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Authors: Paula Quinn

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BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
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“Hush, Angus.” Rob held up his hand to silence the older warrior. “D’ye hear that?”

His companions remained quiet for a moment, listening. “Sounds like the clash o’ swords,” Angus said, his hand falling immediately
to his hilt. “And that odor—That’s flesh burnin’.”

“The Abbey!” Will’s face went pale as he whirled his mount left and dug his heels into the beast’s flanks. He disappeared
over the crest of a small rise before Rob could stop him.

Swearing an oath that his cousin and closest friend was someday going to get himself and everyone around him killed by rushing
headlong into the unknown, Rob raced forward to follow, warning the younger lads to stay behind.

Rob and Angus stopped just beyond the crest, where Will had also halted his horse and stared with both shock and horror at
the scene before him. When Colin and Finn reached them, Rob swore violently at his brother for disobeying him, but his gaze
was already being pulled back to the small convent nestled within the fold of low hills.

The Abbey was under attack. By the looks of it, the siege had been going on for more than a few hours. Hundreds of dead bodies
littered the ground. Only a handful of what looked to have been two separate armies remained while ribbons of black smoke
plumed the air, the residue of burning tar. The left wing of the structure was completely engulfed in flames.

“Dear God, who would do this?”

Will did not bother answering Finn’s haunted plea, but snatched free his bow and yanked an arrow from his quiver.

“Will, nae!” Rob stopped him. “’Tis no’ our fight. I’ll no’ bring whoever did this doun on our clan! No’ for those who have
already per—”

The remainder of his words was cut short by a searing jolt of pain in his left shoulder and the whistle of two of Will’s arrows
slicing the air in the next instant. Stunned, Rob looked down at the thin shaft of wood jutting out of his flesh. He’d been
hit! Son of a… Fighting a wave of nausea, he closed his fingers around the arrow and broke off the feathered end sticking
out from his plaid. Setting his murderous gaze on the skirmish, he clutched the broken arrow in one fist and dragged his claymore
from its sheath with the other.

“Now, ’tis our fight. Colin,” he growled before he charged his mount forward. “Ye and Finn take cover or I’ll set ye both
on yer arses fer a fortnight.”

Finn nodded dutifully, but Colin grew angry. “Rob, I can fight. I want to fight.”

“No’ today,” Rob warned, his jaw rigid with fury about to be unleashed. This time Colin obeyed.

Rob had fought in raids before. He’d even killed a few Fergussons, but this was the kind of fighting that flowed through his
veins, what he had been trained to do by his father. Protect himself and those in his care at any cost. He didn’t care who’d
shot him. They were all going to pay for it. Reaching the dwindling melee, he brought his sword down with savage satisfaction,
killing swiftly, while Will and Angus fought a few feet away. He was about to strike again when his would-be target screamed
out at him.

“Hold, Scot! Hold for the mercy of God!” For the space of a breath, the man withered in his saddle staring into Rob’s eyes,
and then at the bloody sword above his head. He spoke quickly, gathering what strength of will he had left. “I am Captain
Edward Asher of the King’s Royal army. We were attacked just before dawn. I am not your enemy.”

Rob quickly looked the man over. His dark hair was wet with blood and sweat that dripped over his brow, creating streaks down
his dirty face. His garment was also bloodied, but belonging to the king’s regiment.

His fury at being shot still unabated, Rob began to turn his mount to cut down someone else.

“Wait.” The captain reached for Rob’s arm to stop him. “You are a Highlander. Why are you here? Has someone sent you?”

“Ye ask many questions rather than be grateful that here is where I am.”

“You have my thanks for your aid.”

Rob nodded. “Behind ye.”

Captain Asher spun on his horse and barely managed to avoid a blow to his head that would have killed him.

Taking a moment to assure that no other enemy soldiers were in fighting distance, Rob watched with a look of bland interest
while the captain felled his attacker to the ground.

“I owe you my life,” Asher said, panting.

“Right. Are we done here? There are more comin’.”

