Seduced by Her Highland Warrior

By: Michelle Willingham
Chapter One

Glen Arrin, Scotland—1305

Soldiers gripped spears in their palms and charged forwards, their weapons aimed at his wife and daughters.

Blood dripped from a wound on his forearm, but Alex MacKinloch wouldn’t stop running. A primal roar resounded from his mouth as he lifted his sword and hacked his way toward the women. His lungs burned as he fought, the battle haze clouding his awareness of reality. In the distance, he saw his wife Laren’s gleaming red hair as she struggled through a water-filled ditch. Her skirts weighed her down and she held their younger daughter in her arms. She didn’t see the dozens of soldiers approaching as she tried to evacuate the fortress.

I have to reach them. Or they’ll die.

It was a reality he didn’t want to face, and the thought of his Laren falling beneath a soldier’s blade was a horror he couldn’t grasp. His arm ached with a vicious pain, but he fought a path towards them. The soldiers blocked his line of vision until all he could see was a swift storm of arrows.

A pulse thundered in his ears until he realised the arrows were coming from their younger brother Callum, who was guarding the women and children. Flames erupted from the wooden keep that stood high above them, like a dying sentry.

The fortress was going to fall. He ran as hard as he could and heard his kinsman Ross breathe, ‘Mary, Mother of God.’

As Alex rushed forwards, he heard the cracking of wood.

‘Callum, dive!’ shouted a man’s voice from behind her.

Laren MacKinloch struggled through the forest, her skirts sodden with water as the keep surrendered to the flames and collapsed. She stared through the trees, in shock at the sight of her home.

Gone now.

And what of Alex, her husband? ‘Take Mairin and Adaira,’ she begged Vanora, handing over her daughters. ‘I’ll join you in a few moments.’

‘You can’t go back,’ the older matron warned. ‘This isn’t over yet.’

‘I won’t leave the trees,’ Laren promised. I just need to see him. I need to know if he’s safe.

She didn’t wait for Vanora’s reply, but moved back to the forest’s edge, holding on to a slender birch tree for balance. Her breath frosted in the evening air as the cold settled around the glen.

When English soldiers surrounded the men from both sides, she felt her heart branching into silent pieces of terror. Dear God, no.

She couldn’t hear what was happening, but the look of grim finality on Alex’s face meant that the worst was near. As she stared from her hiding place, the years seemed to fall back. No longer was he a powerful chief but instead, the man she’d once loved. The fist of heartbreak caught her and tears dampened her cheeks. They’d grown so far apart over the past two years, and now she didn’t know if she would see him alive again.

If she had one last moment with him, there were too many words to speak. Too many things she’d locked away in her heart for far too long.

Her palm pressed against the tree bark. Though Alex couldn’t see her, she kept her gaze fixed upon him, as if she could memorise his face and hold it for ever.

A fiery pain blasted through her right side. Laren’s knees buckled beneath her and she gasped in shock at the arrow embedded within her skin.

The searing agony stunned her and she could barely keep her senses about her. Though it was a shallow wound, piercing the soft skin sideways, near her ribs, she’d not realised how close she was to the battle.

She forced herself to snap off the feathered end, sliding the arrow free of the wound. Blood poured from her side and she pressed her dark cloak against the flow, fighting the dizziness.

You have to go back to your girls, her mind warned. She couldn’t stay, no matter how much she feared for Alex’s life. One of them had to live, to take care of their daughters.

It wrenched her apart, having to choose between her husband and her children, but she forced herself to continue. If the English gained the victory, they would come looking for the survivors. Her daughters needed her and she had to protect them.

She struggled up to the top of the ridge. Each step sent another wave of pain raging through her side, but she ignored the wound, hiding it beneath her dark cloak. There would be time to tend it later.

When she reached the girls, her elder daughter threw her arms around her waist, weeping. At the ages of four and not quite two, Mairin and Adaira weren’t old enough to understand what was happening. Laren caught her breath, keeping Mairin’s hands away from the injury while she spoke soft, reassuring words.

‘Where is Da?’ her daughter demanded. ‘Is he safe?’

‘I don’t know.’ Laren’s throat tightened with fear, her eyes burning. ‘But we have to wait here for him, away from the soldiers.’

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