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Authors: Kelly Jameson

Spellbound

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SPELLBOUND

Book #1 in the Hot Highlands Romance Series

Kelly
Jameson

Copyright
© 2013 Kelly Jameson

Smashwords Edition
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Please do not participate in or encourage the piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

“An unforgettable highland warrior seeking revenge, an innocent maiden brave enough to confront him. Spellbound is a terrific novel filled with passion, intrigue, vengeance, and all-consuming love. Readers will clamor for a sequel.”

—Kat
Martin, New York Times best-selling author with over 11 million books in print

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events, is entirely coincidental.

No
distribution or reproduction is permitted without the written permission of the author. For more information, write
[email protected]
.

Sensual Historical Romance by Kelly Jameson

TO
TAME A ROGUE


Sizzling with sexual tension, filled with passion, an old-fashioned romance. Fast-paced and fun to read.” Kat Martin, New York Times best-selling author

SPELLBOUND

“An unforgettable highland warrior seeking revenge, an innocent maiden brave enough to confront him. Spellbound is a terrific novel filled with passion, intrigue, vengeance, and all-consuming love. Readers will clamor for a sequel.” Kat Martin, New York Times best-selling author

 

 

 

 

A shout out of thanks to my family and friends, including Kim DeCoursey Flagello for her generosity in lending me her adorable little laptop so I could finish this book.

Other Books by Kelly Jameson

DEAD
ON

DESPERATE,
DISTURBED, DERANGED & DOUBLE-LATTED
(short story collection)

MOBY
DICKHEAD: OR THE WHITE ZOMBIE WHALE
(by Herman Melville and Kelly Jameson)

SHARDS
OF SUMMER

TO TAME A ROGUE

WHAT REMAINED OF KATRINA: A NOVEL OF NEW ORLEANS

1

Scottish Highlands
1445

Erskina
cupped water from the swollen stream in her small hands, bringing it to her aged lips and swallowing as if the stream had life-giving powers. In the soft chill of the May morn, quietness spread before her as thick as a warrior’s plaid. Mist blanketed the hills and the bens, looming like a gray, gauzy specter above the inhabitants of the tiny village.

She
could hear the laughter of the children now, which was never spoiled by gray skies or the coming of rain. The echo of the blacksmith’s hammer against his anvil also reached her ears, as well as the squeak of cart wheels in mud and the barking of dogs. The sweet, plaited notes of a fiddle rose above the din. Erskina heard also the booming voices of Elliot and his younger brother Darach as they rounded up the other young men for events that would single out those with the most skill and promise.

It
was to be a day of merry making, the Bealtunn a fire festival celebrating the return of life and fertility to the world. There would be dancing and singing, games, wine, and meat cakes. There would be fat, roasted hens, good cheeses in baskets, and fresh brewed ale. The festival marked the villagers' belief that the Summer Maiden would be wooed away from her Earth-giant father, and the May Pole fertility dance would symbolize this belief.

Wood
would be stripped from the Hawthorne tree and planted in the awakening earth. Red and white ribbons would be wound to its top. Men and women would dance round the pole, holding onto the ribbons and interweaving them as they went. Cottages would be decorated with sprigs of Rowan.

The
youngest children would go into the fields and gather up flowers; they would stop at each cottage and exchange their flowers for food and drink. And later, a great fire would be built.

Most
importantly, the bounds between the human world and the spirit world would be erased, if only momentarily. The villagers would climb the hill that overlooked the sea to the clustered bothies, the stone cottages built for shepherds and others to use. Neighbor would meet neighbor. And later, among the fronded ferns and fragrant heather, when it was darker, lover would meet lover.

Fierce
pride swelled in old Erskina’s breast, for she was grateful to serve the clan MacDuff. They always celebrated life; saw it as the true gift it was. Years of feuding, sorrows, and tragedies, of bloodthirstiness and vengeance, could not change
that
.

Erskina
looked at her hands, now just thin ripples of bone beneath her blue-veined skin. It was true her life was nearing its end. She wasn’t sure she would live to see another ice-clad winter in the Highlands. She could still remember when she was a small girl and had raced through this very glen, picking handfuls of tiny purple and white flowers and climbing the large boulders strewn about the hills. She could remember, too, when she was a young woman, meeting her dark-haired lover on the night of the Bealtunn. It seemed so long ago, and yet, how quickly it had all passed.

