Sorcha – Keira Montclair

They were supposed to be hunting. Instead, they had become the hunted. Sorcha Ramsay screamed as an arrow sluiced through the air, embedding in a nearby tree with a loud thwack. The three men hunting with her gathered in around her horse, sending her dearest friend into a fit of irritation. “Get your head down, Sorcha!” Cailean MacAdam yelled. Get my head down? “And how am I supposed to see where I’m going with you three circled around me and my head down?” “Bend over your horse,” Cailean’s brother, Alan, bellowed at her. Another arrow whizzed through the air, missing them all. Frang, the third member of their group, pointed off to the side. “It came from over there.” He motioned toward Alan and the two rode off in that direction. Sorcha, intending to make her escape, went in the opposite direction—only to hear a third arrow swish even closer to her. The danger made her gasp, but what happened next infuriated her. Cailean growled and rode his horse up next to hers. Then, without saying a word, he leaned over to scoop her off her horse and onto his lap with a plunk. Sorcha sat the horse sideways.

As soon as she balanced herself, she swung at the lout. “What the hell, Cailean? I can ride my own horse. Leave me be.” She twisted around in search of her dear horse. “Must you curse like a reiver?” “I’ll curse however I please. Why the hell do you care?” “I don’t, just thought I’d ask.” He rolled his eyes. She ignored him. True, he was doing his best to help her, but she was too worried about her dear pet to pay him any mind. “Where’s Horsie?” “Could you not have come up with a better name for the animal than Horsie?” “I was only ten summers when my sire brought her home.

He said he’d bought me a horsie, so that’s her name.” She held a firm grip on him so she could whirl around to look for her horse. “Settle yourself. We’re going back to the keep.” He reached for her hip, trying to face her forward. “Nay.” She swung at his shoulder again. He caught her hand mid-air. “What the blazes are you doin’? I’m trying to help you.” “Nay, you’re not.

You’re keeping me from my horse.” She turned around again and finally found her beautiful chestnut-colored horse nosing about some bushes to their left. There was no sign of their attacker, no sign of Alan and Frang. “There. We must go to her. She’s wild. I cannot leave her out here alone.” Cailean growled, “We’re headed back. I’ll not have Logan Ramsay’s daughter take an arrow in my presence.” He turned his horse back toward the keep.

Sorcha was furious. She’d only convinced the lads to go hunting because her sire was away again. He was always impressed with the hunting parties that brought home big game, and she was eager to do something to make him proud, something to make up for… Hellfire, she could not bear to think of the evil thing she’d done. But her horse, her dear Horsie was in danger. She shoved against Cailean’s chest and tried to wrangle the reins from him. He was built like a stone wall and her plan failed terribly. “Woman, unhand the reins,” Cailean bellowed. “I’m in control. Not you.” “We need to go back.

You don’t understand. I’m worried about my horse. I’ll never forgive myself if aught happens to her. Give me the reins.” She made another grab for them. “I do not answer to you. This is my horse, and I’d like to stay alive. If you’re hurt out here, your father will hang me by my bollocks for all to see.” “But my horse…” She shoved him, trying to force his hand as she fought to keep her tears at bay, but she lost her balance instead. Tumbling off the side of the horse, she took Cailean down with her.

She landed hard on a section of soft moss and leaves, fortunately, but the fall knocked the wind out of her lungs, forcing her to scrabble for a deep breath. Cailean landed next to her, the sheer size of the big brute shaking the ground underneath her. Another arrow whizzed through the air just above them, and Cailean rolled on top of her. Heat rushed through her, but she reached up and pushed his chest as hard as she could. “You big lout…” He kissed her. The lout was kissing her. Her eyes flew open to glare at him, but he wasn’t looking. His warm lips pressed hard against hers, enticing her to part her lips. Before she knew it, his tongue was inside her mouth, caressing every crevice he could find, and her hands fisted in his hair, gripping him closer rather than pushing him away. He made her forget everything—the arrows, Horsie, her sire —and just revel in his taste, in this moment.

Her horse made the worst sound she’d ever heard. Horror washed through her. She’d let Cailean kiss her instead of running to Horsie, and now her friend had been hurt. Pulling away, she shoved at Cailean’s chest again and kicked him. “Hellfire. Horsie? Horsie? Are you all right?” The lout held her down. “She took an arrow, but you must stay down. You’ll not put yourself in the path of another arrow.” “Leave me be.” She did her best to squirm out from under him, but the man was one of the biggest lads she’d ever met, almost as large as her uncle Alex and his twin sons, Jake and Jamie.

The effort had her breathing hard again, her body hot. “Sorcha, I cannot. Please stop fighting me. When it’s safe, I’ll let you go again.” “So you can steal another kiss?” The man was making her daft. She pushed and shoved against him with all she had, but he still didn’t budge. “Mo creach! I need to get to her!” “I had to kiss you to keep you quiet. An archer is attacking us, Sorcha, and your screams will lead him right to us. You have no sense, lass.” “I do, too! Papa says I have as much sense as any lad in the guards, and that includes you, you big brute.

