Read The Highlander's Triumph Online
Authors: Eliza Knight
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Medieval, #Scottish, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance
He was a warrior fighting for Scottish freedom.
She was his enemy’s mistress.
Laird Brandon Sinclair has given his life to the Scottish cause. Swearing fealty to Robert the Bruce, he will stop at nothing to see oppression end.
Lady Mariana wants nothing more than to break free of the tyrannical hold the English king has on her. When he sends her to Scotland with a message for the rebels, instead of obeying his orders, she finds herself submitting to her desires. After one sizzling, life-altering night, Brandon and Mariana must part ways. But Mariana has no intention of betraying her heart again.
And Brandon is determined to get her back. Stealing Longshank’s secrets felt like victory, but taking his woman will be this Highlander’s ultimate triumph.
The Highlander’s Triumph
Book Five: The Stolen Bride Series
Copyright 2013 © Eliza Knight
THE HIGHLANDER’S TRIUMPH © 2013 Eliza Knight. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part or the whole of this book may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or utilized (other than for reading by the intended reader) in ANY form (now known or hereafter invented) without prior written permission by the author. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal, and punishable by law. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional and or are used fictitiously and solely the product of the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, places, businesses, events or locales is purely coincidental.
Cover Design by Kimberly Killion @ Hot Damn Designs
Also Available by Eliza Knight
Highlander’s Reward – Book One, The Stolen Bride Series
Highlander’s Conquest – Book Two, The Stolen Bride Series
Highlander’s Lady – Book Three, The Stolen Bride Series
Highlander’s Warrior Bride – Book Four, The Stolen Bride Series
Behind the Plaid (
Highland Bound Trilogy, Book One)
A Lady’s Charade
(Book 1: The Rules of Chivalry)
A Knight’s Victory (Book 2: The Rules of Chivalry)
A Gentleman’s Kiss
Men of the Sea Series:
Her Captain Returns, Her Captain Surrenders, Her Captain Dares All
The Highland Jewel Series:
Warrior in a Box, Lady in a Box, Love in a Box
Lady Seductress’s Ball
Take it Off, Warrior
A Pirate’s Bounty
Highland Tryst (Something Wicked This Way Comes Volume 1)
Highlander Brawn (
The Rebound Pact – A Sexy Contemporary Novel
The Highlander’s Sin – Book Six, The Stolen Bride Series
The Highlander’s Temptation – Prequel, The Stolen Bride Series
Bared to the Highlander (Highland Bound Trilogy, Book Two)
The Dark Side of the Laird (Highland Bound Trilogy, Book Three)
My Lady Viper – Tales from the Tudor Court
Prisoner of the Queen – Tales from the Tudor Court
Writing under the name Annabelle Weston
Wicked Woman (Desert Heat)
Woman (Desert Heat)
Notorious Woman (Desert Heat)
Visit Eliza Knight at
To my family, who makes every day a dream come true.
Once again, special thanks to Andrea, Vonda and all of my loyal and new readers. These books would not be possible without you! Also, many thanks to my realtors, and now friends, Denise and Rich, who not only made the selling/buying process smooth so I could keep working, but have spread the word about my books!
moke filled Laird Brandon Sinclair’s lungs as he rode on horseback with his men toward the north of Kinterloch Village.
High above the wooden wall, flames burst in hungry orange licks.
A vengeful fire that would turn everything in its path to ash. The late afternoon sky was already overcast, but the smoke of the blaze made it nearly black.
No villagers ran from the fire
. No animals screamed. The chaos that should be erupting with the flames was non-existent—as if deserted. But he knew it couldn’t be. The people, the animals, were either trapped or had managed to get out from a different gate.
The Scottish troops’ fearless leader, William Wallace, had already
charged through the front gates into the inferno as if he were a man with a death wish. He’d ordered Brandon and his men to check the north side for survivors. Brandon’s cousin, Ronan Sutherland, had taken his warriors to the west side near the loch.
Far from his castle and lands in the north of the Highlands, Brandon had traveled to Eilean Donan the month prior to help his cousins
Daniel Murray and Ronan along with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in the war against the English. But it seemed now it wasn’t only the English they were fighting—but traitor Scots too.
A loud crash reverberated through the air as another building collapsed
behind the wall. A rush of heat surged his way, and a cloud of dark smoke billowed into the sky, in stark contrast to the world around them, a peaceful, beautiful place with lush pine trees and gorse bushes, even in winter. Hell set in the middle of heaven.
darkened his mood. There would be no survivors. Not in a raging inferno like this—one that rivaled Hades. He shook his head and spurred his horse forward. His chestnut colored warhorse, Checkmate, pounded the earth with his massive hooves.
