Devil of the Highlands Chapter Two

"Oh!" Evelinde gasped when she realized she'd dropped the man on his injured head again.

She hadn't meant to, but she'd suddenly realized where she'd pressed his head while searching for the wound. At first she'd simply frozen, mortified at what she'd done, and when he'd tried to speak, his mouth against her breast had caused the oddest tingling sensation to shoot from where his mouth moved. It had been stunning in the pleasure it caused. So, of course, she'd released him. Anything that felt that good must be bad.

The man rolled onto his side, his tartan shifting so that she had a lovely view of his legs almost all the way up to his personal bits. Evelinde forced herself to look away from the intriguing sight and instead leaned forward to peer at the wound on the back of his head. He was a Scot, but that didn't worry her. Her father had several friends who were Scots, mostly highlanders he'd met at court or on his travels. They'd had many visitors over the years from Scotland, and Evelinde supposed this was another, and expected he'd treat her with the same respect and kindness the others had. She'd found that Scots weren't nearly the primitive heathens they were reputed to be.

A curse of pain from the man brought Evelinde's attention back to his head wound. There had been a good deal of blood on the gown, and there was still more caught in his hair. However, she found it impossible to tell how bad the wound was with the blood and dirt obscuring the injury.

"Are you all right?" she asked worriedly, shifting her gaze to what she could see of the side of his face. He was grimacing in pain, his one visible eye squeezed tight shut. Evelinde shifted on her knees and glanced around the meadow as she tried to think what to do. Then she asked, "Do you think you can stand?"

A grunt was his answer. Unsure if that was a yes or no, she stood up herself, then bent to catch his arm and try to help him to his feet. "Come. We have to tend your head."

"Me head is fine," he growled, but would have been far more convincing if he weren't still grimacing in pain.

His words, spoken with a heavy burr, reminded her that he was Scottish, and Evelinde found herself leaning anxiously over him again as she asked, "Do you know the Devil of Donnachaidh?"

The way he suddenly stiffened suggested he at least recognized the name though most people did. It was the name parents all over England and Scotland used to terrify children into good behavior. 'If ye don't behave, the Devil of Donnachaidh will get ye,' was an oft-repeated warning by nursemaids and mothers.

When the man started to sit up, Evelinde quickly sat back to give him room. Much to her dissatisfaction, however, he didn't answer her question but simply stared at her, his expression closed.

"Do you know him?" she asked fretfully.

"Aye. I'm the Duncan," he said finally, and Evelinde frowned, not sure what that meant. Was Duncan his name or title? She suspected it was his title, but wondered if the Duncans were a neighbor of clan Donnachaidh? She opened her mouth to ask, but then decided it didn't matter. What was important was that the man knew the devil she was supposed to marry.

"Is he as cruel as they say? He is not, is he?" she asked hopefully. " 'Tis just a rumor, is it not? Tales told by the fireside that grow all out of proportion? I am sure he will be a fine husband. Really, he could not be more cruel than Edda. Could he?"

The man wasn't answering any of her questions, which Evelinde thought was terribly rude. Then she saw the streak of red running down his neck and recalled his injury. It really was not well-done of her to sit here pestering him with questions when he was wounded.

"You are bleeding badly," she said with concern. He reached to feel the back of his head, and Evelinde saw pain flash through his eyes at just that tentative touch.

Snatching up her ruined gown, she stood and glanced around. Much to her relief, he'd taken his tumble at the end of the meadow nearest the river. She hadn't paid attention to where they were when their mounts had reared—her attention had been taken up with keeping her seat—then she'd been more worried about him than anything else as she'd rushed to dismount and reach him. Fortunately, they merely had to walk a short path through a narrow band of trees to reach the water.

Turning back to the man on the ground, she held out a hand. "Come. We should tend to your injury."

The man noted her offered hand but got to his feet without accepting her help.

Men can be so proud, Evelinde thought with an exasperated shake of the head.

"Wait here, and I shall retrieve our horses," she instructed. Both animals had moved a good twenty feet away. Her mare was standing still, studiously ignoring the other horse, who was nosing at her side.

