Tamed By the Highlander – Madison Faye

You’re doing it again.” I blink, pulling my gaze from the grey cliffs and crashing misty waves of the ocean outside the carriage window. Wetting my lips, the lingering images of my daydream still hanging around my head, I turn my eyes to Cat. “Doing what?” She fixes me with a look, a brow as honeyed as her hair arching. “Una,” she sighs, giving me a half smile as she shakes her head. “You were daydreaming again,” Ailith adds, also giving me a look. I scowl, shrugging my shoulders as turn to look back out at the highlands rolling past us. The clopping of the horses and the creaking wood of the wheels mingle with the sounds of the men talking amongst themselves outside—our guards as we make our way towards Dungow Castle. “And?” Catriona snickers to herself. “Which was it, dreaming of today or thinking about running.” I groan, pouting as I glance back at my friends. “I’m sure you know.” Cat grins, her hand coming back to squeeze my arm reassuringly. “It’ll be okay.” “Oh, will it?” I bite back, my frown deepening as I glance back at the ocean.

“Please, Cat, tell us when me marrying a man I don’t know, who I’ve never met, who’s ten years older than me and lives a day’s ride away from anyone I know will be ‘okay.’” “A Lord.” My eyes drag to Rhona, sitting across from me in the carriage next to Ailith twirling her fingers through her long, pretty auburn hair. “What?” I grumble. She smiles. “I just mean, even with all that, you are marrying a Lord, not just any man.” My lips purse, my frown deepening as I glare at her. I know she’s trying to help. I know they’re all trying to help—after all, the four of us have been the best of friends since we were small children. But, trust me, it’s not helping.

Cat giggles. “Oh, but don’t you remember? Una doesn’t care about things like that. All she needs is her books and a quiet place to read them.” Rhona shrugs. “Well, I’m sure Lord Ballentyne will be fine with her reading books.” She frowns. “Won’t he?” I pout and turn back to the window, staring out at the wild ocean as the coastal air blows through my long fiery red hair. The same hair my mother was beside herself at when I came out for the carriage ride this morning with it down and wild, like I always wear it, instead of done up like she asked. Maybe most girls would put a little effort into things like their hair when they’re on their way to meet the man they’ll be marrying, for the first time. …Maybe if I wasn’t being forced into this, I’d do the same.

“Oh, yeah, if big important Lords are known for one thing, Rhona, it’s letting women read,” Ailith mutters sarcastically. My scowl only deepens. “Well, if Lord Ballentyne thinks he can stop me from reading,” I mutter. “He’s got much to learn.” Cat snickers, leaning her head on my shoulder as we all bump with the wheels on the rough muddy road. “I’ve heard he’s quite handsome,” she says with a shrug. I smile wryly. “You have not. You’ve heard the same as me, that he’s scary and mean.” I sigh.

“Arranged marriages are horrible.” I wince, making a face as I look up at Ailith and then Rhona—both of whom are also betrothed to Lords they’ve never met “Sorry.” Rhona smiles the same wry smile back at me as she shrugs. “It is what it is.” “Well your views will be beautiful, least?” Ailith puts up a brave smile as she nods out the window at the spectacular views of the sea. Rhona makes a face, shivering, and Ailith gives her an odd look. “What, you don’t like the ocean?” Rhona shakes her head. “It might be pretty, but the coasts are where the Vikings come.” She shivers again. “Father says they’re not even really men.

More like beasts.” Cat gives me a side-long look, rolling her eyes before turning back to our friend. “Rhona, I am sure you remember the marauder Lord Entwyne captured after the raid last year. The one they paraded through the town naked as the day he was born on the way to the stocks?” Rhona blushes furiously, shaking her head. Okay, all of us blush a little, remembering the scene we all snuck out to watch when we’d been forbidden to witness it. Catriona smirks, wagging her brows. “I’m quite sure that was all man I saw swinging between his legs.” The four of us blush even deeper before Cat sighs and shakes her head. “Well anyways, I’d like to see my father try and foist me off to some Lord I don’t know.” Ailith and Rhona and I share a look, quietly rolling our eyes.

The fact that Lord McDougall, Catriona’s father, hasn’t set up a husband for her is a mystery. But we all know it’s just a matter of time. It’s always just a matter of time when it comes to daughters of lower Lords or chieftains. “Well,” Rhona smiles impishly at Cat. “Lucky for you, word seems to have traveled far about how difficult you are, after that one suitor your father tried last year.” The four of us devolve into laughter, giggling and snorting as the carriage bumps over the road. Rhona’s not wrong. Word probably has gotten around about how “headstrong” or “strongwilled” Cat is, which is probably doing a fine job of scaring away would-be suitors. That said, I’m sure I have just as notorious a reputation for being “disobedient” as she does. Which is to say, I choose not to cowtail to a man just because he wears a title.

