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Authors: Michelle Marcos

Secrets to Seducing a Scot

BOOK: Secrets to Seducing a Scot
7.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
For God
The cover of this book may have my name on it, but that’s only because there isn’t space to credit all the people who helped in its creation.
I’d like to thank my editor, Rose Hilliard. It was her suggestion that I consider writing a Scottish historical, and that idea opened up a whole new genre (and a new set of heroes) to my imagination. Her insight, guidance, and creativity have helped make this book so special. Rose, you are a treasure!
I’d also like to thank the team at St. Martin’s Press for their collaboration in putting this book together. You are amazing.
I have to thank my parents, Lino and Juana Marcos, for their example of love. Fifty-eight years of marriage and they’re still together.
Finally, thanks to Jesus Christ, for loving me.
GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
It was a beautiful knife. Blade sharp enough to cut metal. Handle hewn from the stag his brother had hunted. Sheath made from thick bull hide.
Malcolm held it up to the light. Sunshine from the window slid down the edge of its eight-inch blade, as if the knife could slice the very light.
And in just a few moments, his father was going to die by the weapon.
But Malcolm was unaware that such bad things could happen. He was angry that his father had taken his two older brothers hunting and not him. He was upset that he was left to mind the home as “man of the house” while they were out doing the really manly things. Malcolm had insisted that he wasn’t too young for boar hunting—he was past thirteen and covered in hair where it counted—but his father hadn’t permitted it.
The front door slammed, heralding his father’s arrival. Malcolm peered over the wooden balustrade, the sheathed knife still clutched in his hand. Below stairs, his mother wiped her hands on her apron as she stepped into the hall. A relieved smile warmed her face as she greeted the hunting party. His father gave her a hummed
kiss and a lingering hug, while his older brothers staggered under the weight of the pole between their right shoulders from which hung the slaughtered pig.
“’Tis a fine big one, John,” said his mother. “We’ll be feasting all winter on that one.”
“Aye,” his father replied, when his sons were out of earshot. “And not the only big thing I’ve brought for ye.”
“John!” she giggled as she slipped out of his grasp. “No’ the now.”
His little brother and twin sisters squealed in childish curiosity when they saw the fresh kill. Sullenly, Malcolm trudged down the stairs. It should have been him bringing the boar in on his shoulders. It should have been him winning the admiration of his brothers and sisters. But as his family circled the large animal on the table, he felt bereft of honor.
His father took a draft of ale from his tankard. “Malcolm! Come see what we’ve brought.”
The large animal lay lifeless on the butchering table, its eyes half closed as if it were just falling asleep. It was massive, too, at least eleven stone. A masterful kill.
Malcolm nodded silently.
John set down the tankard and took Malcolm’s face in his hands.
“I know ye wish it had been ye to bring in the hunt, son,” he said with characteristic understanding. “But boar hunting is too dangerous for a man who’s yet to grow.”
“I’m big enough, Da,” he retorted, a little more petulantly than he intended.
“Aye, ye are,” John said, reaching across and tousling his son’s black hair. “But tall is no’ the same as grown. Have no fear … we’ll get some weight on yer arms over the winter. Next season, I’ll take ye with us. And
can be the one to wrestle the boar to the ground.”
Malcolm smiled at the thrilling prospect. “Promise?”
John smiled. “Aye. That I do.”
The door exploded inward, shocking a startled scream from his mother and the little ones. A frigid draft filled the house as twenty armed men pounded into the hall.
John threw Malcolm behind him as his mother gathered the young ones around her. Malcolm looked at each of the intruders in turn. They reeked of blood and liquor, and they brandished their weapons at every single one of his family members, murder printed on their faces.
“Who the devil are ye?” demanded his father.
A tall man with a ginger beard spoke. “Aye, the de’il indeed. Did you no’ expect a visit from yer own clan? Or did ye think yer cowardice would go unnoticed?”
John picked up his hunting dagger from the table. “Get out!”
The bearded man laughed hollowly. “Ye see that, lads? Now he’s found his balls!” He turned back to Malcolm’s father. “Where were they when the clan was musterin’ for battle yesterday, eh? Where were
?” The tip of the man’s sword pushed against John’s chest.
His father never backed down. “I’ll no’ say again. All of ye, get out of my house! If ye’ve a quarrel with me, we’ll discuss it outside.”
The bearded man’s sword swung over to the dead animal. “Ye’ll fight a boar but ye’ll no’ fight a man. Ye’re nothing but a cringing coward.”
The word made young Malcolm’s blood boil. “My father is no’ a coward!”
“Keep quiet!” shouted his own father back to him.
“Tell me, boy, what would ye call a man who does not show his face to a battle alongside his own clansmen? A battle in which he is not only duty-bound to present himself, but honor-bound by the loyalty he’s sworn to the chief?”
Malcolm didn’t recognize any of these men, but they were unified by the tartan that made up their kilts. The same tartan that Malcolm wore.
“I made my case before the chief personally. I have no quarrel with the McBrays—my son Hamish is to be married to a McBray lass. I could no’ fight them.”
“Ye mean ye
not fight them. Ye and yer tenants would have increased our showing on the battlefield. It may not have come to a head if they had seen us strong in number. But without ye we were outnumbered, and the McBrays saw it. They tore us to strips. The battle was lost in only two hours.”
A sheen of perspiration broke out on his father’s lined forehead. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” A man stepped out from the pack. He was unwashed, his thinning hair matted to his head, and he had deep, dark circles under his eyes. “I saw both my sons slain on that battlefield. I found my William with a claymore in his chest. My boy Robert had his neck broken. It took an hour for him to die.” Despair gnarled the man’s face. “Ye don’t know the depths of sorry yet!”
