The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan – Paula Quinn

Darach Grant lifted up his cup of ale and curled his lips into a smile corrupted by too much ale and an entire assortment of wicked intentions. The most wicked of which he wanted to perform on Catherine MacDonald. He watched with hooded eyes while she made her way around her brother Shamus’s tavern. Darach knew the dangers of being on MacDonald land, especially after he and Patrick MacGregor got caught in recent indiscretions involving a few bonny lasses. Danger never stopped Darach. In fact, he preferred recklessness over caution. Besides, was he to blame because MacDonald lasses found him appealing? It wasn’t like he had bedded anyone’s wife. He wasn’t that bad. He didn’t remember Catherine though. Aye, he would have recalled the flare of her arse and the sway of her hips when she came to him as the rest had. He saw a few of them here at the tavern. They averted their eyes but he caught more than a few covertly watching him. “Greetings, Darach, I didna’ think to see ye here again.” Darach smiled at Murron MacDonald slipping into the seat next to him at the small table. Like a flash, he remembered Murron and her sun-red locks licking his flesh like flames before he enjoyed her in a haystack last month.

“Ye told me ye didna’ return to the same bed twice.” She pulled off her shoe and lifted her foot to the place between his thighs. “I dinna’ know what ye’re doin’ here but mayhap I can tempt ye into breakin’ yer own rule?” When she began to rub her foot over his cock he closed his eyes. Murron knew how to please a man, but she was correct. He didn’t return to the same bed twice. He liked his heart where it was…in his own hands, stout and strong. That didn’t mean he would be cruel in his rejection or that he couldn’t enjoy himself a little or ensure that she did the same. With a flick of his hand he dragged her chair closer. Close enough to slip his hand beneath her kirtle and run his fingertips over her knee. “I must decline, fair Murron.

” He traced the curve of her thigh upward until she closed her eyes and licked her lips. “Fer if I but have a taste of this body again, I willna’ be able to leave this time, and that could likely start a war.” He moved her foot off him, shared more words with her, and then watched her reluctant departure. His gaze found Catherine again in the crowd. He smiled at her. It wasn’t that he was particularly fond of her. He didn’t know her. That was the attraction. He didn’t know her and he didn’t want to. He’d gotten to know a lass last spring and leaving her felt like someone had stabbed him in the guts and taken a hammer to his chest.

Never would he let that happen again. “I havena’ seen ye here before, sir,” Catherine said when she reached him. He looked up at her and thought about her in his lap. Humor spread across his mouth. Most likely she thought him highborn because of the finery of his plaid and cape. The women of Camlochlin were masters of the thread. Beyond that there was nothing noble about him. “I am no’ a gentleman, lass.” It sounded more like a warning than a mere statement and that was exactly how he meant it. He watched her smile deepen.

He would kiss that mouth before the night was over. “And now that we’ve gotten that oot of the way”—he swept his hand across the tops of his thighs—“can I offer ye a seat?” She obliged with a giggle and he moved in closer to smell the honeyed fragrance of her dark hair. She was going to be easier than he thought. Most of them were. He liked it that way; he smiled and dipped his lips to her ear. A FEW MİNUTES later Darach opened his eyes and looked through the blades of grass at the vast mountain range turned over on its side. He couldn’t remember where he was or why there were wee glimmering lights swirling around his head. His jaw hurt like hell. He tried to move it and closed his eyes again. It felt like he’d been hit with— A pair of big hands grasped him by the shirt beneath his plaid and hauled him up to his feet.

Darach would have thanked the man for his aid, since he was sure he wouldn’t have been able to get up on his own, but when he looked at the thoughtful stranger, he recognized Shamus MacDonald and his memory came flooding back to him. Sadly, it returned at the same time Shamus’s mighty fist cracked into his jaw for the third time. Darach felt his lip tear and he was quite sure that was his back tooth sitting on his tongue. The lights changed color and things went almost entirely black. This time though, he held his legs firm beneath him and by sheer force of will, refused to be knocked out again. He spit his tooth into the dirt and smashed his fist into Shamus’s eye. He was a Grant, and Grants didn’t stay down. When the towering Highlander reeled back, holding his face, Darach didn’t hesitate and drove a left upper cut into Shamus’s jaw, then hit him with a tight punch to the kidney. He took a moment to wipe his bloody mouth and stop his legs from bending beneath him. He heard a few shouts in his favor, but he was on MacDonald land and most cheered for his opponent.

Urged on, Shamus swung at him. Darach ducked and missed the blow. He came back up swinging with a series of body shots that brought the burly Highlander down to his knees. It was about damned time. A hard knee to Shamus’s face ended the fight quickly. Doubled over, on his knees, and pulling in deep gasps of air, Darach looked at his fallen opponent and thanked God for all the beatings, playful or otherwise, he’d received over the years from his cousins. They had fashioned him into a good brawler and strengthened his chin. Despite the pain from his jaw, his lip, and his ribs, he felt good, exhilarated. He liked a good fight. He liked winning even better.

