Excerpt © 2009 Lucy Monroe
. . .
Talorc stood before the English
priest in the small chapel. The
MacDonald warriors and most of the English baron’s soldiers had to
remain outside. His own
warriors, the MacDonald and five of his men, his bride’s family and a
few English soldiers were the only witnesses for the wedding to come.
There were no flowers, no pomp and
ceremony for this royally dictated marriage.
That should not have bothered him, but the soft-spoken woman he had
met the night before seemed to deserve more.
Even if she was English. She
had been so vulnerable, and yet when he had demanded to know if she
planned to marry him, she had taken her time replying.
She had weighed him.
He could feel her doing it, and she hadn’t been adding up the
size of his lands in her head. She’d
been judging him personally and something inside him had refused to be
She was nothing like Emily, which
was both good and bad. He did
not relish the prospect of being likened to a goat by another
Englishwoman, but he had no desire to see Abigail Hamilton eaten up and
spit out by his clan. Emily
had come to the Highlands to protect this very sister from such a fate.
He could not help believing her fears had been justified.
Abigail spoke in whispers, seemed
oblivious to her beauty and had a nervous habit of holding her hand over
her throat when she talked. As
if she was preventing the wrong words from coming out.
His wolf felt protective toward her like he had no other besides
family. Since the only one
left, his younger sister Caitriona, was now mated to the Balmoral’s
second-in-command, it had been a long time since Talorc had felt those
instincts stir so restlessly.
He wanted to believe it was only
because the woman was slated to be his wife, but his wolf had shown no
such concern for her sister when King David had originally instructed
Talorc to marry Emily. The
wolf had wanted to howl at the evidence of bruising on Abigail’s pale
And then hunt.
Talorc spent his time waiting for
his bride’s arrival glaring at the woman’s mother and forcing down the
wolf’s threatening growls.
Lady Hamilton had that same
greedy, unreasonable look to her that his stepmother Tamara had had.
As if she expected the world to do her bidding and woe betide
anyone who refused. At first,
the bitch had attempted a smile, but Talorc merely warned her with his
eyes how close to death she had come by mistreating the woman that was
The fact he had not wanted an
English bride made no difference. The
kings had dictated that Abigail was to be his and no one dared to mistreat
a Sinclair. He was still
tempted to kill Lady Hamilton, despite his bride’s pleas to the
contrary. His wolf clamored
for retribution, if not death.
Eventually, the English lady
began to squirm under his hostile regard.
She had no place in Abigail’s life and he meant her to know it.
Niall cleared his throat, but
Talorc did not need the prompting. He
had picked up Abigail’s scent the moment she entered the chapel.
Fragrant herbs, known to heal, mixed with her own unique perfume
creating a heady fragrance that called to his beast.
It was all Talorc could do not to turn to watch his bride walk up
It would not do to show such
interest though. The English
baron might take it as a courtesy. Not
that his wolf seemed to care that Abigail herself was English.
The beast never took notice of women, but he certainly noticed
And wanted her.
With a ferocity that forced Talorc
to keep strict control of the semi-stiff member under his kilt.
The wolf fought to get out and
make itself known to the woman about to marry the man.
Talorc had to concentrate harder than he ever had on keeping his
wolf inside while he waited for Abigail to make her silent trek up the
aisle on the arm of the baron.
Finally, he turned, if only to
appease the wolf.
Abigail was not smiling, but she
did not hesitate in her slow procession toward him.
She looked scared, but determined and he respected that.
It was easy to face battle without
fear, much harder to face it with uncertainty of the outcome.
Eyes the color of rich earth reflected fear, but not terror.
That was something. He
should not care, but he did not like the idea that marriage to him would
terrify her. It was natural
for her to be somewhat worried about her future.
She was leaving England for the
Highlands. Her life would
never be the same.
Nor would his, a low voice inside
him insisted. One that sounded
suspiciously like his wolf.
Her long ringlets, the color of
pure, sweet honey swayed just above her hips with each step she took.
Talorc experienced an unfamiliar desire, nay need,
to reach out and run his fingers through the silky strands.
He bit back a curse.
Where had that thought come from?
He had never wanted to touch Emily.
Or any other woman. Not
since the years during which his body had transitioned from boy to man.
His sexual urges had run rampant then, but he had not acted on
He had not been ready for a wife
and had not found a mate. He
would never dishonor his family by not following through on the promises
of the flesh either.
Unlike the Balmoral, the Chrechte
among the Sinclairs believed sex a binding act.
The Balmoral held more lax standards so their warriors could gain
control of their ability to shift at will at a younger age.
Luckily for Talorc, his father had
had the good sense to mate a white wolf who passed that ability at birth
on to their children.
That control over the beast within
him had never been truly tested until now.
