Authors: Eliza Knight
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #British & Irish, #Historical, #Genre Fiction, #Romance, #Medieval, #Scottish, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance, #Fiction
He stole her away… But she set him free…
They called him The Priest. Maybe because of his billowing black robes and the steel crucifix that hung around his neck. Or perhaps it was because those who met him were compelled to pray. But Duncan Mackay was anything but a saint. He was a sinner—a paid mercenary. Until he met her, and she made him want to change his ways.
Lady Heather Sutherland, has never been compelled to follow rules. And this time, she’s gone too far. Following in the footsteps of her brothers and cousins, she chooses to join the fight for Scottish freedom—and gets herself abducted by a handsome, rogue warrior, whose touch is sweet sin.
Duncan’s duty was clear—steal Heather away from Dunrobin Castle. What he didn’t expect, was to be charmed by her spirit and rocked by her fiery kiss. Now, he doesn’t want deliver her to those who hired him, instead he wants to keep her all to himself.
The Stolen Bride Series
“For fans of Highlander romance, this series is a must read!” ~Night Owl Romance
The Highlander’s Reward
– winner of InD’Tale Magazine’s Best Historical Novel 2012
The Highlander’s Reward
The powerful yet sensitive Magnus and the saucy and beautiful Arbella are a winning pair in this Scottish themed romance that even boasts cameos from William Wallace himself
.” ~Publisher’s Weekly Reviewer for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest
Book Six: The Stolen Bride Series
Copyright 2013 © Eliza Knight
THE HIGHLANDER’S SIN © 2013 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: Kimberly Killion @ The Killion Group, Inc.
Copy Editor: Joyce Lamb
Also Available by Eliza Knight
A Kilted Christmas Wish (a sexy contemporary novella)
The Highlander’s Temptation – Prequel, The Stolen Bride Series
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 sister, Katie,
who proves that a sassy woman can indeed find true love.
Special thanks go out to Lizzie, Andrea, Vonda and Merry! Thanks so much for your willingness to read!
Dingwall Castle, 1277
creams echoed off the walls, bouncing from one end of the castle to the other like banshees in the throes of a haunt. Young Duncan MacKay huddled beneath the altar in the family chapel tucked behind the great hall, frightened beyond measure.
Today he was his day of birth. Seven years. But from the sound of it, there would be not celebration this evening.
Nightmares were supposed to happen only at night, awakening one in a cold sweat with tears streaming on heated cheeks. Duncan was not asleep. Nay, he was very much awake. And ’twas not entirely dark. A few candles were lit, causing shadows to bump in and out of their glowing light.
’Twas about an hour after dawn, and he’d come down as he was supposed to for morning
Mass before his family would break their fast. The only thing was, he was the only one who’d arrived. None of his sisters, brothers, parents, nor his aunt and uncle who’d been visiting with their four children. He had none of them to comfort him in this terror that did not disappear no matter how many times he squeezed his eyes shut or blocked out the noise with his hands. The only one present was their family priest, his tutor, Father Bernard.
A loud crash from
somewhere in the castle made him jump, and he bumped his head on the wooden crossbeams of the altar. But he didn’t whimper. Warriors never cried. He would prove to them all that he was worthy of such a title.
Father Bernard whispered, pressing a small but thick silver crucifix into Duncan’s hand. “I’ll be back before ye can recite Ezekiel 33.”
Duncan wanted to grab onto
Father Bernard’s hand, tell him not to leave, that he didn’t want to be alone. But that would have been cowardly, and he’d already caused enough of a stir today.
The screams of pain were his fault.
Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people
…” Duncan frantically repeated the verses from the Bible, praying all the while that Father Bernard would be back before he finished.
He’d only wanted to pick the most beautiful
gillyflowers for Mother. Today was her birthday, too. A crown of gillyflowers would have looked so beautiful on his mother’s soft, golden hair, for the evening celebration Da had planned. Now that he was seven, he would be fostered out next year, and he had to make sure his mother’s celebration was extra special. He’d woken early, before the whole of the house, to go and find them.
But now it was ruined.
A bloodcurdling scream made Duncan squeeze his eyes shut so tight that pain seared down the middle of his forehead.
He clutched the cross, pressed it to his lips as he continued to recite,
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul
only Duncan hadn’t sneaked out the side gate, leaving it propped open with a rock so he could slip back in unseen. At dawn, the men changed shifts, and Duncan had noticed the guards who stood by the side gate would disappear for a quarter hour. Just enough time to gather the flowers.
And apparently enough time for
a stealthy enemy to lay siege. The sound of Da bellowing from the great hall made Duncan tremble. Da would fix this, and then tan his hide, but Duncan would gladly take a beating.
Beyond the chapel door, Da
shouted something about bastards stabbing him in the back.
Duncan wasn’t sure what a bastard was, but it sounded awful coming from his
da’s lips, and if the noise coming from all around was any indication, they really were horrible monsters. If only they’d stayed home at Castle Varrich like Mother had wanted. But Da had said this meeting with the Sutherland clan was important, could strengthen their own clan. They’d met here with a brother of the Sutherland laird.
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me
The battle sounds
raged closer. Duncan tucked his knees up toward his chin, his face buried. He tried to slow his breathing, to calm himself with the reassuring thought that Da would make everything better. That his mother wasn’t screaming. That he wasn’t all alone. Oh, what a coward he was, hiding when people were dying all around him. Dying! He may have been young, but he wasn’t stupid, and the sounds he heard were of people in agony, people vanishing from this life into the next.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood—
The door to the chapel creaked slowly open
, and with each screech of the iron hinges’ protest, gooseflesh rippled from his ankles to the top of his head. Boot heels clicked ominously on the stone cobbles, echoing inside Duncan’s head. Not the shuffling steps of Father Bernard. Not his mother’s reassuring movements, nor the steady, measured footfalls of his father. These were the footsteps of an enemy. If they’d come inside the chapel, then they must have finished with everyone in Dingwall.
