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Claimed by the Clan Chief by Lily Harlem – Sample

Chapter One

Isla Dunoon concentrated as she carried the heavy tray of ale across the bustling banquet room. Her laird, Stewart McDonald, was hosting an important Jacobite as well as family he hadn’t seen for some time. It was essential she didn’t spill the drinks the thirsty crowd were clamouring for.

She dodged a fellow maid, Diane, then scooted past a hound lying on the floor. His canine gaze was fixed on his master and he was obviously hoping for scraps. Perhaps he’d be lucky and get some. Isla, too, was eager for food. There was a plate of liver and onions in the kitchen, which she hoped had been set aside for the servants.

“More ale to wet your whistles.” She set the tray beside a ham hock already half demolished and a bowl of tatties with several heavy silver spoons sticking from it.

“Ah, that’s good of ye,” one of the visitors said, giving her a toothless, leery smile and leaning in close.

She stepped away. He smelled of damp earth and stagnant water. She hoped he’d make the most of a tub, or at least the stream and wash himself up. In fact it wouldn’t do most of the men in the room any harm to freshen themselves and get a change of clothes.

Apart from the laird, his important guest, and the two men who’d arrived with the woman, what was her name? Lady Moira Campbell. Aye. She seemed nice. Quiet, and with a soft smile. Both the laird’s nephew, Kendal McDonald, and his friend appeared smitten with her and Isla wouldn’t have wagered which one she was with, it could be either.

Or both.

Perhaps it was both.

She studied them, noting the ease at which they interacted. The expressions on the fierce Highlanders’ faces were gentle as they looked at Lady Campbell who glanced between them frequently giving neither one nor the other more or less attention.

“Isla, get to work, ye lazy wee lass.” Una jabbed her elbow into Isla’s ribs.

“Och, leave off.” Isla turned with a frown. If she had a tincture of milk thistle she’d add a few drops to Una’s toddy. That would shut her in the lavvy for a while and out of Isla’s way.

Una’s jaw clenched and her eyes flashed.

Sometimes Isla wondered if she made Una nervous, but not nervous enough for Una to stop bossing her around. She still oversaw Isla’s work from dawn till dusk each day—Isla scrubbing and cleaning until her hands were raw and her feet pained her.

Una quickly turned and then jumped with a squeal as one of the uncouth visitors slapped her rump.

There was a deep guffaw from the men at the far end of the table as Una hurried away rubbing her ass.

Isla continued to frown, hoping her surly expression would keep her safe from unwanted attention. If the men desired that sort of woman they could go into the town and find wenches who’d lie back and take cock for money. She had no intention of getting up close and personal with any of the men in this room, not for all the gold in Edinburgh.

Well, apart from one man.

The Highlander in charge—the leader of the rebel clans.

Trevor McTavish had a fierce reputation and tales of his victories travelled far and wide, earning him much admiration amongst the Jacobites. It was rumoured he’d recently taken on a hundred-strong Red Coat convoy journeying through the borders. With just five men he’d sent those who’d survived running south. He’d also been known to infiltrate English strongholds, earn trust, and then steal vital information. He was a warrior not just with his hands, but also with his brain.

Isla thought how brave he must be, to walk into enemy territory and thieve, and to charge into a battle when he was outnumbered.

He’s a true Scot and a true Highlander.

As she made her way back toward the kitchen her gaze landed on Trevor McTavish. As a fellow supporter of king and country her laird was so keen to lavish attention upon him. Nothing was too good for McTavish—the fattest pig slaughtered, the best from the vegetable garden, and only Mrs. Humphrey’s sourdough bread would do.

He was a formidable size with shoulders so wide and solid they could have been carved from the cliff face up yonder. And so tall she was sure she’d barely come up to his shoulder if stood side by side. And his hands, they were the span of the dinner plate he was eating from, his fingers thick, his forearms coated in dark hair that did nothing to hide the strength lurking there.

What muscles lay beneath his clothes?

His plaid was flipped over his left shoulder and his tunic tied about his waist with a leather strap. His kilt hid more fascination for her. She’d never been with a man but knew from friends’ tittle-tattle what they liked to do with their cocks.

What would it be like… with him? With McTavish’s big cock inside her? Because she was sure it would be big, huge in fact.

He glanced upward and his attention landed directly on Isla.

Her knees weakened and her stomach flipped. Her steps faltered.

Trevor McTavish had one blue eye and one green eye. A witch had touched him when he was a bairn. He had the power to see into souls, see what a person really wanted from him. No wonder he was the leader of clans and could dare to be so bold in battle.

