Authors: Terry Spear
Tags: #Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance, Scottish Romance
His Wild Highland Lass
Copyright © 2015 by Terry Spear
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
Discover more about Terry Spear at:
His Wild Highland Lass
Lady Sorcha Barclay has fled her sister's husband's castle because of his unwanted advances, except men steal her horse, and she makes the mistake of not keeping to the cover of the nearby forest. An awe-inspiring circle of standing stones capture her attention and she captures the attention of the laird who owns the land.
Laird Ronan Daziel takes Sorcha to his castle to protect her and give her a home, but before long, he wants much more. He's duty-bound to take a wife whose clan wishes an alliance with his. So why does he long to have something more? Everyone loves the lass just as much as he does. But he has pledged his loyalty to his clan and taking Sorcha to wife could lead to battle on several fronts. How can he not take her for his own when she stole his heart from the first moment he laid eyes on her near the ancient standing stones on his lands?
1085, Scottish Highlands
Still fretting about her stolen horse and not having any clue as to where she was now, except she was standing next to the fringes of a pine forest and on the other side, a loch in a misty vale. The breeze gently stirred the waters while white fluffy clouds floating in the blue sky and the tops of the pine trees reflected in the loch. Beyond the forest, verdant hills rose toward the sky, Sorcha Barclay stopped to eat and rest. Her feet hurt something fierce. She'd never walked so much in her life, and yet, her life depended on her walking until she reached a village.
Now that her horse had been stolen.
If she only knew the direction to travel. She'd been watching for signs of smoke, indicating a cottage was nearby, but she hadn't seen any.
Thankful the summer day was warm at least, she studied a set of standing stones off in the distance past the shimmering blue-green loch. She'd never witnessed stones standing in a formation like that. As if someone had moved the enormous rocks and stood them each on end in a giant circle. She chided herself for gawking at them when she needed to retrieve some water from the loch, then take refuge in the forest to rest for a time. Then she saw movement—three brawny Highlanders riding beyond the huge stones, dwarfing the men and their mounts. Her heart skipping beats, she dove for the safety of the woods, praying none of the men had seen her. What if they were some of the MacNeill clansmen come to return her to Craigly Castle under the rule of the despicable Laird Parthalan MacNeill?
She had often wondered if her uncle, the chief of the Barclay clan, would have done anything differently with regard to her if he had known about MacNeill's wenching. When her uncle had married her older sister off to him, she had been told she was to stay with Akira as her companion—at the MacNeill's insistence. Her new husband had said he feared his wife would miss Sorcha too much. Truth be told, the sisters were delighted they could remain together. But now that Sorcha was older, he had attempted to force himself on her for the very last time.
She would never return to Craigly Castle—ever!
Ronan, the eldest of the three brothers and laird of the Clan Daziel, paused with his brothers between two of the ancient standing stones to look in the direction of the loch and the forest beyond.
He narrowed his eyes as he studied the trees lining the shore, the warm breeze sweeping his hair back off his shoulders as he attempted to spy whatever his brother Ward thought he had seen. Ronan swore Ward saw things that either did not exist, or he had more of a hawk's eye than he and their youngest brother, Alban, did.
Ward let out his breath in exasperation. "Did you no' see someone?"
He sounded a bit unsure himself, as if he needed Ronan and Alban to have witnessed what he thought he'd observed to make it true.
"A stag?" Ronan and his brothers were unprepared to hunt for deer, since they had been assisting one of their crofters in the outlying area and didn't have their bows with them.
"Nay, I dinna observe anyone, brother. Are you seeing things again?" Ronan shook his head. "Partaking in too much ale this morn, aye?"
Cheerful as usual, Ward smiled at him, his hazel eyes now sparkling with good humor. "You jest, but I know what I saw."
"And that was?" Alban shifted in his saddle and turned his attention again to the forest.
Of the three brothers, Alban was the shortest, the quickest to fight, and yet, all the lassies adored him and his long brown hair and dark brown eyes. Ronan couldn't understand how he charmed them so thoroughly.
Ronan peered harder at the trees across the loch, seeing only the dappled shadows playing off the dancing leaves. "What exactly did you see?"
"A figure, slight, mayhap. A lad. A lassie? I am no' certain."
Ronan turned to Alban. "Did you witness anyone?"
Smiling, Alban shook his head. "Nay. I believe you are right. Ward had too much ale when he broke his fast. Or…mayhap he saw one of the fair folk." He paused and observed the forest further. "Nay. I see no one."
"I will prove to you both I wasna imagining what I spotted." Ward kicked his horse and galloped through the circle of stones to reach the shore of the loch and traveled around it to the forest.
Ronan laughed. "If we dinna follow him, he will be sure to come up with another tale even grander." He raced off to join his brother, curious about whether he truly had seen something.