Da hadn’t won.
Da was— Nay. He couldn’t even think it.
slipped the crucifix into his left boot and reached for the handle of the
his father had given him, stashed in his right boot. He gripped it tight, the hilt digging into his palm, a palm his father had promised would grow as big as his. Duncan held his breath, praying whoever walked toward him couldn’t hear the sound of his heartbeat, for it boomed loud in his own ears.
A screeching sound pierced the air, like a sword being scraped
deliberately across the stones, making Duncan’s teeth chatter. He clenched his jaw tight, refusing to let this nightmare rule him. The screeching lasted for several seconds, drowning out the sounds of footsteps, and stopped just before the altar.
Definitely not a friend. Did he know Duncan hid in here, hoping for sanctuary? He gripped the little
knife harder, swearing that he’d use it if the enemy discovered him. Only seven summers, he was still a warrior, a true warrior, and he’d protect his family’s honor, even if he was the only one left.
Duncan’s lungs felt on fire from holding his breath. He wouldn’t be able to hold it much longer.
The door to the chapel burst open, crashing against the wall, just as his breath rushed out, and he gulped in another.
“Ye dinna belong in here.” Father Bernard’s voice was calm
but loud as he spoke.
“Get out of here, P
riest. Dinna make me murder a man of the cloth.” A man. Sounded much like the Sutherland contact his parents had supped with the night before.
’t do that. Such an act would only damn ye forever,” Father Bernard protested, his voice still tranquil.
A chilling laugh came from the warrior who stood only a foot or so away. “Och, Priest, my own chaplain forgave me for all sins committed today.”
“I sincerely doubt he meant for ye to commit such a sin today.” Father Bernard’s tone took on an edge Duncan had never heard before.
“Doesna matter what he meant. Ye’re a part o
f Clan MacKay. All MacKays die today.”
“Was this your chief’s plan all along?”
The warrior laughed cruelly. The Sutherlands had betrayed them. Duncan pressed his lips together to keep from making any sound. If he made it out alive today, he would not rest until he’d sought revenge on them.
“There was never going to be an alliance.” Father Bernard sounded dejected.
Moments later, the whistling sound of a sword slicing through the air was followed by a guttural, choking grunt and the thud of a body hitting the ground. Without looking, Duncan knew exactly what had happened. The warrior had felled his tutor. Father Bernard was dead.
so tight his knuckles whitened, Duncan jumped from behind the altar, letting out a battle cry he copied from his father.
The warrior whirled,
his sword still dripping from the blood of the priest. Crumpled on the floor behind the warrior was Father Bernard. Tears stung Duncan’s eyes; he blinked them away and forced himself to stare at the warrior who smiled cruelly down at him. He seemed tall as a mountain and cruel as the devil.
“Why did ye kill him?” Duncan asked.
The man didn’t answer. He was indeed the Sutherland relation. Hair dark and cut short, with a long beard sprinkled with gray. His eyes were dark as a nightmare, shirt and plaid covered in blood.
“Did ye kill…?”
But he couldn’t finish his question, didn’t want to know for certain if Ma and Da were lying dead on the floor of the great hall.
“Are ye MacKay’s son?” the warrior asked, flipping his sword around in one hand
, making a wide circle. Droplets of blood splattered Duncan’s cheek.
A chill skated over Duncan’s skin. He knew that if he told this man he was the son of Chief MacKay
, he would die, and yet, he wanted the chance to look this man in the eye and say who he was before he stabbed his thick neck with the
“I’ll take your silence as a
n aye.” The warrior drew out the
, his fingers flexing on the hilt.
Duncan mirrored his movements, clenching the
“Will ye fight me,
Duncan bared his teeth, but was still unable to find his voice.
The warrior tossed his sword from hand to hand, taunting Duncan. “Come on, laddie, try to jab me with that wee blade.”
Anger speared through Duncan, but the man in front of him was easily five times his size. How could he win against such a
“Look, here,” the warrior said with a laugh. “I’ll even set down my sword and let ye have a go while I’m unarmed.” He tossed his sword to the ground behind him, the metal clattering as it skidded away.
Duncan’s chances were slightly higher. And yet, still slim.
“Come on now. Ye’re the last of your line. Dinna ye want to at
least go down fighting as your ma and da did?”
That was the last straw, c
onfirmation that his parents were indeed gone, his entire family annihilated. He couldn’t let this
get away with it.
Duncan lunged at the large warrior, jerking h
is arm forward. The warrior grabbed him around the middle and knocked the
from his hand.
“A good effort,” the man said with
a cruel laugh.
“Ye’re evil,” Duncan said.
“Nay, just loyal, and now—” But his sentence was finished with a grunt as he doubled forward and dropped Duncan to the ground.
Behind the warrior, Father Bernard ha
d managed to stand. Blood soaked the front of his lustrous gray robes and his hands. He held the sword hilt, its tip buried in the warrior’s back.
Father Bernard nodded to Duncan, sadness surrounding his eyes.
“Go,” he urged Duncan in raspy tones. “Go to Pluscarden Abbey, lad. Seek sanctuary with my brothers.”
Duncan nodded, his throat tight and eyes stinging from unshed tears. He ran toward
the door to the great hall, but the last words of Father Bernard, spoken to the dying warrior, burned into his ears.