Authors: Starla Kaye
The Great Scottish Devil
©2012 by Blushing Books® and Starla Kaye
Copyright © 2012 by Blushing Books® and Starla Kaye
All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Great Scottish Devil
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60968-586-7
Cover Design by Korey Mae Johnson
Cover Art Photo by RomanceNovelCovers.com
This book is intended for
. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults. Nothing in this book should be interpreted as advocating any non-consensual spanking activity or the spanking of minors.
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North Side of Grampian Mountains, Scotland
“Da?” Annabel walked around the wagon to where her father sat on the high seat. At seeing the slump to his shoulders, she grew concerned. “Da!”
He weakly turned his head to look in her direction. His face was ashen; his eyes glazed. “Anna.” Her name came out little more than a whisper.
Panic swelled within her. She dropped the handful of purple heather she’d picked to add to her collection of herbs and medicinals. Her heart raced. “Da, what is wrong? Are you ill?”
His breaths came shallowly and he held his right hand over his heart. “I…I’ve always loved you… my sweet Anna.”
He had the look of death. She’d seen it many times over her nine and ten years. Too many. She was not ready to lose the last of her family,
lose him. She blinked back tears and ignored the twisting nerves in her stomach. “Let me help you down. You…you just need to rest. We’ve been travelling too hard lately.”
His fading eyes closed for a second and then he opened them to seek her out once more. He reached down with his cool, clammy left hand to touch the side of her face. “I’m sorry. So very sorry.”
“For what, Da?” It sickened her to see him so weak, seeming to fight for each breath, each word. He was too young to die, barely forty. “You cannot leave me. Please,” she begged.
“At least I’ve gotten you back to the Highlands. To your home, sweet lass.” His face pinched in pain and he clutched tightly at his chest. “I hope you can…forgive me…and Katherine.”
She reached up to try and pull him down, but he shook his head.
“No, lass. You’re too small. You cannot bear my weight.” He sucked in a breath, his face growing even more ashen. “We had no choice. Loved you, always.”
Tears streamed down her face, she felt so helpless. “Da?” She spoke the word as a question. Why was he sorry? What home? What was there to forgive? What choice?
She dashed at her tears. “I don’t understand.”
For a second he simply looked at her, struggling to draw in yet another breath. Slowly, he turned his head and she watched him raise his face to the skies laden with heavy gray clouds, appearing to study them. He shivered against the air that chilled this mid-August morn. Then he looked around at their surroundings, at the grassy area on this northern slope of the Grampian Mountains, at the spattering of low shrubs, birches, and patches of purple heather. He’d been so determined to cross over these highest mountains in Scotland as quickly as possible. He’d seemed oddly anxious to head toward the villages in the Highlands they visited as tinkers this time of year. It should have taken them longer to ride. She’d wondered what had driven him so hard this trip.
“We shouldn’t have hurried so.” She should have insisted they make this trip slower, although she had tried. He just hadn’t listened to her.
“I’ve always loved this part of Scotland,” he said wistfully. “‘Twill be good to end my days here.” He seemed to gather a bit of strength and slid his legs to the side of the seat.
End his days!
Pain tore at her. “No, Da! Do not speak such nonsense.”
Somehow he managed to ease down from the wagon. The second his feet touched the grass, his legs gave out. He collapsed. His head dropped to his chest. His hand went once more to cover his heart.
Annabel knelt beside him and tried to gather him to her in a fierce, desperate hug. He was so weak, this father who had been so strong all of her life until this moment.
“Da.” She couldn’t say any more. Her throat was clogged with anguish.
He lifted his head enough to look at her. “I would have liked to…have seen you…married, Anna.” His eyes held such pain, such sorrow. “‘Tis one of many of my regrets.”
She didn’t know how to respond to that. They had traveled over all of Scotland, England and Wales as tinkers, but her parents had been very protective of her. At times she’d wondered why they had been so determined to keep her often in the shadows as they worked their trade from village to village. She had never been allowed to speak more than a few words to any man. Certainly she had never been kissed. So the idea of marriage had rarely passed through her thoughts. Although, in this last year, she’d begun wondering about some of the handsome young men she’d seen. Wondering…
This wasn’t the time to let her mind wander. She sniffed back tears and smiled gently at the man she loved with all her heart. “I regret nothing, Da. Only that…” She couldn’t finish the thought, couldn’t say ‘I cannot let you go now.’
He squeezed her hand with such little strength that her tears flowed even more freely. “You must let yourself find love, my sweet. Like I did with my darling Katherine.” He drew in a trembling breath. His face pinched even tighter before he forced out pain-filled words, “Beware of Ala…”
“Nooooo!” she wailed. “Oh, God, no!”
