Alice looked into the face of the highlander who had rescued her, and she thought she saw that he did not intend to deceive her. Nevertheless, his presumption in questioning her right to decide where she should go from this horrid scene astonished and offended her. She was trying to be civil, seeing that he had rescued her, but he knew what she had just been through, and yet he contradicted her desire to get to safety.
She realized then that she did not know his name, though she had told him hers. Doubtless that was why the barbarian had decided he could take the liberty of questioning her decision. Why had she told him, without first asking for his and thus verifying, as her governess would have told her to verify, whether he were worthy even of requesting the name of the daughter of an earl?
She looked back at the highlander to see that he was looking closely at her. He must have seen something amiss, for just as she realized she was about to faint, his left arm was already around her waist, guiding her back down onto the grass.
“I am Niall MacAlpin,” he said. “I live in Kilmorin, and am the chief there.” Alice could tell that he had decided to try to make ordinary conversation as a way of taking her mind off what she had undergone over the past hour. Part of her felt that she must resist, not allow him to distract her that way. At the same time, though, gratitude and a spirit of yielding rose in her heart as well. Her mind felt only too grateful to let itself be led away toward mundane things, rather than to see the few images that still flashed in her vision from the outlaws’ ambush: crawling in the dust, the feeling of strong hands around her waist, the feeling of having no clothes on, and the sound of men’s laughter. The rest of the time simply failed to be there, somehow, as if it had never happened, but had somehow left a trace nonetheless.
“I would be very grateful if you would consent to be my guest, while I learn what I can learn about how this attack came about,” the highlander—MacAlpin—continued. “I think the wives in my village will know best how to look after you, since you’ve had a bit of a shock here, though you seem to be blessedly unharmed…”
“But…” Alice protested. “But… my… my…” She had felt so composed a few moments ago, but now the memories began to come back, and she felt she couldn’t fight them and MacAlpin off at the same time. They had… bent her over and pulled her wrists back cruelly. She had been… naked, and the man had said the same words Lord Roderick had said, that night in the park. The outlaw had said them about… her, Alice Lourcy.
“My lady,” MacAlpin said, and Alice could tell that he tried hard to remain patient with her. Despite his being a barbaric highlander and thus no gentleman, she began to think he must be a gentlemanly man all the same. “I do not think you are safe here, and I think you will be in even more danger if we take you to Lormoran. I do not wish to say why, for though he is no friend to the MacAlpins, I would not speak ill of your intended unless I must. I insist that you come with us to Kilmorin.”
On one side of the road, it seemed to Alice—the other side, somehow—lay her own insistence on continuing on to meet Lord Roderick at his castle. There also lay, though, the scraps of memories from the attack: the cries of fear and pain, and the feelings of shame and helplessness. On this side of the road, with Niall MacAlpin, lay acquiescence, and allowing this man to take care and even, for the moment, to take charge of her.
Alice knew she should cross that mental road to the place where the bodies lay, and take charge the way Mademoiselle Théodora had taught her to take charge of the servants. She knew it. She stood up again, drawing the strength from some place in her that she had never known she had.
“I thank you,” she said to MacAlpin. “But I must get to Lormoran.” She began to cross the real road in front of her to take charge of the burial. Her head felt a little light, but Alice knew her duty.
“My lady,” came MacAlpin’s voice behind her, so authoritative that Alice stopped in her tracks upon the dirt of the road. “I do not wish to use force, but I will if I must. As I said, I insist that you come to Kilmorin with me.”
Alice turned, feeling just the slightest bit unsteady on her feet, but mustering the look of superiority she had practiced in the looking glass at home in her chamber in the maiden tower of Mowton Castle. “A highlander,” she said, “must not insist to the daughter of an earl.”
Alice watched his brow darken, and suddenly realized that the division of her mind into those two sides of the road had probably caused her to forget important facts about her situation. Suddenly she remembered things she had heard about the highlanders—things that she recalled had fascinated her, truly: that they scorned the very idea of nobility, as the rest of Europe conceived it. That they had chiefs, but that every highlander was a nobleman, and even a king, in his own eyes.
“My lady,” said Niall MacAlpin, “you have had a terrible shock, I know, and I would not lay my hands upon you unless I had to do it, but I do insist, for at this moment I know better than you do where your safety lies, though you be an earl’s daughter and I a highland barbarian.”
Alice felt her cheeks grow hot. Something about the tone of his voice suggested that he would lay his hands upon her, should she resist him further. Across the road from them, MacAlpin’s highlanders had finished laying out the dead. The man he had called Callum approached then, holding one of her silk chemises.
MacAlpin turned to him and said, “Give that here, Callum, and go search the bodies.” Callum handed him the chemise, and Alice noted with a strange interest that MacAlpin seemed a little startled at the touch of the fine fabric upon his big, rough hands.