The wolf wanted Talorc to claim
Abigail in the way of his people, but he had no intention of doing that in
front of a chapel full of people. Nor
did he intend to mate her on anyone’s land but his own.
It was bloody frustrating, but for
an Englishwoman, Abigail was beautiful and all too alluring.
She had perfect bow-shaped lips in a feminine, oval face.
Her nose was small and straight and her brown eyes were big and
expressive. She’d tried to
hide her body’s allure in the English clothes she had donned that
She wore her father’s colors for
the last time. The female
tunic over the long dress covered every inch of her skin from her neck to
her dainty feet. At least she
wasn’t wearing the awful cowl-thing her mother had donned.
He thought the English women called them wimples.
Tamara had insisted on wearing one with the Sinclair, constantly
reminding the clan she would not relinquish her English ways.
If Abigail thought to dress so,
she would soon learn her mistake.
He would not allow it.
A question came over her lovely
features and the baron blanched beside her.
Talorc realized he was scowling.
He smoothed his features into expressionless repose and put his
hand out to take her from her stepfather.
The priest cleared his throat.
“We are not yet to that part of the ceremony, my lord.”
Since the man spoke English,
Talorc chose to ignore him.
He lifted a brow to his bride,
asking why she had not complied with his request.
In a move that surprised him and
clearly Sir Reuben as well, she dropped her stepfather’s arm, stepped
around him and took Talorc’s hand.
He nodded, grasping her hand
firmly and turned to face the priest.
The man looked flustered and took
several moments to collect himself before beginning the service.
In Gaelic after only one false start.
Talorc spoke the vows of his
people in Chrechte when the time came, ignoring the murmurs around him.
When his bride’s turn came, he moved her so the saw only each
other, not the rest of the congregation gathered as witnesses.
He told her the vows to speak, speaking slowly so she would not
stumble on the unfamiliar words.
Her expression puzzled, but
accepting, she whispered them back to him, making lifetime promises he was
determined she would keep.
Her mother had a fit then,
demanding their vows be repeated in English.
Talorc ignored her until the priest intervened.
“I have married her in the way
of my people,” Talorc said in Gaelic.
The priest nodded.
However, when he told Lady Hamilton in English what Talorc had
said, the older woman refused to be appeased.
Talorc did not care.
The vicious bitch’s opinion was of no importance to him.
Bored with the argument and unwilling to stay in the company of the
English any longer, he swung his new wife into his arms and carried her
out of the chapel.
Abigail’s arms flew around his
neck, but she did not fight him. Nor
did she make so much as a peep in surprise.
He looked down at her only to find her gazing at him with an
expression bordering on panic in her dark brown eyes.
“You are mine now.”
“You have no need to worry.”
“Was the wedding over?
The priest did not say the final blessing?”
“We spoke the blessing ourselves
as befits my people.”
“I did not think the Scottish
were so different from the English.”
“I am from the North.
We have not taken on your civilized
“A priest’s blessing is
“It is unnecessary.
He spoke the words that made us man and wife and we said our
He should have been glad she gave
up so easily, but again he worried about her spirit when faced with the
people of his clan. They were
not cruel usually, but they respected strength and abhorred weakness.
Sir Reuben shouted something
behind them, but Talorc ignored the baron just as he had the man’s wife.
His warriors had followed him out
of the chapel and were already mounting their horses, clearly as eager as
he to get out of the Lowlands. He
went straight to his horse, but when he went to toss Abigail on its back,
she squirmed from his arms faster than he would have thought possible for
He grabbed her arm before she
could dart to the cottage.
She frowned up at him.
“I need my things.”
She shook her head and twisted
from his grasp with shocking agility.
He went to grab her again, but she
backed up. “Please.
I have gifts for Emily.”
“She needs nothing from
“Thank you for your opinion on
the matter, but I must disagree.” She
spun and headed toward the cottage.
She had disobeyed him.
The shock kept him from going after her at first.
“What is she doing?” Niall
“Getting her gifts for her
“The Balmoral will not like his
wife receiving tokens from our enemy’s land.”
‘Tis why I have chosen to allow Abigail to get the things.”
“His wife will be grateful.”
“’Tis another reason to allow
Abigail leeway in this.”
The Balmoral might now be his
ally, but Talorc did enjoy needling the man.
Just when Talorc was considering
the possibility Abigail had taken refuge in the cottage rather than merely
gathering her belongings, she came out.
She was carrying one large and two small bundles.
“You’ll not wear English clothes as my wife.”
“I left all but what I wear now
behind,” she said, showing more sense than he thought one born a
Sassenach might have. “These
are the gifts, my sewing and other personal things, and herbs for
The English baron and his wife had
come out of the chapel and had spent the last few moments haranguing the
priest. But even a holy man
knew better than to question the will of the Sinclair.
