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Authors: Paula Quinn

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BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
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Rob surveyed the perimeter carefully while Colin dismounted and swung open the heavy iron gate that barred their entrance.
The Abbey sat perched atop an old motte and bailey foundation, probably built in the days before the Norman invasion. From
the vantage point along the tower, one could see in every direction, from the majestic peaks of Arran to the Mull of Kintyre
behind. There were few trees to obscure the presence of an enemy, and the Auld Brig, being the main crossing into the port
town, was well in sight. He had no army, but at least he could see one coming for leagues.

“Rob?”

He cut his sharp gaze to his brother standing beside the gate, waiting for him to bring Davina through.

“The Abbess approaches.” Colin gestured toward a tall, thin woman exiting the convent with four other nuns hurrying to keep
up. All were garbed from foot to crown in gray and white habit, arms folded across their waists, hands tucked into their wide
sleeves.

Women, Rob reminded himself glumly. Who would protect them if Davina’s enemies found her here?

“Good day, Mother,” Colin greeted with a reverential bow.

The Abbess stepped past the young Highlander without a glance in his direction. Her gray eyes were as pale and as cool as
the stone walls behind her, and they were fixed on Davina while Rob helped her dismount. Encased in stiff white wool, the
Abbess’s thin face remained impassive while her gaze skimmed Davina’s robes, her unveiled head, and her hand clutching the
arm of the giant Highlander beside her. Her eyes lingered on their touch long enough for Davina to let him go.

“Lady Montgomery,” the Abbess said without even the subtlest shift in her tone to suggest she knew Davina in any way other
than that she was already expecting her.

At the mention of her surname, Rob felt Davina go rigid at his side before she nodded her head. He looked down at her in time
to catch the cautious glance she cast the Abbess.

“Where is Captain Asher?” the Abbess asked, turning her attention to Rob for the first time and validating his first assumption.
“I was under the belief that he would be escorting my guest to Courlochcraig.”

“St. Christopher’s was attacked, Reverend Mother. Captain Asher has perished.”

Only a hint of the pain he had just caused her flashed across her eyes before she lowered them to the ground. “And the sisters?”

“I regret to inform ye that they have also perished.” Rob gentled his voice for Davina’s sake, as well as the Abbess’s.

The Abbess crossed herself, paused, most likely in prayer, and then raised her dried gaze to Rob’s. “Who are you?”

“I am Robert MacGregor of the clan MacGregor. These men are—”

He did not get the chance to finish his introduction. The Abbess, holding up her palm, stopped him. “MacGregors. God be with
us.” If she meant to insult them further, she must have decided to do so later, for her face finally softened when she reached
for Davina. “Come inside, child. You will find refuge here.” She gathered Davina in her arms then turned to Rob. “There is
food and drink inside. You and your men may take your rest before you tell me how she came into your possession.”

The Abbess had been expecting Davina, Rob thought as he took up his steps behind the women. Asher or the Abbess at St. Christopher’s
must have penned her a missive. That would mean they knew her enemies were on the way. But how could they have known, and
why hadn’t they all fled before it was too late? Who the hell was Davina Montgomery that she should be protected by not only
the Royal army, but by the Church as well? Whatever the answers were, she was in great danger. How could he leave her here,
defenseless? When she turned to look at him over her shoulder, as if to make certain he was still with her, Rob knew he wasn’t
going anywhere.

Captain Edward Asher was a resourceful man. If Davina was still alive, he had to find her before Gilles did. And the Admiral
would
find her… eventually. Finally exposed to the world, people were going to take notice of Davina Montgomery. They would question
why a woman of such radiance was clothed in nun’s robes. Though she would never tell the world her secrets, she was kind and
outgoing, and those who met her would remember her, mayhap enough to describe for Gilles, should he question them.

Edward had to find her. He had to warn her—and MacGregor if she was with him—that her enemies did not think her dead and were
now, in fact, hunting her.

He couldn’t do that on foot, and since the stable as well as the Abbey had been burned to the ground, he had to find a horse
and a stream to cleanse himself of the blood of battle before he went searching through towns and villages for her.

It didn’t take him long to find both when he came upon a small bothy nestled within a stand of trees. The well provided fresh
water, and the steed tethered to the low front gate would provide speed. He washed quickly, filling the well’s bucket and
dunking his head twice. He leaped upon the horse just as the door of the bothy swung open. The shouting man rushing through
it gave Edward pause only long enough to slip the heavy ring from his left index finger and toss it to the tenant.

“Payment for your horse, good man.”

He was not worthy to wear the royal signet anyway. Everyone at the Abbey was dead. His men… the sisters. He prayed Davina
would forgive him. He prayed for just one more chance to prove his devotion to her.

Chapter Nine

R
ob leaned his shoulder against the doorway of the church. It was dark inside save for the soft amber glow of a few dozen tallow
wax candles dancing along the polished pews. He didn’t need light to tell him Davina was here. Her whispered prayers echoed
like harp strings beneath the cherubim-painted ceiling.

It had been three days since they’d arrived at Courlochcraig. Three days longer than Rob had meant to stay. The Reverend Mother
had insisted he and his party depart the night they’d arrived, especially after two young novices caught sight of them and
giggled all through supper. When Rob refused to go until he was certain they had not been followed, it was Will who’d argued
with him first, insisting that if he was forced to stay in a convent for a prolonged amount of time, he could not be held
responsible for any of the sisters’ broken vows. His warning nearly caused the Abbess to lose her composure, and Rob, the
good graces of God.