Alban swiftly caught up to them as Ward dismounted, then crouched down to examine the shoreline.
"Anything?" Still mounted, Ronan considered the stony shore and didn't observe any footprints.
"Naught, it appears." Ward stood. "It must have been the play of the shadows as the clouds parted and let the sun shine through briefly."
." Alban grinned.
"You and your imaginary fair folk." Ward remounted his horse. "You know I dinna believe in such nonsense. None of us do. Come. I must have imagined seeing something. I promised some of our men I would practice sword fighting with them, and we are late returning."
Ronan didn't believe Ward thought that what he saw was nothing at all. He knew his brother too well.
Alban nodded. "Aye. I intended to spar with some of the men as well."
Not waiting to see if Ronan agreed with them, Wade and Alban rode off in the direction of the keep, but Ronan peered into the shadowed woods. He waited while his vision adjusted to the dappled light and observed the leaves fluttering in the summer's breeze. The shadows danced across the green leaves and the understory plants.
He smelled the air, the scent of pine and fish from the loch, and something else. He took a deeper breath. Something flowery. He heard the birds singing high above in the trees, saw their winged movement as they flitted from tree to tree, a butterfly settling on a leaf, and a dragonfly skimming the loch near the shore.
A twig suddenly snapped in the forest, grabbing Ronan's full attention. He listened. Nothing but the chatter of birds, buzz of insects, the gentle lapping of the water on the beach, and the sound of the breeze ruffling the leaves.
Ronan urged his horse forward into the shady woods, walking slowly, listening for anything that sounded out of place. He could no longer see his brothers, but he heard their horses abruptly stop in the distance, and Ward shout, "Do you see something, Ronan?"
"Nay. I am coming!" Ronan didn't budge from his spot as he absorbed every scent, every sound, every sight that might convey that someone was hiding in his woods.
"Ronan, what is it?" Alban called out, sounding concerned, as the brothers' horses galloped back toward the woods.
Then Ronan saw something unusual peeking out between the leaves piled up on the forest floor nearby. Pale pink flesh—an ankle, he thought.
He dismounted and slowly, carefully, quietly moved in the direction of the bare skin slightly exposed. The fallen leaves from seasons past piled everywhere made for the perfect hiding place.
He unsheathed his sword in the event the person hiding was armed, or that he or she had companions nearby. He moved closer, enough so that he could fight him if he should bolt from his hiding place and attack.
Letting him know Ronan knew he was there, he asked, "Why are you hiding in my woods?"
The figure didn't move, like a rabbit half hidden in thick brush, hoping that by remaining still, Ronan hadn't seen him.
His brothers were nearly there and Ronan drew closer to the figure, then shoved his boot at where he assumed the person's foot would be.
A lassie jumped up from the pile of leaves, startling him. What surprised him even more was the dirk she held in her clenched hand, waving at him in a threatening manner—him, laird of the Daziel clan.
She frowned furiously at him. "Dinna come any closer."
He smiled at the petite lassie. Here, he was armed with a sword, and she, with nothing more than a dagger. Did she believe she could truly fight him? Her golden curls fell to her hips, tangled, brown leaves and red pine needles clinging to the strands, dirt smudges on her cheeks, and dark circles under her eyes—yet he thought her incredibly appealing. She did not look like how he imagined a
would appear if they truly existed.
and brat were made of the finest wool, a dark green shade that blended in with the forest. Her green eyes were narrowed in wariness, but shifted slightly to observe his brothers as they joined him, neither dismounting as they pulled up alongside his horse, slightly behind and off to either side of him.
They must have assumed he'd manage the lassie on his own and knowing them, they didn't want to frighten the lass any more than she was already.
"See, I did witness someone in the woods, did I no'? Who is she?" Ward was still of good humor, and Ronan thought—glad he had been right, for once.
Ronan finally transferred his gaze from her bonny features to her eyes. "I am Ronan Daziel, laird of the clan. Whence do you hail, lass?"
Her eyes widened a bit and he wondered just who she was.
"I am just passing through, if you will but permit me."
Her pleasing, honeyed voice did not disguise the nervousness or animosity she reserved for him. She did not sound as though she was asking, but telling Ronan, which couldn't help but amuse him. Saucy wench. He had no intention of letting a lone woman roam his lands where she could find herself in real danger.
"Where are you from? Who are your people?" He assumed now the way she had reacted to his revealing the name of his own clan that her people and his did not get along.
"The Clan Chattan."
She could never have traveled that far on foot. Even by horse, it would have been far too risky for a lass all alone. They'd had no trouble with the Chattans, so that was good news. But he truly didn't believe she could be from that far away.
"Where is your horse?" Only a person of some means would have one. Her clothes looked as though she could be from a family of some importance.