If only they’d been able to get to the village before Laird Ross—traitor to all Scots and their ancestors. The damned bastard had defected to the English, and since doing so, had laid a path of destruction across the Highlands. There wasn’t a man Brandon knew that hadn’t been affected by Ross’ treachery.
Hell, it seemed like the man was on a mission to make enemies with everyone of true Scottish heart.
Brandon’s thoughts were cut mid
way when they rounded the burning wall on the north side.
“Halt!” he shouted to his men, reining in
A woman burst
through the wooden gate, exposing the interior angry flaming village. Hair black as a midnight sky, skin covered in soot. Her dark green gown was covered by a singed, once high-quality, wool cloak. She tripped, falling onto her hands and knees, coughing, yet she did not stop. The lass crawled forward, every move beleaguered in her attempt to escape the flaming village.
Without a thought, Brandon jumped from
Checkmate, and ran toward her.
“Lass, are ye all right?”
He knelt before her and she practically fell into his arms, her breath coming out in a rush against his face. Her eyes closed, then fluttered open. She grasped onto him with weak, trembling fingers.
Brandon quirked a brow, trying not to be completely infatuated with the way her words rolled seductively off her tongue. What was a woman of French descent doing in Kinterloch? The lass clutched at the front of his cloak and glanced up, hair falling onto her soot covered face. He swiped the strands away and was startled by a pair of lovely, sparkling blue eyes. The color of the sky on a cloudless summer day. Like blue diamonds. But they were filled with fear, pain.
Brandon’s hands skimmed over hers
—soft and small—then up her arms as he pulled her to standing. She wavered on her feet, and glanced around as if she expected the devil to burst from the earth and drag her down into the depths of his hellish domain.
“Lass, ye’re safe now. Tell me, are ye hurt?”
She shook her head, licked at her cracked, red lips. “No. I’m not hurt, other than my lungs—they burn with each breath.” Her voice was hoarse, as though just a tiny hint of air passed through her delicate throat.
“Dinna speak then, if it pains
ye.” Brandon’s hands slipped to her shoulders, automatically massaging the tense muscles there.
The woman sagged against him, a few tears spilling from her eyes. “Thank
Brandon wiped at her tears with the pads of his thumbs.
“Shh… I will ask ye a few questions, simply nod or shake your head. But first, tell me your name.”
A name as pretty as a ballad.
And she was a lady. He’d known that, and he suspected, though covered in soot, she was well off. Her cloak spoke of a high-quality fabric. He expected when she washed the grime from her hair it would shine, proof that it had been well kept. As it was the silken locks teased his skin and he longed to entwine his fingers within it. Where that desire came from, he didn’t bloody well know.
“Lady Mariana, are ye alone?”
She nodded, her eyes locking on his with what looked to be a suspicious glance, and a peek behind him at his men had her paling.
“We’ll nay harm ye, lass. We’ve come to help.”
She shuddered in his arms.
“I promise no harm will come to
ye.” Brandon made his assurance loud enough for all his men to hear. “Ye are under my protection. I’ll see ye to safety.”
Mariana chewed her lower lip.
Turning to a few of his men, he ordered, “Check to see if there are others.”
The men nodded and urged their horses forward, checking the north gate
, then moving beyond it and out of sight.
“Were ye a guest?”
Her eyes crinkled up as she studied his face. Having plenty of experience judging people’s expressions, he guessed she was trying to figure out how to answer.
“I know ye’ve no cause to trust me, but I assure
ye, I’d never see ye harmed. I am Laird Brandon Sinclair and I am one of Robert the Bruce’s men.”
Her eyes lit up at that. “I trust
Brandon didn’t expect the sudden constriction in his chest
upon hearing those words. He was a little taken aback by it. In fact, he was a little taken aback by this entire encounter. Lady Mariana was eliciting a reaction that no other woman ever had. Unable to quite describe it, Brandon could only call it awe. He was attracted to her; she was beautiful, delicate, exotic. But beyond that, he had a fierce need to protect her. And he didn’t know why. He’d wanted to protect his cousins’ wives, women in his village, his mother, but never had he felt the fierce need to pull a woman close so that no other could get near her.