She gulped and looked away. Her thoughts were unwholesome, and she didn’t want him privy to them. He was her laird’s guest, not a man she should be having daydreams about—especially not lying-with-him-naked daydreams, having-his-cock-inside-her daydreams.

For the love of Mother Nature, I have to get out of here.

Isla gathered the hem of her skirt and scurried from the room. All of her life she’d hidden the teachings her aunt had passed onto her—the secrets of the forest and the power within the plants that grew there. The whispers of the trees at night. The ways of the fairies and the magic of the moonlight.

Oh, she’d had suspicious looks and even the odd comment, but never more than that. She’d been careful not to get herself into trouble with her otherworldly dabbling.

But now… now there was a man right here who could see into souls and learn all kinds of secrets.

She rushed down the wide stone steps and into the kitchen. The scent of broth and brine weaved around her, mixing with the sweetness of pastry.

“In heaven’s name, lass, slow down.” Mrs. Humphrey scowled as she worked at the kitchen table with Diane. “You’ll fair fall flat on your face.”

“Sorry.” Isla came to a halt and glanced over her shoulder.

“What is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Diane said.

“A ghost.” Isla wiped her ale-stained hands on a cloth and pulled in a deep breath. “Och, no, not a ghost, just a man who…”

“Who made your heart skip a beat.” Mrs. Humphrey chuckled as she set the finishing touches to a platter. “About time you found a suitor, though I’m surprised it’s one of those smelly old fools that rattled in with the Jacobite the laird admires so much.”

“Exactly, smelly old fools.” Isla didn’t want Mrs. Humphrey and Diane prying. Privacy was something she valued; she had to, with her skills. “Shall I take this out to the table?”

“Aye, you do that.” Mrs. Humphrey turned to the stove. “And then come right back. I’ll need you to take more ale out. Una says they’re drinking like they’ve never seen ale before. God only knows when they’ll have their fill.”

Isla reached for the plate. It was hot and she quickly set it down then grabbed a cloth to protect her fingers.

After delivering the food, Isla rushed back to the kitchen and scooped up a tray set with jugs of ale.

“Be sure to put that at the top of the table; it’s the new barrel, the best we’ve got. The laird will want McTavish to sample it.”

“Aye, I can do that.” Though she wouldn’t look him in the eyes again. Once was enough, he already knew too much.

Una barged in, muttering about another slap on her ass, then set about pouring ale into mugs. “Watch out for them,” she said to Isla. “The more of this they drink, the more handsome they believe they are.”

“And most have no teeth and warts on their noses,” Isla said.

“No hair, and chitterlings for smiles.” Una laughed and Mrs. Humphrey and Diane joined in, the sound rushing around the hot kitchen and lightening the mood.

But Isla’s mood didn’t lighten for long. Returning to the banquet hall, she realized she was in for a devil of a night. The guffawing and ale drinking was in full flow and it was clear these men had the stamina of wild boar.

“Hey, you lass, over here.” The toothless man who’d leered at her before waved his arms in her direction.

Isla ignored him and set the tray at the head of the table as cook had instructed.

“Ah, you will like this, McTavish, try it.” The laird smacked his lips together and pushed the tray toward his guest. “I’ve instructed for a barrel of the best ale to be opened in your honour.”

“Aye, it looks good. You are too kind.” McTavish turned his attention from the ale to Isla. “Thank you.”

Quickly she backed away, knotting her fingers and looking at the floor. His deep voice spun in her head and seemed to vibrate through her chest. It was as if there was no one else in the room when he spoke. There was such command and confidence in his deep tones.

After two steps she found her shoulders colliding with a wall of stone, or at least that’s what it felt like. A dank musky scent assaulted her nostrils.

Gasping, she turned.

The man who’d been harassing her earlier gripped her shoulders and set his attention on her breasts as though he could see through the material of her dress.

“Get off me,” she said, shoving at him.

But it was like trying to shift a boulder and her slight weight did nothing to change his stance.

“Ye got more of that good ale for our end of the table?” he asked.

“I’ll go and ask cook,” she said, still squirming. “If you’ll let me.”

“Or we could come to some other arrangement. Perhaps I’m hungry for something else now.” He laughed loudly and glanced at his friends at the opposite end of the table who were smirking their way. “If you ken what I mean.” He lifted his left hand from her shoulder and cupped his groin. “I reckon a good seeing to would bring a smile to your face, stop you being so sour.”

“No, get off me.”

“Ah, come on, lass, your laird won’t mind. His home is our home, he said.”

Irritation turned to fear. A devilish shine in his eyes told Isla he wouldn’t be dissuaded.

She swallowed as nausea gripped her belly. “Leave me be, I have work to do.”

“Aye, woman’s work.” He leaned closer, seeming to loom over her and take out all the light from the candles behind him.

She twisted to shake him free, but he gripped her wrists and tugged her toward the door.

“No.” This couldn’t be happening. Not in front of the laird, in front of his guests. “May you burn in hell with Satan for all eternity.”

He spun to her, surprise crossing his face. He released her left wrist and raised his palm, as if to strike her.

Isla held her breath, an imagined pain already slicing over her cheek. She anticipated the worst.

A huge bang rattled around the room and up to the ceiling—wood on hard tiled floor.

Out of the corner of her eye, Isla saw McTavish rising to his full height with his seat toppled behind him. His jaw was set tight and his fists were clenched. He stared their way.

“Take your hands off her, Broc.”

Broc, Isla’s tormentor, stilled. “Ye said we’d have wenches here, McTavish. I’m claiming this one.”

“You can get yourself down to the tavern for that.”

“Why? I have one I want here.” Broc took another step toward the door, dragging Isla with him. “One my cock wants.”

Isla stumbled and tried to yank herself free. “Leave me be.” She’d bite him, knee him in the groin, and gouge out his eyeballs the moment she had a chance to. But damn, he was strong, and determined too.

A flash of polished silver rushed through the air—a sword—the sharp tip landing neatly in the hollow of Broc’s throat.

Again he stilled; he had to, it was that or have his blood spilled. His gaze went to McTavish standing at his side and the expression on his face tightened.

“I said,” McTavish tilted his chin, “leave her be. She’s not yours to take.”

Broc swallowed, his Adam’s apple grazing the sword tip, but he didn’t release Isla’s left arm.

McTavish’s nostrils flared and he jabbed the sword forward, just a little. A bright button of ruby-red blood appeared on Broc’s stubble-coated throat.

“Aye, aye, hold your horses.” Suddenly Broc released her and stepped away.

Isla gasped with relief and rubbed at her smarting forearms. His grip had been steely and mean.

But McTavish followed him, his sword still aloft, and now angled at Broc’s chest.

“I let her go.” Broc huffed and went to move to the side.

“Not so fast,” McTavish said, jabbing Broc’s tunic with his sword.

“Och, get off,” Broc said, backing up until his shoulders hit the wall to the right of a sconce holding a thick white candle.

“Don’t like it so much now, do ye?” Isla snapped at him. “Being someone’s prisoner.”

McTavish turned his attention to her.

She quickly looked at the floor.

“Aye,” McTavish said. “He doesn’t like it. Perhaps you should choose… what’s your name?”

“Isla Dunoon, sir.”

“Well, Isla Dunoon, as this man was going to do anything he pleased with you, I believe it only fair you should now decide his fate.”

By the power of witches and mages. By the power of crones and sages. I wish thy blood turn black and I craft a curse upon your back. So let it be.

She clamped her lips together to hold the words in. Later she’d chant them aloud, and burn broom beneath the moonlight. That should do it.

“What do you wish it to be?” McTavish said.

Broc was trapped against the wall. He didn’t look so tough now. Beads of sweat sat on his forehead and over his top lip and his breaths were coming fast, his chest rising and falling rapidly. He glared at Isla.

“I would like,” she said, holding his narrowed gaze, “that it would serve him well to have his black heart gouged out and fed to the crows from the highest tower.”

McTavish chuckled. “Inventive. I like it.”

“What! No,” Broc gasped.

“Or maybe remove his eyeballs and replace them with pig’s eyes, that would suit him better… on second thought, what poor old pig would want that ugly face?”

McTavish chuckled some more. “I agree. He is bloody ugly. Filthy too.” He stepped back and re-sheathed his basket-hilted sword. “Go and get cleaned up, man, and not just your clothes, your mind too.”

“Hear, hear,” one of the other drunken visitors shouted. “Dirty bastard looks like he’s already been living in a pig sty.”

A roar of laughter followed, the tense atmosphere lifting now McTavish’s sword had been re-homed.

But McTavish’s mood didn’t appear lighter; he stepped closer to Broc and spoke quietly. “Go near this woman, or any of the laird’s servants, and I will personally slice off your balls, and I’ll shove them in your eye sockets, you ken what I’m saying?”

