The Wrong Highlander (Highland Brides #7) - Lynsay Sands

Chapter 1

Conran heard his brother Rory approaching before he ever spoke. The man had no idea how to move quietly. He stomped through the woods, snapping branches underfoot like it was his task in life to scare away all wildlife. He’d be murder on a hunt, Conran thought. Which was why he and his other brothers never took him with them when they went on one. Not that Rory would be interested in accompanying them anyway. He was the odd man out in the family—a healer rather than a warrior. Although, to be fair, he had been working out in the practice field of late, building up his strength and skills, he admitted to himself as Rory finally stumbled out into the clearing and greeted him with the question, “How did ye do?”

Conran turned from his saddlebag and stepped back to reveal the way it bulged. “I found loads of snapdragon, catnip, willow, feverfew and celandine poppy fer ye. Almost too much for me bag.”

“Celandine poppy?” Rory echoed, and shook his head with a smile. “Look at ye. Ye’re even learning the right kinds o’ weeds I need.”

Conran grimaced and turned back to continue trying to close his overfull saddlebag. “Aye, well, I’ve accompanied ye on enough o’ yer calls to heal others that I’ve picked up a thing or two.”

“Aye, ye have,” Rory agreed, crossing the clearing to join him. “More than I expected. Ye always seem to ken what I’ll need ere I ask fer it when ye accompany me to visit the ill and ailing. Ye’re something o’ a natural at healing, brother.”

Conran shook his head with amusement. “Dougall said the same thing about me and his horses, and Niels said it about his sheep and wool. The truth is, I’m just good at helping out me brothers. It’s made me a jack-o’-all-trades.”

“Ye’re selling yerself short, Conny,” Rory said solemnly. “I think the truth is that while each o’ us is very good at one thing, ye’re good at many.”

“Hmm. As I said, a jack-o’-all-trades. Sadly, I’m no’ a master of any though.” Finally managing to close the saddlebag, he sighed his relief and then glanced to Rory. “So, do ye feel like a stop at the waterfalls to clean up ere returning? I swear I’ve weeds and bugs up me butt from traipsing through the bushes and brambles.”

“Nay.” Rory shook his head with apparent regret. “I still need valerian and yarrow, and then I must stop in to see the innkeeper’s daughter. She’s fit to burst and likely to have her bairn any day now. I want to be sure all is well with her. Ye go ahead though. I ken ye planned to leave fer Drummond ere the nooning meal. I appreciate ye taking the time to help me search out medicinals first.”

“Always happy to help,” Conran said with a shrug, and then assured him, “I’ll have a quick wash in the falls, and then ride back to the keep to drop off the weeds before heading out.”

“Thank ye. I appreciate it,” Rory assured him as he mounted up.

“Me pleasure, brother.” Conran watched him ride off, and then withdrew the sword from his belt and affixed it to his horse, before removing his plaid and shirt. He was looking forward to a nice wash under the falls. Truly, it felt like he had bugs crawling all over his naked skin under the plaid he wore. Conran knew that wasn’t the case, and the feeling was just a result of being hot and sweaty in a wool plaid. Wading through the bugs and sending them flying from the bushes and plants he was harvesting hadn’t helped though. Aye, a nice cleanup in the falls was going to be a true pleasure. It would make a new man of him.

“Well, there’s his horse. Now, where is he?” Evina asked, her gaze sliding around the clearing and then to the river and waterfalls, which appeared empty.

“Mayhap he left his steed here while he searches for weeds.”

Evina narrowed her eyes in consideration at the suggestion from the man sitting astride the horse on her right. Donnan. He’d been the first at Maclean for fourteen years. There was no one she’d trust more to accompany her on this trip, except perhaps the man on her left, her cousin Gavin.

When she didn’t comment, Donnan pointed out, “The lad did say Rory Buchanan was out gathering weeds for his healing work. The area around here is rich with various plants. Mayhap he leaves