Her Highland Captain – Alisa Adams

The storm raged as if it were a woman screaming, dying in pain and anger at the injustices of the world. Her dying voice was heard in the winds moaning and keeling. Her tears were the rain that battered the lonely ship that fought through the stormy sea. The waves lifted the ship higher and higher and then tossed it back down into the dark trough of the sea. The angry storm would not give up the ship. She was intent on breaking it and smashing it upon the rocks of the shore. The young woman clutched the black horse’s neck fearfully as she stared around the dimly lit lower deck of the ship. A single lantern hung from a wooden beam and swung wildly with the tossing of the ship, making grotesque shadows along the floors and walls and on the horses themselves. Each of the horses was tied in narrow, low-walled boxes with barely any room to move about. They were screaming and tossing their heads as they struggled to keep their footing as the ship rode up and down the enormous waves. The ship suddenly teetered left and then right as it fought to stay upright, making loud groans and moans as the wooden sailing vessel fought the waves of the raging sea. The young woman’s heart raced with fear at the sudden sharp sound of a deafening loud crack as wood snapped. A loud boom followed as a mast crashed and fell onto the ship’s deck above her. She could hear the shouts coming from the deck—voices of her home country and the rolling burr of her mother’s homeland. She had started to learn those voices; the deep, calm voice of the man who must be the captain who frequently called to someone named Ross, and two others named MacKay and Gunn.

She squeezed her eyes shut as she buried her face in her horse’s familiar-smelling fur. Her mother was dead. She was killed by the man who had taken this horse, her mother’s beautiful black horse. When her mother fought against the brutal attacker, the man pushed her away while ripping her mother’s jewel-encrusted locket from around her neck. As her mother struggled to get her locket back, she had shouted for her daughter to run to their groom for help. She had looked back as she ran, just in time to see the man callously kill her mother. She had watched it all in horror from where she had stopped, too shocked to move or even scream. Finally, she ran to her mother. Falling on her knees, she cried out her mother’s name over and over as she held her head in her lap. Her mother looked up at her with eyes that looked on both sides of the living and the dead.

“The locket…” she had said in a raspy voice as blood trickled from her lips. “My daughter, ye must get the locket. Inside…the locket…there is…” Her eyes slowly became sightless as her breathing stopped. The groom caught up with her and pointed to the figure, hurrying away with their horse towards the docks. Her horse was tossing its head, fighting the man leading it, snorting and gnashing its teeth at the man as it pulled against the rope. She gently laid down her mother’s head, and with a determined coldness, followed the murderer to the ship named the San Gabriel. She stopped the groom on the dock, asking him to tell her father what had happened and then, ignoring the warnings of the groom, had made her way stealthily up the gangplank on board this very ship. She was determined to find a way to free her horse, bring it back home, and get her mother’s locket back as well. Her mother had always told her daughter the locket carried something secret inside, but she had never told her daughter what that secret was. It was her mother’s last words to her—to find that locket.

The man who had killed her mother was also on this ship; she knew this to be true. The ship was sailing to the far north, she had heard the sailors say. To Scotland. The young woman looked down at all the gold necklaces hanging around her neck. More filled her pockets. She had found them in chests hidden on the ship when she had been looking for the locket and taken them. It serves that man right for killing my mother, she thought. But she had not found her mother’s locket. She looked down at her feet in horror. The seawater was coming in.

It was up to her ankles, soaking the bottom of her emerald-green gown and staining her pale underskirts with the filth floating in the water. We are sinking! She looked around frantically. She must free the horses. She could not let them drown. She scurried around, desperate to keep her balance on the tossing ship as she untied each horse and opened the back of each makeshift narrow stall. She hurried back to her black horse and climbed onto its back. She clutched its mane as the horse nickered back to her. She hugged its neck tightly and closed her eyes as the ship rode the next wave, up and then back down, twirling sideways. It felt like they were falling from the sky. There came a crash so loud the horses’ screams were drowned out as the ship broke apart as it was smashed against the rocks.

Cold seawater began pouring in the side of the vessel where the jagged planks were split open and broken apart. Another wave hit and the ship was slammed sideways; the jagged hole opened up wider. She looked at the water spewing angrily into the ship, swirling around the horses. Above her, she heard the screaming of the men on the deck. She then heard the commanding, calm, booming voice of the captain telling the men to stay levelheaded, free the horses, and get the gold to the cave near the harbor. She had heard the captain’s voice frequently. It had soothed her often throughout the journey, just listening to him. She must remain levelheaded, as he had said. “Now!” she said firmly to her horse. “We must go now!” The horse took her direction, struggling out of its narrow confinement, wading through the swirling water and out towards the jagged hole in the side of the ship.