Evelinde had only taken a step in that direction when a piercing whistle made her pause. Eyes wide, she glanced back to the Duncan, then gasped in surprise when he caught her arm as his horse suddenly charged over and presented himself with a proud flick of the head.

Evelinde waited long enough to see the Duncan murmur a soft word of praise to the animal and run a hand over his mount's neck. She then turned and headed off to collect her mare.

"There is a river just through the trees here," she announced, returning with Lady. "We can wash your wound, and I can get a better look and see how bad it is."

"I be fine," the Duncan muttered, but followed when she moved past him with her mare and started through the trees.

"Head wounds can be tricky, sir," Evelinde said firmly as she led him into the clearing on the edge of the river. "It needs to be cleaned and tended. And you need to be careful about sleeping and such for a bit. You lost consciousness after the fall."

"I be fine," he repeated, his voice a growl.

"I shall be the judge of that," she announced, releasing Lady's reins and moving to the water's edge. Once there, she knelt, found a clean bit of skirt on the gown she carried, and dipped it in the water. She'd been hoping the wind would dry her dress, which was why she'd been riding back and forth, holding it over her head. It probably would have worked better had she simply taken Lady for another, heart-pounding race, but she hadn't wished to be seen charging through d'Aumesbery's woods in naught but a chemise. The meadow was surrounded by trees, and she'd hoped to dry the dress without being seen. Her plan hadn't worked too well, obviously. She'd been seen, startled off her horse, and her gown still wasn't dry.

Grimacing, Evelinde stood up with the now-sopping skirt in her hands. She turned to find the Duncan, only to pause and stare when she saw he'd removed his boots and was standing knee deep in the river, bent forward, with his head under the waterfall.

"Well, bother!" Evelinde muttered, wishing she'd thought of that rather than soaking her skirt again. Sighing, she laid the gown out to dry on the boulder she'd sat on earlier and crossed the clearing to stand on the bank near where he was letting the water wash away the blood.

"Come, let me see," she ordered, when he straightened, pushed the hair out of his face, and started back out of the water.

The man raised an eyebrow at her demanding manner, but paused before her and turned away. Evelinde stared at the wide wall of his back and rolled her eyes. He was nearly a foot taller than she. She couldn't see a thing.

"Here, you need to sit down." Catching his hand, she tugged him to a fallen tree trunk lying at the edge of the clearing. She urged him to sit, then stepped between his legs and clasped his head to bend it forward so she could see the back of it. With Mildrede's help, Evelinde had taken over tending to the injured and ill when her mother died. It wasn't a task Edda had bothered claiming when she'd become the new lady of d'Aumesbery, so Evelinde had carried on with it and was used to bossing grown soldiers about like they were children. Quite honestly, in her experience, that was exactly how the men tended to act when injured or ill. They were worse than any child when ailing.

"Hmm," she murmured, examining the abrasion. It was still bleeding, but head wounds tended to bleed a lot, and it was really more of a small scrape than a deep gash. "It does not look so bad."

"I told ye I was fine," he rumbled, lifting his head.

"You lost consciousness, sir," she fretted. "Let me see your eyes."

He lifted his face, and Evelinde clasped him by both cheeks, her gaze moving slowly over his eyes. They looked perfectly fine to her, however. More than fine. They were really quite beautiful; large and a deep brown so dark they appeared almost black. They were also fringed by long black lashes. The rest of his face was rugged, however, with sharp planes, an arrow-straight nose, and his lips—

Evelinde's eyes paused there, noting that his upper lip was thin, but the lower one was full and looked as if it would be soft to the touch. Before she could think better of it, curiosity made her shift one thumb to rub it over the pillowed surface, and she found it was indeed soft. Then Evelinde realized what she'd done. She could feel a sudden blush rise to cover her face and released him abruptly.

"There was a bit of dirt there," she lied, trying to step away at the same time, but his legs immediately closed on either side of her. Finding herself trapped between his knees, Evelinde felt her first moment of disquiet with the man. Not fear, exactly. For some reason she felt sure she had nothing to fear from this man, but the action did make her nervous.

She opened her mouth to ask him to release her, then sucked her breath in on a hiss of pain when his hands rose up to catch her by the hips. His hold eased at once, but he didn't let her go. Instead, he held her in place and lowered his gaze to the spot he'd touched, a frown claiming his lips.

