Kidnapped by a Rogue by Margaret Mallory

BOOK 3 in the THE DOUGLAS LEGACY Series

THE DOUGLAS LEGACY
The Douglas sisters, beauties all, are used as pawns in their family’s bitter struggle to control the Scottish Crown. But when a Douglas lass is in danger, she’ll find she’s been left to face it alone.

KIDNAPPED BY A ROGUE
After her brother’s dramatic fall from power and banishment for treason, Lady Margaret’s husband threw her out to save himself. Now her ambitious brother is back in Scotland with the support of Henry VIII—and a plan to again marry off his beautiful, compliant sister to forge an alliance. But Margaret refuses to ever wed again, and she’s desperate to escape.

Thanks to his roguish charm and skill with a sword, Finn Sinclair Gordon has managed to survive the treacherous waters between his parents' rival clans—until now. To prove his loyalty, Finn must accept the unsavory task of taking the Douglas chieftain’s sister hostage. Oddly, the lass doesn’t offer much resistance.

Though Margaret knows better than to trust the devilishly handsome Highland warrior who unwittingly provides her escape, she struggles to fight the unexpected passion that ignites between them. Finn, who likes women for a laugh and a night of pleasure, is blindsided by his fierce desire for this steady lass with a kind heart. They’ll risk their lives to save each other and prevent a bloody clan war—but will they risk their wounded hearts for love?

“Immersing the reader into a story rich in Scottish history and adding a hunky Highlander with a spunky independent lady is only the beginning… you'll find within the pages of Kidnapped by a Rogue, romance, sex, jealousy, deceit, intrigue, secrets, hope, humor and adventure. I loved this book! When I started reading it, I literally could not put it down! ” ~ Amazon Reviewer

READ AN EXCERPT:

Girnigoe Castle, Caithness

The Scottish Highlands

November 1524

The Orkney men sailed right into Sinclair Bay, the brazen bastards, and tossed Finn over the side of the ship within sight of the Sinclair clan stronghold, Girnigoe Castle. Finn broke to the surface gasping and struggled to stand in the heavy surf.

Laughing, the men on the boat tossed the bag containing the head of the Sinclair chieftain into the sea after him. As Finn lunged for it, a wave crashed over his head and slammed him against the rocks on his wounded leg. Still, he managed to catch the bag before it hit the water.

“A' phlàigh oirbh!” A plague on you! Finn shouted and raised his fist at the Orkney men as they sailed off.

He staggered onto the beach, then sat down to catch his breath and consider his future.

“What would you advise, uncle?” Finn said, turning to the bloodstained bag beside him, which contained the head of his great-uncle on his mother’s side. “Will your son kill the messenger?”

The other warriors who sailed across the strait to retake Orkney were all dead, either slaughtered on land or drowned at sea. Finn had only been spared to deliver the chieftain’s head to his family.

He looked up at the imposing Girnigoe Castle on the cliff above him and considered the wisdom of completing that task. His Sinclair relations were a suspicious and violent lot, even by Highland standards. And George Sinclair, the dead chieftain’s son and heir, was the worst of them.

What the hell. Finn was desperate for a drink, so he picked up the bloody bag and started for the castle. As he climbed up the steep bluff from the beach, dragging his injured leg, he reflected on lost causes—the dead chieftain’s and his own.

The Sinclair chiefs had been the Earls of Orkney until the king of Norway gave the Orkney Islands to Scotland in the marriage contract between his daughter and the Scottish king. As part of that royal exchange, the Sinclairs were forced to trade their rich lands on Orkney for Caithness, a region with vast expanses of infertile moors in the northeast corner of Scotland, a few miles by sea from their former home.

Though this occurred over fifty years ago, the Sinclairs had long memories, and the loss of Orkney still rankled. When the Sinclair chieftain decided to defy the Scottish king and fight to retake Orkney, his pride outweighed his common sense.

The same could be said of Finn.

He winced when a shot of pain ran up his leg like a hot blade, as if he needed a reminder of the consequences of his error in judgment. He had no obligation to fight for the Sinclair chieftain. Though Sinclair blood ran through his veins, it came from his mother’s side.

