Highlander’s Cursed Touch (Preview)
Chapter One: When Fate Draws Nigh
Camden Haggan felt a dark stirring in his bones, though the summer air was sweet as wine.
Standing on the stone balcony of his chambers, he stared down at the slumbering castle below, greeted only by dark windows and an inescapable silence that echoed down the stone walls of Strome Castle.
Five years ago to the day, Camden watched helplessly from this very spot as his eldest brother was rushed in through the main gate at sunset. Dougal had suffered a broken back after a disastrous fall from atop his horse.
Young, strong, honorable Dougal, struck down at twenty-four, only five years after he was raised to the title of Laird Haggan. Back then, he was full of fire and courage, determined to shake off the ghosts of their family’s past and outlast the grim odds.
Camden could still remember how pale Dougal’s face was on the night he died, propped up on his silk-lined bedding, unable to feel any part of his body past his hips.
The sound of his maid’s voice stirred Camden from his thoughts. She stood in the doorway, her young face pale as milk. Hours ago, she had left Camden’s chambers, and he had promised to get some sleep, but sleep evaded him. Above them, Evan lay in the same bed where Dougal spent his last mortal moments as Laird of Strome Castle and Clan Haggan.
“Sorcha, what is it?”
Camden had known Sorcha since her birth, and never had he seen her look so frightened. It was as if she was afraid even to speak.
Sorcha looked like she had seen a ghost on her way to his chambers. She stammered in response to his question but did not speak. The brass candle holder in her grasp shook as she trembled. She blinked once, twice, three times without speaking. Camden felt frustration well up inside of him.
“Speak up, lass. What is it?” he said, immediately feeling a surge of guilt as frustration filled his voice.
“Yer brother requests an audience, sir,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper – even so, her words struck cold fear into Camden’s heart.
Evan had gone to bed shortly after dinner, announcing he would sleep like a babe and wake the following day fully rested. The entire hall had laughed, but once he was gone, Camden heard many restless murmurs follow his retreat.
“What is it? What does he require at this hour?”
Though he was trying his best, Camden could hear the trepidation in his words as he held Sorcha’s gaze. She shook her head, her eyes darting from Camden’s face to the night sky outside. She shrugged her shoulders. Sorcha had grown up alongside them, and her father had served as the castle gardener since he was a boy. She was not one to mince words, never had been. Camden was sure she was hiding something from him.
“Laird Haggan said I cannae tell ye more, sir. Ye must come at once.”
Camden’s stomach dropped. It was not like Evan to be secretive or coy. Camden reached for a velvet-lined robe and threw it on over his nightclothes. He struggled to pull boots over his woolen stockings and ran a hand through his hair, trying to tame it as best he could.
He did not know what would face him in Evan’s chambers, but something dark stirred inside him, his soul preparing for some horror to come. Camden shook his head, he had to stop indulging in such mad thoughts, or he would surely succumb to insanity.
He brushed past Sorcha, moving into the hall. The stone walls were lined with torches, and two guards were stationed at the end of the corridor, as they always were. Camden turned right and hurried towards the staircase that led up to Evan’s chambers. Since he was a boy, he had taken these stairs when his father was Laird of Strome Castle.
Now Evan was laird. Unlike their father, Dougal and Evan had never married nor sired children. As such, Camden was next in line for the Lairdship, but he wanted nothing more than for Evan to live a long life and have many sons to take his place.
As he neared Evan’s chamber door, Camden felt a fissure of dread spread through him. His hand hesitated on the doorknob, and he was trembling almost as badly as Sorcha had been.
Camden took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Surely there was a reasonable explanation for all of this. Whatever shadows flitted through his mind, he could not let them control his thoughts. Camden shook all the grim musings from his mind and entered his brother’s rooms, smiling broadly as he did so.
“It is late, brother. What would ye have of me?”
The scene that greeted Camden made his heart sink with woe. The brother who had left the dining hall earlier tonight was long gone. Lying in his place was a sickly man, pale and wan, his eyes sunken and his gaze one of fevered hysteria. Camden let out a sharp breath as shock washed over him. Standing over Evan’s bed was his physician, the castle priest, and a robed man that Camden recognized. He was an apothecary from Ardaneaskan to the west.
Evan’s voice was even quieter than Sorcha’s, and the desperation in it drove Camden to his brother’s bedside. He shook as he reached for Evan, a man of twenty-six years who had always been the healthiest of them all. It seemed that in a matter of hours, Camden’s strong, able-bodied brother had worn away to a ghost of his former self. Confusion and fear swelled inside him. He whipped his head from side to side, arms upturned, watching the faces that loomed above Evan’s prostate body.
