Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, September 18, 2015

Excerpt Friday! Conquered by the Highlander by Eliza Knight

Happy Friday! Today's excerpt comes from my new novel, Conquered by the Highlander, the first in the new Stolen Brides spin-off series! I shared the prologue here a few months ago. Now how about a snippet from Chapter One? I hope you enjoy!


A hero determined to have it all...

After losing his betrothed to a Lowlander, Laird Gabriel MacKinnon is charged with saving her cousin along with a brood of children from an impenetrable castle. Though, the lady he’s been tasked to protect has been accused of a heinous crime, Gabriel has no fear of her. In fact, he’s a little irritated at the prospect of delivering her to her kin. But this hardened, cold warrior just may find his heart melting, for the hellion brings out a passionate side he’d thought long buried.

A lady who will stop at nothing to see him fail...

Lady Brenna has had more than her share of hardships and when freedom looks to be on the brink of her horizon, she’s not about to let some moody Highlander take it all away. She’ll stop at nothing to keep her children safe—and to guard her heart—even though the warrior’s heated kiss threatens to change every vow she’s ever made and every belief about love she’s ever known.


LAIRD Gabriel “Wolf” MacKinnon was ready to kill someone.
Anger sliced a path through his veins, coiling his muscles. A snarl curled his lips. He gripped his sword tight and circled the bastard standing in the center of the bailey. Ginger hair pulled back with a leather thong, the warrior even grinned a little, creases cutting his tanned cheeks. His dark eyes sparkled.
Chief Lamont.
Gabriel’s enemy.
Overhead, the summer sun broke free of any clouds and shone on them with glee—as if the heavens themselves were laughing at Gabriel’s expense. Bloody hell.
“How dare ye step foot on my land after what ye did. Either ye’re a damned fool or ye’ve got bloody ballocks of iron. If I were ye, I’d be preparing to meet my maker, ye whoreson!”
Nearly a decade had passed since the filthy maggot had stolen his woman and Gabriel was still spitting mad.
Lamont pulled his own sword from his scabbard, fury flaring in his eyes. Gabriel was glad the foolish grin had been wiped from his face.
A dozen MacKinnons drew their weapons, leaping forward, but Gabriel warned them away. He would handle the bloody jackanapes on his own.
“’Twas Montgomery’s doing and ye know it,” Lamont offered in defense of his actions.
Gabriel shook his head with disgust. “Dinna lie, I can see it plain on your face.”
“My wife fairs well, in case ye were wondering.”
If that wasn’t Lamont’s attempt to goad Gabriel’s anger, he didn’t know what could be.
The “Wolf” broke free and Gabriel let out a battle cry as he arched his sword bringing it down on Lamont, who, disappointingly, parried at the last second. The warrior was strong and their swords clashed, sparks flying. He held still, gripping on to Gabriel’s wrist as he stared him straight in the eye. Fury gone, replaced with something close to pleading.
“I need to speak with ye, MacKinnon. We can fight later.”
“What for?” Even the mention of her name sent his heart into aching spams. He’d fallen in love with Ceana Montgomery, sister to Laird Jamie Montgomery, eight years before and had been prepared to wed her when a deal had been brokered between the two bastard lairds and she’d been ripped from his arms. “Have ye come to gloat?”
Gabriel didn’t wait for the man to answer, instead he leapt back and launched in to another attack. Anger blinding him to everything save revenge against the man who’d stolen away his bride.
“Dammit, Wolf, cease this. I’ll not kill ye and Ceana would dismember me if I even injured ye.”
“Ye’d better kill me, else I’ll slice ye at the neck here and now.” Holding his sword steady, Gabriel glanced back toward the keep briefly to be certain his mother had not come outside. There was no need for her to lay witness to his rage at their visitor and, even though he was laird, she’d feel obligated to make an attempt at breaking up their fray.
They continued to circle one another, attacking, blocking, until sweat poured down their spines and over their brows. A crowd had discreetly grown around them, no one making a sound for fear they’d be turned away.
Lamont ducked and twisted away. “Do ye think I’d travel so far simply to gloat? I’ve need of your help.”
That gave Gabriel pause. He stopped his attack for a moment, but kept his sword pointed squarely at Lamont’s throat.
“What is it? Is Ceana all right?” When he’d met her, she’d just been widowed, and happily so, given her marriage had not been a pleasant one. He’d loved her, wanted her, and then she’d been given away. He wanted to grab Lamont by his neck and shake him. To lift him off his feet and watch the breath dissipate from his body. “Ye’d better be making her happy.”
Lamont smiled, a whimsical look that didn’t suit the fierce warrior. Blast it all, the arse was in love with her. Gabriel ground his teeth.
“Ceana is well and happy. As am I.”
Gabriel tightened his hold on the hilt of his sword. He didn’t want Lamont to be happy, but if the man wasn’t, that would mean that Ceana wasn’t either, and he knew how heartbroken she’d been when her brother had given her the news that he’d not honor Gabriel’s request for her hand. Hell, she’d sobbed on his shoulder for an hour and he’d been close to tears himself. But that was years ago and he’d not shed another tear for her loss, even if his heart had broken and never healed since.
Sweat trickled over Lamont’s brow and he swiped it. “’Tis another matter I come to ye with.”
“What?” Gabriel cracked his neck, loosening himself up for the next round of attack.
