Authors: Willa Blair
Tags: #Medieval, Paranormal,Fantasy,Historical,Scottish
“Angus,” he said. “My name is Angus.”
His voice stopped her from turning away from him. He sounded tired, perhaps even lonely. Or was her own sense of isolation reflecting onto him? Shona raised her gaze to his face. His dark eyes captured her, just as she’d feared they would.
“Angus,” she repeated softly.
His regard never left her face. Why did hearing his name from her lips mean so much to him? The moment she uttered it, his tension had evaporated.
She pulled away and moved around the table to take a seat on a low stool. She ate slowly, not speaking, waiting for him to say whatever he’d intended when he demanded she sit with him. He’d settled on the ground across from her and ate quickly, hungrily, which didn’t surprise her after the hard physical work he’d done that morning.
When the last of his bread had soaked up the last drop of broth, he set his bowl aside. “Tell me about yerself,” he urged. “Tell me about yer life before ye came here.”
Shona froze with a bit of bread halfway to her mouth. “Why do ye wish to ken?”
“Perhaps I enjoy the sound of yer voice,” he told her. “I’ve heard it so seldom.”
She ignored his flirtation and debated what to say. No one here knew her history, not even her uncle.
Praise for Willa Blair
is action-packed and full of twists and turns that will keep readers on their toes. It is fast-paced and has a sweet romance that will warm your heart. Well written and full of imagination, this story is a must read for historical romance fans!”
~The Romance Reviews
“16th-century intrigue, muscled men with claymores and a doomed romance—is it any wonder I was reluctant to leave the rich, riveting world of
? Good thing I can make my way back easily enough—all I have to do is treat myself to Blair’s celebrated debut,
is Scottish romance at its best!”
“The Healer’s Gift is a breathtaking tale of Highland magic, lust, intrigue, and love…wickedly delicious!”
When Highland Lightning Strikes
A Highland Talents Novella
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
When Highland Lightning Strikes
COPYRIGHT © 2015 by Linda Williams
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
Tina Lynn Stout
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Fantasy Rose Edition, 2015
Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-0359-8
A Highland Talents Novella
Published in the United States of America
For Laura Stephens and Linda Carroll-Bradd,
writerly yin to my yang,
who see what I don’t, and then make sure I do.
Trust me on this: Anyone who tells you writing a book gets easier the more books you write is lying to you. I will always rely on critique by my fellow authors, on beta reads of the entire manuscript, and on topnotch editing. They help me see what I think is on the page but is not, what should
be on the page but is, and every dratted extra comma in between.
So again and eternally, I want to thank my critique groups in Maryland and in Texas, my ever-fabulous beta reader, Dr. Lisa Benton-Short, and my superb editor, Frances Sevilla.
Scottish Highlands, Spring 1517
“Beware above!” A man’s voice rang out above the rising wind swirling through the half-finished great hall.
Angus MacAnalen didn’t see who shouted the warning, but the hum of conversation at the clan gathering stilled as heads tilted upward. Another spring storm was brewing. A sudden gust tore sprays of needles from an overhanging pine. One clump dropped on a lad carrying a tray of apples, bounced off his shoulder, and skittered down his back. The lad flinched and stumbled, then suddenly regained his footing. The tray he carried wobbled, but none of the fruit dropped to the ground. Angus could have sworn one apple appeared to tip over the side, then settle back in place among the others.
he thought, narrowing his eyes. It had happened so quickly, he could barely credit what he’d seen…or thought he’d seen. The people around him appeared not to have noticed anything strange, most just now pointing at the fallen branch. The white-faced lad looked around, wide-eyed, and seemed remarkably shaken up for someone still on his feet.
Angus had enjoyed a few drams offered by supporters to celebrate his expected success in the Council’s vote to confirm a new laird. To be honest, more than a few. He could scarce refuse a wee dram from his well-wishers today, even if the congratulations were premature. Had the whisky made him woozy or blurred his vision to the point he imagined the lad’s odd recovery?
He reached for a cup of ale to sip instead of the stronger spirit. If…nay,
he won, he’d succeed his older brother, killed during the lowlanders’ invasion. He sucked in a breath, his throat cramping on the wave of grief that swamped him with Gregor’s image as he lay dying in the cave, the healers sitting vigil over his too-still form. Angus took a big gulp of ale and forced himself to think about the future, not the past.
Today, of all days, he needed to keep his wits about him. He expected today would finally bring bittersweet closure to the last six months. Either, he’d legitimately lead the clan and silence any complaints he wasn’t
laird—or he wouldn’t. Deep down, where his frustrations and resentments lived, he wasn’t sure which he should prefer. He’d invested blood and sweat over the winter to keep the clan together and rebuilding, though a vocal few resented him stepping into his brother’s role. While the Council dithered and delayed, fighting for legitimacy to lead had worn on him, but today, the Council would finally act.
