The Scottish Bride

The Scottish Bride

Secrets and heartfelt romance in medieval Scotland . . .

Lady Tamsin Keith escapes a castle tower to avoid marriage only to fall into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight. Sir William Seton is sent by the king to demand a secret book of prophecies in the lady's possession, but he soon discovers that beautiful Tamsin is a gifted seer—and the most stubborn woman he has ever met.

She refuses to trust the knight who begins to thrill her lonely heart—even as they face the powerful foe who would tear down all that they cherish most . . .

Scotland, Autumn, 1307

Something moved high on the castle wall. A bird? A shadow?

Sir William Seton peered through the screen of autumn-bare trees where he stood looking up at the castle on the slope above. Dawn was coming in gray and cold, promising an autumn rain. He had come back to Dalrinnie Castle—his own castle, forfeited a few years earlier—on King Edward’s orders to find Thomas the Rhymer’s granddaughter and get some bothersome book that had belonged to the old soothsayer and was now in her possession.

Liam had no choice but to agree; that promise had opened the door of his dungeon. Now that he was here, staring up at his own forfeited tower, he planned to hail the castle at dawn, ask to see for the lady, claim the book for the English king, and then meet his brother and cousin where he had tied his horse, munching on grasses at the moment.

His nail-soled boots crunched on the frosted, fallen leaves as he walked. He patted his hounds head as Roc moved quietly beside him. A scatter of birds left the trees as they made their way up the steep hill that supported the massive fortress.

Roc gave a low, breathy woof, and froze, watching through the trees. Something had his attention. Liam looked, hardly believing his eyes.

A fat rope had been slung out a high window, and someone clung to it, moving down. With a surprised huff, Liam walked closer, blinking in surprise.

A girl, climbing down a rope of linens. Liam’s heart lurched in fear for her. She was slight, determined, and could fall to her death at any moment. Slowly he began to ascend the slope, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to startle her.

Reaching the ridge, he saw a litter of things on the ground—bags, a cloak, a small boot. Pausing there, he looked up. The wind pushed the girl’s rope and belled his cloak. She must be desperate to do this.

Well, no lass was going to break her neck on his watch, he thought.

“Roc, stay,” he told the hound. Boots crunching over snow, he walked to stand just beneath her, looking up. The rope dangled out a familiar window. The master’s chamber. He narrowed his eyes.

Jesu, he thought. It could not be. Yet, seeing the young woman’s pale braid furl outward, seeing her lithe form, her determination, he recognized Lady Tamsin Keith; he had met her weeks ago and had come here to find her.

And here she was, swinging not twenty feet above his head. Divine timing for both, should the lass fall. He waited.

She paused and looked down. The rope spun a little. Her feet rested on the last fat knot. Yet there was still a good height left between that knot and the ground. Liam sighed and lifted his arms.

“Down to me.” He spoke calmly, wanting to reassure rather than startle.

Swaying, she watched him. Light spread across the sky, glossed the snow, kissed her gray gown and her long blond plait. Liam beckoned. “Come down.”

“I cannot.” She looked up, then down. “I will fall.”

“I will catch you.” He opened his gloved hands.

“You will summon the guards.”

“You are safe. I give you my word.” Even hushed, his voice sounded too loud.

She swayed. “Who are you?”

“Jump.” He beckoned, realizing she did not recognize him as the harper she had met previously, for now he wore chainmail and surcoat. “Do not fear.”

“If I was fearful, I would not be on this rope.”

“True.” He widened his arms. “Jump!”

She let go.

Liam sank to his knees as the girl filled his arms, her weight less burden than the force of her fall. Swathed in skirts, she was trim and light. Gasping, she clung to him, head on his shoulder. Bracing a hand on the ground, he rose to his feet holding her.

“There,” he said, as relieved as she must be. “There.”

She pushed away, found her feet, stepped back. “Thank you, sir. I am fine.” Turning to pick up her scattered things, she stumbled and fell to a knee.

Liam grabbed her arm. “Go easy.”

“I must hurry.” She glanced up at the castle walls. “They will come after me.”

“No one has seen you, I think. Come with me.” He gestured toward the forest.

She stepped back. “But who are you? Why are you here?”

He knew her, but she did not know him, seeing a knight in chainmail, a stranger, a threat. Later for explanations. In silence he picked up her things—two bags, a cloak, a narrow boot.

