Read Ravished by a Highlander Online

Authors: Paula Quinn

Tags: #FIC027050

Ravished by a Highlander (6 page)

BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Monmouth and Argyll have both been exiled to Holland,” Colin said over the crackle of flames.

Davina nodded. “And it was their Dutch army who attacked us.”

“Why do they want ye dead?”

She turned to Rob when he asked the question. What if he truly didn’t know? She wanted to believe that he didn’t, that he’d
saved her for no other reason than he was a decent man. She did not know the world or how to stay alive in it on her own and
needed someone to help her, just for a little while. That moment of vulnerability she saw in him tempted her to trust him.

“’Tis ye they were after, aye, lass?” he continued when she remained silent. “All the sisters were killed with the hope that
ye were among them.”

Davina swiped a tear from her cheek at the stark truth of his words. They were all dead because of her.

“Why? Who are ye?”

“I am no one.”

Oh, how she wished it were true. She would give anything, anything to have it be true.

Chapter Five

A
s breathtakin’ as ye are, lass, I canna’ believe so many men lost their lives over no one.”

It wasn’t the way Rob’s hard eyes warmed on Davina or the low lilting cadence of his voice when he called her breathtaking
that made her look away. Though in truth, she did not know how to react to such boldness, or why it made her palms warm. She
dragged her gaze from his because what he said after that was correct, and she could not hide the pain of it.

He moved closer to her, the warmth of his body seeping into her own. “Verra well, then, Davina. Ye are no one. Fer now.”

He merely crooked his mouth at her when she looked at him again, but it made her want to tell him everything. She smiled back
instead and reached for his shoulder. “Forgive me for shooting you… if you are innocent.”

“I am, and I already have.” His breath along her jaw as she helped him out of his tunic sent a warm spark down Davina’s spine.
The firelight bouncing across the golden expanse of his bare back awed her. She didn’t have to trust him to appreciate his
splendid male physique, something she would surely have to ask forgiveness for later. He looked just as hard as he felt.

“I would not have you think me insolent or unappreciative of what you did for me today.” Oh, why couldn’t she just shut up?
Because she needed something to keep her mind off his silken angles beneath her fingers. She’d never touched a man’s bare
flesh before and felt her face growing flush. “I do not wish to lie to you, so if we continue to travel together, please consider
my silence repayment for saving my life.”

“Ye’re protectin’ me?” His half-smile returned, this time sweet with indulgence.

“All of us.”

“Ye must know somethin’ o’ great consequence aboot these two men that they dinna’ want gettin’ oot,” Will said, stepping around
the fire to sit across from her. After giving her one last wary glance, Colin followed him.

Davina shook her head and watched Finn fold his legs beside her. “I know nothing about them save that they have many Protestant
supporters here and in Holland who do not favor a Roman Catholic ruler. Monmouth was involved in the Exclusion Bill….”

“The Bill that divided the country into two parties,” Colin finished, ignoring the curious look Will aimed at him, and then
at Rob. “The Whigs who supported it and the Tories who opposed. James was convinced to withdraw from all decisions made in
the government, and was exiled by his brother, King Charles, fer many years.”

“That’s correct,” Davina told him, surprised and intrigued by his knowledge of politics. There were some things she would
never tell these men, or anyone else, but what danger was there in finally being able to share her opinions on matters of
state and religion? “Unlike the man who is about to be crowned king, Monmouth and Argyll, and many others, staunchly oppose
religious liberty.”

“Aye, we know,” Colin said, watching her over the flames. “’Tis our religion the Protestants want to extinguish. We know where
Charles stood on the matter, but we’ve heard little aboot James of York. What d’ye know of him?”

Davina decided that this young man’s full attention was only a little less daunting than the warrior’s beside her. Proceeding
with caution, she met his gaze. “He is a man who stands for what he believes in.”

“Is that so?” he asked, his voice laced with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism.

“Yes, it is,” Davina answered, taking up the challenge. “He refused to denounce his faith when the Test Act was introduced
several years ago, even relinquishing his post as Lord High Admiral. He faced opposition that would have made other men crumble,
and all because of his beliefs.”

Colin nodded, and though his features softened in the firelight, his eyes smoldered from within. “I know a man like that,
but he wouldna’ have wed his daughters to Protestants.”

Davina gave him one last, measured look before turning to find the pouch of water Will had tossed to her. She suspected Colin
knew more about the Duke of York than he was going to admit. Still, he didn’t know everything, and his questions were innocent
enough. “That was King Charles’s doing in an attempt to convince James’s enemies that he had not converted,” she said, finding
the pouch and turning her attention back to Rob’s wound.

“How d’ye know all this?”

She blinked at Finn’s softly spoken question. Her hand, in the process of yanking the plug from the pouch, stopped in mid
tug. How
did
she know all this, indeed? A curious question, and the most deadly. She’d been so intent on boasting her knowledge of the
House of Stuart that she hadn’t considered if any one of her listeners would wonder how she had attained it. Damn her, she
had no skills when it came to deception!

“I read every day,” she told Finn, averting her gaze from his. It wasn’t an untruth. “Part of my instruction at the Abbey
included reading over old parchments and books about England’s history.”

“Well, I dinna’ care who’s after ye, lass,” Will announced, thankfully putting an end to the conversation. He pulled part
of his plaid off his shoulder, bunched it up beneath his head, and closed his eyes. “Ye’re wi’ MacGregors now.”

“And a Grant,” Finn added, squaring his shoulders with just as much pride and offering her a smile that tempted her to smile
back before he too settled in for the night.