Did he still want to be laird? If he lost, he’d be no one—free to stay or go. Expectations—his dead brother’s, the clan’s, even his own—weighed him down. This was no time for uncertainty, since the decision would be made for him, and soon.
Then Angus saw the lass and forgot everything else.
Her eyes ensnared him first, dark as a loch and as deeply mysterious. Then he noticed her lips, pink and full as a sunrise cloud, tilted up at one corner. Depending on the swirling wind, her coppery hair, braided with green ribbons that matched her dress, skimmed her waist or flicked around her arms. She appeared softly out of focus. Could her skin really be so smooth and creamy?
She stood alone against a half-finished wall, the stone no higher than her shoulder, and her gaze followed the hapless lad, more than a dozen feet from her, as he moved away. When one of the clan’s widows, Christina, passed by, she nodded but did not speak.
Angus was certain he would have remembered if he’d ever seen her. He straightened, driven by a sudden, overwhelming surge of determination to get close to her, to discover who she was, but before he could take a step toward her, she moved to a nearby bench. Once she sat, a table and a stack of lumber intended to support the unfinished roof screened her from the clusters of people discussing the impending election. Angus wondered why she would choose to hide.
Feeling more and more drunk on desire for her, in addition to the ale and whisky he’d consumed, Angus took his time, treading carefully on unsteady feet, greeting his clansmen as he made his way toward her. She must have noticed his approach. Her gaze met his then darted away. Heat flashed through his body like summer lightning through clouds, quickly followed by an image of sharing a cup with her…and even better, a kiss…after the gathering ended. The corner of his mouth lifted. He would count that a victory, whether he became laird or not. He resolved to ignore all doubts for now, and picked up his pace.
But another man got to her first. He looked to be few years older than she, but young enough to be a problem. Angus paused, and after blinking to let his blurred vision clear, finally recognized him—Seamus had been vocal in his support of Angus’s challenger, Colin. Angus never knew the man had any family, much less a wife or sister.
After what appeared to be a few terse words, Seamus moved away again. Frowning, the lass watched him go.
Angus resumed his approach, wondering what their exchange was about. But mostly, seeing Seamus made him determined to put himself out of his misery. If she had married Seamus, the fanciful ideas filling his head would end. But if she had not…today might end well, no matter how the vote turned out. As he neared her, he skirted a large pool of ale from a cask knocked over earlier by brawling lads who’d drunk a good portion of the contents.
“Good day to ye,” he said as he reached her. “Are ye enjoying the gathering?”
She colored most fetchingly to Angus’s eyes, then nodded. “Aye, thank ye.”
“I’ve no’ seen ye before.”
“No doubt. I arrived just yesterday.”
“Where do ye live?”
“Here, now.” For a moment, something dark passed across her face, then her expression smoothed out.
Was she being coy? Or was she shy? She seemed determined to say as little as possible.
“By yourself, then?” He found himself mimicking her manner of speaking—three words at a time seemed overly economical, but effective.
“Nay, with my uncle, if it’s any business of yers. Why do ye ask?”
“Indeed?” Dread washed through him, sour and chilling. There were only a few reasons a lass would be fostered away from her parents…none good.
She frowned and shifted as if she was about to stand and leave. Angus reached for something to say to make her stay, to make her deep brown eyes see him instead of whatever pained her in the past.
“My parents died last autumn in the lowlander’s invasion.”
She spoke before he could. He was glad she hadn’t bolted, but her words were another unwelcome reminder of all that had transpired. Angus regretted she and her clan shared such a grievous history with his.
“My uncle has taken me in, at least long enough to see me married off.”
Her grim tone told him she did not favor that idea. “Was that yer betrothed I saw speaking to ye a few moments ago?” He might as well find out whether he stood a chance.
“Nay, my uncle.”
Angus’s heart beat a little faster. “Has he betrothed ye to someone, then? Are ye to be married?”
Her color deepened, making her creamy skin bloom with the pink hues of summer roses. Angus wondered if he’d embarrassed or angered her. Her gaze dropped to her feet. Ah, embarrassed.
“Nay, I am no’. Nor am I eager to be.”
“I thought all lasses dreamed of the day they married. Or has yer uncle chosen a lad who doesna please ye?” The doe-eyed glance she cut him was all the answer he needed. He studied her for a moment. The dark pools of her eyes made him want to dive into their depths. “So he has told ye such?”