When a Highlander Weds a Hellion Excerpt

Book 7 > Highlander Vows


Why did ye nae tell me that ye’re a bastard?

A poke to Broch MacLeod’s side woke him from the recurring dream, but Maria Campbell’s voice rang in his head as he sat up. He was still clutching his sword, which he’d fallen asleep holding. His fingers grazed his hip to ensure his daggers were still properly sheathed, and then he raised questioning eyebrows at William MacLean.

William, the youngest Scot to ever be appointed to King David’s personal guard, gave Broch a teasing smile. “Who is Maria?” He swatted at one of the many pests that had been feasting on the two of them since they’d entered the territory known as the Rough Bounds the night before. The journey from his home to the West Highlands had been rough on the birlinn, and it had taken a sennight instead of the five days they had expected. That put him two days behind the schedule he’d set for himself.

Broch slapped at his own neck, the heavy gold ring he now wore still feeling foreign to him. He’d only become the King of Scot’s right hand a sennight earlier, and he supposed that was not long enough to get used to such a cumbersome piece when he had never worn the likes before.

“Did ye hear me?” William persisted, showing his youth with his inability to discern the obvious. Broch did not want to speak of Maria. Not because he cared greatly for her. They had not known each other long enough for anything more than strong desire to develop, which they’d acted upon fully until she had discovered that he did not know the identity of his father. She had been livid, and it had taken him by surprise. He was always a careful man, so being caught unaware that the unconventional widow would think him lesser because he was a bastard had irritated him and nicked his pride.

He stood, shifting his weight to gain his balance as the birlinn rocked in the water of the Sound of Sleat, and then glanced toward the woods where they would search for Katreine Kinntoch, the woman they had been sent to find. The woods were thick, making sunlight scarce. They needed to get started now and not waste a moment of daylight.

“Ye’re nae going to tell me, are ye?” William asked.

Broch spared a momentary glance for the man beside him. No, he was not going to tell William that he’d agreed to become the king’s new right hand because his lover’s words had ripped off a scab that never seemed to get a chance to heal—the deep wound of not knowing who his father was. It was none of William’s concern.

He knew William had petitioned King David to come with Broch on this mission, and he knew why. King David had told him, thinking it amusing.

“William wants to be legendary, like ye,” the king had said, finishing the sentence with a chuckle. “The young fool dunnae understand legends are nae born from one accomplished mission but a thousand successful battles and missions. And those are won by a burning, unquenchable desire to prove oneself.”

The king had given Broch a knowing, probing look, which had made him uncomfortable. He’d never liked how King David seemed to know things Broch had never told anyone. He did always carry within him a feeling that he needed to continually prove he belonged in the MacLeod clan. Of course he did. There was every chance he was not of MacLeod blood. His mother, Athena—or the woman who might have been his mother—had returned to the MacLeod castle after having disappeared from a summer tournament she’d gone to with her brother, Neil, two years before. When she reappeared, she’d had a newborn bairn—Broch—with her. She’d refused Neil’s request to reveal who the father was, or even if the bairn was truly hers. She’d died two nights after returning, and his uncle Neil had raised Broch as his own.

Broch tugged a hand through his hair. He had to show the MacLeods that he was one of them because, in the end, he may not have been. His place in the clan only remained his by earning it every day.

The king had smiled when Broch had finally shifted his stance under David’s scrutiny and had said, “This will be a good undertaking for William to build his character upon, and I kinnae think of a better instructor than ye.”

“Listen, William,” Broch started, focusing on his companion, “we will find this lass, this Katreine Kinntoch, this Hellion of the Highlands, as King David has bidden us. And then we both will be rewarded.” Broch would get a large purse of coin, and William would begin to create his legacy. Broch thought momentarily of the king’s words:

Travel to Lochaber. Clan Kinntoch and Clan Blackswell are feuding over a piece of land. I recently decreed that the eldest son of the laird of Clan Blackswell, Brodee, was to wed Katreine, the daughter of the laird of Clan Kinntoch, to make peace between the clans. Each clan will receive half the land after the wedding takes place. I further declared that if one of the clans rises against the other, then the clan that breaks the peace will forfeit their half of the land. This should end the feuding, but the bride-to-be has gone missing. If my gut is right, the wily Kinntoch laird is hiding his daughter to avoid the marriage.

“And?” William asked, bringing Broch’s concentration fully back to him.

Broch noted the eager look in William’s eyes. “We will find her,” he said, looking behind him to the rough water that had brought him here from the place he called home. “The king said to start at the Kinntoch castle in Arisaig, so that is where we will head. If we are separated,” he added, clasping the too-eager clot-heid by the shoulder, “come back to the birlinn and await me. If I dunnae return within two days’ time, presume me dead and return to the Isle of Skye to tell my laird of my demise.”

William nodded. “Is there anyone else who would need to be informed besides the MacLeod?” The young fool grinned. “Such as the woman, Maria, ye spoke of in yer dreams?”

Broch’s time with Maria was over, and he had no one else beyond his uncle. He supposed he had never pursued a lass to wed because he was always too busy chasing the next mission to prove his place with the MacLeods. It was exhausting, and he suspected that was the underlying reason he had agreed to this particular mission. He wanted time away, hoping—likely futilely—to rid himself of the ever-persistent need that drove him.

With a shake of his head, he released William. “Tell my uncle Neil, as well.” Broch gave William a stern look. “And if ye mention Maria again, ye’ll learn firsthand why they call me the Beast of Skye.”

William’s mouth parted. “Consider her forgotten.”

“I already have,” Broch said, turning before William saw his smile. He liked the lad, but it would not do for him to think he did not have to heed every order Broch gave him. Failing to listen might result in William’s own death. Still, Broch felt a tug of sympathy for William. His elder brother had betrayed their laird, and that was a hard family legacy for any man to try to overcome. The best way to aid William was to show him how to move forward without hesitation. With that in mind, Broch began toward the forest and did not glance back.

Scroll to Top