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Authors: J. Lee Coulter

Portals Of Time

BOOK: Portals Of Time
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Portals of Time

J. Lee Coulter

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Copyright
©
2012 J. Lee Coulter

Published by J. Lee Coulter

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Contents
Chapter One

She
bolted upright in the bed
struggling
to escape the tangle of sheets, her skin glistening
with sweat as she looked around the room a bit disoriented. Fear and longing assaulted her senses. She’d had that dream again...or was it a nightmare? Giggling
nervously
, she shook her head. What did it matter? Either way she always awoke suddenly to the same sensations.

I may as well get up. I never get back to sleep after one of those dreams anyway.
Flipping on a light, Arianna gathered some clean clothes and headed for the shower.

The sun was just peeking above the horizon as she made her way to the kitchen for toast and coffee. Grabbi
ng a cup of the steaming liquid, she sat down contemplating her plans for the day...her first full day in Scotland.

It had been her life-long dream to visit here and after saving and scraping every last penny for two years, she had finally arrived last night. It was destiny that brought her
to this place
. She could feel it in her bones. Why else would she find such a bargain on this crofter’s hut which included a barn for her horse?
She’d gotten it for a song!

Finishing her light breakfast, Arianna headed for the barn humming to herself. A familiar nicker greeted her as she opened the barn doors to give entrance to the warming sun.

“Good morning, Shalizar. Are you ready for a run my pet?”

The elegant black Arab snorted in anticipation as he dipped his head.
It had cost her more to bring her horse than it did her
,
but it was worth it. He was her best friend...her only friend since Sara was killed a month back in a car accident.

She shook off the melancholy as she placed the saddle on his sleek back. Sara would tell her to enjoy herself instead of mourning her death. Arianna had lived and breathed everything Scottish since she was ten. Her friend knew how much this had meant to her. They had spoken of it often.
Leading the stallion from the barn, she inhaled deeply of the crisp fresh air. This is what she needed. A break from the electronic world where she was assaulted daily by corruption and talk of war.

Mounting, she headed off on a path to the north that looked as if it had not been used in years. Perfect. She had no wish to see or speak to anyone right now.

Arianna loved the solitude that her rides gave her. She drew her strength from nature
. The serenity of the woodlands calmed her jumbled thoughts.
I sure do need it after last nights dream! It has never been so vivd before! And those eyes! Should I fear the man behind them?
She shook her head
.

Time passed quickly as she mulled over the recurring dream. There was
menace
involved...of that she was certain. The other man in the dream made her shudder. There was
danger
there in his presence. It seemed to ooze out of him
in the form of a
black cloud
. He was the one to fear, she was certain.

It was almost noon when it happened. A shift in the atmosphere...a stillness. Arianna’s head jerked up as a loud boom filled the air and the earth trembled beneath Shalizar’s hooves. He whinnied nervously as he side-stepped, wanting to flee.

“Easy boy.” She stroked his neck as she glanced at the sky.
Her eyes widen
ing
in shock as she spied the huge
mushroom cloud in the direction of Edinburgh. “Oh shit! What have these crazy people done?”

There was another loud boom, closer this time. Shalizar took the bit in his teeth and sped away from the explosion at a dead run. There was nothing she could do but hold on as they careened through the brush out into a glen. Glancing up, she saw a stone archway before them and steered her mount toward it. She could not chance having him leap over any fences in a panic. He could kill them both!

Arianna’s eyes were blurred with tears as she cussed the powers that be for their ignorance. Otherwise she would have noticed the shimmering of the grass and trees that could be seen through the portal. Just as they passed through, a deafening blast struck behind them, destroying the stone archway for all time. The force of it sent her flying from Shalizar’s back as it knocked her unconcious. She hit the ground...hard.

Malcolm had stopped to take a piss
when he heard a horrific explosion. Fear crossed the faces of his clansmen as they attempted to calm their mounts.

“What was that? In what direction, David?”

His squire stared at him wide-eyed for a moment before answering.

“T
a
the north I believe, m’laird. Aye...t
a
the north of us.”

They hurried to their horses to investigate the sound.

“Do ye ken what it was, Malcolm?” Patrick, his younger brother, queried.

“Nay...but I mean ta find out!” He led the way as they rushed toward the sound that had startled them.
He didn’t need this distraction after a night at the inn drinking ale and
wenching
,
but curiosity got the better of him. Mayhap the English had invaded with a new weapon. It had happened before. Malcolm had to make certain.

They reached the glen in less than two hours, avoiding the main roads by traveling on old deer paths through the woods. They needed to be cautious. This was Dunbar land and they frowned mightily on Macleans

trespassing.
Malcolm sneered. What did he care if the Earl of Dunbar knew of their prescence? They have been feuding for years. One more insult would not change things.

Patrick pointed to a pile of rubble in the rock fence.

“That gate was standing when we passed by here a few days ago. Surely that could not have been heard from so great a distance!”

Malcolm scanned the horizon, settling on a black steed nuzzling something in the grass a short distance from them.

