Highland Brides series book #7
January 29, 2019
A laird’s daughter kidnaps a Highlander—and loses her heart… in New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands’ new historical romance
Lady Evina Maclean has heard much about Rory Buchanan’s skill as a healer. What she hasn’t heard is how good the brawny Highlander looks bathing in a waterfall. But Evina can’t afford the distraction, for her ailing father urgently needs care. Only when she’s rendered Buchanan unconscious and dragged him back to her family’s castle does the truth emerge—it’s not Rory she’s kidnapped but his brother Conran.
Other ladies try to ensnare Conran with flattery. Evina hits him over the head with the hilt of her sword to save her kin—and Conran likes the spirited redhead all the more for it. He’s learned enough from his brother to heal Evina’s father, but there are other dangers swirling around the Maclean clan. And while the beautiful, independent lady has sworn not to marry, this wrong Highlander may be just the right man for her.
Conran's story, appropriately named The Wrong Highlander, starts with a bang when our hero is accosted and kidnapped by a redheaded spitfire named Lady Evina Maclean.
Desperate to help her father whom is at death's door she does the only thing she can think of… seek out help from famed healer Rory Buchanan. But when they find him bathing in the waterfall Lady Evina comes up with a different plan…Why bother asking when they could just take him with them willing or not, and ask for forgiveness later?
Conran's first thought at the strangers' intrusion on his bath was not a pleasant one and he was successfully beating back the man attacking him until someone cold cocked him from behind. Conran's second thought upon waking in a strange room with an ailing man was "Who was stupid enough to attack a Buchanan?". His third thought upon setting eyes on the redheaded beauty behind his kidnapping was rather…er… X-rated shall we say.
Goodreads reviewers rated it over 4 out of 5 stars!
The Highland Brides is one of my favorite historical romance series, and I always get excited when a new one is coming out. The Buchanan brood is so fun and boisterous, with sassy and relatable women that find themselves in dangerous situations more often than not. The Wrong Highlander is no exception, and follows the same light-hearted suspense format of the previous books.
Our hero in this latest installment is Lady Evina Maclean, a braies-wearing, sword-wielding lass from the Highlands. She reminded me quite a bit of Saidh Buchanan, from The Highlander Takes a Bride.
I didn't remember much about Conran from previous books, but he is the one who is always helping his brothers with some aught, but has never really stood out as being an expert in one field. I liked Conrad quite a bit as well. I liked that he was humble and didn't quite realize his own appeal, but that he was also a bit of an alpha when it came to protecting and satisfying his lady.
I liked the suspense plot and thought it was well planned and executed. Surprisingly, I didn't guess the villain's identity in this one until he was just about revealed. I really like how Lynsay gives us the suspense and danger to advance the plot, but she doesn't make it the whole focus of the story. I'm sad that we are running out of members of the Buchanan family to read about... but I'm hoping that we will get a series about the next generation - particularly Saidh and Greer's growing brood! Reviewed by Jen at Bambi Unbridled
Evina is just trying to do the right thing. It’s not her fault she got the wrong brother. Okay, like I said she should have asked first but hey a girl has to do what a girl has to do. Conran isn’t expecting to get kidnapped either and by a girl none the less. The story had me laughing out loud at times. They are so stubborn and while the relationship doesn’t start the way you would expect it develops in the best of ways. While all of the Buchanan’s show up since this is the first int he series that I have read I didn’t know much about them. I can tell you that now that I’ve read it, I am going back and reading all six of the previous ones. Given 5 stars by A Lucky Grace.
The Wrong Highlander by Lynsay Sands is an incredible Scottish adventure. From kidnapping a handsome Highlander to saving family, these Highlanders have their hands full. A young unmarried woman thought she kidnapped the right man. Turned out, it was his brother who also knew how to act in as a healer. Saved her da’s life and then, working to save hers, Conran falls helplessly in love with the red hair beauty. Lady Evina is quick with a sword, a good horse rider, and clever as she is beautiful. It didn’t surprise me that the two would eventually fall in love. But getting to that point was difficult with a murderer running somewhere around the castle. Family and trust were strong themes found on these pages. They tied in well with the plot. Plenty of action, heat, and mystery to keep my interest. Overall, I recommend this novel to all. Given 5 out of 5 stars by Urban Book Reviews.
