Chieftain’s Rebel Excerpt


Prologue

Curiosity had brought Rory here—this place where it had all begun.

rebel-main-pageTo Caithness—once a part of Scotland until, inexplicably, King Edgar gave it and the rest of the north away to Norway. Rory would ne’er have done it—given away all that guid land. Aye, according to the story his father had related to him, Caithness was the setting of his first close encounter with death and him still inside his mother’s womb. His father too would have been dead, if not for his cousin Rob.

Strange that although Rory had been inside his mother’s belly when his father dragged her out of the burning broch, the events lived afterwards in his mind as if he had seen it himself: seen Harald Comlyn ready to slaughter Gavyn, Rory’s father, and would have done so had it not been for Rob, who picked up Gavyn’s fallen sword and ran Harald through—an easy death in Rory’s opinion, considering all that had gone afore.

They had a tangled history, his family—bloody. His father a Farquhar made chieftain of the Comlyn clan by King Malcolm Canmore for marrying Rory’s mother Kathryn Comlyn. Her bloodlines were as much Norse as Scots through her father Erik the Bear, cousin to the Jarl of Caithness. That was his reason for travelling north, he wanted to see—wanted to experience the Norse-Viking ways for himself. To discover if the darkness he sometimes felt come over him came from the Norsemen, or if the horrors his mother had experienced shortly afore his birth had lodged in his makeup like a layer of anger under his skin.

His father had voiced nae objection to his wish to travel to the far north. “What better time to arrive than the summer solstice?” Gavyn had told him.

  • The shortest night.
  • The Gathering.
  • The bonfire.

Something was lacking in his life—he wanted, needed more. If only he knew more of what. Ten days ago Rory and Calder, a life-long friend set out in a north-westerly direction, taking the slow, easy way there, walking the length of glens watered by lochs gleaming like molten silver at the foot of mountains that spilled green and purple into the depths.

These were days brimming with pleasure, wandering northward, eating their fill frae the land. They hunted grouse, guddled salmon and trout and filled their bellies with the victims of their success. Cooking o’er the fire they slept beside with the stars for a ceiling, Rory had experienced a lightness of spirit as he imagined floating among them.

So far, each and every moment had been a blinding revelation. A taste of freedom—as his life had diverged frae mornings swatting o’er reading and writing and long sweaty afternoons spent in the training ground, both at his father’s behest.

Could anybody blame him for feeling that his father determinedly prided himself on producing the perfect chieftain’s son—God love him he wished that were true. It had taken this journey for Rory to accept there were aspects to life other than the expert wielding of a sword or the ability to judge for himself whether a contract was weighted in favour of the other party. Yet for some peculiar reason, tonight he missed Dun Bhuird and his family.

  • His host, Olaf Olafsen—Jarl of Caithness and cousin of his grandfather, Erik the Bear—might be related to him by blood, but custom set them apart. The Norsemen looked to the sea, but as a Scot, Rory had been relieved to find his heart was as rough-hewn as the mountains he lived amongst. On this his final evening in Caithness, he stood back frae the celebration thinking on the homeward journey that he and Calder would take on the morrow, and for once he felt almost content.
  • Flames leapt high, red and gold against a violet coloured sky, and through them he could see Calder burling round on the arm of a bonnie Norse lass. But then, werenae they all bonnie, and looked even bonnier the more he drank of the strong clear-coloured local spirit, a drink with even more kick than Uisge beatha. Let Calder have his fill of pleasures, Rory knew how to be canny. Many a lass would love to claim a chieftain’s heir as the father of their bairn, especially an unmarried heir.

His head spun watching the dancers circling the bonfire like a priest’s warning of what awaited sinners in hell, yet the merrymakers didnae appear bothered by it.

Standing outside the circle of firelight, Rory let the deep purple night enclose him, and that left him feeling like nae more than another shadow. Throwing back his head, he laughed at the notion of someone his size simply disappearing. He chuckled o’er it, tipping back on his heels until warm arms wrapped about his waist steadying him.

A woman—soft breasts pressed against his back—more evidence, as if the bonnie laughter reaching his ears wasnae convincing enough afore she said, “Dèan faire, I wouldnae want ye to fall. I saw ye standing here alone—saw ye limned in the gold o’ the firelight and took ye for one of the gods come down to observe the feast in his name.”

