The Laird’s Vow
In medieval Scotland, the illegitimate children of a notorious criminal vie to claim their birthrights, and find that love is an even greater prizeâ€¦
Edinburgh merchant Tavish Cameron has no choice but to pay outrageous tolls to the nobility, until fate gives him an unexpected opportunity for advancement. To claim Tower Roscraig, all he has to do is admit that he is the bastard son of a murdering baronâ€¦and evict the proud, impoverished Lady Glenna Douglas from her crumbling castle.
With her father ailing and her village devastated by illness, Glenna has lost almost everything except her home. Now a ruggedly handsome stranger intends to take that too. Until the king himself arrives to determine the rightful laird, Glenna and Tavish Cameron must share Tower Roscraigâ€”resulting in a scandalous bargain.
But something deeper than passion ignites as they realize that Roscraig has been targeted by enemies. And only by uniting can they evade the traps set for them bothâ€¦
THE LAIRD’S VOW
Sons of Scotland – Book 1
Sneak Peek Excerpt Below!
â€œâ€™Tis beautiful, Tavish.â€
Miss Keane looked up through her eyelashes as she ran her fingertips over the striped silk folded on the bench between them, the refined lilt of her voice just as smooth as the imported cloth she admired. Her hand drifted to the edge of the silk where Tavishâ€™s hand rested and grazed his skin. â€œJust what I was hoping for. I think I should like to have all of it. And even more, if your voyage was a profitable one.â€
Tavish felt his lips quirk as he looked down at the daughter of one of the wealthiest merchants in all of Edinburgh. Redheaded and pampered, Audrey Keane was alluringly beautiful. But, even if she and Tavish hadnâ€™t been friends since they were little more than children, it was well known that Niall Keane hoped to elevate the station of his only child with a distinguished and titled match, and Tavish Cameron was neither. And so regardless of her coquettish banter, Audrey would remain nothing more than a good friend and a good customer.
Except for this dayâ€”there could be no indulging of Audreyâ€™s games with barrels of illegal French wine behind his bench and a stranger about the shop. Tavish glanced over at the black-clad man for what must have been the hundredth time; the strangerâ€™s back was currently turned to the bench as if he were merely biding his time while waiting for attendance, inspecting the stacks and bundles of oily wool lining the shop floor. But Tavish caught sight of his straight jawline, could all but see the manâ€™s ear cocked toward the conversation being carried on over the bench.
A spy, if ever Tavish had seen one. And seen more than one, he certainly had.
â€œIâ€™m sorry to say thatâ€™s all I have this time, Miss Keane,â€ Tavish said, his cool tone causing Audreyâ€™s eyebrows to rise. â€œShall I have my mother wrap it for you?â€
The man in black was obviously not the only one whose ears were paying close attention to the business being conducted, as Mam appeared at Tavishâ€™s elbow just then, reaching across him and pulling the silk from beneath Audreyâ€™s hungry touch.
â€œIâ€™ve a fine flax that shanâ€™t snag aâ€™tall, Miss Keane,â€ Harriet Cameron said.
Audrey gave his mother a brief, tight smile before looking to Tavish once more. â€œNaught else?â€ she cajoled pointedly. â€œBut you said there would beâ€”â€
â€œAh, aye!â€ Tavish interrupted and caught sight of the man in black turning his head ever so slightly toward them. He reached into the wooden barrel behind the bench and withdrew two bright spheres, presenting them to Audrey as if they were Scotlandâ€™s crown jewels. â€œForgive me. Here you are.â€
â€œOranges,â€ Audrey said stiffly.
Tavish smiled and then indicated with his eyes the stranger now turned fully toward them. â€œFrom Spain.â€
Understanding dawned at last in Audreyâ€™s eyes. â€œOh, oranges! How lovely! Thank you, Master Cameronâ€”father will be so pleased.â€
â€œPerhaps you might return later in the day to see if Iâ€™ve any left,â€ he suggested. â€œItâ€™s all the Stygian returned with on this latest voyage. Silk. And oranges.â€
Audrey Keane nodded smartly and then dared to give him a wink as her maid took the tied bundle from Mam. â€œI will most certainly do that. I do hope,â€â€”she paused a moment, met his eyes and lowered her voiceâ€”â€œthere areâ€¦more.â€
â€œGood day to you now, Miss Keane,â€ Mam said pointedly through her smile.
