For fans of sexy Scottish Highlanders who know how to treat a woman like a lady.
When someone changes history, it can affect the future. That’s when Diana Montgomery, the most experienced agent of Time Weavers, Inc., steps in. This time her mission takes her back to the year 1306, Scotland to find the culprit, and ensure a minor clan chief dies in battle as he originally had.
Diana is well-prepared to infiltrate the small MacPherson clan. What she’s not prepared for is Torr MacPherson, the ruggedly handsome warrior with a kind heart and steadfast loyalty. One look from him and heat sears through her bloodstream.
But, he’s the Laird who has to die to re-set history.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
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Laird MacPherson must die.
Diana Montgomery reiterated the first priority of her assignment as she stood at the edge of an open grassy area, a quarter mile away from an unadorned medieval castle. As an agent of Time Weavers, Inc., it was her job to return history to the way it was before the Disruptors fiddled with it. In this case, she must ensure the chief of this clan died in the upcoming battle.
She gazed at the square structure at the top of a gentle rise. It was a warm, sandy brown smothered in greenery, but whether it was covered in moss or vines, she couldn't tell from where she stood. It exuded strength, protection, and longevity. Behind her was a forest, quiet and still, but the land in front of her bustled with activity, from the men walking the tall outer walls to the carts rolling through the tunnel-like entrance.
What her mother wouldn't have given to see this. Though Mom had been a professor of English literature, Sir Walter Scott had been her favorite author.
She shook off the bittersweet memories. "So, this is what the Scottish Highlands really look like." It was far more beautiful than the images of Scotland in the fourteenth century implanted in her mind by old Arthur, one of TWI's support team. He sported a long gray beard that made her think of Merlin, and he treated her and the other agents like granddaughters. His hypnotic eyes were his own form of magic, as they were how he transferred his research of time periods into their brains, which on her current assignment included the Scottish Gaelic language.
As the most experienced of the five female time travelers now operating out of her family's mansion on the New England coast, she'd been sent on this particular mission. In the twenty-first century, there was no longer a country called Scotland, or even Great Britain. As of yesterday, it was all New France thanks to the Disruptors, though only TWI's employees recognized the sudden switch.
The change had been so significant that even the land around her home, their district headquarters, was no longer owned by her and was cluttered with rundown houses. After her parents died two years ago, Stonehaven felt too large for one person, so she offered her home up to her fellow TWI agents, who were scattered across America. This gave her fellowship when she was actually home and more when the TWI staff also joined her, providing a warm sense of community like she'd never had. With this disruption, they were all lucky that her family's ownership of the house hadn't changed. It literally brought home how connected all events in history were as this was the closest the Disruptors had come to affecting her personally. She had a lot at stake.
She studied the area around her. Despite her training to be objective, she found it breathtaking. Everything was so vibrant — the green grass, the muddy road, even the golden stonework of the castle shimmered, as if in her time, after seven centuries of human life later, the world had been dulled with use. The Earth appeared fresh, renewed, which she hadn't noticed with any other mission. Then again, it could simply be the country. She'd never been to Scotland.
Sensing the pace of life, she started forward at a slow walk toward the road, but before she took ten steps, the ground beneath her feet vibrated and the sound of thundering horses roared closer. She ducked into the shadows of the tall evergreens to wait while a couple dozen men raced past, kicking dust and sod into the air. The group slowed as it approached the stone archway of the castle's outer wall, and the carts stopped, making way for the new arrivals to enter immediately.
Now what was that about? She rose from her crouch and walked toward the road again. With old Arthur's knowledge in her head, she maneuvered herself to blend in with one of the carts to avoid looking like she traveled alone. As she neared the entrance, the thundering sounded once again. The cart she walked with was pulled forward, and the great iron portcullis slammed down behind her.
At least she was in.
Now the serious work began. Even if her family's land wasn't at stake, she would have volunteered for this mission. This was no "hiccup" in history as they referred to all the previous fixes. This was a "gremlin," which could cause serious problems in the future. Her unseen boss, Jules, was worried, and if her boss was worried, then she'd do all in her power to help. It had been Jules's calm but sarcastic voice in her head that had made sense of her very first time-travel experience, and in a way, Jules had given her a new family and a new purpose.
She sidled her way along the outer defense wall until she reached what had to be the bakery. The smell of fresh bread wafted by her nose, causing her stomach to grumble. Oh, Shakespeare, she'd forgotten to eat before leaving again. If her head weren't attached to her —
"Why be ye on MacPherson land, and who be ye, stranger!" A voice boomed from above her on the castle wall.
Her thoughts scattered, sending her heart into double-time as she froze in place. She glanced up, but the man who shouted faced the road and not her. She breathed again as her heart slowed in relief.
A man outside the castle replied. "I am William of the Clan Comyn and I seek the traitor, Robert the Bruce. We have followed him for days, and he headed this way."
A murmur ran through a group of men across the yard from her, not far from the side door of what appeared to be the castle keep. She studied them. More than a dozen stood around one who was obviously their leader. Holy Hamlet! It was Robert the Bruce, future king of Scotland! Goose bumps raced down her arms. He and his men must have been the ones who raced to the castle when she first headed toward the road.
She'd never been this close to an historic figure. Usually, the Disruptors affected an unknown person's life so that it changed more important events further along the timeline. Jules called it the "lynch pin theory." Every assignment was ranked based on its influence over history. "Hiccups" were minor changes that TWI agents fixed to prevent further disruptions. "Gremlins" were more serious with significant changes made within the timeline, and "situations" were the worst, causing a completely new future. They hadn't had a situation yet, but this assignment had been categorized as a gremlin. Now she had an idea why. She was standing in the same yard as King Robert I himself, who was being hidden by Clan MacPherson.
The man above her chuckled before replying to William, who remained shut out from the castle. "Aye, ye be on the man's trail. I gave him hospitality not more than an hour hence, and he continued on his way."
The silence that followed heightened the tension in the courtyard. Her body vibrated with it, making her want to soothe the very air, a bit beyond her special ability. Her sensitivity to tension was her biggest weakness as a TWI agent, but her ability to calm was an asset.
None of the king's men inside the walls moved, their faces turned toward the ramparts.
"You gave a traitor food?" Outside, William was clearly not pleased. "Have you a sympathy for this man? I warn you, protecting him will only bring your clan misery." She watched as the MacPherson man leaned back against the crenellation, his body completely covering one of the square gaps along the wall-walk, as if he discussed the morning's hunt instead of the future of his country. With his back to her, she couldn't see his face. Was this the laird of the clan? It had to be if he spoke for the castle.
"Sympathy? Not for him. Perhaps, though, for ye because ye wear down yer horses and men on a fool's quest. No one in the Highlands will point ye to the Bruce."
William chuckled. "That is not true. You yourself just assured me of my direction."
"Ach, that is because the Bruce likes a bit of a challenge now and again. He asked me to do so, and so I have." The MacPherson man disappeared from the courtyard side of the wall. She couldn't see him at all. He had to be leaning over the front.
His deep baritone voice exploded. "Now be gone!"
The sudden change in tone made her jump. That definitely sounded like the head of a clan.
William, however, didn't sound intimidated. "Despite your cocky confidence, I will hunt the traitor and bring him before King Edward to be torn limb from limb."
His words did little to ease MacPherson. "Listen well, Comyn. Don't ye cross MacPherson lands again. I will not guarantee ye safe passage."
The lessening sound of horses' hooves pounding the earth outside was clear in the courtyard, and she breathed a sigh of relief while just steps away the king's men congratulated him on fooling the Comyns. Pushing away from the wall, she peered up for a better view of MacPherson. She needed to know what he looked like since he was her mission. But while she could see men on the battlement clapping him on the shoulder, the sun behind him kept his face in shadow.
No problem. She'd see him at some point in the next two weeks. First, she had to settle in so she could watch for a Disruptor. If she could discover her identity before the fateful battle, the gifted staff of TWI could possibly find the Disruptors' headquarters and stop them once and for all.
Energized by the possibility of success, she turned toward the bakery and stepped inside.
* * *
Torr MacPherson descended from the battlements and clasped arms with Robert the Bruce, rightful king of Scotland. "I doubt we'll see any Comyn for at least a fortnight." When he made to pull away, the king held on.
"Thank you. Your family's loyalty to me is humbling."
Robert finally released his arm, and Torr stared directly at him. "It is our way." He would protect his king with his life if he must.
"But I know your sorrow. My own brothers dead and my wife and daughter captured by Longshanks." Robert shook his head as if trying to rid himself of the sorrow that plagued him. "Have you heard aught of Carnach?"
Torr suffocated the sharp pain that always tightened his gut at the mention of his lost family. First his father, then his two oldest brothers had been killed in the fight to put King Robert on the throne of Scotland. His brother Carnach, no more than a year his elder, was captured by the English king last year. His mother was fortunate not to have survived many years past his younger brother's birth. He shook his head. "If he is not dead, he will be soon and will join the rest of my family."
"I am sorry."
"As am I, but as long as their deaths were not in vain, then the MacPhersons are pleased to aid their king." He looked over the king's followers before returning his gaze to him. "Yer room is ready for ye, and yer men will find plenty of space to lay their heads in the Great Hall." He smirked. "I sent twenty of my men to lead that Comyn on a merry chase."
Robert clapped him on the back. "Always one step ahead of the enemy. I admire that about you, MacPherson."
"In the meantime, my men and I are scheduled to practice our battle skills. Yers are welcome to join us. Or if they would prefer a meal, my clanswomen will be pleased to oblige."
