Ravishing a Highland Healer (Preview)

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Chapter One

Robertson Castle, 1690

It was a warm morning. The kind of summer day Billie would usually make the most of by going out and looking for herbs and healing plants. But so far, she hadn’t left the castle. She had been reading instead, tucked into a corner in the drawing room, the sunlight streaming through the large windows keeping her warm, much like a cat who lounged in the morning sun.

After a message from one of the maids, her feet carried her swiftly through the corridors of the castle as she searched for her sister, the only one of the three still living there. It was a big place, but Billie knew her most frequented spots and visited them all looking for her: the kitchens, the flower garden, the training grounds.

And in the end, the library.

Billie pushed the door open without knocking, which probably meant the sight before her could have been avoided. Abigail was pushing a guard, Aidan, up against one of the bookcases, the poor man looking as though he was under threat of a sword when the door suddenly opened, his lips red and swollen.

Abigail, for her part, only looked amused, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder as her hands rested on the young man’s shoulders.

It was far from the first time Billie had caught her sister with a guard, especially Aidan, whose dark hair and handsome features had quickly established him as Abigail’s favorite. And yet heat rose to her face, her gaze focusing itself on a well-cracked spine of a book at the other end of the room. Though older by two years, Billie was nowhere near as comfortable with such things as her sister, and the mere thought of a kiss was enough to bring butterflies to her stomach, their wings fluttering inside her.

“Faither wishes tae speak tae us,” Billie said fighting a smile at the sight of such a blushed man. “I’ve been lookin’ everywhere fer ye.”

“An’ ye found me,” Abigail said with a grin, as she stood on her tiptoes to press a kiss on Aidan’s blushing cheek. The moment she pulled back from him, he cleared his throat, bowed at the two of them, and fled the room. Though had Billie not interrupted, she was certain he would have tried to keep Abigail there for as long as possible.

“Ye shouldnae torture the guards,” Billie said, as she and her sister made her way to their father’s study.

“It’s a sweet torture,” Abigail said. “An’ I’ve never heard them complain.”

Billie could not understand how Abigail did it. The two of them were as alike in appearance as they were unlike in spirit. When they were little, they had often been mistaken for each other, donning the same blonde hair and grey eyes, the same sloped nose and high forehead. However, as they had grown, it had become evident who was who. Not only had Abigail’s hair darken to a honeyed blonde while Billie’s had remained the same, but Billie could always be found with a book in her hand, while Abigail could be found stealing bannocks and chasing boys. In her twenty-one years, Billie had never managed to gather up the courage and flirt with a guard and she didn’t think she ever would.

“Maybe ye should try it,” Abigail suggested as if reading Billie’s mind. “There are plenty o’ handsome guards here.”

Billie shook her head, an amused chuckle forming on her lips. “I dinnae think so,” she said. “I am perfectly happy as I am.”

“Readin’ all day an’ gatherin’ herbs fer yer potions?” Abigail asked.

“They’re nae potions,” Billie pointed out. It wasn’t the first time her sister had tried to push her to find romance, nor was it the first time they had had this conversation. Billie had endless patience for Abigail, but she didn’t see why she couldn’t simply accept the fact that she had no interest in romance. It would only hold her back from what she truly wanted to do: help people. “They are salves an’ medicine. Ye make me sound like a witch.”

“Ach, ye’re certainly nae a witch,” Abigail said, as she looped her arm around Billie’s, tugging her along. “Ye’re too bonnie tae be a witch.”

“Maybe I use me magic tae appear bonnie,” Billie teased, drawing a laugh out of her sister. “Maybe I’m hideous under all the spells.”

Abigail scrutinized her for a moment, as if trying to look behind the veil of the magic. “Nay. I’ve kent ye yer entire life, so I ken what ye look like. Besides, I dinnae think a lad would care either way.”

It was Billie’s turn to laugh, the sound bubbling out of her as they reached their father’s study. She couldn’t help but think Abigail was right.

