Scoundrel’s Redemption – Sky Purington

Everything had gone quiet. Deadly silent. Teagan crept through the woodland with a keen eye on his surroundings, bracing for an unexpected attack. Yet none came. All remained silent. Eerily still. Until an all-too-familiar sound filled the sky. “Something’s not right.” Edmund’s gaze rose to the vultures circling overhead. “Trouble lies ahead.” He and his comrade-in-arms had just left a skirmish with the English to pursue a few cowards. After cutting them down swiftly, they were about to turn back only to sense trouble. “Do ye hear that?” Teagan murmured. “Aye.” Edmund listened closely.

“Sounds like men moving further away from us.” “Not away from us, but what lies ahead.” He held his sword at the ready when cottages appeared. “’Tis a village.” Or at least it was. He’d seen horrible things since fighting on behalf of Scotland’s Auld Alliance with France, but nothing compared to what they came upon that day. Broken, bloodied bodies. Awful carnage. Unspeakable atrocities done to women. After Teagan gestured that Edmund go in one direction and he another, Teagan made his way deeper into the village.

“Bloody hell,” he cursed when he rounded a corner and came upon a scene no one should witness, let alone suffer. Not bothering with stealth, he roared, “Nay,” and yanked a man off a lass. Shaking with fury, he punched him once, twice, then a third time before he slit his throat. “’Tis all right, lass,” he said gently, returning to the woman’s side. She struggled to breathe as he covered her with his cloak and held her hand. “All will be well.” But it would not be. Not at all. Her pained gaze drifted to his face, then went vacant moments later. Just like that, she was gone.

Trembling with rage, he closed her eyes to death, hung his head, and murmured a prayer for her soul. This sort of thing happened far too often during wartime, and he’d long ago reached his breaking point. Long ago, given up hope good still existed in the world. “Och,” Edmund said softly when he joined him and saw the woman. He made the sign of the cross on his chest. “Bunch of bloody monsters.” “We should look for survivors.” Teagan ground his teeth and headed deeper into the village. “Mayhap, some lived.” How could they have, though? Whoever did this had been brutal.

Ruthless. “There.” Edmund pointed ahead. “I just saw a lass.” They headed that way, only to discover two women fleeing into the forest. Moments later, a young man leapt out of nowhere with his sword at the ready, blocking their attempt to follow. “You will g-g-go no further,” he stuttered. Though shaking, he held his ground and narrowed his eyes at Teagan and Edmund. “In the n-name of Good King Edward III, you will stand d-down and leave those w-women be.” “Good King Edward?” Edmund sneered in disgust.

“There is nothing good about him. Now get out of our way.” Assuming the man would flee in terror, Edmund made a motion like he was going to engage, only for their opponent to stay put. Though he shook so hard he could barely hold his sword up, he was brave. “What happened here?” Teagan growled. “Who did this?” The man was about to respond but stumbled back a few steps instead, his eyes wide with fear. Teagan realized why when he glanced over his shoulder. His men were approaching. Yet it wasn’t them the man’s eyes locked on. Nay, another group came from the opposite direction.

Clearly only so courageous, the man fled when the groups engaged one another. “Let him go,” Teagan said when Edmund started after him. “He obviously means to protect the lasses and our men need help.” That decision, it just so happened, would someday prove very helpful. Chapter One MacLauchlin Castle Scotland 1347 Though eager to leave, Teagan waited patiently while everyone said their goodbyes. “You will bring her back safely?” Julianna looked at him with her heart in her eyes. “You promise?” “Enough with that already, daughter.” Cecille shot him an apologetic look. “He, we, will do our very best to bring your sister, Greer, home safely.” “Aye.

” Teagan winked at Julianna behind her mother’s back. “And ye can ask me as much as ye like.” Cecille and Julianna had traveled with Isabella when she fled France back at Hogmanay. Since then Isabella had married his brother, Malcolm and everyone had settled at MacLauchlin Castle. Now, determined to bring her daughter Greer home from England after having been separated for years, Cecille would be joining him on the journey south. Meeting young Julianna and her mother, Cecille last winter had been a breath of fresh air in his haunted existence. Ten years of battling in France, then on behalf of Scotland’s King David II, had taken its toll. Those moments in the village, especially so. Since then, he’d been tormented, wondering how he might have changed things. Mayhap if he’d gotten there sooner? While he knew better than to think he and Edmund alone could have downed them all, mayhap he could have gone for help.

