The Runaway Bride and the Highlander (Preview)
Rowan reached for the tea leaves, knocking the jug of milk over. The milk spilled out over the surface, reaching the edge and finally dripping onto the floor where Patches, the cat, merrily licked it up.
“Oh, blast,” Rowan huffed, turning to grab a cloth. Her swinging hand knocked over a china cup and it went flying off the table and smashed onto the floor, frightening the poor cat half to death. Patches squealed and ran from the room while the three other women watching the debacle fell into peals of laughter at their sister’s antics.
“At this rate, I’ll nae get my tea until I’m ninety,” Skylar laughed, her eyes glistening as the tears of mirth nearly dripped from them. Of course, her right eye always glistened more than her left, for that was the sign that magic lived within her. Her youngest sister had always been too clumsy for her own good, and nothing had changed in her older age.
“Ye ken the milk is meant tae go intae the cup, Rowan, nae all over the floor,” Lana giggled as Rowan made her usual mess.
“Och, will ye leave me be?” Rowan called back. “I’m doing my best.”
“Aye, yer best at making a mess,” Thea joined in.
“Ye can make it yerselves next time then,” Rowan growled, though a sly smile danced at the corner of her mouth.
Slowly carrying the tray, the crockery tinkling with her trembling hands, Rowan shuffled across the stone floor of the room and lowered it onto the table. Skylar watched her sister with interest, noticing the thin skin of her wrinkled hands. She could hardly help but look down at her own and, almost with surprise, noticed that old age had affected her the same. Softly, she ran a finger over her translucent skin, the swollen purple and blue veins prominent beneath her touch.
“I cannae tell ye how glad I am that we’re all together again after all this time,” Lana sighed, looking lovingly from one sister to the other.
“I ken,” Skylar smiled.
All four of the Morgan sisters nodded in agreement. “Who could’ve kent,” Lana continued, “that after being separated all those years ago, we would find ourselves sitting here now, almost thirty years later?”
Rowan attempted to agree while concentrating on pouring the tea into the teacups. “We can all only be grateful we survived,” she said, a tinge of sadness in her tone. “We’ve lost so much along the way—nae least o’ all, Mother and Father.” She handed out the cups to her sisters before lowering herself slowly down into her seat.
For a long moment, a contemplative silence doused the room, the only sound coming from the crackling logs on the large fire before them. Their mother and father would be long dead by now, given that the sisters were well past their prime, but that is not what Rowan meant. Their parents had been taken from them many years ago, and their lives were cut far shorter than they ought. The sisters had indeed lost much over the years, but for Skylar and Lana, the death of their mother had been more horrific since they had witnessed it.
If they had been an ordinary family, perhaps things might have been different. But they were not. Jenny Morgan had been born with a gift and had passed such powers down to her daughters. Each of them had a distinguishing mark corresponding to the power they possessed. Their mother had told them that the gods needed to mark their own, and one of Skylar’s eyes was so light blue it was almost white, for her power was to see the future of a person if she kissed their forehead. It was a power that almost cost her her life.
“I still remember that day as if it were yesterday,” she said gently, breaking the silence. Her sisters had taken a moment of consideration, but at her words, all turned their attention toward her. She was the oldest and, before their world had been turned upside down, had been the one they had all looked up to. “I have often thought how different things would have been if Mother hadnae had the ability tae detect truth and lies.”
“Or if none o’ us had been born with powers,” Rowan added. “Father would never have had tae send us away.”
“I dinnae think Mother would have changed anything,” Lana said. “She was proud and grateful for her gifts and loved us all very much for ours. Though I still cannae get that horrible night out o’ my mind.”
“It all happened so fast,” Skylar replied sadly. “I remember the crashing sound o’ the front door and then Mother crying out for us tae hide.”
“Rushing up the stairs in a great panic,” Lana continued and shook her head. “Mother was nae far behind us. And then she shoved us intae the closet, ordering us tae stay inside and keep quiet.”
