Captive of a Highland Spy (Preview)


The cell was dark.

She had no idea how long she had been there, but Rowan Morgan could feel the throbbing at the back of her skull. Frowning a little, she tried to remember what had happened, who had struck her, and when. But still getting used to her surroundings, there were more important things to concern herself with, like where she was and how long she had been there.

The smell was pungent, a mixture of human deposits, straw, and damp. The cell was also rather dark, the only light coming from a window high up in the stone walls of the small confinement. While she was not chained to the walls, there were large, rusty rings attached to the heavy stone, where at some time or another, somebody had been.

Her eyes were now adjusting to the light, and though most of the cell was still in shadow, she could just make out the large and heavy looking door with a barred window at the top.

Suddenly, she heard a shuffling sound. Someone else was in the cell with her. With her heart pounding against her ribcage, Rowan pushed herself further back against the wall, as though she could somehow distance herself from whomever it might be. It was a useless action, fer if someone desired to do her harm in this tiny space, there was nowhere to hide, and little she could do to stop them.

“I’m nae going tae hurt ye,” a woman’s voice floated from the shadows. It was a soft voice; a kind one.

Rowan heard more movement, a scraping sound against the gritty stone floor, and then she watched a shadowy figure emerge from the right side of the cell. The woman towered over Rowan, but quickly lowered herself to sit beside her.

“Are ye all right?” she asked, in the same kind voice.

Fiery red hair tumbled down the stranger’s shoulders, though it was not as long as Rowan’s own blonde locks. She looked about Rowan’s age, twenty-two, or maybe a year or two older, but her face was drawn, a little haggard, as though her life had seen many difficulties. She smiled as kindly as she had spoken, and looked at Rowan with an enquiring gaze, clearly waiting for Rowan to answer.

“I dinnae really ken,” Rowan said eventually. Her words were not a lie. Not knowing where she was, how long she had been there, and what was to happen to her now she had been imprisoned, she had no idea how she was supposed to feel.

“How long have I been here?” Rowan asked.

“They brought ye in here two nights past. Ye were nae conscious, and they didnae treat ye very well either. The guards here are bloody awful. We’re lasses, nae sacks o’ spuds. In fact, I dinnae ken how ye dinnae have more broken bones with how roughly they handled ye.”

Strangely, in that moment, Rowan did feel pain in her body. Nowhere specifically, but all over, as though she had been beaten severely. Absently, she reached her hand around the back of her head and felt a rising lump under her fingertips. Somehow, she was certain that had happened before she had arrived there.

“I’m Luna,” the woman said, now smiling at her.

“Rowan,” she tapped her hand against her breast, “me name is Rowan. Why dae they have ye locked up in this dreadful cell?”

“Och,” Luna shrugged, “a lie, o’ course. Isnae it always with men?”

Rowan frowned, not understanding at all what Luna was talking about.

Luna’s expression changed, and she looked at Rowan more curiously. “Hmm, by yer frown, it’s clear yer nae who I thought ye were.”

“And who did ye think I was?” Rowan pressed.

“Well, I thought ye were a lady o’ the night like mesel’. But I can see, now that I’m looking at ye closely, yer skin is too pure, ye dinnae have the look o’ a woman who has had tae cope with the demands o’ customers. Nae that it’s all bad, but ye ken, some o’ them take too much fer granted.”

“I see,” Rowan said, not really seeing at all, but still trying to sympathize with the woman.

“So, what are ye doin’ here?” Luna asked. “And what’s with the mask on yer face?” she gestured to the mask Rowan had worn since before she could remember. “Where ye burned?”

The mask that sat on the left side of Rowan’s face, mainly covered a birthmark that ran across the skin surrounding her eye and near to her nose. But the birthmark represented so much more than a mark at birth. It represented the magical gift she had inherited from her mother, just as all her sisters had.

“Och, it’s a long story.” Rowan shrugged, wondering if she ought to tell this woman anything at all. There were not many people she could trust these days, though with her ability, she had sensed the woman was harmless within seconds of her approach.

