Marjory Macpherson felt rebirth at hand. She'd known fifteen years of winter since her parents' brutal murder at the hands of the rival Cameron clan. But now Ewen-the enemy son she'd been forced to marry-was dead, perished in a rockslide. Marjory rejoiced. She could shed her thorns...at least, until her husband's father returned.
IS A ROSE
Yet, was her husband dead? When Marjory went to retrieve Ewen's body, she found instead a living breathing man, covered in blood, talking strangely but very much alive.
BY ANY OTHER NAME
Though he wore her husband's face and kilt, Marjory recognized salvation. Whether he was a kinder Ewen or another who, as he claimed, had been transplanted from the future, the man she'd found was the key, a strange twist of fate that reseeded Marjory's future. It was finally time for Crannag Mhór to bloom again: a rebirth that brought with it the promise of true love.
Excerpt from Wild Highland Rose
“Hold your tongue.” Marjory Macpherson shot a look at the door to the solar, expecting the worst. When the shadows remained unchanged, she allowed herself to breathe, but still kept her voice a whisper. “The walls have ears, and well you know it.”
“Allen is far into his cups by now.” Fingal worked to speak softly, but the resulting growl carried easily across the room. Her captain was not a subtle man, preferring confrontation to diplomacy no matter the cost. “He’ll no’ act until his father arrives.”
“Then we canna wait that long.” Marjory crossed her arms with a firmness she didn’t feel, but there was no time for hesitating. Torcal Cameron would arrive before the next moonrise, and she intended to be ready. “You’re certain Ewen’s dead.”
“I saw it with my own eyes.” Fingal’s eyes narrowed at the memory. “There was a rockslide. The entire cliff collapsed. Before I could reach him, he was gone. No one could have survived.”
“Where was Allen?” The two brothers had gone hunting, Fingal accompanying them to make certain that it was game they sought, and naught else.
“He’d gone ahead, around the bend. By the time he got back it was all over.” Fingal tightened his hand on the dirk at his waist. “He blamed me. But there were witnesses, some of his own men. It took some convincing, but eventually he backed down.”
“For now.” Marjory exhaled slowly, her brain still trying to grasp the concept that her husband was dead. “Once his father arrives, there will be more accusations.”
“Then they’ll come to naught. Make no mistake, were it no’ for your grandfather, I would have cheerfully skewered the man long before now, but the rockslide was an accident.”
“How many Camerons are within our walls?” Since the marriage, despite her protest, Torcal had insisted upon leaving a force of his men at Crannag Mhór. Most times they numbered less than her own clan, but with the recent return of Ewen there were more.
“No more than fifty.” Fingal scratched his chin in thought. “But Torcal will bring more. And even were we to be matched in number, there’s the question of age. Torcal’s kin are young and well trained.”
“Aye,” Marjory nodded, “But Macpherson men are wily.”
Fingal allowed himself a smile, the gesture only making his warrior’s countenance appear more fierce. Fingal Macgillivray had fought for Chattan alongside her father, and then followed him deep into the mountains helping to build Crannag Mhór.
And he had stayed to rebuild it after Torcal Cameron had destroyed her family. Hate curled in her belly, white hot, twisting her gut into a still tighter knot. There was a part of her that relished the fact that Ewen was dead. An eye for an eye.
But even as she rejoiced, she was filled with fear. Crannag Mhór was her home. Its inhabitants her people. She was responsible for their well-being, and that meant protecting them from the likes of Torcal Cameron. Her grandfather, head of Clan Chattan, would eventually sort out the situation. There would be meetings between the Camerons and Macphersons. The outcome carefully orchestrated to maintain peace. But Torcal Cameron wouldn’t wait, preferring justice with a claymore, his hatred burning as brightly as her own.
Long before her grandfather ever learned of the day’s events, Torcal would exact his revenge. And truth be told, she wasn’t at all sure that she could stop him. Tears filled her eyes, and she angrily pushed them away, lifting her chin to meet Fingal’s somber gaze. “I will protect Crannag Mhór. And if that means groveling before the likes of Torcal Cameron, then so be it.”
“You can grovel before me.” Allen Cameron stood in the doorway to the solar, a tankard in his hand, a licentious smirk on his face. “Now that Ewen is dead, perhaps you’d prefer a real man in your bed.”
