Read an Excerpt
Goldiehouse, Ravensby, Scotland March 1704
“Are you sleeping?”
“Ummmm …” Johnnie Carre surfaced from a light doze, the soft sound of the woman’s voice secondary to the carnal pleasure he was suddenly feeling. It took a moment more to definitively focus his senses: A warm tongue was leaving a cool path.…
He shifted his powerful body slightly, the sensation exquisite. A faint smile lifted the corners of his mouth in pleasurable remembrance of the woman’s special skills, and a second later his vivid blue eyes opened. Reaching down, his fingers lazily slid through honey-colored silken curls, and he murmured, his deep voice still drowsy, “Don’t you ever sleep?”
He’d met Mary Holm two days ago in Kelso at a country inn where her acrobatic troupe was staying. She’d caught his eyes deliberately and then came up to him where he stood watching his men throwing dice.
“I’m Mary,” she’d said, looking up at the tall, dark-haired Border Lord with an open invitation in her eyes.
And after a long afternoon of sampling Wat Harden’s special reserve French brandy, he let his gaze drift downward briefly to the luscious swell of her bosom before returning to her sweetly smiling face, and he’d simply said, “I’m on my way home. Are you hungry?”
They’d hardly been out of bed since Tuesday.
“Now, if we weren’t leaving for Berwick on Friday, darling Johnnie,” the pretty young woman replied, lifting her head to smile at the Laird of Ravensby with cheerful impudence, “I might be inclined to sleep. But who knows when I’ll have such a bonny stud to entertain me again?”
He was fully awake now, and his own grin matched hers. “In that case I’ll try to last till Friday.”
“You’re doing gracious fine,” she purred, and with a wink, resumed her pleasuring.
On the muddy forest road south of Goldiehouse that evening, an exhausted rider whipped his lathered horse to more speed, every minute of delay terrible in its consequences. Like all Borderers, he knew the countryside even at night with the moon behind more threatening rain clouds. Now if his mount would just hold out.… He swore under his breath as the black stallion faltered in the rough going and, taking pity on his Laird’s best bloodstock, eased the pace. But even as he drew the horse to a trot, he debated whether his chieftain would rather he ride the black barb to death, so urgent was his message.
“Come sit on me,” Johnnie softly said, touching Mary’s chin with a finger. “I like the feel of you.…”
Rising in a lithe movement, her slender body, supple, feline, she stroked his splendid arousal and answered, “And I adore the feel of you, my darling Laird.” She grinned as she moved over him. “How pleasant to discover all the stories are true.”
“You’re testing my stamina, pet,” Johnnie murmured, aware of the stories but disinclined to discuss his reputation as stud to the Middle Marches. “But I’m not complaining,” he added with a small smile, gently placing his palms on her hips as she slid down his erection, his eyes closing against the delicious friction. “God, you’re tight.…”
Mary’s own blue eyes were half-closed, as profligate sensation flooded her mind. “And you’re enormous.…” she whispered into the firelit room, feeling his hard, rigid length stretch her. Her back arched against the delirium. “You’re my lovely rutting stallion,” she breathed, the exquisite feel of Johnnie Carre filling her.
The bedchamber was utterly silent for a time, the small sounds of the crackling fire distinct in the hushed, charged atmosphere. She moved down, he arched up. And they both caught their breath for that moment of indelible glory. Then she’d glide upward again with riveting slowness. And they’d both breathe again.
It was a languorous rhythm, not impatient after two wanton days in bed but feverishly acute after forty-eight hours of sexual excess. Extravagant, luxurious feeling reigned. No distractions tempered the irrepressible passion.
And then, overzealous once, Johnnie penetrated too deeply, and she cried out. Instantly remorseful, he touched her rosy cheek, his fingers as gentle as his voice. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Am I hurting you?”
It took her a shuddering moment to open her eyes and a moment more to answer. “It’s fine,” she ambiguously replied, her words uttered with a soft, breathy sigh.
He understood what she meant; he was an experienced man. But he cautioned himself to more control. She was small and fragile, and it was possible to do damage.
The fatigued horseman spurred the black stallion up the last incline to Goldiehouse, no longer concerned with his mount’s failing strength. Only a few hundred yards remained of his breakneck ride. Galloping through the courtyard gate, he shouted to rouse the household, the lantern-lit court empty. Throwing himself off the winded barb, he collapsed on the courtyard flags, damp and puddle-strewn from days of rain, just as the studded door to the old keep burst open. With drawn swords three clansmen bolted through the massive doorway, their jackboots like mallets on the cobblestones. Spread-eagle like a dead man on the wet ground, the messenger spoke, breathless, panting.