Poor excuse for stealing a kiss.” He glanced up and checked the area, then caught her gaze. His green eyes had a glitter in them she didn’t like, his sandy brown hair falling forward. “Are you going to lie to me and say you didn’t enjoy it?” “I did not. You tasted like a wet frog. Now get off me.” She shoved his shoulder again. “A wet frog, is it? Is that why your hands grabbed my hair and pulled me closer?” He ran his finger down her jawline and she jerked away from him. “You have a vivid imagination.” He laughed and she kicked him.

“Ow. Will you stop using your boots on me?” She finally managed to get out from under him and the sound of horses’ hooves reached their ears. A thrill of fear shot through her, but it was only Frang and Alan. “What did you find?” Cailean yelled as they rode closer. “He’s gone,” Frang said. “He was shooting at us from a tree, but we watched him take off on his horse. Could not tell who ‘twas.” “Good.” Cailean got up and held his hand out to help Sorcha up. Alan was watching them with open curiosity, but if anyone needed to make an explanation, it was not her.

Sorcha stood up on her own, brushing off Cailean’s hand, and took off at a dead run toward her dear pet. “Horsie?” She heard some talk behind her, but all she registered was her beautiful horse’s pained cries. As she came closer, she gasped in horror. Horsie lay on her side, an arrow in her flank. “Nay!” Distantly, she could hear the others making their approach. She heard Cailean say, “That’s because it’s not a fitting name for a fine animal like that. I’ll make up my own name for her. Chestnut. That’s what I’ll call her. She’s a beautiful color.

” How dare he say such a thing when Horsie was injured? Sorcha fell onto her knees next to the mare. Horsie’s raspy breathing was audible, and blood streamed from the wound. “How can this be happening?” Alan dismounted as soon as he got there, then Frang. Cailean arrived last. She paid them no mind until Frang pulled out his dagger. “What are you doing?” she asked. “Put that back.” She stood in front of her horse, her hands on her hips, daring him to try to get past her. “Sorcha, your horse is in pain,” Frang said. “I’m going to take her out of her misery.

‘Tis the right thing to do. The injury will fester and cause her more pain. Cailean, take Sorcha back to the keep and I’ll take care of the horse. Sorry, lass, but there’s no choice.” His words bit into her—and yet it couldn’t be true. She wouldn’t let it be true. Sorcha bit her lower lip and charged him, hitting him full force with both her hands square to his chest, knocking him off his feet. “You mean brute! You’ll never touch my horse. Cousin Bethia will save her. You’ll see.

She’s the best with animals. She’ll save Horsie.” Frang said, “Cailean, explain to her that this is the right thing to do.” The horse flopped its free front leg three times. Sorcha hurried back and fell to the ground, wrapping her arms around the horse’s neck. “I’ll not let him kill you, Horsie. I know he’s upset you, but pay him no mind. I’ll protect you. Bethia will help you.” “Cailean,” Alan said.

“Take Sorcha back to the castle.” Tears rolled down Sorcha’s cheeks. Besides her cousin Bethia, Horsie was the only one she could talk to, of late. Her mother only had time for her younger sister, Brigid, ever since they’d rescued her from the clutches of her kidnapper. Molly had gone off somewhere with her new husband, Tormod, and it was a grand mystery where they’d gone. All Sorcha knew was that they were working for the Crown. Sorcha’s next eldest sister, Maggie, was always trying to keep her away from lads—as though Sorcha would desert her the way Molly had, which was ridiculous because no lads dared to come close enough to kiss her. She was Logan Ramsay’s daughter, but the difference between her and her sisters was she was the image of her father. Her father could strike fear into the best warrior in the lists. And there was her sire.

He was always gone, and he was upset with her more often than not when he was home. She’d always been adventurous and free-spirited, riding her dear horse wherever she pleased, but he was no longer as tolerant of it. He didn’t care for her habit of keeping company with lads her age or older. Sorcha hadn’t changed. She’d always preferred being outside in the fresh Highland air, playing with the lads, instead of inside with the lassies. Some called her a flirt, but it wasn’t about that—at least not most of the time. She loved being out in nature. She’d spent her youngest days attached to her sire’s chest in a folded plaid, moving through the mountains and the valleys of their land. Her mother liked to tell the story of how wee Sorcha used to throw her arms in the air and giggle whenever she was pelted by rain while strapped to her sire’s chest, laughing at streaks of lightning illuminating the night sky. No one understood her.

Well, her sire used to, but his attitude had changed ever since she’d gained her woman’s body. She wished things could go back to the way they used to be. “Cailean, please help me get her back? I adore my horse. I cannot lose her.” Then something miraculous happened. “Put your dagger away, Frang,” Cailean said. “Ride back to the keep and send a cart out. I’ll get the horse into it if I have to do it myself.” *** Cailean had just made the most ridiculous promise of his life, but he simply couldn’t do it to the lass—especially not after the kiss they’d shared. Hellfire, the lass had fisted his hair like she wanted everything he could give her.