Even now, after all these years, Skylar’s heart beat fast at the memory of it. It transpired that their mother had detected some scheme against the Jacobites and was planning to reveal it so the rebels could be warned. But she never got the chance.
“The thing that still makes me sad tae this day is that I saw what was going tae happen,” Skylar said. “It wasnae very clear. My visions never are, but each time I had kissed Mother, I did see a long rope, a strange white light, and a dark mask.”
“Ye’ve never told me that ‘afore,” Lana gasped, stunned by Skylar’s confession.
“Aye, well, I didnae see there was much point after all that had happened. And besides, all it makes me feel is guilt.”
“Ye cannae do that tae yerself, Skylar,” Rowan said, shaking her head. “Ye couldnae have stopped it, nae matter what ye saw. Yer visions come tae ye, but there’s never a time or a place.”
“I ken,” Skylar sighed.
Rowan was right. Any future that she had seen was never clearly written. Things could change, and when that happened, so did that person’s future. Sometimes she would see objects or faces, but if she did not recognize the face, she could do little to warn or help those who sought answers. The future was always too vague to be seen clearly.
“But still,” Skylar continued, “Mother fought so hard against the intruders. They were determined tae discover where we all were, but even when they tortured her, she resisted. Lana and I watched from inside the closet, and even now, the memory is as horrific as when it actually happened all those years ago.” Skylar shivered. “In the end, when they kent they were getting naething out o’ her, they killed her. And that is when my vision came true. A masked man strangled her with a rope while she wore her white shift.”
“And then Father lost us all,” Rowan sighed. “I cannae imagine how hard it was for him, first losing his beloved wife and then having tae send his daughters away.”
“Aye, well if he hadnae, I’ve nae doubt none o’ us would be here tae tell our tales,” Lana said solemnly.
“Och, I kent that,” Rowan agreed, sounding almost frustrated. Whether her frustration was aimed at Lana or the circumstances their family had been forced to bear all those years ago, Skylar could not know. “He was only trying tae protect us,” Rowan continued. “I just wished we could’ve had the chance tae see him again.”
“Ye’ve never really told us, Skylar,” Lana said, looking over at her. “What was it like when ye were sent tae Iona Nunnery? Were they horribly strict?”
All the sisters now looked toward Skylar. It was true; so much had happened that she had never really talked about her time there.
Skylar shrugged. “Actually, the nunnery was fine. Father had sent word ahead. The nuns all kent why I was there. I think they were a little afraid o’ me at the beginning.” Skylar smiled, and the sisters giggled a little. “In fact, I’m certain they thought I was possessed by the devil himself. Even so, they just let me be. All was well for a long time—well, until I received Lana’s letter.”
Skylar then remembered something, and digging about in her pocket, she pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. It was old and marked, faded and stained from the many times Skylar had read it since. Unfolding it and pressing out the creases, she placed it on the table.
“Ye still have my letter?” Lana cried.
Skylar shrugged a little sadly and looked over at her sister. “Aye. I couldnae have kent if it was the last time I’d ever hear from ye.”
Skylar looked at the letter for a long moment before taking a deep breath in.
“It was three nights after I received the letter that it all began.”
1689, Iona Nunnery, 30 years earlier
It was dark. The nuns stood in a circle, Skylar with them, their heads bowed in night prayer. Flickering shadows that appeared larger than life shimmered on the walls, the movement made by the dancing flames of the candles sitting in tall candelabras positioned at different places in the cold, barely furnished room. It happened every night the same way and had done for the last four years, ever since she had arrived and likely long before that.
Long prayer beads hung from the old women’s wrinkled hands, and other than the soft muttering that dripped from their lips, nothing else could be heard but the soft sound of the whistling wind as it tried to enter through the wooden slats that sat across the window.
While Skylar appeared to be praying—her head bent forward, her eyes closed—the thoughts that ran through her mind were far from the deity the nuns so fervently revered. Instead, she re-read the words she had committed to memory in the letter sent from Lana. There had been no word from any of her sisters or her father for four years—four years of solitude and not being able to see her family. She’d also spent those four years having to relive the dreadful murder of her mother.
