Authors: Missy Strom
Broken Highlander Blood Oath
By Missy Strom
*This story was formerly called: Lairds of the Eagle
This book is a work of fiction. Names characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Analise fell instantly in love with him from the first moment she set her eyes on him. At once her gaze lingered over his wavy dark hair that was like coal-black soot on her fingertips catching blue highlights from the candlelight. His jaw was strong with a tattoo along the length of it and a bold notch in the middle of his chin; a face of strength and youth with piercing gray eyes. So handsome, it brought a flush to her cheeks, yet built so strong as to impress her gaze, but she saw wisdom there also.
Nevertheless she understood, even in her simpleness, it was foolish to believe or acknowledge such a miraculous event as falling immediately in love with one look. Yet the tingling whispers in her belly felt like a sprinkling of sparks gone awry and they did not recede as she continued to gaze at him with no hope to look elsewhere.
How could it arise so quickly? Was it desperation on her part or perchance pity? Nay, it was not pity for him. Never that. Nonetheless, it could be a touch of panic on her part, possibly a healthy amount because she was frightened or had been until she’d first looked at the man that she'd fallen in love with after only one glance.
Analise noted that her new love had not once gazed back at her and she guessed it would be obvious, to all gathered in the oily and smoke-filled Keep, that he wasn’t being considered as a participant by her stepbrother Armand. Nay, Armand had more gruesome plans for his helpless stepsister than auctioning her to a good man.
Analise was quite certain that in Armand’s twisted mind, if he couldn’t possess her, it was her offense and she would pay the price with his methods of selecting a husband for her. However, she wasn’t being entirely honest to herself in that, because Armand’s madness intended she pay for much more than being denied her body.
“The barbarian Lord Mondon I think it should be, angel mine.”
Armand’s hissing voice in Analise's ear brought her unwilling attention back to her torment and her tormentor. Sickeningly, she felt the indecent wetness of Armand’s tongue on the rim of her ear as she tried, without success, to put a small space between their bodies.
However, her stepbrother’s hand tightened like a vise on her arm, leaving her bright with pain. But she dare not cry out or she would receive worse.
“Tis said that, Lord Mondon, relishes the whip for his pleasure with women,” Armand continued, then he lifted his head with a sharp incline as if a newer thought had occurred to him. “No-no, a man-lover. Count Baquene! Perfect—much more perfect. What would he do with your ripe curves, my pet?” Armand’s bony fingers closed suggestively on Analise's hip. “Despise you for being so unmasculine, do you imagine?”
Analise ached to flee with every bone in her body tensed for it. Could no one see it? Could no one see how desperately she needed to escape? This gathering was not a decent offering of her for honorable marriage, but another twisted torture of Armand’s. In her anguish, Analise's gaze darted back to the one place she'd sensed safety from in the frightening madness she was captured in. And this time, he was gazing
“I don't like it, Donan. Can you not feel the evil doings in your very bones?” Shancy asked in a low voice as he stooped over his older brother and laird, the Glenncannon. Although the Glenncannon preferred when he was in company to be called simply Eagle, and in friendship called Donan.
Shancy continued to lean over his brother Donan, who was hitched upright, sitting in his uncommon wheeled chair. The chair with wheels was pushed beneath the end of a coarsely planked head table in the front of the Keep’s main hall. That was until Shancy had realized that he'd been standing in his back bending position for long moments with no answer forthcoming. He pulled his gaze from the extreme oddity of the men gathered in Lord Granville’s stone-block hall to see what was holding his brother’s attention so thoroughly. He lowered to a crouch beside Donan’s chair so he could gain his brother’s height and see what his brother peered at.
It was a common event for him to crouch beside Donan, they carried on many conversations positioned that way, and he kenned immediately what Donan ken. She was a wee curvaceous lass with comely golden hair and exceptional blue eyes. Her eyes were likened to a deep flowing stream of the darkest and rarest blue measure he’d ever come across. He could see now why he had missed her, because she'd been under his nose whilst he'd been standing looking further out into the crowd.
It was a queer group, he pondered once again and even stranger still to have the delicate lass among them. However, the oddest occurrence in the whole gambit was Donan staring at a colleen. Bloody hell, his brother had not flicked so much as one of his dark eyelashes at a lass in nigh on five years. Never at all since the crusades and that last battle taking Jerusalem where Donan had been felled by a scimitar to his back.
Shancy grimaced; he didn't care to remember the year afterward, when he'd nearly lost Donan a dozen times to fever, infection, and filthy Saracen healing. However, praise the saints, in the end Donan had lived, but without the use of his legs, which had never moved on their own since that day. A cripple at five and twenty, Donan had continued to use the same grim determination which had made him a knight of renowned under the Lionheart’s crusading banner.
Since that time, Donan had forced a place for himself in the world as a cripple. A place that Shancy considered was sadly lacking in bonny lasses. It had been a toothy point between them and the one point he'd found hard to speak about to his closest friend and brother.
“She’s frightened,” Donan muttered.
It had taken him that long to realize it, because he'd been so captured in the blueness of the lasses eyes that he'd scarcely breathed for many long moments.
What was he
he silently admonished, intending to jerk his gaze away from the look of innocent blue eyes that he had no right to stare at? But even as the intention was upon him, the deed never came, because it seemed as if he had no will to surrender.
The lass was speaking to him, speaking to him so clearly through her gaze that he could taste the words on his tongue.