"Ye took some punishment in the fall as well," he growled, sounding displeased. "Ye've a bruise on yer hip."

Evelinde bit her lip and tried to pretend she was anywhere else but there as his gaze rose along her side, one hand following the path, then pausing again on the side of her chest just below her left breast. The action stirred an odd tingling along her skin.

"And here."

She glanced down with confusion. The bruising would be from her fall in the water, but there was no way he could see through her chemise to the bruises he was—

Evelinde's thoughts died as she saw that her still-damp chemise was transparent. She could clearly make out several dark patches through the clinging cloth. One was the large mottling bruise on her hip, the other another even bigger bruise on her ribs, but the others were not bruises at all. Her darker nipples were clearly displayed in the damp shift, and the dark gold at the apex of her thighs stood out against her pale skin.

A gasp of horror caught in her throat, but before Evelinde could pull away and cover herself, he'd taken hold of her arm.

"And here."

She peered distractedly down at the arm he'd turned slightly. She had seen all these bruises earlier, the result of her tumble in the river, not from falling from her horse as he supposed. She was more concerned with other issues at the moment, like her near nudity. When he leaned a little closer to see her upper arm better, Evelinde sucked in a startled gulp of air. His breath was blowing hot and sweet on her chilled nipple through the damp chemise. The effect was almost shocking.

Evelinde stood completely still, holding her breath as he examined her injury. He took an exceptionally long time doing so, much longer than he had with the other bruises. And the whole time he did, he was inhaling and exhaling, sending out warm puffs of air over the trembling nipple. Each time he did, an odd little tingle went through Evelinde. Then he suddenly raised a hand to run a finger lightly around the discoloration on her arm, and his wrist brushed against her nipple through the damp cloth.

Evelinde was sure it was accidental, and he did not even notice, but the effect it had on her was rather startling. She closed her eyes as an odd pleasure rolled through her body, finding herself suddenly torn between putting some space between them and staying put to enjoy more of the astonishing effect he had on her. When he finally released her arm and unclasped her legs, she opened her eyes to find him standing up. Before Evelinde could regain enough of her senses to go find her gown and draw it on to cover herself, he'd clasped her head in one hand and tilted her face up to his as he brushed his finger lightly in a circle along her left jaw.

"Ye've another here," he growled.

"Oh," Evelinde breathed, as his finger apparently followed the edge of the bruise past the corner of her lips. That, too, was from her fall in the river, but she couldn't seem to untangle her tongue enough to say so as his finger trailed over her skin.

"Ye've beautiful eyes, lass," he murmured, peering into those eyes now rather than at the injury he was tracing.

"So do you," Evelinde whispered before she could think better of it.

A smile tugged at the corner of his lips right before his mouth covered hers.

Evelinde stiffened at the unexpected caress. His lips were soft yet firm, but kissing her was wholly inappropriate. She was about to say so when something prodded at her lips. Evelinde tried to pull back, but his hand was at the back of her head, preventing her retreat. Suddenly she found her mouth invaded by his tongue.

Her first instinct was to push him away, but then his tongue rasped along hers, and Evelinde stilled again. The caress was surprisingly pleasant. She found herself holding on to his arms rather than pushing him away, and her eyes closed as a little sigh slipped from her mouth to his.

No one had ever kissed Evelinde. No one would have dared. She had never left d'Aumesbery and, as the daughter of the lord, was forbidden to dally with the knights and servants of the castle. This was a first for her, and she really wasn't sure if she liked this kissing business. It was interesting, and was causing little stirs of excitement in her, but they were faint and well overshadowed by her confusion. Evelinde wasn't terribly disappointed when he broke the kiss. But he didn't release her as she expected, instead his mouth simply trailed its way across her uninjured cheek.

"Sir," Evelinde murmured, thinking it time she introduce herself and tell him he had to stop. She had no fear he wouldn't. The moment she mentioned being betrothed to the Devil of Donnachaidh, he'd probably thrust her away himself. Everyone feared the Devil, she thought then stilled again as he began to nuzzle the side of her neck.