Marjory took an involuntary step backward, Allen moving forward with a grace that belied his bulk. She forced herself to stop, to hold her ground. She’d not bend to the will of a Cameron. “Your brother is dead, Allen.” She made no effort to contain her scorn. “And here you are already claiming what was his. Have you no honor?” It was a rhetorical question, but she didn’t bother curbing her tongue.
Allen clenched his fist, heated red staining the parts of his face not covered with his beard.
Fingal drew his dirk, the deadly blade shining in the sunlight. “You’ve no business here, Cameron.”
“And you do?” His eyes narrowed, and he, too, drew the knife at his waist. “Are ye bedding the wench then? I’d have no’ thought it possible.” His lips curled into a sneer, and Fingal took a menacing step forward.
“This isn’t the time.” Marjory’s voice cut through the tension in the room. “We need to find Ewen’s body and bring it here. As much as I loathed your brother, I’d not leave him to the predators of the mountain.” Actually were it not for Torcal, that’s exactly what she’d do, but there was no sense in adding fuel to an already raging fire.
Fingal’s stance relaxed. “The lass is right. And we’ve only a few hours left before nightfall.”
Allen eyed them both, as if doubting their sincerity, and then apparently satisfied with what he saw, he sheathed his weapon. “I’ll gather my men.”
Marjory nodded once, and watched him turn to leave with something akin to giddy relief. There was so much at stake, so much to lose. It was like walking across a vast chasm on nothing more than a fine linen thread.
“Well played.” Fingal’s words were high praise, but Marjory took no comfort. Ewen’s death had upset a delicate balance, one she wasn’t entirely certain could be repaired. Had she the forces, she’d see to it that Ewen Cameron wasn’t the only member of his clan to die this day.
But she hadn’t that luxury.
Torcal was coming, and even without blame, there would be hell to pay. Ewen had been his father’s cherished son, the pride of his existence, and Marjory had no illusion as to his reaction. He’d want blood. Hers and the rest of her kin.
A Cameron had died this day, and in so doing, had unleashed the wrath of her enemies.
But Torcal Cameron would be wise to consider that her hatred was as strong as his own. And as long as she had breath, she would not surrender Crannag Mhór.
Aye, today an enemy had fallen. An enemy -- and a husband. The carefully woven strands of her grandfather’s whimsy unraveled with a single fall of rock.
There was a rock biting into his ass, the sensation something less than pleasant and it pulled him awake with a sharp tug. Sunlight peeked through a preponderance of clouds, the smell of rain heavy in the air.
Carefully, moving an inch at a time, he sat up, the movement making him dizzy. When he was sure the spinning had subsided, he opened first one eye and then the other. The world blurred, then swam into focus -- the colors muted, yet vibrant. Green, yellow, blue.
Something tugged at the back of his brain, a memory, but before he could quantify the thought, it was gone, the drummers in his head pounding it away. With a sigh, he leaned back against a scrubby tree, gingerly exploring his scalp. There was dried blood and a couple of huge knots. One toward the back and a larger one above his left eye. Hematomas. Serious, but probably not life threatening.
Still, something had caused the injuries. And it seemed prudent to establish what. He closed his eyes again, willing his mind to yield answers, but stubbornly, it remained blank. Opening his eyes again, he glanced downward taking in the homespun antiquity of his outfit -- a linen shirt and woolen skirt. The plaid pattern was vaguely familiar, and he realized on further examination that he was, in fact, wearing a kilt.
The only problem being that he was fairly certain he wasn’t Scottish. And even if he was, there was the surety that he would favor briefs regardless of his outerwear. All of which left a disturbing puzzle.
What the hell was he doing in the middle of nowhere in a get-up only William Wallace could love?
Somewhere beyond incredulity, a modicum of alarm surfaced, but he quashed it ruthlessly, certain that whatever was happening there was no place for fear. He was a rational man. At least he assumed he was, and somewhere in all of this was a reasonable explanation.
Using the tree as a brace and trying to ignore the pain in his head, he pulled himself to a standing position. The effort cost him a lot, but it was nice to be on his own feet. He glanced down again, eyeing the strips of leather that passed for boots. Thong type lacings held them together and bound them to his legs.
His foggy brain struggled for a rational explanation. He was evidently standing on the side of a mountain, in a what amounted to a skirt, without BVDs, in shoes that would make a gladiator proud.