Tantalised by the huskiness roughening her voice, falling suddenly became an experience to be desired as long as he took her with him. Her scent filled his head, making him breathe deeper. She smelled of honey and thyme, much like the air in his mother’s stillroom. His earlier decision forgotten, he said, “Ach, I’m nae god, lass, merely a man, and willing to fall as long as yer arms are still wrapped around me when we land atop the sod.”

  • She echoed his laughter. “Now that’s what I call hasty. What ye see when ye turn around might not be to yer taste.”
  • “Then I’ll keep my eyes shut, for any lass who smells as guid as ye do, there’s nae need to see.” Though rough, his voice brimmed with a warmth that he’d had nae notion could be felt for someone who wasnae family. Turning slightly, he asked o’er his shoulder, “What’s yer name, lass?” but the darkness denied him a glimpse of the slight creature clinging to him.
  • “Nae names either,” she whispered, cheek pressed against his shoulder and her breath damp against his shirt. “Ye might have noticed I like the feel of ye in my arms. Shortly it will be full dark, and us merely two strangers coming together in the midst of night—lovers for however long it takes the sun to rise.” She didnae strike him as being bold; this was what the Gathering was in aid of: a place for folk to meet, form a bond, a link that might lead to something more. Not in his case, though; on the morrow he would be gone.

Her advances smacked of confidence as her hand slipped into his. The tickle of her fingertips across his palm seemed proof that restraint was unnecessary, that for once he could let caution fly. Take a chance with an unknown stranger without fear of retribution, for who would ever know but the two involved? And mayhap he mistook the light tremor in her hand for timidness when in truth it was excitement.

The lass settled the matter saying, “Keep yer eyes closed and let me lead ye. I ken a fine wee hollow where naebody will see us.” The hand clasping his tugged, seemingly as eager as he to reach a place where they could meet face to face—mouth to mouth—without fear of recognition or consequences.

The ground underfoot was smooth, as if much trodden, and he hesitated slightly as the path sloped downwards, adding to their momentum. “Ye can open yer eyes now,” she said, the lilt in her voice caressing his senses, “the firelight cannae reach us o’er here.”           Aye, mayhap it couldnae tumble o’er the crest of the wee brae as they had, yet when he opened his eyes he had an impression of light caught up in long flowing hair swaying as she moved, a creature of the night luring him to follow the sound of her laughter. Magical, it gurgled the way water did as it danced o’er stones in a burn, tempting one to drink. To his ears it was as refreshing a cool draft as a man could wish to find, teasing him to hurry after her, her words floating to him o’er her shoulders, “Yer very trusting for a Scot. I could be leading ye into a wee trap.”

Two steps and he fell upon her, filling his arms with her slim curves. “If this is a trap then spring it, for I’ll willingly be caught up in ye. Besides,” he spoke into her hair, “Yer but a wee bit of a lass; nae doubt I could win if I’d a mind to, though I’m thinking I’d much rather let ye capture me.”

Her feet hadnae stopped moving and it was as if the pair of them had been caught up in the dance. Though away frae firelight and the chain of folk holding hands as they circled the bonfire, naught could hold back the bursts of song and merriment frae reaching their ears in the wee hollow among the heather and blaeberry that he’d felt brushing his legs as he followed her—chased her, as if this lass had been what he had been missing in his life.

She turned in his arms and gave him the pleasure of feeling her soft breasts crushed against his ribs, but not for long. He savoured the sensation of her small hands skimming across his back, tugging the end of his plaid frae his belt and then lifting his shirt as if she couldnae abide not being able to touch his skin the way he yearned to lay his hand on hers. If he had enjoyed the feel of her breasts pressed against the small of his back, cupping them in his hands was indescribable. Her moan was one of surrender—the captor captured—but who held whom in thrall he wondered, his belly taut with need and the blood rushing into his groin at this lush revelation of exquisite womanhood. “Eh, lass,” he sighed, his head spinning., “If I be a god, ye feel like the perfect gift for one.”

He heard her soft indrawn breath, an answer to his thumbs sweeping across the wee hard buds his touch made bloom. He wanted to make her flower in other places, but there was nae rush, not yet. Now was the time to explore this gift from the gods. Pulling her closer he let his palms explore the narrow shoulders, and higher, delve into the long silky tresses of hair that lay across them. She nae longer moved but stood still, as a deer that senses danger and quivers afore taking flight. He would have none of that, any flying this lass did would be with him. Raising his hands he cupped her cheeks and bent his head closer until he tasted the sweet breath from her mouth and let his own whisper o’er her lips—but for only a moment—for he wasnae a man to deny himself a full taste of that sweetness.