Dark,
wind-driven clouds massed above the trees. She watched ravens dive and twist in the air above the steep, moss-covered cliff
s―
a familiar sight. In the past few days, more ravens had appeared. As a child, Erskina’s father had often warned her that such a sight foretold of battle with great numbers—and great loss. “When the raven lifts his wings, a great black shadow falls over the earth.”

The
laughter of the children once again reached her ears, yet Erskina shivered. Of late, she couldn’t shake the feelings of foreboding that crept along her bones. The dreams, the wicked dreams, had returned. She’d thought the Sight, the quickening, had been fading with her advancing age. But the wicked dreams would not leave her be. She didn’t know what they meant. In all her dreams, she saw a warrior fierce, with hair as black as midnight about his shoulders, approaching her village on a great destrier.

She
scooped up another fistful of cold, crisp water and brought it to her parched lips. “Waters of Green Loch, fill me with yer knowledge. Here in this glen, in wooded shroud, let me see, beyond the cloud. Fairest waters and clearest skies, let me see through yer knowing eyes.”

The
clearing grew hushed. The waters rippled and Erskina watched her reflection disappear…only to be replaced by the site of four heavily armed warriors. Their legs, bare beneath their plaids, were strong and thick as the stoutest oaks. Topaz brooches, gleaming and flashing in the occasional sunlight jagging through heavy cloud, held their tartans securely about their brawny shoulders.


Show me the meaning of this vision,” Erskina whispered, her limbs atremble. It seemed suddenly very cold. Harsh of climate, buffeted by sea and storm, stony and mountainous, Scotland was a beautiful but merciless land, even in spring. An enchantress who could be both coldly wicked and warm.


What is your name, auld woman?”

Sweet
mercy of God, they were speaking to her now. Had she gone daft?
She shut her eyes, then popped one open, hoping the fearsome image would be gone. Her soft belly tightened into a knot of fear.


Did ye no’ hear me? Yer name, auld woman.”

Erskina
twisted around, her thin, frizzled hair wild about her shoulders. It was no vision of the future, but flesh and blood standing before her!


Erskina.” She said it proudly though she remained crouched on her knees before them. “My village serves the MacDuff clan. Who are ye?”


We come seeking a girl. She goes by the name of Maighdlin. Does she live in this village?”

Erskina
rocked back on her feet, stared up at the one who had spoken. “And what would ye be wantin’ with her?”

A
muscle tensed in the warrior’s bronzed cheek. Eyes the color of a frozen loch stared back at her. “’Tis no’ yer business to know. Tell us where she is.”


What, or ye will kill me, a poor, defenseless, auld hag?”

A
cruel smile broke about the Highland warrior’s lips.


’Nay. But methinks few would be left standing in yer village if we tear it apart looking for her.”

Erskina
hesitated but a moment.
Maighdlin
. What could they want with the girl? She was a dark-eyed beauty and the daughter of Haddon, a farmer who’d lost his wife shortly after Maighdlin was born. A common villager like the rest of them. Unless...she did possess the Sight. What could they possibly wish to know? Maighdlin had never traveled beyond the walls of this glen, the heather-clad hills of these forests. She had not used her gift outside the village.

Maighdlin
was a young woman now, and still frightened by her gift. She was kind and compassionate, but because she sometimes foresaw death, she held herself mostly apart from others, never wanting to get too close to anyone for fear of seeing them in her dreams. She was liked but feared by the rest of the villagers, a fact that saddened the young woman. And probably the reason she had not yet wed.

Erskina
lifted her chin a notch. “I dinna ken yer reasons for seeking her out. And ye still havena declared yer clan. I dinna recognize yer colors.”

The
man, flaxen hair swinging about his shoulders, raised a hand as if to strike her.


Nay, Moray,
dunna strike her
.”

A
fifth man emerged from the shadows. Erskina’s raspy breath caught in her throat. He sat atop a powerful black steed, and the man and steed were well matched. Had she thought
these
other four men powerful? This man, though taller and leaner, was clearly their leader.
No, it couldn’t be…. But it was the man who had ruthlessly invaded her dreams!


Moray, ’tis no’ the MacAlister way to strike brave, auld women.”

MacAlister.
A proud, powerful clan to the south. Known for swift vengeance, known to prize retribution above all else. But what could they possibly want with Maighdlin? The younger son of the chieftain had been banished to Ireland three years ago, thought to be a threat to his own father...or so the tale went. She’d never seen a MacAlister this far north.