He grimaced, sinking back against the tree. The truth was he had no concept of where he was. Hell, he wasn’t even sure who he was. An actor, maybe. That would explain the garb, but not the knots on his head.
Perhaps he’d fallen. Rising again, he forced himself to concentrate on his surroundings. The area where he’d awoken was indeed covered with rocks and debris. Looking upward, he could just see the top of a cliff, the rock jagged and raw, discolored where it had collapsed.
He looked again at the scree surrounding him. Some of the rocks qualified as boulders. A fall like that would have killed a man, his mind whispered. And yet, here he stood, quite clearly alive.
At least the evidence seemed to support an accident of some kind. Perhaps then someone would be looking for him. Someone who could tell him who he was, explain what had happened. The thought should have brought comfort, but it didn’t, a part deep inside him certain that the truth wasn’t something he wanted to know.
He struggled to remember something, anything, but his mind still refused the summons. He slammed his hand against the tree, surprised at the force of the action, reveling in the additional pain. At least it proved he was alive.
He closed his eyes, forcing himself to turn inward, to concentrate. Surely, if nothing else, he could remember his name.
The word came unbidden.
He smiled. It wasn’t much. For all he knew it wasn’t even his name. But for now it would do. It was a tether to reality. A way to move forward.
Opening his eyes, he took a tottering step forward, the sound of a stream forcing its way front and center. Obediently his mind was filled with the picture of cool shimmering blue, the idea beyond enticing. Water, he needed water.
Cocking his head to one side, he concentrated on the musical sound, forcing his feet to move toward it, one slow step after another. Coming around a little stand of birch trees, he saw the creek. It wasn't big, but a couple of rocks had blocked the water's progression making a small pool.
Moving gingerly, he managed to skirt the rocks and kneel by the stream’s edge. Cupping his hands, he filled them with water and drank deeply, the cool liquid soothing more than his parched throat.
Below him the water sparkled in the dappled light, something at the bottom of the stream catching his eye. Curiosity getting the better of him, he reached in and pulled it out, balancing the tiny knife in the palm of his hand.
The handle was ivory in color and striated with gray and black. Animal horn, the still functioning part of his brain whispered. The blade itself was brass or some similar metal. It was flat on one side and intricately carved on the other, sort of loopy curls and circles.
He looked around for its owner, but the clearing remained empty. Upon looking closer, he realized the knife had been in its watery home for more than a few days, its edges worn smooth by the rushing water, mineral deposits beginning to mar its intricate design. He started to throw it back, then hesitated.
Perhaps it would come in useful. Not certain what to do with it, he searched his body, rejecting the belt in favor of what appeared to be a purse. There was no doubt a more masculine term, but his brain either didn’t know, or had buried it along with other pertinent information like what the hell he was doing here in the first place.
Lifting the flap, he eyed the contents dubiously, discarding what looked to be a hunk of petrified oatmeal. He hated oatmeal.
Dropping the little knife in the now empty pouch he flipped it closed, feeling as if the effort had cost him the last of his strength. The drummers, abated momentarily by the water, had returned in full force, and fighting nausea, he dropped down on a large rock, closing his eyes, the enormity of the situation suddenly front and center.
An eagle screamed in the distance. And he marveled at the fact that he knew it was an eagle. Certain parts of his mind seemed to be working quite well. Which meant the injury to his brain was localized. Specific to only his memory.
Forcing his eyes open, he checked the discovery by naming the items around him. Birch trees, river rocks -- granite and sandstone. Across the stream he recognized wild roses mixed with the purple of thistles, as well as the waxy green leaves of a rhododendron.
He knew that the material of this kilt was wool, and that he’d suffered hematomas. Obviously, the blows to his head had caused some sort of trauma. Hopefully temporary trauma. Although the little voice in his head whispered that there was no such thing. Lying back against the lichen covered rock, he ignored the voice, preferring, for the moment, the sanctuary of ignorance.
Eventually, he’d have to get up and face the music. Try and figure out what had happened to him and why, but right now the rock was warm and, if he held very still, the drums were only a faint staccato.
He closed his eyes, letting his mind drift.
What he needed was a little shut-eye. Just a few minutes...
Excerpt from WILD HIGHLAND ROSE by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2003 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact .