Wishing For A HighlanderBy: Jessi Gage
Och, and he’d pushed her in the mud and lain atop her to hide her lightly-colored woolen from the approaching Gunn. What if he’d hurt her or the bairn? He’d owe her husband compensation if so. And he’d never forgive himself.
Size might have its advantages when it came to fighting, but those few boons fell far short of making up for the problems it caused. Being the biggest and the strongest had gotten him into far more trouble than it had gotten him out of. Swallowing his regret for how careless he’d been with her, he sought to determine whom she belonged to, whom, saints forbid, he might owe.
“Whose wife are ye, then? Not a Gunn’s or I wouldna have had to rescue you from one.”
“I’m not married,” the lass said. “And thank you for the rescuing, by the way. I can’t believe I dropped the dirk. Stupid.” She shook her head.
His heart warmed at her thanks. He didn’t hear many kind words from the lasses and would take what he could get, even from a dishonored woman who had caught a bairn out wedlock. Oddly, he didn’t think poorly of her. Whether it was her worried brow, her guileless, soft mouth, or her vulnerable size, he had not the heart to condemn her.
He didn’t even mind so much that she found him distasteful for his size, although talking with her now, she didn’t seem overly upset to be in his arms. He endeavored to keep her talking, keep her distracted from her disgust.
“Ye never answered my first question,” he said. “Who are you? And where are ye from if ye’re no’ English?”
“Ugh. I don’t know. Is there an answer that won’t get me burned at the stake or locked up in a ward for the hopelessly insane?”
Like most things out of her mouth, that had been a peculiar answer. “Ye could try the truth,” he offered, slowing his pace since he heard Archie’s voice not far off.
“No,” she said flatly. “I couldn’t. At least not the whole truth. How about we just go with my name, Melanie, and with the honest fact that I’m a long way from home and I have no idea how to get back.” Her green eyes pierced his. “I’m afraid you might be stuck with me, Darcy Keith.”
He’d pushed her into a bush, shoved her in the mud, squished her with his excessively-muscled body and trudged off into the woods with those tree-trunk legs of his, leaving her to jog after him in bloody, mud-caked, nettle-riddled clothes, and all it took for her to forgive him was seeing that vulnerable look in his warm brown eyes. That and the fact she could feel those tiny flutters of movement deep in her womb that meant her baby was coping admirably with the abuse her body had taken in the last half hour.
It was almost tempting to feel relief.
But true relief would only come once she figured out how to get home. She didn’t have much in Charleston, but what she had she’d worked hard for and was darned proud of: a few close friends, a small but neat apartment, a job that made up in intellectual stimulation what it lacked in pay, a routine. Her mom and dad were just a five-hour drive away in Atlanta.
What was happening back there while she was here? Was her time going on without her, or had none of her life even happened yet? Was she certifiable for even considering such a question?
As much as she wanted to wrap herself in the cozy blanket of denial, her gut told her that option was long gone. This place was real, and she was really in it. She had disappeared from her workbench at the museum when that box had opened.
Of course. She’d made a wish and the box had granted it. It was the only possible explanation for what had happened. And if it had dumped her five hundred years in the past because of a bone-headed wish she’d made partly in jest, surely it would return her if she asked it nicely.
She needed that box.
She hadn’t seen it back at the boulder, but she hadn’t exactly been looking for it either. She had to go look. It had to be there. It just had to.
She opened her mouth to tell Darcy to take her back, but got a mouthful of evergreen needles.
He shouldered his way through a wall of trees, apparently oblivious to the reaching branches catching at her clothes and hair. Stupid box. This wasn’t even what she’d wished for. Sure, Darcy was gorgeous, but he was no romantic hero. He might look the part, but to play the role respectably, he’d need serious lessons in chivalry. Lesson number one: no pushing the heroine in mud puddles. And who’d ever heard of a pregnant heroine, anyway?
C’mon, box. It wasn’t a serious wish. Send me home, for the love of all things Scottish.
Before she could ask Darcy to take her back to the boulder, he set her on her feet in front of a circle of six men in various states of undress and injury. A rickety wagon with no horse occupied the far side of the small clearing. The most able-bodied of the group, a wiry red-haired man, dashed around, wrapping wounds and refilling flasks from a barrel in the wagon. That must be Archie. Grinning over a huge abdominal abrasion, he declared the wounded man needed naught but a daily vinegar rinse and a healing tup with his wife. Looking up, he noticed them.
“Hail, Big Darcy,” he greeted with a booming, cheerful burr. “What have ye brought me?”