They were MacGregors. Little was known about them at the Abbey. The Reverend Mother had only spoken of them once while Davina
was studying her lessons on Parliament. After centuries of bloody battles with the Campbells and the Colquhouns, the MacGregors
had been proscribed by King James VI back in 1601. They became outlaws who defied kings and butchered nobles in their beds.
If these Highlanders were true ambassadors of their clan, Davina doubted the MacGregors followed any laws, even now. Were
they mercenaries then? No, they were enemies of the Protestant Campbells. Surely they would not work on Argyll’s side. But
why should they give their allegiance to the throne when it was a king who had tried to abolish them?

“Are you three brothers then?” she asked Rob, hoping to find out more about him while steering their conversation away from
herself.

“Colin is my brother. Will might as well be, and Finn is my aunt’s nephew by marriage.”

Davina nodded and moved a little closer to him to examine his wound. “Why has your father traveled to the king’s coronation?”
She tore off a length of her robe and saturated it with water.

“Every chief and chieftain north of Edinburgh agreed to attend to show support fer the new Stuart king.”

Davina looked at him and found him looking back. “So,” she said, a bit breathless by the way he let his cool gaze rove over
her face. “You are the son of a chief.” She understood now his air of authority and arrogance. “A chief whose name came close
to extinction under James VI.”

“Aye,” he told her quietly, “a chief who suffered under enemies even more hostile than the Duke of York’s because of it.”

She touched the edges of his wound lightly with her cloth, considering what he said. This man knew what it meant to fight
for what one believed in, no matter what the cost. But what were his beliefs? “And yet, your father offers his loyalty to
the throne now?”

“The laws against us,” he reminded her, “were lifted by King Charles II.”

Davina nodded. She’d read that Charles had been a sympathetic sovereign. Too sympathetic, some believed. He had lifted the
bans the Puritans had set over England. He had reopened theaters, and brought back the celebration of Christmastide. Under
his rule, colorful dress had returned to fashion, and all forms of art were once again allowed to be viewed.

“Do you support the Duke of York’s succession to the throne as well?” she asked.

“That will depend on him.”

An admirable answer, that. It proved that whatever the reason Rob MacGregor had her in his possession, he at least was not
one to be led about by other men’s convictions until he formed his own.

“Now I’ve a question to put to ye, lass.”

She closed her eyes, praying that God would forgive her if she was forced to lie to him again.

“Did ye love him?”

Her hands shook, jerking the cloth at his shoulder and making him wince. “How could I love a man I have never met? I’ve only
heard…”

“I speak of Captain Asher,” he interrupted.

“Oh.” She opened her eyes, then wished she hadn’t when she saw curiosity arching his brow. She would have to be more careful
with her answers. “Of course I loved him. Edward was like a brother to me.” She returned her full attention to his wound,
hoping her answer satisfied him.

Apparently it did, for he left her to finish wrapping his wound without another word to her. When she was done, he thanked
her, commanded Will to keep first watch, then stretched out beside her and told her to get some sleep. She sat there while
he slung his wounded arm over his bare belly and closed his eyes.

What should she do now? She looked around the firelight, catching Will’s smile. She didn’t smile back, but sank to her elbow,
and then her side, and closed her eyes to the sound of Rob’s slow, steady breath at her back.

Chapter Six

C
aptain Edward Asher was going to be ill. Every breath he drew into his lungs was saturated with the smell of charred flesh.
Did he dare move? Were they finally gone? Silence clung to the darkness like scum on a pond, somehow even more unnerving than
the voices above him earlier. They had arrived sometime after the massacre, as he was rousing from unconsciousness. He’d remained
still, knowing he was likely the only one alive whom they could question.

“It is the captain of the regiment,” one said, turning him faceup with his boot.

“I can see that,” answered another man, the cool slice of his voice warning that his patience was at an end.

Edward knew the voice and the man behind it and willed himself not to breathe. Admiral Peter Gilles, whom the Duke of Monmouth
had brought back with him from Utrecht a few years ago, was here to make certain Davina was dead. Edward almost hoped she
was, for if Gilles found her with a single breath left in her, he would take pleasure in cutting it out. Known to many as
“de Duivel,” Gilles was the most ruthless bastard ever to wield a sword. His father, Cornelius Gilles, was a privateer who
fought alongside Admiral Piet Hein, capturing the Spanish silver fleet off Cuba in 1628. The victory was won without bloodshed,
and the Spanish prisoners were released. But Peter Gilles was nothing like his father. One had only to look into his pale
cold eyes to know he enjoyed killing.

“My lord will be pleased,” Gilles drawled. Then, “Check the Abbey.”

“But Admiral, there’s nothing left of it,” the first man pointed out, unaware that his observation shattered Edward’s heart.

“Do it, Edgar,” Gilles ordered on a low, murderous snarl, “or I’ll flay you right here.”

Nothing in Edward’s life had ever been as difficult as lying there, seemingly lifeless at Gilles’s feet. Nothing, save knowing
that Davina was dead. He had failed her. Dear God, how would he ever forgive himself? He hadn’t yet met Davina when he was
told it was she he was being sent to St. Christopher’s to protect four years ago. He’d been young and ambitious and he hadn’t
yet heard her laughter ringing through the somber halls, or her prayers whispered through honeyed lips for mercy for her enemies.
He hadn’t known how easily she could slay him with her tongue and a soft, teasing smile. He’d wanted to tell her the truth.
She deserved that much, but just when he’d finally gathered the courage to tell her, Gilles’s men had come. Now it was too
late.

BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Taking Her Chance by Sorcha Mowbray
Going Home by Hollister, Bridget
Crackback by John Coy
The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry
Buffet for Unwelcome Guests by Christianna Brand
Remember by Eileen Cook