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Loving Her Highlander Thief -- Maeve Greyson

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Loving Her Highland Thief
Time to Love a Highlander – Book One

Stay? Lose all she’s ever known. Go? Lose the love of a lifetime.

As a struggling, 21st century farmer, Kenzie MacMartin knows if she doesn’t recover that registered ram that cost her a bundle, her dog won’t be the only one howling in the Highlands. And to make matters worse, when she chases that fool sheep through a cave, she discovers a troupe of trespassing re-enactors mucking up her land with some kind of clan skirmish complete with realistic weapons, monstrous warhorses, and a restless herd of Highland cows. The only upside is their strikingly handsome leader—until he kidnaps her.

Mathias Stronach questions his sanity in laying claim to the strangely dressed woman and her vicious wee dog. Perhaps he should have let the MacPhersons take her prisoner. Then, she would’ve distracted them instead of him. Such daring and fire in this feisty lass. He’d bet his best dagger; her passions burn just as fiercely. And that fine round backside of hers nestled between his thighs as they ride. Makes a man think twice about choices he’s made. Like promising to marry a woman he’s never loved so he can be the next chieftain of Clan Stronach.

When Kenzie realizes she’s barged into the thirteenth century, her priority is getting back to that cave and hoping if she retraces her steps, she’ll find her way back home. But vengeful clans, a medieval sociopath, and the mesmerizing warrior who draws her in like a bee to sweet clover thwarts that priority at every turn. Her head knows better. Her heart refuses to listen.

She misses her family, is worried about her farm, and would kill for coffee and a toothbrush. But those aren’t the worst things about traveling back several centuries. The worst thing is loving a man who, once she returns to her time, will have been dead for over eight hundred years.

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excerpt

Highlands of Scotland

An unknown cave near Loch Lochy

Late April 2019 

“Ramsay! Back here, ye devil!” Kenzie MacMartin leveraged her way past a jagged boulder, clambering over it with the aid of her shepherd’s crook. “Brodie, hie to the right. Back to me now.”

Brodie, her devoted black and white border collie and best friend in all the world, skittered around, over, and through the stony obstacles of the ravine in hot pursuit of the most stubborn ram Kenzie had ever known. And the most expensive too. The prize blackface had cost her so much she’d be eating nothing but neeps and tatties for a while. The wicked animal was also an escape artist. She had yet to find a fence or barn that could hold him when he decided to break free and go exploring.

The fugitive in question paused several yards ahead, looked back, and baa’d long and loud, like a bratty child chanting neener neener.

“If ye hadna cost me so much, ye’d be mutton stew this Sunday!” She scrambled over a downed tree uprooted by sizable chunks of stone that pushed up through its root system like the ruins of an ancient cathedral. She hopped downward and sank ankle deep in the sandy muck left behind by spring rains. Thank goodness for thick socks and her bright red wellies.

“Brodie! Hie to me! Quick now!” If the dog could head the ram off and turn him, it would be so much better. The farther the woolly escapee forged, the more cave like the area became. Up ahead, it looked as though earth and rock met and closed over the ravine, making the recovery of the pedigreed stud promised to sire more livestock next to impossible. If she returned to the farm for a lantern, who knew where the creature would get to by the time she got back?

An angry baa and a loud thunk told her the ram wasn’t in the mood to cooperate. The herd dog parried with the stubborn beast, all the while doing his best to turn him. The sheep ran at the canine, then came to an abrupt halt, lifted his head as though harkening to a call, then spun about and bolted deeper into the maze of stone. Brodie paused and looked back at her, waiting for the signal to either give chase or relinquish the animal to the cavern gods.

Kenzie waved him on. She couldn’t afford to give up now. When the sandy mud ebbed away to solid ground, she appreciated the end of slogging through mire, but didn’t care for the sight up ahead. The washed-out ravine had become the worrisome trial she had feared. Grand spires of squared off stone, crude black obelisks streaked with veins of sparkling quartz, connected at the top like hands folded in prayer. Narrow beams of sunlight filtered down through the cracks, lighting a cave like enclosure she had never realized was there. The earth displaced by the great rocks clung over them, nurturing a lush layer of moss, ferns, and small trees that concealed the place from the glen above.