He had refused to demand further concession on the wedding vows.
So, now they were shouting at
Talorc, demanding to be heard.
Talorc derived marginal pleasure
from ignoring them. He looked
at the MacDonald. “Do you
have a woman who can help my wife don my colors?”
The laird of the lowland clan
nodded. “Aye, indeed.”
He waved his wife over and told
her what Talorc wanted. The
redheaded woman gave Talorc and approving nod before going to Abigail and
guiding her back into the cottage, after handing her bundles to Talorc’s
The English baron had given up on
the wedding and was now demanding Talorc share the nooning meal with them
like a civilized man. As if
Talorc desired to be such. Idiots.
“Surely you wish to partake of
the game you hunted yesterday for just this occasion.”
He had hunted to avoid spending
more time than necessary with the English.
He had given his game to the MacDonald as thanks for the use of the
clan’s holding to host the wedding demanded by their king’s edict.
When the other man did not seem to
know he was supposed to shut up, Talorc turned to the baron with the full
force of his displeasure. “I
am neither civilized, nor am I English.
We leave as soon as my wife is garbed appropriately.”
“There was nothing wrong with
her dress. Her clothes are the
height of fashion.” Lady
Hamilton looked mortally offended.
“Niall, inform this woman who
thinks nothing of beating her daughter into submission how close to death
Niall said the appropriate words
The woman started shrieking at her
husband to take exception to such an insult.
Talorc turned to the baron.
“You allowed her to harm what belongs to me.
You live only because your daughter pled for your life.”
Niall started to translate into
English, but the baron waved the words away.
“I speak your language,” he said in English.
“I was led to believe you speak English as well.”
“Our laird does not allow the
language of traitors to pass his lips,” Niall said with harsh anger.
Instead of getting angry, as
Talorc would have expected, Sir Reuben merely looked thoughtful.
“Your father married Lady Tamara of Oborek.”
“I would not wish such a match
on my worst enemy.”
It was Talorc’s turn to be
shocked, but he did not allow his surprise to show on his face.
“Sybil can be a grasping shrew,
but she would not betray her house,” the baron said in Gaelic.
“That shrew will never see her
“I supposed as much.”
The woman in question was still
complaining, but no one paid her any heed, not even her husband.
She moved from complaint to wheedling, trying to talk Talorc into
staying so Abigail could share a last meal with her family.
Since she continued to utter the
profanity to his ears that was English, he made no attempt to answer.
Or even acknowledge she was speaking.
A few minutes later, Talorc’s
attention was drawn to Abigail coming from the cottage.
She wore a pale yellow blouse
under his plaid. She looked
worried, her lower lip caught between her teeth and her gaze flitting from
one person to another so quickly it was like a butterfly lighting.
He put his hand out again and she
seemed to relax a bit. She
started walking toward him with a faster gate.
Her mother went to grab her arm
rather than let her pass.
Talorc let out a subvocal growl
and the only thing that saved the abusive witch from his wolf was the
MacDonald’s wife slapping the English woman’s hand aside.
“No one touches a laird’s wife
without his permission,” she spit out in heavily accented English.
The glare she gave the Englishwoman indicated she had seen
Abigail’s bruises and either guessed their cause or had asked Abigail
and learned the truth.
“Sybil,” the baron barked.
“Come here, now.”
“You would let him deny me my
final goodbye to my daughter?” Lady Hamilton asked with furiously
“If she touches what is mine,
she dies,” Talorc said in a tone that promised he made no threats, only
“I deny it,” the baron said
furiously. “You reneged your
rights as her mother on too many occasions to count.
She is no longer your daughter.
She is a Sinclair.”
His willingness to marry such a
viper put his wisdom in question, but Talorc thought the Englishman might
actually have some marginal intelligence after all.
“His king promised proof of the
consummation,” the woman shrieked. “How
are we to get that if he leaves with her now?”
“He can send the bloodied sheet
“What if he doesn’t?”
She scooted around her husband and stood in front of Talorc.
“You promised your king. Are
you a man of honor, or not?”
Talorc’s fury burned so bright,
his wolf literally itched under his skin to get out and tear out the
bitch’s throat. “You dare
question my honor?”
He didn’t wait for the baron to
translate Talorc’s words for the stupid woman.
His king had made the
requirement and Talorc had no intention of wasting a messenger on sending
bloodied sheets to the grasping Englishwoman.
He marched forward, grabbed his
bride and dragged her to the cottage.
He went inside and slammed the door so hard the walls rattled. No portion of this excerpt may be copied or
published anywhere other than author’s website without author and
publisher written permission.
No portion of this excerpt may be copied or published anywhere other than author’s website without author and publisher written permission.