Wishing For A HighlanderBy: Jessi Gage
He’d shed his plaid with eager, shaking hands.
She’d gasped. “I canna take that! No lass could.” Seeing his confusion, she’d laughed loud as a braying ass. “Oh, poor Darcy.” She pushed out her lower lip. “Ye didna ken, did you? Ye’re made all wrong for a woman. A mare, maybe, but no’ a woman.”
The next day, his kinsmen had begun calling him Big Darcy, and ’twas how he was distinguished to this day, six years later. He’d thought ’twas merely Anya’s gossip that had made all the other lasses cast him sidelong glances and whisper behind their hands, leaving him no single soul within his clan he might offer marriage to. But this stranger had taken one look at him and had seemed to ken. That one fearful request that he not touch her had ripped open the scars of wounds he’d thought long healed.
Och, what was he doing letting memory distract him? He had a woman to get to safety and Gunn to chase off Keith land before any more blood was spilt. Content to hear her light steps not far behind, he dashed into the wood to find the cart where Archie always tended the wounded. She would be safe there. Then he could forget about her odd yet stimulating speech and her frightened, lovely face.
The sound of stumbling made him spin around. She had tripped on a root and was on her hands and knees in the leaves. A muffled cry came from behind her curtain of silvery blond hair.
He ran to her. Rejection be damned, he wasn’t about to let a lass weep on the ground if he had strength to carry her. And what man worth his salt wouldn’t have the strength to carry such a delicate thing? He sheathed his sword and lifted her slight weight.
Och, did she have to feel so warm and soft against his chest? Did the sight of Gunn blood on her woolen have to tug at him so? Damn his contrary cock for stirring at the feel of her petite, lushly curved body so close to his. Gritting his teeth, he practically ran for Archie’s cart.
He made the mistake of glancing down at her face. Smooth and fair as a polished opal, it would have been glorious as the sun itself if it hadn’t been so worrit and smudged with mud. Mud he’d pushed her into in his haste to protect her from the Gunn. No tears marred her cheeks, but her trembling lower lip, full as a rose bursting to bloom, hinted that she was trying not to weep.
Was it so awful for her to be this near to him? He quickened his pace so he could relieve her of his unwelcome touch as soon as possible.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice soft and uniquely accented with a delicate drawl.
He nodded tightly. “Dinna fash. Soon, now, and I shall leave ye be.”
Her brow wrinkled. “Where are you taking me?”
“To Archie. He tends the wounded well away from the fighting.”
“I told you, I’m not wounded.”
Though he was desperate to believe somat other than his proximity was fashing her so, he’d much rather she be disgusted with his oafish size than wounded. Relief at her insistence softened him. “Aye, well, be that as it may, ’tis still the safest place for a lass during a skirmish. Archie’ll look after you and see ye to the laird upon our return to Ackergill.”
The lass took a mighty fortifying sniff. “You mean the laird of your clan? What clan are you with? Is Ackergill the laird’s home? Is it a castle? Oh, God, I’m really in Scotland, aren’t I? What year is it?”
“Are ye certain ye arena wounded?” he asked. “Did the Gunn knock you in the head? Those are peculiar questions.”
“I suppose they are,” she said. “Would you answer them anyway? Please?”
He couldn’t refuse her, daft as it was not to ken the year or whose land she was on. “’Tis the year of our Lord 1517. Springtime, if ye lust to ken. I am Darcy Marek MacFirthen Keith. And aye, ye’re in the Highlands.”
Her eyes closed. Thick black lashes that defied her pale hair and brows fanned over her cheeks. A single sob escaped her soft lips. She whispered, “I just want to go home. Please, I just want to wake up.”
“Ye’re awake as they come,” He told her. She must have bumped her head even if she didn’t admit it. “But if there’s aught I can do to wake ye more, I shall. Is it maybe a strong tea ye need?”
The lass met his gaze with the sad emerald pools of her eyes. He nearly stumbled, forgetting to pick up his feet.
“I can’t have caffeine,” she said with a sniff. “I’ve already had a coffee today, and more than one a day isn’t good for the baby.”
More of her gibberish. Caffeine? Coffee? Baby? Did she mean a bairn? She didn’t have a bairn with her, unless–a horrible thought struck him.
“Did the Gunn take your bairn?”
The lass opened her mouth, then closed it as if she didn’t ken how to respond. At last, she said, “If you mean the man with the beard, ‘the Gunn’ didn’t take anything from me, thank you very much. I meant caffeine isn’t good for the baby–the child I’m carrying.” She shifted in his arms to lay a delicate hand on her belly.
Oh, carrying. She was with child. Christ, he could see the bulge now that he looked properly. He’d been so focused on the fighting that he’d missed what was right in front of him, an unprotected, pregnant lass–woman, he corrected. And married she must be, if with child.