Authors: Highland Princess
Copyright © 2004 by Lynne Scott-Drennan
Lord of the Isles
copyright © 2004 by Lynne Scott-Drennan.
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First eBook Edition: November 2004
Praise for Amanda Scott and her Marvelous Secret Clan Series
“Features the same intriguing mix of romance, adventure, and a sprinkling of magic as the ‘wee folk’ continue to play matchmaker with mortals.”
“TOP PICK! . . . With a master storyteller’s pen, Scott deftly melds witty dialogue, the majesty of Scotland, and a wee bit of magic in this excellent and imaginative romance.”
“A wonderful tale that will have readers in stitches . . . Full of humor, courage, and passion . . . a must-read.”
Romance Reviews Today
“As always, the author manages to blend magic, mystery, romance, and adventure with a deft hand.”
“Fun and entertaining . . . combining suspense and romance, with a generous helping of magic.”
Old Book Barn Gazette
“A vivid Scottish setting, an engaging battle of wits, and a dash of fantasy all come together beautifully.”
“Totally engaging . . . highly charged romance, snappy repartee, memorable characters, and some wild adventures . . . a nonstop read.”
“Ms. Scott soars through her story with excitement.”
“Filled with adventure, fantasy, and the wonder of love.”
“An exciting work of romantic suspense . . . a wonderful novel.”
Midwest Book Review
“Sensual . . . a well-written, recommended read.”
“Amanda Scott has done it again! . . . This is the perfect combination of reality and legend.”
“Vivacious . . . fluid and lyrical . . . a whirling, twirling read that’s as haunting as the beautiful skirl of bagpipes.”
“Doesn’t miss a beat . . . plenty of intrigue, suspense, and romance . . . a very satisfying and entertaining read.”
“Scott’s fans will be glad to see this one.”
Southern Pines Pilot (NC)
OTHER BOOKS BY AMANDA SCOTT
The Secret Clan: Reiver’s Bride
The Secret Clan: Highland Bride
The Secret Clan: Hidden Heiress
The Secret Clan: Abducted Heiress
The Bawdy Bride
The Rose at Twilight
The Curtain rises on Act III with the entrance of Lady Peel:
Sue Bengston Steele
12 December 2003
Requiescat in pace
In the fourteenth century, the surname Stewart was in transition from an occupational term to a surname. Robert the Steward, having descended from Robert the Bruce’s sister, Marjory, assumed the throne in 1371 (five years after this story takes place) as Robert II, the progenitor of the Stewart dynasty of Scotland and, later, England. Robert’s daughter, the princess Margaret, was known as Margaret Stewart.
For readers who enjoy knowing the correct pronunciation of names and places mentioned, please note the following:
Ardtornish = Ard-TOR-nish
Clan Chattan = Clan HAT-tan
Duart = DOO-ert
Eilean Mòr = EE-lee-an MORE
Gillean = Jill-ANE
Hebrides = HEH-bri-deez
Isla (or its present-day spelling, Islay) = EE-lah
Lubanach = LOO-ban-ock
Maclean = Mac LANE
Macleod = Mac LOUD
Reaganach = RAY-gan-ock
Tioram = CHEER-em
Loch Gruinart, the Isle of Isla, Scotland, March 1366
he tide was going out, and still he had not come to her, despite his promise to arrive at the loch early so that she could get home before dark. Already she was late starting, and it would be as much as her life was worth if she failed again to have supper ready on time.
She walked along the sand toward the cliffs on the north shore, determined not to look as if she were impatient for him. As always, a thrill rippled through her at the thought of the danger in what she did. She liked a bit of risk, though. It added interest to her otherwise humdrum existence.
He had said he had to go to Kilchoman and would meet her on his way back, so he would come soon. He had to come. He had to take care of her, too, and the bairn, because he had promised he would. He was not always able to keep his promises, but he had to keep this one. He had to make her feel safe again.
As the sun sank nearer the horizon, she stood staring at the sea, forcing herself to relax, to enjoy the changing patterns of light. The dull gray clouds drifting overhead would turn to brilliant, rosy colors as the sun set, although she dared not linger long enough to see it, and the sight would not be as splendid from home.
A twig snapped, and she whirled with a smile of welcome that vanished when the man she saw was not the one she expected.
