Highlander Most Wanted
Genevieve McInnes is locked behind the fortified walls of McHugh Keep, captive of a cruel laird who takes great pleasure in ruining her for any other man. Yet when Bowen Montgomery storms the gates on a mission of clan warfare, Genevieve finds that her spirit is bent but not broken. Still, her path toward freedom remains uncertain. Unable to bear the shame of returning to a family that believes her dead or to abandon others at the keep to an imposing new laird, Genevieve opts for the peaceful life of an abbess. But Bowen’s rugged sensuality stirs something deep inside her that longs to be awakened by his patient, gentle caress—something warm, wicked, and tempting. Bowen seizes his enemy’s keep, unprepared for the brooding and reclusive woman who captures his heart. He’s enchanted by her fierce determination, her unusual beauty, and her quiet, unfailing strength. But wooing her will take more than a seasoned seducer’s skill. For loving Genevieve, he discovers, means giving her back the freedom that was stolen from her—even if it means losing her forever.
Bowen Montgomery spurred his horse to a gallop as he charged up the last rise that obscured the view of the McHugh keep. Beside him, his brother, Teague, rode and they were both flanked, baffling enough, by Aiden and Brodie Armstrong.
Many a Montgomery and an Armstrong were turning over in their grave at the idea of the two clans allying with one another to take up a cause. But it wasn’t just any cause. It was one involving a woman who was dear to both sides.
Eveline Montgomery. Wife of Graeme Montgomery but daughter to Tavis Armstrong, laird of the Armstrong clan, and until days earlier, the Montgomerys blood enemy.
Bowen still didn’t know what to make of it all. He’d have rather taken up the matter of Patrick McHugh himself and claimed the holding until such time as Graeme determined its fate. It was a task he and Teague easily could have handled themselves without interference from the Armstrong whelps, but the last thing Bowen had wanted was to start a war when Eveline was in such a fragile state after her ordeal.
His sister by marriage was stalwart, but even the most fierce of lasses would be staggered by her treatment at a monster’s hands.
“Have you a plan?” Teague shouted above the pounding of hooves.
Bowen gave a short nod but kept his gaze trained forward as they topped the hill overlooking the McHugh keep. Twas an easy enough plan. Kill Patrick, avenge Eveline, take control of the keep and eliminate those who rebelled under Bowen’s command.
“And do you care to elaborate on your plan?” Teague asked in exasperation.
Bowen pulled up, his horse dancing sideways along the edge of the steep rise. Beside him, Teague, Aiden and Brodie reined in their horses and stared at the keep below.
“I plan to run Patrick through with my sword,” Bowen said calmly. “Tis offensive that he still breathes our air. He is a liar and a coward.”
“Aye,” Brodie said with a dark scowl. “He looked me in the eye and said he had no knowledge of my sister while he knew she lay below in the dungeon, sorely abused by his bastard of a son.”
Aiden’s brows drew together and he gestured below as the rest of the Montgomery and Armstrong soldiers ascended the rise and made an impressive line atop the hillside.
Their armor glinted in the sun, bounced and reflected a dazzling array of flashing beams. To those below, it must look like hell about to descend. The Montgomery army alone was an impressive enough sight to make the most hardened warrior flee in terror. But add in the might of the Armstrong soldiers and it was a fighting force unrivaled by even the king’s army.
Never before had two such powerful clans allied. It would likely never happen again.
“Is that a white flag draped from their guard tower?” Aiden asked in disbelief.
Bowen’s gaze sharpened and honed in on the banner fluttering in the wind.
“It looks like a bed linen,” he muttered.
“Aye,” Teague agreed.
“There are two of them!” Brodie exclaimed, pointing at the twin tower on the other side of the gate.
Sure enough, another linen was unfurled, catching the breeze and fluttering wildly from the wide window cut into the stone tower.
“They’re giving up without a fight?” Aiden asked in disbelief.
Bowen frowned. “Perhaps ‘tis a trick.”
“If so, ‘tis a stupid trick,” Brodie growled. “They’re vastly outnumbered and even if the odds were even, they would be no match for us. Even if they are able to take a few of us by surprise, they would be quickly annihilated.”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Teague said with a shrug.
He drew his sword and urged his horse forward.
Bowen dug his heels into his horse’s flanks and hurried to catch up to his brother.
Behind him, Brodie and Aiden let out a shout that was caught and echoed through the ranks of their men until the entire hillside roared with their battle cry.
When they were a short distance from the wide open gate to the courtyard, a young lad stumbled outside the walls clutching a sword that was much too big for his small frame, and attached to the end was a crudely made white flag.
There was no need for him to wave it because his hands shook so badly that the swatch of material flapped madly in the wind.
Bowen reined in his horse in disgust and stared in disbelief at the lad who couldn’t be over six or seven years old.
“They send a child to confront an approaching army?” he roared in disbelief.
Teague was without words as he stared dumfounded at the sight before him. Aiden and Brodie looked to Bowen, shaking their heads the entire time.
“Cowards,” Brodie spat. “Tis naught I despise more than a coward.”