That had been her life until three days ago when a nun had swiftly and secretly handed her a note.
My dearest Skylar,
I ken Father instructed us to make nae contact with each other, but I send this letter on a matter of urgency. I cannae tell you where I am or how I ken what I am about to tell you. If this letter is discovered before it gets to ye, such information will reveal my location.
Ye are in danger. Laird Graeme Johnson is after you. I do believe he has discovered yer whereabouts, though I cannae be certain. I do ken that at this very moment, he has sent men to search for you. He kens about yer gift and wants ye for himself. He wants to ken the future, Skylar, and he will force ye to tell him.
Ye must find a way to escape. He cannae find you, or Mother’s sacrifice will have been for naething.
I miss you so very dearly, sister. I pray every night that we will once again be reunited as a family. Keep safe and stay vigilant.
All my love,
Laird Graeme Johnson was allied with the English. The Johnson Clan castle was situated in the Lowlands, and using his connections, Johnson reported to the English in return for wealth and titles. He was also Samuel Morgan’s greatest enemy. Her father had tried to protect her mother, but Jenny Morgan had been murdered at Johnson’s request when he had discovered not only the powers the Morgan women possessed but how deeply involved their family was in the Jacobite uprising.
From what Skylar had discovered, Johnson would sooner kill the likes of her mother than allow her to live as a prisoner. In that way, there was no chance she could use her gifts to help the Jacobites. Jenny Morgan had made it clear she would never take sides with the likes of Johnson or the English. And so, she had lost her life.
Graeme Johnson was a hateful man if ever there was one.
With her head still bent, Skylar raised her eyes and looked at the circle of nuns that surrounded her.
I cannae stay here. If I stay, I risk their lives. I must run.
She had made that decision immediately after reading Lana’s letter. It had just taken her three days to secretly gather what little possessions she had and tuck them safely away in a small sack. She had to stay away from any suspicion. If the nuns sensed anything was untoward, they would try and stop her, and Skylar did not want that. She would not put these women’s lives in danger. The nuns had protected her with no questions or judgement. In fact, she remembered the very day she had arrived there.
Skylar could not have known her father was a long-known acquaintance of Mother Mary, but the old woman had smiled and said, “I didnae always wear this frock, ye ken.”
Samuel Morgan had sent a letter on ahead, informing them that Skylar was coming. It was her father’s way—always prepared. There were rules, of course, for her safety. She was to wear what they wore to quell any suspicion. She was never to leave the convent, no matter what. At the beginning, it had felt more like a prison than a safe haven, but as the weeks and months had passed, she had grown fond of the sisters.
“I ken it’s hardly the place a young lass wants tae be. But I promise ye, it’s for yer own safety,” Mother Mary had said before she was shown to her quarters.
Mother Mary had been right. It was hardly the place for a young lass. In fact, the adjustment was far more difficult than she could have imagined. It was not just the isolation of not being able to see her sisters or the fact she had to remain inside the grounds of the nunnery at all times. Even the day-to-day activities were strict.
She had gone from a large manor house with all sorts of freedoms to a tiny room with nothing more than a bed and a small cabinet for furniture. The walls were bare and cold, and words were hardly spoken between the women that resided there. Prayer was three times a day, and for someone like Skylar, twenty years old at her arrival, it was an unusual way of existing.
Still, while the nuns were hardly overly expressive, Skylar knew they would protect her. There had been several instances where unexpected guests had arrived at the nunnery. On those occasions, everyone burst into a great flurry of activity, the purpose of which was to hide Skylar from sight and keep her hidden until the visitor left. Sometimes, that was several days, and yet not once did they betray her presence.
She was going to miss them all.