She looked out into the black water, where angry waves frothed and foamed in the open sea as they rolled furiously towards the shore. So this is Scotland, she thought. And now she knew where the gold would be hidden if she needed more than what she had already taken! She took one look back and saw that the other horses were following her. “Jump!” she ordered her horse. She squeezed her eyes shut and clung tightly to its neck as she felt it bunch its muscles and launch them out into the waves. Just as they jumped out, before she had closed her eyes, she caught a glimpse of the rugged cliffs of the shoreline. Aye, so this is Scotland. The land of my mother. T 1 he shores of Kinlochervie near Kinloch Keep Northwest Highlands, Scotland The morning after the storm… Captain Lawrence MacLeod motioned to the man beside him to halt. The winds buffeted all around them on the small inlet beach as they stood under a sky that still had an eerie yellow and grey bruised look to it.

The clouds raced above them, bringing deep shadows and sharp rays of sunlight as if the sky above was fighting for control back after the storm. The winds carried the damp and strong tang of sea salt as they whirled and blew chaotically around them, pelting their bare legs with sprays of sand. The two of them had walked down the beach from the caves where they and some of the crew had started dragging crate after crate from off the wreck of the ship and out of the water. The night before, the captain had pulled his crew to safety, diving into the whitecapped, turbulent waves, again and again, no matter the ferocity of the waves slamming into the rocks and his ship. Lawrence stood there, his long sun-streaked brown hair blowing across his face as he surveyed the beach with narrowed, exhausted blue eyes. He saw a line of debris on the sand. The smell came strongly as he inhaled a tired breath and looked at the remains of the storm, thrown onto the beach as if by a giant’s cruel hand. There were seaweed, crushed and broken shells, dead fish, and hundreds of smashed pieces of wood—all wood from his wrecked ship, no doubt. The debris was testimony to the terrible and fierce wrath of nature they had managed to survive the night before. It was a storm so vicious that it had violently pushed his ship, tossing it about in the waves like a plaything with such forcefulness that its wood had splintered and beams had come crashing down.

The storm had then sent them ramming into the rocks that jutted sharply out of the water, just offshore, delivering the ship its final and violent death blow. He shielded his eyes from the salt spray to look for the animals he had spotted far down the beach. They were from his ship. The captain was relieved to see that they were all together. It seemed that none had scattered or wandered off. They were gathered in a patch of the morning sunshine, free of the dark clouds above. He wondered at this gathering until he came closer. There, in the middle of them all, lay a young woman. She was lying on the sand sleeping or perhaps unconscious, just out of reach of the waves. Her long, dark hair was spread out in curling, tight tendrils in the pale sand under her head.

It was incredibly long. So vera lang I would wager it reaches tae her waist, the captain thought. She could not be from my ship, he thought. I surely would have remembered seeing this woman. The captain looked at the young woman’s face, and his eyes narrowed. Her long, full, black lashes fanned atop high cheekbones that were kissed by a perfect shaft of the sun as its rays fought through the grey clouds. But it was her lips that threatened to steal his breath for they were red and full and generous. He caught himself wondering what her eyes looked like, but then shook his head. He must maintain control. He had always been able to have and then discard any woman he wanted.

Easily. He did not want one now, not after last night’s wreck. He had not gotten any sleep, instead choosing to spend the night going back and forth to the ship until he knew for sure that all living creatures on the ship were safely ashore. Most of his crew had spent the night sleeping in the shelter of the caves. Not him. He was exhausted. But he was not finished. Those of his crew who were alive were depending on him in the aftermath. He looked at the crates of chickens on the beach, the goats, and the cow with the golden-colored hide. They were needed.

Desperately. The storm the night before had indeed been intense, horrific, and indiscriminate with unimaginable calamities to the ship and its crew and passengers, for not all had survived. This woman, however, was not part of his crew or passengers. Still, he had been told that an unknown young woman had helped several of his people and the animals to shore. That unknown woman had to be this female. He looked around, assessing and counting the numbers. It appeared she had also managed to get all the horses out of the ship’s lower birth—as well as all of the goats, the cow and its calf, and every single one of the many crates of chickens.

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