Asher’s shoulders sagged heavily as if he’d had enough and knew his fate. He didn’t bother to look behind him, but wiped his
moist brow. “Your name, please.”

Hell, the man was half out of his mind. Loss of blood, Rob decided, and taking pity on him, gave him what he asked.

“Robert MacGregor, if I die today you must save the Lady Montgomery.” Before Rob could consent or decline, the captain rushed
on. “Please, I beg of you, save her. She still lives, I know it.” His eyes dipped to the broken arrow in Rob’s hand.

Following his gaze, Rob suspected who shot him. His jaw clenched, as did his fingers. “You live. You save her.”

“MacGregor!” Captain Asher shouted as Rob rode away. “They burned the chapel. All the sisters—dead. They were all she had.
She only did what you or I would have done. Save her before the flames claim her. It is what they want.”

Rob set his gaze toward the burning Abbey. Hell. He should find Will and toss him into the flames to find the lady since ’twas
his idea to come here. A lady. Bloody hell, he couldn’t leave a lass to the flames, even if she’d tried to kill him. With
his sword held high, he cut down another rider coming at him and did not look back to see what had become of Asher. He scanned
the smoky courtyard for any sign of a female then muttered a string of oaths when he didn’t find her. With a look of such
dark resentment and determination on his face he frightened two more soldiers out of his path, he rode his snorting beast
straight to the fiery entrance. There was only one way to get inside and no time to hesitate. Yanking hard on his reins, he
dug his heels into his horse’s flanks and heaved the stallion upward onto its hind legs. The charred doors splintered and
cracked beneath the weight of his mount’s front hooves. Thick smoke stung his lungs and made it almost impossible to see.
He called out, “Lady!” His stallion neighed and bucked at the roaring flames all around them, but Rob’s hand was strong and
the beast was forced to continue. He called out again, and was about to give up and count her among the dead when he saw her.
To his astonishment, the lass was trying desperately to put out the flames with a meager blanket.

“’Tis too late, lass. Give me yer hand!”

At the sound of his voice, she whirled around, bringing the blanket to her face to keep the smoke from choking her. “Edward?”
She coughed, trying to see through the suffocating haze. “Edward, I—” The blanket slipped from her fingers and her legs gave
out beneath her.

Rob charged forward, leaning down in his saddle. Before her body hit the ground, he plucked her from the ashes.

I’m dying. Thank You, Father.
Davina had hoped it would be less painful than this. It wasn’t the smoke that scorched her lungs, or the pounding of her
head, but the memory of the sisters’ screams as they burned in the chapel that made her long for Heaven.

“Breathe now, lass.” A man’s voice, commanding enough to be Edward’s, but infinitely deeper, pulled her back.

She coughed, dragging only slightly fresher air into her lungs. Fire lanced through her chest. Fire. She wasn’t dying. She
opened her eyes to the blur of blackened grass and thick hooves tearing up the earth beneath her. She coughed again and a
hand, large enough to span the back of her head, smoothed her hair away from her cheek. She was on a horse—and a man, flung
across his lap to be exact. They had come for her just as Edward had feared they would, and now they had her. She wanted to
scream, but her throat was raw. She would have leaped from both beasts, but the arm that held her dangling over the horse’s
flanks was hard as granite. A body passed her vision on the ground, bringing the full horror of what took place this day back
to her.

They were dead.

No. “No!” Terror and fury gripped her and she pushed herself up off her captor’s thighs. The sight over and beyond his bloodied
shoulder stilled her an instant later. St. Christopher’s Abbey… her home, was burning to the ground. Everyone. Gone. “No,
God, please… not my family,” she whimpered. Tears spilled down her face and she feared they might never stop. They didn’t,
even when she remembered who held her.

“Monster,” she screamed, pummeling him with blows to his chest, fighting his strength with the madness of her grief. “Bastard!
What have you done?”

“Lady.” His voice was so tender that she collapsed against him, needing mercy. “Be still,” he said softly against her ear
as she clutched his upper arm, staring at the crumbling walls of her home. “Ye’re safe now.”

