Authors: Becca St. John
Part 2 of
A Novel in Three Parts
Becca St. John
~ Destiny brought
them together. . .
if only for a
year and a day ~
Two stubborn people, each fighting for their own way.
The MacBede battle cry, “For Our Maggie!” and the impossible victory it spurs,
Talorc the Bold, the Laird MacKay vows to marry the lass for the power of the
Maggie MacBede refuses to risk
her heart to the sword. Give her a poet, a bard, any man but a fighting man, and
she will find her match.
Two passionate people, tangled in a skirmish of love.
Cornered into a Handfasting, a marriage for a year and a
day, Maggie MacBede finds herself plunked into the lap of danger and all
because of Talorc the Bold, the Laird MacKay.
Two powerful people, whose enemies would fight to divide.
An enemy lurks deep in the belly
of the clan sabotaging their Laird. By winning his bride’s love, Talorc may
just lose her life.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events,
persons or clans is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
Cover Art © 2012
Kelli Ann Morgan / Inspire Creative Services
To my husband for
introducing me to castles and Scotland and all things British.
Table of Contents
head spun as her world heaved and surged. Bile, bitter and hot, stung her throat.
She fought against it.
wretched thing roused her when all she wanted was to go back, deep, into
darkness. She must be on a boat with its pitch and sway, seasick and in a pain
so sharp it hurt too bad to think.
licked lips, dry as ash. Thirst. She was thirsty, and incapable of doing
anything but moan. Surely her mother was near.
A deep voice vibrated against her throbbing head.
shifted her. She groaned, flinched as sunlight pierced the veil of her cocoon.
boat stopped. Voices floated like jetsam in a harbor.
she awake?“Ah, the lass is goin’ to be alright? Eh?”
that deep voice hushed all others. Comforted by the protection, she snuggled
back toward the warmth of the body that held her.
girl,” his voice gentled. “We’re almost there.” The rocking started again. She
hated boats, and this one smelled of horses. Sounded of them to, the clump of
hooves, the snort of breath, close, too close. The boat lurched, the stench. .
she tried to push free, “I’m going to be sick.”
over the flank of a horse, she heaved, eyes shut as shattering pain racked her
head. It lasted too long, and then it was done. She clutched at a wet cloth
put to her mouth, pressed it there to hold back agony, and opened her eyes.
foot, dripping with sick, hung below her head. She snapped her eyes shut,
disoriented, as she was swung back up, into the arms of the man with the
mouth piece of a drinking bladder pressed against her lips but, thirsty as she
was, all her fuzzy mind could register was the horse. She was on a horse, not
up lass. It will make you feel better.”
Talorc.” She froze. Her mouth acknowledging what her fuzzy mind refused. Talorc
the Bold, the man her clan pushed her to handfast, to marry for a year and a
man the whole of the highlands idolized and she just christened his foot but
good. Shame mingled with her moan, and then she remembered. This man took her
from her home, the place she loved, the people she knew, where she was safe.
struggled to speak. “What happened?” but the words slurred, the effort to try
again so beyond possible she gave up thinking altogether.
caught a rock between the eyes. You’ve a nasty lump and you’ve slept for the
time it took to reach Glen Toric.”
horse started forward again, jarred her stomach, jolted her head. She sounded
the ache, clear from the depths of her.
sorry Maggie mine, but we are in sight of the castle, and I dare not stop. You
need to be tended to.”
would not answer to Maggie mine. It would hurt too much to try.
going as slow as possible.”
don’t want to be sick again.”
would blame you if you were.”
vibration of his voice rumbled through her. If he just put her on the still
ground, left her to die, she would be happy. He wouldn't though. He would push
her again, force her to wait to die, or at the least make her wait for
said they reached Glen Toric, his home, her home for the next year. These
people would be her people. She refused to disgrace herself by meeting them in
a dead faint. She would stand on her own two feet.
just now, it was an improbable goal.
the man for bringing her here, and the dizzy hum from a voice so deep she felt
it as much as heard it. “Do you ken the slant of our climb? Glen Toric sits atop
a steep mound. Bruce rode ahead to tell them you are with us. They are all
coming out the gates to greet you, Maggie.”
sick all over me."
were injured in battle, lass. There's honor in that."
Snippets of memory rolled through her awareness, as much dream as reality.
hold tightened. "They wore no plaid, and we took no prisoners. The dead
offered no recognition, but we think they were renegade Gunns."
lost some good men.”
horse stumbled, Maggie whimpered and remembered. "I killed."
snorted. "At least one and good on you."
bark of laughter shocked a cry from her.
Maggie, I’ll try to stay quiet.” Quite right, he should sound contrite.
tried to peek at his face, but only saw plaid. The slope of the ride forced her
to sink against him, a solid cradle that rocked with the lure of sleep.
a voice nudged at her consciousness. “Are you awake, lass?”
me be. All she could do was groan.
hem of her skirt tugged. “She’s a strapping lass.”
now, give her room. She’s injured y’ know.”
take care of her.”
the hush, whispers crept through the milling crowd.
this what the dream meant?”
couldna’ be, she’s alive.”
a crow, on a bride’s shoulder.”
not a bride, she’s a handfast.”
heard it from Seonaid. The lass claims someone dreamt it.”
I heard the same.”
live," Talorc snapped, silencing the whispers.
Maggie thought. Death would be a sweet welcome, would stop the spinning, the
churning of her stomach and the anvils pain of her head.
didna' say what bride." Another hissed and the murmurs resumed.
could only catch bits of the exchanges, could make little sense of the import.
she really save your life, Bold?”
said she took a sword and used it."
stone she threw hit its mark."
a fine lass, boy. Fine woman to have by your side."
lips brushed her ear, “You've impressed them lass."
fooled.” She breathed.
they’re wise ones they are,” he told her, as the buzz of curiosity grew.
movement ceased. “We’re at the steps, Maggie. It’ll jar you a might, getting
down, but I’ll be as easy as I can.”
stand,” she goaded herself with the declaration.
you’ll not stand.” Talorc slipped her from his lap to the horses back so he
could dismount, then eased her into his arms.
man robbed her of her pride.
go, Talorc.” He held her closer. “I’m needing to be sick.”
to the truth, the fib worked. Talorc set her down, eased her around. Braced
between his back and arm, he kept her from collapsing on wobbly legs.
blinked. A swarm of features moved before her, as vague as a reflection in a
her room.” He barked, and the blur shifted.
eased a lock of hair away from her eyes. A collective gasp thundered at Maggie.
She fought to keep upright as the sound pummeled her.
you look at that?” It asked with reverent horror.
pushed back into Talorc's hold.
nearby reached out. Instinctively Maggie pulled back as Talorc clasped the
woman’s wrist just shy of Maggie's face.
now, leave her be.”
be needing some cold against that, Laird. And belladonna for the ache of it.”
Laird, she’ll need tending.”