Warrior of the highlands, p.7
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       Warrior of the Highlands, p.7

         Part #3 of Highlands series by Veronica Wolff  
Page 7


  Her skin was smooth and unlined, creamy next to what seemed a coarse halo of jet-black hair. “Nay,” he said. “Not sister. Niece, then. ”

  “A bheil Gaidhlig agad?” she asked haltingly. Her grammar was stilted, overly familiar.

  “Aye, I speak Gaelic,” he replied in English. “And what else?” He pushed her chin roughly from his hand. “But apparently you've strange notions of the Gaedhealg tongue. ”

  He spared a glance to the men passed out by the fire, then MacColla squinted, studying her. “Where is it you're from?”

  She leaned toward him, peering through the shadows. “You!” Terror lit her features like a torch. “You were in that… that painting. Who the hell are you?” She looked around frantically. “Where the hell'd you take me?”

  Was she cursing him to the devil? Did this wee Campbell lass dare damn him? MacColla glared at her, trying to make sense of her strange accent. She seemed to be speaking English, but none like he'd ever heard. Her words were like the sharp claps of a barking dog. “Speak slow when you curse me. ”

  He approached her. He saw spirit in those wide gray eyes, and he was compelled to look closer.

  She shuffled back, arms askew as if to brace herself on thin air. The lass was shouting at him now, unintelligible words.

  MacColla took her in once again, from head to foot. She was a well -proportioned one, of modest height and with just enough meat on her bones. If Campbell had a mind for kidnap, two could play at his game. If only he could understand her clamoring.

  “Air do shocairl” he commanded, speaking over her. “Och… slowly now. I'd hear your curses… ” He studied the movement of her mouth, trying to understand her words. Her lips were full and dark against the pale glow of her cheeks in the moonlight. He'd taste this Campbell woman, he decided suddenly. “Before I wipe them from your mouth. ”

  He grabbed her, wrapping his hand easily around her upper arm. Though he'd pillaged in his day, MacColla was never one for rape. But a kiss? One kiss would be no crime.

  The woman once again flexed her arm in his grip and he smiled outright. The feel of her solid flesh in his hand madehis heart kick. Many a lass had offered themselves for a kiss by the great hero MacColla. But none such as this. This one had muscle to spare. Interesting.

  Curse it, but he wanted a bloody Campbell.

  He leaned down, closing the distance between them. The woman froze, like a hare paralyzed by the sight of the hunter's bow. A low laugh rumbled in his throat, so eager was he to taste her. His free hand clutched the soft flesh of her rump, pulling her toward him.

  MacColla kissed her. He'd wanted at first to be rough, but she was soft. So soft and sweet, his mouth gentled in the tasting of her. And, for a single moment, he imagined the lass kissed him back, her breath sighing into him, her mouth opening just enough for him to taste her, fresh and warm on his tongue. And then, with a tiny growl, she caught his lower lip hard between her teeth and bit.

  MacColla pulled away. She glared at him, bored her teeth, and exhaled with the measured breath of a prowling wolf.

  He studied the wee Campbell hellcat before him, and then strangely, inexplicably, he found himself laughing. These long years of exile, his father's imprisonment, his sister's capture - all a pall of waiting and dread that had clouded his vision for so long now. It was as if the veil had suddenly burnt to ash kindling MacColla to life. A deep, freeing laughexploded from low in his belly.

  One of the men by the fire stirred.

  He looked to his sister and the terror and confusion in her eyes made him remember himself. Clearing his throat, he nodded to Jean as if she'd communicated more than simply her silent, charged glare. “Aye,” he whispered. “We must go from here. ”

  He looked back down at the woman. “A bonny Campbell for my spoils,” he said, licking the blood from his lower lip. It left a taste like rust on his tongue. He smiled wide at the lass then, knowing full well that the blood reddened his teeth.

  He didn't need a man to help him lower the castle stairs after all, MacColla thought as he guided her to the entryway. He was of a mind to make the wee Campbell assist instead.

  Snagging his hand in her hair, he cupped her head and guided her toward Jean. Despite the violence of the gesture, he tried not to hurt her - the ravaging of women was an ignoble sport. Though he'd half a mind to scare her into docility. He imagined he might need such tactics if he were to manage such a fiery soul as this one.

  His aim was to use her for barter. The next time one of

  MacColla's Royalists found himself in a Campbell cell, this lass would be good to have at hand. Family members were the most effective bargaining chips.