Arguing with a Reverend Mother was a sin, to be sure, but Rob had made up his mind and only an act of God would change it.
In the meantime, he promised to keep his cousin under control. The sisters, he’d told the Abbess, were her responsibility.
She wasn’t pleased, but she had ceased arguing with him. She’d also refused to enlighten him about Davina, claiming she knew
as little as he. When he asked how she recognized Davina when she saw her, the Abbess told him she had seen Davina once when
she visited St. Christopher’s on retreat many years ago, and that the child was difficult to forget. As was the woman, Rob
had thought silently and let the matter drop. He would get no answers, even if the Abbess knew them.

A movement along the church pews caught his eye now and he watched while Davina crossed herself and turned away from the altar.

He was becoming familiar with her habits. She prayed twice a day in the church, once in the morning with the other sisters,
and after supper, alone. In between, she mended robes, tended the garden, chopped vegetables, and glanced at him often.

At first, Rob had tried to pretend he wasn’t watching her for any other purpose than to keep her in his line of vision should
Colin or Finn call from the bell tower that horsemen were approaching. But after the first day, he could no longer deny that
there were other, far more perilous reasons why he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. The way she drew in one corner of her lower
lip, giving her full attention—or seeming to—to her sewing, made him long to feel those lips pressed to his. The way her gaze
drifted off to another place, capturing the sunlight in vivid hues of blue and dazzling silver—despite the deep sadness that
haunted them—drew him to move nearer, to look closer and find a way to comfort her. Her ethereal beauty mesmerized him, but
it was the way she frequently sought him out, as if to convince herself that he had not left her, that tempted him to pull
her into his arms and swear his life to her safety. She barely spoke to him in the evenings while she dressed his wound in
the company of the other nuns. She did not smile when their eyes met across a table or a bed of geraniums. She had lost much,
and soon she would lose him too. They both knew it. He could not remain here with her forever, though the thought was not
an unpleasant one, and he would not jeopardize the lives of everyone at Camlochlin by bringing her there. Still, he could
not bring himself to leave her yet. Not yet.

When Davina saw him in the doorway, she paused in her footsteps for a moment. Caught between shadows and light, she looked
like a vision come to life from a dying man’s dreams. Rob swallowed, then pushed off the archway and waited for her to reach
him.

“Do you fear for my safety even here?” she asked in that dulcet voice he was growing so accustomed to hearing. It wasn’t that
she spoke often, but rather that she didn’t that made Rob incline his ear whenever she spoke to anyone.

“God has assigned me to the task.”

“So it would seem.” She tilted her head up and before he could guard himself against it, she smiled at him.

Rob was certain he heard the thrashing of his heart reverberating through the silence. He had the urge to pluck the thin veil
that covered her silvery blond tresses from her head—a reminder that she belonged to another. One who knew all her secrets,
all her fears, strengths, and desires. One she spoke to each day, and trusted beyond what she was willing to offer anyone
else.

Before he could stop himself, he reached out and swept his fingers along her wrist. A forbidden touch, and more so here in
her betrothed’s house.

She moved closer as if he had pulled her to him. “What do you pray for, Robert MacGregor?”

“My clan,” he told her and then, because he’d never had time to consider the woman he would choose to spend the rest of his
days with until he met the one he could never have, he folded his hands behind his back and looked away. “And ye.”

“You have my thanks for that.” She continued to muddle his good senses when she laid her palm on his arm. “But even God does
not expect you to remain here, forgetting your duties to your family.”

She was right, of course. He should leave her and return to his kin, where he belonged. “I have no’ fergotten my duties.”
He returned his gaze to hers and marveled at the innocence in her eyes after all she had seen, and the strength in them to
send away her only protection. “I am torn by them.”

“All the more reason to go,” she said, moving away to return to where he had found her.

Rob watched her sit and then followed her, slipping into the pew behind her. “Why did ye no’ leave St. Christopher’s when
ye knew yer enemies were comin’?” He wanted the truth from her on this, at least.

She shrugged her shoulders beneath her robes. “We weren’t certain they were coming. The sisters would not have left, and I
could not abandon them.”

Behind her, Rob moved forward slightly to inhale the sweet fragrance of her hair beneath her veil. “Does a wee lass raised
in a convent have more courage than a man raised fer battle, then?”

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean to imply that!” She swung around and almost bumped noses with him before he shifted back. “I don’t
doubt that you are courageous. But I am not your charge. There is no reason to put your life in jeopardy for me.”

There were more reasons than Rob cared to admit to her… or to himself. He leaned back instead and folded his arms across his
chest. “My life is no’ in jeopardy, Davina. ’Tis likely that the men who wanted ye dead think ye perished in the fire. They
will no’ look fer ye here.”

“Then why have you ordered both Colin and Finn to keep watch from the bell tower, and why is Will stationed at the gate day
and night?”

Rob bit down on his jaw, not liking how quickly she caught the contradiction and called him on it.

“’Tis my nature to be vigilant.”

“You’re brooding again.”

He shot her a dark glance. “Woman, I dinna’ brood.”

“Sulk?”

“Same thing,” he mumbled under his breath.

She shrugged, turning forward in her seat. “Pout, then.”

Rob stared at the back of her veiled head. Did she jest with him? If so, ’twas the first time he’d ever seen this side of
her. He wasn’t certain he liked her teasing him, but it was far better than accusing him in earnest of being sour. When she
slanted her gaze over her shoulder and flashed him a smile, he decided that he could live with some teasing.

“Is the Abbess aware that ye’re no’ as innocent as ye look?”

She turned to face him again with laughter in her eyes and held her finger to her mouth. “I’ll have penance for a se’nnight.”

“And ’twill be well deserved.”

BOOK: Ravished by a Highlander
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