He
caught her eyes and Erskina couldna look away. They were hazel, and whereas the other man’s eyes, the one who’d spoken first, were like ice, his were like fire, amber, and well matched to the sparking jewel that held his red striped plaid.

Erskina
noted the black, glossy sheen of his hair, the hard set of his square jaw. “Ye can tell us where the lass is, or we can search her out ourselves.”

Erskina
trembled.
The festival. It was to be a time of peace, not bloodshed!
The village men were not prepared to fight this day. In fact, there had not been feuding now for months, and many of the villagers had relaxed their guard. They were a gentle mountain folk often caught between larger clans who could not seem to get along.

Perhaps
it was the budding flowers, the bright spring sunshine, or the spate of marriages performed but a few days ago that had spread careless joy throughout their numbers. Or maybe it was the adorable babes born to Clare, the blacksmith’s eldest daughter, not a week ago…curly haired twins, and boys at that. Or it was the feeling that spring itself brought...when love reawakens, hearts open anew, and tenderness abounds.

Erskina
tried to swallow the lump in her throat. How could she betray one of her own? And yet, if she didn’t take them to Maighdlin, what would become of their village? There was no telling how many other MacAlisters were hiding in these woods. And what of the newly married couples basking in first love, the sweet babes cooing and gurgling at their mothers’ breasts, hungry for life?

Erskina
herself had walked battlefields littered with the dead and dying; seen heads cloven asunder, limbs lopped from bodies and piled askew. She had helped to bury brave young men she'd known as bairns.

She
stood, pulled her thin, woolen wrap closely about her stooped shoulders. “Aye. I will take ye to her,” she said.

The
one called Moray wore a slim, bejeweled dagger belted at his waist. “Ye ken what is at stake, auld woman?”

Erskina
knew their very lives depended on her actions. She frowned at the man. “I ken.”


’Tis wise that ye do.”


I will take ye to the girl. But I would ‘ave yer word that ye’ll no’ harm her, or any of the villagers. We’re a peaceful people. We wish to live honestly and simply in this glen, ‘tis all.”

The
dark-haired one spoke, and something about his voice caused Erskina’s heart to leap in her breast. It was quiet, yet commanding. As soft as velvet and as hard as rock. “There shall be no bloodshed this day, auld one, as long as we can see the girl.”

Erskina
nodded. She began to walk, expecting them to follow as she attempted to control her shaking limbs—which had become like slender stalks of grass in a harsh northern wind. What choice did she have? She stole a sideward glance at the leader. How good was his word?


Nay,” he said. “Ye will bring her to
us
.”

Erskina
nodded again, her stomach feeling as if she'd eaten bashed neeps well past their prime.


Be quick about it. And dunna raise suspicion. Though ye canna see them, there are others hidden in these woods. We could cut yer village to a man if it becomes necessary.”

Erskina’s
eyes skittered over the trees and she wondered just how long they'd been hiding there, watching the villagers. Just yesterday the children had joyously scampered about, scouring the woods for boughs from flowering trees to decorate their dwellings. Young lovers had made trysts the night long, not returning to their crofts until the sun had curled its apricot-tangerine fingers over the horizon. Fear crawled her spine as she thought about how they were all being watched, that they
had
been watched, maybe for several days now. These men were patient. And dangerous. Waiting for just the right moment to make their demands. What could be so important?

As
Erskina picked her way down the fern-dotted and boulder-strewn hill to the village, she wondered if Maighdlin had told anyone else of her most recent dream. Even if she had, how could word have spread beyond the glen? It wasn’t possible, was it? Could that be why they sought Maighdlin? Because of her dream? Maighdlin had the vision only five days ago. She’d seen a riderless horse thundering through a gray mist. It was covered in its master’s blood, and a sprig of the Rowan tree was fastened in its bridle.

Just
last evening, sprigs of Rowan had been tied with string that was dyed red from the Rowan berries to cows’ tails to protect the animals, and sheep were made to jump through hoops made from Rowan. The young women crafted necklaces of Rowan berries with red thread and wore them for protection. Maighdlin had been distraught about her vision of the horse with the Rowan sprig; the dream had not revealed to which clan the horse belonged. She’d tilted her head, the sunlight slipping over her dark auburn hair, and her luminous brown eyes had held sadness far greater than her eighteen years. “Erskina, will I e’er see anyone but the dead?” she whispered.

BOOK: Spellbound
4.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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