  • As she raised her mouth, he captured it with his and began to drown in the flavours he first scented when she came up behind him; and hadnae he always been fool for honey, even when it meant he might get stung, and he was by her tongue chasing his.

They were closer than bark growing on a tree, and it wasnae enough, not when her hands pulled at his belt and the rest of his plaid came loose and fell frae round his hips in folds as his belt gave way to her nimble fingers and the silver buckle carved with their family crest his father had presented him with on his last name day fell to the ground. She made quick work of pulling his shirt o’er his head, as swiftly as he did removing her kirtle, until at last they stood naked as God had made them, skin touching skin, heat building into flames as his breath quickened. Each indrawn gasp of breath rubbed him against the curls covering her mons, as if in a demonstration of what was to come, to be shared. When her legs gave way, he followed her down onto the soft pool their garments made about their feet.

  • He wanted to kiss her all o’er, and he did, making her groan as he tortured her in the most unlikely places with his lips and tongue, tasting the soft skin under her breast, the hollow of her navel. Exploring crevices, making delightful discoveries that drew him lower where he found gold.
  • Her honey pot was all he had imagined and he gorged himself on it until he heard her cry and fall apart inside around his questing tongue while her fingers delved through his hair and clasped his scalp, as if he might abandon the wild sweetness filling his mouth. As her cries softened, Rory imagined he heard a wee protest as his hand grazed her shoulder while he attempted to gain purchase. Lifting his head, he rose o’er her, spreading her thighs wider to make room for his hips as he knelt betwixt them. “Did I do that, did I hurt ye, lass?”
  • “Nae it’s but an auld bruise, I was clumsy and banged it against a wall.”

Was it his imagination again or in the light frae the stars did he see her white teeth bite into her lip, as if cutting off an unpleasant memory? The moment disappeared as her hand reached for him, anxious-like. He smiled down at her, though he doubted she would recognise that in the dark ,especially as her hand closed around his eager prick.

“Don’t be afeared, lass. We’re not done. That was but the first taste of the feast this night of the gods has brought us. We have until dawn to savour each other and make us both happy,” he murmured, thrusting his hips forward to slide into what felt like home. Home? It felt like heaven, the promised land—nae the land of milk and honey—honey and thyme he decided as he thrust higher and felt her heat tighten, hold, then quickly join in the rhythm he set—he and the pipes and drums o’er the wee brae, and it was grand.

“Ye are a god. … I should have known the moment I saw ye, for I ne’er felt this afore.” She grabbed his hand and placed it between her breasts, almost unbalancing him and throwing his weight on to one arm. “Feel how hard, how fast, my heart beats—it beats for ye,” she said wrapping her lithe legs around his waist as if she would never let him go.

God’s teeth, he didnae want her to loose her grip, to stop the hard round heels pressing into his buttocks, dragging him into her beckoning, moist heat. He would gladly have drowned in the sensation of hard inside soft, tender petals blooming with pleasure around his burgeoning maleness. That was when the sound frae the gathering faded, disappeared in the delights of reaching the highest of peaks until, clinging, they both fell and landed breathless, bewildered as if at the foot the mountain they had discovered a new country they ne’er knew existed.

That was merely the first time they took each other, the lass as eager as he to re-climb the heights of pleasure, as if the gods had truly meant them to come together for this night—one night out of time when he had to admit that, for all they had agreed to remain strangers, as a glimmer of light bled into the sky, he thrust into her and wished it were otherwise. Her legs locked around his hips again, summoning the roar of completion sitting at the back of his throat, and while his skin slapped against hers, he was unable to resist demanding, “Say my name lass? Just this once, lass, call me Rory.”

  • His name was the last thing he heard on her lips, “Rory!” It mingled with his roar until, spent, he collapsed, letting her softness cradle him as sleep took him.
  • When he awoke it was daylight. He was alone with naught but fistful of wondrous memories to carry south with him.

Time to go home to Dun Bhuird and take up the responsibilities his father had in mind for his eldest son, certain now that he had worried o’er naught when it came to the hot rush of angry blood he had feared came frae his Norse ancestors.

Copyright © Frances Housden