“Aye, she is,” Shancy answered. “And what in the bleeding hell is as fair a lady as she is, doing in this rough crowd? Weren’t we told that Lord Granville proclaimed this was a hunting party, and all we’ve seen are harlots, except for this one wee lass? What in Kilagarum is she doing here? Ah!”
Analise let out a gasp and she recoiled as a weighty male hand closed over her breast.
“Try the other one, Lord Chaffering,” Armand drawled. “A man has a right to know exactly what he’s bidding his coins for.”
Analise jerked away from Lord Chaffering’s grasping fingers in front of her and Armand’s hand pressuring the small of her back. She was astounded the effort had gained her freedom and she stumbled to the side, then free from her two lecherous assailants. But not for long, she thought fretfully while she struggled with where to flee to, even though she knew it was hopeless to try it. If only she could escape to the outer Bailey and attain a horse; any horse. What did it matter that she was terrified of the animals. Of the two evils facing her, that was the least!
“Analise,” Armand whined behind her with an outraged and nasal tone that he often times used.
Analise instinctively bolted forward to the only place of safety she could conceive of in the hazy hall, until she stood in front of the man that she'd simply fallen in love with at first sight.
She was breathless as he moved his most incredible chair on wheels to face her, and her gaze riveted onto the majestic eagle tattooed onto the left side of his cheek, jaw, and then down the muscular column of his throat. He was of the old people, she realized, because she'd not seen markings such as his since she was a child.
Donan was furious. He'd seen the licentious groping of the lady and no man from his peerage could allow a lady to be handled as she'd been. Quickly, he bowed his head to the lady standing before him because he could not bow his body. Then, he lifted his hand outward, silently requesting askance of her to place her hand into his as his gaze caught the two men that had handled her so harshly coming toward them. The lady before him, a golden-haired nightingale, did not falter, and more, she clutched his hand as he sustained the shock of their touch.
It was highly improper for them to be so introduced. However, he'd given over proper in favor of reality years ago.
“I would be, Baron Barnard, my Lady Analise.” Donan chose to use his English baronage in the moment, and he'd heard the lady’s name called from the slick, black-haired lech approaching. “And this would be my brother Lord Shancy.”
Donan held Lady Analise's small hand, pulling her closer to him and slightly to the side of his legs bent up in front of him, before he pronounced loudly. “And to be sure, my lady, my brother would be honored to take you to fetch your shawl. It saddens me, lass, that I'm not able to perform this honor for you.”
“What is this?” the tall black-haired man exclaimed, arriving behind Lady Analise.
Lady Analise seemed to have some intuition of where the lecher's hands would be seeking because she stepped forward, to the side of his wheeled chair and out of hand's reach. She turned, stepping back further and Donan wondered if she realized that she still clutched his hand so closely.
“I am Lord Armand and do not remember that we have met, sir,” Armand announced, glaring at Lady Analise.
“Baron of Barnard and the Laird Glenncannon, or perhaps you might recall me as the Eagle, some still do,” Donan replied, watching Lord Armand’s eyes lighten with interest.
“Then you are certainly here for the auction!” Lord Armand exclaimed. “Certainly. How perverse, I should have guessed,” he said, staring pointedly at Donan’s crippled legs.
At the mention of the auction, Lady Analise’s hand began to shake within the grasp of Donan’s hand and it took great strength of will not to look at her. Donan had been a viewer of the world for all his thirty years and he had a sickly green feeling that he could guess just what this auction would be entailing.
“Aye, the auction,” Donan lied. “And you are just the man that I was seeking. Lady Analise’s guardian, I'm thinking clearly?”
“Stepbrother,” Armand answered, with two of his bony fingers grooming his wassail thin mustache.
“Well met my good man and this will be fairly served. While you and I talk, my brother the Viscount, would be graciously escorting your prize, shall we say, to fetch her shawl.” Donan used an abundance of courtly flourish in his deep voice, as he pushed his chair forward a wee smidgen.
Shancy needed no further prodding. He could guess his brother’s intent and the Lord Armand appeared about to protest. So quickly, he stole the little blue-eyed lass aside with a courtly sweep, moving her with determination toward the far end of the hall and toward the ladies retiring chambers. He could only imagine Donan meant to help the lady out of the company of leering males, because he’d also seen the rough groping of her breast.
After that, Shancy didn't hold out much hope, because that Lord Armand was the lass’ stepbrother and unless she was of age, which she didn’t look to be, it appeared little could be done. However, it was worth any attempt just for the reason that she had captured Donan’s interest so completely. Why the two of them had been holding hands as if they were man and wife for an age.
Aye, it was worth any possibility because of that, Shancy thought, nodding his head toward two of the Glenncannon knights, while using a quick hand gesture to ready them, because he thought they all could be leaving the castle rather quickly. He saw the Glenncannon men move in closer to Donan and that left him feeling better.
“Angel mine!” Armand called out behind them in a nasal whine. “I insist that you hasten!”
Shancy saw the look on Lord Armand’s face was devilish while Lady Analise at his side picked up her skirts, and then she nearly ran down the length of the back hall with him forced to follow behind.
This was her chance,
Analise thought. Her new love had given her a chance ... of course he couldn’t know that he was her one and only love, because they'd just barely met. Still she knew, so perchance he did also. It was tragic that she was forced to leave her baron so soon after meeting him, but he'd given her the chance to escape and she wouldn’t waste it.
Lord Barnard’s brother, Lord Shancy was kind and handsome also, although not nearly so appealing as her baron. Lord Shancy sported the same eagle tattoo as Lord Barnard, but Lord Shancy looked quite concerned for her and she sought to relieve his concern.