That sight—the sight of the highlander holding Alice’s most intimate garment, though it occurred to her that he held it very differently than the outlaw would have… than he had, when he ripped her only other chemise off her trembling limbs before they had tied her…
“No,” she said. “No, you do not.”
“My lady,” MacAlpin said once again, his frustration now breaking out more fully, “if I must, I shall enforce your acquiescence. We cannot waste time; these men may well be expected somewhere, to report on the attack.”
“How, sir? How enforce my acquiescence?”
“With a spanking, my lady, if I must.”
“A spanking?” Alice felt her brows crease. “You are jesting, sir.”
“No, my lady. I would not jest about such matters.”
“A spanking? Such as a little girl might receive?” Alice’s face felt very hot indeed, and the sounds of the highlanders behind her seemed to recede behind the rushing of the blood in her ears. She looked at MacAlpin, trying to determine whether he were indeed serious, and he looked steadily back at her, holding her chemise, which looked very white indeed against his tan skin and the dark green of his plaid. Suddenly Alice became aware of how very comely a man he was, with his long dark locks and his close-trimmed beard.
“Indeed,” he said. “I do not wish to spank you at all, my lady, and I am especially unwilling when you have had the sort of shock you have had. When a woman behaves like a child, though, I am of the belief that she should be treated that way. And I am not certain that it would do you ill, in your shock, to feel that I am willing to take care of you thus.”
Take care of her. That thought had been on this side of the road, a few moments ago, when she had decided she must cross to the other side.
He will not, her mind said, remaining desperately fixed on the decision she had made to cross the road and take charge herself. “I suppose you must spank me, then,” Alice said.
MacAlpin sighed. “You do not think I will do it, do you, my lady? I must show you, though I will try to do it gently and only until you understand that I am serious. Come here, if you please.”
“I will not!” Strange feelings seemed to course through Alice’s breast. Truly she had thought… well, perhaps he had not been jesting, but she had felt certain he made idle threats upon which he would never make good. Nor would he now. But why did she suddenly feel that she wanted to know whether he would or not?
“My lady,” MacAlpin said softly. “I do not think you would wish me to call Callum over to hold you down so that I can spank you until you promise to come with me to Kilmorin.”
Alice felt her eyes go wide and her heart pound in terror. At the same time, however, the idea grew that this man was trying to take care of her, and using the available means to do so.
A spanking: Alice could not remember the last time her governess had spanked her, and it could not have been when she was older than ten or eleven. Past that age, mademoiselle had simply made her charge stay in her chamber until Alice ‘saw reason.’ MacAlpin had said a few moments before that he thought it might do her… not do you ill, was what he had said. Alice felt that though her mind rejected the idea with scorn, something in her heart—something very little, and indeed little by nature—wondered whether to have a chastisement visited upon her that suited not a grown woman but rather a small child would somehow soothe the terrible roil of memories and impressions that threatened from moment to moment to overwhelm her.
“Come here, my lady,” Niall MacAlpin said again, and now, slowly, Alice obeyed, crossing back from the middle of the dirt road to the side where the village chief stood. She took one step, then two. She could not look him in the eye anymore; she did not want to. “We shall turn away,” MacAlpin said much more gently, “so that no one may see your punishment.”
He stood a full head higher than she did, and she realized as he stepped close and put his arm around her waist, that she had never stood so close to a man; even Lord Roderick had kept his distance, and only kissed her hand, when she had accepted him. Certainly she had never had a man’s arm around her adult waist—as she supposed she had had MacAlpin’s a few minutes past, without even realizing it. And, as… as the outlaw’s hands had taken hold of her and tied her wrists behind her knees, opening her, there. There where Joan the scullery maid had been open.
She pushed that memory far back. “I am going to hold the plaid in front of you and look away,” MacAlpin said, “while you don your shift, my lady. Then I shall spank you through the shift, so that you may keep your modesty somewhat. I wish to warn you, however, that if I find it necessary to spank you in the future, I will make you bare your bottom for it.”
Truly Niall felt very reluctant to follow through on the threat. He had been sure that this English earl’s daughter would quail at the thought of such a humiliating exercise as a spanking here by the side of the road, but Lady Alice Lourcy had called his bluff very effectively.
Just before he turned his eyes away so that he would not see her donning her chemise, guilty in the knowledge of how dearly he craved the sight of Alice’s fair-haired loveliness, he studied her face. Alice looked down at the chemise she now held in her hands, clutching it against the dark green of the plaid wrapped around her. The look of puzzlement upon her face struck Niall to the core: truly, she confused him, too, rather a great deal, the way she had refused to heed him and then had come for the spanking with which Niall now had to follow through.
