September 2006
Kensington
ISBN 0758212925

The hunt has begun…

As identical twins, Bothan and Calum MacNachton share a bond stronger than most brothers, one forged by a terrible secret. Rumors and dark tales have been whispered about their clan for centuries. For they roam the Highlands at night, driven by a savage hunger that can never be sated. Their only hope lies in marriage to outsiders, mortal women whose pure blood will weaken the hold of their eternal curse. Now, alone and on the hunt for their brides, Bothan and Calum are at the mercy of both Outsiders and whatever new dangers love brings…

Kenna Brodie and Sarra DeCourcey know what it is to stand apart. As strong proud women, they are determined to prove themselves to their clan no matter what it takes. They’ve heard the terrible, whispered warnings, but nothing could prepare them for the handsome brothers whose fierce, unyielding desires are beyond any legend…

What Bothan and Calum promise is a life unlike any Kenna and Sarra have ever known. Now, as battle lines are drawn and love’s most dangerous secrets are revealed, Kenne and Sarra must choose whether to betray their dark lords or stand and fight for a passion that will never die…


Mine and Hannah’s editor at Kensington suggested we do twins or brothers. Hannah had a pair of twins from another story we decided to use. I wanted mine to be the second one in the story sequence, I wanted him to be missing his twin brother and taking on any and every task in an effort to fill his time and distract himself. It was how I could get him to where my heroine was and be there when she needed him. And he did. Of all my stories, the historical vamps are the least funny. I was told by my old agent that Kensington didn’t want funny. I wondered why they’d want me to write for them then. Now I kind of think the old agent misunderstood, but that’s another story entirely.


The Rescue
My Immortal Highlander
Chapter One

It was a shriek that startled Calum MacNachton from sleep. Eyes shooting open, he sat up abruptly and cursed as his head slammed into solid rock. It didn't slow him much. Ignoring the pain in his head, he rolled out from under the overhang where he’d nested and gained his feet.

Calum was moving the moment his feet hit the ground, inching along the narrow space between his horse and the cave wall, hand pressed to his stallion’s flank to help keep his balance in the narrow confines.

The shriek that had awoken him was still carrying on and seemed to echo around the dark cave, bouncing off the stone walls and eating into his still groggy mind. Dear God, the suffering was painful to listen to. Eyes squinted shut and expression a grimace, Calum stumbled past his horse to the bend in the cave.

The stygian darkness eased the moment he turned the corner into the small open alcove that looked out onto the clearing. Bright sunlight was creeping around the bush that concealed the entrance to the cave. That light made his footsteps slow as he approached.

Calum had a natural aversion to sunlight, as did the rest of his people. Most of his kind couldn't bear it at all. He could, but not much, and hesitated at the bush, peering out into the clearing in search of the death scene that had woken him.

What he found was a peaceful scene. A mare stood munching at the grass that ran along the river, apparently unconcerned by the shrieking. At first, the horse appeared to be the only presence in the clearing, but then the animal lifted its head, twitched its ears and shifted, moving to the water’s edge to drink of the clear, cool stream. Calum immediately spotted the woman in the water. She was still shrieking, but it wasn’t a death cry, he realized. The woman was attempting to sing. Attempting being the key word. The creature was warbling in the most God awful, off-tune manner he’d ever heard.

Calum’s concern immediately gave way to irritation. He’d almost have been more pleased had murder been taking place as he’d first thought. At least then it would have meant an eventual end to this horrendous sound. As it was, the woman could warble away endlessly in this painful fashion.

Sagging with disgust that his sleep had been disturbed thusly, Calum glared at the girl. For one moment, he considered shouting out, or scaring her in some other manner that might send her running, but then his better judgment kicked in and he decided against it. The chit would just run to her village and send men back. His resting spot would be discovered and he’d have to move on. It had been a relatively comfortable spot until now. The cave was dry, cool and dark, conducive to a good day’s sleep. He supposed he’d just have to suffer her presence and her horrid attempt at singing until—

Calum blinked as the girl suddenly stood up in the stream. Water rushed down her naked skin, leaving small droplets behind to glitter on her pale flesh like diamonds under the bright afternoon sun.

