Authors: Eliza Knight
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Scottish, #Medieval
The Highlander’s Reward
Book One: The Stolen Bride Series
She belonged to another…But was destined to be his…
Lady Arbella de Mowbray abhors the idea of marrying an English noble occupying Scotland. When she arrives in Stirling, she is thrown into the midst of a full battle between the Scots and the English. Besieged by rebels, she is whisked from her horse by a Highland warrior who promises her safety. But when he kisses her
, she fears she's more in danger of losing herself.
The last thing Magnus Sutherland wants is to marry the beautiful English lass he saved. As the laird of his clan, he has a responsibility to his clan and allies. But when Arbella is attacked by one of his own men, he determines the only way to keep her safe is to make her his. A decision that promises to be extremely satisfying.
Magnus brings Arbella to his home of Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands. And that’s where the trouble begins… Their countries are at war and they should be each other’s enemy. Neither one considered their mock marriage would grow into a deeply passionate love. What’s more, they were both unhappily betrothed and those who've been scorned are out for revenge. Can their new found love keep them together or will their enemies tear them apart?
Copyright 2012 © Eliza Knight
THE HIGHLANDER’S REWARD © 201
2 Eliza Knight. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part or the whole of this book may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or utilized (other than for reading by the intended reader) in ANY form (now known or hereafter invented) without prior written permission by the author. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal, and punishable by law. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional and or are used fictitiously and solely the product of the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, places, businesses, events or locales is purely coincidental.
Cover Design by Kimberly Killion @ Hot Damn Designs
Also Available by Eliza Knight
The Highlander’s Sin — Book Six, The Stolen Bride Series
The Highlander’s Temptation — Prequel, The Stolen Bride Series
Bared to the Highlander (Highland Bound Trilogy, Book Two)
The Dark Side of the Laird (Highland Bound Trilogy, Book Three)
My Lady Viper — Tales from the Tudor Court
Prisoner of the Queen — Tales from the Tudor Court
Writing under the name Annabelle Weston
To my family. Without your enduring support and patience, I would not be able to spend so many hours in fantasy-land. Love you! Especially to you, loving husband, I love ye, always have.
Arbella de Mowbray contemplated running away. The forest was conveniently to her left and still thick with leaves. Perhaps she could join a ring of outlaws hidden within the imposing foliage.
She shifted restlessly on her mare
, arranging her skirts first one way and then another. The horse responded with an annoyed snort. If only she weren’t with a dozen guards and her father.
“Oh, hush, Bitsy,” she scoffed.
The animal had no idea what was at stake here.
Anything would be better than permanently leaving England - and for Scotland! The land of heathens, barbarians… Oh, the horrors she’d heard went on there! The men ate their young. The
warriors kept the bones of their victims tied to their beards. The horses were trained to sniff out an English lady and trample her to death. The women were witches. The children ran naked, even in the dead of winter. And the winters, how could she forget? No person of truly English blood could survive one.
She was glad that her maid Glenda had told her all she needed to know of Scotland.
Although she could have done without the woman’s tears and fainting when Arbella asked her to join her on the journey. As a result, her old maid was not with her. In fact none of the female servants at Mowbray Manor would accompany her. She was alone, without help. Not that she needed help, but it would have been nice when she arrived in a foreign country to have someone with her from home. And while her father promised her husband would provide a maid, that maid would be Scots.
She would die before the new year — either from frostbite or at the hands of the dreaded Scots.
Now granted, her father said she would be marrying an English baron, but that mattered little. They would still reside in Scotland. And no doubt her baron husband would be just as brutal, if not more so, than the savages she’d heard tales of. Indeed, he would have to be if he kept them all tightly reined in. She knew little of her intended. Never met the man. Never heard any stories. He was a mystery. She discounted the things her father told her. He only honeyed the character of Marmaduke Stewart, hoping to sweeten the horror of her upcoming nuptials.
shivered, and rubbed her cloak-covered arms, contemplating the forest along the edge of the road. Late in the afternoon, the sun was hidden behind the trees making the road to Scotland chilly. A slight breeze blew, wrenching her hood from her head and pulling a few strands of hair from her tight chignon. Arbella tucked the hair back into the knot and pulled her hood over her ears. She hated the cold. Death might take her before the week was out. She’d no doubt shiver like mad in her new bed since the Scots abhorred warming their homes by fire. Another fact from Glenda. One thing was certain—she didn’t want to die anytime soon.
Several horse-lengths ahead, she spied
an opening in the foliage. She swallowed hard, tightened her hands on the reins, the leather cutting through her gloves. She could make a break for it. A side-long glance to the right showed her guard wasn’t paying much attention to her. She rode on the outside left—no one blocking her path. Escape could be possible…
She sighed heavily. If she escaped, her father would be furious.
Leading their entourage was the great Baron de Mowbray. He’d probably chop down every tree in his path with his great sword, thundering his displeasure until even temperamental Bitsy cowed to her knees. The break in foliage passed, and with it, her chance for escape.
“Do you need to rest?”
Arbella looked up, startled. Her father rode beside her. When in heavens had he gotten there? If she had tried to escape, he could have just grabbed her reins and yanked her back.
His forehead wrinkled as he frowned, his bushy whitish blond brows nearly touching each other. “Why the long face?”
She couldn’t meet his eyes
, instead stared at Bitsy’s sable mane. “’Tis nothing.”
“Oh, come now, Bella, I know when something is amiss.” His voice was calming, belying his massive size. She longed for the days of old when she could curl up in his lap. But those days were long passed.
