Authors: Terri Brisbin
|Kidnapping the Laird|
Catriona MacDonnell is a wife of convenience who discovers that she wants more from the handsome, sexy laird she had to marry.
Padruig Grant was not happy when his wife kicks him out of her bed, but his pride prevents him from returning to it. When Catriona takes matters...and her husband...into her own hands to claim the love they both deserve, should he resist her valiant efforts or should he surrender?
This short story appears in the print edition of the MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCES from January 2011.
When not living the glamorous life of a romance author in the southern NJ suburbs,
spends her time being a married mom of three boys (now young men!) and one daughter-in-law as well as a dental hygienist of hundreds. Active in several RWA local chapters, Terri speaks at local and regional conferences across the US.
A three-time RWA RITA® finalist, Terri has sold more than 1.5 million copies of her historical romance novels and novellas in more than 20 countries around the world since 1998 and has been published by Berkley/Jove, Harlequin and Kensington Books. She's now working on more romances for release through 2013.
Visit her website at terribrisbin.com for more information or 'friend' her at Facebook at facebook.com/terribrisbin
on the banks of Loch Ness
She'd make ye a fine wife.”
Padruig Grant drank deeply from the cup he held and shook his head at his brother—his drunken brother.
She is already my wife,” he replied. They both watched Catriona MacDonnell as she sat talking to some of the other women at the gathering. Padruig glanced at his brother to see if the man was pissed-drunk and decided he must be. His marriage had been arranged to bring peace to the neighboring and warring clans, so there was no doubt that he was married to the woman.
Aye. . . nay. . . aye,” his brother stuttered.
When he was in his cups, Padruig knew no one but their mother could successfully intervene and order Jamie Grant to his bed—and live to do it again. She was nowhere to be seen. Padruig caught the eye of his other younger brother who joined their small group sitting at table in the front of the hall.
Dougal, I was just telling our brother that she would make him a fine wife,” his brother slurred his words now—not a good sign at all. Slurring words usually sat one step before a brawl.
married to Padruig,” Dougal took their brother's arm and slung it over his shoulders, guiding him to his feet and supporting him once he stood. “I'm hoping you can find a comely lass for me,” his brother said to him as he eased Jamie away from the table. But, as most of this day had gone, this would go as well—not well that was. Jamie pulled away, straightened to his full height and glared at Padruig, wagging his finger to emphasize his words.
Ye need bairns, Padruig. Weeuns to carry our name and blood. And ye need them now,” his brother declared. “Get rid of that harlot who shares yer bed and see to yer wife.”
Padruig stood then, his blood beginning to boil with rage, and he crossed his arms, glaring right back at his brother. “She is the daughter of our enemy. Why are you so intent on our marriage being anything more than what you helped arrange it to be and when you know the circumstances?” Though Dougal was the natural son of their father, his natural ability to negotiate made him the one to speak to other clans when business or treaties were needed.
Jamie squinted and frowned. Why had Padruig ever tried to speak sensibly to him when he'd been celebrating and drinking since yesterday? “Aye, I arranged it between ye two. But, the MacDonnells arena our enemies. I think of them as rivals.”
Padruig could not help it then. He laughed aloud at his brother's declaration. “Rivals? Rivals, you say? The MacDonnells are nothing more than a band of thieving, cheating criminals. Or have you forgotten already the cattle they stole from us? Or how they tried to push us from our lands here in Glenmoriston?” He shook his head, refusing to debate or argue when his brother was this drunk or to debate with anyone about
. Glancing up he noticed she was watching their exchange with some interest.
Damn it to hell! Why did she have to be a MacDonnell?
No one would argue that Catriona was a rare beauty with her heart-shaped face, clear blue eyes and wave upon glorious wave of gold-tinged auburn hair that reached to her hips when she unraveled it from the braid that usually confined it. And when she smiled, it was all he could do not to take her to her bed, peel off her garments, kiss her senseless and swive her until they could not move. His trews felt tight now as his cock surged in response to his thoughts about. . . his wife! Padruig could not be certain whether the lust in his blood for her showed on his face or not, but Catriona startled and looked away, not meeting his gaze.
Take him to his chambers, Dougal,” Padruig ordered, now in a softer voice. His younger brother began to help their sibling from the hall when he paused and smiled at Padruig.
Ye want her. She's yer wife,” Dougal pointed out the obvious, but Padruig waited for the rest. “It may have begun as something else, but that doesna mean it canna be something more.”
Padruig closed his eyes, hoping they would both be gone when he opened them. Thankfully, they were. But Catriona remained where she’d been for most of this evening—sitting with some of his younger cousins as far from him as she could be and yet still in the same room. She’d forged a friendship of sorts with his sister, who would leave in a few days to live with her husband’s family in the western isles. What would Catriona do then? He heard footsteps approaching from his right and knew from Catriona’s darkening gaze exactly who walked closer to him.
