Authors: Allison Shaw
Darrel Adair is as rugged as the Smoky Mountains that his tribe, the Cherokee, call home, but disillusioned after suffering many bitter disappointments. He becomes a drifter, burying his heart under miles of pavement and living like a shadow in the dust of the open road.
Lyssa Blackstock is a Lost Bird, an unenrolled mixed-blood drifting between two cultures. In the face of crushing betrayal, she remains gentle and innocent, a woman of rare strength, wisdom, and faith in the basic goodness of others - even while on the run from her abusive ex-boyfriend.
Their paths cross at a bus station during an encounter with a gang of thugs, and despite his misgivings Darrel decides to protect Lyssa until she is away from danger. Drawn to each other by a calling too strong to resist, they begin a journey of healing and discovery that is at times uncertain and even painful, yet full of promise and joy.
John MacQueen took a drink of his ale and remarked, “D’ ye remember that American lassie ye were with ‘roon aboot four years ago?”
Euan Wallace stopped mid-drink and eyed his best friend with momentary surprise. His dark brown eyes scanned John’s face, taking in the blue eyes and tanned complexion as he searched for evidence of a joke. Seeing only seriousness, he shrugged and replied, “Wha’ o’ ‘er? She was joost a bird like any oother.”
John raised a golden eyebrow and said, “Was she noo? ‘Twas my impression a’ the time tha’ ye thought her fit braw o’er any oothers. An’ nae, she wasna like any o’ the lasses ‘roon here a’tall.”
Euan ran a hand through his dark red locks and took a deep breath. Och aye, he remembered Callie Hawken quite well and damned her every day for not having the grace to slip out of his mind like the other women he’d been with. Sure, she’d been a virgin when he’d met her and being a Yank of course she’d been different than the local lasses. Or the upper class lasses he was supposed to marry from for that matter.
But she had been just another chit out to marry into money, hadn’t she? His family had long been gentry, having made a fortune in banking and industry, and Euan shared in that status. An admitted black sheep, he preferred speaking Gaelic and Broad Scots to proper English, working the small croft he was leasing from his grandfather to participating in the family businesses, and hunting, fishing, and having a pint with the lads at the local pub to attending soirees and other functions with his peers. Still, there were the expectations of his family to marry well and to avoid fortune-hunting little schemers who would hinder his prospects when he finally took his proper place in the family business.
His parents had insisted that Callie was one of the latter, completely unsuited to be anything more than a passing fancy. At the time he had not thought her to be anything of the sort and indeed she had known nothing of his family’s wealth for most of their relationship. Even when she found out it hadn’t seemed to matter to her. She had enjoyed roaming the hills, fishing, camping, and even working on the croft with him and never asked him for more than the pleasure of his company.
Then she had claimed to be pregnant and he knew it had all been a ruse. She had used the oldest trick in the book to snare him but he hadn’t fallen for it. He’d denied she could be carrying his child, accused her of being a gold-digging whore out to trap him into marriage, and told her to get out of his house. She’d packed her things and left, and had never tried to contact him. If she had truly been pregnant she would have been after him for child support, so quite obviously it had been a scam.
John was still waiting for his response. “Well, mon?” he prompted.
“Well, what?” Euan replied. “The lass was a chit after a piece o’ the family fortune. I nae ha’ gi’en her a thought.”
John gave him a pointed look, shook his shaggy blond head, and took another draught of his ale. “Ye always were a poor liar, Euan,” he stated. “Anyhoo, when I was in the States wi’ Uncle Andrew representin’ Clan MacQueen for the Highland Games in North Carolina I saw her there. Ye remember that she’s Clan Robertson on her grandfather’s side?” Euan nodded and John continued, “An’ Red Indian mixed in wi’ the Scots. So there she was in Red Indian regalia wi’ a tartan sash, along wi’ her kin an’ other mixed Scots and Indians just like the day we first laid eyes on her.”
Pausing a moment, he added, “An’ she wasna alone.”
Euan snorted. “Got hersel’ a mon, does she? Figures. Nae but a wench.”
John raised his eyebrows and replied, “Nae, I didna see a mon wi’ her a’tall. ‘Twas twa bairns. Twins.” Looking Euan dead in the eye, he said, “A laddie and lassie aboot three years auld, wi’ dark red hair like yer ain and the look o’ ye aboot their wee faces.”
Euan choked as John’s words slammed like a fist into his gut. Wordless thoughts flew around in his head as he lost his breath for a moment. Bairns? Twins? She
lied about being pregnant?
