Between Now and Then
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by Terisa Wilcox
Description: Caitlyn's journey to find her brothers sends her four hundred years into the future--and straight into the arms of the love of her life. Caitlyn MacGregor is determined to help her clan. She sets out to find her missing brothers and bring them home. When her obsessed suitor trails and traps her, she prays for a miracle and gets one. Blake has disappeared. Not recognizing where she is, she starts to walk. Only to run into Blake Drummond again. How did the man keep finding her? Blake Drummond is a single father doing his best to raise his three children after his wife leaves. He is a workaholic doing his best to bury his hurt and anger in work. Finding a girl dressed in strange clothing in the middle of the road, he is oddly compelled to help her, although the last thing he wants or needs is another woman hurting him or breaking his kids' hearts. Caitlyn continues to deny her growing passion for Blake. Blake refuses to allow another woman close enough to hurt him again. Pride and passion war within him and a perilous situation will force them to trust each other with their love and its true power.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2010 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: July 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [316 KB]
Reading time: 210-294 min.
Caitlyn clenched her fists as she fought to swallow the sudden lump in her throat at the thought of leaving. There was no time for tears or self-pity. She knew what needed to be done and do it she would.
She kept a wary eye behind her as she slipped into the dense woods by the castle the rest of her clan now called home. Dismounting from her horse, she turned for one last look. With everyone's attention diverted to their assigned tasks it had been almost too easy to steal away this time.
Her horse shifted, causing his bridle to jingle. Caitlyn put a hand on his nose. "Shh, Nightshade," she admonished, "ye dinnae wish to gi'e us away, do ye?"
The horse bobbed his head as if he understood, then stood quietly beside her.
The large oak shielded her from prying eyes as she watched the clan scurry about, everyone busily settling in. Her father stood in the middle of the chaos in the bailey directing the men in fortifying the walls and seeing to the unloading of the heavier carts. Meanwhile, her mother, Sorcha, tried to be everywhere at once.
Caitlyn stifled a giggle as her mother hurried from one person to the other. Sorcha stopped to speak with several maids whose arms were full of linens and such before she rushed across the courtyard to speak with Cook for a moment. Spotting Elsbeth, Caitlyn's wet-nurse and her mother's friend and companion, Sorcha interrupted whatever Cook was saying, lifted her skirts and ran over to speak with Elsie. She shook her head, her hands gesturing and pointing as she spoke, revealing her animated speech. With a nod of reassurance to Elsie, she turned away and headed back to Cook.
Alistair reached out to grab his wife about the waist as she rushed by. He pulled her close, ignoring her shriek of surprise and bent his head to whisper in her ear. Sorcha slapped at his arm but laughed in delight at whatever he'd said. When she squirmed, he dropped a kiss on her nose and released her to be about her business.
An intense longing rose in Caitlyn's heart before she could stop it. Maybe someday she too would get to experience the kind of love and passion her parents still portrayed, even after forty odd years of being wed. She swiped at a tear that leaked from her eyes to roll down her cheek and clenched her jaw to kill the sob lodged in her throat. The sooner she got to France the sooner she could find her two eldest brothers and bring them home where they belonged.
Neither of them, gone for almost thirteen years, knew of the King's edict against the MacGregor clan. They had no idea that just bearing the name MacGregor could get a man killed or a woman branded like a piece of cattle. Heaven forbid if the lass had any bairns, for they would be taken from her and given to another clan to be raised by strangers.
Caitlyn deliberately brought to mind the branding her own mother and Elsie had already suffered. It could have turned into a raping as well if they had not fought so hard to keep their attackers at bay until help arrived. Her mother hadn't left her assailants unmarked either. Sorcha was very handy with a blade, wielding it well enough to do some major damage to her assaulters.
Caitlyn straightened her spine and let determination take a firm hold in her heart. Never would she let another of her kinsmen, or kinswomen, endure that humiliation or pain again. She would straighten out this havoc in their lives one way or another. Finding her brothers and bringing them home was only the first step. They then needed some solution to this problem King James VI, along with the Campbell's, had foisted upon them. A solution that did not involve herself being wed to a swine like Blake Drummond.
A shudder passed through her.
Though quite sure her father would never force her to wed against her will, Caitlyn knew that by wedding into such a powerful clan as the Drummonds, the MacGregors would have a much needed, influential ally on their side. One who could speak on their behalf to the King, as the Campbell laird was supposed to have done.
The tales about Blake's cruelty, however, gave her pause. Though she realized they might be exaggerated, there was usually some truth to such rumors. From the odd glimpses of feverish light she'd seen in his eyes when he didn't realize she watched she was more than ready to believe them true.
