Highland Revenge (Fated Hearts Book 1)(10)

By: Ceci Giltenan

Eoin’s anger and frustration grew as the afternoon drew on and there was no sign of their prey. How could one small woman have evaded them so completely? The area was forested, but not densely so. There were no caves in the vicinity and they had searched every scrap of undergrowth. Surely a scared lass running through the forest would leave some evidence of her passing, but they found no sign of a trail. Even if she had picked her way carefully to avoid leaving any trace, she couldn’t have gotten very far.

When his commander, Marcas, returned from searching the area to the south, having found no sign of her, Eoin swore. “Where the hell can she be?”

“I’m damned if I know. We found nothing. Maybe she’s part faery and sprouted wings.”

“God’s blood, Marcas, quit jesting. She didn’t sprout wings. Ye know this land as well as I do. There’s no place for her to hide where we haven’t looked.”

“Except the treetops Laird, but as ye say, she didn’t sprout wings.”

“Ye don’t suppose…Marcas, could she have climbed a tree?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so, but it’s the only place we haven’t looked.”

That had to be it—it was the only explanation. “Damnation! Everyone spread out from here and search again. This time look up.”

Eoin stomped off in the direction her horse had run first. The afternoon was wearing on; if they didn’t find her before the sun set, they would have to wait until morning. By all that was holy, she was probably sitting in a tree laughing at them. When he found the wench, she would regret this. It would serve her right if she had to spend the night perched in a tree.

~ * ~

Fiona stayed well hidden high in her tree for several hours. She watched silently as men searched for her. As the day waned, her spirits rose. The searchers had moved on from her immediate area. She was both hungry and thirsty, but couldn’t risk climbing down just yet. Still, she believed it wouldn’t be long before she could make her escape. Then, in one moment, her hopes were dashed. She heard him before she saw him striding through the woods, looking up.

A tall, broad-chested warrior stopped below her tree and stared up at her. She couldn’t quite see his face through the foliage. She maneuvered to one side and tilted her head to try and see him better. If it was him, if it was Eoin MacKay, she would be all right. She would climb down and tell him who she was. She felt sure he wouldn’t harm her once he knew.

~ * ~

He hadn’t gone terribly far when he caught a glimpse of white halfway up a massive oak. She was well hidden. Her plaid was dark green; he wouldn’t have noticed her among the leaves if he hadn’t been specifically looking for her. He strode closer to the tree, stopping once so he could look up through the branches. There, perched in the crotch of two thick limbs was a woman so perfectly beautiful she might have been part faery. He was left momentarily speechless. Her skin was fair, with a faint pink blush to her cheek. He couldn’t see the color of her eyes, but they were ringed with sooty lashes. Something told him that, regardless of their hue, they would sparkle. Her rosy lips were full and soft—lips that were made to be kissed. The late afternoon breeze ruffled the mass of black curls around her shoulders. Her léine was torn, but otherwise she appeared none the worse for wear. She is not a faery, she is a MacNicol, he reminded himself.

She looked down at him silently with her head cocked to one side, as if she was trying to solve some puzzle. She didn’t seem remotely frightened. That would have to change if he was to exact his revenge. “Have ye had a lovely day perched in yer tree, watching us search for ye?”

“I suspect my day was better than yers.”

Her impertinent answer irritated him. “Well ye’ve had yer bit of fun, but it’s over. Climb down.”

She ignored him. “Who are ye?”

“Yer captor, and I ordered ye to climb down. Do it now.”

“Nay, I asked ye a perfectly reasonable question, and ye aren’t my captor if ye can’t reach me. Until I know who ye are, I think I’d just as soon stay free, even if I am up a tree.”

“Free? Nay lass, ye’re as good as locked in my dungeon, and I promise ye will regret yer impertinence.”