“Aye, I ken.” Broc paused. “I apologize, didn’t think it would be any harm to see to me needs.”

“By taking a woman against her will?”

“Ah, they like it.”

“I can assure you we do not.” Isla folded her arms and glanced at her laird. His attention was on his nephew and he was talking with enthusiasm. “We don’t like to be touched by men with newt fingers, dog breath, and cocks that remind us of tapeworms.”

“Oh, Lord, give me strength, you do have a way with words, woman.” McTavish smiled at her, his stern face softening.

For a moment his green-blue gaze bored into her, then she ducked her head and stepped away. “I have to go.” She couldn’t let him see into her soul, see the curse she was planning for Broc. “I’m sorry.”

“Wait,” he said.

But Isla didn’t wait. She rushed from the room and into the cool of the hallway that led to the kitchen. She dragged in several deep breaths. Her heart was thumping. She wanted to wash Broc’s touch from her arms. She wanted to stare into McTavish’s eyes again, hear his laugh, and admire his strength.

Stop it, you fool. You can’t look at him. Don’t even think of him.

Ever.

Chapter Two

Trevor McTavish watched the pretty young maid rush from the room as though the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels. For some reason she’d seemed spooked by his attention. He’d just come to her rescue so why would that be?

Broc was a drunken idiot. A horny one too. Not that he was any kind of stallion, and soon he’d be a gelding if he kept up his immoral ways. McTavish would see to that. He needed strong, brave fighters for the cause, men who weren’t afraid of battle and blood, but that didn’t mean morals had to go out of the window. Tomorrow he’d have a talk with all the men. Grateful as he was to have their support and following, he didn’t need rapists amongst them. Young maidens deserved protection and respect, and it was a man’s job to do that.

He returned his attention to his host and sat back down.

“Terrible business, all of that,” the laird said.

“Aye, my apologies, won’t happen again.”

“I’m sure it won’t. You keep your men in good order.”

“I’d prefer it if they could do that for themselves, at least when it comes to carnal needs. ‘Tis not hard to restrain when you’re a man brought up right.”

“Aye, I agree.” Kendal threw Broc a glare.

“Would you like me to remove him?” McTavish asked.

“Na, leave him be,” the other man, Kendal’s friend Reid, spoke. “He’s settled again, and I don’t ken he’ll try anything else now he’s felt the tip of your sword against his neck.”

“No, he won’t.” McTavish thought of the colourful punishments the maid had come up with. What was her name? Isla, that was it. Pretty. It suited her. With long raven-black hair, grey eyes surrounded by long thick lashes, and pouty lips the colour of a summer rosebud, it wasn’t surprising she drew attention. He’d seen uglier princesses in his time.

“The ale,” the laird said, nodding at McTavish’s undrunk mug. “What do you think?”

“Aye, let’s see.” He took a sip and the malty liquid flowed like honey down his throat. “Good, aye, really good.”

“Brewed right here in this castle.” The laird was clearly proud of it and McTavish took another gulp before digging into a meat pie.

The conversation moved to the cause and McTavish’s recent run-in with an English soldier. The incident had resulted in a bloody swordfight that had left McTavish with a small wound on his shoulder and the Englishman with a large wound around his neck. The laird and his guests were keen to hear all the gory details and express their admiration of McTavish’s skills as a warrior.

He was happy to talk about the incident, though what he really wanted was to get the laird alone to discuss the Duke of Cambridgeshire and his apparent offering of support to the rebellion. It was hard to ken whether to trust him or not; his allegiance appeared flimsy at best, a collaborator with the king at worst. But if it was genuine, McTavish couldn’t afford to waste such a powerful new ally.

When the meal was cleared and sweet treats—pastries filled with jam, sponges dripping with cream, sugared fruit—arrived on the table, McTavish excused himself.

The din of jovial conversation mellowed as he wandered down the long hallway, his soft boots quiet on the flagstone floor. A fire was waning in the grate and the candles on the mantel dying. Shadows flickered over the grey walls and several portraits seemed to follow his movements with their painted eyes. Noises came from the kitchen; the clatter of pans and female voices.

He peered inside, hoping to find Isla.

She wasn’t there.

No one saw him looking, which was usual. McTavish might be big but he was used to being invisible. Having a price on his head had taught him that trick.