And they stopped cold when they heard his words.
Johnnie was unaware of the tumult, his private quarters of the last few days distant by his choice from the daily bustle. His attention at the moment was totally absorbed, his climax imminent.
Mary Holm’s arms were laced tightly around his neck, her breasts warm and soft against his chest, her sleek rhythm increasing in intensity. Her body was damp with sweat; his own temperature feverish; he could feel the heat of his arousal as if a tropical sun had invaded the massive stone walls and raftered ceiling of the room. Her agitated breathing warmed his neck; his strong fingers possessively captured her narrow waist, exerting a minute pressure at times that caused small, breath-held pauses while they both gathered new air into their lungs.
“I’m dying,” she breathed.
He shook his head, a small movement of negation, all he was capable of at the moment. Never, he thought, and if he’d had the capacity, he’d have smiled.
Reaching up suddenly, she twisted her fingers into his unruly black hair, jerked his face downward, and kissed him, devoured him, frantically ate at his mouth, greedy for the feel and taste of him everywhere.
He felt her begin to quiver, his own release racing downward.
• • •
Two Carre clansmen raced through the first-floor corridors, took the wide, shallow steps three at a time to the second floor, and ran full out to the narrow staircase at the back of the west wing, taking the corners in flying swoops. They sprinted up the narrow circular stairwell of the original tower1, their hearts beating a frantic tattoo. Johnnie had left orders that he not be disturbed, but neither questioned the need to disobey. In the medieval portion of Goldiehouse the ceilings were low, the hallways narrow, built for defense centuries ago. Only one man could comfortably navigate the corridors. One racing after the other, they dashed toward the small room at the end of the passage.
Lord, she was hot … on fire, Johnnie reflected as he exploded in orgasm, agonizing bliss convulsing his senses, the world diminished for brief seconds to one small woman in his arms and incredible sensation.
She was amazing.
Which exact thought was passing through Mary Holm’s mind as she lay overcome, panting, Johnnie Carre living up to his amorous fame. He was truly amazing … again.
She licked him like a contented cat, her warm tongue tracing a slow path across his muscled shoulder. She felt him tense minutely. His head lifted suddenly, and a second later he shifted her in his arms, unconsciously readying himself.
And then he heard it clearly. The faint pattern of running feet. When he’d made it clear his privacy was sacrosanct.
He lifted her from him in a flash of movement, set her against the pillows with a curious tenderness considering his blurring speed, and gallantly threw the embroidered sheet over her just as the door burst open.
He’d only half turned from her, his peripheral vision searching out the intruders, when the brutal exclamation struck him like a blow.
“They’ve taken Robbie!”
There was no need to define who “they” were. The same enemy had confronted the Roxburgh Carres for a thousand years.
He leaped from the bed, reaching for his weapons left conveniently on the bedpost. The Borders had been Scotland’s battleground since the dim dawn of history; a man’s dirk and sword never left his side.
His men swiftly related the facts of his brother’s abduction as Johnnie gathered his clothes, the woman forgotten. His questions were harsh staccato queries, his dark brows drawn together in a scowl at the answers. His leather breeches were on in seconds, his boots jerked on next, his shirt thrown over his shoulders followed by his leather jack. Handing his sword belt to a clansman to carry, he strode from the room, closing his shirt, tucking it into his leather breeches with rough thrusts.
Halfway down the second-floor corridor he remembered Mary Holm. “See that the girl is sent back to Kelso with an escort,” he curtly said, buckling his jack shut, reaching out for his sword baldric. Taking the belt from his lieutenant, he slipped it over his shoulder. “Give her a purse and my thanks. Are the horses saddled?”
At a nod he adjusted the dirk at his waist, pulled his sword slightly out of its scabbard to test its feel, jammed it back in, and, in a voice harsh with hatred, growled, “Damned Godfrey! Damned English! They’re fucking vermin.”
Descending the broad balustraded stairway in long, racing leaps, he broke into a run immediately he reached the main floor. “How long ago was it?” he asked again of the man keeping pace with him.
His muttered curse at the unpalatable reply reflected everyone’s unease.