“Well, we have all night. I cannae see the guards coming back anytime soon. Here,” she handed Rowan a small piece of bread she had pulled from the pocket of her skirts, “I saved ye some from supper. They were nae goin’ tae leave ye any, so I saved ye half o’ mine.”

“Thank ye,” Rowan replied, feeling a little more than surprised. Why on earth would this woman save her food?

Perhaps because she is just a good person. They dae still exist.

It was hard for Rowan to believe so after all that had happened to herself and her family, but she supposed, the good outweighed the bad in the end. Just because her life had been treacherous so far, did not mean good people were not out there.

Even at that, Rowan had a sense that there was no one left to help her. She was on her own. All her avenues of rescue had been used up. In fact, as she sat there, considering her circumstances, a strange sensation washed over her. It was a sensation that told her that she would never leave this place alive. With that thought in mind, there seemed little harm in spending her last few hours talking with Luna.

“I’m here because me family have been helping the cause,” Rowan began. “I’m also here because me mother had powers, and so dae I. This mask covers a birthmark across me eye. But it’s more than a birthmark, it’s a mark o’ the gods, or so me mother always used tae say. A way fer them tae ken their own. I’m one o’ four sisters, all o’ whom inherited our mother’s powers. She was murdered, nae only because she wouldnae use her powers fer evil, but because she helped the cause.”

Luna’s face seemed to change a little after Rowan said that. Her expression was curious, and Rowan did not quite understand what it meant.

“So, what is yer power?” Luna asked.

“I can sense if people are good or bad. It is a strange power, but everyone gives off a certain aroma. The scent is strong and nearly always pungent if a person is untrustworthy, or has ill intentions.”

“And what if they have good intentions?” Luna asked.

“If they’re good, truthful or honest, the aroma is calm, almost soft, though I can hardly explain it. It’s different with different people, but I can always tell.”

“And what dae ye smell from me? What aroma dae I give off?”

“I can tell yer harmless. I dinnae ken much more than that. I cannae tell if there is a bad bone in yer body, or if ye are going tae dae wrong. It isnae that kind o’ power. I just ken yer nae dangerous tae me and will nae dae me any harm.”

“What about yer mother? What was her power?”

“She had the ability tae sense if someone was telling the truth,” Rowan replied with a slight sigh at the thought of how much she missed her.

“And yer sisters?”

Rowan took a deep breath in, and then blew it out slowly. Thinking of how much she missed her mother, only reminded her of how much she missed her sisters.

“I dinnae really want tae talk about me sisters. Once me mother was murdered, me father sent us all away tae different parts o’ Scotland tae try and keep us safe. I’m likely never going tae see them again, and the thought o’ it breaks me heart. I cannae see mesel’ getting out o’ here now.”

“Dinnae talk in such a way,” Luna gasped.

Rowan shrugged. “But it’s true.”

Luna did not argue with her and it appeared both women knew that Rowan was likely right.

“I too, was captured trying tae help the Jacobite’s,” Luna said bluntly.

“But I thought ye said—”

“I didnae ken who ye were then. I didnae ken if I could trust ye, or if ye were nae a spy, sent intae the cell tae try and get information out o’ me. I dinnae have a secret power,” Luna said with a broad grin.

“Well, it hasnae done me family any favors, I can tell ye,” Rowan added, though she did smile a little at Luna’s attempt at humor. “Laird Johnson has done naething but make our lives a misery fer years. I have nae doubt at all, that he’s behind me being locked up here.”

“Laird Johnson,” Luna spat. “That man’s name on me tongue leaves a bitter taste. He’s only working with the English fer more titles and more lands.”

“I dinnae ken,” Rowan said, shaking her head, “I think the man gets a twisted sense o’ pleasure out o’ murdering his own people.”

Luna nodded. “Aye, I think yer right. But dae ye nae have other people who care fer ye?”

Rowan sighed heavily then, thinking of the one man who had been there for her more times than any other. But she knew now, she would never see him again either.

“I dae,” Rowan said. “There is someone who still has me heart.”

“Then, tell me about him.”

