Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Adult, #Novella, #PNR, #Supernaturals
She struggled, kicking to no avail.
“Enough,” a deep voice grated in her ear.
Donald. She stilled, anger filling her. How dare he treat her so roughly? And what was he doing back at the castle without Alistair’s knowledge?
Donald was as tall as Alistair, but he had the barrel chest of their father. It was an easy feat for him to carry her up the stairs and down the hallway to the master chamber.
“Knock,” he ordered her. “It’s time we three had a talk.”
If Donald had wanted to kill Alistair, he’d have already been upstairs and done the deed. That was the only reason Innes lifted a shaky hand and pounded on the wooden door.
A moment later, Alistair opened the door. His smile vanished when he took in Donald holding Innes. “What the bloody hell?”
Donald pushed his way inside. Only then did he release Innes. She hurried away, turning her gaze on Donald so he knew how furious she was.
“What is the meaning of this, Donald?” Alistair demanded.
Their brother closed the door and leaned back against it, his arms crossed over his chest. His kilt was dirty and his shirt was torn. His short hair was at odds with his dark bushy beard. “Did I hear right, Alistair? Are you going to reprimand me for doing what you should be doing, brother?”
“We have enough trouble. The last thing we need is to be at war with the Sinclairs, as well. Think!” Alistair said and pointed to his head.
Donald snorted. “I am thinking. Raiding is what we do in the Highlands. We need food.”
Innes had heard enough. She stepped between her brothers and looked at Donald. “Going against Alistair so publicly is turning people against him – which is exactly what you want. We should be united to save our clan.”
“I’m the answer to the clan,” Donald said and swung his gaze to Alistair. “And he knows it.”
Alistair’s gaze narrowed. “This again? You willna be happy until you’re laird.”
“You doona see the bigger picture.”
“And father did?” Innes asked angrily. “Is that why he snuck off in the middle of the night with only five men to take back our sheep?”
“Da led this clan with strength,” Donald stated.
Innes nodded. “Aye, he did. He was also impulsive and rash, just like you, Donald.”
Donald lifted his lip in a sneer. “You have the same blood running in your veins, sister.”
“I do, but I learned patience from Mum.” She swallowed and looked between her brothers. “I also learned that there is someone else who could be the answer to saving the clan.”
Donald snickered and shook his head. “You’re no’ talking about that fool hidden away in the cave, are you?”
She blinked, blindsided that Donald knew about the man. Innes swiveled her head to Alistair to see his calm gaze on her. “You both knew? I thought I was the only one.”
“Nay,” Alistair said. “We’ve always known.”
“Then why haven’t you woken him?” she implored.
Donald waved away her words. “There’s nothing he can do.”
Innes was tired of the bickering between her brothers. It had begun the moment their father’s body was returned to the castle. She crossed her arms over her chest and took a few steps back so she could see them both. “We’ll see about that.”
Donald’s face mottled with rage. “I’ll be the savior of our clan.”
Innes could only gape when Donald threw open the door and stalked away. She glanced at Alistair, and then both of them hurried after their brother.
As Innes lifted her skirts and ran down the stairs, she glanced back to see Alistair strapping on his sword. She didn’t have to ask to know that Donald was planning to kill her warrior.
The battle between brothers might very well come sooner than she wanted. That was if Alistair intended to stop Donald from killing the man their family had protected for generations.
She wasn’t sure of Alistair’s intentions, and there wasn’t time to ask. All she could do was hope that the amulet had woken her warrior as her mother told her it would.
He was thankful that the rain stopped by morning. For a moment, he thought it might continue on for another day. The storm had been fierce.
But as the sun peeked over the mountains, he stepped from the cave and smiled. Scotland. The mountains rose toward the sky, the bright green grass covering every inch. A ray of sunlight shone on the mountain so blindingly that he had to shield his eyes to be able to take in the view.
And what a view it was. Half the mountain was bathed in golden light, giving the grass a vibrant look that almost seemed unreal.
This was his home. The weather was unpredictable at best, and the same mountains looked different every day depending on the conditions.
He breathed easier knowing he was in Scotland. Now, he needed to find some food.
~ ~ ~
Innes caught up with Donald after they walked out of the castle, but her words were falling on deaf ears. Nothing she said halted him.
“You can’t do this,” she repeated when they reached the cave.
Donald chuckled, the sound devoid of humor. He didn’t slow as he ducked and walked into the tunnel. “You’ll realize you need to put your faith in me as soon as you stop thinking some dead man held in magic will help us.”
“Never,” Innes stated.
The tunnel was too narrow for Donald to turn around, but she knew anything could happen once they reached the cavern.
Except Donald stood still as stone when he reached it. Innes had to walk around him to see what had made him pause. When her gaze took in the empty slab, she could only stare in shock.
It worked! She had woken the warrior.
“Where is he?” Donald demanded as he swung his head to her.
Innes shrugged in bewilderment. “I’ve no idea.”
Alistair’s gaze lowered to her neck, and Innes knew the minute he noticed that her necklace was gone.
“You should’ve let me kill him here,” Donald said. “Now, I’ll have to hunt him down.”
Donald roughly pushed past her to retrace his steps out. She walked to the empty slab and placed her hands on it. If only she had waited a little longer, she might have been there when he woke.
“I wish you’d told me you were going to wake him,” Alistair said from behind her.
Innes turned and lifted her gaze to him. “I didn’t know that either of you knew about him. Mum told me to keep it secret.”