Though the girl had complied in the face of his threat of humiliation, Niall wondered if something else might lie hidden in her outward obedience. Then the thought struck him that perhaps Alice herself might be certain as to how it had come to pass. Niall felt almost as if a force beyond his will were operating upon him, and the ghostly sensation did not please him at all.
He turned his face to the right, looking north up into the foothills in whose embrace Lormoran lay, twenty miles or so from where they stood, and took the plaid from her shoulders, not seeing her now but feeling the movements of her body against the curtain he had made, as she turned her back to the road and dropped the chemise over her head. To his slight embarrassment, Niall felt his cock stiffen at the unexpected sensuality of the moment. To get hard when he spanked his wife Megan in the early days had seemed natural, but to have his manhood rise at the thought that he would now punish this slip of an English girl, especially when she had undergone such trials already that day, seemed indecent.
“Very well,” he heard her say, with a quaver in her voice but also with a firm, defiant quality. “I have my chemise on.”
Niall turned back to see her still turned away from him, but looking over her left shoulder and glaring at him.
“Must I spank you, then, lass, to get you to see reason?” he asked.
“You may spank me as long as you like, sir, and I shall show you thus that I intend to go to Lormoran.”
Niall sighed in frustration. What was she playing at? Should he tell her of his suspicion that Lord Roderick had hired the ‘outlaws’ to rape and to murder her? Surely not, but he must get her to safety somehow.
Suddenly he wondered whether he could see a kind of conflict in her eyes, as if she knew her duty lay in making her way to Lormoran even if it meant humiliating punishment, but something in her wished that Niall would overcome that dutiful part. The more he considered it, the more likely he found it: Alice Lourcy must suspect the same thing he did, mustn’t she?
“Then I must show you, my lady, that I intend to bring you to Kilmorin.” He dropped the plaid upon the grass to the side. “Turn around, and get you over my knee.”
Niall glanced back briefly and saw that his clansmen were still going through the bodies’ clothes for the spoils of battle, and that none had noticed what he did with Alice. That would certainly change when he started to make her yell, but that might be to the good, if it could change her mind more quickly.
He shifted his stance to put his left knee forward, so that he could bend the girl over it. She had turned around to face him, but made no other movement. Her lips made a thin line and her eyes looked scared, as if she had not until then truly considered the possibility that Niall’s threat might actually be made good.
Niall reached his right arm out and took her firmly, but not roughly, around her waist. The feeling of the silk of the chemise had been startling when he had taken the garment from Callum. Now, with the girl herself inside it, and the luxurious fabric moving over her slim hips and the pert little bottom he now must punish, it seemed doubly so.
Alice started and tried to pull away, but Niall said, “I do not wish to do this, my lady, but I must make it clear to you that your path lies with mine, for the moment.”
Alice gave a little gasp as she felt him pull her into position, but she said nothing. Niall laid her over his knee, covered in the pleats of his great kilt, holding her now with his left arm around her waist. She did not resist, but she breathed very quickly, like a rabbit when a man has caught it in a cage.
“Please,” she whispered then, her face now turned toward the ground as Niall bent her over at the waist for her spanking. “Please don’t.”
“My lady, will you go to Kilmorin?”
“No,” she said, though Niall could hear in her soft voice that she did not feel as certain of the denial as perhaps she wished she were.
Niall raised his hand, looking down at where her little bottom-cheeks lay outlined by the silk draped over them. The unbidden, unwelcome thought that really he did not mind spanking a pretty English backside like this one rose, and he pushed it back down. He brought his hand down, hard; it would be a mercy to punish her very harshly, despite what he had said about being gentle.
“Ow!” Alice said. “You said…”
Niall kept spanking her very rapidly, his whole hand covering her silk-covered bottom with each blow. “I think it kinder, my lady, to let you know what you are in for, so that this need not go on for very long.”
Alice began to shout in protest then. “But… ow… stop it, sir.”
Niall kept spanking, seeing in the way Alice’s bottom had begun to squirm under the chemise that the punishment had started to take effect. “I cannot see my men,” he said, trying to invoke her sense of modesty to shorten this trying exercise. “Are they watching your punishment, my lady?”
“Ow! Yes, you… you… barbarian!” Alice had been holding her hands in front of her, but now she grabbed his thigh with her left hand, and threw her right back to try to ward off his spank. He took it firmly in his own right hand, and then transferred it to his left. Then, resuming the spanking just as hard and fast, he held her down over his knee with her right arm bent back.
Alice started to weep then, in great wracking sobs that had, Niall thought, a cleansing quality to them. He slowed the pace of the spanking, but he did not stop it. At the sound of Alice’s sobs, the urge to rub her bottom soothingly, the way he had used to do for Megan, came upon him, but he resisted it firmly. “Will you come with me, my lady?” he asked, and gave her yet another hard spank through the chemise.
