Read Highland Sparks (Clan Grant #5) Online

Authors: Keira Montclair

Tags: #Highlander, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance, #Historical, #Adult

Highland Sparks (Clan Grant #5)

BOOK: Highland Sparks (Clan Grant #5)
7.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Note to the Reader

 

PLEASE READ IF YOU HAVE READ JOURNEY TO THE HIGHLANDS!

As you begin to read this novel, you may notice some similarities. You may even think you have read it before. If so, you’re not wrong. There are parts of this novel in which the dialogue is exactly the same as in Robbie and Caralyn’s story in JOURNEY TO THE HIGHLANDS.

Logan and Gwyneth met in JOURNEY TO THE HIGHLANDS when Logan left the Grant keep in search of Robbie Grant. This scene was in Robbie’s story from Robbie’s point-of-view. I needed you to see the same scene from Logan and Gwyneth’s point-of-view. This means the dialogue will be the same, but the descriptions and thoughts will be different.

I apologize and hope this doesn’t make the story drag for you, but I felt it was imperative to see how these scenes played out and how they affected their relationship. It wouldn’t be an accurate representation of their connection without a closer look at when they met and how it affected each of them. Take note that this is true of the first scenes only.

Enjoy! I hope you love Logan and Gwyneth’s journey.

Keira Montclair

 

Chapter One

 

October, 1263

South Ayrshire, Scotland

 

Gwyneth of the Cunningham smiled as she thought about how well she had done at the butts. Her father, who’d first taught her how to nock, draw, and release an arrow, would have been so proud. How she missed her da and her brother Gordon. They had held such fierce competitions, and even though she’d lost most of the time, it had improved her skills as an archer. She picked up her pace so she could find her younger brother, Father Rab, to tell him of her good fortune for the day.

As she approached the back door to the Kirk, a rustling in the bushes startled her a few seconds before two sets of strong arms picked her up and pinned her to the ground. She tried to scream, but a gag was stuffed in her mouth, stifling the words she wished to shout:
Help me, please! Someone help me. Who are you?

She kicked and squirmed with everything she had, but to no avail. One vile brute held her arms while the other pinned her legs. The smell of fish invaded her nostrils.

She prayed for her brother to step outside or for anyone in the area to assist her. But it was dusk, and the men wore dark clothes. Bystanders would have to be close to realize what was afoot. Even Gwyneth could barely make out the looks of them. The lout at her feet tied her legs together.

“Och, ‘tis a feisty one, is she no’? I’d like a wee taste of this one.” The smelly one at her head spoke first.

“Keep your shaft between your legs. Duff will skin you alive if you touch her. He says she still has her maidenhead.” The name made her buck and kick even harder. Seven long years ago, she had watched her father and brother die at the hands of Duff Erskine. He was her one sworn enemy.

Smelly guffawed. “Well, I would no’ mind checking for him.”

The second attacker finished tying her legs before nodding to his partner. “Shut up before someone hears you, fool. Tie her hands together so we can get moving. The boat leaves shortly.”

Gwyneth panicked. The boat? As in a boat to send her off from the docks? Where were they sending her? Her heartbeat sped up as her vision dimmed.

“You know Duff makes ten times the coin for a lass whose maidenhead is intact.” He grinned at her as she continued to fight against her bindings. “Whoever buys this one in the East will have a challenge taming her.”

Her maidenhead? The East? What were they talking about?

A chill ran up her spine as cold sweat drenched her body. All the possibilities—one worse than the next—raced through her mind as her eyes searched the area for someone, anyone, to help her. Not paying any heed to the desperation, the two men tossed her in a horse-drawn cart like she was a sack of flour and covered her with a scratchy blanket. At the last minute, her bow landed beside her.

“Why’d you do that?” Smelly asked the second man.

“Duff says he can sell any weapon. He’ll make coin off her bow and quiver.”

Screaming through the gag, she bucked with all her might, but no one came to her rescue. Angry tears slid down her cheeks at her own powerlessness. All the training in the world with her bow and arrow would not help her now.