Both dog and ram had gone out of sight, but their sounds echoed back to her. She had to retrieve that stupid animal or Da and her brothers would never let her live it down. Staff in hand, she stomped the gloppy mud off her galoshes, then forged onward. She would get that infernal sheep returned to his pen if she had to herd him across all of Scotland.

Even though walking became easier, she tapped out the path with the crook to make certain she didn’t fall through any fissures hidden by the shadows. She prayed no clouds blew in and blocked the shafts of sunshine lighting the way, or she’d be trapped in darkness until light returned.

“Brodie!”

His answering yip eased her mind a bit. But sounds seemed distorted now. The tap of her staff. The thunk of her steps. Nothing sounded like it should. She worked her jaws and swallowed, trying to pop her ears. An odd buzzing filled the air. She couldn’t tell if it came from somewhere in the cave or from up above in the overgrowth covering the strange place. A glance back at the opening caused her head to spin.

She blinked hard to clear her sight, then frowned. The sun-dappled ravine rippled and shimmered with what looked like heat waves rising from blistering hot pavement. That made no sense. While it was a fine spring day, by no means was it warm enough for that. She had even worn her thermals and sturdy farm jacket because of a lingering nip in the wind.

After rubbing her eyes, she pressed her temples and tried to pop her ears again. At this rate, she’d soon be losing her lunch. The sudden nausea reminded her of the time she had gotten airsick. The queasiness felt the same.

“Brodie! Back to me! Come, lad!” They would wait in the ravine for the fool ram to decide he was ready to come home. They had to get out of this cave. The place must have a buildup of some sort of gases. Whatever it was, she didn’t like it.

Uneasiness overrode the nausea when no response answered her call. That never happened. “Brodie!” she shouted louder. Moving faster, she squinted through the murky darkness as she edged between and under overhangs of stone. The way opened up, making breathing easier, but the uncomfortable pressure building inside her head was worse.

Another series of hard swallows didn’t ease the sensation, nor did coughing, or sticking her fingers in her ears then popping them out. Violent shivering took over, and she broke out in a cold sweat. A telltale throbbing right under the hinge of her jaws warned her. The bread and jam she’d had for lunch came out with such force; it left her sagging against a stone. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then fumbled through the multiple pockets of her canvas coat, searching for a tissue.

“Jings alive, we have to get out of here. Fast.” She held her head, gasping to catch her breath. Cave gases. Had to be. Sheep or no sheep, she and the dog had to leave. “Brodie, come to me! Now, lad. Come.”

A noise she didn’t expect answered her call. Not her precious dog’s bark, but what sounded like—

“Nah, it canna be. I’ve gone barmy with the foul air.” She pushed off the rock, steadying herself with her shepherd’s crook. “Brodie, come,” she repeated, but it came out so weak, she doubted the sweet lad heard her. That doubt brought a smile. Nay. He heard. Many a time, when training him as a wee pup, he had responded to the softest whisper. Her precious dog was pure dead brilliant.

The noise that could only be described as sounding like the reenactment battle she had watched at Bannockburn festival came to her again. Clash of steel. Loud bangs of shield hitting shield. Roared curses and shouts. While she massaged her throbbing temples, outrage took hold and grew. This was her land. Her family’s land. Da hadn’t leased it to any re-enactors. “We’ll see about this.” She pushed through the nausea and headache and charged forward.

The cave split off into three potential routes. She listened at each of the tunnels, straining to pick up on any clues. “Brodie!” A curt bark turned her to the passage farthest to the right. Less and less light filtered through from… wherever. It wasn’t coming from above anymore, but for some odd reason, she could still see well enough to continue on. The battle sounds grew louder, heating her blood. Those fools better have proof of who had given them permission to come onto her land. If not, she would have their arses thrown in jail and their vehicles impounded. Especially if they’d buggered up her meadow.

