Immortal Highlander Clan Skaraven Book 2
A woman from the present day will do anything to escape the ordeal of medieval Scotland. But will she betray the man she loves?
Lily Stover can no longer cope. Nothing in her previous life as a chef could have prepared her for her grim new reality. Starvation, beatings, and daily terror are her routines. The only flicker of hope is the memory of the massive warrior who once fought to free her. She can still see his golden eyes glaring into hers.
War Master Caderyn can no longer sleep. His dreams are haunted by the lovely lass whose face silently pleads to him for help. His patrols range further and further, driven by that vision. But when he finally finds her stumbling through the forest, he embraces a future that is not what it seems.
What Readers Are Saying
5 PHENOMENALLLLLL!!!!!!!! AMAZING STARS
The interaction between the characters is engaging and endearing. Loved it.
I have developed a pattern with the Immortal Highlander series. I am captivated from page 1, sucked back in time with these amazing women, and entangled in the lives of this fascinating clan of warrior former slaves. I binge read the whole book.
Caderyn has to use all his skills and improvise constantly when they do escape, in order for them to stay alive and ahead of their pursuing captors. Will it be enough?
This is a wonderful journey filled with a large dose of mystery and a fair share of angst, and of course, some serious chemistry.
Never wanted to put it down.
A love story that will grip your heartstrings.
This author is like creativity on steroids.
WEDGED IN A corner beside a wooden bin, Lily Stover listened to the winter wind wailing outside the granary. Silly as it seemed, she wished she knew what time and day it was. Her watch had been smashed during her last beating, and calendars probably hadn’t yet been invented in fourteenth-century Scotland. She’d tried keeping count in her head, but the rotten weather and her own exhaustion blurred one day into the next. They might have been here a week, a fortnight, or even a month.
It felt like forever.
At least the bitterly cold gusts couldn’t get at her in her new medieval prison. The storage building’s thick stone walls had no windows, and something heavy barred the only door from the outside. For that she should be grateful, as she had only the torn, dirty clothes on her back and her sodding safety shoes, which had started to come apart at the seams.
As long as her mind didn’t do the same she’d be aces.
Staying alive didn’t make her heart glow with gratitude. Since being taken from her time she’d been subjected to malicious beatings, beastly conditions, and constant starvation. Her entire body felt like one great minging bruise. Working double shifts as a sous-chef in the Atlantia Princess’s busy, cramped galley had never left her feeling this filthy or knackered. If by some staggering stroke of luck she ever made it back to the twenty-first century, she was never again stepping one foot off that bloody cruise ship.
“Can we eat grain, Lily?”
She looked up at Emeline, the black-haired Scottish nurse who had been taken with her and the two Thomas sisters. Throughout their ordeal she’d looked after everyone without complaint, even ignoring her own wrenched shoulder and badly-bruised jaw to tend to their injuries.
Her question perplexed Lily. They had no food other than the stingy rations the guards tossed in once a day.
“What are you on about?” The hoarse sound of her own voice made her stomach surge, and she tried again. “Sorry. You’ve found something to eat?”
“Maybe.” Emeline led her over to another bin at the back of the granary. She raised the heavy lid to scoop out a handful of grain. “I think it’s wheat, but I’m not sure.” She glanced over her shoulder at the sisters before she murmured, “Perrin hasn’t been eating for days.”
Perrin Thomas, the older of the sisters, sat on the floor staring at nothing. A professional dancer, she’d been slender from the start. She’d lost at least a stone since they’d been brought back in time, whittling her delicate features and long limbs to a skeletal gauntness.
“She’ll do better,” Lily said. She’d talked to her last night about that and several other things, and the dancer had promised to try to eat enough to keep up her strength. “Let’s have a look at it.”
Lily inspected the kernels, which had been winnowed to remove the indigestible hull. She sifted her fingers through it to look for rot or mold, and then popped a grain in her mouth to chew it. The nutty flavor confirmed what it was.
“It’s barley, but it seems all right.” She squinted at the nurse’s swollen jaw. “Soaking it for an hour will make it softer.”
