Read The Highlander Takes a Bride Online

Authors: Lynsay Sands

Tags: #General, #Historical, #Fiction, #Romance, #Highlander, #bride, #Marriage, #Proper Lady, #Warrior, #Wanton, #Guest, #Target, #Enemy, #Safeguard, #Brothers, #Intrigued, #17th Century, #Adult, #Brawny, #Scotland, #Passion, #Match

The Highlander Takes a Bride (3 page)

BOOK: The Highlander Takes a Bride
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“ ’Tis the Danvries banner,” Murine said grimly.

“Yer brother’s?” Saidh asked, glancing to the woman with surprise.

“Me half brother,” Murine corrected, her voice giving away her contempt. Saidh wasn’t surprised. She and Murine had become good friends, and she knew the woman absolutely loathed her half brother.

“Why would Montrose be here?” she asked quietly, afraid she already knew the answer.

“Papa must ha’e died,” Murine said, a catch in her voice. Releasing a shuddering sigh, she shook her head and closed her eyes. “He has no’ been well fer a while, but had seemed to turn a corner. I felt sure he would recover else I ne’er would have left him to come here.”

“Mayhap not,” Saidh said, though she suspected Murine was right. Biting her lip, she slipped an awkward arm around the other woman in support. It seemed the thing to do. She knew how much Murine adored her father.

“I suppose I should go below and find out one way or the other,” Murine said after a moment.

“I’ll come with ye,” Saidh offered quietly.

“Thank ye,” Murine whispered, and slipped her arm through hers to walk to the door.

Greer heaved a sigh at the sound of distant hoof beats, and reluctantly opened his eyes. Through a frame of green leaves from the trees that surrounded the clearing he was reclining in, he could see that the sky was still a bright, pale blue above him with fluffy white clouds drifting slowly by. He took a minute to guess how much time he had before the approaching horse reached him, and then sighed and raised his head to peer down at the blond head bobbing over his groin.

“Ye’d best leave off that now, lass. We’re about to ha’e company.”

The blond maid removed her mouth from one of his favorite body parts and cast him a pouty look. “But I’ve jest begun.”

“Aye, I ken. Trust me, I ken,” he said dryly and sat up to tuck himself away inside his plaid. “But someone is coming, and by me guess ye’ve just enough time to straighten yer dress ere they arrive.”

Clucking under her tongue with irritation, the woman stood and proceeded to pull up the top of her gown, covering the generous breasts he’d worked so hard to uncover. When she then began to struggle with the lacings, Greer stood to help. He finished with the task just moments before his squire, Alpin, rode into the clearing and brought his pony to a shuddering halt.

“Me laird,” the boy cried, nearly throwing himself off his mount in his eagerness.

Greer reached out a hand to steady the boy and simply waited. Everything was a crisis with his new young squire and Greer had quickly learned not to let the boy’s excitement raise his own.

“Lady Fenella sent me to find ye,” the boy blurted. “She was wondering where ye are.”

“O’ course she was,” Greer said dryly. He had arrived at MacDonnell only a week ago, just in time for his cousin’s funeral. But it had quickly become obvious that the late laird’s widow was a pain in the arse. She was forever weeping and whining and moping about the castle like some tragic ghost. And most often she wanted someone to weep and whine at. Since his Aunt Tilda was as good as accusing the woman of killing her son, and everyone here was keeping their distance until they sorted out what way the grass lay, he was the only one who had even spoken to her this last week. The woman had promptly decided he was her ally and had begun to trail him around like some poor starved puppy looking for a new home. In fact, that was why Greer had found Milly, pulled her up on his mount and slipped away from the keep. He’d been looking for a bit of respite.

His gaze slid to the maid, noting that her nipples were still erect and poking at the soft cloth of her worn gown. Seeing that he was looking, she ran one hand up her stomach to catch and briefly cup one round globe through the cloth, then licked her lips. The action made Greer’s still erect cock throb under his plaid and he caught her by the arm to urge her away from Alpin and his horse, saying over his shoulder. “Tell her ye could no’ find me.”

“But what about the guests?”

Greer stopped walking and closed his eyes on a sigh. Guests. Of course there were guests now too. As if half the country hadn’t just left after sticking about for two weeks and nearly eating MacDonnell out of its stores. Some stragglers were arriving too late to attend the funeral, but would still demand food and housing for the night at least. And as the new laird, he would be expected to greet and welcome them.