The redhead only glanced at Mam. â€œMistress Cameron.â€ Then she turned and left the shop, trailing her expensive skirts Â and her young maid behind her through the open doorway and up the stone steps to the bustling spring street above.
â€œShe wanted one of those filthy books you promised her, nae doubt,â€ Mam hissed low at his side as she rewound the hairy twine sheâ€™d cut. â€œI doona ken why youâ€™d waste space on such rubbish. She canna even read, Iâ€™ll wager.â€
â€œâ€™Tis nae filthy, Mam,â€ Tavish murmured. â€œâ€™Tis a single volume of poetry, easily carried among the bottles. You know as well as I that Audrey reads quite well, much to Master Keaneâ€™s dismay. Youâ€™re only salted because you canna read such stuff yourself.â€ He watched the man move to the other side of the shop.
â€œOch, Audrey all the day now, is it?â€
â€œThatâ€™s her name.â€ Tavish felt beneath the bench top for the familiar smooth handle of the baton he kept, his eyes never leaving the stranger while his motherâ€™s mumblings about the dangerous wiles of Audrey Keane faded into the hum of the street noise beyond the shop wallsÂ .
Tavish guessed the man in black to be approximately his own ageâ€”a score and ten, perhaps a few years more. His profile revealed a high, sloping forehead with prominent brow and cheekbone, a Roman nose above a noble looking chin. Certainly, the manâ€™s grooming was impeccable, his long, black hair tied at the nape with a dark-colored silk ribbon, both of which nearly disappeared against the plush quilting of the manâ€™s fine gambeson. He was successfulâ€”or wealthy, any matterâ€”considering his black suede leggings filling the shining leather boots. The strangerâ€™s belt was wide and equipped; long gauntlets hung from his right side, his weapon on his leftâ€”a lengthy arming sword with shining silver pommel, its leather-wrapped scabbard stretching from hip to mid-calf. This was no home-forged, crude weapon.
Nay, this was no ordinary stranger.
So the burgess had hired a foreigner to do his dirty work for him, had he? Tavish took firm hold of the baton and slid it silently from its hiding place, holding it down by his leg.
â€œâ€”Audrey Keane since she was in braids and youâ€™d think Captain Muir and yourself wouldâ€”â€ Mam broke off her hushed tirade. â€œTav?â€
Tavishâ€™s eyes followed the stranger as he ambled ever closer to the bench, his eyes still seeming to peruse the bundled wool.
Mam wrapped her fingers around his arm, seeking his attention, but all he would allow her was the slight angling of his ear toward her.
â€œWhat are you thinking youâ€™ll do with that?â€ she whispered, shaking his arm for emphasis. â€œIs it your plan now to beat those who come to hire you?â€
â€œHeâ€™s nae here to hire me, Mam.â€
â€œAnd how would you be knowinâ€™ that?â€
â€œOnly look at him,â€ Tavish said. â€œNosing about the place, eavesdropping on my business with Audrey. Someoneâ€™s sent him.â€ Mamâ€™s silence told Tavish heâ€™d no need to explain his meaning. â€œPerhaps â€™twill deliver a clear message to the burgess that Iâ€™ll have no more of his threats and his thieving, do I send his hired man back to him with a glen in his skull.â€
Now his motherâ€™s fingernails dug into his arm. â€œYou hush, now! Hush! Doona speak of such things! The burgess will jail you and take everything we haveâ€”everything youâ€™ve worked so hard to build. To keep!â€
â€œIâ€™ve a revelation for you, Mamâ€”â€™tis the burgessâ€™s intent to take it all any matter. The Stygian canna so much as anchor at Leithâ€”as if I were no better than a common pirate.â€ His mother gave him a look from the corner of her eye, but he ignored it. â€œIâ€™ll have nae more of it, I say.â€
â€œAnd Iâ€™ll nae have my only child hanged!â€ She pinched the inside of his elbow hard enough to make him wince, and then, before he could stop her, Mam had shoved past him and was gone from behind the bench, approaching the stranger.
â€œGood day to you, sir,â€ Mam called out, leaning at the waist as if to draw the manâ€™s attention.