Alistair shrugged. “It doesna matter now. We need to focus on stopping Donald.”
Once more, Innes was running after Donald. This time she followed Alistair, who tracked their brother. When they came upon him, Donald was sitting on a fallen tree, his sword out with the tip in the ground as he braced both hands on it.
Innes was instantly on guard. So was Alistair, if the way he slowly circled Donald were any indication.
“You woke him, did you no’?” Donald asked in a soft voice.
Innes wasn’t fooled. That tone of voice meant he was furious. She now wished she had gone back to the castle. How many times had she and Alistair chased after Donald when they were growing up? Sometimes they were able to talk him out of doing something foolish before he did it, but most times, they chased after him to get him out of trouble after the deed had been done.
Not until their father died did she see the real Donald, the man he kept hidden all those years. In his eyes, she saw that he would say anything, do anything to get what he wanted. Nothing and no one would stand in his way.
For the first time in her life, she truly feared Donald.
Donald got to his feet, his gaze never wavering from her. “Why did you have to do something so stupid?”
“It’s done, Donald,” Alistair said. “Leave it alone.”
“I doona take orders from you,” Donald said, briefly looking at Alistair. “Anyone who isna with me is against me. And our little sister just proved she was against me.”
Alistair took Innes’s hand and tugged her away. “Get to the castle.”
She didn’t want to leave her brothers. One of them was going to die that day, and she feared it just might be Alistair.
Innes turned to start running back to the castle when Alistair shouted her name. Out of the corner of her eye there was a blur of movement and then a grunt.
She slid to a stop and looked back to find that her warrior had effortlessly flipped Donald over onto his back. The warrior had his knee in Donald’s neck and a dagger pointed between two ribs.
She met the warrior’s gaze and marveled at eyes that were as blue as the sky. They stared at each other for long, silent moments until Donald began to struggle.
The warrior slammed a fist into Donald’s jaw and knocked him unconscious.
~ ~ ~
He couldn’t believe his luck when he heard the woman’s voice. The rabbit he was hunting quickly forgotten, he followed the voices that led him to the cave. The woman wasn’t alone though. Two men were with her, and by their looks, they were related.
Not wanting to be cornered in the cave, he decided to wait for their return. It didn’t take them long. The first to exit was the burly man with the short hair and bushy beard. It wasn’t long before the second man and the woman followed.
He followed them until they found the first man again. He’d known before anyone spoke that the bearded one was going to attack. At first he thought the man’s assault might be against the other man, but when he realized his focus was on the woman, he refused to sit by and let it happen.
The moment the bearded man went after the woman, he jumped from his hiding place and took him down. He ignored the second man, his eyes locked on the dark-haired beauty with her olive skin and black eyes.
There was something about her coloring that triggered an emotion inside him. He felt as if he was supposed to be wary of it, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember why.
He had no idea how long he and the burly man stared at each other before he finally had to knock the man out.
He jerked his head to the other man, a frown forming. Was that his name? How did he not know his own name?
“I’m Alistair,” the man said. “Laird of the MacKays, and the man you took down is my brother, Donald. Thank you for that. I wouldna have gotten to Innes quick enough.”
Innes. He found his gaze back on her.
Alistair cleared his throat. “I’m sure you have questions, Daman. Let’s get back to the castle first.”
He looked down at the man he had knocked out and slowly got to his feet. Innes had woken him, and Donald had been about to kill her because of it. Daman couldn’t believe a brother would do that to a sister.
Daman could feel her closeness. He ached for her touch, but somehow he managed to keep his hands off her.
“Daman,” she whispered. “I never knew your name.”
He looked at her, drowning in the dark depths of her eyes. She was exquisite. Her black hair was thick and straight, the silky length hanging down her back. How he wanted to run his hands through it and have the strands drape around him as she leaned over him.
Daman took in her oval face, the clear complexion. Her lips were full and parted. Her eyes were wide and turned up seductively at the corners, giving her an exotic look.
Black brows arched elegantly over eyes that watched him. Unable to help himself, he reached up and gently traced a brow, just as she had done to him on many occasions as he slept.
Her eyes widened as her breath left her in a rush.
“We can no’ tarry,” Alistair said. “We need to get Donald to the castle and in the dungeon.”
“How did you know Daman’s name?” Innes asked Alistair.
Alistair glanced at Daman. “Mum told me.”
It took both Daman and Alistair to lift Donald and half-carry, half-drag him to the castle. Daman had a difficult time concentrating on anything other than the woman walking in front of him.
Innes intrigued him, fascinated him. Captivated him.
With his gaze on her, he never saw the root. Daman tried to catch himself, but with the added weight of Donald he knew he was going to fall. He tried to call out and warn Alistair, but no sound passed his lips.
Daman fell hard to his knees, struggling to keep his hold on Donald and not let him fall. Daman tried to say Alistair’s name again. Then he tried Innes’s, but once again there was no sound.
His voice had been taken from him. He had memories of talking, so he knew at one time he could. Why had that changed?
“Daman?” Alistair asked. “Are you all right?”
Daman nodded and got to his feet. He lifted his eyes and saw Innes staring at him, her brow furrowed.
By the time they reached the castle, men were there to take Donald from him and Alistair. Daman gathered his breath as he looked around the bailey – a bailey that was nearly empty.
“Most of our people are gone,” Alistair said sadly. “I’m losing my clan.”