Highland Captive – an excerpt

The Sons of Gregor MacLeod | Book 4 

“It’s beautiful,” Deirdre said as she leaned on the battlements beside him, one hand pushing back a strand of black hair that the wind had plastered across her face. “But windy. I can see why you tied the ribbon so tight. I’m surprised. I didn’t think the wind had picked up so much from earlier.”

“It didn’t. The wind blows like this up here most days. It’s what makes it so ideal.”

“Ideal for what?” That little furrow he’d come to recognize had formed between her brows again. He wanted to smooth it with his thumb.

He turned to face her, a wicked grin transforming his face. “For screaming.” Then he looked back out, opened his mouth, and let out a howl at the top of his lungs—long and hard enough that she took a frightened step backward, but not enough for her to run to the door.

The scream was surprisingly more feral and filled with emotion than he thought it would be, frustration and anger shoving up from the very center of him. At Deirdre? He thought he’d let go of his anger toward her.

Nay, it was something else—something more primitive—and he felt a twisting inside of himself like a tiger springing toward another male. A beast fighting for his female.

For his mate.

He finished on an angry growl. Deirdre took another step back, her eyes jumping to the door. He laid his hand over hers and stopped her from running as he caught his breath.

“Your turn,” he said when he could speak. His voice sounded shredded, like that tiger he’d been imagining had reached up and scratched his throat.

She stared at him, shock and alarm skittering over her face, her mouth slightly open. His eyes dropped to the lush shape, and for a moment, all he could focus on was her lips—what he wanted to do with them, how he would take her over one kiss at a time, until she was screaming to the wind just like he’d been. Screaming his name.

Stop looking at her mouth!

“What do you mean, it’s my turn?” she asked.

He lifted his eyes to hers. “No one can hear you from up here, Deirdre. The stone walls and heavy door block the sound from traveling inside, and outside, the wind whips your screams away and throws them to the sky. When Ewan was gone and the days passed with no sign of him, I would come up here and rage to the wind. I hollered out all my despair, fear, and frustration at the top of my lungs. It didn’t take away the pain, because Ewan was still gone, but it lessened the ferocity of my feelings, so I could…function.”

“But…I doona have anything to scream about.”

His brow rose. “You ne’er received a gift until today. Your family excluded you—from riding horses, if naught else—and at fifteen you were married off to a man you ne’er knew. I’d say you have a lifetime’s worth of things to scream about.”

She looked out over the view again, splotches of red stealing up her cheeks and her eyes shining with emotions. And not happy ones. When she tucked her chin down and swung her head around in an unconscious movement, he realized she was trying to hide behind her hair, but he’d tied it back too tightly.

She looked miserable…and ashamed.

He moved behind her and wrapped her in his embrace. “Deirdre. You’re a mother now. You know that a good parent loves and supports their child. How they accept their child’s differences and encourage their interests, even if they’re not their own. Did your parents do this for you?”

She shook her head.

“And was that their failure?”

She nodded jerkily.

“Then why are you blaming yourself for their mistakes? You were once as small as Ewan. Imagine if he was made to feel as you did.”

She let out a sharp, involuntary sound, like a rabbit or mouse would make if they were hurt.

“Would you want him to take on the shame of his parents’ indifference, or would you want him to know that they were wrong? Cristel ne’er loved Ewan. She didn’t want to marry me, and she didn’t want children. Duty and greed motivated her, not love and caring. Had she still been living, Ewan might have felt the same way you did—unloved and unwanted by her.”

He wove his fingers through hers and held her arms out to the side. “Scream, Deirdre.”

“I canna.”

“Aye, you can. Scream!”

She let out a short yell.

“That’s not good enough. Louder!” he demanded.

She screamed again, a more powerful burst with more suffering behind it. But he knew there was so much more, that she hadn’t scraped through the sludge at the bottom of her heart that weighed her down or dredged the dark pool of pain in her guts that muddied everything she thought about herself. Getting to that would be like loosing a winter tempest.

He wrapped his arms around her middle, pressed them into her stomach. “Scream from here!”

With that, she let loose a heartbreaking roar that was part rage, part devastation, part fear, part anguish—and she kept going. Scream after scream, howl after howl—getting louder, fiercer, deeper; raw and visceral.

Sobs came up, tears streamed down, her face contorting into a mask of pain.

She hammered the battlements with her fists, kicked with her feet, scraped her fingers along the stone, breaking nails and leaving behind bloody smears. She thrashed her head side to side against his chest, then smashed it back hard enough to knock him back a step.

“Deirdre,” he cried in alarm, his arms coming around her—soothing her, protecting her, but also restraining her from hurting herself in her anguish.

“Hush, love. That’s enough. I’ve got you,” he crooned in her ear.