Their father’s voice called them in when they knocked on his door, and Billie opened it to find him hunched over his desk, looking like a shadow of himself among all his books and papers. Her father, Laird Robertson, was far from a small man and was always imposing, even when he sat in his grand chair, behind that large, oak desk, bracketed by all his bookcases filled to the point of near collapse with old books and items he had collected. To see him like that, shoulders drooping and head dropped between them, could only mean that something was terribly wrong.

“Faither?” Billie asked, rushing to his side. Abigail followed her, closing the door behind her. “What happened? Is somethin’ the matter?”

Her father gave her a small, half-hearted smile. “I received news,” he said. “Two letters have come fer us. Sit… and I shall tell ye.”

Reluctantly, Billie left his side to sit across from him, she and Abigail occupying the two chairs before his desk. Though he seemed morose, he lacked the urgency which would betray the arrival of terrible news, and so Billie found herself reassured, at least to some degree. Surely, if it was something truly terrible, he would be more inclined to tell them swiftly.

“One o’ the letters is from yer sister,” he said. “I received it only this mornin’ from Evangeline an’ it says she is with child.”

Twin gasps echoed in the room, Billie and Abigail looking at each other with glee at the news. Evangeline had been with Iain for a while now and Billie knew how much they both wanted a child. Billie’s heart warmed at the thought of being an aunt to their children, of seeing them raise Iain’s heirs together.

But surely, she thought, that is joyous news. Why was her father unhappy?

“Is somethin’ wrong with Evangeline or the bairn, Faither?” Billie asked, leaning a little forward in her seat in concern. “Did she write that she’s feeling unwell?”

“Nay, nay,” her father said, quick to reassure her. “Naething o’ the sort. She is perfectly healthy an’ happy, an’ they say the bairn seems strong, too.”

Billie sighed in relief. She loved all her sisters dearly, the four of them inseparable throughout the years, even now that Evangeline and Keira lived away from home with their husbands. She wouldn’t have been able to bear it if something happened to one of them.

“Then why are ye like this?” Abigail asked. “What is the matter? Shouldnae ye be happy about our sister?”

“I am,” their father said. “I am very happy, dinnae misunderstand. But as I told ye, there is another letter. I received it early this mornin’, an’ I’ve been thinkin’ about what tae dae since.”

Billie exchanged a concerned glance with Abigail. It wasn’t often that their father looked so weighed down by worry, so helpless. Even in times of crisis, he was the kind of man who used all his efforts to make a plan rather than worry.

Somethin’ must be different now.

Whatever it was that was bothering him, Billie knew it was serious. She could only hope there were no rumors of a war—the Highlands had seen their fair share of bloodshed throughout the previous years, and Billie didn’t want her family to be caught in the middle of yet another conflict.

“The other letter is from the King,” their father said, and though Billie hadn’t thought it possible, he looked at them with even more concern and sadness than before, as if he was looking at them for the last time. “He wishes one o’ ye tae wed the new Laird MacAuley.”

Billie was speechless, her mouth hanging open uselessly as her gaze darted between her father and her sister, trying to make sense of this. It wasn’t so strange that the king—or perhaps his advisors—wanted a strong alliance for the new laird of the MacAuley Clan after Keira’s husband, Cormac, and his twin brother Ellair, had killed the old laird and his right-hand man, the clan soon falling into chaos.

She had heard of Laird MacAuley’s son’s return to Scotland. Everyone had heard of it, how the council, in need of a new laird, had reached out to Domnhall MacAuley, asking him to come back and take his rightful place. Billie had just never considered the possibility that she or Abigail would be swept into it all, one of them forced into marrying the man.

“Why us?” asked Billie. “Why must it be one of us who marries him?”

“I suppose they are countin’ on the support o’ the MacThomas an’ the MacLaren Clans,” her father said. “Yer sisters are married intae those clans, so Iain an’ Cormac will have nae choice but tae support the MacAuleys in case o’ conflict if one o’ ye is married tae the laird.”

It made sense, of course. Through marriage, the Robertson Clan had become one of the most powerful in the area, and it only made sense that the MacAuleys would want some of that power and protection that a Robertson bride would offer, guaranteeing the Robertson Clan as an ally.