Emeline gave her a lopsided smile. “No water yet.”
No water. Not enough food. No blankets or medicines or bandages or help. The nurse always tagged her inventories of their deprivations with that optimistic word—yet—but she knew as well as Lily what they couldn’t depend on: hope.
A pair of golden ducat eyes, burning like cognac flambé, glared at her from her memory. They belonged to the nameless Scottish warrior who had tried to rescue her at the mountain sheep farm. When Lily had been snatched out of his reach and carried off, he’d let out a roar of fury that still echoed in her head. He’d kept riding after her, up to the moment when the mad druids had forced them into the portal and brought them here.
He hadn’t given up on her, and neither would she—not yet.
“Pound it with a stone first,” Lily said. “That’ll break up the kernels into smaller bits. Should be easier to swallow.”
When Emeline nodded and went back to the sisters, Lily sank down beside the bin. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She knew she should try and eat, but reliving those precious few seconds she’d seen the man with the strange, glowing tattoo on his arm gave her the only comfort she’d known since being snatched from the outdoor market.
Other, uglier memories decided to come first.
The day before she’d been taken, Lily had received a vile letter from her father’s solicitor, sternly informing her that she’d been disinherited. Gourmet restaurateur and food magazine publisher Edgar Stover had reluctantly revealed that she, Lily Elizabeth Stover, wasn’t his biological child. Of course, as a bastard she had no claims to financial provision under Britain’s Inheritance Act of 1975. She was, unequivocally, cut off without a pound from the wealthiest epicure in the UK.
Through the rest of her shift Lily had smiled. When one of the pastry chefs had asked her what was so amusing, she’d laughed and said, “I’m penniless.”
To celebrate after work, she’d taken a demi of champagne back to her cabin to drink. Then she’d been sick, but even chundering half the night had felt glorious. At last she’d been freed. Edgar would never have her dragged back to London now. The drinking binge and her almost-delirious happiness had made her reckless. The next morning she’d asked for shore leave for the first time in six months. The head chef had agreed, with the condition that she buy some local produce for him. She’d practically skipped down the gangway to the dock at Invergordon.
Lily opened her eyes, but she couldn’t stop seeing the rest. Renting a scooter and riding out into the country had been such fun. She’d stopped at a small farmers market where she’d found the sweetest gooseberries she’d ever sampled. Then the earth had exploded around her, and a huge thing shaped like a cracked-faced plastic rugby player had grabbed her by the neck.
Her trembling hand went right to her throat, and she swallowed a mouthful of bile. Those unspeakable moments should have been blurry, but instead they’d been etched on her brain. The thing had dragged her like a carcass toward the hole in the ground. There’d been the sickening crack of bones, then the silent screaming inside her head when she’d realized what he had done to her. She’d watched as, with one blow, the thing had bashed in the head of an old farmer who had tried to save her. Then she’d been pulled underground, and through the ground, only to be hurled into another pit filled with thrashing branches. When she’d finally landed in the fourteenth century, somehow she’d staggered to her feet to run. The thing had caught her again, and tried to strangle her before another one pushed it away.
You cannae kill this one. The Wood Dream need all five.
The scraping, groaning sound outside the granary brought Lily to her feet. Emeline quickly hauled Perrin away from the door, while the dancer’s younger sister, Rowan came to stand in front of it. The slushy ground outside slopped as footsteps approached, and then a thin, middle-aged man with silver-streaked dark hair and viper-green eyes stepped inside.
“Good morning, Sisters.” Hendry Greum tucked his hands behind his back, making his voluminous robe sway as he surveyed them all. “I trust you’re well?”
“With no blankets, food, or water?” Rowan snarled back at him. “What do you think?”
Emeline came to stand beside the carpenter, and touched her shoulder before she said to Hendry, “We’re injured and exhausted, but with some proper food and rest we’ll recover. If you continue the kind of abuse we suffered at the forest farm, I doubt any of us will survive another week.”