“Aye, ’tis me, right enough,” he snarled, striding up to her and putting both hands on her shoulders, gripping so tightly that she cried out.
“Don’t! Let me go!”
“Nay, then, ye were warned no t’ play off more o’ your tricks, lass. Ye’ve done it now for the last time, I’m thinking, if ye ken what’s good for ye. But afore I teach ye t’ mind your betters, ye’ll be paying a wee tribute, as his grace might say.”
She screamed, but no one heard her except the one collecting his tribute, and her screaming was no more to him than the gulls’ shrieks overhead. Indeed, it added spice for him to know she was paying dearly now for the wrongs she had done him in the past.
Although she did not know it then, she had already seen her last sunset.
Before long, her screams faded to silence.
Near the eastern coast of Isla, a fortnight later
ense fog blanketed the sea, flattening the waves and creating a world of eerie silence where water, land, and sky merged into impenetrable grayness. That fog was stealing the last hours of Ian Burk’s life.
Each passing minute drew the hangman’s noose nearer, but without wind, the slender royal galley bearing his hopeful rescuer could only drift with the tide. Its great square sail was useless and its eighteen oarsmen, unable to judge their exact location or course, had long since stopped rowing. They and their three passengers sat in silence as thick and heavy as the fog-muffled surroundings, listening intently.
Seventeen-year-old Lady Mairi of Isla pulled her hooded, fur-lined crimson cloak more snugly around her, stifling impatience. Even her father, the most powerful man in the Isles if not in all Scotland, could not successfully order fog to dissipate.
Beside her, her woman Meg Raith muttered, “’Tis cruel o’ the fog t’ blind us after the stars and wind we had when we left Dunyvaig. In troth, one canna help but wonder now what lies beneath us.” Her voice shook on the words.
“No sea monster stalks these waters,” Mairi said firmly.
“None would dare,” Meg agreed as if no thought of monsters gliding through the dark depths below had ever entered her head. Less resolutely, she added, “Be ye certain, mistress?”
“Aye, and in any event, the sun is up or soon will be, because everything around us was black a short while ago,” Mairi said, pushing a damp, dark curl back under the shelter of her hood. “Moreover, Meg, it is the very nature of fog to creep up on unsuspecting travelers. This one would not seem nearly so eerie had it not swallowed us in the darkness before we realized it was so near.”
“Mayhap ye be right, mistress, but ’tis unsettling all the same.”
Mairi agreed. Highland galleys usually moved swiftly, especially when wind and tide were favorable, and she loved the sea. The journey from her father’s castle Dunyvaig, on the southeastern coast of Isla, to his administrative center on Loch Finlaggan in the north was nearly always a safe one and—at just over twenty miles—relatively short. But even the longest journeys on the water were seldom boring, because the scenery changed constantly and playful otters or seals often accompanied the galleys, amusing passengers with their antics.
She had rarely made any journey on a moonless night, however, with only stars to guide her helmsman, and now, thanks to the fog, the trip had taken hours longer than usual. And hours, for Ian, were precious.
Just then, the helmsman blew two notes on his ram’s horn, as he did at ten-minute intervals, both to give warning of their presence to anyone else daft enough to be on the water in such murk and to demand a response from the lookout at Claig Castle when they drifted near enough. The massive fort on the Heather Isle guarded the south entrance to the Sound of Isla, a waterway of great strategic value to Mairi’s father, MacDonald, Lord of the Isles and King of the Hebrides.
She turned her attention to the galley’s stern, where her fair-bearded half brother lounged on a pile of leather skins beside the helmsman, looking grimly annoyed through the thick mist that billowed about him.
Knowing her voice would carry easily in the silence, she said quietly, “How much farther do you reckon it is, Ranald?”
His expression softened as he shifted his gaze to her. Like all three of her elder half brothers, twenty-one-year-old Ranald was a large, broad-shouldered, handsome man who bore the natural air of authority that sat easily on each of them. A little smile touched his lips as he said, “Near, lass, but not so near that I can promise ye’ll be warming your toes by a fire in less than an hour or two.”
“The water seems so still,” she said. “I can scarcely tell if it is the fog or the boat that moves. Has the tide begun its turn?”