He moved back into the shadows and ran his hand through his hair. His belly was full, and he was enjoying wearing clean clothes on a freshly bathed body. The last two weeks had been long and arduous as they’d ridden from the western coast; he was looking forward to a proper bed for the night, rather than a barn floor, or the earth. Thank goodness Laird Stewart McDonald was such a generous host as well as a man who believed in the same things he did.

But he wouldn’t take to his bedchamber until he set his gaze upon Isla’s sweet face again and made sure she was truly unharmed. He hadn’t liked her frightened expression as she’d fled the banqueting hall. There was no need for her to be afraid of his men, not now he’d set down the rules. Anyone who broke them would have him to deal with, and it wouldn’t be pleasant.

He walked deeper into the house, over the hard floor to where the air became cooler. The scent of the night reached his nose and he spotted a small arched door propped half open. Walking toward it, the glow of a not quite full moon spread its delicate light over the threshold.

It was then he heard it. A soft voice talking in hushed tones.

He peeked out of the doorway and into the courtyard. A figure was stooped low, small shoulders bent and hair falling forward. It was Isla and she was pouring cream into a bowl and whispering sweet endearments. Two black cats were waiting eagerly for their treat and appeared mesmerized by her.

Something in him melted. He wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was seeing someone so unguarded, or her delicateness, maybe just the act of caring for small creatures when there was so much else to be done and she must be very tired.

“Hey,” he said.

She whipped her head around, and stood. The cats backed away, but only for a second then they dipped their heads to the bowl again.

As she straightened she pressed her hand to her chest. “You scared me.” She looked down at her feet.

“I apologize, I just wanted me some air.” He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder. “It’s hot enough to boil a ham in there.”

“Shall I dampen the fires?” She stooped and set the jug next to the bowl then stood and gathered her skirts as if preparing to rush away.

“Och, nay, lass, stay where you are. That won’t be necessary. My men are enjoying the warmth, and the food and ale.” He paused and stared at the crown of her head, wondering why she wouldn’t look up at him. “I’m sorry for what happened earlier, with my man Broc.”

“It doesn’t need speaking of again.”

“If that’s what you wish.” He stepped closer. “But I want you to ken that you have nothing to fear from my men.”

“I understand.”

“Don’t you believe me?” He rested his hand on her small shoulder.

She gasped and stepped back, finally she looked up at him, but only for a second then she turned her head to the right.

“What is it?” he asked. “What have I done?”

She didn’t answer.

“I came to your rescue, did I not?”

“Aye. And I’m grateful.” She rested her hand over her eyes. “Really I am.”

“So why can’t you look at me?” He glanced down at himself. Was he not decently covered? Was he grotesque?

“I can.” She turned her back on him.

“It’s plain you can’t.” He was bewildered. “Does my face offend you? Am I the ugliest man in that room… the ugliest Highlander you’ve ever seen?”

“Of course not.”

“So turn and look at me.” He was getting irritated now. Not understanding something did that to him.

She made no move to turn.

“Isla.” He stepped close, so his chest was almost touching her shoulders. He could sense her body heat, and admired the way the moonlight kissed her hair making it shimmer like the deepest loch.

“I can’t look at you,” she whispered.

“Why not?” He breathed in her scent; it was soapy and fresh and held a hint of the sweet treats that had come from the kitchen.

“You must ken already,” she said.

“If I did I wouldn’t be so confused by you, lass.”

She remained quiet.

“I’d advise you to tell me what is going on, otherwise I might have to go and tell the laird one of his staff is not obliging my wishes, and he told me I’d want for nothing as his guest.” He lowered his voice. “Or I may have to tip you over my knee and spank the information from you.”

“No, please, don’t do that.” She spun around. Her eyes were closed. “Neither of those things.”

“Isla.” He cupped her chin in the palm of his hand. Her skin was so soft against his rough flesh. “Is it because I have a price on my head? Or that I’m a Jacobite?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“So… open… your… eyes.”

Finally she did, her long lashes fluttering as she set her attention on his lips.

“My eyes,” he whispered, lowering his face to hers. He had a sudden urge to kiss her, to find out what her pretty mouth would feel like against his. But she was skittish, like a young deer alone in the woods, and he was sure one wrong move and she’d take off. He’d likely never see her again.

“Your eyes,” she said, biting on her bottom lip.

Damn, his cock was stirring now. “Aye.”

“But… you have one green and one blue.”

“Aye, since I was a bairn.” Was that the problem? His mismatched eyes?

“Don’t you ken what that means?”

“What it means? Nay, lass, was just how God made me. Doesn’t mean a thing.”

She swallowed and shook her head.

