PARANORMAL ROMANCE BLOG HOP
HIGHLAND WOLF PACT
“It’s like Outlander meets True Blood!”
EXCERPT FROM Highland Wolf Pact:
“Ye shot me,” Alistair croaked, staring at her in disbelief and then looking over to see his forearm pinned to the tree on his right, an arrow sunk clean through his flesh and deep into the tree’s bark.
“My arrow aims true, too, ya ken?” Sibyl kept the tremble from her voice, eyes blazing. She didn’t take her gaze off him as she picked up the quiver and slung it and the bow across her shoulder. “I could have killed you. Remember that.”
She turned to grab Fian’s reins and ran into the bare chest of a man with thick, dark hair almost as long as her own. Sibyl barely reached his shoulder and she looked up, up, into the man’s face, into his bright blue eyes, her breath catching in her throat. He was a Scot, but he was not one of Alistair’s men, of that she was sure. He wore only a Scot’s tartan plaid, wrapped and belted at his waist, part of it pulled like a sash across his broad, bare chest.
“I… I must…” Sibyl struggled to find her voice, wrestled her mind for words that would make sense when strung together all in a row. The man’s presence was disarming enough, but the look in those bright blue eyes made her knees feel wobbly under her skirts. “Be… be away.”
The man didn’t speak, but his look pinned her to the spot. She was mindful of her surroundings—of Alistair’s cries for help, of the big, black horse that had pulled free from his tether and had turned to gallop back up the forest path, of the sound of men and dogs and horses in the distance—but she was far more aware of her own body than she’d ever been before in her life. Her blood rushed through her veins, her heart its hot, thudding pump, lungs pulling in breath in fast, cooling gulps, limbs tingling, torso a burning inferno, as if the man’s look alone had caused her body to catch fire.
“Ye’ll pay for this!” Alistair roared, writhing in pain on the ground. He was trying to work the arrow out of the tree with his other hand, but it was buried halfway in. The trees in these woods were yielding, their trunks soft with the dampness that permeated this land, and Sibyl knew just from looking at it, the arrow would have to be clipped.
“I must be away,” she whispered, hearing the sounds of the men, dogs and horses growing nearer, knowing the repercussions for what she had done would be severe if she was caught here in these woods still wielding the longbow that had impaled her future husband through his forearm.
But her means of escape had, well, escaped. Both Winnie and Fian had disappeared down the path and she had no choice but to attempt her flight on foot. She turned to run, knowing she didn’t have long, but she was waylaid once again by the stranger’s bare chest. He had somehow sidestepped and appeared in front of her, even though she was now facing the opposite direction, heading deeper into the woods.
“Tiugainn!” The man spoke Gaelic, a dialect she only remotely understood, but his meaning was clear enough in the way he took her by the elbow and steered her down the path. At least, Sibyl thought as she struggled to keep up with his long strides, they were headed in the right direction.
“Let me go!” she cried, trying to shake out of his grip, but it was no use.
The man’s enormous hand easily encircled her upper arm and the strength in it was surprising. He pulled her along and she stumbled after him, unable to yank herself free. The dark-haired stranger didn’t follow the path. He steered them to the right, through the trees, where the underbrush was thick and the hem of Sibyl’s dress caught on branches and made her falter. The sound of the stream grew louder as they traveled deeper into the forest.
Sibyl felt a rage growing in her belly, now that the wolf was gone and she knew she wasn’t going to die—and least, not imminently—and they had vanished far enough down the path that Alistair’s voice had grown dim. She could no longer hear his men approaching on horseback, and the sound of the dogs was faint.
Beside her, the half-naked Scotsman finally stopped, cocking his head and listening. His hair fell like a black waterfall over his broad, brown shoulders, eyes narrowing, shifting from side to side, a gesture she knew from years of being taught how to stay aware of her surroundings by her father. He was scanning, looking for movement, listening, perhaps, for anyone pursuing them, but Sibyl wasn’t going to stay around long enough to find out. She’d had enough of being pawed by one man or the other.
“Let me go!” she insisted, taking advantage of his hesitation to finally wrench herself free.
She began to stalk away from him, the satchel under her skirts heavy, weighing her down. Once she was away from this stranger, she would stop to unpin it. The longbow and quiver were still slung over her shoulder, and for that she was grateful. Once she had found a place to cross the stream and she’d left any trace of her scent behind, a certain dead end for the dogs Alistair would surely send after her, she would start looking for game.
“Ow!” Sibyl complained when the stranger grabbed her again, and this time not just by the arm. He had her from behind, the way Alistair had held her against him in front of the wolf’s cage, but her reaction was far different on this occasion. The stranger’s body was big, muscular, his arms easily enveloping her small frame. “You big, dumb oaf! Let me go!”
She had no idea if he understood her, but she thought she sensed his demeanor change at her words. Still, he didn’t loosen his hold and no matter how much she struggled, there was no way to break free.
“If you don’t let me go, I’m going to scream!” Sibyl cried, wriggling in his arms. This only made the man tighten his grip, which left her gasping for breath.
“Bidh sàmhach!” he growled in her ear. She didn’t know what that meant either but she could guess.
The stream was visible ahead, rushing over crags and rocks, the current strong and steady. She couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the rushing water, but the man stood completely still. Something had drawn his attention, but she wasn’t sure what.