He looked around for his prize as he stood to his feet. He found her standing in the crowd of bystanders, watching, horrified and a bit anxious, judging by the heavy rise and fall of her glorious cleavage. Bonny Catherine. Darach was always ready for a good fight, but he preferred sinking his body into a warm, willing lass over having the shyt beat out of him. When he reached Catherine now, he slipped his index finger beneath her chin and lifted her mouth to his for a quick victor’s kiss. He didn’t want to cover her in blood and his lip stung like hell, not to mention he’d just trounced her brother into the dirt. He doubted she would appreciate his appetite. He simply wanted recompense, a wee kiss, nothing more. He was surprised when she didn’t reel back and slap him. He looked at her and tilted his head, a bit disappointed yet again that not all lasses possessed the same fire as a certain saucy wench who lived in Perth.

But he’d put that one out of his mind. He needed a bed, and a strong drink. He was thankful that he’d thought to purchase his room before he grew too drunk to do it. He stepped passed Catherine and through the crowd and returned to the tavern. Inside, he paid for a bottle of whisky and a wench to see to his wounds. Climbing the stairs wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be if he carried his weight on his left side. He found his room without incident and fell with a gusty sigh onto the bed. “Let me see to yer wounds, Mr. Grant.” Darach opened his eyes.

Did he want Catherine tending to him now? If his passion raged it would likely hurt like hell. He pushed himself up on one elbow and smiled out of the unwounded side of his mouth at the lass standing at the entrance. “I would appreciate such kindness, Miss MacDonald.” Especially after what he did to her brother. She closed the door behind her and hurried to the basin of water on the small dresser beside his bed. He watched her retrieve a washing rag from a hook on the wall and dip it into the basin. She was a bonny lass, with long, dark braids, wide amber eyes, and round, delectable hips. Hips he could hold on to while she gave him a good, hard ride. He felt himself grow harder and fought to control his desires. “Though I think yer brother might shoot me in the back if he discovers ye in m’ room.

” She shook her head and came to him on the bed. “I locked the door.” Darach didn’t think pointing out to her that her beast of a brother could kick down the locked door would make any difference. He didn’t want to think about Shamus anymore anyway when she began wiping the blood from his mouth with tender strokes. When she promised to be gentle stitching up his lip, he recalled the last time he’d been in such poor condition. Last spring, after being attacked on the road by a band of bastard Buchanans in Perth, they had held him prisoner in the clan chief’s barn. The lass who had tended to his wounds at the time was quite different than Catherine. Janet Buchanan had stitched up his brow with a dull needle and a song on her lips. Witch. He rarely allowed himself to think of her and he sure as hell didn’t want to think about her frustratingly fiery mouth now.

He’d let himself grow fond of her and then let her control his every thought for months after he left her. She returned to his dreams now and again to taunt him with her staunch will to hate him, and the cool, casual sway of her hips each time she’d left him bound in her barn. But for the most part, he’d triumphed over her memory and welcomed others to take her place. Alas, none of them did. “The tear is not so bad,” Catherine whispered close to his mouth. She wiped his mouth, then ran the tip of her finger along the vertical slit. “’Twill make a small scar that will go nicely with the rest.” She looked up and traced the jagged scar along his brow, then to the one across his chin. “Fergive me, I dinna’ usually do this with my brother’s patrons.” He didn’t care if she’d done it before or not.

He wasn’t here to judge wicked lasses. He spread his palm over her rump and pulled her down across his hips. She planted an eager kiss on his sore mouth and warmed his blood. He preferred more of a challenge, but he wasn’t about to turn her away after taking a beating for her. A sharp knock sounded at the door. Catherine covered her mouth and Darach swore he’d kill the bastard for interrupting him. “Darach!” Wait, that wasn’t Shamus. “Malcolm?” What the hell was his cousin doing here? Had something happened at home? He gave Catherine a gentle push and swung his legs off the bed. He clutched his side and cursed the pain in his rib, knowing it was broken. “Darach!” The rapping sounded again.

“Aye, a moment, damn ye.” “Who is it?” Catherine asked him, terrified. “M’ cousin, Malcolm Grant.” “Ye willna’ let him kill Shamus, will ye?” He shook his head and stood up. He ignored the third series of knocks and reached the door in his own wounded time. “What the hell happened to ye?” Malcolm asked, sounding decidedly less interested than his query would suggest. Darach turned his back on him and returned to his bed. He didn’t bid Catherine farewell when she fled. In fact, he barely noticed. “What are ye doin’ here, Cal?” “I need a favor,” his cousin said, his gaze following Catherine out the door.

His dimpled smile gave her pause at the exit. “I need ye to ride to Ravenglade.” Ravenglade? Hell, no way. Janet was at Ravenglade. “What do we have to go to Ravenglade fer?” he asked with his eyes closed. “No’ we,” Malcolm corrected, stepping into the room and having a casual look around. “Ye. I need ye to go in my stead. Ye need to leave tonight.” Darach laughed, then groaned when pain from his lip fired through him.