“Nay. I believe the answer lies over there.”
He turned his mount toward the elegant horse and approached at a trot. Slowing as he drew near so he wouldn’t startle the animal, he glanced
down at the form hidden in the tall grass. His brother sucked in his breath and crossed himself.

“Do ye think she be a witch? That is strange clothing she wears.”

Malcolm chuckled. Patrick had always been superstitious as he grew to a man but strange clothing did not make her a witch. He shook his head, dismounting to see if she lived.

“Watch out, brother!”

Shalizar’s ears were laid flat as he lashed out with his teeth. Malcolm jumped back just in time to avoid a nasty bite.
The steed’s
eyes hardened as he reared up, forcing the highlander to back up
even
more.

“Do ye still think she’s nae a witch? She rides a demon horse!” he cried.

“Nay, Patrick. She rides a well-trained horse. My destriar would do the same if it were me. We need ta distract him so I can see how badly she is hurt.” He stared at the black demon who watched his every move as he snorted in outrage. How was he to reach the lass?

For the next hour, his men attempted to lure the beast away but failed miserably. He never moved more than a yard from her before returning.

Patrick threw up his hands in defeat after nine attempts.
“Let’s just shoot the bloody animal!”

“Nay!” Malcolm roared. “Tis too fine a horse for that!” He heard a moan in the grass as Arianna stirred. “Lass, can ye hear me? If ye can then call off your horse so I may tend your wounds.”

What happened? Where was she?
And why does my head feel like an elephant sat on it?
She moaned as the fog began to clear. Why was Shalizar dancing around her head?

“Quiet, Shalizar. You’re not helping my headache one bit,” she whispered. He lowered his nose to her face as she reached out, stroking his velvet muzzle.
His head shot up as Malcolm attempted to move closer, whinnying a warning. Arianna tried to turn her head but stopped at the sudden pain that shot through her skull. That’s when she heard Malcolm’s query.

A man! No wonder Shalizar was upset! He hated men...and this one was a stranger. Normally, she would tell him to go away but she knew she needed help.

In a breathless voice she said, “Come to me
,
my pet.” He lowered his head once more and she grasped his bridle tightly. “You must make an exception, Shalizar. I need his
help.” He blew on her face then calmed himself. Speaking louder, she
called out to Malcolm. “It’s safe now. He will leave you be.”

His clansmen held back as he approached her with care, never taking his eyes from the stallion. He could
sense
the
steed’s
barely restrained control
as he observed the trembling beneath Shalizar’s ebony coat.

“Will he strike if I touch ye, lass? I must check for injuries.”

“No. He will not disobey me. Just move slowly so you don’t startle him. We’ve had a very trying day.” Releasing the bridle, she gestured to him to stand back. He snorted with insult but backed up on command.

Malcolm circled around to face her and gasped. She was stunning...in spite of the scratches on her face.
Her long red hair reminded him of a river of fire surrounding a face created in Heaven. Her pert nose was almost elfin. The pouty lips begged to be kissed...and her eyes...her exotic eyes were a shockingly vivid blue! He felt his cock stir beneath his plaid.

As he studied her attire which consisted of
skin-tight
blue jeans, a knit sweater and blue jean jacket, he wondered if perhaps his brother was correct. He had never seen such clothes before. And her leather boots were very finely crafted. He shook his head. What has he stumbled upon here?

He knelt down quickly. “Where do ye hurt, lass?”

“All over.” She spoke in a whisper and even that reverbrated through her head. “Mainly my head. The blast of that nuke really knocked me for a loop.”

What did she say? What is a “nuke”?
His bewilderment showed on his face as he stared at her. Shaking it off, he gently ran his hands through the silken fire checking for knots on her skull. Finding nothing, he pulled back her hair
exposing her neck to his view. He jerked back his hands as she heard a gasp behind her.

“She belongs to Dunbar!”
came an exclamation from a source she could not see. “Malcolm! Do ye see it?”

He gave a curt nod and a warning look to the man standing behind her, then he studied the tattoo on her neck.
A black and gold rampant lion! That is the Earl’s insignia for certain!
It rose up the right side of her neck about three inches.

“What is your name, my lady?”

Something was wrong, she could feel it. Her brows rose as she
recognized
that the man before her was the man in her nightmare.
Oh shit!
This is the one that I always thought of as being the schemer.

Clearing her throat, she struggled to rise to her feet. “I thank you for your aid but I’m feeling much better now. I think I will just be on my way.”

“Hold!” he
growl
ed, causing her to grasp her aching head. “What be your name? I will have an answer!”

“Shhh! I will tell you but please...please stop
talking so loud
. I’m Arianna MacGregor, if you must know. I don’t—”

“His betrothed!” The other man hissed.

Startled eyes flashed at Patrick. “His what?” She yelled, then groaned as she grabbed her head. “I never met the man!”

“That changes naught,” Malcolm spit out. “The mark is the proof of who ye are. They say ye are a seer, as well. That could be helpful t
a
m
e
clan.”

“Are you all
insane
? Where did you get such a crazy idea?”

The laird turned his black eyes on her intently. “Where did ye get the mark, lass?”

BOOK: Portals Of Time
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