The druid nodded. “Until last night I wasnae aware of how badly your conditions became. You shall be given the provisions and care you require, but first I’ll need something in return.”
Rowan tensed and leaned forward. “We don’t have–”
“Quiet,” Emeline snapped, silencing the carpenter as she pulled her back. She turned to Hendry. “What do you want?”
“One of you has a new talent.” He scanned their faces like a hungry fox inside a full coop. “A talent used to help Althea Jarden during the Skaraven attack. It caused injury to many of our caraidean, and that I willnae have. Tell me who has the mind-move gift, and the three who didnae help our enemy shall be well-treated and kept safe.”
Rowan made a rude sound. “Like we’re going to fall for that. The minute you leave, the beatings and starvation will start all over again.”
“I’ve no plans to leave,” the druid told her. “But should I need to, I’ll leave Ochd with orders to stand guard over you.”
Perrin rose to her feet and walked up to Hendry. “So all we have to do is give you the collaborator, and the rest of us get to live? We’ll really be safe?”
“You have my word on it,” the druid said.
The dancer backed away from him, and then turned around to point at Lily. “It was her. She’s the one who can move things with her mind.”
The betrayal froze everyone, until Rowan shattered the shocked silence with a horrified, “Perrin, no.”
Lily made a dash for the door, but Hendry caught her easily and clamped an arm around her neck.
“My thanks, Sister,” he told Perrin. “I’ll send Ochd with provisions directly.”
Lily knew trying to struggle out of the druid’s hold would be impossible. Hendry was nearly as strong as the things that served him and his crazy bint. Still, she fought him as he dragged her out of the granary, and took one final look at Emeline and the sisters before Ochd closed the door and wedged a huge round stone slab against it.
“My caraidean require recompense for what you did to them,” Hendry said as he marched her toward the forest behind the old mill. “I believe I’ll give you to them. They’ll want some sport before they end you.”
For show Lily considered biting a chunk out of his arm, but then he might change his mind. Instead she waited until they were out of earshot of the other captives before she stopped resisting him.
“They’ll need a wash and clean clothes along with the food and doctoring. You’ll see to it?”
“Aye.” As soon as a big wooden cart hid them from view Hendry released her and stepped back. “Only ken that if you dinnae return by sunset with the location of Dun Mor, I shall give the nurse to Coig for his amusement. Can you fathom what he may do to her?”
Coig, the most sadistic of the things, had been the one who had taken Lily from the market. She knew exactly what he was capable of.
“Find Althea and you’ll find Dun Mor,” Hendry said. “You ken what will happen if you journey back to your time?”
She swallowed hard past the painful constriction in her throat. How would she ever be able to forget? She eyed the forest trail that led to a small oak grove. The bargain she’d struck with the druid had been the only solution to save herself and the other women. She still wondered if she’d ever stop feeling as if slime covered her from head to toe.
“I’ll see you later,” Lily said and shifted her gaze to the cart.
She drew on the ever-smoldering outrage in her heart. Inside her head a painful, restricting pressure built until she hurled it at the cart. The weathered wheels creaked and shuddered before the cart lifted into the air. Soil and bits of chaff rained down as Hendry backed away. A moment later the cart overturned and crashed where he had stood.
Lily heard the shouts of the guards as she ran for the trail, ducking under low branches and dodging brush as she hurried to the grove. The slushy ground made every step she took slide, but she managed to keep herself upright until she reached the clearing.
Snowdrops punctuated the melting drifts, promising a spring that wouldn’t come for months. Lily halted, dragging in air as she focused on the center of the grove, where a circle of old, small stones poked up through the frost-furred grass.
She trembled as she approached the edge and watched the ground fall away into a dark, whirling pit. Once more she pushed back the ugly temptation to use the portal to return to her own time. If she saved herself, she knew Hendry would take it out on the others before he came to the future to hunt her down—not that she’d be terribly hard to find, or have a hope of escaping again.
Lily closed her eyes, but she didn’t think of Althea. The botanist couldn’t help her. She needed him, the man with the owl tattoo.