It was almost possessive. And he needed to
dismiss it with haste. His men made themselves still as statues behind him. Mayhap he should pass her on to one of the remaining retainers, just so he could get a breath of air without her scent—for indeed he could smell the sweet aroma of flowers beneath the smell of smoke. It was embedded in her hair, on her skin.
He cleared his throat. “Well,
good. I shall take ye to safety.”
took a step, intent on leading her toward his horse, however, Lady Mariana’s legs were so shaky the simple task became labored. He swiftly pulled her into his arms, his muscles tightening at the feel of her supple curves.
“Will ye allow me to take
ye to Eilean Donan?”
Mariana lowered her lashes, long black curly lashes that showed off the curve of her cheekbones. She nodded.
“Verra well.” Brandon wanted to say something more charming, more comforting to a lass in such distress, but he could think of neither. Only that he never wanted to put her down—and how that made him want to toss her and run.
A woman would only slow him down. He’d seen that very thing happen to his cousins—Magnus, Blane, Daniel, Ronan—all tied to a woman
. Brandon didn’t ever want to deal with the fears that came with loving someone. He’d seen enough strife where love was concerned. His mother had not been a happy woman—save for when his own father passed.
Brandon grunted, pushing those unhappy thoughts aside. He lifted Mariana onto the horse and then climbed up behind her, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her securely against him.
Her body melded to his, warm and lithe. Her head fell back and she breathed out a ragged sigh. Brandon ground his teeth, willing his body not to react to the soft curves pressed to his—the full derriere that if he allowed himself, he could fully imagine sliding his hands over as passion gripped him.
God’s teeth, it was going to be a long ride back to the castle. Even still, he pulled her closer, feeling the brush of her
breasts on his arm. Blood rushed through his veins, ignoring his warnings, and centered in his groin. A long ride indeed.
The heat of the flames washed over them in blistering waves. Sweat beaded on his brow and trick
led down the sides of his face. How on earth was Wallace faring inside the blaze? Brandon blew out a breath and scanned the surrounding area. Beside the firs and pines, the trees were still winter bare, moss covering some of their trunks. He didn’t see a glint of metal or out of place movement. Part of him suspected that Ross sat in the shadows watching, waiting, probably even stroking himself with glee at the destruction he’d caused, but Brandon knew better. The bastard wouldn’t stick around. He’d hightail it to the next place he could barrel into and force a bed from.
But beyond Ross and his minions having disappeared, the lack of villagers was beyond disturbing.
He hoped that did not mean they’d all perished, yet another crime against his own countrymen Ross could add to his long offensive list. Brandon wasn’t the first in line to land a blow if the man were ever to be captured, but damn if he didn’t want to be.
Despite the heat, Lady Mariana shivered. Brandon tightened his hold, wishing he could take away the fear that filled her. What
a horror it must have been for her to be surrounded by fire within the village, to see one’s life threatened. A near daily occurrence for him, but he was a warrior, trained for such, she was a lady, used to soft, fine, nice things.
Brandon tugged an extra plaid rolled behind his saddle and wrapped it around her shoulders, making sure to cover her legs.
“I thank you, my laird.” Her voice was shaky, and he suspected she was on the verge of hysterics.
“Who were ye staying with? Have they…” He trailed off not wanting to ask if they’d indeed succumbed to the flames.
“I was staying with Sir Teirnan Barclay.”
“Ross’ cousin,” Brandon growled.
What the devil was she doing with him? Suspicion grew ripe in his mind.
Mariana nodded, her head bumping his chin. She turne
d up to him, her eyes red-rimmed, but fierce. “Is he your enemy?”
“Aye, Ross is my enemy.” A sudden thought occurred to him—was Mariana going to pull a hidden dagger from beneath her skirts and attempt to strike him?
“I’ve no quarrel with Barclay,
having witnessed Lady Julianna’s fighting skills, he wouldn’t put it past a woman again to be fully equipped with a blade. Julianna was the Bruce’s half-sister and guardian—and his cousin Ronan’s love.
Mariana nodded. “
Ross is a bad man.”
He didn’t know whether
or not to be surprised by her words. “Why do ye say that, lass?”
She gestured toward the fire.
She shook her head, folded her hands in her lap. Long slim fingers, pale skin. She wore a beautiful ruby and gold ring on her right finger, but none on the left. Brandon hoped that meant she didn’t have a husband waiting for her back in France—and he wasn’t sure what difference it would make. He had no intentions of…
Dammit, he was supposed to be worried over the blaze, over the safety of the townspeople, the Scots. Not whether the woman in his arms was spoken for.