Dear God, the woman was completely naked!

Calum supposed he shouldn’t be surprised, she was bathing after all, but judging by the quality of her mare, the woman was a lady. Most ladies bathed in their chemise for modesty’s sake. A ridiculous practice he’d always thought. Apparently, this young woman agreed with him.

His gaze slid over her again, this time with more interest. Her hair was piled on her head, long, honey gold tresses trapped in a haphazard bun that he noted was threatening to fall. Afraid it would do so and cloak her beauty before he’d fully explored it, Calum let his gaze drop. His eyes slid over the hollows and plains of her back, then to the soft, round curves of her hips before his view was finally obscured. However, it wasn’t her hair that blocked his view, it was the back of a man suddenly stepping in the way that hid the little blonde from him.

Calum shifted to the side a bit in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the girl again, but the man was still in the way. He scowled at the unknowing man’s back for destroying his view and wondered where he’d come from. The clearing had been empty of anything but the mare when he’d first peered out, and Calum hadn’t heard the sound of hoof beats to warn of anyone’s approach.

He supposed the man must be with the girl. He must have ridden in with her on the one horse and been off relieving himself in the bushes when Calum first glanced out.

His thoughts scattered as the man suddenly shifted and the girl was again revealed. Calum had a very brief glimpse of her creamy perfection, then her hair finally escaped its bindings and fell around her shoulders, cloaking her in golden tresses. The horrible warbling promptly ended as she ‘tsked’ her displeasure and reached up to catch the wayward hair at the nape of her neck. She performed the maneuvers necessary to return it to the top of her head.

Calum stared with fascination at the curve of breast revealed by her raised arms and wished she’d turn in the water so that he could see all of that breast. Luck wasn’t with him, however, and she didn’t. The girl had just finished with her hair when the man spoke.

Lady DeCourcey.” The greeting was filled with a sly amusement Calum didn’t care for. He watched as the girl stiffened with surprise, then she dropped her hands to cover herself and sank back into the water as she turned to face shore. Her wide, alarmed eyes told Calum at once that he’d misjudged the situation. The man wasn’t with her. He supposed that meant the other three men who suddenly moved into view in the clearing weren’t either.

Calum heaved a small sigh, his hand moving down to clasp the grip of his sword as he listened to the exchange.

“Jocks.” The woman sounded confused and wary. “What do you want?”

“Lord d’Angers wishes to see you,” the man announced. “He sent us to bring you to him.”

Rather than reassure the girl, this news seemed to make her more wary. “Why did he not call on me at DeCourcey?”

“He knows your father is ill and had no wish to trouble him with company,” the man said blithely. Calum saw the girl’s mouth tighten.

“You mean he knows my father is ill and hopes to force me to marry him so that he might take over DeCourcey and merge it with his land once father is dead,” she said shortly. “You may tell him I am not interested.”

“I fear you shall have to tell him yourself. I have orders to bring you to him and bring you to him I will.”

“Kidnap me, you mean,” she said bitterly.

The man inclined his head. “Call it what you will. I have my orders.”

Calum watched the girl, seeing the way her eyes now shot around the clearing from her clothes, to her mount, to the surrounding woods, then along the river bank. She was seeking an escape route, but there wasn’t one to be had. One of the four men had taken her mount by the reigns, the other had gathered up her gown and chemise. The men now simply stood, waiting. If she tried to swim up or down stream, they would follow. Her only choice was to stay in the water until they tired and went in after her, or to come out under her own power.

Calum shifted in the silence, telling himself it wasn’t any of his business. Despite that, his gaze kept returning to the girl, noting the pretty face, the lovely, honey hair and the proud, grim expression that belied the fear he could sense coming from her.

She was in a fix, that was certain, and she was alone against four men. One chit against four men hardly seemed a fair fight to him. On the other hand, it wasn’t any of his business, Calum reminded himself again. He’d merely stopped to rest for the day before continuing on with his journey at sunset, but….

