Question: Do you prefer dancing or singing?
Answer: "I enjoy both but if you have ever heard me sing, you’ll thank me to stick with dancing!"
“The Crown and the king will no longer tolerate unrest in the Highlands.” Morton informed them all.
“What are ye planning on doing?” her father demanded. “Killing us all?” He chuckled ominously. “Ye’ll nae be the first nobleman who fails at that task.”
The Abbey was full of amusement, the sound bouncing between the dark stone walls.
“Come here, Mistress,” the earl demanded.
Ailis wanted to refuse, but that felt cowardly. Bhaic was standing up to the man, so she would as well.
“Stay where ye are, Daughter,” her father ordered.
She stood, earning another round of laughter from the MacPhersons.
“Seems ye are as good at teaching yer children respect as ye are at fighting, Robertsons!”
Ailis turned around, her skirts flying up to reveal her ankles. She glared at Bhaic MacPherson.
“I am no more afraid of this lowlander than ye are.” She said in a tone that would have pleased even her stern tutor. Her voice was even and her chin steady without a hint of sharpness, just clear determination.
The grin on his face faded and for just a moment, his expression became one of approval. But she turned and walked toward the earl. She had to fend off the impulse to perform a reverence because it was such an ingrained courtesy. But he would not receive such politeness from her—even if he was a nobleman. There were plenty who would warn her against such prideful ways, but she had been raised in the highlands. Respect was earned. And the Earl had abandoned polite behavior, so she would as well.
“I’ll not be lowering meself before a man who ordered a blade put to me throat.” She spoke evenly once more.
His lips twitched in response. For a moment, he studied her, running his gaze up and down her length. When his eyes locked with hers again, there was a pleased look flickering in them. He was different than the other noblemen she’d met. There was a rough edge to him that struck a warning bell inside her. He was ruthless and unashamed of it. This man had not been raised with servants trailing his heels. He’d dirtied his hands more than once. She was certain of it.
That made him very dangerous.
“Look through those windows, Mistress, and tell me what you see.”
A knot was tightening in her belly, pulling tighter as she turned and looked where he pointed. Beyond the sides of the Abbey, there were more of the earl’s men, set apart by their britches. They held a line of horses steady beneath thick tree branches; more men stood ready with nooses above the animals.
She felt like her throat was closing shut.
“Have you lost your courage lady?” the earl inquired.
“I have nae,” she countered, but her voice cracked, betraying her horror.
“Enough. Let the lass be.” Bhaic stood back up. “If ye want a fight, man, I’ll be happy to give it to ye, since ye’ve gone to so much trouble to get us all here.”
“Like hell!” her father argued. “She’s me daughter and I’ll be the one doing the fighting, since me sons are nae here.”
Ailis gulped down a breath and fought to find her strength before her father lunged across the pews at Bhaic.
And unleashed a blood bath.
“There are a row of horses with nooses dangling above the empty saddles,” Ailis forced out. “Every detail set for an execution.”
The Abbey went silent as her words reached every last man. All hints of teasing dissipated, and more than one man looked at the gunners and began to judge his chances. Better to die trying to live than wait for someone to slap the flank of a horse while you felt the bite of the noose around your neck.
“This feud ends here,” the earl informed them. “None of ye recall the reason it began.”
“I do too.” her father insisted. “It was a MacPherson who murdered me grandfather.”
“Only after he tried to steal the bride of me own grandfather!” Shamus MacPherson argued, pointing at Liam Robertson. “But it was the money he was trying to steal the most.”
“Me kin are nae thieves.” her father roared. “She found yer grandfather’s bed cold and that’s a fact!”
Suddenly the men in the pews didn’t care about the guns trained on them. They were ready to tear each other limb from limb. Over three hundred Highlanders began to surge to their feet, but a blast from one of the rifles sobered them. The scent of the black powder was thick, mixing with the beeswax.
“You will end this feud,” the earl demanded. “Scotland needs unity. England’s virgin queen is earning the wrath of most of the continent with her Protestant ways. If we do not want to find ourselves invaded, we will present a united front to the rest of the world. There will be peace between the MacPhersons and the Robertsons so that we might all be Scots.”
“I suppose if ye hang us all, there might be.” It was Bhaic who spoke up, his voice strong and steady.
“I find meself agreeing with a MacPherson,” her father groused. “May me father forgive me and no rise from his grave to torment me.”
The earl was looking at her. She felt the weight of his gaze, the knot in her belly becoming unbearable.
“Your father’s fate is in your hands, Mistress. I leave the choice to you, since they are still intent on fighting even with the odds clearly against them.”
New from Mary Wine, the queen of sizzling, page-turning Scottish Historical romance
Passion flares between enemies
Two hotheaded Highlanders, the offspring of feuding lairds, are tricked by the King’s Regent into a desperate choice: marry or die. Bhaic MacPherson is more disposed to lead his clan into battle than stay married to the daughter of his enemy. But perhaps the intensity of his feelings has more to do with desire than hostility.
And the Highlands ignite
Ailis Robertson wanted a husband, not a savage—but when her family was faced with a deadly ultimatum, she had no choice. The union of a MacPherson and a Robertson could end three generations of hostilities between the two families, but can bitter rivals truly become lovers?
Acclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of erotic fantasy, romantic suspense, and historical romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in California with her husband and two sons.