Papa, help me. Lord, help me.
The words repeated themselves over and over in her head as she was bounced along in the cart. It seemed as though she had been moving forever, but in truth she knew it had only been about an hour before the horses finally slowed.

The smell of the firth reached her and she closed her eyes, not wanting to accept what would happen next.

Nay, nay, nay.

She bucked again in an attempt to throw herself over the side of the cart, but failed. A few minutes after the horses stopped, Duff Erskine’s hated voice reached her ears.

“There she is.” He removed the blanket and her gag and stroked her cheek. “Och, you did grow up to be a beauty, didn’t you? And those blue eyes. I never noticed them before.” He broke out in a huge grin. “You will fetch me a large number of coins. How are that bow and arrow working for you? I’m glad the lads brought them along. I’ll sell them in the East as well.”

Gwyneth screamed and Erskine slapped her. “Close your mouth.” She screamed again, and he wrenched her up by her hair. “No one will help you. I send women abroad whenever I please, and no one ever helps them. Why? Because no one dares face me, not even the sheriff. But have no fear, you won’t be alone,” he said with a smirk. “Several women will be going with you.” As soon as he was close enough, she clawed her fingernails across his hand. “Bitch!” Flinging her head back down, he cursed again at her, checking his skin where she’d scratched him.

Duff Erskine had changed. No longer looking like he lived by the water and just came off a boat, he wore finery like any nobleman in England. A sickish smell emanated from him, some type of scent much like a lady would wear lavender. Gwyneth’s nose wrinkled, but then she grinned, noticing a small trail of blood sliding down his arm. It was a shallow wound, but each drop of blood was a small victory.

He turned to one of his comrades—the one she knew as Smelly—and said, “Rodney, hold her head down.”

The brute pinned her head to the cart. No matter how she fought, she couldn’t escape his grip. Erskine leaned over and pinched her nose. “Open up.”

Gwyneth refused to open her mouth and held tight for as long as she could, flailing and kicking at the same time.

The other brute pinched her thigh and said, “Open up, bitch. I gotta get home.”

She couldn’t hold on any longer. Her mouth opened as she gasped for air and Erskine forced a vile liquid into her mouth. She fought to spit it out, but gagged on it, swallowing much of it.

Fight, Gwyneth! Fight!
A persistent voice cried out in the back of the head, but darkness overpowered her as her squirming weakened, whatever liquid he gave her taking over.

***

Gwyneth had to clear her mind and find her bow and arrow. If she didn’t, she would never be able to accomplish her one purpose in life—killing Duff Erskine. She struggled to lift her head but could not. The muted echo of Erskine’s laughter set off a fire inside her, and she willed herself to get up just so she could hurt him, kill him, anything.

She couldn’t move. What had been in that liquid? She made out bits and pieces of what he was saying to his lackeys. “Once you get to the East…highest price for …the dark-haired one. They’ll pay lots of coin for blue eyes.”

Finally, the fingers of her left hand wiggled as she commanded, prompting her to grab for something nearby, anything that would help her hoist her body up and fight. She gripped the handle of a wooden chest, scraping the raw skin of her hand across the rough wood, but she ignored the pain, pulling with every muscle in her arm to lift her torso off the ground. Suddenly, her entire body rolled along with the floor beneath her.
Fie, a boat. I’m on a ship.

“Aye, the others are young enough to get good coin, but you should get the most for Gwyneth. Besides, she scratched me like a bobcat. She owes me.”

She rolled onto her side, bracing her bound hands on the floor, hoping to stop the movement. She searched the closest area, taking in the other prone bodies strewn across the oak planks of the ship. Women. Who knew how many? Duff stood at the bow talking to several men, chuckling as he handed them coin before he left the ship. Hoisting her head up, Gwyneth continued to assess her surroundings until the ship caught another wave, and she fell back again, striking her head on a wooden plank. The last thing she saw was Duff’s cruel eyes staring straight at her, a big grin on his face. He tugged on his clothing as if he were a member of nobility, every dark hair in place while he fidgeted with the heavy gold adorning his hands.