“Ah hell,” Calum muttered under his breath and started to push his way through the bush at the mouth of the cave.

###

Sarra DeCourcey stared at the men before her with frustration. She was in a fine bind and knew it. D’Angers had hinted at his intentions when her father's health had first begun to fail, suggesting a merger of their lands and titles could be of great benefit to them both. Sarra had stared at him with open horror at the suggestion. The man was her father's age and had buried three wives already; two lost to childbirth, along with the wee babes they would have brought into this world, the other having died most recently from a fall down the stairs that was questionable. All knew d’Angers wasn't pleased that his last wife wasn't bearing fruit despite five years of his dedicated efforts to plant his seed. It was suspected the accident wasn’t an accident at all. Being Lady d’Angers was obviously perilous.

While that had been the first time d’Angers had suggested marriage to Sarra herself, she knew he’d talked to her father of it before. He’d tried to talk her father into a merger at least three times since she'd come of age, but Lord DeCourcey wouldn't hear of it. It appeared now that her father's health was failing, d’Angers had decided to force the issue.

Sarra knew without a doubt that if his men took her to d’Angers, she would be forced into the marriage whether she wanted it or not…and then forced into bed to consummate it.

The thought wasn’t a pleasant one and her panicky gaze slid from Jocks, to the other three men with him. One held her chemise and the pale blue gown she’d worn over it, his grubby hands smoothing over the material again and again as he licked his lips and peered at her.

Sarra shuddered and shifted her gaze to the man next to him, this one had the reigns of her mount twisted around his talon-like fingers. Both her clothes and mare were lost to her, she supposed unhappily, her gaze sliding past the last of the three men with Jocks and along the embankment. Could she swim downstream and get out before they caught her? And then what? A naked run through the woods back to DeCourcey?

She grimaced at the very idea of one of these men tackling her to the ground in such a state, then recalled the secret passage to the castle. The entrance was a long tunnel that started in a hidden cave in this very clearing. If she could lure the men away, and slip back here unmolested… Even if they followed, she would soon lose them in the rocky, twists and turns of the tunnels.

Even as her gaze slid to the hidden cave, the bushes filling its mouth suddenly parted to allow a man to slip through. He was tall, broad-shouldered, lean and moved with the sleek grace of a cat. He was also dressed in a kilt, giving away that he was a Scot and Sarra watched in fascination as he crossed the clearing.

Catching her eye, the man gave what Sarra suspected was supposed to be a reassuring smile, but what really looked like a fierce grimace to her. Still, for some reason, she was less afraid of this stranger than of the four men between them. Sarra supposed it had something to do with the way d’Angers men were leering at her lasciviously. In contrast, the newcomer wasn’t paying any attention at all to her nudity, his focus appeared to be wholly on the men he approached.

Her gaze slid back to the three men and their leers. None of them seemed to hear the stranger approach and for a moment, Sarra felt sure he would take them by surprise, but then one of the men – the one holding her gown – stiffened and started to turn as if he’d heard or sensed something.

Panic coursing through her, Sarra did the only thing she could think of to distract him, she stood up in the water. It was a nervous, jerky action and loosed her hair once again, allowing it to flow down to help cover her naked body before it disappeared in the water that reached her waist.

D’Angers man promptly stopped his turn, his eyes locking and widening on her naked flesh. He received a cosh on the side of the head with the flat of the stranger’s sword for his trouble.

Of course, the sound as he crumpled to the ground caught the attention of the other three men and Sarra sighed with relief as they tore their eyes from her to note the new comer to the clearing. There was a moment of complete silence and stillness, then Jock’s asked, “Who the devil are you?”

“Calum MacNachton,” the man answered easily.

“MacNacton,” she breathed. Sarra had heard of the clan. Everyone had heard of them. It was said they were fierce warriors and there were whispers that there were witches and changlings and other boogiemen threaded through their clan. Sarra didn’t put much truck with gossip.

“Well, what business do you have here?” Jocks asked with a frown, a wary look having come to his face.

