Highland Escape - Cathy MacRae

Highland Escape

Cathy MacRae and DD MacRae

Fleeing the English army that murdered her family before her eyes, Anna Braxton rescues two young women, kidnapped by a barbaric Highland clan, only to find herself unjustly imprisoned by the clan she aided. Disgusted by her treatment, she counters their belated offer of friendship with anger and distrust. But she does not count on the unexpected effect the laird’s son has on her heart.

Duncan MacGregor does not understand his da’s command to imprison the young woman who saved his sister’s life. He is more than intrigued with Anna’s skill with a bow and sword—in fact, he is fascinated by everything about her, in spite of her lack of feminine wiles. Straightforward and with a deep-seated sense of honor, Anna Braxton disrupts his entire notion of a suitable woman.

Trained as a warrior and unwilling to be any man’s chattel, Anna shuns the idea of marriage—until Duncan coaxes her into a world of acceptance and passion she never knew existed. He wants her as his wife. She will agree, but only on her own terms—conditions Duncan is not sure he can accept.

Chapter 1

14th Century

Cheviot Hills, Scottish-English Border

Anna glanced over her shoulder. The two plump harts she and her brother Edrick had killed lay secured on the back of the pack horse. She smiled, waiting for Edrick’s excuses to begin anew.

“You know mine had more antler points before he stumbled down the ravine and broke a tip,” Edrick declared with a pushed tone of frustration.

“Mayhap, but the fact remains my stag has twelve to your ten.” Anna’s nonchalant answer didn’t match the merriment spilling from her eyes, or the tremors of barely contained laughter.

Edrick gave a sigh of annoyance, tempting Anna further toward laughter. They’d been having this argument ever since the ill-fated fall of his winning kill.

“Mine still outweighs yours.” His resentment was comical. Anna rolled her eyes.

“Yes, well, if that were the wager, you would be the winner. However, ’twas not.” Her curt reply gave no ground. “You have my stable chores for the next sennight, brother mine.” She burst into a sputter of giggles she could no longer restrain.

They broke from the forest at the base of a gentle hill. A column of thick black smoke billowed in the sky. The pungent odor of burning drifted to them, interrupting the delicate aroma of spring. A hasty glance at Edrick told Anna they shared the same fear. As she readied to put a heel to her horse, he hooked his reins on his saddle and drew a dagger, grabbing her reins to stop her.

“You must swear you will do nothing but fire your bow from a distance.” The fierce look in her brother’s eyes was a familiar one. Before she could answer, he cut loose his kill and turned to do the same to hers in order to leave the pack horse unburdened.

“Your word, Anna.” He sounded like a hardened warrior, bred and trained to lead.

“’Tis my home, too.” She raised her chin in defiance.

He gazed at her for a moment with a sudden softness she rarely glimpsed. “Yes, but I cannot do what needs to be done whilst I worry for your safety. You may cover my charge from a distance, but nothing more. We may already be too late. If the fight is lost, you must flee into Scotland to Grandfather. Your word.” The command in his voice mimicked their father’s so strongly, it compelled her submission.

Anna stared hard at him as the second stag slid off the pack horse. Her brother’s height of six feet two inches made him tower over many. Only four inches shorter than he, she stood head to head with all but the tallest of her father’s men. Edrick’s straight coal black hair, strong nose and chin mirrored her own, but the dark blue-eyed ancestry of the Braxton line passed to him, while Anna inherited the deep green of their mother’s clan.

“You have my word,” she conceded reluctantly.

He nodded once and kicked his horse into a gallop. Anna paused long enough to unsling her bow and hook it across her back. Then, giving her horse his head, she sped toward the smoke. Reaching the top of the hill overlooking her village and home, Anna took in the scene below. The sight stole her breath and her stomach churned with anguish.

The roof of their manor house blazed with a fire so intense, ’twas well past saving. The crackle of hungry flames reached her ears. A small group of armored men