Milly’s small hand closing around his cock brought his eyes open and down to see that she was standing sideways to him, her position hiding from Alpin that she had her right hand under his plaid. Greer groaned as her hand slid the length of his erection, and then rose its length again.

“Tell them ye could no’ find me,” Greer repeated in a growl as the maid pressed her breasts against his arm and repeated the gloving action with her hand.

“But—”

“Go!” Greer roared, his hips jerking involuntarily under Milly’s attention. Trying for a calmer voice, he added, “I’ll be back soon.”

Alpin released a most put-upon sigh. The sound was followed though by a rustle that was probably the boy remounting his pony, and then the soft
clop clop
of the animal trotting out of the clearing.

Milly immediately dropped to her knees in the grass and ducked her head under his plaid to lay claim to the erection she’d been so eagerly fondling. Greer groaned and grabbed her head through the plaid for balance as she clasped his hips in her hands and began to move her mouth lustily over his organ.

Damn, the woman had some serious skill, he thought vaguely and then stopped thinking and gave himself up to the pleasure. Within moments he was roaring with release as he spilled himself down her throat.

“What was that?”

Saidh shook her head at Murine’s nervous question and reined in her mare, aware that the entire traveling party had done the same. Murine’s brother’s soldiers were all halted and peering warily into the woods around them, seeking the source of that pained shout.

“Ye do no’ think Laird MacDonnell’s ghost now walks these woods, do ye?” Murine asked worriedly and Saidh glanced to her with surprise.

“Nay. Of course no’. Do no’ be silly, Murine,” she said. Good Lord, she had enough on her plate without worrying about ghosties and goblins in the woods around the castle she was about to stay in.

If she stayed. Saidh added the thought grimly. It was not as if she had been invited. In fact, Fenella didn’t even know she was coming. But after learning that Murine’s brother, Montrose Danvries, was indeed at Sinclair to inform Murine that her father was dead and to take her to his home in England, Saidh had found herself asking if she might accompany them as far as the MacDonnell keep. Even she had been surprised by the words when they’d slid from her lips.

She’d been more surprised, though, when Montrose had agreed readily to the request. The man was an ass, selfish and dissolute. He rarely did anything that he did not gain from. But it had become quickly obvious that he had hoped to gain something after all. He’d apparently expected that she would be so grateful for his escort that she’d allow him liberties. Saidh had set him straight on that quickly with a move her brothers had taught her—she’d kneed him in the place it hurt a man worst. He hadn’t spoken to her since.

“Do ye think Laird MacDonnell’s death was an accident?” Murine asked quietly as the party started forward again.

“I do no’ ken,” Saidh said wearily. It was the question that had plagued her this entire journey.

“Do ye think someone may be murdering yer cousin’s husbands?”

Saidh glanced at Murine with surprise. “What?”

“Well, she has lost four husbands in as many years. The king’s men obviously do no’ think she killed the first three, but now there is a fourth. Mayhap someone else is doing the killing. Mayhap she has a jealous admirer who wants her fer himself and is killing her husbands.”

Saidh considered that as they rode forward. She almost hoped it was true. Because if it wasn’t . . .

The king’s men may have decided that Fenella was innocent and she could understand that. Fenella had not been alone when Laird MacIver the younger had been tossed from his mount and broken his neck. She was in fact with his family members, a perfect alibi. As for the senior Laird MacIver, he had been extremely old and might well have died from all the excitement of bedding a much younger and beautiful bride. But Saidh knew something the king’s men did not know, and that was that Fenella had definitely killed her first husband. And knowing that cast suspicion on all of the men’s deaths in Saidh’s mind. She needed to find out for herself if Fenella had had anything to do with the deaths of the Lairds MacIver senior and junior, and Laird MacDonnell. Because if she had, Saidh had saved her cousin that day at the expense of three men who otherwise would surely be alive today. Their blood would be on her hands.

The thought made her mouth tighten grimly as she followed Montrose’s mount out of the woods and along the dirt lane toward the castle gate. She would find the answer, but after that she had no idea what she would do. Or even what she could do. If her cousin was killing men, was there anything she could do to stop her? Nothing that wouldn’t include admitting her collusion in the death of Laird Kennedy. She may not have killed the man, but she had lent her aid in concealing who the murderer was. What kind of punishment was she likely to be dealt for that?