“Naught,” Calum acknowledged easily, then added, “But then I’m thinkin’neither ha’e ye.”

Jocks eyes narrowed. “I am here for the lady.”

“Aye, well, Goldy doesnae appear to wish to go with ye,” he pointed out.

Sarra blinked. Goldy? Her hand went unconsciously to her hair as her mind made the connection to the reason for the nickname.

“This is none of your business, friend,” Jock’s said grimly. “Leave now and I will not have my men kill you.”

Calum raised a vaguely amused eyebrow and countered, “And if ye leave now, I’ll no ha’e to kill ye and yer men.”

Sarrra bit her lip anxiously as his men glanced to Jocks. They all watched the conflict on his face and then he heaved a sigh and shook his head. Her heart sank as he drew his sword and moved forward, his men following his lead.

She’d hoped he’d consider it too much trouble and just leave, but it had been a foolish hope. Calum MacNachton was just one man against the three. She very much feared he would be quickly and easily dispatched and then she would be taken anyway. Sarra would not see this brave man die in a courageous, but doomed, attempt to save her. She opened her mouth to say as much, but had left it too long she saw as the battle began and the first clang of metal against metal rang out in the clearing. Sarra quickly began to make her way out of the stream.

Water was difficult to move quickly through unless you were swimming. It was a lesson Sarra had learned long ago, but still the fact annoyed her as she struggled through the shallow water to shore. She was impatient and slightly frantic by the time she rushed up the bank to snatch her clothing back from the hands of the unconscious man who still held them. Unfortunately, the idiot had fallen on both her chemise and gown and she had quite a struggle getting the items free.

Sarra managed to pull the chemise out from beneath the man and don the thin undertunic. Once that was on, she bent to try to free the gown, glancing over her shoulder as she did. Much to her alarm, the MacNachton seemed to be struggling. He was holding his own against the three men, but barely and all it would take was a misstep or slip for them to be on him.

Momentarily giving up on retrieving her gown, Sarra straightened and glanced around the clearing, searching for something to use as a weapon. The unconscious man had a sword, but he was presently laying on it.

Spotting a long, thick branch laying further along the bank, she rushed to grab it. The branch was heavy with water, but she managed to heft it and lug it back up the bank. Sarra then had some trouble raising it over her shoulder and almost overbalanced when she finally did.

Steadying herself, she stepped a little closer to the nearest of Jocks’ men and swung the branch forward with a grunt, satisfaction coursing through her at the solid thud as she hit the man soundly over the head. He went down like a sack of wheat.

Her gaze slid to Calum MacNachton then. Sarra wasn’t sure what she’d expected. A thank you perhaps, or at least a smile of gratitude. Instead, he scowled at her for her trouble and snapped, “Dress, woman.”

Sarra blew her breath out with exasperation.

“That’s gratitude for you,” she muttered, dropping the wood and turning back to the first unconscious man to grab for her gown again.

“’Tis not as if I am naked. See if I bother to help him again,” she added in a growl as she began to tug at her gown anew. She was put out and that irritation went into her pulling so that she did manage to tug her gown free this time. Unfortunately, Sarra wasn’t prepared for it to come loose so abruptly and squawked as she stumbled backward and fell on her behind on the muddy embankment.

She’d barely registered the bone jarring jolt to her bottom, when a rough hand caught her arm and dragged her back to her feet.

“Quit muckin’ about and get dressed,” Calum MacNachton hissed.

“Mucking about?” Sarra echoed with disbelief, turning in time to see him raise his sword against a blow from Jocks. Releasing her then, the man returned his full attention to the battle and Sarra snatched up her gown again.

“Stupid, arrogant, bossy…men,” she muttered as she struggled with the gown, but her efforts halted when a startled oath caught her ear.

Lowering the gown, Sarra glanced toward the three men left fighting. Much to her horror, the MacNachton had backed up and tripped over the branch she’d thoughtlessly left lying in the way. Her eyes widened with alarm as he went down and the two men moved in to take advantage of the mishap.

