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Highland Devil (Murray Family #22)

By:Hannah Howell


Gybbon gently stroked her face and tucked the few stray locks of her  hair that had come loose from her braid behind her ears. "Time to go  inside."

They slipped in with only one lone kitchen maid noticing them and then  went up the stairs. By the time they reached the top of the stairs,  Gybbon had his arm around her waist. They had reached her door when he  suddenly pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

Mora let herself sink into the kiss and enjoyed the heat it stirred  within her. She knew what he wanted and she was uneasy. A large part of  her wanted it, too, but she was neither a widow nor a tavern maid and  she knew she should not. There had been no words of love or even need.  No promises she could cling to for a future.

Then she thought of all that had happened. What good were promises to  her when she had a man determined to kill her? She was filled with a  grief and anger that had little place to go and his kisses eased all  that, gave her a moment to forget them. He was evidently a man who liked  to wander and she was one who ached to settle. So what harm was there  in allowing herself to just forget all of it in his arms?

He looked at her and she was certain there was a question in his eyes. A  strong reckless and rebellious part of her rose up to answer that  question and she opened her door. His eyes widened when she tugged him  into her room. Delighted by his surprise, she curled her arms around his  neck and kissed him with all the fierce desire she had fought to keep  under control … .

Chapter One

The way her cousins burst into the house startled and frightened Mora.  She paused in doing up her cloak. "What do ye want?" she demanded as she  pushed Andrew behind her.

"We want ye gone," answered Robert, the eldest.

"Why? I have a right to stay here and hold the house for my brothers'  return." She felt a chill at the look that crossed Robert's face.

"We can hold it for them. Now that your parents are dead, 'tis nay right  for ye to stay here alone. How will ye fare with no one bringing in  some coin?"

"The goats give me milk and I will have cheese to make and sell. 'Tis nay a bountiful living, but it will serve."

Robert looked at his brothers and nodded toward the back door. All three  went in that direction. Mora tried to stop them, but Robert paused long  enough to backhand her in the face, and she fell. She was just  scrambling to her feet when she heard the first goat scream. Keeping an  eye on Murdoch, who rushed out the door and tried to stop what his  brothers were doing, she grabbed the bag she had packed for young  Andrew, handed it to him, and hurried over to a window to lift him out.

"Run with the goats if any get away. Go to Aunt Maggie."

"But ye should come, too," Andrew said. "We were supposed to stay together."

"Go. I will come when I can. Go!"

She watched him run to the woods and a moment later saw several of her  goats bolting into the woods as well. Pleased her cousins had not killed  all the animals, she turned around and saw a badly battered Murdoch  leaning against the side of the door frame, watching her.

The elder three brothers came stomping back into the house, and she  tensed. "Ye shouldnae have killed my animals. Glad some of them kenned  the danger and fled."

"Ye willnae be able to gather them all back anyway," sneered Robert as  he walked toward her. "Now we have taken care of your parents and your  cursed goats."

Shock turned her blood cold and she said in a voice softened by horror,  "It wasnae thieves. It was ye who killed my parents. Ye probably took  what they had earned for their goods as well."

Robert laughed. "Of course we did. And it showed they had a good day at  the market. They had no need of it and ye willnae either. And, curse it,  where is that wee brat Andrew?"

"Ye expect me to tell ye where he is when ye have just admitted to killing our parents?"

"Aye, and if ye dinnae, we can easily make ye want to tell us anything."

"I think people would frown on ye torturing your own cousin, especially if that person is a newly orphaned girl."

"Nay when they are told ye are a thief and a killer."

"What nonsense is that? I have stolen nothing and killed no one."

"Ye stole money from our da and ye killed the mon who was caring for him."

"William has died? How did that happen?" She forced herself to speak  calmly although she was deeply shocked. "He was verra hale and hardy  when I last saw him."

"Aye, right before ye stabbed him with a sword ye stole from me, along  with some coin our da had in a wee wooden box that has a carved dragon  on the lid."         



The description of the wooden box with money in it told her they had  robbed her of her father's small savings. She also knew they did not  have it, for it was stuffed deep in the bag she had packed. Mora  suspected they had killed poor William, too, or Robert had, and she had  the chilling feeling the man had died because he had suspected that the  laird's illness was being caused by something being given to him. Worse,  it was something his own son was doing.

"Ye have gone mad, havenae ye?"

Robert grabbed her by the arm, and it was so shocking, and painful, she  could not silence a cry. She heard a recognizable hiss even as she saw  her small cat leap upon Robert's face, her little paws scratching  furiously at him. Robert screamed and his brothers Duncan and Lachlan  started to rush to his side even as Robert grabbed little Freya and  hurled her toward the fireplace. Since he had released her in his vain  attempt to protect his face, Mora ran and grabbed the animal.

When she saw Murdoch signal with a motion of his head that she should  run, she did not hesitate, but Robert still tried to stop her, grabbing  her by the wrist and lashing out with a knife. He did not manage to stab  her as he had clearly intended, but she knew he had scraped the flesh  on her side for it stung and she could feel that there was some wetness,  telling her that it bled. Breaking free of Robert, she then raced to  the door while his brothers reached his side and clumsily tried to help  him. He was screeching as if he had just been gutted.

She grabbed the bag she had packed, and while still in motion, shoved  Freya inside and kept on running. The moment she espied a good place to  hide, she ducked into the bushes and burrowed deep into the brush.  Pulling the hood of her cloak up, she nestled down in the undergrowth  all the while praying they would not search too hard for her. The light  was fading as the sun began to set, so she also prayed that would  produce enough shadow to keep her hidden. Once she was sure they had  left, she would begin the long trip to Dubheidland and the distant  relatives her mother had always insisted would help her. Mora was not  sure what the Camerons could do to help her, or even if they would  accept her word that the crimes Robert tried to hang her with were lies,  but she had no other choices.

Night descended on Mora Ogilvy like a heavy fog, stealing the light and  some of the warmth, and she shivered. She reached into the bag she  carried and lightly scratched her cat's ears. The animal licked her hand  and Mora sighed. It had been silly to bring her cat with her. She knew  few people would understand, especially if they knew what she had risked  to accomplish it. She shifted back, deeper into the bushes she was  crouching in. Fear still gnawed at her, but she almost welcomed its  sharp teeth because it kept her alert, something Mora felt sure would  help her stay alive.

She could not be certain how long her cousins would chase after her, or  how hard. Considering how often she had to dart off the road and hide,  it would be months before she reached Dubheidland. The way Robert had  carried on about his face, she suspected he would insist on someone  tending to the wounds soon, and that should delay the hunt for her.  There were also a lot of dangers for a woman walking the roads and  pathways alone, especially at night. Mora wished she had been able to  grab a horse to flee on, but she had barely gotten herself and her  little brother away.

Thinking of her little brother, Andrew, made her start to cry, but she  hastily wiped the tears away. He was only seven-a surprise child, their  mother had called him-and he was so smart. He had not argued much when  she had told him to run to the woman they fondly called Aunt Maggie and  tell her what was happening. Mora just prayed she had not put the woman  in danger, too.

It was time to move on, she decided as she stood up and closed her bag.  The moon was now out, so she had some faint light to see by. It was not  as much light as she would like, but she suspected too many rests by the  side of the road would be risky. She had already had to duck into the  undergrowth of the forest or into the hedgerows several times because  she heard someone approaching.

Unable to resist, she opened her bag and her pet immediately stuck her  head out, eager to look around. "I am verra glad that ye are so small,  Miss Freya, as I suspicion I will be carrying ye the whole way."