“What does it mean to you?” he asked gently, though he couldn’t deny he was frustrated by the strangeness of it all. “Tell me.”

She pulled in a breath. “It means you were touched by a witch. That you can see into souls.”

“What?” He couldn’t help a chuckle. “Touched by a witch? Now my ma had a way with herbs and always a tincture to fix us bairns up with but she was no witch.”

“Not your ma, someone else.” There was a small tremble in her voice.

He frowned. “And is it the witch you’re scared of? Because I’m not scared of witches, not for one moment.”

“You’re not?” She glanced up at him, but quickly looked back down again.

“Nay, I’ve come across one in my life and she was always there for me. From that experience I learned I’ve nothing to fear.” He paused. “Are you scared of witches?”

She shook her head.

“So what’s the problem?” For the love of God, he wanted this woman to speak to him. He needed to ken what was going on. She was an enigma, something about her set her apart from other women of the Highlands. Sure she was pretty, smart too from what he’d seen… but there was something else.

“People with one green and one blue eye can…”

“Go on.” He’d tried to speak gently, but standing in the quiet of the courtyard her voice was so delicate compared to his deep one. He hoped that didn’t scare her.

“They can see into souls. See what a person is really thinking, what they want and need.”

He raised his eyebrows. “You think I can see into souls?”

“You’re the leader of clans, you’re fighting for king and country. There must be a reason you have that position. An advantage you have over others.”

“Aye, there is, I’m loyal to Scotland, and I’m a Highland warrior who just happens to have a thinking mind to go with my brawn. But I assure you I have no soul-seeing abilities.”

“You don’t?”

“Nay, I don’t ken where you got that idea from.”

“It’s an old tale.”

“And it’s wrong.” Gently he tipped her chin, raising her face to his. “Now look at me, look at my eyes, nothing will change. I promise. It’s like looking at anyone else.”

He could tell she was nervous. Her shoulders were tense and her breaths coming quick. But she did raise her face and set her dark gaze on his.

His heart sped up; she was more than pretty, she was beautiful. And in the depths of her eyes he saw a strong, independent woman with a sharp wit and fierce streak.

“What do you see?” she whispered as she gazed upward.

“A lass I’d like to kiss.”

“Kiss?” Her mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise.

“Aye, would that be okay?” He smiled, just a little. At himself as much as anything. All this talk of witches and he felt thoroughly bewitched by her.

“Why do you want to do that?” Her concentration was very much on his eyes. Now it seemed she couldn’t look enough.

“Because it’s been a long while since I was this close to a person who fascinated me as much as you do.”

“I… I’m just a maid, not even a senior one.”

Just a maid.” He moved closer still, so there was connection between the lengths of their bodies. “No, you’re more than that.”

“Sir.” She placed her hands on his chest. “Please, I…”

“What?”

“You said you couldn’t see into my soul.” She glanced away.

“I promise I only see what is before me, yet I can deduce from the way you were with Broc, with these cats, and how you move that you are a woman with many qualities and a sharp mind.”

She looked up at him again. “Is that what you see?”

“Aye, and now I’d like to stop seeing, speaking too for that matter, and kiss you. May I?”

She hesitated, then. “Aye.” She slid her small hands upward, to the base of his neck.

McTavish’s belly tightened, more blood rushed to his cock. Damn, but she was the sweetest thing. He could resist no longer and dipped his head and pressed his lips against hers.

She tasted of sugar and butter, petals too, all laced with a spring breeze carrying the heady scent of meadow flowers.

Her mouth parted and he gently stroked his tongue against hers. A very primal male part of him wanted to drag her closer, hoist her skirt, and sink his cock deep. But his brain told him that was not the way to handle this little deer. If he wanted her, truly wanted her, he’d have to bide his time.

She pulled back and stepped away, bringing her fingertips to her lips as if still feeling him there.

He’d only held her for a moment but felt weirdly bereft without her in his arms. “Isla,” he said, adjusting his sporran to make his groin more comfortable.

“The laird might not like it. Me with you.”

“The laird said I could have anything I want as his guest.” He glanced at the empty doorway. “And I want you.”

“I have to go.”

“Where?”

“Back to the kitchen, to help Mrs. Humphrey and Diane. I shouldn’t really be out here. The cream was leftover, see, and the cats love it so.” She stooped and retrieved the now empty saucer and jug. “I have to go.”

“I’d rather you didn’t go.”

She rushed past him, her hair flicking out behind her. “I have to, sir. I really do.”

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