Rowan took a deep breath and began her story, from the moment she had been captured until now. It was long, but clearly, they had time. Luna’s face expressed many emotions, from shock and awe, to disgust and delight, until Rowan finally came tae the end. “And so, here I am.”

“And he doesnae ken?”

Rowan shook her head. “Nae. He’ll have thought I ran away. But,” she shrugged, “it doesnae really matter nae, does it? It was wonderful while it lasted…”

The heavy fall of footsteps outside in the corridor silenced the two women, and holding their breath, they waited until the guards passed. But the guards did not pass. Instead, the heavy footfall stopped right outside their cell and with a clinking sound of many keys, the door was unlocked.

Two guards wasted no time in striding into the cell, and with one on either side of her, they grabbed Rowan by her arms, lifting her abruptly to her feet as though she weighed nothing at all.

“Rowan,” Luna screamed.

“It’ll be all right. It’ll be all right,” Rowan cried back, knowing that it would not be all right at all. Yet what more was there to say? This was it. Whatever was going to happen now, she couldn’t imagine she would see the light of day again, if even another day.

“Where are ye taking me?” Rowan demanded as they dragged her down the corridor, their thick fingers biting sharply into the sensitive flesh of her upper arms. In such a hurry as they were, Rowan’s feet hardly touched the ground, as they practically carried her.

“Ye’ll see soon enough, ye traitorous little witch,” one of the guards growled, jerking at her arm, causing her even more pain.

A cold chill ran through the entirety of Rowan’s being at his menacing tone. She did not know what was coming, but whatever it was, she would not relinquish her stand. The cause deserved her support. Her mother had died for it, she had been separated from her sisters, and was likely never going to see her father again. She was not giving up now. Wherever they were taking her, and whatever she was about to face, she would make certain she would honor her mother’s death and her family’s sacrifice.

“Where are ye taking me?” Rowan cried one more time. Even though she feared her pressing to know might land her a nasty strike, she could hardly help herself but ask.

“Yer going tae ye trial,” the other guard growled. “But I wouldnae worry. It’ll nae take long fer them tae sentence ye,” he chuckled.

Once more, the words sent a cold shiver through her body. Trial?

“Yer going tae face the Crown, and yer likely going tae the gallows. That’s where people who commit treason usually go,” the first guard spat with a smirk. The other one chuckled, as though the idea of her death caused them great amusement.


It was an inquisition more than a trial, but as each question was barked at her, Rowan held her head high, refusing to let any of the audience in the circular room see how desperately her heart was beating, and how terrified she actually was.

“I will ask ye again, Miss Morgan,” the magistrate barked, clearly growing more and more annoyed. “Who is it ye are working fer?”

Rowan kept her lips tightly pressed together as she had done with all the other questions he had asked.

“Ye dae realize ye are hardly helping yersel’,” he growled. “There is naeone coming tae save ye. If ye cooperate, we may perhaps be able tae come tae some kind o’ understanding. But if ye continue stubbornly refusing tae give us the names o’ the rebels who stand against the King, ye’ll pay with yer life.”

The thought of dying terrified Rowan greatly, but she still did not reply. How could she, after all her family had suffered and sacrificed, now betray their loyalties? Especially after the brutality of her own mother’s murder. A murder, she suspected, had been ordered by the Crown.

“Dae ye have any family, Miss Morgan?”

Rowan hesitated, but then shook her head. “Nae.”

“Ye are a liar, Miss Morgan,” the magistrate barked, practically spitting the words from his mouth. “We ken well, ye are Jenny Morgan’s daughter. We ken well, ye have three sisters who are as traitorous as yersel’. Where are they, Miss Morgan? Where are yer sisters hiding?”

Why she had thought they would not know about her family, Rowan did not know, but at the mention of her mother’s name, and then her sisters, Rowan’s heart nearly stopped in her chest. The idea of her sisters coming to any harm, made her stomach churn. She could not lose them as well. She simply could not.

Once more, she pressed her lips tightly together, and almost imperceptibly shook her head. The movement was not for the magistrate’s benefit, but for Rowan herself. An adamant resilient reminder not to say another word.