Nay, he was lured to fight for his Sinclair kin by a foolish desire, a desire he did not even realize he harbored until his mother’s uncle dangled it in front of him: lands of his own if they won the battle.

The guards at the outer gate were surly, as usual. The Sinclairs were wild and ruthless fighters, but sorely lacking in humor. Though Finn was a close kin of their chieftain, his father was a Gordon, which made Finn a Gordon and a member of an enemy clan. Marriages like his parents’, which were intended to ease the tension between the two powerful clans, had only made things worse.

The guards sent word of his arrival ahead and let him pass through the gate into the west barbican. From there he crossed the first drawbridge, passed under the iron portcullis of the second gate, and crossed the courtyard with the guest hall and lodgings.

Finally, he reached the sliding drawbridge. They would take him over a moat to the main part of the castle, which was built atop a long, narrow outcropping of rock that extended into the sea. It contained the tower, additional lodgings, the chapel, bakehouse, and other essential buildings surrounded by a perimeter wall.

Finn paused to take in the sheer cliffs that fell to the sea beneath the wall. If the new Sinclair chieftain decided to make him a prisoner here at Girnigoe Castle, he’d have a hell of a time getting out.

By the time Finn was escorted into the great hall to give his accounting of the battle to the chieftain’s family, he was unsteady on his feet from loss of blood. He was starving as well since his Orkney captors had not seen fit to feed him in the three days since the fighting. Though he was trailing blood, he did not expect the Sinclairs to ask him to sit, and they didn’t.

The Viking blood was strong in these Sinclairs. George and his three sons were all well over six feet and looked like men who preferred to slice their meat with axes and eat it raw. Though George was nearing fifty, he was the most dangerous and least predictable of the family—except perhaps for his daughter.

Barbara, who was George’s eldest at thirty-two, was considered a handsome woman. Like her brothers, she was tall and looked as if she could hold her own in a fight. When their eyes met, Finn had a vivid memory of ten-year-old Barbara watching him with those same cold gray eyes while she strangled his puppy. He had seen many men die in the years since. And yet the memory of that pup’s death when he was a lad of five stuck with him like a burr.

The dead chieftain’s wife, Mary, a petite, gray-haired woman, entered the hall then, and the weight of the bag suddenly felt heavier. She was both the reason he had climbed the hill to the castle to deliver the news instead of walking off and the reason he’d dreaded coming. Mary was a Sutherland, so Finn was somehow related to her as well, and he’d always been fond of her.

Finding her in this family was like finding a kitten in the midst of a wolf pack.

“Where is my husband and the others…” Mary’s voice faded as her gaze took in the state Finn was in and then fixed on the bloody bag. Her low moan tore at his heart.

Though it was not his place, when no one else offered any comfort to the widow, Finn limped to her side and rested a hand on her shoulder.

“Thank you for bringing us something to bury,” she said, looking up at him with watery eyes.

She was the only Sinclair to shed a tear. George had been waiting a good twenty years for his father to die and did not bother hiding his satisfaction. With a flick of his hand, he motioned for one of his men to take the bag away, then he nodded for Finn to speak.

Though Finn was itching to be done with this task and leave, he took his time telling the tale of the battle, as was expected. He spoke at length of the courage and fighting skills of the Sinclairs who had fallen, though in truth they had suffered a thoroughly humiliating defeat.

“The witch prophesied that whoever’s blood was drawn first—Orkney or Sinclair—would lose the battle,” George said when Finn finished. “Did my father fail to heed her warning?”

Finn had hoped they would not ask him about that.

“We came across a young lad herding sheep soon after we landed,” he said. “Your father ordered him killed.”

The murder of that innocent lad was the worst part of the whole damned ordeal. Finn knew then he’d made a grave mistake. If he’d had his own boat, he would have turned around right then.

“I’ll have the witch put to death for her false prophecy,” George said.

“Her prophecy was true,” Finn said. “As it turned out, the lad belonged to one of the Sinclair families who still live on Orkney.”

“How is it that you survived?” George asked, and slapped him on his shoulder, which George could damned well see had been badly cut in the battle.

Finn clenched his teeth to keep from wincing.

“Can’t ye see the poor man is injured?” Mary chastised her son, then she turned her gaze to include her grandsons. “Unlike the rest of ye, Finlay sailed to Orkney to fight at your chieftain’s side.”