Moving quickly, Sarra dropped the gown again, grabbed up the sword beside the man she’d felled with the branch and moved between Calum and the other two men. Jocks and his man stopped at once, irritation flashing across their faces.

“Get out of the way, girl,” Jocks snapped and tried to move around her to get to the fallen man.

“Lady DeCourcey to you, Jocks,” Sarra snapped, stepping to the side to block him. She immediately realized her mistake as the second man moved forward through the opening she’d left and raised his sword for a blow. Much to her relief, she heard the clang as metal met metal. Calum had recovered and was on his feet, back in the battle.

Sarra would have continued at his side. She had no idea what she was doing and the sword was extremely heavy, but if nothing else, she could distract Jocks long enough for the man to finish off the other man. Or so she thought, until she felt a hand clasp the back of her neck and push her away.

“Dress,” came the grim growl as she stumbled a couple of feet away under his impetus. It seemed the man didn’t want her aid, she realized with irritation. Honestly, he was a grumpy, bossy sod. And really, Sarra wasn’t at all used to being bossed about, or grumped at. Her father had always been a kind, good-natured man not prone to bossiness or orders when it came to his daughter. In truth, he had probably spoiled her.

Irritated enough to listen to the man and leave him to their tender mercies, Sarra dropped the sword and moved back to her gown. Still muttering under her breath, she snatched up the gown again, noting that it was now stained with grass and mud from it’s ill treatment.

Noting that her problem in dawning it had to do with the fact that it was inside out, she began to turn it right side in. Her gaze drifted back to the battle as she did and Sarra frowned when she noted that the stranger appeared to be weakening. He was still holding his own against Jocks and the other man, but his moves were definitely growing slower and more labored.

She wasn’t at all surprised. He’d been fighting twice and three times as hard as either man he was left fighting. It seemed obvious that if he didn’t soon finish them off, he would fail and possibly die at the hands of her neighbor’s men.

Sarra knew he wouldn’t appreciate her interference, but couldn’t just leave him to such a fate. Shaking her head, she threw her gown over the horse’s back and reached for the sack she’d hung from her saddle pom. She raised the long narrow bag, retrieved her bow and arrow from inside and was just notching a bow when a grunt drew her attention back to the battle. Her eyes widened with horror when she saw that Calum MacNachton stood, his sword embedded in the chest of the last man standing with Jocks. That didn’t upset her so much as the fact that Jocks had obviously taken advantage of his sword being momentarily occupied and embedded his own sword in the MacNachton’s side. The three men were frozen in an interlocking tableau, Jock’s man staring at the sword in his chest, the stranger staring at the sword in his side, and Jocks unharmed and smiling with grim triumph at Calum. A heartbeat passed as everyone stood frozen, then Calum suddenly raised his head, glared at Jocks and his free fist shot out, punching d’Angers man in the face.

Sarra winced at the crunch of bone breaking as Jock’s head flew back. She wasn’t surprised when he landed on his back in the dirt, out cold. The blow had been a sound one.

Her gaze slid from the prone Jocks and back to Calum in time to see him pull his own sword free. The other man fell at once, leaving MacNachton the only one still standing. Though, he wouldn’t be for long, Sarra feared as she saw the way he was swaying. Her eyes widened when he suddenly dropped his own sword and reached down to grasp the grip of Jocks sword which was still embedded in his own stomach.

Surely he wouldn’t…? He couldn’t…?

He did. Sarra stared in horror as he pulled the weapon from his side and flung it away with a roar of mingled rage and pain. Dropping her bow and arrow, she rushed forward, reaching him just in time to catch him as he would have fallen.

Sarra grunted as she slipped beneath his shoulder and took his weight. The sound, or perhaps the action, seemed to rouse him some and he straightened slightly. Calum frowned when he opened his eyes to find her there, supporting him. His hand tightened on her shoulder briefly, then he opened his mouth to speak.

“Get,” he began breathlessly, then paused to cough.

Sarra frowned with concern as he clasped his wound and bent forward under the cough, then she spotted his sword and realized what he was trying to say.

