Highland Legend (Scots and Swords #3) - Kathryn Le Veque Page 0,1

not acknowledge them because, frankly, they were not of his class. The only ones he really respected were men he considered his equal, and those were few. But he could see those men standing just inside the staging area, and they were not cheering.

They were laughing at him.

Lor Careston, a doctores, or trainer, was the first one Magnus made eye contact with. Big, blond, and a brilliant tactical fighter, Lor simply stood there and shook his head.

“Do ye ever do anything different?” he asked drolly. “Is it always yer finishing move tae kick a man where he thinks?”

“Of course it is,” Magnus said, untying the leather gloves on his hands. “By the time I kick him there, he is thinking about kicking me, so I must deliver the death blow.”

Lor was a quiet one for the most part, but he loved to poke holes in Magnus’s pride. It was in good-natured fun, however. Magnus knew he had Lor’s admiration and friendship. The man standing next to Lor was another matter because at one time, Magnus and the man were both colleagues and opponents.

Magnus made eye contact with Bane Morgan. Muscular, handsome Bane used to be competition for the ladies’ attention until he married last year. Women still looked at him and cheered for him, but there was no woman for Bane except his wife, which made Magnus appreciate him all the more.

Less competition for women’s attention.

“And what does the great Highland Defender have tae say about my bout?” Magnus demanded. “Did ye not see how perfect it was?”

Bane, whose fight-guild nickname was the Highland Defender, knew the man was looking to have his ego stroked.

He would not oblige.

“It was decent,” he said.

Magnus was insulted. “Better than anything ye’ve fought in yer life,” he said. “’Tis understandable for ye tae be envious of me. ’Tis all right, lad. Someday, ye may fight as well as I do.”

Bane started laughing, looking to Lor and rolling his eyes. Bane and Magnus had been on many tandem teams because, surprisingly, they worked well together and they were undefeated before Bane retired to become a doctores. Still, Magnus liked to poke at Bane, as brothers would roast each other.

And it was most definitely a brotherhood.

The last of the trio of men was another doctores who had Magnus’s respect, although he’d rather die than admit it. Galan de Lara and Magnus had suffered their share of bouts with each other, and Magnus had the edge on victories. Unlike Lor and Bane, Galan was English. That meant he was the butt of insults, more than most, and he greatly frustrated Magnus from time to time.

Even so, their bond was strong.

“And ye, Sassenach,” he said to Galan. “Tell me how great I am. I would hear yer praise.”

Galan sighed heavily. Like Lor and Bane, he found great annoyance with Magnus, but the man was pure greatness. They all knew it. Magnus knew it. It was a game between them after nearly every bout, with Magnus demanding recognition and the doctores refusing to give it to him.

But tonight was different.

They had a little surprise for him.

“You were magnificent,” Galan said. “In fact, you were so magnificent that Lor and Bane and I have chosen the most beautiful woman in the arena for you tonight.”

Magnus looked at them in surprise. “Is this true?” he asked. “Where is she?”

Galan pointed into the holding area, where a three-story structure comprised the north wall of the area. The bottom levels were for the competitors, while the very top level, complete with a large stone balcony, was the private viewing apartment of the owner of the Ludus Caledonia, Clegg de Lave.

Clegg, however, was away from the Ludus Caledonia this night. He and one of his senior doctores, Luther Eddleston, were off visiting other fight guilds. That left his private rooms empty, but not for long.

That’s where the doctores had the surprise waiting.

“There,” Galan said. “In Clegg’s apartment. Take the private stairs so the women waiting at the gates overlooking the holding area do not see you.”

Magnus’s emerald gaze looked up at the third floor of the building, envisioning the beauty who would surely be waiting for him. A seductive smile crossed his lips, but he refused to heed their advice about taking the private stairs.

He paraded across the holding-area floor for all to see.

Women were screaming at him from above, since the holding area was down below, sunk into the same hillside that the arena had been carved out of. Magnus looked up at