“Could you… just… let me go…” Sibyl managed, drawing short, painful breaths, her ribcage aching from the way he held her so tightly. “I—”
“Bidh sàmhach!” he insisted again, this time shaking her. She felt like a rag doll in his arms. Closing her eyes, she listened too, straining to hear what had captured his attention, but there was nothing but the water surging over the rocks.
“Thank the Lord,” she muttered when the man’s arms loosened and she could breathe again. She rubbed her aching sides, scowling back at the giant brute. “I don’t know who you are, but I am perfectly capable of—”
He frowned down at her, gaze sweeping over her muddied and torn dress. While it once would have fed a family in Moira’s village for a year, it was now suitable as little more than rags. She had lost her hat ages ago, somewhere back near the wolf cage, where she had left her betrothed pinned to a tree with an arrow.
“What are you doing?” Sibyl protested, but barely had time to get the words out before the big man had divested her of her weapon and had thrown her over his shoulder and began carrying her downstream. “Stop! Let me go!”
Her words were lost in the rush of the water and he didn’t seem to hear her at all as he moved quickly—much faster and more nimbly than she expected of a man of his size—down the shoreline. She beat at his back with her fists, but he didn’t seem to notice that either, and before long, her hands ached. It was like hitting a slab of rock. When he stopped, she lifted her head to look around, noting their position, away from the protection of the tree line now.
And then she heard it. Could he really have detected the sound, so far away? The dogs were barking again. On the hunt. She imagined Alistair telling the story to his men, making up something so he, of course, looked like the wounded hero. Perhaps he would tell them she had been kidnapped by the massive brute who now had her thrown over his shoulder—and really, was that far from the truth? She knew he wouldn’t tell them she had put an arrow through him. That much he would leave out, she was sure. She hoped.
“They’re coming!” she hissed, beating at the human rock’s back again. She hit him in the side, eliciting a satisfying grunt from the man, and did it again, pleased when she heard his sharp intake of breath. “Let me go! They’re coming for me!”
“Bidh modhail!” he snapped, his hand coming down hard on her behind. Sibyl hadn’t been spanked since she was a child and, while it really didn’t hurt, given how much padding she had on under her skirts, the humiliation of it reddened her cheeks and made her instantly quiet.
And then they were flying.
It wasn’t really flying, but it felt that way. He was so agile, so quick and light on his feet, it felt as if he had simply taken flight as they crossed the stream. Behind them, the dogs grew closer. They were onto a scent—likely her own and she cursed herself for not grabbing her hat, which would allow the dogs to pick up her trail—and pursued it with fervor. Sibyl bounced on the big man’s shoulder, squealing at one point, thinking surely he would fall and she would go tumbling head-first to her death onto the slippery, moss-covered rocks, but then they were across, heading into the cover of the woods on the other side.
Once they were a sight distance from the tree line, the man upended her with a grunt, putting her back onto her feet. Sibyl pushed an already tangled mass of auburn hair away from her face and glared up at him. He didn’t smile, but his eyes danced, clearly amused at her stance—hands on her hips, face upturned—and the words that came tumbling out of her mouth.
“You bumbling idiot! You could have killed us both!” she snapped. “I didn’t ask for your help. Do you understand me? I don’t want your help! No! Go! Away with you!”
She shooed him away like an annoying fly but the man didn’t move. He just looked down at her with those devilish blue eyes.
“Goodbye! Mar sin leibh!” She didn’t know many phrases in Scottish Gaelic, but she had learned a few from Moira. Hello, goodbye, please and thank you. So she said the words, hoping he would understand, and from the look on his face, it was clear he got her meaning. “I’m going! Mar sin leibh! Goodbye!”
She turned and stalked off, getting as far as the nearest tree before he grabbed her again.
“Will you stop that?” she cried, pushing at his arms as they encircled her and turned her to him. “No! Chan eil! Chan eil!”
She repeated the Gaelic word for no, seeing the frown on his face at her protest.
“Shh.” He touched a finger to her lips, shaking his head.
“Chan eil,” she objected again, but this time, the word came out in a mere whisper. “No… please…”
“Tha.” His thumb traced her jawline as he looked down at her, the sunlight dappled across his face and chest. She knew the word—tha. Yes. It meant “yes.” Sibyl felt her breath quicken as the stranger traced her lips with one finger, his gaze falling to her mouth, then to her throat, then further down still, to the way her breasts nearly overflowed the top of her disheveled dress.
“Tha,” he said again, lifting his gaze to meet her eyes. So blue. His eyes were so blue. “Yes.”
“You… you speak English?” she whispered, cocking her head at him in wonder. “Who… who are you?”
A howl from deeper in the forest startled them both and the hair on the back of Sibyl’s neck stood up. Perhaps the animal’s howl was in response to the dogs, because they were barking across the river, sniffing up and down the shoreline, searching for their scent. The men weren’t far behind. They were closing in.
“The wolf,” she gasped, stepping instinctively closer to the stranger, and he encircled her with one arm, pulling her close against his big frame. She lifted frightened eyes to his, knowing the animal was wounded, that it might attack them, even now. And Alistair’s men were close—too close. “It’s the wolf!”
“Nuh.” He said the word in English, but his brogue was thick as he met her eyes. “A wulver.”
“A… wulver.” She swallowed, trembling in his arms, and before she knew it, the stranger once again had her thrown over his shoulder, carrying her deep into the forest, but this time, Sibyl didn’t speak a word of protest.
HIGHLAND WOLF PACT