Authors: Cassidy Cayman
Tags: #paranormal romance, #Highlander, #time travel romance, #Romance, #scottish historical romance, #witch, #Historical, #Scottish
by Cassidy Cayman
Other books by Cassidy Cayman:
Thanks for reading! I couldn’t do it without you!
Lachlan stared into the face of his demise and nudged his horse forward. His heartbeat thudded deliberately, and the slightest noise, the crunch of the leaves under his horse’s hooves, even the gentle breeze wafting past him seemed magnified and important.
Having received no orders to the contrary, the few Glen guards on the outset stepped aside, their faces hard and unwelcoming, but their hands still.
Bella sat straight and tall in front of him, casting glares left and right, but he felt her violent trembling and prayed she wouldn’t go to pieces.
“I’ve come to speak with the laird,” he said. “My father-in-law,” he amended.
Someone who looked like he might be in charge pressed forward, sword half drawn. Lachlan gave Pietro a quelling glance when he thought he may ride forward, fearing Bella was in danger. The idiot kicked his horse right up next to them, displacing his brother, in whose fighting skills he felt far more confident.
“Quite brave, riding up with the woman as a hostage and a shield, eh, Ferguson?” the Glen guard asked with a sneer.
Before he could answer, Bella reached behind him and drew his sword, brandishing it in front of her. It was almost as big as she was, and her arms quaked under the weight.
“Ye’ll use a more respectful tone when addressing my husband, wee Aldrick,” she said. Another glance at Pietro showed his mouth gaping open, and Lachlan realized he needed to close his as well. “If ye know what’s good for ye, ye’ll be escorting us to see my father.”
Wee Aldrick, who was clearly twice as big as Bella, blinked several times in confusion. Another guard sidled up beside him and leaned over to say something in his ear.
“Bella, lass, how is it ye’re with the Fergusons?” he asked, scratching his beard and looking like he might be sick. Bella had escaped several hours earlier with Pietro, but it seemed not all of her kin had been updated yet. “I was told ye were rescued and were in your chambers, safe and sound.”
Well, bugger. Lachlan wasn’t sure if this general confusion would work for him or not. He wrapped his arms around Bella’s waist and placed his hand lightly on her wrist in case he needed to take the sword back from her in a hurry.
“My wife was taken from the care of my brother, from my own land,” he said. “She is now back where she belongs, and we wish a word with her father.”
Aldrick and the other one shuffled back a few paces and had a quiet but heated conversation, with much nervous glancing and arm waving in their direction.
Lachlan kept his face blank and calm, his hand still on Bella’s arm, just inches from his sword. He didn’t need to look at his brother to know that Quinn was similarly outwardly calm, but ready to swing his blade in the blink of an eye if needed.
If bloody wee Aldrick decided not to guide them to laird Tavish Glen so that he could try to settle the giant mess they were in, he would have no choice but to engage them in a fight. He couldn’t risk them taking Bella away. He would toss her to Pietro and force them to retreat, killing everyone who tried to go after them if he had to. His beloved Piper’s future depended on those two staying alive and together.
He glanced at Pietro to find his eyes glued to Bella, his hand tight around the handle of his sword. The man meant well, and Lachlan was sure in his own time and with weapons that were familiar to him he was a fine fighter, but here and now he’d be off his horse in less than two minutes, dead in less than three, if he stayed.
“Just ye and the lass.” Aldrick sheathed his sword and started to turn his horse, an arrogant look on his face as he motioned for them to follow him.
“No,” Quinn said, kicking his horse forward with a furious look.
“Hell no,” Pietro reiterated.
Lachlan held up his hand to stay them, but didn’t follow Aldrick. He didn’t much care for the idea of going in alone, either, but had to tread lightly. He honestly would like all this to be settled with words.
He closed his eyes and conjured Piper’s beautiful face, her smiling eyes and impish grin. That this should be over soon and he could go find her and take her in his arms … The image distorted into the terrified look she gave him the instant before he cut off Daria’s head. That couldn’t be his last memory of her. He shuddered as his eyes flew open.
“My brother goes as well,” he said, keeping his tone even. “There is much to discuss, and some parts of it he must explain.”
“No’ bloody likely,” Aldrick said, puffing up his chest and giving Quinn a smirk of disdain. Quinn’s icy stare in return made him quickly look away.
“I’ll go,” Pietro said, holding up his palms. Lachlan suppressed a groan. “I was with them at the time Bella was taken. I can explain what happened as well as Quinn.”
Quinn was doing a remarkable job of not turning around and throttling Pietro, but his knuckles were white as he gripped the reins.
Lachlan reached over and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, then did the same to Pietro, albeit with bone crushing force. Pietro clenched his jaw, but otherwise didn’t flinch under the attempted warning.
It was clear he didn’t want Bella out of his sight. Lachlan could understand that, but he would much rather have Quinn near at hand if things went to hell with Tavish. He had to remind himself that Pietro was Piper’s many times great-grandfather, so he couldn’t murder him, or let him be murdered by one of her own lunatic ancestors.
A headache began to throb behind his left eye and he thought about the glorious modern bathtubs of the future. If he got through this he was going to soak until his skin fell off.