If that hadn’t made his cock spring to action in a flash… He’d pined for Sorcha Ramsay for months, dreamed of the different ways he could court her, kiss her, wrap his arms around her glorious curves. But never had he expected it to happen without him even thinking about it. Thank the saints above that he’d thought of a convincing excuse. It wasn’t even a lie, not exactly—he had been trying to silence her to protect her from the attacker. What he wouldn’t give to have those breasts pushed against him again, her arms wrapped around him as if she’d never let go. Her sweet voice brought him out of his dreams. “Cailean, you’ll do your best not to hurt Horsie when you put her in the cart, will you not?” Her eyes misted with the tears she wished to shed over her dear horse. She was too strong to let them fall. He rubbed his jaw, using the rasp of his thumbnail to wake himself back up, draw himself back to reality. “Sorcha, you know I cannot promise she’ll be fine, but I do promise to get her back to Bethia.

I’ll see what we can do.” “My thanks.” She leaned over, resting her head near Horsie’s neck, just under the horse’s jaw. “I would not be able to tolerate losing her. She was a special gift from Papa.” “Where is your sire? I have not seen him about.” He paced behind her, his hand near the hilt of his sword in case the horse lost its mind or the archer suddenly appeared in front of them. The sight of her lying in the grass next to her wounded horse brought out a strange protectiveness in him. “He’s off for the Crown again. I never know when he’ll be here.

I need to speak to him about something important, but he disappeared after Molly and Tormod married.” “Are you upset about Molly marrying?” “Nay. Why would I be upset?” He saw her scowl and decided to change the subject. He must have hit a nerve, and she was already upset about her horse. “No reason. Did your mother go with him?” He cast a glance toward the castle, hoping his brother wouldn’t hurry much. He was actually alone with Sorcha Ramsay, and he had justification for it. He’d often wished to talk to her, but she’d always seemed so unapproachable. Beautiful and fierce, and fiercely guarded by her sire. “Nay, she stayed behind.

She hasn’t left Brigid’s side since Molly saved her. Brigid was too upset by the whole ordeal.” Her hand massaged the coat of her horse, and she whispered sweet words in the mare’s ear. Cailean had half expected the beast would start squirming in pain, hurting Sorcha with a flailing hoof, but the animal was much calmer now that Sorcha lay beside her, stroking her coat, soothing her. Now if he could just figure out how to get the lass to rub him that way…or talk sweet words to him. How foolish he’d been to fall for Logan Ramsay’s daughter. True, Logan had three other daughters—Molly and Maggie, whom Logan and his wife had adopted in Edinburgh, and wee Brigid, but Sorcha was the man’s firstborn child. Everyone in the Ramsay clan knew Sorcha was the light of her sire’s eyes. Sorcha was the only daughter who bore Logan Ramsay’s image, though her brother was starting to resemble him more and more. You could not look at Sorcha and ignore that she was his daughter, and all the lads in the clan stayed away from her because they all feared the king’s famous friend.

Logan Ramsay had to be past forty, but he was still solid muscle and a hell of a swordsman and an archer. The only thing he’d lost was speed—and only then because Molly was fast enough to outrun everyone. The man had plenty of cunning; if he wanted to find you, he would. None of the lads dared to go near Sorcha when Logan was at the keep. The poor lass would probably never marry. One night, after the Ramsay warriors had spent a long day in the lists trying to please Logan, they’d thought of all the different ways he could hurt a lad. Those visions had never left Cailean. Sweat broke out across his forehead when he realized there could be witnesses to the fact that he’d kissed Ramsay’s daughter in the grass, his body sprawled across hers. He wasn’t worried about his brother telling anyone—there was no one more loyal than Alan—but he had to wonder about Frang. What would Logan do if he found out? Alan did not take his time, alas, and he soon came across the field with the cart.

Frang rode alongside him, and Kyle Maule, the laird’s second, rode ahead of them. “Cailean,” Kyle yelled before he dismounted. “Tell me what you saw of the archer.” Sorcha jumped up from her horse’s side and interrupted them. “Kyle, Horsie is hurt. We must help her.” Kyle glanced at the beast and held his hand up to Sorcha. “We’ll get your horse back to Bethia. Your life is more important, so I’ll deal with the threat to you first.” “But my horse…” Kyle arched his brow at her, his hands settling on his hips.

“So you’d like me to tell your sire that I have no idea why someone was firing arrows at you and the lads? Don’t argue with me, Sorcha.” Alan had dismounted and Frang came up behind him. Kyle motioned for them to get the ropes and the large hunk of coarse cloth they would maneuver under the animal. Then he turned his attention back to Cailean. “Your version?” “We were hunting a boar when an arrow came out of nowhere. We surrounded Sorcha, but the arrows continued to fly. I scooped her off her horse and onto mine minutes before Horsie—” he shifted his gaze toward Sorcha, “—took an arrow.” “That was it? Two arrows?” “Nay, there were two more.” “How did they miss all of you?” Kyle strode toward one of the trees, pulling an arrow out of the bark, checking the tip. “Sorcha couldn’t keep still, and we both fell off the horse.

” Kyle stopped in his tracks and asked, “Logan Ramsay’s daughter fell off your horse? Do you know you took your life in your hands, MacAdam?” “She shoved at me, and we both lost our balance.” “And then what?”

.

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