He tipped his hat at her with a wink before he stepped off the boat. “Have a nice trip, Gwyneth.”

She would kill Duff Erskine if it was the last thing she did.

***

The next time Gwyneth awakened, women’s screams and men’s shouts echoed all around her. She tried to focus, to hold her eyes open, but whatever Duff had given her held fast. Drugged into slow motion, she attempted to lift her head again, but to no avail. Right away, she knew. The smell of the air and the movement of the swaying oak planks underneath told her all she needed to know. They were afloat.

Her guess was they sailed on the Firth of Clyde. She fought to clear her mind and remember exactly how she had come to be here. She had been attacked on her way from the archery butts to the Kirk where she lived with her brother, Father Rab.

Moving her head, she caught sight of a large galley ship bobbing next to theirs. Thank God, someone would rescue them, for she had yet to find her bow. Squinting to see who was boarding the boat, she groaned and fell back against the rough hewn planks. More bad news. The boat was flying the raven banner of King Haakon, the king of the Norse, who was rumored to have brought thousands of his men to pillage and plunder Arran and Ayrshire in order to keep control of the Western Isles away from the Scots.

Lying in the corner of the ship’s deck, she attempted to stay as unobtrusive as possible as she worked to free her bindings while hiding under a slip of canvas. Hoots and hollers from the invaders sent the crew of her ship scrambling in different directions, and then a group of filthy Norsemen came aboard, pushing past the lasses in pursuit of the crew. Moments later, she heard fists pound against flesh, accompanied by the sound of breaking bones. Men yelled, begged, and threatened, but to no avail. Dissonant sounds rent the air—clashing metal, screams, and men falling overboard. Who survived, the crew or the Norse, she didn’t know. She feigned sleep in case they returned.

Moments later, relative quiet descended. Gwyneth opened one eye to see if she could determine who had won. She had to survive no matter what, for Rab, her only family member left, and to finish Duff. The Norse returned from the bow of the ship with shouts of exhilaration, each man grabbing a lass and tossing her on her back, sometimes two to one. She managed to struggle out of her bindings to locate her dagger inside her clothing, praying that Duff hadn’t removed it, and sighed when she found it. No one would get her without a fight.

A meaty hand gripped her by the front of her tunic. The warrior’s clothing she favored had not confused the man in front of her. The brute tossed her flat onto her back, then landed on top of her with a shout of jubilation. His hand reached down to fondle her breast, and she brought her head up with a snap, knocking her forehead against his hard enough to stun the lout for a moment. He slapped her twice before pinning her to the ground. Furious and fueled with new purpose, he continued by ripping through her clothes and fondling her private area. A jolt spread through her as a hard piece of flesh met her entrance. The last haze of the drug wore away instantly.

Naught could have brought a stronger reaction from her. A fierce growl wrenched from her gut as she reached into the fold of her clothing and pulled out her knife, aiming directly between the blackguard’s legs. When she connected with his flesh, he bellowed and screeched as blood spurted out before he could reach for his bollocks. She had found her mark. Swinging his fist, he caught the side of her head before she managed to roll away from him.

Another Norseman bellowed out a warning, and the fool she had speared glanced back to look at his comrade, who was pointing up the firth. More ships headed in their direction. She could tell from the expressions on their faces that they were worried. Norse or Scots? After a quick murmured conversation, the invaders scrambled back onto their longboat and rowed away. Gwyneth pulled herself into a sitting position, not even bothering to hold her ripped clothing together. She surveyed the deck, fighting to stay awake and think clearly. At least five other women were moving; two weren’t. Dead? Could they be dead already? Scanning the area again, she couldn’t find one male on board.

She put her hand on the nearest woman. “Are you unhurt? Can I help?”

The woman shook her head, pushing her hand away and sobbing. Gwyneth looked around the boat again, but her first impression had been correct. There were no men. A small sliver of hope sprung inside her. Perhaps they wouldn’t be sent to the East. The Norse had done them a small favor.

Every last member of Erskine’s crew had been thrown overboard.

BOOK: Highland Sparks (Clan Grant #5)
7.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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