“Get your sword?” she asked, and reached quickly to grab it from the ground where he’d dropped it. “Here. ‘Tis right here.”

Sarra slid the sword back into his belt where it belonged, then slid back under his arm.

He touched the grip as if comforted by its presence, but shook his head. “Get-”

Sarra put a hand to his chest to brace him as he coughed again. Her gze slid to his wound as she did. There was surprisingly little blood considering the nature of the injury, but she began to suspect from his coughing that he may have nicked a lung.

“Get help?” she guessed as his coughing fit ended. “I will. I shall take you to help. I just need to look at your wound first."

He shook his head with apparent frustration and tried once more, "Get d-dressed.”

Sarra froze, all of her concern evaporating as amazement replaced it.

“You…I….Ohhhhh,” she said with exasperation, flinging his arm off her shoulder.

Leaving him to stand, or fall, on his own, she whirled away and stomped to her mare to retrieve her gown. He was the most annoying, exasperating, foolish man she'd ever met. He also seemed inordinately obsessed with her state of dress.

Sarra tugged the gown on with angry jerks, took the time to straighten it, then turned to face the bloody-minded man. "Is this better? Can I save your sorry life now and stop the bleeding? Or shall I don my shoes as well and fix my hair…”

Sarra’s words died slowly as she realized the man was no longer where she'd left him. Nor was he collapsed in a heap on the ground as she would expect.

Turning with amazement, she spotted him halfway across the clearing. While she'd been busy dressing, he'd tried to make his way back to the cave entrance from which he’d come. However, he didn’t have the strength for the journey. Even as she glanced his way, Calum fell to his knees a good ten feet from the bush that concealed the cave entrance.

“What on earth do you think you are doing?” Sarra cried, rushing to his side.

Slipping under his arm, she pushed upward with her legs, managing to get them both upright. She then tried to turn him back toward her horse, but he wouldn’t be turned.

“We have to get you on my horse and get you to help,” she said, trying once more to turn him.

“Nay.” Calum shook his head. “Sun. Weakens me. Cave.”

“But-”

“The cave,” he hissed and Sarra hesitated. He’d taken a bad wound to the side and shouldn’t be moving around so much. However, he seemed determined to get to the cave and it couldn’t be good for him to upset himself like this.

Her gaze slid back to her horse and then to the cave as she considered the best option. Were she to take him to the horse, she would have to get him on her mare, then keep him on it to ride back to the castle before she could tend his wound. Sarra wasn't at all sure he could stay on the mount on his own. She also didn't think she had the strength to keep him on it. If they could even get him mounted.

However, if she took him to the cave, she could quickly tend his injury, then leave him hidden inside the cave while she rode back to the castle. Surely he would be safe in the cave while she went for help?

“The cave,” Calum gasped insistently, sounding desperate.

Relenting, Sarra took a moment to adjust her grasp on him, planting herself more firmly under his arm, then struggled forward, half-dragging him to the bush that concealed the cave. They were both breathless and exhausted by the time they reached and struggled through the bush and into the cool shadowed cave. Sarra paused to catch her breath once inside, her gaze slipping around the dark interior.

It had been years since she’d been inside. Not since her father had shown it to her as a child. A secret passage only worked if it was a secret and traipsing in and out wouldn't keep it a secret for long. A path would have been trod through the bush, giving away its existence, or at least the existence of something of interest.

Now, she blinked and peered around the dim interior curiously. Fingers of sunlight were creeping through the bush, leaving the first chamber half lit. There wasn't much to see. A dirt floor, stone walls… and a horse.

“Yours, I presume?" Sarra murmured as the horse moved forward and nosed them. Calum’s answer was a grunt. She took it as a yes.

Her gaze slid to him with concern. He’d grown heavier against her, supporting himself less and less and she decided it would be best to sit him down before he fell down.

“Here.” She urged him to the side of the cave and tried to get him to sit, but he resisted.

“Out o’ the light," Calum insisted.