The man who had long looked after his brother’s health stared helplessly at Camden, his own eyes welling with tears. Evan’s physician had been trained in Padua and Edinburgh, but it seemed that all his teaching had come to naught, here in the Highlands where Evan Haggan lay dying before them.
“What has happened to him? What is wrong with him?” Camden demanded of the healer, his voice angry. “What is to be done?”
“I dinnae ken, my laird.”
He wanted to scream. The physician seemed to recognize Camden’s fury and his face turned red as hot coals. If Evan died, Camden would indeed be named the new Laird of Strome Castle, but he would not die, could not.
“Has he been poisoned? What could have done this to him so quickly?
Beside Evan’s physician, Father Manus was murmuring, his hands steeped as he swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet. Latin poured from his lips, but he did not respond to Camden’s questions. The village apothecary shrugged; he did not weep nor look shocked like the other two. Camden wanted to throttle him, but he clutched at Evan’s bedding instead.
“It could be poison, but he does not bleed nor void his bowels, nor vomit, nor struggle to breathe.” The apothecary threw his hands up in a gesture of defeat. “A poison so fast-acting would have killed him by now….”
The old man’s voice trailed off. He did not know what had rendered Camden’s otherwise healthy brother so forlorn and helpless. Though he was sweating, his skin was cold and dry. All the color seemed to have drained from his skin, and even his eyes seemed to have faded from blue to grey. His breath came in wheezing gasps, and his hands were clenched tightly at his sides.
“Are ye in pain, Evan?” Camden clutched one of his older brother’s hands. “Can ye hear me?”
Evan nodded, but it looked as if the gesture took every ounce of strength he had.
“Camden, my brother,” Evan said, his voice was hollow, so quiet that Camden had to lean down to hear him. “The ring.”
Camden shook his head back and forth violently, but Evan reached for his face. Evan stroked Camden’s face and then closed his eyes. A single tear rolled down the laird’s cheek. After a moment, Evan let out a brittle laugh, shaking his head from side to side.
“Camden, ye must. Ye ken that ye must.”
Camden found himself looking down at his brother’s outstretched hand on the finger where the Laird’s ring was placed. It was a silver band, studded all along with gold, and in the center rested a giant opal. As a boy, Camden’s father had often told them the tale of that fated ring, which the first Laird Haggan had pried from the cold, dead hand of a Viking raider.
Ever since tradition held that the Laird of clan Haggan must possess the ring and pass it on to his successor upon death. Anyone might challenge the reigning Laird for his ring and the right to rule, but there had been no challengers for the Lairdship for years.
“I cannae Evan. Ye must live. What ails ye? What can be done to save ye?”
Evan sighed and leaned back on his pillow, closing his eyes for a moment. As his chest struggled to rise and fall, Camden was surprised to see a weary smile cross his features.
Only hours ago, Camden had watched his brother retire for a good night’s rest. Now he watched as the life drained from him. Camden held back a scream of frustration.
“It is the curse,” Evan said with a breathless voice.
The curse. Camden wanted to laugh at his brother’s response because he could think of nothing to say in return. The curse of clan Haggan, the curse of the Viking’s ring, the never-ending sorrow that their family could not seem to escape.
“Don’t ye begin to spout that nonsense now after all these years?”
Evan had always brushed away any talk of a curse as nothing more than silly gossip. He had never held with ideas of any curse, even when they were small boys, and Camden had quaked in fear at the thought of some dark stain on their bloodline.
In decades past, vicious Viking warriors savaged their lands, and though their ancestors drove them back into the sea, the pagan savages had plenty of time to sow the seeds of their dark faith throughout the land.
A younger Camden had often pondered what kind of dark magics they might have used to grant them power in battle and how those dark magics could have infected the roots and branches of the Haggan family tree.
“Look at me, Camden.” Evan’s eyes beseeched his, full of mournful sorrow. “I will die tonight, as Dougal died five years ago to make me Laird.”
Evan sighed and struggled to sit up, but he could not muster the strength.
“No, Evan, ye cannae say such things. Ye must rest.”
“How else can ye explain it, brother?” it seemed to take all his strength to speak. “When Dougal died, I told myself that death would not find me, that my reign would be different. But I cannae escape my destiny Camden, and neither can ye.”
Evan reached for his hand, grasping for his ring with a weak grip, the grip of an old man. Though he resisted with every part of himself, Camden reached down to aid him, sliding the ring from his brother’s finger. He put it in Evan’s palm and watched as the Laird of clan Haggan clutched it tightly.
