and her skirts spun up. Cool air teased her ankles and calves before
the fabric settled.

“Are ye enjoying putting the horns of a cuckold on me head?”

She stared at Bhaic in stunned silence, wondering if she’d conjured him with her daydreaming.
But the men at his back confirmed that she was not locked in another memory of their
wedding night. “I’m nae doing anything of the sort.”

He snorted and reached out to finger her hair. She jumped, the single touch setting
off a reaction that rippled throughout her entire body.

“Unbound hair is the right of a maiden.”

The truth of his words rolled through her, stunning her at just how foolishly she’d
betrayed the facts of her unconsummated vows.

“It’s so nice of ye to make sure everyone knows.” He jerked his head to get her to
look beyond him. People were standing three and four deep, many of them whispering
as they looked at her.

“She was dancing with me,” Lye Rob interrupted.

Bhaic turned on him with a soft growl. “Unless ye’re a fool, ye know she’s wed to

Her temper flared up, the public declaration feeling like a collar going around her
neck. Perhaps she hadn’t made as clean an escape as she’d thought.

“Enough bickering,” she admonished. “’Tis May Day. Everyone is dancing.”

Bhaic was crowding Lye Rob, towering over the other man by at least a foot. Somehow,
she’d missed the fact that Bhaic was bare chested.

That was a sin, to be sure.

One ye enjoy…

The man was sculpted to perfection. She’d felt the ridges of muscles on her wedding
night, but seeing them let loose a whole different surge of excitement. This time,
her nipples puckered behind her stays, longing for the chance to be pressed against
his bare skin.

It was a red-hot craving, one that felt worse than any hunger she’d ever endured.

“There is little point in bickering,” she said.

He turned to face her. “Aye, enough is right, Ailis.”

He captured her hips and pulled her forward. She ran into his chest, raising her hands
out of instinct to break her collision with him. He leaned down and pressed his mouth
against hers, running one hand up her back to capture her head and hold her still.

The kiss was ravishing. It bore little resemblance to the tender ones he’d given her
before. This time he demanded, and her will crumbled beneath the hard motions of his
mouth. This was the kiss she’d truly wanted.

The crowd watching them cheered, the men roaring with approval.

Bhaic lifted his head, and she glimpsed his pleased expression right before he tossed
her up and over his shoulder.

She squealed, her skirts flying as she kicked, but the crowd applauded and cheered
him on.

“Put me down!”

He smacked her bottom instead.

A bolt of hot need pierced her in response. Her cheeks flamed, making her grateful
no one could see her face. The sounds of the music diminished into the distance as
he climbed into the forest that surrounded the crossroads.

He tossed her down the moment they were hidden from the fair.

She’d forgotten how mesmerizing he was. She wished she might forget again. But he
was huge, and for some reason, she found his dark hair extremely appealing. He was
a beast.

He was also virile…

“Perhaps it was a mistake to leave ye a virgin.”

Her temper sizzled, and she propped her hands on her hips. “What happened to yer notion
that I was in agreement with the earl’s plot? I would think ye would be pleased to
see me making it plain that I have no claim on ye. Do ye no’ feel liberated?”

Her argument hit a soft spot. He paused, his eyes narrowing.

“It does nae please me to see ye dancing with Lye Rob Gordon.”

“Since ye made it plain ye want naught to do with me, I’ll dance with whoever I please,”
she informed him.

Her heart was beating fast, and he looked down at her breasts as they heaved. “Lye
Rob wanted something to do with ye alright, and it had a great deal to do with the
tempting display ye’ve made of yer breasts.”

His possessiveness irritated her. She felt as though he was trying to put a bridle
on her, and she was not going to submit. “Ye are the one who noticed I was old enough
for marriage. Ye should begin the annulment, nae spend yer time harassing me. Since
ye do nae want to be me husband, ye have no right to dictate how I behave.”

He locked gazes with her. “And what do ye think the good earl will think of me annulling
our union this soon, my sweet Ailis?”

“I am nae yer sweet.”

But she hadn’t really thought about what would happen when the earl found out she
was back beneath her father’s roof.

“I asked ye to stay.” His tone had deepened, hinting at his true feelings.

She lowered her arms, no longer feeling the need to face off with him. “Ye did, but
ye spent far more time accusing me of plotting to chain ye to me.”

His lips curled up, flashing his white teeth. “So, ye are here to prove ye can get
a man on yer own?”

She didn’t care for how right he was. “Ye do nae need to know me private feelings,
Bhaic MacPherson. Men are no’ the only ones with pride. I would like to think I could
do better than having a man forced to wed me.”

He chuckled, surprising her as his eyes danced with merriment.

“We’re more alike than I would have thought.” There was something flickering in his
eyes, which looked a lot like understanding. “Me pride was stinging the night of our
wedding, no mistake. I said a few things I should nae have.”

A sharp giggle interrupted them, coming through the trees. A moment later, a girl
appeared. She was looking back over her shoulder, her eyes sparkling with mischief
and her bodice loose, allowing her breasts to fall and bounce with her motions. A
man chased after her, drawing up when he saw Bhaic. He let out a whistle, and the
girl turned to see them in front of her. She flashed them a saucy smile before diving
off into the forest with her companion on her heels.

Ailis’s cheeks flamed. “Sweet Christ, everyone is going to think ye carried me off

“To ravish ye?” he supplied with a mocking grin.

She propped her hands on her hips again. “Ye have no right! I am nae your wife.”

The words were spoken before she realized she was challenging him. She witnessed it
flash through his blue eyes before his lips thinned.

“Do nae let yer pride become involved again.”

He shook his head. “Ye are something worth being proud of, Ailis.” His gaze lowered
to her cleavage. “A woman of character.” His lips suddenly curved into a rakish grin.
“Ye’re a fine-looking woman too.”

“And a Robertson.”

His eyes narrowed. “Aye. Ye’re that. Yet, as ye brought to my attention, yer blood
has advantages.”

There was a promise in his tone now, one that made her shiver. The urge to flee filled
her again, but her pride rebelled. She didn’t want him to label her a coward.

If she ran, there would be no doubt she was scared of him.

She had to admit to being curious as to what might happen if she stayed.

But that left her facing him, watching him move closer, each step increasing the intensity
of the moment. All of her senses felt keener, sharper. Time itself felt frozen, the
seconds feeling like hours in which she was able to notice all the tiny details she
might have normally missed.

He reached out and stroked her cheek. It was such a simple touch, but her senses were
so heightened, she wasn’t sure she could have endured anything else. The moment his
skin connected with hers, sensation exploded inside her. She jumped, unable to contain
it all.

“As I said, Ailis, there is passion between us.” He wasn’t mocking her any longer.
His tone was deep and almost compassionate. It sounded as if he were just as bewildered
as she.

He reached back and slid his hand along the side of her jaw. Her breath caught as
delight spread across her skin. She was mesmerized, intoxicated by him. He didn’t
stop until he’d threaded his fingers into her hair. The gentleness of the touch transformed
into a firm hold that kept her steady as he took the last step between them.

BOOK: Highland Spitfire
11.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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