Draping the cloak over her shivering shoulders, he braced her arm while she hopped to pull and lace the boot. Then he tossed the bags on his shoulder—one had real weight to it—and led her down the slope.

“Careful, the hill is icy.” He took her arm, balancing her baggage on one shoulder. Roc, pacing and eager, ran toward them and went straight to the girl rather than Liam.

Astonished, he watched his dog nudge her as if greeting a friend. If he rose on his hind legs, he might knock her over. Liam steadied her balance.

“Roc, down! Good lad.” He patted the tall wolfhound just as she did, hands meeting, his gloved, hers pink and raw from the cold.

“He is friendly,” she said. Roc licked her hand and woofed in delight. “Perhaps he smells my hound on my clothing. He is very like her,” she added.

“He is not usually this friendly with a stranger, so he could have caught the scent of your hound.” The mention of a hound inside Dalrinnie caught his attention—he had lost his beloved hounds when his castle was taken. “Down, Roc. This way, my lady.”

“My lady? Do you know me?”

He was glad for the shadow of his coif and hood. “Would a serving maid slide out a window on silken sheets? Or wear a fine embroidered gown? Good Lord,” he said, shouldering her bags. “What is in this thing? Rocks? No, not you, Roc,” he added as the dog woofed. “I was talking to Lady Tamsin.”

She stopped. “Books in the bag. You seem to know me, but I do not know you.”

“This is Dalrinnie, and you are its lady, making an escape, is that so? If you are in some trouble, we had best not linger here. This way.” He gestured toward the trees.

She held back. “Why should I go with you?”

“Shall I drop your things here?” He stopped.

“Aye, since I do not know you or where you mean to take me.” She drew up the hood of her plaid cloak, shivering a little.

“Given the manner of your exit, someone will be looking for you soon. It seems to me you need help. So, I am helping you.”

“We shall see. But thank you.” She walked quickly past him, boots crunching on snow and bracken. In her haste, she stumbled over a tree root and fell to her hands and knees. Helping her up, Liam set an arm around her shoulders to guide her.

“You are limping,” she noticed. “Were you hurt when I fell on you?”

“Old injury,” he said.

“I am indebted to you, sirrah, truly. But have we met? You seem—familiar.” She tilted her head to look at him. He tugged at the hood of his cloak and half turned away.

“I am a knight in the king’s service.”

She gasped. “King Edward? But you do not wear the kit of an English soldier.”

“Later for that. Trust me or not.”

He had to think. Providence had dropped Lady Tamsin, as if from heaven, literally into his lap. He had come here to find the widow and the book, discovering that Sir Malise Comyn, that scoundrel, had arrived at Dalrinnie before him. By a stroke of luck, Liam had saved the lass—and she had saved him from knocking at the gate, and receiving a possible knock to the head for it with Comyn already there.

But why would she take such a desperate route? Was the Rhymer’s infamous book in her bag—or did Malise Comyn have it by now? The man had practically begged Edward to let him obtain it, though Edward, out of spite, gave the task to Liam, a prisoner, knowing he sent him back to his own castle.

First, he would get the lass to safety. Then he must sort this out.

Ahead, he heard a quiet hoot among the trees. His brother Gilchrist stepped into sight. The lady pulled back.

“They found me,” she gasped.

“Easy. He is not with the Dalrinnie garrison.” His brother’s accursed red-and-gold surcoat had alarmed her.

“Liam, hurry. Is she coming with us?” Gilchrist had likely seen the lady’s escape, but acted as if a lass dangling on a rope and falling into Liam’s arms was nothing much.

“Nay,” the lady said.

“Aye,” Liam said at the same time.

“Will you seek entrance to the castle?” Gilchrist asked.

“It is not necessary now.” The lady was in his keeping, and he would rather not bang on Dalrinnie’s gates without an army at his back.

“Who are you?” The girl looked from one to the other. “What do you want at Dalrinnie?”

“We are not Malise Comyn’s men if that worries you,” Liam said.

Her gray eyes narrowed. “How do you know Sir Malise is there?”

“Hard to miss the clamor they made riding in last night. But I came here—” He paused. “I came here for you, lass.”

“For me?” She stared up at him. Her cheeks, pink with cold, went pale.

“And since you seem eager to escape, we will do that. Come ahead.”

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