“The order came from the king, ye said?” Abigail asked, her voice tinged with concern.

“Aye,” their father said. “But I will find a way tae change his mind. I willnae force ye intae a marriage ye dinnae want.”

It was nice of him to try, Billie thought, but she knew it would be hopeless. All three of them knew it. If the order had come straight from the King and his council, then there was no way to avoid it, unless they found a better candidate.

And as things were, there was no better candidate.

Billie glanced at Abigail from the corner of her eye. Her little sister had always been a daydreamer, always imagining the moment she would marry the man of her dreams, a man she would love, not someone she would have to marry out of convenience or because someone else willed it. She always spoke of the day she would meet someone who would make her feel like the most special woman in the world, and Billie couldn’t help but doubt that man would be the new laird of the MacAuley Clan. He, too, after all, was marrying for convenience, not love.

For all Billie knew, he wouldn’t even try to give Abigail the life she wanted. For all she knew, he would be just like his father, cruel and terrifying, or if not as bad, then at least cold and distant.

Billie couldn’t let such a fate befall her little sister. She had spent her entire life protecting her, and she wasn’t going to stop now, when it mattered the most.

Standing, Billie tried to gather up her courage and force the words out of her mouth. There was only one way this could end, and she had to come to terms with that. For a moment, she glanced at the book in her hand, the cover worn with age, the pages crinkled where she had pressed her fingers time after time. She knew it almost by heart. She could name all the herbs in its pages, all the practices it taught to heal wounds.

She placed it on her father’s desk with a thump.

“I will dae it,” she said. “I will marry him.”

At her words, Abigail and her father gave her identical looks of surprise, and in that moment, Abigail truly looked like her father’s daughter.

“Billie… ye dinnae have tae dae this,” her father said, shaking his head. “I told ye, I will find a way tae change the King’s mind.”

Even as he spoke, her father must have noticed how impossible that was. He averted his gaze with a sigh, running a hand through his greying hair and tugging at it as if trying to rip it out in his despair.

“We all ken ye cannae dae that, Faither,” Billie said gently. If she was going to do this, she didn’t want him or her sisters to worry about her. She wanted them all to realize it was her choice and hers alone, and that she was fine with it. Either way, she would have to marry one day, that much she knew. At least if she married Domnhall MacAuley, Abigail would have a chance at finding true love, like she had always wanted.

“Ye dinnae ken that,” her father insisted. “I could write tae the King—”

“Please,” Billie said, holding up a hand to silence him. It only made it harder for her, listening to him. She desperately wanted to agree, to tell her father he should do anything in his power to change the king’s mind, but that would only be harmful to him and the clan. The last thing Billie wanted was to earn the King’s wrath and lose his favor. “It’s fine, I promise ye. I will be fine. It’s me own choice an’ I stand by it. Ye can write tae the King an’ Laird MacAuley an’ tell them I accept.”

Her father hesitated, and when Billie turned to look at her sister, she found her wide-eyed, her bottom lip trembling just slightly. She gave her a small, reassuring smile, though she didn’t know if it had the intended effect. After all, Billie herself hardly felt reassured.

“If he is cruel… if he wishes tae hurt ye, ye will tell me,” her father said. It wasn’t a request. He wasn’t going to let that go, even if there wouldn’t be much for him to do if the man was truly cruel.

Still, Billie nodded. Everyone knew the kind of man his father had been, and no one in their right mind would want to give their daughter to his son.

“I will,” she promised. “But dinnae fash. I’m certain everythin’ will be fine.”

Her voice didn’t waver as she spoke, nor did her smile. She could do this. She could be strong for her sister, for her father, for her entire family.

She could bear it for them.


Chapter Two

The Plough tavern, three weeks later

Like every other night, the tavern was filled with men and ale, its sour scent sticking to every surface around Domnhall. It was the one thing he hated about taverns, how they always smelled of ale, the floors and tables sticky with its residue, reminding him of the castle when he was a boy; and of his father, whose cup was never less than half-full, a maid always topping up the drink for him.