Gotten men back there before too much harm was done. “Have ye everything ye need, brother?” His eldest sibling and laird, Keenan, eyed the men Teagan had chosen to escort him and Cecille to the border. “Aye.” He nodded thanks to Isabella, who had prepared food for their travels. “Thanks to my new sister by marriage, we have more than enough to hold us over.” “Are ye sure ye dinnae want me to come?” his brother Malcolm said, not for the first time. He frowned and shook his head. “Ye’re traveling through dangerous areas.” Though they didn’t say it, his brothers worried less about attackers and more about the state of Teagan’s mind. Would he be able to keep his composure through what lay ahead? Or would his demons rear their ugly heads? Their concerns were valid, too.

On occasion, he couldn’t see past moments from the war. The rage he’d felt in the village that day. The guilt he still carried. “Where we travel is no more dangerous than this area.” Teagan gestured at Isabella and Fionna with their swollen bellies, reminding his brothers why they need not come. “’Tis best ye protect our people and the wee ones on the way.” “I completely agree.” Cecille embraced Julianna one last time, then held her at shoulder’s length. “I expect you to—” “I know.” Julianna managed a smile.

“Be on my best behavior, and remember we are guests here.” “Even though, in truth, ye live here now,” his nephew said. The lad’s grin dropped under Cecille’s stern look. “And you—” “Will continue to be a perfect gentleman around me,” Julianna intercepted. Her lips curled up ever so slightly when she looked at Dougal but dropped immediately beneath her mother’s narrowed eyes. Truth told, Julianna and Dougal were on the verge of adolescence and got along quite well, so their behavior was to be expected. It mattered not that she was English and he a Scot. Their friendship had blossomed over the past few months and their flirtatious antics hinted at things to come. “They will be fine.” Isabella glanced between Dougal and Julianna with amusement before she nodded at Cecille with reassurance.

“I will make sure of it.” Cecille sighed, shook her head, and got on her horse. “One can only hope.” “Travel safe,” Keenan said. “Dinnae forget to send word when ye’re heading back to Scotland.” “Aye.” Teagan bid everyone farewell, and at long last, nearly five months from when they hatched this plan, he and Cecille set out. While some might worry about a woman in her middle years making such a trek, Cecille had more than proven she could take care of herself. Not only that, but she was a necessary part of their venture to retrieve Greer. That is if she actually needed saving.

She had remained behind with her father at her uncle’s estate years ago when Cecille and Julianna were sent to France. Since then, her father had left with stolen family jewels hoping to start a new life with his family. He had planned to join Cecille and Julianna, then go back and exchange one of the most priceless jewels for Greer’s release. After all, Greer was valuable to her uncle. More so, the prestige she could bring him with the right marriage. Sadly enough, however, her father had died before Cecille arrived in Scotland, leaving it up to her to retrieve her daughter. “You will help me find out either way if Greer wants to leave her uncle, yes?” Cecille had asked Teagan back at Hogmanay. “You will help me get her away if ’tis her wish?” “Aye,” he’d replied without hesitation. Not only because he liked Cecille and Julianna but because he would never say no to a lass in trouble. “Marrying Greer would fulfill this agreement you have with your brothers,” Cecille had pointed out.

“With her comes a portion of my treasure. An amount that would help fill your clan’s cof ers very well indeed.” “I wouldnae be marrying for love,” he’d warned bluntly, preferring to be honest. “For I am nae capable, nor do I want to.” Respecting her too much to do otherwise, he had looked her straight in the eyes. “Is that truly what ye want for yer daughter?” And because it mattered. “To a Scot no less?” “You know I do not care about that,” she’d replied. “I have received more kindness from your clan than I ever did from anyone in France or England.” A twinkle had lit her eyes. “As to your loving Greer, time with tell.