A joyous bark greeted her as she wormed her way free of the tight tunnel. Brodie bounded to her, his tongue hanging out the side of his smiling mouth. She bent and gathered him into a hug. “Good, lad. At least ye’re all right. That’s all that matters.”

An indignant, grumbling baa disagreed. The ram stomped his front feet as though throwing a tantrum for attention.

“So, ye decided to stop playing chase, did ye?”

The animal marched over and nosed her jacket pocket, tossed his head, then bumped her again.

“No, sir. Ye’ve earned no treats.” She stamped her cane, then tapped it against his rump to get him moving. “Ye’ll have yer feed and water this evening and be thankful for it.” Pointing to what looked like an opening of wondrous daylight up ahead, she waved Brodie forward. “Away wi’ him, my fine lad. We’ll take the long way home as soon as we settle our business with these trespassers.”

The dog nipped at the ram’s heels, herding him into a fast trot toward the sunshine.

From the sound of it, the battling had increased to a raging frenzy. Kenzie halted just outside the mouth of the cave, surveying the area. Her anger shot to a bloody fury.

Clots of her precious land filled the air, kicked up by charging horses that looked to be Shires or Clydesdales. Whatever they were, the monstrosities were huge. And cattle! Where had those Highland cows come from? At least a dozen or more of the hairy beasts milling about as the men played their game of swords. How had they brought in all these animals?

“I bet they’ve rutted the place with their trucks and trailers. It’s too wet to be driving in these fields!” The nearest road was over a kilometer away. She shuddered to think of the damage they had done. 

A nearby roar made her step farther out of the cave in time to see one man slash another across the chest. The wounded actor fell from his horse with a red streak staining the front of his dingy yellow tunic. It looked realistic enough. She’d give them that.

Whipping out her cell phone, she powered it on and tapped her father’s speed dial. Da had several constable friends. They’d take care of this blatant vandalism. For that’s what this was. Pure disregard and destruction of her land.

‘No Service’ flashed across its screen.

“Still?” She held it higher and turned in a circle as if that might somehow help. “Bloody hell,” she muttered, tapping on the contraption.

Brodie interrupted, transforming into a snarling protective beast. Ramsay joined in, rumbling with the furious sound he only made when protecting his ewes.

Kenzie shoved her phone back into her pocket and whirled to face whatever had triggered their reactions.

A wild-eyed man, sword raised and costumed as if he belonged somewhere in Scotland’s long ago history, slunk toward her.

“Who gave ye permission to play yer games on my land?” She resettled her stance and readied her staff. If this idiot thought to scare her, the trespasser would be disappointed. If he wanted a battle, she’d gladly oblige him. With five rough-housing brothers, she knew how to fight to win.

“Games?” the man snarled. “MacPhersons dinna play games when it comes to thievery.” He loomed closer, sword still ready. The wind picked up, whipping his long brown hair to one side and carrying his stench to her.

“Shew! Ye go all out in yer reenactments, dinna ye? Did ye roll in pig shite to smell like that?” Surely, he hadn’t dyed that tunic yellow with urine to be that historically accurate. But the powerful stink of piss added another level to his disgusting body odor.

The man glared at her. Then he charged. “Ye’ll be coming with me,” he shouted and lifted his weapon higher. “The Stronachs can pay for this insult with one of their women!”

“Are ye on feckin’ drugs?” She parried, avoiding the slash of his heavy swordand countering with an effective hit of her staff, cracking it across the back of his neck. Her animals jumped into the fray. Brodie sank his teeth into the man’s thigh while Ramsay took out the trespasser’s other leg at the knee.

The enraged actor rolled as he fell, beating at her precious beasts with his sword.

“If ye hurt my babies, I’ll kill ye!” Kenzie bore down on him, whacking the fool with the seasoned hardwood crook Granddad had given her. It worked for many things besides herding sheep. “Drop yer weapon! Now!”