I think I enjoy this series more and more with each new book. Each book is witty and humorous while still being tense, exciting and romantic. The writing, as always, is excellent and the story is tightly plotted and well executed. I love the main characters as well as the re-appearances of the large and boisterous Buchanan family... One of the fun things about this read is that you really believe the love between Evina and Conran. She challenges him rather than following meek and ladylike – and he admires her for that. Great romance. Given 5 out of 5 stars by Barbara at Flippin Pages.
This seventh entry to Lynsay Sands’ “Highland Brides” is a hoot. It was full of not-intentionally-mischief-making-but-making-mischief-nonetheless casts, from side characters to the MCs. A cross between mistaken identity and compromising situation tropes, the plot was made merrier by matchmaking father and set in historical Scotland. Reviewed by Hoards Jumble.
I'm not sure if any of you have read a book by Lynsay Sands but if you haven't you are truly missing something. She has a natural humor that draws you into the story. Humor helps balance out things even during the worst of times. I just love her characters and I have to say that this series, the Highland Brides have some of my favorite. I love how these brothers are with each other. You can feel the different layer of loyalty and love they share for each other.
This time we have Conran who gets kidnapped, sorta, instead of Rory. This would be horrible if it hadn't turned out to be so funny. Plus, it's hard to be kidnapped when you can leave at anytime.
I think you'll really enjoy Evina and Conran's story. Besides the romance of it you of course get the mystery to go with it. I loved how the brothers and friends pointed out how it seemed that each of them found woman to fall in love with that had someone who wanted to kill them. If you read the series you think that, not that it's a game changer for reading the series, but you never think about what the author thinks, until this book. Pointing out makes they series as a whole work even better. Drawing attention to and being shocked about the attempted killings gives you common ground with the characters. A fun series that you all should try! Reviewed by Ann from Romancing The Reader.
You know how it is when you're so confident in an author's abilities that you know you want to read her newest book only because her name is below the title? That's how it is for me for Lynsay Sands. Mind you, the scrumptious cover didn't hurt either. The Wrong Highlander is a delightful twist on the typical kidnapping story! I loved how all the misunderstandings were handled; it was smooth and believable. Conran's reasoning for not making a fuss at his accidental abduction also made sense. Conran and Evina's romance is unusual, and at one point realistically traumatizing. Conran must make amends for an unfortunate mistake, he more or less has to bend over backward - without prompting - and it made him quite endearing.
Conran and Evina are very appealing characters, whose clever banter charmed me; they are evenly matched and equals in many ways. Evina's father is one complex character, and he exemplified fathers of eras gone by; he was hard to like at times, but he meant well. The Wrong Highlander is a very easy read, with a hero who didn't make me cringe, and a heroine I could relate to. It's also a very carefully constructed story, as what I had thought an isolated incident proves to be the basis for a mystery which took me somewhat unawares. Reviewed by Monique Daoust at Fresh Fiction.
The Wrong Highlander by Lynsay Sands is book Seven in the Highland Brides. This is the story of Conran Buchanan and Evina Maclean. I have read the other books (and Loved them!) in this series but feel you can make this a standalone book if you wish to do so.
This series is one of the best I have read. Ms. Sands's writing takes you through so many emotions of laughing, sadness and just plan excitement for this next page. Given 5 stars by Sissy Mae Book Likes.