“Ye dae ken yer father has been murdered, Miss Morgan?” the magistrate said. Rowan grew angry as she glared at the older man, for he could hardly contain the slight smile that danced at the side of his mouth. “Ye have naeone left, Miss Morgan. Yer own life is the only thing ye can save now.”

It cannae be true. I cannae believe that tae be true. But even if it is, I willnae say one single thing tae help these dreadful and wicked people.

The magistrate glared at her for another long moment, before he shuffled some papers on the desk before him. “Ye refuse tae say a word?” he asked, his jowls wobbling in his anger. “Ye would prefer tae stand there and remain silent?”

Rowan answered with the same silence as before. A fire raged in her belly, and her heart thumped in her breast, but whatever was to come, she would take it with the pride and knowledge that she had stood for something.

“Then ye give me nae choice,” the magistrate growled. “I hereby sentence ye tae death by beheading. Yer sentence will be carried out at dawn tomorrow.”


Chapter One

A couple of weeks earlier…

Thane Hamilton crouched low behind a wall, a small distance from a house he and his men had been watching for some days. Bryson Hay stood close by as the night slowly darkened the streets and cast deep shadows against corners and walls.

“I still dinnae ken yer story,” Bryson scowled at Thane. “And dinnae think, just because Laird Johnson has given ye command over this group o’ men with me,” he jerked his head in the general direction around them, where the men were scattered, also keeping an eye on the house they had been sent to watch, “that I trust ye, as he obviously daes.”

Thane rolled his eyes and scowled back at Bryson. He hated the man, but had no choice but to tolerate him. He was Johnson’s close friend, so close, in fact, they shared everything; there were no secrets between them. Thane was still unsure if Johnson hadn’t sent Bryson to keep an eye on him, but he didn’t really care. For the most part, he did his best to ignore him, though there were times it was more difficult than others. This happened to be one of those times.

“Ye come out o’ nowhere,” Bryson continued, further annoying Thane. “Ye nae from these parts, that’s fer certain. Ye’ve all this inside knowledge, but from where, I wonder? Ye may have impressed Laird Johnson with all ye ken about the rebels, but ye’ve nae impressed me. Indeed, the very fact ye ken so much, makes me even more suspicious o’ ye. I swear, if I find out yer a traitor, lad, I’ll gut ye mesel’.”

Thane was about to tell Bryson to shut his mouth before they were discovered, when movement suddenly came from the house they were spying on. Jenny Morgan had been murdered under Johnson’s direction, and since then, her husband had sent his daughters away. One by one, they had left their home in different directions, usually accompanied by several armed guards.

Whether Mr. Morgan knew that Johnson was after his daughters or not, he was certainly taking precautions. While Johnson had been determined to capture all four of them, the incompetence of his men had been proven. They had somehow managed to lose track of the first three. Thane had been given this mission with a heavy warning that if he did not capture the final daughter, he’d be facing some serious consequences on his return.

“Ye have proven very useful tae me so far, Thane,” the laird had said. “Show me how deep yer loyalties lie. I am entrusting this very important mission tae ye with confidence that ye will accomplish what the others havenae. Capture Morgan’s daughter and bring her tae me. Believe me, I will make it worth yer while.”

Upon arriving at the town where Mr. Morgan and his remaining daughter lived, Thane had been surprised to discover that the man was not of little means. In fact, his house was one of the largest in the town, surrounded by a large courtyard with stables, and, to Thane’s disappointment, many men. It had made his mission a little more difficult. They could not simply break into the home and take her. He did not have enough men for that. Nor did he want to cause such a ruckus, at least, not yet.

Instead, they had been forced to keep watch for several days. After visiting one of the local taverns and getting a few of the older men drunk, they had discovered that the daughter was to be moved in the next few days, they just did not know the exact day or time. Hence, the reason they were currently hunkered down, surrounding the home and waiting for any movement.

The outer gates of the property were opened by a servant, and light from the house spilled out into the courtyard. Several horses were standing, each mounted by a burly looking man armed with a sword and shield, seemingly waiting for something. Bryson had now quietened, and like Thane himself, watched with great intensity to the goings on only fifty feet from where they hid.