Close to twenty-three she should have been long since wed with a couple of bairns to show for it. But her parents, especially her mother, insisted Caitlyn be allowed some choice in the matter and not be forced into an unhappy marriage. Sorcha had married for love and saw no reason why her children should not do the same.
Caitlyn agreed. Too many matches were made for alliances or money, and in most of those she'd witnessed one or both parties to such a union were miserable, each one doing what they could to hurt the other.
Caitlyn shook aside those thoughts and refocused once more on her family, a small smile on her lips as she envisioned them all together once again. The sooner she started on her journey the sooner she'd accomplish her goal and reunite with them. Why she couldn't shake the sudden feeling that she would not be seeing them again for a very long time, she didn't care to ponder.
Foolishness, she decided. She put one foot in the stirrup and looked once more over her shoulder before swinging into Nightshade's saddle. As she rode away, she resolutely buried the urge to look back one last time.
* * * *
A sigh of intense relief escaped as Caitlyn pulled off her boots and submerged her aching feet in the icy stream. After close to four days of hard riding on little used paths to avoid any main roads or towns where people were wont to be overly curious and might ask too many questions about a lass traveling on her own, she'd stopped earlier than usual tonight. The small stream running close to a secluded clearing beckoned as soon as she'd spotted it.
"'Tis as good a place to rest as any, wouldnae ye say, Nightshade?" She rose from the bank and returned to her mount.
The horse stomped and blew in agreement as Caitlyn loosened the saddle and removed her pack. Glancing up at the sky as she collected enough wood for a fire, she wondered how long her luck and the weather would hold. It had been unseasonably warm for the past fortnight. She only hoped it would continue for a while longer, at least until she got to France.
Soon, a nice fire blazed, large enough to keep any unwanted beasties away. The water beckoned again as a sudden longing for a bath assailed her. That would be heartily foolish. She knew better than to indulge in such an ill-advised idea, at least until she found her brothers and had someone to guard her back. For now, she could wash some of the dirt and sweat away without leaving herself open and exposed for an attack.
With that thought, she grabbed her saddle pack, rummaging through it until she found a small piece of lavender soap and a square of linen. The stream wasn't very deep. Fed from melting snow of the mountains, it was extremely cold. She likely would have frozen before she'd accomplished a decent bath anyway.
She knelt by the shore but found it difficult with her sword still attached to her hip. She stood and unbuckled the sword belt, laying it close should she need it, then unlaced the tunic borrowed from Iain and dipped the cloth into the water. She soaped it and began to wash, shivering as the icy water touched her skin. Gritting her teeth, she continued, her movements quick and efficient.
A soft noise from behind in the growing twilight made her go completely still, as she'd been taught. She turned with careful movements, one hand automatically reaching for her weapon. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and she could see nothing moving in the deepening shadows. The only noises were the normal sounds of night approaching.
Uneasy, she rose, sword in hand, and checked the perimeter of her camp. No shape that didn't appear to belong showed itself as she peered into the brush and trees. She shrugged and returned to the stream. Must have been an animal of some kind, and it was probably more frightened of her fire than she was of it.
Still, as she picked up her cloth and resumed her wash, a flicker of apprehension caused the fine hairs at the nape of her neck to spring to life. Whipping her head around, she expected to see someone or something behind her, watching her, waiting to spring.
She forced herself to relax. "Get a hold of yourself, ye wee silly thing. There is nobody about but ye and your wee silly fears."
"Oh, I wouldnae be so certain of that, my love." The voice made her spin about again, sword in one hand, the other going for the dagger at her waistband.
Caitlyn gasped as she stared at the man before her. It felt as if a hand closed around her throat when a satanic smile spread across Blake Drummond's lips. "I cannae tell ye how pleased I am to ha'e found ye. I ha'e been verra concerned since I learned ye ran off alone." He gave her a reproachful glare. "Ye shouldnae ha'e done that, lass. Your clan is verra worried about ye. As was I."
Snorting, she silently cursed herself and her damnable luck in every language she knew. Blake's gaze slid to her still open tunic. Pulse beating erratically at the leering look in his eyes she pulled the strings of her shirt closed as best she could while still holding tight to her weapons.
"What's this now? Shy?" Blake tsked. "There is nay need for that, my sweet. We are to be wed soon, after all. Then I shall be able to take my fill of your treasures."
"Nay, we arenae. I ne'er agreed to a match between us, and I dinnae mean to do so now, either. So ye can just take your lecherous self and your wee leering gazes away from here and let me be about my business."
"I think not. T'would be verra unchivalrous of me to leave ye on your own, unprotected and all."