Lynsay Sands is simply a fabulous writer and proves it yet again in THE WRONG HIGHLANDER. The only people I love more then her are the Buchanan brothers. There are a LOT of them and I sleep easily at night knowing there are more of thrilling and hilarious stories to come. Lynsay Sands is not shy to throw the main characters into some pretty dangerous situations, whether it be poisonings, arrows flying everywhere, and murderous relatives. In THE WRONG HIGHLANDER we get all that, plus a reunion with all the previous couples from books 2-6. Scotland. Evina Maclean and Conan Buchanan are stubborn individuals meant only for each other. Thankfully there are enough relatives and castle resident to keep forcing the two into some awkward situations. Their banter does keep the story highly entertaining and make for a very quick paced read. The only sad part about that is that the story flies by so quick and the next thing you know you are at the end. So if you are a fan of historical romance this book is a MUST read. Given 5 stars by Vik at Kris And Vik Book Therapy Cafe.
Conran heard his brother, Rory, approaching before he ever spoke. The man had no idea how to move quietly. He stomped through the woods, snapping branches underfoot like it was his task in life to scare away all wildlife. He'd be murder on a hunt, Conran thought. Which was why he and his other brothers never took him with them when they went on one. Not that Rory would be interested in accompanying them anyway. He was the odd man out in the family—a healer rather than a warrior. Although, to be fair, he had been working out in the practice field of late, building up his strength and skills, he admitted to himself as Rory finally stumbled out into the clearing and greeted him with the question, "How did ye do?"
Conran turned from his saddlebag and stepped back to reveal the way it bulged. "I found loads of snapdragon, catnip, willow, feverfew and celandine poppy fer ye. Almost too much for me bag."
"Celandine poppy?" Rory echoed, and shook his head with a smile. "Look at ye. Ye're even learning the right kinds o' weeds I need."
Conran grimaced and turned back to continue trying to close his over-full saddlebag. "Aye, well, I've accompanied ye on enough o' yer calls to heal others that I've picked up a thing or two."
"Aye, ye have," Rory agreed, crossing the clearing to join him. "More than I expected. Ye always seem to know ken what I'll need ere I ask fer it when ye accompany me to visit the ill and ailing. Ye're something o' a natural at healing, brother."
Conran shook his head with amusement. "Dougall said the same thing about me and his horses, and Niels said it about his sheep and wool. The truth is, I'm just good at helping out me brothers. It's made me a jack-o'-all-trades."
"Ye're selling yerself short, Conny," Rory said solemnly. "I think the truth is that while each o' us is very good at one thing, ye're good at many."
"Hmmm. As I said, a jack-o'-all-trades. Sadly, I'm no' a master of any though." Finally managing to close the saddlebag, he sighed his relief and then glanced to Rory. "So, do ye feel like a stop at the waterfalls to clean up ere returning? I swear I've weeds and bugs up me butt from traipsing through the bushes and brambles."
"Nay." Rory shook his head with apparent regret. "I still need valerian and yarrow, and then I must stop in to see the innkeeper's daughter. She's fit to burst and likely to have her bairn any day now. I want to be sure all is well with her. Ye go ahead though. I ken ye planned to leave fer Drummond ere the nooning meal. I appreciate ye taking the time to help me search out medicinals first."
"Always happy to help," Conran said with a shrug, and then assured him, "I'll have a quick wash in the falls, and then ride back to the keep to drop off the weeds before heading out."
"Thank ye. I appreciate it," Rory assured him as he mounted up.
"Me pleasure, brother." Conran watched him ride off, and then withdrew the sword from his belt and affixed it to his horse, before removing his plaid and shirt. He was looking forward to a nice wash under the falls. Truly, it felt like he had bugs crawling all over his naked skin under the plaid he wore. Conran knew that wasn't the case, and the feeling was just a result of being hot and sweaty in a wool plaid. Wading through the bugs and sending them flying from the bushes and plants he was harvesting hadn't helped though. Aye, a nice clean up in the falls was going to be a true pleasure. It would make a new man of him.
"Well, there's his horse. Now, where is he?" Evina asked, her gaze sliding around the clearing and then to the river and waterfalls, which appeared empty.
"Mayhap he left his steed here while he searches for weeds."
Evina narrowed her eyes in consideration at the suggestion from the man sitting astride the horse on her right. Donnan. He'd been the first at Maclean for fourteen years. There was no one she'd trust more to accompany her on this trip, except perhaps the man on her left, her cousin, Gavin.
