An Excerpt From Chapter Two: Patrick has just “rescued” Lizzie from an attack by the MacGregors which—thanks to his brother—turned out to be far more real than he intended.
He [Patrick] clenched his jaw in a hard line and turned his thoughts from the dead to the living. To the lass.
Elizabeth Campbell was kneeling over one of her injured guardsmen beside the other woman. As if sensing his scrutiny, Elizabeth turned and lifted her gaze to his.
He flinched. He’d thought it a fluke the first time, but there it was again. That strange jolt he’d felt before when their eyes had met across the battlefield. Though it didn’t concern him, he didn’t like it. Particularly in light of his uncharacteristically rash behavior the first time they’d met.
On first glance, she looked exactly as he remembered her: pretty and fresh as a spring flower. But on closer inspection, he could see the strain of the battle etched on her face. He recognized her shock in the pallor of her skin and the glassiness of her eyes. Still, it hadn’t prevented her from seeing to the comfort of her men and tending to the wounded.
Most women would have fainted by now or at the very least dissolved into a fit of tears, but clearly Elizabeth Campbell was not most women. She had strength hidden beneath the lithe exterior. Her bravery impressed him. As did her skill with a knife. The expert toss of the blade had shocked the hell out of him—and his brother.
Perhaps there was more of her brothers and cousin in Elizabeth Campbell than he’d anticipated. The thought was enough to wipe away any twinge of conscience.
With a quick word of reassurance to the injured man, she got to her feet, only a slight sway betraying her weariness, and started to walk toward him. There was grace not just in her bearing, but in the rhythmic sway of her hips as she walked. And now, without the elaborate court clothing she’d been wearing last time, he could actually see the soft curve of her slim hips. She wore a plain woolen kirtle and jacket of brown wool. The simple clothing suited her dainty figure.
But it was her hair that took his breath away. It had come loose and tumbled down her shoulders in a magnificent cloud of spun gold. He didn’t think he’d ever seen anything so soft and silky.
His body hardened as she neared—a remnant of the battle surging through him, he supposed. She was smaller than he recalled. Not short, but slim. Delicate. With a bone structure so finely carved, it could have been wrought from porcelain.
Too small for him. He would crush her. Not that it would stop him from imagining all that softness underneath him, his hands twisted in the mass of flaxen curls, as he buried himself deep inside her. Heat and heaviness pulled over him so hard, he almost groaned.
Hell, he was a damn animal. Having been treated like a dog for so long, he was beginning to act like one. But living on the edge did something to a man. It made his base instincts simmer close to the surface. And right now he felt two of them in full force: hunger and lust.
The primitive desire to claim what would belong to him.
For a lass of otherwise unremarkable beauty, she managed to rouse his lust well enough. Too well.
She stopped a few feet away and gazed up at him uncertainly. Her eyes unnerved him—so light and crystal-clear, he felt as if she could see right through him.
Ridiculous. By all that was holy, he should despise this girl. Hatred, bitterness, and anger were all emotions he was familiar with. Her fine clothing, her jewels, and her refined, pampered loveliness had been forged on the blood of his clan. He should resent her. Should see the dirty, starving faces of his clansmen reflected in her gaze. Should see her as an instrument of revenge.
But all he could see was the lass who looked as harmless as a kitten but fought like a tiger and gazed at him as if he were some damn hero.
She would be cured of that notion soon enough.
“I must thank you,” she said softly. She had a slow, musical lilt to her voice that would have made a bard weep with envy. He recalled her stammer but didn’t hear any evidence of it now. “I don’t know what would have happened had you not arrived when you did.”
Apparently thinking of the possibilities, she stopped; and her face turned an even starker shade of white. He ignored the prick of conscience.
“I wish it had been earlier,” Patrick said truthfully. Wanting to keep the conversation going, he asked, “What happened?”
“We were ambushed.” She pointed to the carriage. “My men believe the trench was intentionally dug to snap the wheel and covered with tree branches so that the driver would not see it. When the guardsmen stopped, the MacGregors attacked.”
“How can you be sure they were MacGregors?”
She tilted her head to the side, gazing up at him thoughtfully. “Who else would they be? And they wore the pine sprig in their bonnets.” Her gaze slid over his bare head and freshly shaven face. Washing away the months of living as an outlaw had felt better than he’d imagined. “I’m sorry, I have not introduced myself.” She held out her hand. “I’m Elizabeth Campbell.”
The courtly gesture disarmed him momentarily. It had been a long time since someone had mistaken him for a gentleman. He stared at the dainty perfectly formed hand, the delicately shaped fingers, the ivory skin unblemished and as smooth as if she’d never known a day’s work, not quite sure what to do. Finally, he enfolded it in his, feeling an unwelcome urge to warm her icy fingers. Instead, he bowed over it awkwardly. “Patrick,” he said. “Patrick Murray of Tullibardine.”
It was the truth . . . mostly. Murray was the surname he’d assumed when the clan was proscribed—even using his own name was punishable by death.
She tilted her head and looked at him with an odd expression on her face. “Have we met before?”
He tensed but covered it quickly with a smile. “I don’t think so, my lady. I never forget a beautiful face.”
She looked uncertain, as if the compliment didn’t sit well with her. “Are you and your men returning home?”
He shook his head. “Nay, we travel to Glasgow and then across the sea to the continent.”
She looked as though she wanted to ask more, but politeness prevented her from inquiring further.
He’d piqued her curiosity, and that was enough . . . for now. “And where is your destination, Mistress Campbell?” He said her name, as if to remind himself who she was.
She bit her lip, her tiny white teeth pressing firmly on the lush pink pillow of her bottom lip. A charming, feminine gesture that fascinated him far too much. Desire stirred his already heated loins. He ignored it, lifting his gaze back to her eyes.
This girl had already caused him enough trouble. Coming to her aid two years ago had been so unlike him, he still didn’t understand why he’d done it. Once Alasdair’s anger had faded, his cousin had teased him mercilessly, referring to her as “Patrick’s Campbell.” Not realizing how prophetic it would prove to be.
The fate of his clan was tied to this girl and he’d better damn well remember it.
End of Excerpt
Learn more about the books in the The Campbell Trilogy Trilogy »
See the other books in this series »