Her breath caught in her throat at the havoc sent rioting through her. Evelinde found her eyes drooping closed again, and a murmur of surprised pleasure slipped from her lips as she tilted her head to allow him better access. She even shifted a little closer to the man, her hands now clutching at his arms and urging him nearer rather than pushing him away. All sorts of tingly sensations were rushing through her as his mouth moved over her skin to her ear. He concentrated there until Evelinde found herself standing on her tiptoes in the circle of his arms, gasping and moaning.

His mouth finally returned to hers, and this time, she was not quiescent. Evelinde kissed him back, her tongue now wrestling with his. His hands began to move then, releasing the hold he'd kept on her head and sliding down her back until they slid over her bottom. Clasping the curve of each cheek, he lifted her off her feet and pressed her against him.

Evelinde groaned into his mouth as a hardness ground against the apex of her thighs through their clothes. It sent a sharp new excitement shooting through her, and she found herself shifting her hips and tightening her arms around his neck as she tried to get closer still.

When he suddenly broke their kiss, she moaned in disappointment, but when he then reclaimed his seat on the fallen log and tugged her forward to tumble into his lap, some of her common sense resurfaced.

"Oh, nay, sir! We should not be doing this. I am betrothed to the Devil of Donnachaidh."

Evelinde had expected that to bring an abrupt halt to the proceedings, but the man merely muttered, "I am the Duncan and would have a kiss."

His mouth descended on hers again, and Evelinde gave up her feeble struggles. One kiss did not seem so bad, she thought, as his tongue invaded her again, resurrecting her excitement. At least she would have these memories to warm her in her cold marriage bed, she thought, then—conscience soothed—Evelinde stopped thinking and allowed herself to enjoy his kiss.

It was much nicer sitting in his lap. She was surrounded by him, cocooned by the hard lap beneath her and the warm chest and arms around her. Relaxing against the arm at her back, she slid her own arms around his neck again, careful to avoid the sore spot on the back of his head as she kissed him enthusiastically. Evelinde shuddered and pressed against him as his hands slid over her back, and then gasped and arched as his hand moved around to find and clasp one breast through her damp chemise. Clutching at the cloth of his plaid, Evelinde groaned into his mouth and held on for dear life as he kneaded the round orb, and she was inundated by a whole new swell of sensations.

When his thumb brushed over the excited nipple through the cloth, it sent shocks of pleasure through her, and she couldn't keep from wiggling in his lap. Her hips moved of their own volition as they ground her bottom down against the hardness under her.

This seemed to have an electrifying effect on the Duncan, his kiss immediately became more demanding. The hand at her back shifted to her head to tilt her one way, then the other as the fingers at her breast tightened and began to pluck at her nipple through the quickly drying cloth.

This time Evelinde turned her head to give him better access when his mouth moved to her ear once more. His attention there soon had her gasping and moaning. Other than to dig her fingers more firmly into his shoulders, she hardly noticed when he leaned her back against his arm so his mouth could travel down her neck. His hand was still doing delightful things to first one breast, then the other, and that, combined with his lips nibbling over the flesh of her throat, had her giving one long, seemingly unending moan. By the time he reached the shockingly sensitive area of her collarbone, she was a mass of excitement, wiggling in his lap in response to the liquid heat now pooling in her lower belly.

So distracted was she, Evelinde didn't realize he had tugged aside the top of her chemise, revealing one breast, until his lips suddenly left her collarbone and dipped to close over the naked nipple.

She cried out then with both shock and excitement and tugged frantically at his plaid as he suckled and drew on the nipple, his tongue flicking over it repeatedly.

Evelinde knew she shouldn't be allowing this. She was betrothed to someone else. Even if she hadn't been, however, as an unmarried lady, she shouldn't be allowing it… but it felt so good. And really, if she was going to be married off to the Devil of Donnachaidh and left to wither away in misery, or possibly beaten to death by the man, it did seem less of a sin to allow herself the momentary pleasure of a kiss or two.

Besides, it was the most amazing thing she had yet experienced in her life. Evelinde had never felt so… alive. She was afire with passions she'd never even imagined existed, her body reacting of its own volition as it pressed and rubbed against him, seeking something she didn't understand.