When she didn't comment, Donnan pointed out, "The lad did say Rory Buchanan was out gathering weeds for his healing work. The area around here is rich with various plants. Mayhap he leaves his horse here as a main base and returns occasionally with his finds."
Evina eyed the bulging saddlebag hanging from the side of the handsome beast across the clearing, and nodded. It seemed a good possibility. Although, it did look to her as if he must be nearly finished with his weed- gathering expedition. In fact, unless he had a second bag that he was carrying with him, he should be done. There didn't look to her to be room for even one more leaf, stem or root in the bag.
"Or no't," Gavin murmured quietly.
Raising her eyebrows, Evina glanced to her cousin and then followed his direction to the water when he nodded that way.
At first, she didn't see anything to explain his comment. There was nothing in the river itself. It wasn't until Evina turned her gaze to the waterfall again that she saw what he'd spotted. The cliff the water fell from was a good twenty feet up. The water rained down in a white, frothy torrent that hid the rocks and anything else behind the sheet of water, and that was what she'd seen the first time. Now there appeared to be an elbow poking out of the water and someone moving around under the spray.
"Looks like we've found him," Donnan said with amusement. "Do we wait for him to come out?"
Evina considered the matter briefly, but that didn't really seem an option to her. Rory Buchanan might rush through his cleaning and be out quickly, but he could also piddle about in the falls for a good long time, but either way, every moment they wasted was one more during which her father lay dying.
"Nay. We fetch him out," she said finally. "And we'll no' take nay for an answer."
"Right," Donnan said quietly, and then glanced past her to Gavin.
Following his gaze, Evina saw that the younger man was already dismounting. Once on the ground, her cousin quickly removed his sword and boots. When he reached for the pin of his plaid, Evina turned her head away and stared at the waterfalls instead to give him privacy. She used to change Gavin's nappies and give him baths as a boy, but he wasn't a child anymore. Besides, while she'd often been accused of being less than a lady, even she wouldn't look on a bare-arsed man.
At least, not on purpose, Evina qualified when her gaze landed not on an elbow protruding from the falls now, but on a bare arse. That was all. The Buchanan had obviously turned under the water and bent over, presumably to wash his lower legs or feet, because while she could now see the outline of his legs through a very thin layer of foamy water, his behind was the only thing out of the spray and on display.
And a fine rounded rump it was too, Evina noted before movement drew her attention to Gavin as he headed determinedly toward the water. She looked away, but not before catching a glimpse of his back, legs and behind. Evina had always thought her cousin a well-built young man, and he did have a nice muscular chest and shoulders. He also had fine legs. Despite that, though, he couldn't compare with the Buchanan when it came to rumps. Gavin fell short when compared to the only part of the man she could really see. Her cousin's behind was flat in comparison to the one sticking out of the waterfall.
"When ye said we're no' taking nay fer an answer," Donnan said slowly. "Did ye mean . . . ?"
"I meant exactly what it sounds like," Evina assured him. "We'll kidnap the bastard if we have to, but Rory Buchanan has to return with us. I'll no' let father die for lack o' the right healer."
Donnan nodded, but then pointed out, "It could mean war with the Buchanans."
"Then we'll battle the Buchanans," she said grimly, and turned to peer at him. "Is that a problem?"
Donnan shook his head. "Nay, m'lady. I pledged me fealty to yer father. I'd give me life fer him. I just wanted to be sure ye kenned the consequences o' this action."
"I ken the consequences," Evina assured him solemnly. "And I would give me life for me father too. If it takes a war to save him, then war it shall be."
Donnan was silent for a moment, and then said gently, "Rory Buchanan may no' be able to heal him either. Yer father may be beyond help."
"Mayhap," she agreed. "But I'd also give me life for just a chance at saving him. Hopefully, it'll no' come to war though, and the Buchanan will come willingly."
"I'm thinking that does no' seem likely," Donnan said dryly, and nodded toward the waterfall again.