“I have not taken a wife, nor sired a child.” a tear spilled down Evan’s cheek. “I think a part of me knew that I would leave them bereft one day. Ye mustn’t follow my example, brother.”
Though his hands trembled violently, Evan reached for Camden’s, using all his strength to slide the ring onto his finger. Camden flinched, but when it was done, Evan fell back against his pillow again, as if he had no strength left, even though the action was small.
“Promise me,” he wheezed, as if he could not get enough air into his lungs. “Promise me that ye’ll wed and produce an heir. Ye can waste no time. When I am gone, yer days will be numbered.”
The words made Camden’s heartbeat wildly in his chest. This was the thought he could not run from, the fragment of madness that could cut him to ribbons if he held it close. If the curse was real, if this dark cloud over their line existed, that meant his own time would come too, five years from this night.
“If ye dinnae have a son before ye die, think of what will happen to our clan, to our people. Ye cannae shirk yer duty as I did, as Dougal did. Wed, and bear children. Promise me, Camden!”
The words left his mouth before he could stop them, but he wanted nothing more than to deny Evan’s request. How could he think of duty at this time? To admit this curse held them fast, to know that his children might suffer the same grim fates. What honor was there in this vow? What sanity or sense? He could see none.
“Evan, please, ye must recover. Save yer strength. Yer my only family, yer all that I have left.”
Evan smiled again and stroked his younger brother’s face.
“I am so sorry, Camden. I always meant to be a good brother to ye.”
Camden let out a strangled cry of grief.
“No, Evan, ye have been the best of brothers to me. I love ye dearly.”
He leaned down to embrace his brother and laird, the last of his family left in the world.
“Forgive me, Camden. Forgive me.”
Evan began to struggle for breath, and Father Manus rushed forward to perform the last rites, pushing Camden gently to the side. Camden stumbled back, unable to believe what he saw.
He watched as Evan drew his last breath. He watched as the priest traced the sign of the cross over his forehead, closing his eyes to the world. The Laird of Strome Castle was dead.
Camden felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Evan’s general, Rory Frazer, standing before him, his eyes searching the face of his new chief and laird. Camden stared down in shock at the ring around his finger. He was Laird Haggan now and would be until the day he died. Would that day come in exactly five years? His brother’s warning repeated over and over inside his head: his days were now numbered.
Camden thought of the promise he made to Evan before he drew his last breath – to wed and to sire an heir. There had been witnesses to this promise. They knew the duty he had sworn to fulfill. Still, what kind of heartless man would he be to find a woman, wed her, and get her with child, knowing that in five years, he too would fade from this earth one way or another? Another tragic victim of the Haggan curse, a curse he would then pass on to their children.
All these thoughts pressed down on him as the room began to fill with more of their clan. Within the hour, the entire castle would know the news that there was a new laird and Evan was dead. They would surely whisper of the curse, the ring he wore, and what it would cost him.
Camden felt as if the walls were closing in on him, and all the voices began to meld into one around him, morphing into a high-pitched whine. His vision began to blur, and suddenly he felt as if his skin was on fire. Without thinking, he bolted, running from the room unaware of the shocked gasps and whispers as he retreated from his brother’s chambers.
Tears streamed down his face as he ran, and he brushed them violently away. He had to get out of there, though he could barely see as he rushed down pitch-black corridors. He could find his way around it even if he went blind. When he emerged into the summer night, he took a deep breath of the warm air and let out a shaking sob. Evan was gone. Evan was dead. He was cursed, and he was alone.
Camden rushed towards the stables, unsure of where he would go, only knowing he must get away. When they were young, Evan and Camden had often snuck off for late-night horse rides, racing each other by moonlight, their childlike laughter filling the night air. Now they would never ride together again. He would never again hear Evan’s joyful laughter nor watch him pull ahead and race into the darkness like some fanciful specter.
Camden went straight for his horse in despair, saddling him by the dim torchlight and leading him through the doors. Evan’s horse neighed in response when they retreated as if he was angry at being left behind.
Fresh grief welled up inside Camden, and he mounted his steed as soon as he was in the courtyard, heading straight for the gates.
“Sir, what are ye doing on horseback this late?” one of the guards called down. “Can I help ye with something?”
Camden wondered if they had heard the news yet. The guard had not named him laird, so he suspected they did not. They would learn the truth soon enough.
“Let me pass! I command it!”