Four years was a long time to spend with people in such close proximity, but tonight, Skylar would have to leave without the chance of any goodbye. When they had all retired and were fast asleep in their beds, she would sneak out of the nunnery. Her disappearance would not be discovered until the following morning, but by then, she would be far away. They did not deserve to get caught up in such horrific violence. Knowing Johnson, the fact that they were nuns would matter little to him. He was a violent, ruthless man. Of course, running away went against her father’s wishes, but she knew if he was aware of what was coming, he would agree with her decision.
Continuing to gaze at the praying nuns from beneath hooded eyelids, she thought of Lana. She missed all her sisters dearly, but Lana and Skylar were closer. The fact they had both witnessed their mother’s horrific death had only strengthened their bond before they were sent apart. Poor Lana had been terrified and, being younger than Skylar, had struggled much more to come to terms with what she had seen.
In fact, for several nights afterwards, while their father made arrangements for all their departures, Lana had woken up screaming in the middle of the night, terrifying them all. While Skylar and the others had tried to offer her comfort, she was inconsolable—trembling from head to toe until, lying in Skylar’s arms, she had allowed herself to be rocked back to sleep.
If only to see her sisters again. The chance was slim, but perhaps—
The sound of a door crashing open suddenly shocked Skylar out of her thoughts, and the nuns jerked their heads up, looking at each other with panicked faces. A haunting battle cry carried down the corridors, followed by the sound of fast-moving, heavy footfall.
“Come with me, child.” Sister Catherine hurried toward Skylar and was about to grab her hand when the door to the prayer room burst open, and a group of scowling, angry men barged inside.
“Put yer head down,” she whispered in a rush before putting her hand behind Skylar’s head, bending it down.
Skylar did as she was bid, but deep down, she knew it was no use. This was exactly what Lana had warned her about in her letter—it was too late now.
The rest of the nuns screamed in terror and began to run for the door at the other end of the room. Only Mother Mary did not move.
“Ye have nae business being here,” Mother Mary said, standing forward with admirable courage.
The booming voice of the man circling the room echoed loudly around them. He was tall and broad, with a snarling, ugly face marred by many scars. By his actions, he was clearly the leader of the group.
“We’re here for one thing, and ye ken what it is. Give the lass over, and nae harm will come tae the rest o’ ye.”
The other men had now grasped the escaping nuns and shoved them roughly back into the middle of the room. The men grabbed at the nun’s chins, checking the women’s faces. Skylar knew what they were doing. They were checking the color of everyone’s eyes.
“We dinnae ken who ye mean,” Mother Mary cried, trying to push a big soldier away from her, but he was too strong for her to make an impact.
The leader of the group stormed across the room and glared down at her. Even then, the older woman did not back down and glared right back. “If that’s the way ye want tae go about it, Sister,” he growled. Pulling a dagger from his belt, he swiftly brought it up to the old woman’s throat, pressing it against the loose flesh beneath her chin.
“If the one we seek doesnae step forward, blood will be spilled,” the leader growled.
May the Heavens be with me! Skylar had no choice. She could not let any harm happen to these poor innocent women, and it was time for her to protect the nuns as they had protected her and face her enemy.
Taking a step forward, she lifted her face to look at the disgusting man in front of her, still holding a blade at Mother Mary’s throat.
“Nae!” Sister Catherine cried.
“I am the one ye seek,” Skylar said calmly.
The leader jerked his head at the soldier standing nearest to Skylar, and just as he had done with the others, the ghastly man put his grubby hands on her chin and stared into her eyes.
“It’s her, Colum,” he declared excitedly. “We’ve finally found her.”
It was likely their journey had been a long one. The Lowlands were a great distance away from the Isle of Iona. Skylar could see the excitement and relief on all the men’s faces. There were even signs of delight. Their long search had come to an end, and now, they could all return home with the prize, no doubt to be rewarded by Laird Johnson.
“Ye have found me,” Skylar said. “Now, let Mother Mary go.”
Almost as though he had forgotten he had the dagger to her throat, Colum turned to look at the old woman before slowly lowering his blade.