Evina turned her head quickly, her eyes widening as she saw that Gavin had reached the Buchanan and, rather than talking, the two men were now grappling under the waterfall. Even as she noted that, the pair tumbled off the low ledge they'd stood on and into the river itself.
"Huh," Evina muttered, pursing her lips as she watched the pair rolling and bobbing in the water, alternately wrestling, punching and appearing to try to drown each other. "Ye may be right."
"I'm thinking Gavin might need a hand," Donnan said after several minutes had passed with the men continuing to struggle.
"Aye," Evina agreed with concern as she watched the Buchanan force her cousin under the water and hold him there. When Gavin didn't reappear, or roll the other man under, Donnan dismounted, intending to go help.
Quite sure he'd never make it there in time on foot, Evina cursed and put her heels to her mount. The mare responded at once,; bursting into a sprint that took her to the water's edge before Donnan had crossed half the distance. Evina rode right into the water, drawing her sword out as she did. Once next to the man holding Gavin under the water's surface, she reined in hard enough to make her mare rear in the water.
The Buchanan turned a startled face up toward her, their eyes met briefly, and then Evina brought her sword down. The hilt of her weapon slammed into the side of his head with force. She watched him wince in pain and then lose consciousness as her mare settled on all four hooves again in the water.
The moment the Buchanan released Gavin, her cousin reared up out of the water, sputtering. Relief pouring through her, Evina sheathed her sword and slid quickly off her mare's back. She landed in the waist- high water next to the men even as Donnan rushed into the river to approach them.
"Help Gavin," she ordered, noting the way the young man was swaying as he stood up. She didn't wait to watch the man obey, but moved to the Buchanan. Grabbing the healer by the shoulder, she turned him in the water. Her face pinched with concern when she noted his pallor, but she quickly shifted her hold to his hand and dragged him toward shore.
The healer was surprisingly heavy. Evina only managed to pull him halfway out of the river before she had to stop, but at least his head and chest were out. Once she'd dragged him as far as she could onto the grassy shore, she dropped to her knees beside him and quickly turned him on his stomach. Evina then placed her hands on his back and pushed hard and fast, once and then again. Water immediately poured from his mouth and nose. When a third such push didn't bring up any more, she turned him over. When she saw that the man wasn't breathing, she didn't hesitate, but pinched his nose, opened his mouth, and bent to blow her breath into it.
"Er . . . m'lady?" Donnan said, sounding uncertain as he let a coughing and hacking Gavin drop to his knees next to her. "What are ye doing?"
"Breathing for him," she muttered between breaths. "Me mother did this to me brother when he near drowned as a lad. It revived him," she explained as she pressed on the Buchanan's chest, before bending to cover his mouth with hers again.
"Looks more like yer kissing on him," Donnan said dubiously, and Gavin released a chuckle of amusement that was raspy and sent him into another coughing fit.
Evina ignored both men and bent to press her ear to the unconscious man's chest. Much to her relief she heard his heart beat and the sound of his drawing breath into his lungs on his own. Straightening then, she peered down at him expectantly, but he didn't open his eyes.
"Ye hit him pretty hard, m'lady," Donnan pointed out solemnly. "He may no' wake up for a bit, but he's breathing now on his own at least."
"Aye," she sighed the word, her eyes sliding over the man's face. He was really quite handsome. She hadn't expected that. She'd heard tales of his skill as a healer, but not one of those stories had mentioned that he was a good-looking man. She'd imagined a plain-faced, scrawny, bookish man like the priests, who were the only learned men she knew of. Instead, he had a pretty face and a strapping body, she noted, her gaze sliding down his wide, naked chest to his tapered waist. The rest of him was still submerged in water so Evina couldn't look farther.
"M'lady?" Donnan said quietly, drawing her reluctant gaze. "Mayhap we'd best get moving. If one o' his brothers come looking for him and finds him like this . . ."
"Aye." Evina stood abruptly, ignoring the way her wet skirts dragged at her. She glanced quickly around the clearing, but once assured they were still alone, turned her attention to Gavin as his coughing fit ended and he spat in the dirt. "Are ye all right, Gav? Can ye ride?"