“Ceana’s cousin, Lady Brenna MacLeod.”
“The MacLeod’s wife?” MacLeod land bordered the west of the MacKinnon holding and they’d been allies until four years before when the old laird died and his son took over. Having a violent and vengeful nature, the new laird had made it his plan to seize all of the Isle of Skye for himself. Perhaps he’d had a taste for it since he was a lad of sixteen and married Brenna MacNeacail after murdering and seizing her clan’s castle and holding, which bordered MacKinnon land to the north.
Gabriel had never seen Brenna himself, but he’d been told she was a frail little thing, barely more than the size of a child.
“Aye. The MacNeacail’s wife, Amalie, was sister to Jamie and Ceana’s mother, making them cousins.”
“What’s this got to do with me?”
“We’ve heard about the trouble MacLeod has been giving ye.”
“And?” Trouble it had been at first. A few cattle raids, a couple skirmishes along the road. They’d turned into more than just a nuisance when MacLeod had started ambushing their trading wagons, interrupting their markets and then pillaging villages.
The MacKinnon holding to the east controlled access to Loch Alsh and the mainland, as well as the Sound, which led into the Minch and the surrounding seas. MacLeod land also bordered the Minch, but they’d not conquered all the MacDonald’s holdings whose access to the Sound of Sleet also fed to the mainland, though ships had to sail through the treacherous Minch. Having access to the narrow sound and loch to the mainland would have been a boon for the MacLeods and the only way to command it was for them to take control of MacKinnon lands. Which they’d not yet succeeded in doing. But not for lack of trying. Any day now, Gabriel expected a full on attack by the MacLeods.
“We want ye to fight.” Lamont dug the tip of his sword into the ground.
“Aye. Take on those MacLeod bastards.”
“To what purpose?” Gabriel glanced at his men from the sides of his eyes and gave a little swipe of his hand. They started to back away, though they didn’t disperse completely.
Lamont cocked his head and studied MacKinnon. “I think we both know to what purpose.”
“I’ll not kill another laird. That will only be inviting every MacLeod to my doorstep itching for a fight.” The entire Isle of Lewis, thousands of warriors. Even the MacLeod holdings on the Isle of Skye vastly outnumbered his own.
“Ye need not kill him, Wolf. Have ye not heard?”
“Heard what?”
Lamont raised his brows, seeming surprised that Gabriel was oblivious to whatever news he was about to impart.
“Rumor has it, his wife’s done the deed herself. But now she and her wee ones are being held prisoner by the MacLeod’s younger brother. She managed to get a letter to Ceana begging for help.”
Gabriel chewed on that bit of information. The wee lass had killed her husband? Must have done it in his sleep. A slip of a woman like that would be hard pressed to kill a mouse caught in a trap.
“And?” Gabriel prompted, still not entirely sure what the hell it was that Lamont wanted.
“The lass needs help.”
Gabriel waited for him to say more, but he didn’t, leaving the space between them thick with unanswered questions. Gabriel let out a small groan. “Are ye expecting me to rescue her?”
Lamont’s face lit up, as if he’d been hoping Gabriel would come to that conclusion and he wouldn’t have to actually make the suggestion himself. “And the wee ones. Their uncle has threatened to kill them and I wouldn’t put it past him. He needs them dead so he can be laird.”
Lamont, after unmanning him, wanted to see him further emasculated by playing rescuer and nursemaid? “Nay. Not a chance.”
Gabriel shook his head prepared to call over his guards to have Lamont tossed out of the gates on his ear.
“Wolf, I beg ye. Ceana begs ye.”
He ground his teeth again, the crunching noise it made music to his already pained ears. “Ye’re jesting.”
“Not at all. I swear it.” Lamont crossed himself.
Dammit! The man was serious. And Ceana wanted his help, too. Aye, he’d lost her, but after all these years, he would still do anything for her.
Gabriel let out a loud, irritated groan. “How many wee ones?”
Lamont spoke softly and slowly as if he were trying not to awaken a bear. “Four. Three lads and a little lass.”
MacKinnon rolled his eyes. “Ye just expect me to ride up on my horse and gallop away with a lady and her four bairns?”
Lamont shrugged. “Well, if ye could take the castle that would be even better, considering the eldest boy is set to inherit as laird.”
A murderess and her, no doubt, unruly children. “How old is he?”
“Fourteen summers.”
Gabriel rolled his head from side to side, cracking his neck. He needed to weigh his options. If the laird was dead and his fourteen-year-old son was going to inherit, then he’d likely be advised by a group of elder clansmen. They could end up being like his father, content with continuing the arsehole’s plan for Skye, or they could be men that were loyal to the lad’s grandfather, MacKinnon’s old ally. Then again, Lamont mentioned that the boy was being held prisoner with his family and that their uncle wanted to kill them all.
If their uncle was as power hungry as he was being made out to be, which seemed fairly obvious, then MacKinnon may have an even bigger problem.
“Do the men have no loyalty to their new laird?” Gabriel asked.
“The lad?”
“Seems the uncle’s named himself his nephew’s advisor and will rule until he comes of age.”
Just as he feared. Gabriel got straight to the point. “What’s in it for me?”
“Lady Brenna.”
Oh, this just got worse and worse. “Ye cannot be serious.”
“An old hag? She’s borne four children already. What good is she to me?”
Lamont raised his brow. “She’s not as old as ye may suspect.”



1 comment:

DebbieG said...

Wow! this sounds so great, can't wait to read the rest!