The excitement he was causing in her was a living thing that built and built until Evelinde couldn't bear it anymore. Only then did the Duncan let her nipple slip from his mouth with one last rasp of the tongue and lift his head to cover her mouth again. If his earlier kiss had been passionate and demanding, it was nothing compared to this one. He wielded his tongue like a weapon, thrusting it into her mouth as if thrusting a sword into an opponent. Evelinde welcomed it and parried with her own.

His hand was again at her breast, fingers cupping and squeezing as his thumb rubbed back and forth over the sensitive nub. Evelinde groaned and found herself squeezing her thighs together as heat pooled there.

When his hand drifted away from her breast, she felt a keen sense of regret. However, that quickly turned to alarm as she felt it begin to drift up her leg, pushing the hem of her chemise before it. Evelinde squawked into his mouth and immediately began to struggle. This was definitely further than she was willing even to contemplate going.

She must have caught him by surprise, for Evelinde was sure he could have held on to her had he wished to, but he didn't. He removed both hands at once, and she quickly pushed herself from his lap, managing to send herself tumbling to the ground at his feet.

The Duncan immediately reached for her, but Evelinde scrabbled backward out of his reach, then scrambled to her feet and rushed over to snatch up her wet dress. Aware he was following and afraid he would try to drag her back, she kept moving, circling the clearing as she struggled to drag the gown on over her head, babbling anxiously as she tried to stay out of his reach.

"Pray, sir, you must stop. I should not have allowed even the one kiss. I am betrothed to the Devil of Donnachaidh. He's said to have a vile temper and—"

Her words died on a gasp as he caught her from behind and whirled her around to face him. He couldn't kiss her, however—her gown was wet and recalcitrant and caught on her head. Evelinde expected him to rip it back off and continue his barrage of kisses. Instead, however, he tugged at it, helping her to don it. It seemed mention of her betrothed had stopped him after all.

Relieved he wouldn't tempt her to further sin, Evelinde beamed a smile at him as soon as the cloth was tugged down from her face, and said, "Thank you."

The Duncan finished tugging the dress into place, then straightened and peered into her face.

Evelinde stared back, trying to memorize his features to take out and examine in the long miserable years to come, sure this face was the one bright spot she would have in her life once she was married off to the Devil of Donnachaidh. She was sure it was his eyes she'd remember best. They spoke of what he was feeling. At the moment, they were afire with a hunger she suspected was mirrored in her own. It was madness, she didn't know this man, but in truth, all she really wanted to do at that moment was forget everything, strip off her gown and chemise, and make him kiss her again. She wanted his hands moving over her body, making the fire jump and run under her skin as he had moments ago. It was something Evelinde had never experienced before today and something she suspected she'd never experience again as the wife of the Devil of Donnachaidh.

Apparently it was something the Duncan wanted to do, too, because his head started to lower, his mouth aiming for hers, but Evelinde stepped quickly away. "Nay. I pray you, Sir Duncan. No more."

He hesitated, a frown claiming his lips as if he was confused by her refusal. "Ye liked me kisses. Doona deny it. I ken ye did."

"Aye," she admitted sadly. "And I would give a lot to have more of them, but not your life. If he lives up to his reputation, the Devil of Donnachaidh would probably kill you if he found out about the kiss we already shared. I would not see him kill you for something that will be a lovely memory and will no doubt sustain me through many a dreadful night in my marriage bed."

He blinked at her words, then shook his head. "Lass, I am the Duncan."

"Duncan," she repeated softly. "I shall never forget your name."

He rolled his eyes with disgust, then explained, "Duncan is me clan name, I am Cullen… the Duncan," he said meaningfully.

"Cullen," she breathed, thinking it much nicer than Duncan.

Frowning now he said, "Duncan in Gaelic is Donnachaidh."

Evelinde's eyes widened with a dawning horror. This was just awful, the worst thing she could imagine. If he was a member of her future husband's clan, then she would no doubt see a lot of him. He would be there day in and day out, a temptation she would have to resist for both their sakes. Their very lives would depend on it.

"Oh this is awful," she breathed, imagining years of torture ahead. "You are kin to my betrothed."

"Nay," he said with exasperation. "I am yer betrothed."

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