September 2007
Kensington
ISBN-10: 0758220421
ISBN-13: 978-0758220424

EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE…

Cousins Heming MacNachton and Tearlach MacAdie are bound by the same blood, the same ancient curse, and now the same quest: to search out the enemies of their clan—hunters who consider them soulless demons and intend to exterminate them. But no sooner have Heming and Tearlach begun than they are drugged, separated, and taken captive. One is brought deep into the borderlands of Scotland, the other, in the dreary depths of Northern England. Caged and weakened, only two brave women give them hope…

Brona Kerr and Lady Lucy Blytheswood are irresistibly drawn to the mysterious prisoners. Together, the women resolve to save them. In doing so, they will safeguard the clan’s future and their own. For they are promised to cruel men who will do anything to possess them and the status that comes with them. Now Brona and Lucy must cross perilous terrain to fight for their lives—and for the men with whom they discover an eternal passion they never imagined…


The Capture

Chapter One

Lucy glanced around the inn, uncomfortably aware of a strange buzz of excitement in the air. It had started when the two Scots had entered.

Nay, before that even, she thought with a frown. Everything had seemed relatively normal when she and her brother had first been ushered inside by Wymon Carbonnel. He’d insisted on seeing them back to the boundary of his land after their day at Carbonnel castle, and then had been equally insistent on their stopping for a meal at the inn on the border where his property met theirs.

Lucy had not been pleased with the delay. It had already been growing dark and she’d just wanted to go home and get this uncomfortable day behind them. It had been a long day for her. She’d spent the better part of it on tenterhooks dreading the proposal she’d feared coming, and dreading even more the man’s reaction when she refused him. Wymon could be dreadfully unpleasant when crossed.

However, all that anxiety had apparently been for naught. The man finally had proposed before they’d left Carbonnel, but he’d taken her refusal much better than she’d expected, merely nodding with a half smile as if he’d expected it and was untroubled by the rejection.

Lucy supposed it was partially out of gratitude for his easy acceptance that she’d allowed herself to be convinced into stopping for the meal. She knew it was also the reason her brother, John, had given in gracefully and allowed the delay in their returning home. There had simply been no polite way to refuse and neither of them had wanted to be churlish when he’d taken her refusal so well, so had agreed to the meal.

Apart from the fact that they really hadn’t wished to be there -- or perhaps because they’d been distracted by that -- nothing had seemed abnormal at first. The inn had been surprisingly busy for that hour of the evening, the innkeeper and two serving wenches bustling to serve the men their ales and good hearty food. Although, Lucy had been uncomfortably aware that, despite how busy it was, she was the only female there besides the two serving girls. Other than that, however, everything had been fine…But then one of Carbonnel’s men had entered and nodded at Wymon and the room had suddenly gone oddly quiet for the briefest of moments, all conversation dying as the other men noted the gesture.

When the conversations had started up again an instant later, the sound had seemed a little louder, a little more hearty and -- compared to what had passed before -- quite unnatural.

Then the two Scots had entered. Both were tall, well built men, both attractive in their own way. They’d taken seats away from the others and eyed the occupants of the inn with cold narrow eyes.

It was only when the innkeeper himself had gone to the table to serve the men that Lucy had realized that the two serving maids were now absent. That fact, along with the undertone of excitement in the air was making her feel a bit nervous. There was a definite feeling that something was going to happen. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one to think so, she realized when John touched her arm and she glanced his way to see the sharp look of concern in his eyes.

“If you are finished, Lucy. I think ‘tis time we continued on home,” he said quietly.

“Aye,” she murmured getting to her feet.

Thankfully, Carbonnel didn’t protest, but stood silently to follow them from the inn.

Lucy frowned as they stepped out into the courtyard and she saw how dark the night had gotten. The sun had been making its downward journey when they’d stopped, but she hadn’t realized how close it had been to nightfall. It appeared she and John would be making the rest of the journey in the dark which meant they would have to travel at a more sedate pace to guard against their mounts injuring themselves on the uneven road. It would be quite late when they finally arrived back at Blytheswood, but that couldn’t be helped now, she supposed and sighed inwardly.