“She’s thrashing yer arse for ye, Ellar,” shouted someone from behind.

Kenzie didn’t let up in her fight. A glance over her shoulder assured that the trio of grinning men weren't an immediate threat. She’d deal with them later. First, this idiot trying to hurt her pets needed some sense and manners beat into him. She leapt and attacked from the rear, scoring a well-placed hit that caught him dead in the bollocks.

He roared in pain, and the sword fell from his hand.

“I’d say yer done, Ellar,” observed one of the men in her audience.

“Aye, and yer guard’s deserted ye,” called out another. “Already gathered yer wounded and rode off. Dinna ye think ye’d best give up and be on yer way as well?”

On hands and knees, Ellar bared his yellowed teeth and gave Kenzie a murderous glare. “This isna over,” he hissed, spitting blood with every word.

“Ye’re right. It isna over,” she agreed. “Brodie, hie to me.”

The dog unlatched his jaws from the man and goaded the ram to stand behind her. One foot planted on Ellar’s sword, she took out her cell and pointed it at him. “As soon as I get a signal, the constable will take care of yer drugged-out, trespassing arse.” She frowned down at the phone. Still no bars. She’d thought sure she had gotten a decent signal at this end of the glen before.

“This yer witch?” Ellar growled to the three observers as he held his crotch and tried to stand.

“Aye, we’ll be claiming her,” said the largest of the trio.

That one had long dark hair too, but it looked a great deal cleaner and had been pulled back from his face and tied. The historical look suited him and made Kenzie wish he wasn’t a bloody trespasser. She wouldn’t mind sharing a dram or two and getting to know this one if he hadn’t already proven himself to be such a disrespectful arse.

The actor strode forward, smiling as he lifted both hands to show he bore no weapons. Amusement gleamed in the light coloring of his eyes. Gray or maybe blue. She couldn’t decide.

“Mathias Stronach at yer service, m’lady.”

Her confidence wavered the slightest bit. He looked like a bodybuilder. On steroids. Taller than most men she knew, and bigger than any she had trained with in her self-defense classes. Chest so broad, the linen of his tunic stretched taut across it. She could almost hear the threads screaming with the strain. Narrow waist. Leather belt riding low, sporting not one but two swords, one long and one shorter. His massive legs bulged with muscle, their sculpted cording visible through his snug leggings. This actor was definitely a feast for the eyes.

With a slow rotation of her shepherd’s crook, she squared her shoulders. He might be big as a mountain and a beauty to behold, but she had speed and determination on her side. “I’m Kenzie MacMartin, and this is my land. By what right do ye play yer games here and tear up my meadow?”

His dark brows drew together, matching the confused tilt to his head. “Yer land?”

“Aye, MacMartin land. It’s still in my Da’s name, but his solicitor’s got the papers showing where this part comes to me when he passes.” She stopped working the staff, but kept it clutched in front of her. Why was she explaining herself? She wasn’t the trespasser. “Answer me. Who gave ye permission to be here?” She pointed the crook at the bedraggled field, now peaceful and empty except for the herd of cows and other men who had ridden closer to eavesdrop. “Look at the mess ye’ve made of my glen. And cows? Cows where my sheep are to graze? This isna the dark ages anymore. Ye canna be using someone’s farmland without their leave.”

“She’s tetched as old Annag,” remarked a man not quite as large, but still bigger than most.

Mathias shot him a silencing look, then returned to studying her. He scrubbed his fingers through the stubble of reddish-brown beard shadowing his jaw. “Ye speak strange, lass.” He looked her up and down, head tilting the other way now. He frowned when his gaze hit her bright red rubber boots. “Ye dress even stranger.”

“I dress strange?” She tugged on her jacket, then pointed at his garb. “When ye’re not playing yer games, do ye wear that everywhere?” The swords at his side caught her attention. “Have much trouble going into the shops with those?”

