Bound to a WarriorBy: Donna Fletcher
Scotland Highlands, 1005
Duncan tumbled down hard onto the woman. He lay sprawled across her, hoping he had not hurt her. She was a bit of a thing that a good wind would blow away, but in the short time he had been shackled to her, he had come to realize that she was a strong one, a survivor.
He rolled off her, and with a slip of his arm around her narrow waist, took her along with him as he got to his feet. Her slim hand grasped hold of his arm until she found strong footing and then she let go. The strength of her grip shouldn’t have surprised him, but her slim body led one to believe her weak.
“Move it!” one of the soldiers yelled and gave the woman a rough jab in the back with his sword handle.
She stumbled forward and this time grabbed hold of his arm. And he did, the strength of his rock-hard muscles alone enough to steady her and keep them from repeating the act.
A tentative smile told him that while she was appreciative, she was also hesitant to rely on him. Unfortunately, she had no choice. They were shackled at the wrists with iron cuffs and a connecting chain that didn’t allow for much distance from one another.
Even in their dire circumstances he couldn’t help but appreciate her lovely features. Though her round face was dusted with dirt there was no hiding her beauty; bewitching sapphire blue eyes that sparkled more brilliantly than the gem itself were framed by long, curled, black lashes. And no amount of grime could hide the luster of her waist length, raven black hair. Her garments were that of a peasant, and yet he had noticed that her hands showed no signs of hard toil.
He couldn’t help but wonder who this woman was that he was chained to.
“I fear they mean us harm,” she whispered.
It was the first words she had spoken to him since their ordeal had begun hours ago, and while he agreed, his thoughts lingered more on her low, sultry voice than their present situation. He almost laughed. How could he focus more on his attraction to her than their problem? He wisely contained his humor, but could not do the same with his thoughts.
“I agree,” he said.
“Is there nothing we can do?” she asked.
He tapped at her iron cuff. “This could present a problem.”
“I’m not afraid to fight.”
While he admired her courage, it was obvious that she had never tasted battle, and he didn’t believe she would have the stomach for what must be done if they were to attempt an escape.
As if she understood his doubt, she said, “I have more gumption than it may appear, and the odds are even, two of them to two of us. Besides—”
Her lovely blue eyes glazed over with tears, though she didn’t shed a one.
“What choice do we have? They most certainly intend to kill us.”
She was intelligent as well and no doubt wondered why they had been singled out from the group of captives the king’s men had gathered along their route home. He hadn’t given any reason to arrest him, though more than likely it had something to do with the prophecy many believed was soon to be fulfilled. He fit the age of the man prophesized to be the true king of Scotland, who would soon return and claim the throne that was rightfully his. As for the woman, her handsome features were reason enough for the king’s men to arrest her and give as a gift to the king for his entertainment.
She was right. They truly did have no choice but to attempt an escape.
“Hurry along with you,” the one soldier ordered, jabbing Duncan in the back.
“We must be quick if we are to do anything,” she murmured, “for they hurry us to our deaths.”
“Follow my lead,” he whispered and she nodded.
Duncan knew that he had to strike at both men almost simultaneously if they were to succeed. Otherwise one would have enough time to strike and it wouldn’t be him who the soldier targeted.
The two soldiers grew more impatient, shoving at the shackled pair and causing them to stumble. Duncan worried about making a move, his apprehension more for the woman’s safety. If he were on his own, he would have been free by now. But being chained to the woman made escape that much harder.
He could almost hear his three childhood friends, Reeve, Bryce and Trey laughing at him, since they had all declared that they would never let a woman shackle them. Memories of the three brought to mind the mission he was on, a mission that couldn’t fail. He had no choice; he had to survive.
The men kept urging them forward, though this time it was the tips of their swords jabbing at their backs that kept them moving rapidly. That was when Duncan knew without a shred of doubt that something wasn’t right.
He did his best to prevent them from falling again by keeping a hand to her arm, and he was glad he did. They suddenly broke through the thicket of woods to a small clearing and Duncan grabbed quick hold of the woman just before she almost tumbled off the edge of a cliff.