” He hadn’t bothered arguing but refrained from giving any false hope as they concocted their plan. One, as luck would have it, that ended up including his wartime friend, Edmund. “I do wish we could have left earlier in the year,” Cecille mentioned, drawing him back to the present. They made their way into the woodland with fifteen or so men. “Though, of course, I understand the need to wait for Edmund.” Unfortunately, though eager to assist them sooner, his friend had pressing business to attend first. “Aye,” he responded. “’Twill be far easier with the elements in our favor, too.” “Quite right.” Cecille lowered her hood so she could enjoy the beautiful spring day.

A handsome woman with silver-dusted brown hair, she’d had her fair share of suitors over the past few months, despite being a Sassenach. Suitors to whom she was gracious, but turned away. While some might think her a snob, he knew better. She still pined after the father of her children. “I wonder what Greer will make of seeing me again.” Cecille sighed. “We have been too long out of touch.” “I dinnae think ye should worry until ye’ve spoken with her.” He shook his head, well aware how guilty she felt. How overly concerned.

“No matter what comes of it, at least ye’ll have laid eyes on her. If nothing else, ’twill put yer mind at ease if all is well.” “True,” she murmured. “Even so.” It was a conversation they’d had time and time again with no real conclusion. Nor would one come until they arrived at her brother Randolph’s estate. Then they would see how all fared. Not just that, but they would see where her daughter stood in regard to the man to whom she was supposedly engaged. To his mind, that would likely be the biggest obstacle they faced. Something he mulled over as the day wore on, wondering what he was walking into.

Not just because of Cecille’s nefarious reasons for being there, but because he was a Scotsman walking into enemy territory. “Ahh, my friend turned brother!” Edmund declared in greeting that evening when they arrived in a small village a day’s ride from the border. Grinning, he embraced Teagan and clapped him on the back. “’Tis always good to see ye.” Edmund’s dark hair brushed the nape of his neck, and his beard was well-trimmed. Where he’d been wiry and gaunt during the war, he now looked healthy. Not to mention Scottish. At least at the moment. Teagan shook his head at Edmund when they joined him in the tavern for a dram of whisky. “Ye’re verra good at what ye do, friend.

” That being his ability to blend in. Born to an English noble and a poor Scottish mother, Edmund, after years of being angry at his father during the war, had finally embraced both worlds. Which meant he could play the part of a Scotsman every bit as well as he could an Englishman. A boon when traveling between the two countries during troubling times. “I do my best.” Edmund slid a sly look Teagan and Cecille’s way, his hushed tone that of a co-conspirator. “’Tis hard to believe ’tis time to put our plan into motion, aye?” “Here’s to that.” Cecille held her mug up in a toast. “At long last.” They returned her toast and went over the details of their arrangement.

The plan they set in motion months ago when he and Cecille were trying to figure out the best way to get Greer out of England. Ironically enough, as they had discussed it, namely Cecille’s life in England before she went to France, Teagan realized there might just be a way. It turned out Edmund was the son of a baron affiliated with Cecille’s kin. That meant he was in a position to vouch for Teagan. “I wouldnae expect a warm reception upon arrival at Randolph’s holding, though,” Edmund had warned when they presented the idea to him. He’d grinned all the while, enjoying a chance at a wee bit o’ stealth. “But ye will be welcome enough as my half-brother.” He perked a brow, reminding Teagan how things had to go. “’Twill help that ye look the part of an English sympathizer.” “Aye, I know,” Teagan grumbled, hardly imagining it.

“No braids and my hair pulled back.” “And no clan colors,” Cecille reminded, looking him over. “Never that,” Teagan said dutifully. Though it was hard to imagine dressing like a Sassenach, never mind pretending he sympathized with their cause, he could admit to a smidge of excitement. While glad to be home from war, outside of the occasional skirmishes, things had been quiet lately. He appreciated the hard work that came with running a castle, but he would always be a warrior at heart. “Ye brought the jewels for bargaining, aye?” Edmund asked Cecille. She nodded. “Yes.” “And mayhap, as I suggested when visiting a few months ago, a bible from Fulbert?” Edmund inquired.

“As ye know, Greer is more pious than usual lately and spends time with God, often. I think ’twill make a good gift upon arrival.” “Yes, I have it.” “Good then.” Edmund raised his mug in another toast. “Here’s to a plan well executed!” They raised their mugs as well, hoping for the best. The best, however, as they discovered days later, upon arrival at Cecille’s family home, would prove to be a struggle from the onset.

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