  He scowled. It was a lesson Campbell himself had taught, with MacColla's own father and brother as the example. He had handed over any number of his enemy Covenanters, all in hopes of trading for their lives. And if he'd had someone closer to Campbell's heart with which to barter? Perhaps he could've spared his father and brother so many long years imprisoned.

  * * *

  What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck… The thought pinged through her mind like a loosed pinball.

  Big man, black hair, those brows. And what the fuck was with her reaction to him? The first sight of him had sent an involuntary shiver through her. He'd kissed her, and her body had sent up a quick flare, pure animal reaction to the sheer size of him.

  Haley shook her head to get rid of the memory. She'd get ahold of herself.

  He was clearly the man from that hideous thing she'd found in the storeroom. Blood pounded in her fingertips, throbbing with the memory of that wooden panel, now gone from her hands.

  Stark terror stole the breath from her lungs and the gush of adrenalin through her system dizzied her. Haley forced air into her paralyzed body. Not a victim again. Not this time.

  She summoned her brothers' voices in her head. Their goading and their challenging. She heard them speak to her, girding her. Man up, Hale.

  “Get the fuck off me. ” She tried to flinch her head from his grasp. His hand was mercifully gentle at the nape of her neck, though no less firm. The bastard just chuckled.

  Who the hell was he? And what was with the Gaelic? Was he in her department at school? He'd surely been stalking her, but she'd never seen him before. How had he gotten into the museum?

  Oh God. Sarah. Her panic turned to dread, a cold wash sweeping up from her belly. Was Sarah okay? If anything had happened to her, it was all Haley's fault.

  “Where's Sarah? What did you do with Sarah?” She planted her feet hard, making him stumble slightly. He stared at her a moment and hatred surged through her. “Don't you speak English?”

  “Aye, I've the English. ” He grasped her chin, pulling her face toward his. “Who's Sarah? Is it you've a sister hiding about as well?” The man looked around, glanced at his companion, and Haley registered the other woman for the first time.

  Haley couldn't move her head much in his grip, but rolled her eyes as far as she could to study the woman. She seemed to be in league with the man. What kind of scene is this? She was slender and pretty, but Haley was gratified to see the girl also appeared to be a total wreck, her breath hiccupping, tears streaming down her cheeks.

  “Who are you people?” she snarled, struggling in vain.

  He ignored her. focusing only on his companion. “Easy, Jean,” he told the woman in Gaelic. Then Haley thought he said. “We'll put down the stairs and be gone from here. ”

  Stairs? Haley glared at them, trying to make sense of it.

  “Where are you taking me?”

  “Alasdair. ” the other woman finally spoke, her voice a tremulous whisper. “The lass isn't right. She gives me the evil eye, even now. ”

  The girl had meant not right in the head. Haley squinted hard at her. If there was any such thing as an evil eye, she'd summon it now for this simpering thing.

  The man barked out a laugh, which seemed to distress his companion all the more. The girl seemed to yield before him, ceding all control. It annoyed Haley, made her want to stand up to him.

  “Please. ” The girl spoke again, addressing only Alasdair.

  “Please just take me from this place. ”

  His eyes softened when he looked at his companion, his fearsome mask melting into something kinder. A single-minded concern warmed his features, eased his full mouth.

  Haley realized, startled, that he was… handsome.

  And so completely focused on the girl's well-being. She felt a rush of inexplicable jealousy and glowered at her with renewed zeal, even as she thought how silly her impulse was.

  She didn't need a man to look out for her. Haley was perfectly capable of looking out for her own damn self.

  The girl's eyes widened. “Leave the lass be,” she whispered. “She… She's…” Apprehension and sympathy both animated her features. “She's not right, Alasdair. ”

  Haley could deal with apprehension. It was the girl's sympathy that pushed her over the edge. She tried to wriggle free from the man's grasp, hissing at his companion as she did so.

  “Och, enough. ” He pushed Haley forward once more, toward what looked like a hole in the wall leading straight into blackness. “We must go, and now. ”

  She wracked her brain to make sense of it. He must've knocked her out, but where had he taken her? It was like a castle. Had the freak taken her to some crazy McMansion outside Boston?

  She looked around as much as her immobilized head would allow, expecting to see mounted animal heads and gaudy wrought iron fixtures. But the large room was mostly barren. There was just a crude dining table and a few men passed out by the fireplace.

  She considered calling to them for help, but her eyes adjusted and she thought better of it. The dying fire highlighted the ragged halos of their matted hair, sticking out from soiled plaid blankets.

  How had he gotten her there? She did a quick internal check. Nothing was sore, so he couldn't have knocked her out. He must've used chloroform or something. He'd surely had to drive far out of the city to have found this place.
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