“How dare ye act as if ye dinna trust my husband’s kin,” Bella sputtered.
He tightened his arm around her waist, cutting off any further tirade that might have been left in her. “This is Connor McKellen, from Edinburgh,” Lachlan said, continuing to dig his fingers into Pietro’s shoulder. “He’s neither a Glen nor a Ferguson. If ye dinna trust my brother to bear witness, perhaps ye will trust Connor here?” He raised his eyebrow at Aldrick.
Aldrick looked nervously between them. “It’s no’ a matter of that, milady,” he said.
“I’m beginning to feel unwelcome in my own home,” she said. “I am quite sure my father would be sore distressed that this misunderstanding has gone on so long. Look at the lot of ye! Milling about with your weapons strapped on for a fight when we should have been seated already and with refreshments near at hand. I’m disgusted at the lot of ye.”
Aldrick faded to a sickly green under her censure. He ran his hand over his beard and glanced at his next in command, who refused to offer any advice.
“Of course, aye.” He pointed to Pietro. “Until your father says otherwise, only he will accompany ye. Ye’ll understand?”
Quinn nodded and fell back to stand with the other Ferguson men, who had stayed in a grim line behind them during the entire exchange.
Lachlan slowly and silently released his pent up breath, nodding to Quinn as he rode off. At first Pietro looked relieved that he could stay near Bella, but quickly grew paler with every step closer to the castle entrance. When they dismounted, Lachlan noticed him gripping the saddle to steady himself. There was no telling what Bella would do if she got riled up enough, no telling at all what Pietro would do in reaction to Bella’s possible antics.
As they tersely followed Aldrick to the laird, Lachlan almost wished it had come to a battle. Each footstep that landed on the stone floor of the long hallway echoed like a tolling funeral bell.
He noted their surroundings as they walked through the castle to the laird’s chamber. It was familiar to him from all the time he spent there— had it been only a few weeks earlier? He had been a beloved hero to the Glens at the time, after killing a madman who had been terrorizing the countryside in both the current time and in the future.
Everything he passed, he pictured the way it was in Piper’s time— a time he now thought of as his own. It wasn’t just his darling lass and the lovely modern conveniences that made him want to get back. He felt he belonged there somehow, as if he had been meant to travel there all along and meet his love. How else could his strange ability to traverse time be explained?
Judging by the way Bella was dragging her feet, he knew they were getting close. He leaned down and whispered in her ear for her to let him do the talking, that he would make everything right.
He owed it to her and Pietro to settle everything for them. It was mostly, well, all his fault that things were in such a muddle. He caught Pietro’s eye and nodded once, then pressed his lips together. Hopefully, the future bamheid would take the hint and keep his mouth shut.
They stopped in front of a closed door that was guarded by two stone-faced men who had far more weapons between them than Lachlan thought was strictly necessary. He thought he recognized one of them from when he was captured the first time so many months ago, before he knew he would be accidentally hurtled forward in time by a vengeful witch, only to meet the only woman he could ever love. The guard smirked at him, then quickly regained his flinty composure as the door opened.
Gordon, the laird’s oldest and most trusted advisor stepped halfway out, sweaty and haggard. His clothes were rumpled and the shadows under his eyes showed a deep lack of sleep. The last few days had been hard on everyone, it seemed.
A quick ripple of surprise passed over his features when he saw Lachlan with his hand firmly locked onto Bella’s arm and Lachlan swore to himself.
They should have had a man run ahead to announce them, give Tavish a few moments to compose himself. On the other hand, it didn’t give Tavish any extra time to plot his murder, either. Lachlan nodded to the advisor. What he knew of the man, Gordon seemed fair and of sound mind. A complete opposite to his laird.
After his initial shock at seeing them, Gordon’s face collapsed into fatigue again. He frowned at Bella, not an angry look, but one just short of despair. He glanced nervously at Lachlan and then gathered her into a quick hug.
“I’m glad to see ye safe, lass,” he said, his voice rough.
She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. “Of course, dear Uncle Gordy. But why should I be anything other when I’m with my husband and his kin?” She gave him a long look and he finally nodded in acceptance of her words.
“A word with the laird?” Lachlan asked.
He tried to peer around Gordon into the chamber to see if there were more armed men inside, but all he saw was the corner of a cabinet.
“Aye, ye must step in. Your father has been fair undone with your disappearance, lass.” He tried one last time to admonish her, but Lachlan was pleased to see she wouldn’t have any of that.
“As my husband was, when I was kidnapped from our land,” she replied.
Lachlan saw Pietro squirm every time she mentioned the word husband, but he was relieved she was going the full mile. He prayed her father would see her dedication to their union, so they could be on their way in peace. He would get the bloody false marriage annulled, get Bella and Pietro properly wed, then get back to Piper. His skin prickled as he thought how easy it all sounded.
Bella preceded him through the door, his hand resting lightly on her shoulder as he kept close behind her. As Pietro brought up the rear, Lachlan glanced back to make sure he was calm.
“Everything shall be fine,” he said quietly, hoping his face didn’t betray his true feelings, which were anything but confident.