Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Adult, #Novella, #PNR, #Supernaturals
A special thanks goes out to my wonderful team that helps me get these books out. Hats off to my editor, Chelle Olsen, and cover design extraordinaire, Leah Suttle. Thank you both for helping me to keep my crazy schedule and keeping me sane!
There’s no way I could do any of this without my amazing family – Steve, Gillian, and Connor – thanks for putting up with my hectic schedule and for knowing when it was time that I got out of the house.
And special nod to the Grant pets – all five – who have no problem laying on the keyboard to let me know it’s time for a break.
Last but not least, my readers. You have my eternal gratitude for the amazing support you show me and my books. Y’all rock my world. Stay tuned at the end of this story for a sneak peek of
, LaRue book 2 out April 13, 2015. Enjoy!
Highlands of Scotland
Daman Thacker sat atop his mount as silent as the rugged mountains around him. He looked over at the men he considered brothers – Morcant and Stefan.
As usual, the three waited on the fourth man of their group, Ronan. Ronan was the carefree one of them, the one who did what he wanted, dismissing the consequences. It was a hell of a way to live.
Oh, how Daman wished he could follow in Ronan’s footsteps.
Stefan’s horse snorted, shaking his great head, which caused Stefan to pat the steed’s neck. The valley between the two mountains was wide. The summer sun was warm, with a breeze gently rushing past.
Above them, the shrill cry of a golden eagle broke the silence. Stefan glanced up, but Daman was scanning the ridge of the mountains. He smiled as he caught sight of Ronan.
Ronan’s horse whinnied loudly, causing Stefan and Morcant to look toward the top of the mountain. Daman shared a smile with Morcant before Stefan glanced his way.
Ronan’s horse pawed the ground, and a moment later, Ronan leaned forward. His horse raced down the mountain. Daman laughed along with Morcant. Ronan’s wildness was just one of many reasons they had become friends, brothers.
It had begun a decade earlier when they happened to meet during a Highland Games. Their bond of friendship formed quickly and tightly during those few days, and not even the fact that they belonged to different clans kept them from meeting regularly.
As the years went by, their bond solidified into a brotherhood that nothing - and no one - could break.
Daman’s mount danced sideways, eager to run, as Morcant finally got control of his horse and Ronan arrived.
“About time,” Stefan grumbled.
Ronan raised his brow. “You might want to rein in that temper, my friend. We’re going to be around beautiful women this night. Women require smiles and sweet words. No’ furrowed brows.”
Daman and Morcant’s laughter didn’t bother Stefan since he was used to such words from them. Still, Stefan shot Ronan a humorless look.
“Aye, we’ve heard enough about this Ana,” Daman said as he turned his mount alongside Ronan’s. “Take me to this gypsy beauty so I can see her for myself.”
Ronan’s lips compressed. “You think to take her from me?”
Daman and Ronan had played this game before. It wasn’t in any of them to even think about trying to take away one of their women. But it was always a fun jest.
Daman’s confident smile grew as his eyes twinkled in merriment. “Is she that beautiful?”
“Just you try,” Ronan dared, only half jesting.
“Be cautious, Ronan. You wrong a gypsy and they’ll curse you. No’ sure we should be meddling with such people,” Morcant said as he shoved his hair out of his eyes.
Morcant wasn’t usually the voice of reason of the four, but his comment had Daman’s smile fading. The gypsies weren’t allowed to remain in one place for long. Many clans would prevent them from crossing onto their lands if they knew they were coming.
The gypsies might be beautiful, but they were dangerous, as well.
Ronan laughed at Morcant and reined in his mount. “Ah, but with such a willing body, how am I to refuse Ana? Come, my friends, and let us enjoy the bounty that awaits.” He gave a short whistle and his horse surged forward in a run again.
Daman’s steed blew out a breath, anxious to run, as well. The three remained behind for a moment while Ronan took the lead as he always did. Each had found their place within their small group that had formed so long ago during the Highland Games.
“I’m no’ missing this,” Morcant said and gave his stallion his head. The horse immediately took off.
Daman and Stefan shared a look, and as one, they nudged their mounts into a run. It wasn’t long before they caught up with Morcant.
Ronan looked over his shoulder, a wide smile on his face. He spurred his mount faster. Morcant then leaned low over his stallion’s neck until he pulled up alongside Ronan.
Daman watched as Stefan’s horse closed the last bit of distance and came even with Ronan. Daman gave his mount his head and rode up beside Morcant.
A few moments later, Ronan sat up and gave a gentle tug on the reins, easing his stallion into a canter. Daman and the others followed suit as they rode their horses four abreast.
Daman loved being with his friends, riding across their untamed homeland. Why then did he have a bad feeling about going to the gypsies?
There would be no stopping Ronan. Daman learned long ago that once Ronan had the bit in his mouth, he was going for what he wanted.
