on June 27th 2017
Tomas's life changed forever when at the age of seven he was adopted by Laird and Lady Maclan ending the abuse he'd suffered at Ambrose Ruthven's hand. He'd never looked back and never intended to
But fate had other plans...
Now, nineteen years later, he runs headlong into his past. The Ruthvens are in trouble and Tomas is in a position to help them. But can he set aside his hatred for Laird Ruthven for the good of the clan into which he was born?
Fate always adds a twist...
Laird Ruthven's daughter is not what Tomas expected. Vida Ruthven is sweet, smart, and utterly irresistible.
Now, Tomas must choose between being the savior or taking the ultimate revenge.
October 4, 1378
On the road, north of Perth
It was a clear, crisp evening and the moon was bright enough to illumine the road ahead of them, for which Tomas MacIan was thankful. This was their second day on the road and with the light of the moon, they could travel for several more hours before stopping for the night. The journey from Edinburgh to Duncurra could take up to seven days this time of the year, so the longer they rode tonight, the better.
He was never happier to be on the way home to Duncurra, than when he was leaving the royal court. At twenty-six, he had attended court several times before, but he never enjoyed it. The ride home was always his favorite part. This trip, like the others had been to deliver the taxes Clan MacIan owed the crown. However, this was the first time Laird Niall MacIan, the man who had adopted Tomas over nineteen years ago hadn’t made the journey. Tomas was the official representative for Laird Niall MacIan.
But because transporting large sums of money was always risky, they usually made the trip together with representatives from other, closely allied clans. This time Clan Carr and Clan MacLennan rode with them. Altogether they were a band of eighteen well-trained, warriors and much too great a force to be set upon by thieves. Of course on the road home there was less fear of that, as the taxes had been paid and they didn’t carry a significant amount of gold.
Laird Carr, who by virtue of his rank was the group’s leader, slowed his horse and held up a hand to silence them.
Sounds of a battle, yells and clanging swords from ahead were clearly audible.
Laird Carr frowned. “Someone’s been set upon by highwaymen, likely at the crossroads ahead. We’ll lend our aid.” He drew his sword and kicked his horse into a gallop motioning for them to follow.
They reached the crossroads in a minute, and sure enough, about a quarter of a mile down the road leading west, a carriage had been waylaid by a band of thieves. As the Highlanders rode hard towards them, Tomas surveyed the scene.
The men guarding the coach were not only outnumbered, but they had inferior skills. A nobleman, evidently one of the carriage occupants, stood fighting a bandit at one entrance, even as another of the miscreants, entered the other side, pulling a woman from it. She screamed and fought until the man backhanded her hard enough to stun her. Before she recovered, he had her on the back of a horse, riding away from the scene.
Tomas became furious. Seeing one of them strike a woman was enough to confirm for him who the villains were. When they reached the carriage, he skirted the battling men and continued racing down the road after the pair.
The kidnapper, riding double on a poorer mount, was easy to catch. Perhaps realizing it was his only hope of success, the man shoved the lass off the horse, drew his sword and turned to fight Tomas.
“Ye’ve already lost this battle, man,” said Tomas. “Throw down yer weapon.”
“I don’t think I will,” said the man, brandishing his sword, ready for a fight.
Tomas was deadly with a sword. He’d been trained by his uncle Fingal, who was one of the best swordsmen in the Highlands. He’d give the man one last chance. “This is yer last warning. Surrender, or die.”
“Not today. That prize is worth fighting for and I suspect I can best a Highland pup.”
It was the last mistake the highwayman ever made.
Tomas cut him down in mere moments. Then he immediately turned his attention to the woman who had moved off the road, into the trees. She stood holding on to the trunk of one for dear life. On closer inspection Tomas realized “woman” was a bit of an exaggeration. She was young, no older than his sister Beitris who had just turned eighteen.
Tomas jumped off his mount and strode toward her. “Are ye hurt, lass?”
Her eyes were wide and frightened. She shook her head, stumbling backwards a step.
Not wishing to scare her more, he stopped, several paces away from her. “Ye’ve nothing to fear. I’ll not harm ye.” He held his hand out to her. “Come then, I’ll take ye back to yer carriage. I suspect the other thieves have been dealt with.”
She nodded, took a step toward him and winced.
“Ye are hurt.”
“Aye. A little. I hurt my ankle when I hit the ground after he shoved me off the horse.”
“I’ll carry ye then.” Before she could object, he had closed the distance between them and lifted her into his arms. She was small and delicate and smelled of roses. He carried her to his great, black warhorse, Duff. “Steady now, lad, we have a precious cargo.”
He lifted her onto the beast’s back and mounted behind her. “I’m going to put an arm around ye, to steady ye, lass.”
She nodded before casting a sidelong glance at the dead highwayman. She shuddered and looked away.
Tomas clicked to Duff. Better just to get her away from here.
As they approached the carriage, the scene was no better. The thieves all lay dead. Most of the men who had been guarding the carriage were injured. But none of the Highlanders traveling with Tomas had so much as a scratch. They were patching up the wounded and dragging the dead off the road.
When the nobleman saw Tomas approach he ran towards them.
“My precious lass. Thank God you’re safe.” He lifted her down.
“Papa,” she cried, wrapping her arms around him.
He kissed her head tenderly. Then, turning to look up at Tomas said, “Thank you, sir, I am forever in your debt for saving my daughter.”
The moon illuminated the man’s face and Tomas’s blood chilled. It was Ambrose Ruthven, his adoptive mother’s uncle and the man who had nearly beaten her to death over nineteen years ago. Tomas’s back also bore the scars of Ruthven’s whip.
“Who are you, lad?” Ruthven asked.
Tomas was not about to tell Ambrose Ruthven who he really was. He answered “Sir Tomas…MacHenry.”
The other men who traveled with him gave him surprised looks. Well, it wasn’t totally untrue. Tomas’s birth father and grandfather were both named Henry. But Ruthven didn’t need to know that, or that they’d both worked in the stables at Cotharach Castle their whole lives, as had Tomas until the age of seven.
“Thank you, Sir Tomas. I’m Laird Ambrose Ruthven, and this is my daughter, Vida.” He turned towards the other men. “I owe you all a great debt.
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You have agreed to live on a desert island, alone, for one year. At the end of the year, you will be paid five million dollars. Your basic needs will be met, but you will not have access to TV, internet or any other electronic form of entertainment. You are allowed 5 books. Which ones would you take?