With another jerk of his head, the men hurried out of the room as quickly as they had arrived, the soldier who had examined her eyes pushing Skylar before him. With a final look toward Mother Mary, Skylar silently thanked her for all her aid. She was not sorry that she had been discovered, yet her regret lay in the fact that Mother Mary and all the nuns had been put in such danger.
“Take care, my child,” the older woman cried out as Skylar was shoved through the doorway.
“If I see any one o’ ye following us, I’ll be sure tae set this whole place alight, with all of ye stuck in here. Then ye’ll ken what Hell really is,” Colum threatened.
Skylar heard gasps escape from the nuns for such blasphemy, but soon enough, she was too far away to hear anything more.
Maxwell Macleod frowned at the sight before him and, careful not to move a muscle, watched as the group of Laird Johnson’s men hurried into Iona Nunnery.
“What the devil is going on?” Bram whispered.
Bram Macleod crouched low beside his brother, hidden in the undergrowth not far away, watching the scene unfold.
“I dinnae ken, brother. But whatever it is, makes nae sense tae me.”
Laird Maxwell Macleod and his men were on a mission. As the tension before the battle at Killiecrankie rose, Maxwell was following orders by John Graham of Claverhouse, better known as Viscount Dundee, to discover the goings on of the Lowlanders, given their alliance with the English.
The assignment had sent Maxwell, Bram, and a small group of the former’s men on a long and gruesome journey as they followed the enemy from a safe distance behind.
Viscount Dundee had made it clear that under no circumstances was Maxwell or his band of men to reveal themselves to Johnson’s army, as he was one of the most powerful English supporters. It was the reason Maxwell had taken only five of his best soldiers to accompany him. After many miles of travel, Johnson’s men had finally made camp on Iona Isle, and Maxwell and those with him now found themselves watching as they entered the small nunnery.
Maxwell’s motivation for being there was more than just following orders, and Dundee took advantage of it when giving him the task to go after the wicked man’s soldiers. Laird Johnson was Maxwell’s greatest enemy and had inflicted the deepest wound upon him once he had taken his lairdship. A physical wound would have been easier to bear, but what Maxwell had suffered was far more painful. If he could inflict the same agony or worse on that evil fiend, he would relish in it.
His moment would come. Maxwell was only biding his time before he could take his revenge. Viscount Dundee had offered him such an opportunity. Though Maxwell could not act just yet, even following the laird’s men and reporting back to Dundee would damage Johnson’s plans. He was certain of it.
“I’ll be glad when we’re back home,” Bram muttered, his voice now not as low in the absence of those whom they followed. “Though I do think ye ought tae be worried.”
Maxwell looked at his brother and saw him grinning. “Why?”
“Och, dinnae play the fool with me, brother. Ye ken well why. You were at the last council meeting, as was I. The council’s eager for ye tae wed Lady MacTavish, and they want it sooner rather than later. With all the time we’ve spent away chasing this lot,” he jerked his head toward the small building below, “they’ll be running out o’ patience.”
“Well, there’s nae much I can do about it, is there?” Maxwell huffed. “This mission is just as important, if nae more so, than my wedding and making an alliance with the MacTavish clan.”
“Maybe so, but I cannae say that’s how the council will see it.”
“Och, I dinnae want to think about it,” Maxwell growled.
Bram suddenly chuckled. “I wouldnae be surprised if we return and they have the priest standing there waiting on ye.”
A loud commotion stopped Maxwell from answering, and both his and Bram’s attention now moved toward the nunnery. Maxwell frowned at what he saw and, for a moment, thought his eyes were deceiving him. Johnson’s men were pouring out the same way they had entered, only now, they shoved a nun along with them.
Bram turned to Maxwell and looked utterly confused, to which he shrugged, for his brother’s feelings matched his own. He had not really considered why Johnson’s men had arrived at the nunnery. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had thought they might be there to collect something of significance, perhaps a box or a document. Nowhere in his imagination had he thought they would be looking for an actual nun.
The men were obviously in good cheer, jeering at the poor woman and celebrating their own success. Whatever they had come for, evidently, they had found.