"Aye," he growled, staggering to his feet.
Evina watched him with concern, but he appeared mostly recovered. At least, he wasn't swaying or coughing anymore and there was color in his cheeks. Nodding, she turned back to the water, a grimace claiming her lips when her skirts slapped cold and wet against her legs. Her mare still stood where she'd left her, and Evina waded back into the water to reclaim her reigns and lead her back onto land.
"What do ye want us to do with the Buchanan?" Donnan asked as he watched her mount her mare.
Evina settled in the saddle, arranged her skirts the best she could sitting astride as she was and then glanced down to the naked, unconscious man on the ground. He really was a pretty man, a pleasure to look on, she thought, but said, "Bind him hand and foot, toss him over his horse's back, and then tie him hand to foot to be sure he does no' fall off."
"Do I dress him first?" Donnan asked, not looking pleased at the thought, and Evina supposed pleating a plaid and dressing an unconscious fully grown male in it might be something of a task.
She shook her head. "Nay. Just throw his plaid over him once ye've ensured he'll no' fall off his mount as we ride. And mayhap tie it down somehow so it does no' fall off him either."
Donnan nodded and then glanced to Gavin. "Are ye well enough to fetch his mount?"
"O' course," Gavin said irritably, and headed away muttering, "Took in a bit o' water, is all, but I'm fine now."
They watched him go, and then both Evina and Donnan shared small smiles. Gavin was always a bit touchy at any suggestion that he may not be up to par. He was young yet, but determined to prove he was a man.
"The Buchanan'll no' be pleased at being knocked unconscious," Donnan predicted solemnly as he shifted his attention back to the unconscious man.
"Nay," Evina agreed on a sigh, her eyes wandering toward the still- submerged lower half of the unconscious man's body before she caught herself and drew it back to his face. This hadn't been how she'd hoped this task would go. She'd planned to have an amiable chat with the man, and convince him to come with them. Knocking him out and dragging him home with them had only been a last- resort possibility if he'd refused to accompany them willingly. However, things rarely went according to plan in her experience.
Shaking her head, she glanced warily around the clearing again before her gaze settled on her cousin leading the Buchanan's mount to them.
"Thank ye," Donnan said, taking the horse's reins from Gavin. "Go fetch our beasts while I get him on his horse."
Nodding, the younger man moved quickly away to retrieve their waiting horses.
Evina watched Donnan bind the Buchanan's hands and feet and then frowned when he caught him by his tied hands and drew him into a sitting position.
"Can ye manage on yer own? Or do yeou need me to help ye with. . ." Evina's question died in her throat. Donnan already had the man over his shoulders and was carrying him the few feet to the Buchanan's mount. She watched silently as he slung him over the beast and quickly attached a rope between his bound hands and his feet under the animal's belly so that he wouldn't slide off during the ride.
Evina supposed she shouldn't be surprised at how easily Donnan had managed the task. It was why she'd brought him along on this journey. The man was huge and strong, his neck as big around as her thigh, his upper arms bulging with muscle and his shoulders almost twice the width of most men's. He probably could have carried the three of them if necessary, Evina thought as she watched him arrange the Buchanan's plaid over his back and fasten it around his neck and knees to keep it in place.
"That should do," Donnan announced as he stepped back from his handiwork.
"Aye," Evina agreed as Gavin reached them, already astride his mount and leading Donnan's. She waited as the first mounted, but once he was settled and had the reins of the Buchanan's horse in hand, she turned her own mount to lead them out of the clearing. Her thoughts were already on the ride home and the quickest way there. It was usually a two-day ride, but she intended to make it in a little more than one. There would be no stopping to eat or make camp at night. They would eat in the saddle and ride non-stop, as they had on the way out. Her father's life depended on it. If he still lived.
That last thought made Evina press her lips tight together and spur her horse into a run before they'd even left the clearing. Her father couldn't die. He just couldn't. He and Gavin were all the family she had in this world.
