Highland Hellion by Mary Wine is out now!
Illegitimate daughter of an English earl
Abducted to Scotland at age 14
No family, no reputation...
Heir to an honorable Highland laird
Can't believe how well tomboy Kate can fight
About to learn how much of a woman she really is
Scotland is seething with plots, the vengeful Gordons are spoiling for a fight, and the neighboring clans are at each other's throats. All it takes is a passionate hellion with a penchant for reckless adventure to ignite the Highlands once more.
Enjoy this excerpt from Highland Hellion!
The great hall of MacPherson castle went quiet as Shamus MacPherson spoke her name. The laird of the clan was old now, but at times, his voice still rang with authority.
Tonight was one of those nights.
His retainers turned to consider her as she hesitated with one leg over a bench and her supper still in her hands. One of the women who was serving the long tables that filled the hall reached over and took it away from her.
Katherine pulled her leg back and lowered herself.
“Ye’ll join me,” Shamus informed her.
One of his men went toward the end of the high table and pulled a chair out for her. It was a position of honor, one reserved for members of the laird’s family and his captains. Everyone seemed to be watching her, so she started moving toward the head table, though it felt as if each of her boots suddenly weighed as much as a young colt.
She stopped and lowered herself once more before she climbed the steps to where the high table sat. The chair was large and furnished with a pillow, and the retainer pushed her toward the table once she’d sat down.
“It has been some years since Katherine came to this castle.” Shamus spoke clearly, and his men gave him their attention. “So tonight, I want to take a moment to remind everyone that she is considered me son Marcus’s sister. The Earl of Morton, the king’s regent, wanted an alliance with me family, and we will honor his wishes.”
There was a long moment of contemplation from the men and women of the clan. Many of the men stroked their beards while their eyes narrowed in thought. But the laird’s word was law, and in the end, his men nodded to him before they turned back to their supper.
“Ye may stay with the hawks, so long as ye keep to wearing a dress,” Marcus said softly beside her. “And ye will sit beside me at meals so no one forgets yer place.”
She nodded, but Marcus turned and his eyes narrowed.
“So that pleases ye?” he asked.
Marcus was suspicious by nature. A trait that served him well as war chief to the clan. Katherine had been frightened of him for most of her first year in the Highlands, but after that, when it seemed he wouldn’t keep her from training, she’d decided it was part of his charm.
“Aye,” she answered him. “It pleases me far more than turning bread.”
“Ye would no’ have been a maid,” Marcus explained.
“Helen was clear on that matter.” Katherine stiffened as she knocked elbows with a maid who was leaning in from behind her to serve her. Marcus chuckled softly.
“It takes a bit of getting accustomed to,” he muttered once the maid was finished. “Being served, that is.”
It seemed she’d also have to learn how to eat while being watched. Katherine snapped her mouth shut as she realized there were plenty of people looking directly at her. She lifted a linen napkin from where it was laid over her right shoulder and made sure her lips were clean. After that, she took only small bites to ensure she wasn’t chewing with her mouth open.
Marcus made a sound under his breath. “Helen asked me how one managed to eat at the high table when she first wed me.” He sent Katherine an amused look. “I told her, very carefully, or ye’ll be used as a teaching example by MacPherson mothers.”
“No thank you,” Katherine answered. She was strained, so her English accent was more pronounced.
Marcus had spoken so softly that she had to think for a moment to make sure she’d heard him correctly. He cut her a look.
“I knew ye were there, lass. In the yard.”
He watched his words land, taking note of the smile that lifted the corners of her lips. He scoffed before reaching for a round of bread. He tore it and placed a piece on her plate.
“Pleases ye, does it?”
“You are not a man who gives out false flattery, so yes.” Katherine reached for the bread, forcing herself to handle it more daintily. “I consider it a compliment earned.”
“Fair enough,” Marcus responded. “Mind me, Katherine. On the matters of yer dress and this table. I would make certain ye are afforded protection.”
“From my blood, you mean?”
Marcus looked back at her, and this time she saw the frank, bluntly honest man who had trained her. This was the war chief of the clan. “Ye’ve heard with your own ears the way the men speak of the English. I allowed ye to train because I can no’ be changing the fact that many men will visits the sins of yer countrymen upon ye. Yet Robert is correct: ye are a woman grown now. So, ye’ll sit beside me so every man here understands I consider ye me family.”
She nodded and went back to her supper. Marcus got caught up in a conversation with his brother, Bhaic, so she was left to contemplate his words.
Being on the outside was something she understood well. It had been her life; Scotland was no different. So she would celebrate her victory in escaping the kitchens.
A wicked little thought moved through her as she contemplated just how much easier it would be to ride out at night now that she didn’t serve directly under Helen. The master of the hawks was an old man who had plenty of younger apprentices to do the work for him. He took to drinking before the sun set and slept soundly until after dawn.
Yes, a victory. That’s what it was indeed.
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