“What are we doing here, and why has this debacle led tae a nun?” Bram growled.
“Shush, brother. We dinnae want tae give our position away,” Maxwell hissed, waving a dismissive hand to quieten him.
Maxwell may well have silenced his brother, but Bram had a point. He had wondered why such a long and treacherous journey had taken them to the Isle of Iona, and his curiosity and confusion had only deepened when he had watched Johnson’s men enter the convent.
He and Bram continued to watch as Johnson’s thugs shoved at the nun, pushing her viciously in front of them. She had a fire in her belly, for she was not going without a fight. But still, Maxwell could simply not comprehend what was unfolding before him.
The bitterly cold wind tore at her frock, but the lack of a shawl was the last thing on Skylar’s mind. Her heart thumped in her chest at her circumstances, and though the fear welled up inside her, she made great efforts to control it. Fear would only paralyze her. She needed to keep her wits and look at her problem with clarity. Escape had to be the only way out of this, but the odds were hardly in her favor.
The joviality of the men who had taken her did nothing to ease her mind, for she could well imagine what they were capable of doing. They could not kill her. If Lana’s letter was to be believed, and Skylar had no reason not to take it as the truth, Laird Johnson wanted to use her to his advantage. That did not mean these men could not seriously harm her though.
Warily, she tried to gauge her surroundings. There were two men beside her, one having a tight and painful grip on her arm. The others had moved out in front, clearly eager to reach wherever they may have camped out and celebrate their acquisition. When they’d taken her, she had not resisted. But now that the sisters were not in any danger, she needed to concoct a plan to save herself.
Her dagger was still safely tucked away in her stocking. And, thankfully, none of the men had physically searched her. Perhaps the nun’s garb had put them off, or perhaps they were all too confident in their achievement to believe she could pose any threat. Silly men. In any case, Skylar could use their ignorance and arrogance to her advantage.
If I’m quick enough, I can stab one. The other might be too shocked tae react before I can break free. Though it’d be better if I injured him too. Then, I can run.
Biding her time and purposefully slowing a little to create a bigger distance between those in front of her and the two men beside her, Skylar finally put her plan into motion. She quickly reached down into her stocking and grasped the dagger, plunging it into one of her guard’s stomach. He cried out as the warm, sticky, liquid oozed onto her hand, but she could hardly think about it. Doubling forward and grasping at the wound, he dropped to his knees. As she had assumed, the other looked at first confused, and then his eyes widened with shock and realization, right before Skylar plunged the dagger into his side. Turning full circle, she pressed her feet strongly into the ground beneath her and launched into a frantic run.
It was she that was surprised then, for she had not been aware of the two guards following some distance behind the rest of the group. Seeing what had occurred, they hurriedly ran toward her with gnarling expressions of rage on their face. Her only means of escape was now blocked, and with nowhere else to go, Skylar found herself once more a prisoner. Her effort had come to naught, and feeling utterly defeated, she winced as she felt the guards grabbing hold of her even more tightly than the others. She was back where she had started, only now, they shoved her much more violently than before as they passed the two injured guards now being tended to by some of the other men.
“Ye little witch,” one of them spat, his stinking breath dancing on her face. “I should slaughter ye for that.”
Skylar pulled away from them, her arms thrashing with panic as she fought against them as hard as she could. She needed to get away. She needed to escape. But the men were not only strong but now very angry as well. A striking blow hit her hard in the face, knocking her head back, and then another heavy punch completely stunned her. Her knees gave way, and before she realized what was happening, she found herself flung over the soldier’s shoulder. With her arms flopping about and her head lolling as the gruesome man continued, the realization came to her.
Ye’re done for. Ye cannae fight these men. Ye cannae escape.
She fell in and out of consciousness, unable to really know what was going on until, eventually, the boisterous sound of a group of noisy men made her suddenly more alert. She was in danger, and she knew it. Back at the camp, where there were far more of them, God only knew what they would do with her now.