It was a small price to pay to be away from the castle, though. He had only been there for a few months after returning from France to take on the mantle of the laird, and he already felt like the walls were closing in on him. The walls held memories in that place. The stone floors still carried the phantom sight of his mother’s blood, red and sticky after those nights when his father was particularly vicious with her. It was better to be at the tavern, with its loud patrons and the serving wenches and the whisky, all of it taking his mind off everything else.

Next to him, Hugo was on his third drink, while Domnhall still had his first. He never drank more than one at a time, never more than three in a day, even at feasts; always just enough to take the edge off, but not so much that he couldn’t control himself.

Never as much as his father.

Hugo’s dark eyes scanned the crowd for the next pretty woman who would fall into his bed, and Domnhall chuckled at him. He had already promised himself to two different women that night, both of them swayed by his crooked smile and boyish charm, even though at thirty-one, he was far from being a boy, and yet he was still looking for a third.

“How will ye ever manage tae entertain three lasses at once?” Domnhall asked, half-curious and half-impressed.

“The night is long,” Hugo said in his strange accent, a mix of his mother’s French and English with a slight Scottish lilt. It was that accent, along with his dark blonde hair and his tall and lithe figure, that had all the women in the room falling for him, Domnhall knew.

In all the years he had spent in France, over a decade of his life, his accent had never changed, though he supposed that was why he was as popular in France as Hugo was around those parts. Domnhall was used to women fawning over him, but in the Highlands, he was just another man.

His own eyes scanned the crowd, looking for a woman for himself. When Hugo caught him, he laughed and shook his head.

“Your bride will be here soon, no?” he asked, as if Domnhall didn’t remember. “And you’re looking for a mistress already?”

“Nae a mistress,” Domnhall said. “I ken me bride will be here soon an’ that’s why I’m lookin’ fer a lass tonight. It’s me last chance.”

“I doubt women will be deterred by the presence of a wife,” Hugo said. “I don’t think they ever have been.”

“But ye ken,” Domnhall pointed out. “I willnae betray me wife.”

It was the one thing he had sworn to never do: hurt the woman who would marry him. It didn’t matter to him if he would end up loving her or not—chances were he never would. After all, how often did arranged marriages end in love? Even so, now that he had no other choice but to take a wife, he would make sure she would never feel the pain his mother had felt. He would make sure to never be cruel.

Hugo gave him a curious look, but then patted him gently on the shoulder. “You’ve always been a good man. Your bride is lucky.”

Domnhall very much doubted that. “I never wished tae marry such a young lass, an’ I am certain she doesnae wish tae marry me either. Why would she? I’m almost fifteen years older than her.”

When Domnhall had first heard of his council’s idea to marry one of the Robertson girls, he had thought at least one of them would be appropriate for him, but the two oldest were already married, and even so, he was still several years older than them. He had tried to resist, but then the King’s council had heard of the plan and everyone had agreed it was the best course of action.

Everyone but Domnhall and, most likely, Billie Robertson.

“Had you followed in your father’s footsteps, she could have been your daughter,” Hugo said, laughing. Domnhall, on the other hand, wasn’t amused at all, mainly because it was true. His father had only been sixteen when he had married his mother, Fiadh, and fathered him.

“Let’s hope I never follow in me faither’s footsteps.”

It scared him, knowing that his marriage would be one without love, much like his mother’s and father’s marriage. The two of them had never cared for each other, and it had been perfectly obvious to Domnhall from a very young age. His father had only loved two things, women and wine, while his mother had remained in love with the man to whom she had been betrothed before his father had dragged her into an unwanted marriage: Blaine Ferguson.

If me faither is truly me faither, at least.

His mother, before her death, had left him with a parting gift he had never wanted. After all those years in his father’s castle and then in France, she had waited until the last moment, in her deathbed, to reveal the truth to him.

She didn’t know if John MacAuley was his father. For all she knew, she told him, it could be Blaine Ferguson.

“Are you thinking about your mother again?” Hugo asked, knowing him so well that he could always tell what he was thinking. It wasn’t much of a surprise to Domnhall. Every time his father was mentioned, his mind went back to that last conversation with his mother.