Then again, they all had their issues. Morcant’s was women. He loved women – all women. That had gotten him into trouble more times than Daman could remember.
For Stefan, it was his anger. He oft times called it a monster, and when it took him, Stefan became someone else.
Daman had his own hindrance. It was his inability to ask for help – from anyone, even the men he thought of as brothers. It began when he was three and stealing food just to survive. He wanted more of a life for himself, and he wanted to do it all on his own.
It took years, but Daman was no longer homeless or starving. He was prized for his sword arm and often requested by his laird in times of need.
The four rode from one glen to another until Ronan finally slowed his horse further to a walk. They stopped atop the next hill and looked down at a circle of gypsy wagons hidden in the wooded vale below.
Daman looked at the caravan and the gypsies walking around. There was a large fire in the middle of the camp. Daman searched but saw no other Highlanders with the gypsies. His ominous feeling continued to grow, and he couldn’t hold off letting the others know.
He shifted atop his mouth. “I’ve a bad feeling. We shouldna be here.”
Morcant’s horse flung up his head, and he brought his mount under control with soft words. “I’ve a need to sink my rod betwixt willing thighs. If you doona wish to partake, Daman, then doona, but you willna be stopping me.”
“Nor me,” Ronan said.
Daman waited for several moments as Stefan sat silently. Then, he gave Ronan a nod of agreement.
Daman wasn’t surprised, but at least he’d told the others what he was feeling. Ronan was the first to ride down the hill to the camp, with Morcant right on his heels. Stefan galloped his horse down the hill as a young beauty with long, black hair came running out to greet Ronan in her brightly colored skirts.
Ronan pulled his horse to a halt and jumped off with a smile as Ana launched herself into his arms. Ronan caught her and brought his lips down to hers.
Stefan halted on Morcant’s left side, and Daman rode up on Morcant’s right. Daman glanced around, noting how the gypsies watched Ana with Ronan.
Ronan and Ana spoke quietly before Ronan turned her toward them. “Ana, these are my friends, Daman, Morcant, and Stefan,” he said, pointing to each of them in turn.
Her smile was wide as she held her arm out to the circle of wagons. “Welcome to our camp.”
Morcant quickly dismounted and dropped the reins to allow his horse to graze freely. He then walked between two wagons and into the center of the camp.
Stefan dismounted and patted his horse. “I’ll be back,” he mumbled and followed Morcant.
Indecision warred within Daman. The four of them were always fully invested in whatever they did, but for some reason, he couldn’t walk into the camp. His gut churned with apprehension.
That’s when he saw Morcant and Stefan exchange a look before they both glanced back at him. Daman slid from his horse and gathered the reins of all four mounts to tether them together.
“I’ll keep watch,” Daman said. He walked to an oak outside of the camp and sat.
Ronan wrapped an arm around Ana and walked away with her, saying, “Your loss.”
Morcant gave a nod and continued to a woman sitting on the steps to her wagon, her bright turquoise and yellow skirts dipping between her legs while she braided a leather halter for a horse.
It was long moments before Stefan walked to the fire in the middle of camp and nodded to the three men sitting there.
Daman let out a sigh. Trouble was coming on swift wings. He knew it as certainly as he knew he would die in battle.
~ ~ ~
Daman scratched his jaw and ignored the thunder and lightning that had been on display over the mountains for the past half hour. The knot in his gut about the gypsy camp only intensified the longer he was there.
Something bad was going to happen. He knew it just as surely as he knew the storm coming in would last for an entire day. The sooner Ronan, Stefan, and Morcant were finished, the better.
Daman wouldn’t make the mistake of returning with his friends again. And he would do his best to prevent them from coming back, as well. Perhaps a talk with the gypsies was in order. They were on his clan’s land.
Three hours had already passed. It was time for him and his friends to leave. Daman rose and walked between the wagons to get their attention. Then he paused.
In the middle of the camp was a large fire, and many of the gypsies were sitting around it. Two were playing the violin, a hauntingly eerie song that somehow kept time with the thunder. Among the gypsies was Stefan, who stared into the fire as if searching for something. An old woman sat off by herself, her gaze on the wagon Ronan had entered hours ago.
Unease prickled Daman’s skin.
He wanted to leave, but he wasn’t going to go without his friends. Some unknown, unnamable emotion was coursing through him. Every instinct told him they needed to leave. Immediately.
Daman rose and walked to the edge of the camp. He looked at the ground, then up at the wagon where Ronan and Ana were. He could shout out Ronan’s name, but his friend wouldn’t answer even if he heard him.
Daman’s gaze slid to Stefan. With Morcant busy, he could get Stefan’s attention, but Stefan was talking to three gypsy males. Besides, Daman didn’t need help. All he had to do was cross the boundary and get his friends.