Seana’s hand glided along his arm and across his shoulder, touching his hair and tangling in its length. She pressed her body against his back, allowing the fullness of her breasts to rest on him. Then she leaned over and whispered in his ear. He could imagine the smile that sat on her full lips as she spoke, confident in her position as his leman.
Come now, Padruig. I am ready for bed,” she said in that sultry voice that usually sent waves of lust through his blood. This time though, the expression on Catriona’s face gave him pause.
If he did not know better, Padruig would have thought her bothered by Seana’s presence or by her attentions to him. But he did know, the memory of their disastrous wedding night burned fresh within him even these four months later. And her words, filled with loathing and disgust as she demanded he stay away from her from that night on, yet echoed in his head. Padruig had not returned to her bed or even tried to since that night, seeking out comfort in Seana’s warm embrace when he needed the softness of a woman.
But Padruig Grant was no fool and he knew better than anyone that he would seek out his wife if she gave but a sign that he would be welcomed. His pride and position as laird kept him from pursuing it and the current situation seemed to fulfill everyone’s needs—his, his wife’s, her clan’s and even his leman’s. Seana’s caress was ill-timed though and a blatant attempt on her part to lay some claim on him before the clan. He turned back to shrug off her hand and, when he glanced back, Catriona stood.
* * *
Until now, she knew she’d kept her reactions under control, but being shamed before his entire family was more than even she could bear without a response of some kind. Catriona pulled her emotions back from the brink of complete exposure and looked away from the scene unfolding at the high table between her husband and his whore. If she stood too fast or if her hands shook a bit as she gathered her cloak, surely the women there understood. As she walked out of the large hall where the Grants had gathered for the wedding feast of the laird’s youngest sister, she was not certain which hurt more— being shown how little she mattered to her husband or the pity she saw in the eyes of those who watched.
Reaching the small chamber she now claimed as her own, Catriona added some peat to the smoldering pile in the small hearth there and waited for some heat to spread out from it before undressing. This room had been an addition to the stone keep, an additional cooking hearth and storage room used for large gatherings or when needed. Once things between her and Padruig had deteriorated the morning after their wedding, she’d moved her belongings into it and no one had questioned or bothered her. Gazing around the chamber, she shuddered. If her father ever learned of her treatment or that she’d been reduced to fleeing her husband’s bed for the safety of an empty one, the fragile peace forced by this arranged marriage would be shattered.
And that was the only reason she even remained in this marriage, for her father had sworn that though she was the sacrificial lamb in this, she would not be led to slaughter. If she called on him and asked for his protection, Anghous MacDonnell would save his firstborn from the Grants. And war would follow. Catriona would not, could not, allow her family to suffer for her pride. Undressing, she hurried to climb in under the layers of warm bedcovers. Hours later, she lay awake, her pride pricking her over the constant insults to it.
If she could only claim to hate him for the situation between them, it would be easier to accept. The truth of the matter was that she did not. He had accepted the terms of their marriage as she had—it was never meant to be a love match or more than a simple outward sign of the peace treaty between his family and hers. The only physical relationship demanded of them was to live in the same place and to consummate their vows at least once.
They did. They had.
When she demanded that he leave her alone and not seek to continue to do such things, he left her alone, allowing her to live unmolested and as she pleased in the keep. Other than keeping a leman, Padruig treated her respectfully and never raised a hand to her. And usually, she never drew his eye or his attention.
Until this night.
She supposed she was out of sorts because of witnessing her only friend in Glenmoriston getting married and knowing that Nairna would leave in but a few days. And from having to watch Nairna and her new husband look at each other with such love in their eyes. Nay, she knew it was because all evening and for days now, she’d watched her own husband, unable to ignore his masculine beauty or the strength in his body.
Catriona shifted in the small bed, pulling the bedcovers up higher to stay warm, hoping that warmth would draw her into sleep and away from these disturbing thoughts and feelings. After watching his treatment of his leman and his reaction to her many public caresses and even kisses, Catriona recognized lust when she saw it in his dark, green eyes. And tonight, as he met her gaze after arguing with his brother, lust shone there. And something deep within her told her he lusted for her!
Another hour or two passed and the glimmer of an idea occurred to her about how to get past both her and Padruig’s pride in the matter of their marriage. After he’d sworn in front of others that he would never ask to come to her bed, she understood he would not, even if she invited him. But something inside her heart wanted him to want her and wanted something more than this inconvenient, impersonal arranged marriage. Something deep in her soul want to have a husband like Nairna’s who gazed on her with love in his eyes.