Conran groaned as pain dragged him back toward consciousness. It wasn't one pain, but a whole battery of pains, and they were assaulting him from nearly everywhere. His arms, his legs, his ankles and wrists, his stomach and his damned head were all throbbing, pounding or aching at the moment and he didn't understand why. He also didn't understand what he was seeing when he was finally able to open his eyes. Everything was just a fuzzy blur at first, but even when his vision cleared he couldn't quite grasp what he was staring at.
Something dark brown was filling most of his vision, although there was a strip of something blue on one side. Unable to figure out what the brown was, Conran turned his head slightly to peer at the blue instead, hoping that might be more comprehensible. But beyond the blue he could see the tail end of the horse he was apparently on, and beyond that, what appeared to be an upside-down rider following.
Although, the rider wasn't the one who was upside down, he was, Conran realized suddenly, as he stared at the large man and the scenery disappearing behind him. He was hanging upside down on a horse, his stomach across the saddle, with his legs hanging down one side and his shoulders and arms the other.
That explained his aching stomach, Conran supposed as he bounced on the beast's back, his stomach slamming into the pommel and top of the saddle. His aching head could be blamed on the blow he now recalled taking back at the river, and his ankles and wrists hurt because they were both presently bound, and tightly too. There also appeared to be a rope attached to his bound hands that disappeared under the belly of the beast he lay on.
Conran wasn't positive what that rope was attached to at first, but when he tried to draw his hands toward himself, a tug on his ankles gave him the answer. His wrists and ankles were trussed up and tied together under the horse. If he slipped, his weight would drag him down so that he hung under the animal like a boar tied to a spear to be carted home after a hunt. Did that happen, he was likely to be kicked in the head. Brilliant.
Turning his face, Conran peered at the blue cloth next to his head. Someone rode with him. Presumably to keep him from slipping, he supposed. He could feel pressure on one butt cheek, as if someone were pressing down to keep him from shifting and slipping under the animal.
The naked man who'd attacked him while he was cleaning up at the waterfall? he wondered, but then took a look at the cloth next to him again. Not a plaid, and not braies either. The blue cloth draped, looking more like a skirt to him. It was pulled tight because the rider was astride, but it was a skirt he was sure. Conran let his eyes follow the cloth down to where it ended just above a strip of dark brown that might have been the bottom hem of braies worn under the skirt, and then there were a bare couple of inches of pale calf showing above the top of brown, leather riding boots.
Conran hung there for a moment, simply staring at the bit of skin, and then tried to lift and turn his head to look at the rider presently touching his bottom so familiarly, but the movement made the pounding in his head increase in severity enough that he quickly gave up the effort. After waiting a moment for the pain to ease back to a dull throb again, Conran called out instead. Or, at least he tried. Even he couldn't hear the weak sound of his breathless voice over the drumming of the horse's' hooves. Aside from the fact that his position made it impossible to take in enough air to propel anything of volume, his mouth and throat were dry as old bone.
Unable to get the rider's attention, Conran tried to make himself relax, but his position was damned uncomfortable, and growing more so by the moment. He had to get the attention of the person he rode with. After a moment of debating the situation, he finally simply turned his head and bit into the patch of naked skin above the leather boot.
It immediately became obvious that it had been the wrong move. Rather than slowing to a halt at the realization that he was awake, the rider clenched the hand on his bottom in a startled response, driving sharp nails into his ass. The unknown female must also have yanked on the reins in surprise with her other hand too. At least, that was his guess when the animal suddenly reared up with a distressed whinny.
Cursing, Conran closed his eyes and tried to brace himself as his world turned on its end.
Groaning, Evina rolled onto her back, and opened her eyes, unsurprised to find Gavin next to her, concern on his face.
"Are ye all right?" he asked, looking her over.
"Fine," she sighed as he helped her sit up. Glancing around then she spotted the Buchanan on the ground a few feet away, next to his now-calm horse. Donnan was kneeling beside him.