Finn felt a wee bit guilty that she credited him with loyalty to her husband when he’d only done it for the promise of lands.

“I’m chieftain now,” George said, his eyes burning bright as he looked down at his mother. “You’ll not speak that way to me again.”

“Grandfather’s attempt to take Orkney was a foolish quest that did nothing but waste the lives of Sinclair warriors and invite our enemies to attack us here at home in Caithness,” Barbara said. “We remained here to protect what is ours.”

“Come, Finlay,” Mary said, and took his arm. “Let me tend to those wounds.”

He gritted his teeth with the effort not to lean on the elderly woman and topple them both as she led him up the stairs to one of the bedchambers above. His leg and the cut across his shoulder hurt like bloody hell.

Mary sent for food and drink, which he wolfed down while she cleaned, sewed, and bandaged his wounds with an expertise born of practice. When she was done, she helped him into a clean shirt that belonged to one of her grandsons.

“Ye ought to stay in bed for a few days to let these wounds heal,” Mary said.

Remaining with the Sinclairs seemed the worst of the bad choices before him.

“I’d like to,” Finn lied, “but I ought to let my family know I’m alive before news of the battle reaches them.”

Mary did not contradict him, though they both knew there would be no weeping from his family if Finn never returned.

“The Sinclairs will expect ye to stay at least another day to avoid crossing the Ord on a Monday,” she said.

Sinclairs were even more superstitious than most Highlanders, and that was saying something. It was on a Monday that the Sinclairs had crossed the Ord of Caithness, the pass that marked the boundary between Caithness and Sutherland, on their way to fight the English in the Battle of Flodden. Because most of them died in that disastrous battle, no Sinclair had crossed the Ord on a Monday since.

“My luck could not get much worse than it already is, so I’ll risk it,” Finn said with a laugh.

“Ye misunderstand me.” Mary’s tone carried an urgency he had not picked up on before. “Though I wish ye could stay and let your wounds heal, ye must go tonight. ’Tis not safe for ye here.”

He took her at her word. Still, he asked, “Why?”

“My son is a dangerous man, and ye know how he feels about ye,” she said.

“What does George have against me?” he asked.

“I doubt even he knows, but there’s no changing his mind.”

Finn sensed she was not telling him all she knew, but George was an easy man to offend, so it could be anything. Most likely, George wanted some woman who had gone to bed with Finn instead.

“George would not harm ye while his father lived,” Mary said. “But now that he’s chieftain, he can do what he wants. No one will dare cross him.”

“Except his mother,” Finn said with a wink.

“I’ve given up on my son and his children, except for John,” Mary said in a choked voice. “There’s still hope for John.”

There was once. The two other boys had held Finn down while Barbara murdered his pup. When John found them, he tried to stop Barbara, but he was too late.

“His father mistakes John’s decency for weakness.” Tears glistened in her eyes.

Finn nodded, though he feared that John had been trying to win his father’s approval for so long that the good man he might have become was lost.

Despite Mary’s dire warning that his life was in danger, Finn slept like the dead until she returned to wake him in the middle of the night.

The old woman led him down a back staircase and into a small chamber, where she opened a secret door disguised as a panel. It opened onto a dank tunnel.

“This comes out in a cave above the shore on the next inlet,” she said. “My nephew is at Old Wick Castle now. He’ll give ye a horse.”

Her nephew, Sutherland of Duffus, had several castles. Luckily, Old Wick was just a couple of miles down the coast.

“Take care of yourself, Finlay,” she said, rising on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Though ye may fool others, and even yourself, I know ye have a good heart and an honorable soul.”

He had no notion why she thought that.

“You’ll return to the Gordons?” she asked.

“Aye,” he said, though he was not at all certain his father’s clan would take him back. Even if they did, the Gordons would not trust him after he’d fought for an enemy clan.

Finn had no notion what they would require him to do to prove his loyalty, but it was bound to be painful.

###

Mary felt her age as she watched Finlay disappear into the darkness. She closed the secret door and rested her head against it, lost in her memories. Perhaps she should have told him what she knew. She was old and tired and may not have the chance again.

But what good could come of it?

Nay, ’twas best he never know.