The question left Saidh in an unhappy silence as they reined in and dismounted at the foot of the stairs to the castle. A servant led them up the steps and through the keep door, explaining with a pained expression that, unable to find the laird, they had sent for Lady MacDonnell, who would surely greet them soon. He’d barely finished making those apologetic explanations when a soft rustle and the patter of footsteps drew their attention to the older lady descending the stairs. Allen MacDonnell’s mother, was Saidh’s guess as she looked over the still attractive woman. Certainly, it wasn’t her cousin.

“Lord Danvries.” Tilda MacDonnell smiled sadly as she crossed the great hall to greet them. “ ’Tis a pleasure to see ye again. I trust ye found yer sister?”

“Yes. Thank you,” Danvries said, his voice for once quiet and respectful rather than the bluff and arrogant booming sound it normally was. Turning, he gestured toward Murine and added, “This is my sister, Lady Murine Carmichael, of clan Carmichael.”

“My dear,” Lady MacDonnell took Murine’s hand and clasped it gently in both her own. “I was sorry to hear o’ yer father’s death. It seems Scotland has lost two good men in short order.”

“Aye,” Murine murmured, her eyes glazing with the tears that had filled them every time someone had brought up her father since she’d learned of his death.

Lady MacDonnell hugged Murine briefly, and then stepped back, dashing tears from her own eyes before turning to include Saidh in her smiling welcome. “And is this another sister perhaps, or—”

“Ah, no,” Montrose interrupted with a grimly satisfied smile that Saidh didn’t understand until he added, “This is Lady Saidh Buchanan, and the reason we stopped again on our way home. She is a cousin and dear friend of Lady Fenella’s and begged my escort so that she might see her cousin and offer comfort.”

Saidh’s mouth tightened at the bit about begging his escort. She’d never begged for anything in her life, and it had actually been Murine who had asked if they couldn’t escort her to MacDonnell on the way home. Her irritation with Montrose was forgotten though when she noted that Lady MacDonnell’s smile had frozen. In the next moment it dropped away altogether like so much ice slipping from an overhang to crash to the ground.

Face pale and eyes cold, she nodded stiffly at Saidh. “Ye will find yer cousin in her room. It is the third door on the left once ye reach the top o’ the stairs.”

Saidh hesitated, wanting to offer her condolences but suspecting they wouldn’t be welcome. She had obviously been dismissed and was no longer welcome in the woman’s presence, something Montrose was enjoying greatly, she noted with disgust.

Ignoring the man, Saidh murmured a quiet “thank ye” to Lady MacDonnell and turned to cross the great hall to the stairs.

Saidh didn’t encounter anyone on her way up. Once outside the door Lady MacDonnell had said was Fenella’s, she paused and listened, but heard no sound from within. Straightening her shoulders, she knocked sharply and waited for the softly uttered “Come in” before opening the door and stepping into the room.

It took one look to tell Saidh that this was not the master bedchamber where Laird MacDonnell and his bride would have slept. It seemed Fenella had already been moved to a lesser room and probably the lesser of the lesser rooms was Saidh’s guess. The chamber was tiny, with barely enough space for the single bed and the hard wooden chair that sat in the corner. There was no fireplace at all which would make it a damned cold room in winter.

If she were to guess, Allen’s mother had selected this room for Fenella and it appeared her cousin had not argued the point. But then Saidh supposed her cousin’s position here was now probably rather precarious. She was no longer the Laird’s wife, and had produced no heir to earn her any position in the household. Lady MacDonnell obviously had more power than her.

“Saidh?”

That bewildered, almost hopeful whisper drew her gaze to the woman on the bed and Saidh’s eyebrows rose. This was not the sweet, round and rosy-faced Fenella she recalled from five years earlier. It was not even the pale, round Fenella from the morning after her wedding. This woman was thin to the point of emaciated, her face wan, and eyes red with recent and repeated tears.

“Oh, Saidh!” Fenella lunged off the bed and threw her arms around her in a hard, hungry hug of desperation. “Oh, thank God. A friendly face. I have missed ye so. What am I to do? Me husband is dead. I loved Allen so. I thought surely this time I would be allowed to live happily with him. How could he go and die on me like that? I am being punished, am I no’? God is punishing me fer Kennedy. I—”

Saidh silenced her cousin by covering her mouth. Her gaze moved warily to the door as she replayed Fenella’s words in her mind and wondered how much she’d given away . . . and who might have heard.

BOOK: The Highlander Takes a Bride
9.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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