Then his ego rallied and he growled, “Ye’re daft, mon! A wench like that, they could be anyone’s bairns! They nae be mine! If they were the wee bitch would hae been after me for support!” He let out a string of Gaelic profanities to vent his anger on Callie Hawken. In reality he was cursing at himself as well. He could deny it all he wanted. In his heart he
John waited until Euan fell silent and said, “Interestin’ thing, that. I asked aroon a bit an’ heert a few things. The lass came home pregnant from a summer in Scotland, refused tae say a thing aboot the mon wha’ knocked ‘er up, refused tae name him on the birth certificates, an’ is rearin’ the bairns on her ain. Och, there’s quite a few lads wha’ think her bonny an’ hae been after her but she turns ‘em away one an’ a’. Keeps tae her kin up in the mountains an’ goes on occasion wi’ ‘em tae crafts fairs an’ cultural gatherings.”
“Well tha’s a’ hearsay,” Euan countered. “For a’ ye know she’s got hersel’ a mon o’
.” He stared at the foam on his ale and shrugged. “It’s been four years. I doubt she’s nae got hersel’ a mon in a’ this time.”
John said, “D’ye nae think ye ought tae find oot? If those be yer bairns, an’ I’m dead certain for aye, ye owe them a fathair in their lives. Though tae be honest, if I remember ‘er correctly an’ wha’ I heert be true, the lass is too fierce an’ proud tae e’en let ye claim them as yer ain let alone take any support from ye.”
“An’ ye would ken this hoo?” Euan challenged. “Asked her yerself, did ye?”
John replied, “I spoke wi’ those who ken the lass, including a couple o’ her ain kin. They thought I was interested in ‘er, an’ I let ‘em be nae the wiser. Told me I was wastin’ m’ time sniffin’ aroon and they cursed whoever it was wha’ hae broken her heart and left her tae raise her bairns alone.”
He lifted his glass to his lips. Pausing a moment, he said thoughtfully, “Actually they promised that if they e’er found oot who did her wrong they’d beat the hell out o’ the bastard twice o’er afore killin’ him and scatterin’ his entrails o’er the mountains.”
“An’ ye ken I ought tae risk m’ life o’er twa bairns that nae be proven mine?” Euan retorted. “I thought ye t’ be m’ friend but now I’m nae s’ sure.”
“Wha’ I ken is that ye hae done that lass a mighty wrong, Euan Wallace!” John countered. “Ye listened to yer parents when ye should hae listened tae yer heart an’ ye acted like a rich mon when ye should hae acted like a Scotsman, an’ ye’ve been a piss-poor excuse for both e’er since.”
Euan slammed his pint glass down and stood up, kicking his chair out from under him. “Bugger off, MacQueen!” he roared. “An’ next time mind yer ain bloody business!” With that he stormed out of the pub.
“Wha’s he oon aboot?” asked Angus MacDowell from the next table.
“Och, his sins come back to haunt ‘im,” replied John, smirking into his ale. Looking over at the bar maid he boomed, “Chrissie, lass, how aboot another pint o’er here?”
Chrissie Grant smiled and shouted over the low din, “Comin’ up, luv!” as she balanced a tray while swerving between tables and trying to avoid stray hands reaching out to fondle or swat her shapely butt.
John looked admiringly at her red curls and creamy skin as she moved gracefully about. If he played his cards right he might have his cock buried in her tonight after closing. As for Euan, he could go to hell if that was how he treated a friend for trying to help.
Euan drove his motorcycle like a maniac on the dark roads of Ayrshire. He had been so sure of himself when he rejected Callie. Realizing that he may have been wrong all this time made him even angrier at himself than he usually was. Damn John for butting in, damn Callie for ever existing let alone coming into his life, and damn himself for a fool for having fallen in love with her.
Damn himself as well for casting her out of his life before he had known he loved her.
They had met four years before at the annual Gathering of the Clans in Edinburg. She had been dressed in her regalia, a Woodland Indian tunic of red cotton calico and long wrap skirt and leggings of blue broadcloth adorned with appliqué and ribbon work, woven sash belt, beaded moccasins and knife sheath, bandolier bag, decorated shawl and beaded fan, and a sash of the Robertson tartan across her shoulder. In addition to beaded necklaces and earrings, she had worn a shell gorget and nasal septum ring. Her long brown hair had been pulled back into a braid and adorned with beaded barrettes and a leather wrap tie with long fringes.