“O’ course I am,” Domnhall said. “How can I nae?”

Hugo let out a long, heavy sigh, the kind he reserved for those times when he thought Domnhall was being particularly obtuse. “We have discussed this, mon ami. How can you know what your mother said is even true? She was very unwell.”

Hugo had a point, Domnhall knew. During those last few days of her life, his mother had been in the throes of a terrible fever that wouldn’t break no matter what they gave her. For all he knew, she could have been confused, telling him something that wasn’t true at all.

“Besides,” Hugo continued, “your legacy is through your mother. She was a MacAuley before your father ever was.”

That was also true, Domnhall thought. His father was only the laird of the MacAuley Clan because he had married his mother, the last surviving heir after everyone else had perished in a vicious war. Regardless of who his father was, Domnhall had a blood tie to the MacAuleys, and the council of the clan wanted him as the laird. They had even agreed to his conditions that any plan his father had made would be scrapped, as he didn’t want to be anything like him. In any respect, and that Hugo come with him from France to serve as his advisor. Surely, that had to mean they wouldn’t simply toss him aside if it turned out John wasn’t his father.

“Aye, I suppose ye’re right,” Domnhall said, though even to his own ears, he sounded uncertain. “I wouldnae be doin’ any o’ this anyway if it wasnae fer Blaine Ferguson. But with all the rumours…”

Domnhall let his voice trail off, shaking his head. He had only just become the laird of the clan and he was already running into issues. The rumors that Blaine Ferguson was planning to take over the MacAuley Clan were becoming all the more widespread and all the more serious, and the only way for Domnhall to avoid such a situation was to ally with some strong clans. Billie Robertson was the key to that, and so all he could do was hope his new bride would be understanding.

He didn’t need her to love him. All he wanted was for her to tolerate him long enough for them both to fulfil their duties.

“Don’t think about any of that tonight,” Hugo said, rather unhelpfully. Perhaps it was easier for him to ignore everything that bothered him, but Domnhall wasn’t as good at it. Besides, Hugo himself could be cold and distant sometimes, losing himself in his thoughts. It was rare, but when he did, Domnhall instantly knew there was something his friend was keeping from him, something he refused to tell him. “Let’s find ye a bonnie lass,” he said, putting on Domnhall’s accent, “so ye can forget all about it.”

Domnhall’s gaze did fall on a woman, but not for the reason Hugo might have thought. He could see her through the windows, trying to wrestle herself free from a drunk man’s grip. The man was stumbling and gesturing wildly at her, perhaps even yelling, though Domnhall couldn’t tell with all the noise in the tavern. The girl was shaking her head wildly, pushing and kicking at the man, but he seemed not to feel any of it, numbed as he was from all the alcohol.

Domnhall remembered his mother. He remembered his father’s hands on her, tight and bruising and relentless, the way he had looked at her, half in disgust and half in lust as she had tried to escape him. The same scene was playing out before him now, and he knew what would follow if he didn’t do something to stop the man.

“I’ll be back,” he told Hugo as he slid out of his seat and headed for the door. A long time ago, he had made a promise to himself that he would never let his father touch his mother again, and that he would never let another man like him terrorize a woman.

He was going to keep that promise.


If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

  • Wow, that is quite an introduction to our newly bethrothed couple, Fiona. This adventure is going to be captivating; and I can’t wait to dig into your wonderful words!

    • Thank you my dear! I am so glad you enjoyed so far! I can’t wait to share the rest of this story with you!

    • Thank you so much my dear Valerie! I can’t wait to read your thoughts about the rest of the book!

  • Wow what a cover. Best one yet. And what an introduction to the story. Can’t wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds.

    • Thank you so much my dear Susan! So glad you enjoyed the story and the cover! Cannot wait to share more!

  • Those first two chapters are intriguing. Really cannot wait to dive into the Scottish folklore this novel promises

    • I am glad to read that, dear Elizabeth! Because the book is now out on Amazon and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the rest of the story!

  • I’ve read so many of Ms. Faris’ books, that I can’t remember all their names. But I do know I’d love to visit Scotland with her.

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