“Oh, heavens…” she sobbed. “Yes, very… very well. You… I hope, sir, that you live to… to regret this foul deed, as you should.” Again Niall thought he could hear that she spoke out of a duty that she did not truly feel.
“And I hope you will forgive me, my lady, for this deed, though I do not deem it foul,” he said. “I do not know if my suspicion as to where the true foulness lies in this day’s blood be true or not, but if it be true, I think you may have cause to thank me even for spanking you.”
Alice wrestled against him then, and he let her go. She stepped away from him, and turned to regard him with angry eyes in which he saw that he had indeed guessed at some of the complexity of her heart: alongside the anger there seemed to lay an odd sort of gratitude to him for giving her a reason to resent him. He shook his head in a bit of incredulity, and the gesture seemed to increase Alice’s wrath.
“Are you well content, sir, to have struck me so shamefully?” she asked.
Niall bent to pick up the plaid, then straightened and began to fold it so that he could help Alice belt it into an arisaid. Looking at the fabric between his hands as he folded, he said, “No, my lady, I am not well content to have had to punish you, though I am glad that I have made you see reason.”
“Reason?” Alice asked with scorn. “You have made me see force, certainly.”
Niall did not answer; he had already told the proud girl, after all, exactly why he had done what he had done, and though he regretted the suffering he had caused her, he did not regret his course of action. He turned his eyes to Alice’s for a moment, hoping she would see in the calm of his face what it appeared she could not hear in his words. Then he turned halfway round and called to Callum who, along with the other highlanders, was standing watching them from the other side of the road. “Callum,” Niall called, “can you fash yourself to fetch me a length of rope?”
He had tried to keep his tone as light as he could, in hope of moving past the spanking his men had just witnessed, but he succeeded too well in bringing out the highlanders’ jocularity. “Aye, Niall,” Callum replied, “so long as you promise not to use it upon the poor girl’s rump.”
“Callum,” he replied, “I’ll have no talk of what just happened. Lady Alice will accompany us to Kilmorin, and she needs to belt an arisaid.”
“Aye,” Callum said, nodding. His nephew could be relied on despite his youthful age of nineteen years, Niall knew. Callum liked his jests, but though he did not yet have the same serious turn Niall did, he could already put away the freedom of his wit when the occasion required.
Niall turned back to Alice. “An arisaid might seem barbaric to you, my lady, but it will keep you warm as we climb into the highlands, and it may be well for you to look like a highland lass just at the moment.”
Alice took a deep breath, seeming with it to put away her weeping, though her eyes remained red-rimmed and the spanking had added fresh tear tracks to her dusty face. Somehow her long golden hair, which had long since come free of its coif, seemed to float around her face in such a way as to make her seem a much ill-used angel. Niall had to give his head a firm shake to clear it of the distracting vision. Why did fair hair have to bewitch him so?
“You have said that word several times,” she said, “but I do not think I have ever heard it. What is an arisaid?”
Niall laughed, and Callum arrived with the rope then. “Ach,” Callum said, “it is what women wear, instead of the great kilt.”
“And the great kilt is the strange thing you wear over your shirts?”
“Aye,” Niall said. “They are both made from plaids.”
“And a plaid is a woven blanket?” Niall felt his mouth twist into a rather perplexed smile. This English earl’s daughter seemed to have more curiosity than her governess might have thought seemly, about highland life.
“A woven blanket!” said Callum. He looked at Niall. “Is she daft?”
“Daft?” Alice said. “If a plaid is that thing you are wearing, is it not daft to call it anything but a woven blanket?”
Not only curious, Niall thought, more and more diverted by the girl’s resilience, if by nothing else. Spirited, as well.
Callum laughed. “Aye, perhaps a Sassenach must see it thus. And there is no doubt that a Sassenach girl could wrap herself in one on a cold night.”
“Callum,” Niall said warningly, just in case the young man decided to add a highlander to the admittedly enchanting picture of Lady Alice Lourcy wrapped up in nothing but a plaid, lying abed and awaiting what might befall her.
“But you seem to say,” Alice persisted, “that a highlander’s plaid is much more than that.”
“Aye,” Niall said, “the plaid is woven from yarn that highland women spun and dyed, that grew upon our sheep, who grazed upon our hills. Whether we belt it into a great kilt or into an arisaid, to wear plaid makes us who we are.”
He saw her take in his words, and smile a bit as she considered them. “I would be honored,” she said then, “to make trial of this barbaric dress.”
This content is linked through SNP’s Newsletter! Don’t miss out on all the free content! It doesn’t stick around long! Add your email below!