The king turned back to his men before answering. "I think sustenance would be preferred. We will join you later."
Torr bowed his head. "As ye wish."
Robert and his men meandered into the castle through the west tower while Torr scanned the courtyard. "Kerr!"
"Aye!" His younger brother emerged from the blacksmith's hut.
"Gather the men. It is time."
Kerr nodded and strode toward the stables where a contingent of MacPherson men stood.
He studied his brother's gait, his limp completely gone, the leg stronger. Last winter he'd thought he'd lost the last of his family when they found Kerr lying still beneath another clan's dead horse, but the damn beast had actually kept the lucky sop from freezing to death, while Kerr's wounded leg had lost little blood in the frigid temperatures.
He would protect the king with all the strength he had in his body and every mote of wit he had in his head, but he couldn't lose another family member. He wouldn't allow it.
* * *
"Diana, I be very sorry ye Ma has gone to heaven, but I think fate was kind to have brought ye to us because we need the extra pair of hands."
Diana kneaded the dough on the stone slab as she smiled understandingly at Nessa while the slightly plump woman put a loaf of bread into the oven. Nessa's open demeanor had made it easy to establish her story of having come to find her aunt, her last living relative, only to discover the woman had died — information provided to her through a little eavesdropping. After that, the women in the bakery were happy to take her in.
It was the same no matter what time period she visited. The women were overlooked, which enabled her and her sister agents to do their jobs. She was just lucky that none of the women from the nearby village were able to help in the castle bakery and so she was very much wanted.
The only problem she could foresee with working there was the need for bathing more than was generally accepted. Once a week just wasn't enough for her. She wiped perspiration from her forehead onto her wide sleeve. The woolen brat, which was no more than a blanket on her shoulders pinned at her chest and belted at the waist, combined with the massive ovens' heat didn't help. She glanced at Nessa, who was bent over an open fire, her riotous red curls escaping her braid along its entire length. The woman wore only a linen leine, a shirt that went to the ankles, with the usual long sleeves tied up, revealing her pale forearms and small hands.
It must be acceptable to shed the brat, a piece of information old Arthur had not provided. Since there was no bra beneath her long leine, which she equated to a shift in more modern times, she'd thought the brat necessary. She kept forgetting medieval Scotland was a far cry from Regency England, her last mission. Quickly, she unwrapped the wool blanket from her body and hung it and the belt on a peg in the wall. The change in temperature was immediate, and she returned to her dough, wishing she'd thought to shed the heavy garment before her strength had been sweated out of her.
It reminded her of one afternoon when she was a little girl and she'd stepped into the kitchen to find her mother covered in flour, wiping the sweat from her brow as she tried to make a piecrust from scratch. It was odd to see her proper mother in the kitchen. Mom didn't even swear, saying that no woman of any intelligence needed to swear, and Diana had learned quickly the repercussions of doing so. In some ways, her mother had been very old fashioned.
But on this day, her mother threw propriety out the window to make her husband his favorite dessert, apple pie. She was determined not to let the cook make it. That her mother had never baked was painfully evident in the final product, but her father had eaten every morsel of the lumpy, tasteless desert. The memory tugged at her heart. She'd been very close to her parents and losing them both at the same time had devastated her. They had been her world, her father joking they were the Three Musketeers.
Then they were gone in a freak car accident on Cape Breton. When she received the call, it was as if someone had shot her, the pain in her chest making her knees crumple beneath her. She didn't cry. The pain had been too intense for tears. All she could do was deny it, her emotion so strong that she thought she had fainted as the purple colors of the Timestream swept her away to the lobby of her parents' hotel just minutes before they left for their fateful drive.
Confused, she thought perhaps the call had been a joke, but as her parents left through the front doors, she had enough of her mind functioning again to realize she shouldn't be in Cape Breton when she'd just been in her own home. With a one-track mind, she yelled to stop them, but they didn't hear. She barely took one step toward the door when Go-Lucky appeared.
The little man with a bright orange beard and brows and long hair to match, tied in a ponytail, made her think of a leprechaun, except he wore designer jeans, a cream-colored turtleneck, and a blue suit coat that looked tailored to him perfectly. Caught off guard, she hesitated, but when she'd made to go around him, he'd held out his hand and ordered her to stop.
He'd kept her from changing history that day and took her back to Stonehaven through the stream. Then just as quickly, Go-Lucky disappeared. She'd been completely lost when Jules telepathically contacted her and helped her understand her sudden time-travel experience. It was her heart-wrenching emotional response that had triggered her latent genetic ability to travel through time, which had in turn alerted Rafter, their Time Keeper, to her presence. Jules explained that there were very few who had this unusual gene. Right then and there, Jules recruited her as the first TWI agent in the district, though at first neither of them thought she had what it took.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "On Highland Time"
Copyright © 2018 Lexi Post.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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