New Release | One Enchanted Scottish Knight by Award-Winning Author @LauraSt05038951 #scottish #hist
Title: One Enchanted Scottish Knight
Author: Laura Strickland
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
From a young age, Tansy Bellrose Gant has been getting into trouble and wanting what she should not have. Just because she can make certain things happen by wishing doesn't mean she's a witch. But when she rashly curses a neighbor, her fellow villagers tie her to a stake at the crossroads and threaten to send her to the Royal Commission for trial.
Malcolm Montgomery is a man carrying an unbearable burden of guilt and obligation. The last thing he needs is an encounter with a troublesome wee lassie who just might be a witch. But once rescued, she won't go away. In fact, she insists on involving herself in his quest to ransom his brother, and she charms her way into his bed, as well.
Has Tansy merely enchanted him, or has she claimed his heart? When she faces the ultimate danger, how will love be enough to save her?
A figure stood lashed to the pillar at the center of the crossroads.
Even at this distance, he knew it for a woman, a slender figure with wild black hair tumbled over her shoulders, tied to the post. The desperation and agony he sensed stemmed directly from her, feelings so powerful they slammed into him like a crashing wave. The other figures danced around her like devils ’round a bonfire. Even at a distance of thirty paces, Malcolm registered their eagerness, their glee.
What unholy thing took place here in this bucolic place?
Naught to him.
He told himself so even as he once more urged his mount forward, drawn by curiosity and that odd sense of compulsion. Everything seemed to slow down. He could hear the voices of the folk gathered around the post—like the cries of birds—sharp with excitement and something else far less savory. He saw what looked like glee as their faces turned toward him; he felt the impact—like a hard blow to the gut—as the woman tied to the post looked up and her gaze met his.
Aye, and it might as well be a blow; the desperation he’d sensed all the way down the road roared from her, bright as pain or the light reflected from a battle shield. Her eyes, silver as any shield, looked uncanny, terrified—fey.
“What goes on here?” he called out and the crowd went silent, like a field of barley when the wind dies. The sweating faces, most flushed, registered shock at his appearance. No one replied.
“I say, what is this madness?”
“Sir Knight!” A man stepped forward. Tall and rawboned, he had blood on his face and a wild look in his eye. “I beg for your succor. They have seized my daughter. They accuse her of witchcraft.”
Witchcraft. For an instant the edges of Malcolm’s world darkened; he flailed inwardly. The pursuit of witches had become a sickness in the land he loved and a blackness at its heart.
He hauled involuntarily at his mount’s reins, and the animal danced a few steps. He looked at the woman tied to the post.
Young. So many of those accused were aged grannies accused of imagined slights—not a bit of evil in them. He knew that too well. But to accuse this lass, her body bound against the post like a graceful willow bough, eyes great with longing, struck him hard. An abomination. But not his trouble, not at all.
The man reached for the bridle of Malcolm’s horse. “Please, Sir Knight. They will send her to the Royal Commission for questioning.”
Would they? To Malcolm, it looked more like they meant to burn her on the spot.
He called out, “Who is in charge, here?”
Another man stepped forward. This one, stout and balding, wore good boots and a fine jacket. His face shone red with effort or annoyance.
“I am Stephen Farquharson, miller. This, Sir Knight, is a town matter and naught to do with you.”
So it was. Malcolm experienced an almost overwhelming desire to ride away—leave these madmen and women to their unsavory pursuits.
But the lanky man still gripped his bridle, gaze beseeching.
“Please, Sir Knight, stop them.”
“I have no power to stop them, my good man.” Who was he to brandish authority? Just a dispossessed knight on an impossible quest.
“But my daughter, she is a good lass. A bit wayward at times, mayhap, like her mother…”
“Her mother,” seethed a young woman, who might have been bonny if not for her sharp expression. “A witch of the first water, that one.”
“Let the Commission decide,” declared the stout man. “For, Sir Knight, this one did curse my daughter, and we dare no longer suffer her here in Slurt.”
“Then turn her out along the open roads. The Commission is no’ called for.” Malcolm paused. From what he’d heard, he’d not wish to see a true witch fall into their hands. And the woman lashed to the post looked like nought more than an ordinary lass, even though Malcolm could feel the emotions streaming off her like steam from a kettle.
The stout man looked horrified. “Let her go? And have her come creeping back in the dead of night?”
Impatience touched Malcolm. He tried to free his reigns from the lanky man’s grasp and move around the post. “Leave go of me.”
The word came in an agonized whisper, so soft that for a moment he doubted he’d heard anything at all. His head swiveled involuntarily, and his gaze found that of the accused witch.
By all that was holy! She truly had the most uncanny eyes he’d ever seen—silver, as he’d marked even from a distance, flashing bright. And they held an intensity that seemed to reach right inside him, take hold of his spirit, and bend it to her will.
A magpie called close overhead. Even the harsh sound failed to sunder the fierce connection that had fused itself to Malcolm’s soul.
Please. Free me. Free—
He brandished his already-bared sword and jerked his horse’s head free all in one movement. Two big, young louts stood guard at either side of the post. A strike to the arm eliminated one; the second shied away when Malcolm looked at him. He pressed his mount in close to the post, close enough to see naked hope flood the young woman’s eyes. Close enough to slash the bonds that held her.
Everyone began shouting at once. The crowd rushed at Malcolm, and he turned the horse to ward them off. The woman leaped; he saw her fingers, slender and white, clutch at his stirrup. He hauled her up by the back of her dress and spun the horse to face the others, sword at the ready.
“Tansy, lass!” the lanky man cried.
The lass made no reply. Huddled in front of Malcolm on his saddle, she’d frozen like a rabbit before the fox. He could smell her terror. So could his mount. Weary as the animal might be, it danced again, forcing the mob back a few steps.
“This is the work of the Devil!” the stout man cried.
No doubt it was.
“She has enchanted you, Sir Knight. You will live to regret—”
Malcolm stayed to hear no more. He urged his mount away from the post, away from the crossroads and the howling crowd, back the way he’d come.
As for regret—a near-constant companion of his—he heeded it not.
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Multi award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Born and raised in Western New York, she’s pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Although she enjoys travel, she’s usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario, with her husband and “fur” child, a rescue dog . Author of numerous Historical and Contemporary Romances, she is the creator of the Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city.