“Throw her on yer horse and be done with it,” said the third of the original trio, the one closest in stature and build to Mathias. He strode forward, a sour look on his face. With a jab of his finger at Ellar, he growled, “Hie yer arse back to yer chief. We’ve reclaimed what is ours.”

“As I said,” Ellar threatened. “This isna over.” His attention shifted to his sword still under Kenzie’s boot.

“Dinna even think about it.” She leaned toward him with a warning swish of her cane.

Ellar backed away until the length of several long strides stretched between them, then turned and took off with a fast-limping hop.

“Ye said his name was Ellar?” She tapped on the notes app on her phone. “Ellar what? I’ll need his full name for the constable.”

“Ellar MacPherson,” Mathias replied, sounding as though he’d found a puzzle he couldn’t solve. He nodded toward the phone. “What is that in yer hand?”

He had to be joking. Trying to throw her off guard so she wouldn’t set the constable on them. Even though the man was a pleasure to look at, he’d soon find out she wasn’t a pushover for some handsome, silver-tongued devil.

“Ye can drop the act.” She typed both his name and Ellar’s into her phone, then turned to the others. “Names?” She’d turn every one of them in and see that they paid for any damages.

The two looked at Mathias. He shrugged. “Give her yer names.”

The sour-faced jerk who had suggested she be thrown over a horse gave a defiant tip of his chin. “Bhaltair MacSorley.”

“Eumann MacVail,” said the heavyset man next to him. His crooked nose and lopsided smile possessed a charm all their own and more than made up for his tubby appearance.

“And the rest of ye?” she said to the horsemen who had moved closer to observe from their mounts.

“Moray Cleireach,” called out the rider farthest to the right.

“Lyle,” said the next one, then added an air kiss and a wink. “Lyle Stronach.”

Apparently, the Stronach family thought flirting would get them off scot-free. She typed the name and placed an asterisk by it. She looked up. “And yerself?”

“Ruari Stronach, m’darling. Best of the lot of them.” This one resembled Mathias. She wondered if he was a brother or something. He waved her forward, then grabbed his crotch. “Ride with me, lass. I’ll keep ye safe and warm. Ye have m’word.”

Kenzie ignored the rude offer and eyed the next man. “Name?”

“Hew MacVail.” The gravelly voiced rider cleared his throat and spit. His mount pranced from side to side as he shifted in the saddle. “We’re wasting daylight and risking the MacPherson’s return with more men. Their chief willna bear the thrashing Ellar just took at the hands of a mere woman. We need to move, aye?”

Mere woman? Kenzie placed an asterisk beside MacVail’s name too. He’d pay double for that remark. She fixed her scowl on the last trespasser. “Name?”

“Ye’ll nay have my name,” the twitchy little man retorted. He jerked a nod at the phone. “I dinna ken what that there thing is, but ye’ll nay be stirring my likeness into it to help ye with yer spell casting.”

“May I present Daw MacSorley,” Bhaltair said with a taunting flip of one hand. “My only brother and, as ye can tell, the bravest in all of Clan Stronach.” He blew out a long, bored huff, then turned to Mathias. “I’m all for a bit of levity to lighten our days, but Hew’s right. We need to be moving. Throw her on yer horse and be done with it, aye?”

“Throw me on a horse?” Kenzie powered off her phone to conserve its battery and shoved it in her pocket. She hefted her shepherd’s crook in both hands and pointed it at the men. “I advise ye to get yer arses and yer livestock the hell off my land. Now.”

“Or what?” Bhaltair growled as he stormed forward.

Mathias blocked him. “Enough.” His jaw tightened as he made a curt tip of his head toward the horses. “Hie to yer mounts and leave her to me, aye?” He eyed the dog and ram. “Her and her animals. The rest of ye tend the cows. The Stronach will be pleased when he sees we’ve recovered so many.”

“I’m sure the lass would rather ride with me,” Ruari crooned in a tone that made Kenzie remember which pocket held her pen knife. It might be small, but it’d do well enough at splitting that arrogant fool’s bawbag.