Caitlyn huffed. "Ye wouldnae know what chivalry was if it jumped up and bit ye in the arse."
Blake's face twisted into a cold, hard smile. "Ye ha'e been listening to too many rumors, I think, my love. Ye shouldnae believe everything ye hear. Nay, t'would seem fate has smiled kindly upon me this day. Come." He crooked a finger at her. "'Tis growing late and we must be on our way."
"Where? Ha'e ye not been listening? I am nay going anywhere wi' ye."
Blake gave her a look that said he was fast losing patience. "I am taking ye back to my tower house," his tone that of an adult trying to explain something to a child. "Once there, we will be wed wi' all due haste. I grow weary of this game of wooing ye and intend to see it ended."
"Wooing me?" She glared at him. "I dinnae wish to be wooed, as ye call it, by the likes of ye. I would prefer to stay here and finish the task I ha'e set for myself, if 'tis all the same to ye."
"Ye are sorely trying my patience, lass. Ye willnae like the consequences if ye continue to do so." His voice took on a hard edge, his eyes flashed with a dangerous glint.
Caitlyn forced herself to remain still, to hold her stand and not shift her feet. That would betray her nervousness and fear.
"Be warned, ye willnae like it if ye force me to come over there and get ye."
"Try it," Caitlyn ground out between clenched teeth, sword raised and ready. "If ye take e'en one step toward me, I promise ye will sorely miss the parts of ye I will cut off."
Blake threw her an assessing look before he laughed. "Ye are a stubborn bit of baggage, arenae ye? Ye cannae possibly think to fight me. I am a mon, a warrior trained. Ye are only a female, and a wee bit of one at that." He took a step toward her, hand outstretched to grab her. "Enough of this. Ye are coming wi' me, whether ye will it or nay."
His last words ended on a bellow of pain as Caitlyn swung her sword with every intention of separating his head from his shoulders. She would have accomplished the deed too, if he hadn't been quick enough to duck and jump aside.
She smiled in grim satisfaction at the lovely gash on his forearm. Blake continued to roar and rage. "Ye vicious little bitch! Ye cut me."
Caitlyn shrugged. "Aye, that I did. Ye chose to nay heed my warning. And before ye think to take another step closer, ye had best pay attention this time. I trained wi' my brothers, who are verra fine warriors themselves. That wee cut ye suffer was nay just luck."
Blake tore a piece of cloth from his shirt and wrapped it around his injury.
"I believe we are at an impasse, Sir Drummond," she sneered, holding her sword ready to strike again should it become necessary. "So ye may as well take your wee, vile self away from here and let me be on my way."
"I think not," he snarled in return, glaring at her as he motioned with his uninjured arm, "ye dinnae really think I would be foolish enough to travel about alone, did ye?"
Dismay filled Caitlyn as near to a dozen of Blake's men appeared from behind trees and bushes, stepping into the clearing.
"Ye may take her now," Blake told them, "but do be careful. T'would appear she knows well how to use her weapons." A mocking smile spread across his thin lips.
Fighting to control the emotions roiling through her, she struggled to keep her voice calm and even, to show none of the dread or anger knotting her insides. "What if I am nay alone? What if I but wait for the return of my own men?"
Blake threw back his head, his laughter echoing in the stillness. "I ha'e been following ye for well o'er a full day now." His eyes narrowed. "I know well ye travel alone, my love."
Several particularly ugly curses spilled from Caitlyn's lips. She should have paid better attention to her surroundings as she traveled instead of allowing her mind to wander and plan.
"Tsk, tsk. Such foul language for such a lovely mouth. When we are wed, I will ha'e to teach ye to curb that vile tongue. 'Tis no way for my wife to be speaking." His mouth twisted into an unpleasant smile as he licked his lips. "I ha'e much better ways for ye to entertain me wi' those lovely lips."
"I am nay your wife, nor will I be." Caitlyn growled out the words this time from between clenched teeth.
Blake waved her words away. "'Tis only a matter of time, my love."
The coldness in the blue-black depths of his eyes made Caitlyn wish she had taken that bath. The water would have been warmer.
"Put up your sword and dagger, Caitlyn. If ye come along quietly I shall consider forgiving ye for this wee scratch. Otherwise," he shrugged, "I cannae be held responsible for my actions." His voice held an ominous warning. "Ye dinnae wish to anger me over much."
Though it galled her to admit it, Caitlyn knew she had no chance of winning against so many men. Idly she wondered how many she could take down before she lost. Logic prevailed over anger and desperation, however. If she went along quietly, she might be presented with a better opportunity to escape later. If she were wounded in a battle now, she would miss that chance. She would just have to bide her time, carefully watch for the chance to get away.