At twenty years of age, she was nearing spinsterhood. She’d put marriage off for as long as possible, but now her father would no longer condone her denial. Considering King Edward demanded she marry, her father really had no choice, and neither did she. The king wanted all English maidens married and reproducing. There were no more offers forthcoming, since she’d denied them all. When Sir Marmaduke Stewart presented his proposal at the urging of the king, her father was eager to accept. He’d barely let her have enough time to pack up all of her belongings and say goodbye to her sister Aliah before the horses were saddled and they were on their way. She’d probably never see her sister again, which broke her heart. They’d been so close. There had been no chance to say farewell to her older brother Samuel. He was off serving the king’s commands in France.
“Are you…afraid?” Her father’s voice sounded
She chanced a glance his way and could see the lines of strain around his mouth and eyes.
Arbella thought she might know why. Her mother had died while birthing Aliah; Arbella was barely more than a babe herself. As such, she hadn’t a mother to raise her and consequently those talks of marriage, and womanly issues fell on her father’s shoulders. They’d yet to have one. It was times like these, she missed having a mother. Her father did his best though, and she couldn’t fault him. The man had been left with three little ones and no wife. Their father never remarried, preferring his memories of their mother. He was a good man.
She frowned, not really wanting to answer. “Well...” Marriage seemed easy enough. She’d have to run the household and have babies, maybe rub her husband’s shoulders after a long day. No, it wasn’t marriage itself that scared her. It was who she was going to marry. “I am not happy to be marrying Sir Marmaduke.”
Even his name made him sound pagan
—despite his supposed English blood.
A gruff sigh escaped her father. “We’ve already had this discussion. You will marry the man,
even if I have to force you down the aisle. You’re not getting any younger, and the king has ordered it. You’ve got to set an example for Aliah. Already she debates with me about marrying and it will not be long before His Majesty sends another suitor calling.”
Guilt sparked. She was supposed to set a good example for her sister.
But truly, when it came to marrying a barbarian that was a hard thing to do. She would encourage her sister to keep arguing the point with their father if she could. But truth be told, she wouldn’t get the chance since she’d be in Scotland. The best example she could set would be to get married to the man her father delivered her to.
“He’s not a barbarian.”
The man had a canny knack of reading her thoughts. It was unnerving. “As you say.”
er father growled under his breath. “Not
as I say
—he isn’t. The man is English. I wouldn’t want you to marry a Scotsman.”
“But you have no problem with me
living in Scotland?”
“How? I would like to know.”
“King Edward is weeding the Scots out of Scotland. You and Sir Marmaduke are not the only English nobles to marry, live and regulate the Scots in Scotland. As the wife of the Steward of Stirling Castle, you’ll be well respected. It is a position I could not garner for you in England.
Your children, English children, will replace the Scots.”
Arbella fought not to roll her eyes. She could care less about positions, titles. In fact, as much as she feared the Scots,
in her opinion it was not the English’s place to weed them out of their own country. Without a doubt, she did
want to replace them. That sounded so cruel, harsh. But she couldn’t voice those concerns to her father. He wouldn’t understand, he would argue her point, and she didn’t have enough energy to debate the issue. She needed to save her strength for the journey to Stirling, and for her upcoming marriage.
“Do you understand?” he said, sounding somewhat exasperated.
“Aye, Father.” She hesitated a moment. “Have you ever met Sir Marmaduke?”
He took a moment too long to answer confirming her thoughts.
“You have not.”
“No. But I did send
Gerald with my reply. He returned with news of the man.”
Arbella nodded, unable to speak. She was literally walking in blind.
He cleared his throat, and his horse shifted closer. “Do you know your marriage duties to your husband?”
embarrassment heating her cheeks. This was the last thing she wanted to discuss with her father. Her disappointment was forgotten for a moment. “Aye, Glenda spoke to me about it.”
Her maid fill
ed her in on all the ghastly details. The deed sounded messy, awkward and all-together unpleasant. But she was also aware it was the only way to beget an heir, which was her number one duty. An heir and a spare. Then she’d banish him from further visits. Glenda told her it would hurt and she’d bleed. The woman had only been married a short time before she was widowed, and she begged Baron de Mowbray for work instead of having to ever marry again.
Another break in the foliage became clear. Maybe she should run after all. She wasn’t sure she could go through with this.
“Uh, good, then. I’m glad she told you.” Her father coughed, the conversation obviously making him very uncomfortable. “Well, I had best return to the front. We shall ride until dusk and then stop to make camp.”
Arbella nodded, her eyes gazing longingly into the woods.
Dusk would be in a few hours. If she waited until then to run, they would have a harder time finding her.
“Do not run, Arbella.
I will only catch you.”
Her stomach flipped and she tightened her grip on Bitsy’s mane.
“Father! I would never.”
his disbelief, then spurred his horse forward.
Arbella scrunched up her face and bit her tongue to keep from sticking it out.
Magnus looked sternly at his
younger sister Lorna. Perched atop her horse as they traversed the road to Glasgow, her cheeks were rosy with pleasure in the morning sun. She no longer wore the plaid of her clan, just a simple gown of blue and a matching cloak.
“Dinna thank me,” he said through clenched teeth. “Y
e already compromised yourself.”
Lorna was not impressed with his bluster, and only smiled, batting her lashes. “Y
e will see one day, brother, that even though ye’re the Laird Sutherland, love will come up to catch ye in its grasp.”
“I dinna think so.” Love was a game for fools. A game his sister had played while
that scoundrel Chief Montgomery came from the Lowlands to buy a few hundred pounds of prized Sutherland sheep’s wool. The man seduced his sister—which Magnus happened to unexpectedly witness. In a rage he’d tossed him off his land, inflicting a few bruises and cuts on the scoundrel’s body. The man was lucky to keep his life—but he hadn’t sold him the wool. He’d been determined not to let his prized wool grace the foul body of a rat.