John swallowed hard. “I know ye’re grieving. But the blame for yer boys does not rest on me.”
“Aye, it does,” said the bearded man. “His sons’ death, as well as every man out there who lost life or limb, is on
head. Ye and every man jack of yers who hid with yer womenfolk inside the safety of yer homes. Lads, let it no’ be said that there is no justice among our clan. An eye for an eye. If Angus here lost two sons, then John must not be allowed to keep his!”
“No!” his mother screamed as she dove in front of her older sons.
A heavyset man punched her in the face, and she crashed to the floor. Malcolm’s brother Thomas barreled
into the man, but he was overtaken by two more. John flew to his rescue, his dagger raised in the air.
War had broken out in Malcolm’s home.
Malcolm’s heart pounded in his ears. His breathing raced inside his hairless chest as he helplessly looked on at the melee.
And suddenly he remembered … he was not helpless. In his sweaty palm was the sheathed dagger he had taken from Thomas’s room.
Could he do this? Could he use this knife to kill a man?
He heard his father scream in pain, and a geyser of righteous anger spewed from inside Malcolm’s belly. He unsheathed the weapon and flew into the tangle of men, a war cry tearing from his adolescent throat.
But before he could plunge it into a man’s back, someone grabbed him from behind and threw him to the wooden floor. The man with the ginger beard fell on top of him, driving the air from his lungs. Malcolm tried to wriggle out from underneath him, but the man didn’t let him go until he had wrenched the weapon from Malcolm’s weakened hand.
Malcolm came to his feet, snarling. Hatred welled up inside him as he stared at the bearded man. Fear dissolved into bloodlust, and Malcolm now knew that he needed no weapon to kill his opponent. His fingers curled like claws.
The man didn’t show the slightest fear of Malcolm, but Malcolm was about to make him regret that. A wildness came over him, like the fight of a cornered animal. Though he was unarmed, Malcolm lunged at the bearded man. He used his fists, his feet, his teeth … anything to defeat the man who had brought the attack against his family. In the back of his mind, Malcolm
knew that the man held not only a claymore, but also Thomas’s dagger. Any minute now the bearded man would plunge the dagger into Malcolm’s body. But he didn’t care. Malcolm had lost all fear of death.
What he lacked in strength he made up for in speed. Again and again, Malcolm pummeled the man in the face and body. Finally, the man dropped the dagger on the floor, and Malcolm dove for it. He seized the dagger from the floor. But just as he straightened up again, he realized he had walked into a trap.
The bearded man swung his meaty fist into Malcolm’s face. It hit him squarely on the cheek, and the force of it spun his head. The intense pain disoriented him long enough for the bearded man to swing his other fist into the side of Malcolm’s head. A burst of pain filled his head, and Malcolm felt his world sputter like a dying candle.
Finally, the fist came flying at his chin.
And all went dark.
A sound was breaking through the quiet darkness. It punctured a hole through his syrupy sleep, and though he didn’t know what it was, it demanded that he wake up.
Malcolm’s eyes fluttered open, and the pain in his head came flooding back. He didn’t know how long he had been out, but he no longer heard the brawl.
There it was again … a high-pitched scream. A child’s voice.
He tried to make his eyes focus. Through the haze of consciousness, he saw his little sister, Willow. She was being dragged to the kitchen fireplace.
The man with the ginger beard held her eight-year-old body against his chest, her feet scissoring helplessly in the air. In his other hand, clenched in his fist, he held out her wee hand.
A kilted man pulled an iron out from the fireplace, its tip glowing orange from the intense heat. She struggled against her captor, her pretty blond hair whipping around her, but her strength was no match for his. Shrilly she screamed as the hot end of the iron neared her hand.
Malcolm tried to come to her rescue, but his limbs were not responding to the cry of his mind.
Stop it,
he wanted to shout, but no sound could come out of his mouth.
Suddenly he felt himself being dragged across the floor. Though one of his eyes had swollen shut, the other one could see blurred images. They dragged him past the body of his mother, lying lifeless on the floor. Then past his brothers, Thomas and Hamish, who lay in a pool of their own blood. Finally, he saw John, his father, his eyes half closed in encroaching sleep. Just like the boar’s had been.
The beautiful handle made from the stag’s antler was protruding from his father’s chest.
Malcolm closed his eyes to the horrifying vision. A scream, even if he could make it, would not erase the images from his mind. His twin sisters, Shona and Willow, and his little brother Camran cowered in a corner, tears drenching their faces as they clutched their burned hands.
“And this one?” said a voice far above his head.
“We’ll brand him, too.”
“Then put the iron back in the fire.”
Seconds later a white-hot bolt of pain shot down his arm. He was helpless to prevent it, helpless to fight back, helpless even to cry out. But his unresponsive body could still sense every painful nuance of the searing on the back of his hand. Even the smell of his own charred flesh filled his nostrils with repugnance.
“We can’t take this one.”
“Why not?”
“He’s bleeding out of his ear. The boy’s as good as dead.”
“He might recover.”
“Think, man. The others can walk. But this one is unconscious. We don’t have the horse to take him. Three
. That’s more than enough recompense.”
All Malcolm’s entrails seemed to scream from the pain on his hand, even more than from the terrible throbbing in his head and neck. But no pain was greater than the sight of his little brother and sisters being hauled away. Orphaned, mutilated, and terrified—and forced to go with their captors. And just before he drifted out of consciousness, only one thought filled his head.
Hunt them down
BOOK: Secrets to Seducing a Scot
7.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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