Hello Readers, Followers and Friends:
So masks are now required most places, but not here, so I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from historical romance, The Devil Take You, for this week's Flashback Friday Feature. Please stay well and stay safe.
Enjoy these other extracts from The Devil Take You
Once the meal and the trestles had been cleared away, the troops brought in pallets for sleeping.
As in musical chairs or Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, folks rushed to claim a mat before they were all taken. She was passed over several times, but after a nod from Marschand, one of the men handed her one.
Brae also kept watch on Robbie Cowan, who was lurking nearby. Darkness would present a whole new set of problems. She dreaded resting in the crowd. During every other siege, she had slept in a protective cocoon between her parents. But, she still had not located them. And even if she had, she knew they would not be receptive right now. Stupidly, she had taken her safety for granted. And that was the rub. Callum and her da had warned her time and again, and now she was alone.
The Dark Ones—she had nicknamed the devil’s men for lack of something better to call them—stood sentry, scattered around the perimeter of the room.
Auld Myrtle waddled over near Brae. From as far in the past as Brae could remember Myrtle had looked the same—hunched shoulders, sun-wrinkled skin, and her thick white hair plaited in the fishbone style.
Brae’s chest hurt as she watched the elderly lady struggle to get down on the ground. With work worn hands she swept the filthy rushes into a pile and was about to lie down. It was bad enough they were being forced to sleep on pallets when they had perfectly good homes to bed down in, but poor Myrtle only had the dirt floor.
Brae handed her the pallet.
“I thank ya, Braelynn. Ya always were a gud lass. Stick near me. I’ll protect ya.” She winked and showed Brae the dirk she had hidden under her wrap. “They willna mess with ya while I’m here.”
Brae returned her grin. Myrtle certainly did not take her safety for granted. She took matters into her own hands. If she got out of this, Brae might think about arming herself, especially if she ended up living alone.
Placing her back against the wall Brae slowly slid down it, her thigh throbbing. At least with her shoulders to the wall, she would have one less place to guard.
Brae wished for invisibility. She tried to curl up in a little ball and take up the least amount of space as possible, but the pain in her leg made that position impossible. Instead, she leaned against the wall and tried to rest sitting up.
She should locate Callum and explain what had happened to her, but she was too tired to move. And what on earth could she say that would convince him she still retained her innocence? There was only one way for her to prove that to him, and until they were wed—if they wed—it was not likely he would believe her.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. This had been the worst and longest day of her life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Myrtle patted her shoulder as she wept.
Gard and Hudson stood on the raised platform overseeing the multitude. The torches flickered in the sconces, making it difficult to see in the dimness.
“She’s being watched. On many fronts, Gard,” Hudson said.
“‘Tis none of my affair,” Gard replied, flicking a bit of imaginary lint from his sleeve.
“Then quit grinding your teeth,” Hudson snapped.
“Where is Cowan?” Gard asked, scanning the room, after losing sight of the scoundrel for a moment.
Grainger did the same. “He is on the other side of the old woman who sleeps on the pallet at the young girl’s feet.”
“I’ll kill him, Hud. I do not have a care to whom he is related. He will not ruin another innocent.”
“Ahh, Gard, your divine afterlife is truly in jeopardy,” Hudson said sarcastically, grinning. “Cowan knows we’re watching.”
“Good. Then perhaps all the women will be safe this night.”
It was only a matter of time before the boy could not restrain himself.
For over an hour they watched, and when Cowan finally made his move, both Gard and Hudson stepped from the podium simultaneously. Like twin shadows, they maneuvered silently through the rows of bodies. But before they could reach their destination, Cowan squealed in agony.
When they reached him, Gard looked down to find Robbie’s hand pinned to the dirt floor with the old woman’s dirk. Gard could not help but respect her quick action and foresight.
“I ken ya were na good,” she said to Robbie. Then she turned her wrath on Marschand and Grainger. “Is this how ya plan ta protect us. By lettin’ your men ruin our youngin’s? I’ve heard tell poor Braelynn ‘ere has already been attacked this day.” She sent Marschand an accusatory glare. The girl whimpered, then stared at her feet, as the wrinkled old woman broadcast her misfortune to one and all.
“Do you never learn, Cowan?” Grainger said and yanked the dirk from Robbie’s hand. He coiled up in pain and grasped his bloody hand to his chest.
“Sleep wit’ care, auld woman,” Robbie warned.
“Are ya threatenin’ me?” Myrtle’s eyes glittered.
Hudson gripped Robbie by the scruff, then all but tossed him toward the exit.
“He is not, Madame,” Hudson soothed. “I’m certain he will be truly apologetic and remorseful on the morrow.”
“Weel, I should hope so.”
“Thank ya, Myrtle,” Brae whispered.
“Ya need to take her out of here, Dark One. She be too temptin’ a jewel,” Myrtle said.
“Sleep, woman,” Gard ordered, but he grasped the young lass under the elbow and yanked her roughly to her feet.
“Ow,” she protested, but her voice faded.
Gard moved so fast, he was certain the girl’s tiptoes barely touched the floor as he raced toward the raised dais. Once there, he pushed her down onto his pallet. He most likely wouldn’t get chance to rest anyway.
“Sleep,” he commanded. Turning his back on her, he resumed surveying the room.
The unmistakable sounds of lovemaking filled the air. It set Gard on edge and made him completely and painfully aware of the woman behind him. That kind of behavior was known to produce more of the same, like a wave of sensation that moved people to act, driven by baser human instinct. Especially ones who thought their lives might be in peril.
Gard rubbed his aching temples and tried to shut out the grunts and groans from the amorous couple. The whole day had been one he would like to forget, right along with the girl at his back.
She tossed and turned, obviously unable to get comfortable.
Minutes later, her teeth began to chatter.
Gard’s patience was about at its limit. Angrily, he stripped off his cloak and covered her with it. After croaking a meek thank you, she pulled the material up to her chin.
Once more, he waited for her to quiet, and when he couldn’t stand it anymore, he lay down beside her.
Her eyes widened as he draped the wrap over the two of them.
Without a word he glared in return, waiting for her to acquiesce. “I willna hurt ya,” he pledged—though he honestly couldn’t guarantee the vow—but the lie seemed to work and she calmed somewhat.
Yet her constant trembling got on his last nerve. He wanted to draw her nearer and provide the warmth of his body she so plainly sought. She snuggled further under the cloak, bombarding his senses with her scent.
Finally, he yanked her against him, chest to chest. She stiffened, unyielding.
“Sleep!” he growled.
Gard gritted his teeth as she nestled against him. She had no idea how close she was to violence.
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