“I’m going to kill you,” she promised just as softly, leaving behind the bodies of those she loved.

“Ye almost did already, but ’twas no’ I who did this loathsome thing.”

It wasn’t his declaration, but the deep undercurrent of sympathy in it that almost convinced her to believe him. She pushed
off his shoulder and stared up at him. He wasn’t one of them. His burr was thick and his appearance far more primitive than
any man she’d ever seen, English or otherwise. A Highlander. She hadn’t been expecting one of those. The Abbess had told her
about the men of the North in her lessons and how they wore blankets draped around their bodies, rather than short-coats and
breeches. Davina’s eyes dipped to the great belted plaid draping one of his shoulders and the bloodstained shirt beneath.
This one was big. His dark hair was longer than she’d ever seen on a man and tied away from his face, save for a stray lock,
swept free over his eyes by the rushing wind. He smelled of earth and leather… and smoke.

“Who are you then?” she demanded through trembling lips. “What are you doing here?” She waited while he stared at her as if
her simple questions muddled his thoughts. Harry Barns had told her that Highlanders were thick skulled, more interested in
battle than in books. This one looked like he could take down Edward’s entire regiment.

“Edward,” she whispered, and a new rush of sorrow flooded through her. “Let me go!” She struggled again. “I must find him.
Please,” she cried as her captor drew her closer to hold her still. “You don’t understand. He will think they have taken me.”

“Who will he think has taken ye?” The Highlander withdrew just enough to look into her eyes. “Who did this, lass?”

She was thinking of Edward, not herself or her safety, when she told him. “It was the Duke’s men, or the Earl’s. I’m not certain.
Now please, I beg you, bring me back. I must find Captain Asher.”

It was the stranger’s eyes that told her what he did not want to say. Lapis-colored gems that lost their glitter when he finally
looked away. Edward was dead. Tears pooled her eyes but she said nothing as she turned in his arms, away from everything she
knew, everyone she trusted.

They rode in silence, joined as they raced away by two more mounted Highlanders, and then more waiting at the crest overlooking
the Abbey. The man riding with her spoke to the others but Davina did not listen to what he said. When one of them asked her
why the Abbey was attacked she told them she did not know, and then said nothing else. She was alone. Whoever this man was
behind her, whether he was sent by her enemies or by God to save her, did not matter. She was alone and had nowhere else to
go but with him. For now.

Chapter Three

ob’s shoulder ached. Twice, Angus had insisted on stopping so that he could remove the tip of the arrow still jutting out
of Rob’s back, but it was too dangerous to make camp so close to the border. Someone had gone to much trouble to try to kill
the lass in his arms. ’Twas her they’d come for. Captain Asher’s words rang like alarms through his thoughts.
Save her before the flames claim her. It is what they want.
They. The Earl or the Duke. Which ones and why? Why would any man want her dead? Who was she? The captain had called her
Lady Montgomery. Was she a nobleman’s daughter visiting the Abbey with her family? If so, why the hell was she dressed in
novice robes? Whoever had attacked the Abbey wanted her to burn. Was she believed to be a witch? Rob did not doubt she could
be, for her beauty near pierced his soul when she first looked at him. She had an almost feline appearance; with large, wide-set
elongated eyes as big and as blue as the fathomless heavens behind her. Her pale brows flared upward toward her slightly oversized
ears. The perfect hourglass silhouette of her nose ended in a tiny knob stained with soot. Her lips were plump and naturally
pouty and as beguiling as all hell.

Rob had heard tales of fairies from their neighbors, the MacLeods. Magical beings so bonnie, one look could fell the heart
of the most resolute warrior. As if to add to Lady Montgomery’s otherworldly appearance, her hair, though streaked with ash,
glimmered beneath the sun in shades of pale gold and shimmering silver. He bent his head to her to inhale her scent. She smelled
of smoke and soot, but then, he imagined they all did.

BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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