Tension slowly built within Thane, and though he had not consciously thought about it, he realized he was holding his breath, as though the men standing such a distance away could possibly hear him breathing. A few moments passed, and nothing seemed to happen. Bryson looked across to Thane with a frown, and Thane returned his curious look with a shrug.

There was nothing they could do but wait. However, a moment later, the door of the house opened, and more light spilled out into the courtyard. Murmurings of voices carried across the still of the night, but they were too far away for Thane to hear what was being said. Besides, he was mesmerized by the young girl that was saying her emotional farewells to the older man beside her. It had to be Mr. Morgan, and the beautiful woman beside him, had to be the last daughter they were to capture.

The light danced off the shimmering blonde hair that draped down her back, and as she gathered her locks to the side before pulling the hood of the cloak she wore over her head, she turned so Thane could see her more fully. A mask covered the left-hand side of her face, and though it did little to curb her beauty, Thane could not help but wonder why she wore it. Had she been maimed in some way?

He suddenly felt sorry for the girl. While he did not know what Johnson wanted with her, Thane had no doubt, it wouldn’t be anything good. If the laird had murdered her mother, he could only imagine her future may hold the same fate.

If only she kent what was waiting fer her, she’d stay in that house under her father’s protection.

Thane, Bryson and the rest of the men, stayed in their positions while the girl mounted her own horse. With a final cry of farewell to her father, she allowed the burly men accompanying her to lead her out of the courtyard. The clattering sound of the horse’s hooves against the cobblestone echoed around the empty streets. When the group passed close to Thane and Bryson, they pressed themselves even further into the shadows, though none of the men on horse noticed them.

When the group was finally out of sight, Thane and Bryson emerged from the shadows, swiftly followed by the men who had been hiding in other places. Thane knew the direction they were heading.

“We must hurry tae our own horses,” Bryson stated, turning from Thane and not waiting for an answer.

They had left them several streets away near a tavern, so as not to draw attention to themselves. Anyone passing by might see a group of horses and imagine their owners were inside enjoying an ale and, perhaps, the company of a lass. With the Morgan girl and her guards now well out of sight, Thane ran back through the streets, the heavy footfall of steps behind him a sign that his men were following closely on his heels.

By the time Thane reached his horse, Bryson had already mounted his beast. He scowled at Thane. “If ye dinnae hurry, we’ll lose them,” he spat.

“Indeed, we willnae lose them,” Thane barked back, hooking a foot into a stirrup and throwing himself onto his own steed. “I ken exactly the direction they’re goin’.”

“Och, dae ye now?” Bryson drawled sarcastically.

“Aye, I dae,” Thane bit back.

“Just like ye ken everythin’ else, I suppose,” Bryson snarled at him, that same suspicious scowl sitting upon his face.

“We dinnae want tae alert them,” Thane said to the rest of the men who had now mounted their horses, ignoring Bryson entirely. “We’ll approach at a distance. They’re headin’ north. There’s a track that leads out o’ the village and intae the glens. We’ll have a better chance if we ambush them there.”

The other men nodded and replied an acknowledgement. Bryson, on the other hand, said nothing at all, and continued to snarl at Thane. It was his usual expression, and while Thane would quite happily punch the look off the man’s face, for now, he needed to keep his cool. He had a job to do.

“Let’s get movin’,” Bryson growled, yanking on the reins.

Thane might well have been put in charge of these men, but Bryson seemed to take over as often as he could. Even then, he led the men down the streets, hardly knowing what direction they were supposed to be going.

“It’s this way,” Thane hissed, taking a street off to the left.

Setting the pace, Thane walked the horse steadily through the dark cobbled streets. It was close to midnight, and while it was not unheard of men travelling in groups, he did not want to bring any unnecessary attention to themselves. It would only take a scout to deduce the direction they were heading, run ahead and warn those with Morgan’s daughter, and they would scatter. The opportunity lost. Laird Johnson would not be pleased if they returned empty-handed, as so many of his men before had done already.

They moved to the outer skirts of the town, passing the less affluent and more run-down houses. After some more time, Thane spotted the track he had mentioned earlier that led out into the glens.