The guard did not respond, but seconds later, Camden heard him calling his fellow guardsmen, and a moment later the gates began to creak open.
Camden wasted no time, spurring his horse on as soon as there was room for him to pass, riding fast into the darkness, unsure of his destination, desperate to leave his cursed life behind him, if only for a night.
Chapter Two: Fleeing the Face of Death
Bonnie had been up since well before dawn, and though she was bone-tired, she had stayed long past sundown at her stall in the town square.
She wanted nothing more than to hurry home and fall into her bed, but she was trying her best to scrounge up some more customers before packing up and going home for the night.
A breeze blew by as she was finally closing, and Bonnie looked up to see the Apothecary’s wooden sign blowing in the wind. Though she and her grandmother Muira had never made a fortune from their trade, in the past three years Bonnie had watched helplessly as their customers began to go into the shop rather than stop at her stall.
From what Bonnie knew, he was from Inverness, and had all sorts of fancy glass bottles full of potions and medicines for sale in there, though she’d never gone in to see for herself. According to Muira, he made more money on the side, plying his trade at Strome castle for the Haggan clan.
Bonnie wanted to grab a rock and throw it right through the small glass panel in the middle of the door. She looked down at the ground to search for one but thought better of it.
Apparently, it mattered little that Muira had acted as an apothecary, a midwife, and a surgeon to the villagers here since she was a young woman; the indignity of it burned Bonnie up with anger and frustration.
For years Muira had fed and clothed the two of them from her trade, and in turn, she taught Bonnie how to recognize, harvest, and make her own remedies. Muira was too old to make the money now and Bonnie was trying her best to fill her shoes.
The apothecary’s arrival hadn’t helped in the slightest. Then to add insult to injury, Muira had grown gravely ill last winter. Though the elderly woman did eventually recover, she had never regained her full strength and vitality.
Bonnie took a deep breath of the warm night air and thought of how Muira was still sickly, suffering off and on from fevers, coughs, and painful, weeping sores.
The familiar voice of Eara, another elderly woman who lived in the village, startled her out of her reverie. As a young woman, she was well known for her awe-inspiring tapestries, but Eara had given up her loom in exchange for sewing needles in her old age.
Now she sold dresses, tunics, bedclothes, and christening gowns in her own stall, and did well enough to live comfortably. From time to time, Eara took on mending for the village’s unmarried men and widowers, those who had no womenfolk to darn their socks or fix the tears in their breeches.
“Good evening to ye Eara. Tis late. What are ye doing out here?”
“I could ask ye the same thing, lass. The sun has long set, and ye have a much longer walk home than I.”
Eara lived just beyond the town smithy, only a bit up the lane. Muira and Bonnie lived in a small cottage towards the edge of the village, near the tree line of Reraig forest.
“I thought to see if I could make a few more coins today. Alas.”
She tried to smile, but Bonnie was crushed that she had not sold so much as one extra herbal remedy today. They ran low on food and firewood, and Muira needed plenty of both to help her heal. Bonnie hated seeing her in such pain while her strength faded away. She wanted nothing more than to take her to the barber and find some comfort for the woman who had long been her guardian and her only family.
“Ah, poor child. How fares Muira?”
Muira and Eara had long been friends, though Eara was considered a respectable member of the community while Muira had been a target for scorn since she was a young woman. That never stopped Eara from showing her loyalty and admiration for Muira, no matter what the denizens of Ardaneaskan thought of her.
“She fares better and better every day.”
That was a lie, but Bonnie wanted it to be true more than anything in the world. She had never known a life without Muira, and if she did not get better, then the lass did not know what she would do. Though she often thought wistfully of the parents, she didn’t remember. Bonnie knew the grief of losing Muira would not be some distant hurt. It would shake her to the core. She let out a silent plea to God that her words would prove true, that some miracle would come and save them both from their current plight.
“Praise the Virgin.” Eara looked genuinely pleased. “I wish I could offer ye some coin dear, but I have fared only a bit better than ye today.”
While Muira and Bonnie were destitute, there were not many people in Ardaneaskan who could be considered well off or prosperous. Their small village made most of its money from fishing, and though the village of Lochcarron was about five miles north of them, they had none of the wealth or affluence of their noble neighbors.
Some of Ardaneaskan’s villagers made a living by working at Strome Castle in service of Laird Evan or by providing the clan with whatever goods and services they needed. Bonnie knew little about clan Haggan, other than the wild tales about a dark curse upon their bloodline. She wrote it off as nothing more than superstitious talk, though once she had seen Muira spit when someone mentioned the Haggan curse. The old woman never spoke very much about it, but Bonnie wondered if she didn’t believe the rumors.