Or just because he’s a man, at that. No thank you. Believe me when I say it’s brought me my fair share of trouble and stern talks over the years. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped me from being married off to a man I’ve never met before, though. Hamish Ballentyne. I know practically nothing about him aside from the fact that he’s the Lord of Dungow Castle, up here in the Highlands. We’ve never met, as it was only my mother and father who made the journey twice before to come to him to arrange the marriage terms. Although Cat isn’t entirely wrong, even my mother told me how apparently handsome Lord Ballentyne is. I blush as I let my eyes drink in the grey wet beauty of the coastline, my thoughts drifting back to where they were minutes before. Because as mad as I am at being sold like cattle to some man who I’m sure has every intention of turning me into some sort of servant woman to obey his every wish, there’s another thought.

A wicked thought, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s the thought that a man I don’t even know is going to be my husband within the few hours. A man I don’t know is going to… well… …Do what husbands do to their wives. I blush furiously as the thought simmers through my head like fire. As pure as I am, I’m not completely in the dark. I know what happens on wedding nights. And other nights after that. I know what I’ve heard happening from time to time, if my window back home happens to be open, and if Sean, the captain of our guardsmen, happens to have Elise, our chambermaid, visiting his quarters late at night. The heat on my face burns hotter, along with a far more wicked heat between my legs as I think about the times I’ve lain awake at night, listening to the sounds she makes. I know the idea of a man I don’t know, and who I’m effectively being sold to doing that to me should repulse me.

It should horrify me. And yet, it doesn’t. It excites me. I haven’t met Lord Ballentyne, but I have heard the whispers. Like the ones from every woman who’s ever seen him about how handsome he is. I know he spent years away from his homeland fighting in the Crusade in the Holy Land. I know he’s got a reputation for being short of temper and fiercely strong in his ruling. …I know that the idea of a man like that… taking me has my pulse quickening far faster than it ought to. I know it’s sending all manner of sinful thoughts through my wicked head that I’d do well to get rid of, and fast. I shiver, swallowing away the heat in my cheeks as I force a neutral smile to my face.

“Thank you all for coming.” “Watching the famously headstrong Una MacKay sit still for one second while some big scary Lord makes her his wife?” Cat grins as she squeezes my hand. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Ailith smiles impishly at me. “Now, Una, do you think you’ll be able to put down the books long enough to attend the ceremony?” I’m about to protest when I suddenly cringe as I glance down at my hands. Of course, I’m holding a book right now. My friends giggle around me as my face burns hot. “Well, get your reading in now, Una,” Rhona says with a small smile. She nods past me out the window. “Because we’re here.

” I blink, quickly whirling to look out at the massive castle sitting on top of the cliffs. It’s completely snuck up on me, maybe from the angle of the road approaching it. But sure enough, here we are, and the carriage beings to slow as we approach the massive front doors and the huge wooden drawbridge across the deep trench surrounding the walls. Cat squeezes my hand reassuringly. “If you want to run, you know I’m here to help.” I smile, squeezing her hand right back, even if I know it’s not a reality. “I’ll remember that, thanks Cat.” There’s the heavy sound of castle doors opening, and then the sound of our carriage and the three others in our caravan rumbling across the drawbridge, and into the castle. Into the place I’ll be calling home now, forever. Home, with the man I’ll be calling husband and Lord.

The darkly mysterious, famously gruff, allegedly handsome man who’s been halfway around the world fighting in wars. The man who’s now come home, and who’s paid my father for my hand in marriage. The man I’ll be forever joined with in a few short hours, and the man who will… I swallow thickly, pushing the wicked, sinful thoughts from my head as the carriage comes to a halt. …The man who’ll be claiming me as his own. The man who’ll be taking me in our marriage bed, pulling my clothes away, and making a woman out of me. The heat comes roaring back to my cheeks as I look out the carriage window up at the imposing walls of Dungow Castle. This is home. Its Lord is now my Lord. …And I still can’t decide if that thought terrifies or excites me. “Time to get married,” Cat whispers.

One of our guards opens the carriage door, and I take a breath before I stand. Here we go… C H A P T E R 2 HA M ISH Gods İS SHE BEAUTİFUL. She walks like a creature from the heavens, stepping daintily out from the carriage and onto the cloth walkway I’ve ordered to be ready for her and her party upon arrival. A day of travel by carriage should have her looking bedraggled and weary, as it would have anyone looking. And yet… I growl, my eyes locking onto her. And yet, she looks like a goddess. She looks like a queen. …She looks like my queen. The sea air catches her wild, red hair, blowing it temptingly around her face. The sun crests over the western wall of the castle, striking her hair and making her look like she’s made of fire.