But her father had gone limp in her arms. His eyes were forever shut. The last of her family was gone. She was all alone in the world and so very frightened. What would become of her now? And what had he meant to warn her about? Who?
Annabel held him in the awkward position until her legs became numb, letting tears fall until there were no more, feeling her heart break into pieces.
Finally one of the pair of horses attached to the wagon whinnied and drew her attention. She couldn’t sit here forever. She had to deal with burying her father. Her parents had taught her long ago that tragedy happened, but you had to find the inner strength to get past it. They’d lost her younger brother when he was but two and ten to a freak wagon accident. Then she and her father had lost her mother a year ago to a fever. Each time it had been hard to deal with the grief and go on, but they had. Now she must do it again.
But, oh God, she hurt so much
* * *
Brodie was anxious to get back to Urquhart and had driven his men hard ever since leaving Middleham. It had been difficult to leave Maggie behind. But the sister he still didn’t truly recognize had enough problems of her own to deal with, without a brother who’d lost his memories. She didn’t need him and his moodiness, his darkness because of this overwhelming loss. He hadn’t wanted to make her unhappy or cause further problems with her new husband. And something he couldn’t explain had urged him to travel even faster, even harder this last couple of days.
He squinted at the sudden brightness as the sun rested high in the sky. The swirling gray clouds of the early morn had drifted away and now it was hotter. Sweat trickled down his back beneath his shirt. A warm breeze passed over him, fluttering the shoulder-length hair that he should have tied back.
As he rode with Sir Douglas at his side down the final slope of the Grampian Mountains, Brodie breathed a sigh of relief. The fifty men who traveled with them were a ways behind. Yet the sounds of so many hooves, so many heavily breathing horses carried to him even from this distance.
His thoughts wandered to Urquhart and what awaited him there: many people who would be disappointed that he returned still without his memories. Yet, they could not be any more disappointed than he. His head throbbed with the now familiar headache that plagued him whenever he tried to think about his past. He reached up to rub his forehead and caught sight of a tinker’s wagon at the foot of the hill they were going down.
Douglas, too, had noticed it and stiffened in the saddle. “I sense something wrong,” he said gravely.
Brodie had the same gut feeling and tensed. Then he spotted a young lad bent over a prone man lying in the grass near the front of the wagon. The lad was removing the man’s boots. Then he crawled forward and began pulling something from the man’s hand. A ring?
Fury roiled within him. He would not stand for the boy stripping the obviously injured—or dead—man of his valuables! They’d heard too many tales of thieves traveling the countryside, too many people being killed for what they carried with them. Although he knew that usually the attacks were in the more forested areas. Nevertheless, he would not stand for such a thing happening. The boy would pay for his crimes!
He forced his warhorse into a gallop and thundered down the hill. He pulled his sword from the scabbard on his back at the same time he roared, “Stop, thief!”
The boy jerked away from the fallen man, gasping, his gaze darting toward Brodie and Douglas.
As they rode to within a dozen feet of the trembling thief, the lad pulled a dirk from his boot. Small hands shook, but kept the knife in front of him. Amber eyes were wide in fear, yet held determination as well.
“Drop the weapon, lad,” Brodie snarled, holding his three-foot sword in warning. “Step away from the man.”
The boy blinked and tears sparkled in his eyes. Slender shoulders shuddered beneath the dirt-dusted white shirt, and then straightened. A pouty lower lip trembled for but an instant. Then anger spread across a face that appeared too delicate for even a young boy.
a thief!” the boy protested. He had the gall to glower at Brodie, to continue holding the ridiculously small weapon out in defense.
“’Tis a lass!” Douglas said in shock.
Brodie, too, had surmised that from the “boy’s” all-too-feminine voice, more so when the “boy’s” chest had thrust out in anger. There was no mistaking the swell of plump breasts shoving against the front of the shirt. It took him a second to come to terms with the surprising discovery; it took another second to get beyond his surprise and back to his fury.
He slid from his horse in a quick move that caused his kilt to lift slightly before falling in place at his knees again. When he focused on the lass, he found her eyes had widened even more. Pink colored her cheeks and she didn’t appear to be breathing, just staring.
To his annoyance, Douglas chuckled behind him. “I dinna think the lass has seen a mon in a kilt ‘ere. Or
a mon doesna wear under a kilt.” He chuckled again.
Disgusted, Brodie strode toward the lass, who was now scooting back toward the wagon, still brandishing the useless dirk. He pointed with his sword at the clearly dead man. “If ye killed him, ye will die here as well.”