“I said,” Mathias repeated in a voice rumbling deep as thunder. Somehow, it made him seem even larger. “Tend the stock. I will handle her.” He stared down the men with a fearsome scowl that left no doubt who was in charge.

Each of them gave an obedient nod. Their defiance checked, they mounted and went to the herd, urging the hairy, ruddy-coated beasts into a southwesterly walk.

“Hie to me, Brodie,” Kenzie whispered, easing backward into the mouth of the cave. She wasn’t confident to the point of being foolish. While she believed she might cause significant damage, she doubted she could best Mathias one on one. He seemed more intelligent and a great deal more agile than Ellar MacPherson. But if she could reach the tunnels, she would have it made. The cave’s tight twists and turns would be hard for a man his size to manage with any ease or speed.

“Heel, lad,” she breathed out softly. The collie stepped to her left and surprisingly enough, the ram followed suit.

Mathias turned to her, his ferocity fading into a pained frown. He held out a hand. “I dinna wish to hurt ye, lass. Come.”

“The only place I’m going is home.” She took another step backward. “Leave me be, aye? Or the trespassing charge will be the least of yer worries once my Da and brothers get hold of ye.” He appeared to have a kind, sensible vibe about him. Surely, now that his cohorts were busy with the cows, he’d see the reasonable thing to do was leave her alone and join them.

He took another step toward her. “Word will be sent to yer kin, so they know ye are at Stronach Keep. They can collect ye there.”

Her devoted dog rumbled a warning growl that clicked low and ominous. Hackles raised and head lowered, the collie stood ready to lunge. The ram grumbled, stomping from side to side behind her.

Mathias eyed her defenders, his jaw flexing as though this chore had turned out to be a lot more difficult than it should. “I shall see that ye’re… that both yerself and yer animals are kept safe.” He waved her forward. “Come, lass. Ye can either join me willingly and ride in comfort, or travel like a sack of grain tossed over my horse. The choice is yers.”

She spun and ran, determined to make the tunnel. A glance back stopped her. Brodie and the ram stood fast, blocking the man’s way, the canine with its teeth bared and the sheep with its great curved horns lowered.

“’Tis admirable yer beasts will die for ye,” Mathias observed in a chilling tone. Slow and steady, he drew a sgian dhu from each boot. He flipped the daggers and held them by their blade tips. He lifted both hands and stared down at the dog and sheep. “Will ye sacrifice them then and continue with yer escape?”

She knew what Da would say. And each of her five brothers. They’re just animals, Kenzie. Dinna be a tenderhearted fool. She couldn’t help it. It was who she was. A tenderhearted fool. And Mathias, damn him straight to hell, had spotted that weakness and used it.

“Dinna hurt them.” She meant to sound strong, but her voice cracked, and the words came out like a plea. “Please,” she added, forcing the word through clenched teeth.

“Then come with me.” He held steady; daggers ready, steely glare locked with hers.

“First, tell me where we’re going.” If these over-achieving re-enactors were stupid enough to leave her with her phone, she’d call for help as soon as she reached somewhere with a bloody signal.

His hardened air softened. “I told ye. Stronach Keep.” He bent and shoved the daggers back in his boots without taking his gaze off her. With a worried squint, he straightened and motioned her forward. “Are ye unwell, lass?”

“There is no such place as Stronach Keep,” she countered. And there wasn’t. Unless Stronach Keep was the name of their acting team’s building. Her hopes rose. If they passed an inn or one of the tourists stops in Gairlochy or Stronaba, she could make a call through Wi-Fi. Da would have a conniption fit about this. So would her brothers. Her riding off with this oversized ox and his gang was lunacy itself. But she had no choice, and a gut-feeling told her he was safe enough. Instinct had never failed her before. She prayed it wasn't wrong now. “Where are we going, really? Fort William? Kinlochleven maybe?”