Her attire had been unusual, drawing attention to the short curvy woman with an olive complexion and nut-brown hair. The Indian blood was definitely shown in the high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, small hawkish nose, and rounded face. Her lips were full but not too full and finely shaped dark brows arched over keen eyes that were fringed with long dark eyelashes. Her features were pretty although not stunningly so.
It had been her eyes that were her most striking feature, an unusual shade of blue-gray like that of the North Sea on certain sunny summer days. Eyes that sparkled with intelligence and curiosity and life, changing colors with her moods, the light, and the clothes she was wearing.
Eyes that had caught him and never let go.
Euan had been dressed in traditional Highland attire characteristic of the Jacobean era:
muslin tunic shirt, great kilt held in place with a wide leather belt, sheathed dirk tucked into the belt, sganh dubh tucked in hose held by tartan flashes, old-style ghillie brogues, and a claymore slung across his back on a baldric. Six-four, muscular and yet slender of build, with rugged good looks and wavy dark red hair falling halfway down his back, his appearance had done his ancestors proud and made quite an impression on the lasses. The rest of the lads he had been with looked fairly impressive themselves, including John.
Callie had been with a group of mixed-blood Scots/Native Americans from both America and Canada. Their faces showed what they themselves called the
, with complexions ranging from fair to dark and a blend of Native and Scots features. Their regalia likewise reflected their mixed heritage, tartan sashes and swatches worn with buckskin or calico dresses and shirts, breechclouts, leggings, moccasins, and ornaments of beads, shell, silver or brass, and feathers.
There were a few Scots who took offense at that.
With the influx of immigrants from other parts of the world and in particular those parts not European, many native Scots felt that their culture and blood were in danger of dilution or extinction. There were whole neighborhoods in most of the bigger cities and towns that were Pakistani, Somali, Chinese, Jamaican, Nigerian, and so on. Foreign languages and accents could be heard alongside English, Broad Scots and Gaelic. Many Scots grumbled about this and pushed for an ultra-nationalist agenda in the schools and public forum.
Some went another route and harassed non-Scots. There was a rowdy group of those present at the Gathering who had honed in on the blessed blend group like hounds on a fox den. Yelling out curses and insults, the hooligans tried to incite a response to justify a fight.
“Go oon back tae yer ain kind!”
“Ye insult oor blood wha’ wi’ wearin’ our colors! Tak’ ‘em ooff!”
“Get oot o’ our land ye bloody savages!”
As a crowd gathered, the blessed blend had quietly stood their ground, which only made the insults worse.
Elders from several Clans watched to see how the drama would play out before passing judgment on either side. The police were there but could do nothing until someone made a move.
And then Callie had stepped forward.
problem?” she had asked of the adversary with the loudest mouth, who was wearing a MacLaughlin tartan kilt. “Scots blood is Scots blood, isn’t it? I don’t see y’all having a problem with other Scots Diaspora folks. This is as much a part of us as it is all y’all.”
?” shouted the young man, his pale skin flushed with rage. “Oor problem is a’ ye bloody rag heads an’ blacks an’ bloody fookin’ foreigners! Get oot o’ our land an’ go back tae yer ain!”
Euan had watched as one of the men from the blessed blend, whose chestnut hair contrasted with his dark eyes and brown skin, came up beside Callie and tried to get her to step back for her own protection. “The warriors protect the women,” he had advised.
“And our women
warriors,” she had replied tightly as she handed him her shawl, fan, and bandolier. When she pulled a knife with a heavy hand-forged blade out of the beaded sheath tucked into her belt even Euan had felt a tingle of apprehension.
“Och, I’m afeart!” the MacLaughlin ruffian snorted as Callie had handed the knife to the man holding her other belongings before stepping up toe-to-toe with him. “Wha’ are ye guine tae do? Scalp me? I’m nae afeart o’ nae bloody red savage whore!”
“I doubt you’ve got anything
cutting off,” she had replied flatly, prompting several onlookers to laugh out loud.
Her opponent nearly choked with rage. “Why, ye bloody wee bitch! I’ll…”
He had hardly had the words out of his mouth when Callie leapt up and socked him in the jaw with one hell of a right cross. She spun and landed with her moccasin-clad heels grinding into the tops of his feet as she elbowed him in the groin. As he doubled over she had hooked a foot behind one of his legs, pivoted as she gave him a mighty shove, and sent him sprawling backwards. He had landed with a grunt and she planted a foot on his throat while grabbing one of his arms and bending his wrist back in a submission hold with his elbow across her knee.