As far as Bonnie was concerned, the Laird of Strome castle might as well have been the King of Scotland, for she would never meet him. She had too much to fret over for her to be concerned about his affairs or which curses his family might be afflicted with.
“Thank ye, Eara, but I’ll be just fine. Sleep well. I shall see ye on the morrow.”
She waved and watched as Eara turned and headed home, disappearing into the shadows as she passed under a burning torch and left the square. Bonnie sighed and pulled her satchel over her shoulder, turning and heading home.
When the clouds parted, the moon and stars shone brightly above. So brightly that Bonnie could still see her way as she walked from the center of town towards home. She saw the trees waving in the night breeze beyond, and heard owls calling to each other in the darkness.
Loch Carron was too far off, but she could hear the familiar sound of waves lapping the shore in the distance. Though many a lass might have been frightened to make the trip alone at night, Bonnie found it peaceful. For the most part, Ardaneaskan was a tranquil village. Though the town had encountered problems with outlaws and brigands roaming the forest in the past, those incidents were few and far between. She didn’t like to think of them, for she refused to live her life in fear. Besides, Muira’s reputation as an enchantress kept many people from their doorstep, and Bonnie liked it better that way.
Bonnie looked up to see a shadow passing one of the windows when she finally reached the front gate of her house. She smiled and made her way to the door, opening it to find Muira by the hearth, stirring a pot over the fire though her hands were shaking.
“Muira, what are ye doing?”
Bonnie rushed forward and pushed a wooden chair forward for Muira to rest on. The old woman fell into it, letting out a long sigh of fatigue. Bonnie took a deep whiff and was surprised at how delicious their small home smelled. Was that rabbit stew?
“How did ye get yer hands on a rabbit? Muira, I told ye that ye needed to rest-”
Muira held up her hands and let out a laugh. But soon her laugh turned into a cough, clutching a square of linen to her mouth as she struggled to breathe. Bonnie jumped up and made way for the jug of mulled wine on the table. It was spiced with honey, clove, and dandelion.
“Dinnae scold me, lass. Morrigan brought the rabbit to our table. Ye must thank her.”
As if she was summoned, Muira’s little black cat let out a little squeak and dashed past Bonnie’s feet. Bonnie laughed aloud. That little monster was famous for bringing birds and small game to their doorstep once in a while. The villagers liked to whisper that she was Muira’s familiar.
“Well.” Bonnie smiled and sat down in the other chair, pouring them both a cup. “Thank ye for yer kind offering, ye little demon.”
Muira smiled and drank the wine. She leaned back in her chair, staring at the fire as the stew bubbled over the flame. Suddenly Bonnie was ravenous. While she was thankful for Morrigan’s offering, she couldn’t help but feel useless when a cat could do more for Muira than she could.
“Do ye ken what tonight is?”
Muira’s smile was gone, and Bonnie was surprised to see a dark expression on her wrinkled face. Her eyes were clouded over as if she remembered something horrible. Bonnie sipped her cup and set it down, leaning forward.
“No, Muira, what is tonight?”
The older woman shook her head and sighed.
“Tonight, clan Haggan will witness the face of death yet again.”
Bonnie felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and she shivered, though the night air was warm. Hadn’t she just been musing on clan Haggan earlier tonight, on their fabled curse? She shook her head and let out a hollow laugh.
“Ah yes, all those tales of bad luck and misfortune.” Bonnie shrugged. “Just silly stories if ye ask me.”
Smiling, Muira set her cup down on the table, before she sighed as if the feat had taken all her energy to complete.
Bonnie pulled down a pewter bowl and began spooking hot soup into it. When it cooled, she could feed it to Muira if need be, then she would get her to bed.
“That family is marked by fate, by an evil fate. Ye cannae deny their continued suffering.”
Bonnie could and did deny it. Surely their clan had merely faced many tragedies, and this “cursed” history woven by Ardaneaskan townsfolk was simply a twist of the collective imagination. Muira was a brilliant woman, but she had her fair share of superstitious traditions that Bonnie found laughable.
“Well, God bless them. Lord knows we have enough woe of our own here in Ardaneaskan. Maybe they could shoulder some of ours instead?”
Muira clucked, her eyes boring into the side of Bonnie’s face.
“This is not something to jest about, lest the curse falls upon ye for mocking it.”
Muira flinched and picked up a pinch of rosemary. She threw it over her shoulder to ward off such a possibility.