“Stronach Keep,” he said again, repeating the words slowly. “Glen Loy.” He glanced down at the animals. “The journey will take us a few days, what with the coos and yer beasties there.” The sentiment in his forced smile didn’t reach his eyes, making her second guess everything. “But no harm will come to ye. Ye have my word.”

No harm would come to her? Why had he added that again? Were some of his men dangerous? She bet that Ruari one was. And Bhaltair. Both looked like trouble. “A few days?” she repeated.

“Aye.” He glanced at his horse then back at her. “Come.”

A few days. That meant they’d stop at one of the hunting lodges. Many of those promised Wi-Fi as a selling point to prospective travelers. She lifted her chin, pulled in a deep breath, and blew it out. “Fine, then.” With a single tap of her shepherd’s crook, she strode forward, giving the collie the hand signal that let him know to stand down. “Well done, Brodie lad. Close now, boy.”

The dog shifted from fierce protector to all business, spurring the ram into a quick trot beside Kenzie.

“Braw animal ye have there,” Mathias said with another placating smile that tempted her to smack him right between the eyes. In fact, if she hit him hard enough with the hardwood crook, she and the beasties could make the tunnels before he recovered.

“Dinna try it, lass,” he warned, snatching the staff away before she could put the thought into action.

“Give that back! It was my Granddad’s!” She flew it him, not caring that she sounded like a spoiled child fighting for a toy. “Give it to me now!”

Her best spinning kick thumped hard against his muscular gut, bending him forward slightly but otherwise causing minor damage. Quick as a cat, he caught hold of her ankle and flipped her to the ground. She leapt to her feet, ready for more.

The collie joined in, aiming for the man’s leg. Mathias booted the dog while beating off the ram with the cane. “Dammit, woman! Ye can have yer wee stick when ye’ve enough sense not to use it as a weapon.” He kicked harder. Brodie yelped and tumbled across the ground, but jumped up and came back for more. “Call them off or it’s my sword for them next.” To add weight to his words, he unsheathed the lethal blade that looked more deadly than any reenactment prop. He pointed it at her. “And then I’ll be taking the flat of it to yer arse!”

“Brodie! Ramsay! Come to me.” Dammit, she didn’t mean to cry. She hated that. It always happened when she was madder than hell. “Hie to me now,” she ordered, tears coming so fast she wanted to scream.

The dog corralled the sheep, and both animals returned to her side.

“Dinna weep, lass,” Mathias said with a hurried sheathing of his sword. Her captor looked more pained than when she had kicked him. “Forgive me, but ye… ye left me no choice.” He shuffled in place, obviously uncomfortable but not enough to stir any sense of forgiveness in her. With a glance down at the shepherd’s crook, he gave her another infuriating smile. “Ye can have it once we reach the keep. I promise.”

“I hate ye.” She spit at his feet. “I’ll make ye pay if it’s the last thing I do.”

“I am certain ye will,” he agreed with a resigned sigh. Pointing at his monstrosity of a horse, he held her staff behind his back. “To my horse now with ye.”

Stomping past him, Kenzie plotted all the ways she would get her revenge. She’d have him thrown in jail. Sue him. Go online and expose him for the disrespectful, animal abusing, kidnapping swine he was. He’d never work in Scotland again. Or England. Or Ireland. She didn’t have a clue how to ruin a person in such a way, but by jings, she would figure it out.

He sheathed his sword, threaded her crook under the ropes securing a rolled bundle to the back of his saddle, then hoisted her up and seated himself behind her. His muscular arms caged her in, as he took hold of the reins and set the animal in motion with the slightest shifting of his legs. “We’ll be joining the others to help with the cattle. Highland coos dinna move that fast. Leastwise, long as we dinna startle them. Yer wee dog and sheep should have no trouble with the pace.”

She ignored him, aiming a sad smile down at her beloved collie, who kept the ram moving along beside them. “Good lad, Brodie,” she encouraged. We’ll get out of this, she added silently. And I’ll feed ye this one’s bollocks for supper.