“Please, do not harm us,” the child said, his teeth chattering as if he were in the dead of winter. “Tis a flag of surrender we fly. We bear no arms against you.”
“Where is your laird?” Bowen coldly demanded.
“G-g-gone,” the lad stammered.
“Gone?” Aiden echoed.
The lad nodded vigorously. “Aye, this morning. My mum says he fled because he knew he was going to die for his sins.”
“Your mum was right,” Teague muttered.
Fear flashed in the lad’s eyes. “Many are gone. There aren’t so many of us left. We don’t want war and would pray that you are merciful in your dealings.”
He kept his gaze averted, his head bowed in a subservient manner, but Bowen could see the lad’s hands trembling and it angered him that this child would be sent into harm’s way.
A woman’s voice rang strongly through the courtyard. It resonated with anger—and fear. And then a slight figure adorned in a cape that completely obscured her features from sight appeared through the gates.
She ran to the child and grasped his arm, quickly pulling him into the folds of her cape until he was hidden from view. Only his feet stuck out.
“Who sent you on this fool’s errand?” she demanded, looking down in the direction of the child’s head.
It was a question Bowen would very much like to know the answer to as well.
“Corwen,” the child said, his voice muffled by her cloak.
The only thing visible on the lass were her hands peeking from the long sleeves of the cape. Bowen studied them with interest as they gripped the child so tightly that they went white at the tips.
Young hands. Smooth. Nary a wrinkle in sight. The nails were elegantly fashioned and rounded at the tips and the fingers were long and slender, pale, as if they hadn’t ever been kissed by the sun.
Twas evident this was not one who worked in the fields. Or in the keep cleaning either.
“Cowardly bastard,” she spat, startling all four of the men with her vehemence—and the base language.
“’Tis the lass who directed us to the dungeon where Eveline was being held,” Brodie said in a low enough voice not to be overheard.
The hairs at Bowen’s nape prickled and stood on their ends. Aye, twas so. When Graeme had despaired of uncovering his wife’s whereabouts, the shadowy, caped figure had appeared at the stairs and directed them below where they’d indeed discovered where Eveline was being held prisoner.
“Is what the lad saying true?” Bowen directed at the lass. “Has Patrick McHugh fled, leaving his clan and his keep to fall as they may?”
The lass went still, her hands leaving the lad to curl into tight fists at her sides. If her body language was any indicator, she was furious.
“Aye,” she said coldly. “All that is left are the women and children, those who are old and cannot travel and the warriors who have wives and children they refused to leave. The others left at dawn.”
“And where are they?” Brodie persisted.
“Inside the keep. Huddled in the great hall, wondering if each breath will be their last,” she said in a disdainful voice.
Something about the lass’s tone rubbed Brodie the wrong way and it irritated him fully that she was hiding her face from him.
“Remove the hood, lass,” he ordered. “I’d know who it is I speak with.”
She froze, her hands lowering to her sides until they pressed against the skirts of her dress. Did she dare openly defy him in front of his men and the Armstrongs as well?
His expression darkened and his lips thinned. “Do as I have ordered,” he snapped.
With shaking hands, she pushed the lad behind her and then slowly lifted her fingers to the edges of the hood. She was turned so her right side was presented to him and his men and as she lowered the hood from over her head, a gasp went up behind Brodie.
Jesu, but the woman was beautiful. Perhaps the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life. Her features were rendered with perfection.
Long, brown hair fell in waves over her shoulders. There were varying shades mixed in and with the sunlight beating down on her, the different colors were highlighted in a dazzling array. He’d thought the lass had raven hair the first time he’d seen her. She’d been in the darkness of the keep and only the barest strands had peeked from her cape. But here in the full glory of the sun, it was evident her hair was not simply plain black. Nay, it was a magnificent mane of hair that seemed to change color depending on the way she moved and the source of light.
Her bone structure was small and delicate, her cheek high and her jawline firm leading to a perfect bow of a mouth. A dark eyebrow arched and long eyelashes heavily fringed the vivid wash of green.
It felt as though someone had punched him solidly in the gut for he could not draw a breath. His men were no less affected as they gaped at the sheer perfection before them.
Why on earth had she taken such pains to hide such beauty?
Then she turned to face him, her mouth set into a firm line, her eyes wounded and guarded, as though she prepared herself for further reaction.
Another gasp—this time of horror—echoed harshly through the air. Bowen recoiled, as though he’d been struck and he hadn’t been prepared for the blow.
The other side of the lass’s face was…ruined.
A jagged scar ran the length of her face, starting at her temple and ending at the corner of her mouth. Twas obvious no care had been taken in the stitching of it. There was no smoothness to the scar and it was equally obvious that the wound had not been inflicted so very long ago.
He saw her flinch at the reaction of his men—at his own reaction, and it shamed him. But close on the heels of regret came…rage. Already furious at the turn of events and all that he’d learned since his arrival, looking at the lass made him even angrier.
“What the hell happened to your face, lass?” he demanded.
Highlander Most Wanted is Book 2 in the Montgomerys & Armstrongs