He turned and gave Mam a short, courteous bow that took Tavish a bit by surpriseâ€”usually those sent by the burgess possessed little in the way of manners. â€œBonjourÂ . A good day to you, Mistress. Forgive me for not greeting you sooner; I had no wish to encroach upon a private conversation.â€
Any good will kindled by the strangerâ€™s courteous French greeting to Harriet Cameron was quickly extinguished by the remainder of his address, spoken with a proper, clipped accent.
â€œOh,â€ Mam cooed, causing Tavishâ€™s bad temper to increase. â€œWell! How verra kind of you! Thatâ€™s only my son, though.â€
Tavish had the suspicion that, had he been able to see his motherâ€™s face, she would be looking up at the stranger through her eyelashes, much as Audrey Keane had looked at Tavish.
â€œWhat I mean to say is, heâ€™s the master of the shop but heâ€™s also myâ€”â€ Mam clapped her hands together once gaily and then held them against her matronly, aproned bosom. â€œHave you come to collect goods from the shipment? Perhaps someâ€â€”she paused, her turning and nodding head indicating she was looking the man over thoroughlyâ€”â€œcloth for yourâ€¦your fineâ€â€”she reached out a finger and almost touched the manâ€™s chestâ€”â€œself?â€
A faint smile cracked the strangerâ€™s proper faÃ§ade and he gave her another short bow. â€œThank you for your kind offer of assistance, but I believe I have located what I seekâ€”you are Harriet Payne, are you not?â€
Tavishâ€™s heart stuttered in his chest.
â€œMy, my!â€ Mam murmured, and Tavish was glad to hear a bit of caution creep into her tone. â€œIâ€™ve nae heard that name in an age. Aye, Iâ€™m Harriet; Payne was my da.â€
The stranger nodded. â€œMistress Cameron now, of course. I knew you by the lovely mark there on your upper lip.â€
Mamâ€™s fingertips fluttered at her mouth, where the perfectly round mole she was known for lived, but this time when she spoke, all traces of coquettishness were gone.
â€œHave we met, sir?â€ she asked.
â€œForgive me,â€ the man said and bowed again. â€œI am Sir Lucan Montague, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter of His Majesty King Henry of England.â€
Harriet turned wary eyes to Tavish, whose fingers tingled around the handle of the club he still held beneath the bench top.
â€œWhat reason have you to seek my mother, sir?â€ Tavish asked quietly, his heart galloping in his chest as the barrel nearest him crowned so deliberately with a pyramid of orange fruit seemed to become exponentially larger in the room.
Why was an English knight in his shop?
Lucan Montagueâ€™s gaze, blue and cold, at last found Tavish. â€œIn truth, I seek the proprietor of this works, and the owner of the merchant ship Stygian.â€ His accent was clipped and cool, but also completely at ease. He seemed to examine every detail of Tavishâ€™s face before meeting his eyes again, and his face once more betrayed a secret mirth. â€œI believe you are he. You may retire the weapon youâ€™re holding in your right hand; I vow upon my honor that I mean you and your mother no harm.â€
Tavish felt his brows raise, and he couldnâ€™t help but glance down at the baton in his handâ€”for sure, the man could not have seen it from where he stood.
â€œIn fact,â€ the knight said, stepping to the door and kicking away the wooden wedge that held it open, â€œIâ€™ve come bearing what I suspect you will consider to be very good news, and all I ask in return are answers to some few, concise inquiries.â€
A pair of ladies drew up short before the doorway as Lucan Montague began to close the stout shop door.
â€œDÃ©solÃ©. I do apologizeâ€”a matter of great urgency, you understand. So sorry. Good day.â€ He closed the door and looked up and down the frame before engaging both intricate locks, while Mam stepped backward quickly to join Tavish behind Â the safety of the bench.
Tavish laid the club atop the wood, still firmly in his grip. When Lucan Montague turned around, the knightâ€™s gaze went immediately to it, but he didnâ€™t seem disturbed in the least.
â€œYour shuttering my business without my leave is not endearing me to your request. You have a short amount of time to explain yourself, knight or nay, before I make use of this baton,â€ Tavish warned. â€œNow, Iâ€™ll only ask once more: What do you want?â€