“Ye must eat Muira. We must both go to bed. I have to be up early again in the morning.”
Muira did not protest. She could barely make it through dinner without her eyes beginning to droop, and by the time Bonnie tucked her into bed, she was already snoring loudly.
Bonnie kissed the old woman’s forehead, took the cast iron pot from the hearth, and walked it outside to the barrel full of rainwater near their door. She dunked it inside and cleaned the pot with her hand. Once it was clean, she tipped the barrel over into their potato patch and set it upright to collect the next downpour.
When she stood back up and went to retrieve the pot, Bonnie heard the distinct sound of a man cry out not far in the distance. She immediately darted into the shadows, startled by the closeness of the sound and worried about who it was, and why he made such an inhuman sound.
She peeked around the corner of the house to see what she could uncover about the unexplained noises. She saw a man running down the road, his face full of desperation, his clothes ripped and dirty – he looked as if he was lost.
Bonnie spotted three riders behind him in pursuit, all of them riding like the wind, trying to run down this lone stranger. They were closing in fast, and the man on foot panicked.
Bonnie gasped as she watched him duck behind their home, headed right her way. He did not see her in the shadows, but she could see him closely now. His eyes were wide with fear, and his body was tense like he was prey being stalked by a predator.
Though fear coursed through her whole body like some shadowy current, at that moment, Bonnie made a snap decision. In any other instance, she would never involve herself in this situation. She didn’t know what was going on, but from what it seemed, the strange man had gotten himself into terrible trouble.
For a moment, Bonnie thought about slipping back into the house unseen. She had no place getting tangled up in this man’s trials and tribulations. But the fear in his eyes gave her pause. What would happen to him if Bonnie ignored his plight and left him to his own devices?
Though a voice in her head was screaming at her not to do it, Bonnie felt a sudden intuition that she must do something to help the man before it was too late. She took a deep breath and prepared herself, half-convinced that this was a decision she would live to regret.
Before she could change her mind, Bonnie reached out and grabbed the stranger by his tunic, pulling him close to her. He was startled and almost cried out, but he stopped himself from yelling when he saw her face.
As they stood there, mere inches from each other, Bonnie felt something strange stir within her, and from the look in his eyes, it seemed as if he was distracted by the sight of her as well.
Though he looked disheveled, Bonnie could not help but notice the man was young and handsome, and while his clothes were ripped and torn, they were well made.
“What are ye doing?” the strange man asked.
Bonnie didn’t know how to answer. Surely this was the most foolish thing she’d ever done.
“Shh, they will hear us. Come, come inside.”
Bonnie took the strange man’s hand and pulled him along. They did their best to slip inside the door without making a sound. Once inside, Bonnie turned the bolt on the door and turned to the man, placing a finger over her mouth to indicate they should be silent. Bonnie could hear the hooves of the men on horseback outside.
“Who are they?” she whispered.
He shook his head, running a hand through his hair. Bonnie took a closer look at his bottom lip, torn and bleeding.
“I dinnae ken. They have followed me for miles. I nearly lost them in the village when I tied up my steed, but they found me and followed me here. I cannae say what they intended for me.”
Bonnie’s eyes grew wide. She didn’t know whether to believe the stranger’s explanation, but the fear in his eyes made her feel as if he was telling the truth. She sighed and thought for a moment.
“Come, ye must go to my room and hie, lest they come looking for ye within.”
He stared at her for a moment and then nodded. Bonnie led him towards her room. She lit no candle. Instead, she pointed towards the bed.
“Ye can hide under the-”
She was interrupted by the sound of heavy knocking at the door, as if whoever was outside intended to split the wood in two. Muira let out a startled cry, and Bonnie jumped. She had all but forgotten about the older woman’s presence, caught up as she was in the strange man who now stood inches from her.
Their eyes met again, and though they were both frightened, Bonnie felt that strange feeling return, as if she could not look away.
He hesitated, looking into her eyes.
“I cannae leave ye to face them on yer own!”
Bonnie shook her head, breaking the spell for a moment.
“Ye must. Hurry now. If I dinnae answer, it sounds as if they will break down the door. Now hide, and dinnae make a sound. I’ll tend to these men.”
She wasn’t sure quite how she would do so, but at that moment, Bonnie knew beyond all rational thought that she had to. Whoever this man was, she felt a strange urge to protect him from whatever trouble he’d found beneath the shining stars that bore witness to that fateful summer’s night.
If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here
If you want to be always up to date with my new releases, click and...
Follow me on BookBub