“Ye cannae let them ken we’re here, Max,” Bram growled, his large hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, holding him back.
“Did ye nae see what he just did tae her? That bastard punched her so hard, he knocked her out,” Maxwell spat, rage boiling within him.
“I did see. Ye ken well I did,” Bram said. “But whatever happens, ye ken what Dundee said. We cannae give ourselves away.”
“If Dundee were here, he might say something different,” Maxwell huffed.
“Aye, he might. But he isnae here, is he?”
The two had watched what had occurred, and the mighty punch that bastard had thrown had knocked the poor nun unconscious.
What the hell is going on?
“I cannae understand what’s happening, Bram. We’ve traveled for over a week, and for what? A nun? What the hell does Johnson want with a woman o’ God? Tae go tae heaven? This is sick, brother.”
“I dinnae ken,” Bram said, shaking his head and looking as confused as Maxwell felt.
They had been careful to keep low but had moved along the higher ground where they had been situated, following Johnson’s men as they made their way back to their camp. Now, the brothers crouched low again, moving as close as they dared to the camp but at the same time making sure they could not be seen.
Their saving grace was the merriment of Johnson’s men. They had succeeded in their mission, and flagons of what Max assumed was whisky were already being thrown back in great volumes as the men yelled and congratulated each other on their capture.
Colum Brady, Johnson’s war chief, approached the men who had carried the sister to the camp. With little care, the man threw the woman to the ground, but when she threw an arm out to break her fall, it was evident she was no longer out cold. The men surrounded her, leering at her in such a disgusting way it made Maxwell’s stomach turn.
“Ye,” Colum ordered, pointing to the man who had carried her over his shoulder. “Take off her robe.”
There were titters of delight from the men surrounding her. It was a wicked sound that made Maxwell’s skin crawl. He could hardly believe what was about to happen and readied himself to attack. Dundee had told him not to show himself under any circumstances, but surely the Viscount would not expect him to stand by and do nothing now, would he?
Once more, he felt Bram’s heavy hand on his shoulder. Maxwell turned to his brother and watched him shake his head. Holding a steady hand up, Bram mouthed for Maxwell to wait. The instruction went against every nerve in his body at that moment, but he did as his brother bid.
The burly soldier was not in any way careful in removing the nun’s robe, tearing the material apart and flinging it from her body, revealing the thin dress she wore beneath. He pulled the covering from her head, and a low gasp escaped from the soldiers when long silvery blonde hair fell softly around her shoulders and down her back. Maxwell’s breath caught in his throat, for even in the dull light of the late evening, her beautiful locks still shone.
With his eyebrows raised in astonishment, Maxwell turned to Bram, who also appeared rather transfixed. A second later, he glanced at Maxwell and gave him a look that conveyed exactly what he was feeling. This was no ordinary nun. Something was definitely wrong, for no God’s child ought to look as she did. There was a fiery spirit about her, and though her beauty was striking, Maxwell sensed an underlying sinfulness about her.
Yet, if she was not a nun, who was she? She was clearly no ally of Johnson. Maybe she was someone he was going to use for the war, perhaps to blackmail a man. Maybe she was a wealthy lady, and they needed her fortune.
That cannae be right. It’s the Jacobites that need the financial assistance, nae the English.
Colum circled her like a tiger its prey. “Ye thought we’d never find ye, didnae ye?” he snarled. “Ye forget, wench. Laird Johnson has the English on his side—the winning side, clearly.”
The woman did not back down or drop her gaze. In fact, she stared at Colum with a vehemence that was almost palpable. It was then that Maxwell noticed something strange about her eyes. He squeezed his own to see more clearly, but it was too dark.
“That’s why we’ve come tae get ye,” Colum continued. “Laird Johnson is determined tae make certain he gets what he wants, and with ye as his wife, he’ll do just that. Ye’re going tae marry him and he’s going tae use yer talents tae make sure we win.”
Maxwell’s mouth dropped open, for whatever he had expected to hear, it had not been that.
She has tae marry him?
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