Her dress presses tight to her small, petite body as the wind blows harder, and this time, my jaw clenches as I take in her form, teasingly outlined by the dress blown against her. Her firm, small breasts make my pulse quicken. The way the fabric tucks tight between her thighs, pressing across the heaven that I know lies between her legs. The devil in me hungers for her, and the man I am struggles to hang on. I can feel my cock thickening beneath my kilt, the head swelling against my thigh as I groan. My eyes travel over her form, locking on those pert little breasts as the wind hardens her nipples to points beneath the soft, thin fabric. My balls ache, and before I can stop myself, my hand is creeping lower. Up in my quarters in the high tower overlooking the entire castle and the sea, my vision is tunneled on to her and her only. My hand cups my heavy cock through my kilt, hefting the weight of it and grunting as I grow harder, and thicker. I grunt, tugging the kilt aside and letting my hand wrap around my bare thickness.

My eyes follow her every move, watching that red hair whip around her face, watching those soft pink lips part as she smiles courteously for the welcoming party I’ve had waiting for them. I find myself wondering if her other lips are as pink and tempting as the ones on her pretty face. I find myself wondering if I’ll find that same fire between her thighs as I see blowing wildly in the wind. I’m older than most, marrying for the first time. And certainly, older than her, being in my twenty-ninth year to her nineteen. But while some men were here, marrying when they should and carrying on their lines, I chose a different path. I spent years in the Holy Land, fighting in King Richard’s crusades. Years in battle, being hardened, and being tested, until finally, I returned home to Dungow to start my life. …And to find my bride. Advisers lined women up for me, but there was never one to hold my gaze, or stop my heart.

I didn’t merely want a woman, however beautiful or alluring, just for warming my bed and bearing my heirs. I wanted one that would take the words from my mouth. One who would still my heart. One that would haunt my thoughts when she wasn’t in my arms. A year after returning home, none had done any of them. That is, until one day, I saw her. The day the gods showed me Una MacKay. We’ve never met, but I’ve seen her from a distance. It was a month ago at the spring festival in Gowlyn. I hadn’t wanted to go, but Callum, a good friend of mine who fought with me in Jerusalem, insisted.

Apparently, there was a brewer there whose ale he fancied. I’d been glowering to myself, when suddenly, I’d looked up, my eyes had landed on her, and my entire world stopped. It was like being hit by lightning. Or struck down by arrows. It was like looking into the sun and never wanting to blink. Beautiful beyond compare, with a face that stole my heart and a figure that had my cock straining at my kilt. Callum had returned with the ales, noticed my stares, and grinned as he’d told me who she was. I knew in an instant she’d be mine. As I said, I didn’t just want a pretty woman to warm my bed. Now, I did want Una warming my bed, make no mistake.

I wanted her perfect body stretched out beneath me; her legs wrapped around me as I took her for my own. I wanted her riding me like a stallion. I wanted to taste the heaven between her legs and have her screaming for more. But I wanted more than that too. Callum told me all about her reputation for back-talk— for her history of rejecting would-be suitors, and of course, her hobby of reading books. Her beauty had captivated me. Hearing about her untamed wildness sealed my resolve. Uno would be mine. She would marry me and be my queen. And today, it’s finally happening.

I growl as I nakedly stroke my fat cock, watching from the window of my chambers as she walks lightly across my courtyard. Though it may seem odd that I’m not greeting guests to my own castle, with it being the day of our marriage, tradition dictates I not see her, and she not see me. A tradition, I realize as I stroke my cock and devour her with my eyes, I am sorely failing at maintaining. Various envoys and advisors greet her party, taking her parents to their chambers, and her friends to theirs. But her? I growl. I know her entire schedule until the moment she joins me at the altar. Right now, they’re taking her belongings to the lavish suite set aside for her, all while some of the ladies in waiting for the castle are taking her to the baths in the caverns beneath this castle to clean and freshen after her journey. The thought of her shedding that light blue dress she wears—of it pooling at her bare feet as she steps naked through the stream of the bathhouse—has my balls drawing tight, my cock swelling in my hand as I grunt and grip the windowsill tightly. I grit my teeth, and I freeze, my body trembling with the need for release. I take a breath, shaking, and another, calming myself as I let my hand drop from my cock.

No. I won’t spill my seed that easily. And besides, I’m saving it for her. I whirl from the window, fixing my clothes and growling lowly to myself as I storm from my chambers. I know the traditions, and I know what’s expected of me. And frankly, I don’t fucking care. I move like a storm cloud, crashing down the stairs and rumbling through the castle. I know the rules. I know seeing her before the wedding later this evening is forbidden. But as I said: I’m beyond caring.

That and this is my castle, and I’ll damn well see who I want, when I want. My castle, my say, my rules. …And now I’m going to see my queen.

.

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