"Is he okay?" Evina asked anxiously. Ignoring the aches and pains assailing her, she struggled to her feet with help from Gavin, and moved to lean over Donnan so that she could get a look at the Buchanan's face. Seeing his closed eyes, and pale face, she sighed with disappointment. "He's unconscious again."
"Again?" Donnan glanced back at her with surprise.
Evina nodded. "He woke up briefly just moments ago."
"Are ye sure?" Donnan asked.
"Aye," she said with a grimace. "The bastard bit me leg."
"He bit you?" Gavin asked with a laugh of disbelief.
Evina nodded again. "It startled me into yanking on the blasted reins, which is why his steed reared."
"He's unconscious, but breathing fine and seems good other than another bump on his head," Donnan announced, straightening. "Must have got it when he hit the ground."
Evina relaxed a little. They'd both come off the horse when it reared. She'd tumbled backward, and he'd slid down the horse's back right behind her. He'd still been trussed up, ankles and wrists, with a rope attached between them. She supposed they were lucky he'd only suffered a blow to the head and hadn't been trampled or dragged about by his mount.
"We're only an hour from Maclean," Donnan said quietly. "It might be better to get him there before he wakes again."
"Aye," Evina agreed, absently rubbing her elbow. She'd landed on it hard when she fell off the horse. It was tender, probably badly bruised, as was her hip, but she hadn't broken anything, and she was conscious, so, all told, she'd fared better than the Buchanan.
"Gavin can take him on his horse for the rest of the ride," Donnan said as he picked up the man and straightened.
Evina didn't argue. This wasn't the first time the Buchanan had slid off his saddle. It had happened shortly after they'd left the clearing. He'd slid down, head first toward the ground, and then hung under the horse's belly, face up with the rope attached between his bound ankles and wrists across the saddle. Well, he would have been face up if he'd been conscious. He hadn't, however, so his head had just fallen back, his long hair dragging on the ground.
They'd stopped at once, of course, to resituate him across the saddle, and then had decided someone should ride with him to be sure it didn't happen again. Evina had taken the duty because she was the lightest, and they'd hoped it wouldn't slow his horse down too much to have her ride with him. But they were close to home now;, Gavin's horse could handle the two of them and still move fast for this last bit of the journey. The beast had originally been Donnan's until her father had gifted his first with the steed he now rode. The animal was used to carrying the bigger man, and Gavin and the Buchanan together probably didn't weigh that much more than Donnan did on his own, he was that large.
"Mount up, Gavin, and I'll lay him over the saddle in front o' ye," Donnan ordered as he carried the Buchanan past her.
"Are we going to untie and retie him around me horse?" Gavin asked, leading the way to his mount.
"Nay. We're close enough I think we can do without the bother. Just keep a hand on his back to keep him from slipping off for the rest of the journey," Donnan instructed.
Gavin mumbled something of an agreement as he mounted his horse, then leaned over and reached out to help place the Buchanan across his horse's back in front of him. The two men quickly ran into trouble, however, thanks to the rope between the man's bound wrists and ankles.
"Just a minute," Evina said, pulling out her dirk and hurrying forward when she saw the problem. While the two men held him aloft, she quickly cut the rope between his hands and ankles, and then stepped back and out of the way, aware that her cheeks were now a fiery red. She couldn't help it. The way they'd been holding the man, his jewels had been dangling to the side of her face, and while she'd tried not to look, it had been impossible not to take a couple of quick glances.
Shaking her head in an effort to remove what she'd seen from her mind, Evina left the men to arrange the Buchanan to their pleasure and moved away to remount her mare.
"Lead the way, m'lady," Donnan rumbled once they were all back in the saddle.
She didn't have to be told twice. Turning her mare, Evina spurred her into a fast jog she hoped Gavin's steed could keep up with. She was eager to get home and see that her father was all right. Or, at least, that he still lived. If he'd died while she'd been out fetching the Buchanan back to help him—-
Evina pushed that thought determinedly away, but spent the remaining hour of the journey praying that Rory Buchanan was as good as the stories claimed and could save her father's life.
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