Highlander Most Wanted

By: Maya Banks


“Whatever are we to do?” Taliesan whispered. “Surely we are doomed. The Montgomery laird will never have mercy on us. Not after what Ian and his father did to the Montgomery lass.”

Taliesan was cousin to the McHugh laird’s late wife. The entire McHugh clan consisted of distant relations and a band of misfits that had been pulled into the clan after being cast out of their own. She was the only friendly face in a sea of animosity that emanated from the other clansmen.

Genevieve never understood what she’d done to encourage such hatred toward her. She certainly wasn’t here of her own volition. And the rest of the clan well knew it. She’d done no harm to a single McHugh, though the same could not be said for her.

She winced as the words whore and harlot echoed in her ears. The insults were hurled at her on a regular basis, and she’d hardened herself to the pain and humiliation they caused.

She was what Ian McHugh had made her. Nothing more. She wouldn’t bear the blame for the actions of another. Nor could she spend the rest of her life languishing in regret for what hadn’t been her choosing.

“Have you heard of their approach?” she asked Taliesan.

Taliesan nodded, her eyes darkening further in dread. “Aye, I have. The watchman bore word barely five minutes ago. The Montgomery army approaches, but ’tis worse than we could have imagined, for the Armstrong army accompanies them. They come united.”

“Sweet Jesu,” Genevieve whispered in horror. “They mean to kill us all.”

’Twas the last thing Genevieve had ever wanted. Aye, she’d dreamed of Ian’s death. A long, horrible death, and she’d been cheated of that when Graeme Montgomery ran Ian through with his sword. His death was far too quick and merciful for the manner of man he was.

She whispered a heartfelt prayer that her sins wouldn’t be the death of them all. All she wanted was a chance. An opportunity to be free. She wanted to live instead of existing in a constant state of fear and humiliation. ’Twas not so much to ask for, was it?

“What do we do, Genevieve?” Taliesan asked in a voice hoarse with fear.

Genevieve squared her shoulders, her spine stiffening with resolve. And pride. “We must see to the women and the children. The men will have to face the consequences of the laird’s foolhardiness. ’Tis naught to be done about it except throw ourselves on the mercy of the Montgomerys and Armstrongs and pray they are indeed merciful.”

Genevieve swept past Taliesan, and when she stepped just outside the door she turned, her voice cracking like a whip.

“Come, now. Let us gather the others. If we are to face our doom, let it be with pride. Pride that Ian and his father failed to demonstrate. If the men of this clan won’t do justice to their name, then ’tis left to the women to stand up.”

Taliesan’s own features tightened and her chin notched upward. “Aye, you are right.”

Genevieve slowed her pace to match Taliesan’s awkward gait and pulled the hood of her cloak over her head to hide her face.

She would gather the women and children of the clan into one chamber, and then she would appeal to the sensibilities of the Montgomery leader.

It occurred to her that she owed this clan nothing. That, even now, she should be fleeing and taking advantage of her only chance for the one thing that had been denied her.

Freedom.

But she had no place to go. No sanctuary. No coin or food on which to survive.

Mayhap … Mayhap the Montgomery laird would be merciful and perchance would place her in an abbey where she could peacefully live out her days, free of the rule of a man who’d been bent on destroying her.





CHAPTER 2


Bowen Montgomery spurred his horse to a gallop as he charged up the last rise that obscured the view of the McHugh keep. Beside him rode his brother, Teague, and they were both flanked, bafflingly enough, by Aiden and Brodie Armstrong.

Many a Montgomery and an Armstrong were turning over in their grave at the idea of the two clans allying with one another to take up a cause. But it wasn’t just any cause. It was one involving a woman who was dear to both sides.

Eveline Montgomery. Wife of Graeme Montgomery but daughter to Tavis Armstrong, laird of the Armstrong clan and, until days earlier, the Montgomerys’ blood enemy.

Bowen still didn’t know what to make of it all. He’d have rather taken up the matter of Patrick McHugh himself and claimed the holding until such time as Graeme determined its fate. It was a task he and Teague easily could have handled themselves, without interference from the Armstrong whelps, but the last thing Bowen had wanted was to start a war when Eveline was in such a fragile state after her ordeal.

His sister by marriage was stalwart, but even the fiercest of lasses would be staggered by her treatment at a monster’s hands.

“Have you a plan?” Teague shouted above the pounding of hooves.

Bowen gave a short nod but kept his gaze trained forward as they topped the hill overlooking the McHugh keep. ’Twas an easy enough plan. Kill Patrick, avenge Eveline, take control of the keep, and eliminate those who rebelled under Bowen’s command.

“And do you care to elaborate on your plan?” Teague asked in exasperation.