Bryson now rode beside him, his eyes set straight ahead, the usual scowl sat upon his brow. Thane could not wait for this mission to end. Not just because abducting a girl went against every fiber of his being, but he would not have to suffer Bryson’s company anymore. He had only been sent with Thane because of the importance of this mission, to ensure it was done right.

Thane still did not know what was supposed to happen after they had captured the Morgan girl. Clearly, Bryson knew, because Laird Johnson told Bryson everything. From what he had garnered from the strained conversations with Bryson himself, and the men who accompanied them, Bryson and Laird Johnson had been friends since childhood.

While Bryson had never been a noble, Johnson had always trusted him. He had treated Bryson as an equal and thus, Bryson had done very well for himself. He owned a lot of land, he had servants and houses in several locations, and stuck closely by the laird’s side, likely to ensure his own survival, and to get whatever he might have handed to him for his loyalty.

Clearly, Thane was a threat to Bryson. Perhaps the snake of a man did not want to share the laird’s adulation with another. Or perhaps he was worried Johnson might give to Thane what Bryson felt he himself was entitled to. The truth was, Thane would refuse such rewards. He had never been a man to slither around another for what he might be able to gain. He and Bryson were very different indeed. Thane made his own luck, he did not need to rely on the luck of another.

They had travelled for a little over a half hour, when Thane decided it was time he know the full extent of this mission.

“So, we are tae abduct the Morgan girl,” he said, speaking to Bryson beside him.

Bryson kept his face straight ahead, as though Thane had not even spoken. Nor did he reply, and Thane wondered if the man had gone deaf.

“Aye,” Bryson said, after a huge pause.

“All right,” Thane said. “Then what?”

“What dae ye mean, then what?” Bryson spat, the snarl back in his tone.

“Well, I ken we’re abductin’ her. But why? What’s the objective?”

“Ye dinnae need tae ken any more than ye already ken,” Bryson snarled.

“That makes nae sense,” Thane argued. “If I’m out here risking me neck, as are these men behind us, surely, I have a right tae ken what the devil we’re doing out here.”

“What difference daes it make?” Bryson replied. ‘Ye dae the job yer asked tae dae.”

“I could dae me job far better if I kent what it was,” Thane growled.

“Och, fer the love o’ God, are ye goin’ tae whine about it the whole journey?” Bryson huffed.

“I might,” Thane replied. It was a petty reply, but he was goading Bryson to tell him what he wanted to know. Sooner or later, Bryson was going to have to tell him. Why not now?

“Then if ye must ken, because I cannae listen tae ye whine like a woman,” Bryson spat, “once we’ve grabbed her, we need tae find out if she has powers.”

“Powers?” Thane exclaimed.

“Och, dinnae tell me I ken somethin’ ye dinnae,” Bryson cried, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “And here I was, thinkin’ I was in the presence o’ the man who kent it all.” Bryson threw his arms about dramatically, clearly trying to make a point, but really, only making a complete fool out of himself. Thane chose to remain quiet and let Bryson get it out of his system.

Eventually, he looked across at Thane again with a sneer. “Aye, powers like her mother, Jenny Morgan. That’s why she was killed. She was using those very same powers tae help the rebels fight against the King. She wouldn’t use them tae help Laird Johnson, so the laird made sure she wasnae goin’ tae use them again.”

Thane clenched his teeth at the delight Bryson seemed to show at relaying such a thing. Clearly, murdering women did not turn his stomach at all.

“And if the Morgan girl daes have powers,” Thane said. “What then? What are we supposed tae dae with her?”

A slick, disgusting smile danced across Bryson’s face. “Then she’ll be a lucky girl. She’ll still have a chance at breathing.” He snorted. “We’ll give her tae Johnson. From then on, she’ll be his property.”


Not at all Likely Extremely Likely

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  • Fiona, you’ve captured my attention! I can’t wait to see how Rowan and Thane will intertwine their adventures!

  • I am new to Fiona Faris but what I have read I always look forward to the next one. This sounds great and look forward to reading the rest of the book, when able

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