“You wait here, Lucy. I shall see to your mount while your brother saddles his own,” Carbonnel said with a smile which Lucy automatically returned even as she once again experienced surprise at how well he was taking all this. Wymon wasn’t a man to take disappointment well. She supposed that spoke of how little he’d really wished to marry her. She wasn’t terribly surprised. Marrying her would have gained him very little. John had inherited the bulk of their parent’s assets on their deaths a year ago, gaining Blytheswood castle and its environs, while she’d inherited a small demesne from her mother. She had no doubt Wymon, as a second son, would prefer to bride a woman with her own castle for him to run. It was really rather surprising that he’d offered for her hand at all.

Lucy started to glance back into the depths of the stable where her brother and Wymon were saddling the animals, but paused as the inn door suddenly opened and the first of the two Scots came out. She’d noted in the brief glance she’d cast their way when they’d entered the inn that both men were attractive, but hadn’t really taken the time to examine those good looks. Now, as the two men stumbled out of the inn, she took the time to do so, allowing her eyes to slide over wide strong shoulders and sculpted features.

The first Scot was handsome enough, but for some reason her attention kept returning to the second man, getting caught on his stern, strong features in the torchlight of the inn yard. She finally forced her gaze to continue on, noting the long dark hair that fell about his shoulders, and wondering if it was as soft as it looked. Her gaze then dropped over the white tunic and dark plaid he wore, then touched briefly on the big, wicked sword strapped to his side before continuing on to his naked legs.

Englishmen wore leggings or braies on their own legs, so it was only with Scots that a girl could see the fine shape of a man’s knee and calf. She found herself ogling the poor man, grateful that he was unable to see her standing in the shadows of the stables.

Her eyes were still on his legs when the man stumbled. Frowning, she shifted her concentration to take in the whole scene and noted that the other Scot seemed to be having trouble walking as well. Both were staggering a bit as if drunk, though she hadn’t noticed them drinking much in the inn. Still, there was a definite wobble to their walk.

Even as she began to frown over this, first one, then the other of the two men suddenly stumbled and sank to their knees so that they knelt in the dirt of the inn yard, swaying weakly. ‘Twas obvious they were fighting whatever was happening to them, but were unable to combat it and the next moment both of them collapsed side by side in the dirt. They’d barely settled on the ground when the inn door opened again and most, if not all of the men from inside, began to pour out. Even as they began to surround the two Scots on the ground more men began to appear from the sides of the building, milling out to join the others until she could no longer see the Scots.

Knowing something underhand was happening, Lucy glanced back toward the rear of the stables to call her brother forward and see what they could do for the two men, only to freeze as she saw Wymon plunge a knife into her brother’s unsuspecting neck from behind. She and John both stiffened in shock as the blade went in, then it was withdrawn and plunged in again, this time a little to the side of the first spot.

Mouth still open on her unspoken cry, Lucy’s horrified gaze met her brother’s. They stared at each other with shared shock for a moment, then the life left his eyes and her brother crumbled like an empty cape.

“Why so shocked?”

Lucy blinked and slowly turned her eyes from her fallen brother to Wymon. While she’d gaped in horror, he’d retrieved his knife and crossed to stand before her. She stared at him with incomprehension, her mind not yet capable of accepting anything that was happening.

“Surely you did not think I would take your refusal gracefully, did you?” he asked with a chiding smile, then shook his head and took her arm to turn her away and lead her out of the stables.

In her stunned state, Lucy followed docilely for perhaps two steps before regaining enough of her sense to begin to struggle. The moment she did Wymon paused and punched her in the side of the head. Light exploded behind her eyes, followed quickly by pain, and Lucy gasped as she began to fall. Then she felt herself scooped up and carried. She was barely conscious when she felt herself being passed off to someone else to hold.

The last thing she heard before darkness claimed her was someone saying, “Ye take the MacAdie, I’ll take the other and guid luck to us both.”

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