Damn it, he needed stitching and his cousin had chased Catherine away. “Ye’re mad, Cal. I’m no’ goin’ anywhere near Perth and I’m sure as hell no’ goin’ tonight.” “The Menzies have been tryin’ to infiltrate the castle fer the last few months, longer by now,” Malcolm forged onward, ignoring Darach’s refusal. “William Buchanan penned me to come quickly.” The damn Menzies, natural-born enemies to Darach’s kin for as long as he could remember, even before they betrayed the MacGregors during the first proscription. Normally, Darach would leap at the chance to fight some of them, but not at Ravenglade. “How soon can ye leave, Darach?” Malcolm picked up the bloody rag Catherine had used to wipe Darach’s lip and shook his head, dropping it back onto the bed. “Was she worth the arse beatin’ ye took?” “I dinna’ know, cousin.” Darach sat up again and glared at him through his swelling eye.

“Ye interrupted us. As usual, yer presence is a blight on m’ otherwise cheerful life. And just so ye know, I won.” Malcolm smiled. “I had nae doubt of that.” He sat on the edge of the bed and looked over his cousin’s face. “Regardless of the poetry I found in yer room back home, I know the ferocity fer fightin’ that flows through yer veins. ’Tis why I want ye to go settle things at my castle.” Darach wanted to kick him across the room for going through his belongings to find his writings. The lads at home never let him forget that he was the son of a master bard and storytelling and song writing ran through his veins, just as much as fighting did.

His father, Finlay Grant, sang of love and heroic deeds while the other men taught their sons how to fight. So what if Finn’s son liked dabbling with poetry now and then? Darach’s cousins took him under their wings early and fired up his love of battle. They riled him up with their banter about his tender side, but he was grateful to them for teaching him how to do the most damage with his hands. But he still wasn’t here to do their bidding. “I’m no’ goin’ to Ravenglade,” Darach told him, falling back on the mattress, clutching his side. “Tis yer castle, given to ye by yer faither. Ye go protect it…or send yer brother, Cailean.” “Neither of us can go, Darach. M’ sister has been kidnapped by a pirate. We’re goin’ to get her.

Practically everyone in the clan is goin’.” “Pirates?” Darach looked up. “Now, there’s something I’d enjoy. I’ll be goin’ home tonight.” “Nae.” Malcolm shook his head, refusing to be moved. “I need yer aid. I must retrieve m’ sister. Cailean isna’ prepared to handle the Menzies. I need ye to quell this disturbance in Perth fer me.

” Hell, Darach didn’t want to oblige him, and it had nothing to do with the Menzies. He didn’t care how ruthless they were. He just didn’t want to see her again. Janet Buchanan rattled him. She made him ache…and feel, well, a bit damned helpless. Women never rattled him and sure as hell, none ever made him ache or feel helpless. He liked it that way. He didn’t want to pen songs about love and puppies. Love and the dreadful way it made a grown man pine didn’t interest him. Pleasure’s what held his attention.

It was bad enough he wrote letters to himself about the beauty of the Cuillins silhouetted against the azure backdrop of Heaven. He wasn’t some softly spun dolt who could be led around by a particular arse. There were too many arses out there. “Just so ye dinna’ think me a cad,” Malcolm said, his dimple at its deepest, “I do understand why ye dinna’ want to go to Ravenglade, cousin. The dozens of poems ye penned about the Buchanan lass bear witness to—” “Cal,” Darach warned. “No’ only will I no’ go to Ravenglade if ye mention that again, but I vow on m’ sword that I’ll scar yer pretty face ferever. Dinna’ doubt me.” Malcolm held up his palms but did nothing to conceal his amusement. “Easy, cousin, I meant nae offense. Losin’ yer heart to a lass, even a Buchanan, and pennin’ flowery words aboot it isna’ a sign of weakness.

” Darach eyed his sword in the corner of his room and cursed his injuries. He wouldn’t be able to take Malcolm in a fight today. He would do best to ignore his gibes and push Janet from his thoughts. “Did yer opponent kick ye in the mouth wi’ a boot?” “Nae.” Darach sighed, thankful that his cousin had finally changed the topic. “But his hands are like hammers.” “Anything broken?” “A rib or two, I suspect. M’ jaw miraculously held up.” Malcolm rose and went toward the door. “Ye’ll need to be bandaged and sewn before yer journey.

I’ll go bring back yer maid.” “Cal,” Darach called, pausing his cousin’s steps. He didn’t want to do this. His cousin would need to find someone else. “In earnest, I dinna’ want to—” “I need to go bring home m’ sister, Darach,” Malcolm told him earnestly before he could finish. “I’m trustin’ ye with m’ land.” Damn it to hell. “All right.” Darach relented with a frustrated sigh and held up his hands to ward off further entreaty. “I’ll go.

” He ignored his cousin’s wide grin. “But if I strangle any Buchanans while I’m there, dinna’ blame me.”

.

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