“We are out of the light," she assured him. "Just sit."

“Out o’ the light," he repeated, gesturing toward the small stray beams peeking through to land on them. “It weakens me. Die..if I stay out here.”

Sarra frowned at his words. She could believe the man had a sensitivity to the sun. She’d heard of the malady before, people whose skin reacted badly to exposure to it, but suspected his panic about even this much was a result of his wound. He was pale, and sweating, and breathless, and obviously off his head.

On the other hand, it couldn’t be good for him to be so upset either, so she closed her mouth and helped him to the back of the cave, following when it curved to the right. The moment they turned the corner all semblance of light disappeared. She now couldn’t see a step in front of her.

Before she could complain, Calum paused and his weight was lifted from her. Confused, she felt for him in the darkness, relieved when she found his plaid covered death. Obviously, he’d leaned himself against the cave wall.

Unsure how long he could remain on his feet with just the wall to brace him, Sarra peered around the darkness with a frown. She wanted to look at his wound, but needed light to do so.

“Wait here,” she instructed, then felt for the wall beyond him and followed it further into the darkness. There had been torches in the cave when her father had brought her here. They would still be there and she knew he kept them in good condition in case they were needed, checking and changing them every once in a while. Sarra supposed that would soon be her job. Her father’s health wasn’t well and she didn’t expect him to recover. He had a wasting disease and grew weaker each day.

A pang of grief tried to claim, but her hand brushed a torch just then. Grateful for the distraction, Sarra lifted it out of its holder and then felt along the ledge for the flint she knew would be there. Much to her relief, she found that too. Now, she just had to light the thing. Easier said than done, Sarra knew. She had never been very good at this sort of thing.

Setting her teeth, she set to work and managed the task, surprising herself when she did so relatively quickly.

Releasing a small breath of relief as the torch light chased the worst of the dark back into the cavern, Sarra set the torch back in its holder and returned quickly to Calum. He was still leaning against the cave wall, but his eyes were closed, his face slack with the barest hint of a grimace of pain on it. She wasn’t at all sure he was fully conscious despite his remaining upright.

Leaving that worry for the moment, Sarra urged his hand aside so she could look at his wound. Worry consumed her as she peered at it. The light was poor and she couldn’t see it as clearly as she’d hoped, but saw enough to know it was bad.

Muttering under her breath about the stupidity of men and cursing d’Angers and Jocks and the others to hell, Sarra ripped at the hem of her gown to use as a bandage. It was a temporary measure until she could get him help…which was her next step.

She’d barely had that thought when Sarrra became aware that the man had leaned forward and down so that his head rested on her shoulder. His face was turned into her neck, his breath hot on her throat.

Sarra was about to pull away when he suddenly thrust her away, as if she’d been the one mauling him.

“Go,” he gasped. “Ha’e to go. Can no …” He fell silent, gasping as if he’d been running.

Sarra frowned at the state he was in, then said quietly, “I am going for help.”

She frowned more deeply when there was no response from him. His eyes were squeezed shut, his face a grimace.

“Do you understand?” she asked, not wanting to leave him thinking she’d abandoned him. “I am going for help. I shall be as quick as I can, I promise. Just lay down here and rest until I return.”

Sarra tried to urge him to lay down, but he resisted and after a brief moment, she gave up. No doubt he would fall down soon enough…and probably hit his head or do himself some other further injury when he did, but despite his wound, he was stronger than her and she couldn’t force him.

Leaving him where he stood, Sarra hurried back into the first cavern, surprised to see that the horse had returned here. She’d heard him follow them into the back of the cave earlier and hadn’t realized he’d left until now. Apparently, he hadn’t liked the dark anymore than her and had returned to the front of the cave where it was at least dimly lit. She must have been too distracted with the torch to notice, Sarra supposed.

Giving the horse a sympathetic pat, Sarra moved past him to the mouth of the cave, but paused abruptly as she saw that the clearing was now full of activity. Three of the men were awake and on their feet. Only the one that had been run through with the sword was still down. She wasn’t going anywhere.

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