Highland Sparks:Logan and Gwyneth(3)By: Keira Montclair
He tipped his hat at her with a wink before he stepped off the boat. “Have a nice trip, Gwyneth.”
She would kill Duff Erskine if it was the last thing she did.
The next time Gwyneth awakened, women’s screams and men’s shouts echoed all around her. She tried to focus, to hold her eyes open, but whatever Duff had given her held fast. Drugged into slow motion, she attempted to lift her head again, but to no avail. Right away, she knew. The smell of the air and the movement of the swaying oak planks underneath told her all she needed to know. They were afloat.
Her guess was they sailed on the Firth of Clyde. She fought to clear her mind and remember exactly how she had come to be here. She had been attacked on her way from the archery butts to the Kirk where she lived with her brother, Father Rab.
Moving her head, she caught sight of a large galley ship bobbing next to theirs. Thank God, someone would rescue them, for she had yet to find her bow. Squinting to see who was boarding the boat, she groaned and fell back against the rough hewn planks. More bad news. The boat was flying the raven banner of King Haakon, the king of the Norse, who was rumored to have brought thousands of his men to pillage and plunder Arran and Ayrshire in order to keep control of the Western Isles away from the Scots.
Lying in the corner of the ship’s deck, she attempted to stay as unobtrusive as possible as she worked to free her bindings while hiding under a slip of canvas. Hoots and hollers from the invaders sent the crew of her ship scrambling in different directions, and then a group of filthy Norsemen came aboard, pushing past the lasses in pursuit of the crew. Moments later, she heard fists pound against flesh, accompanied by the sound of breaking bones. Men yelled, begged, and threatened, but to no avail. Dissonant sounds rent the air—clashing metal, screams, and men falling overboard. Who survived, the crew or the Norse, she didn’t know. She feigned sleep in case they returned.
Moments later, relative quiet descended. Gwyneth opened one eye to see if she could determine who had won. She had to survive no matter what, for Rab, her only family member left, and to finish Duff. The Norse returned from the bow of the ship with shouts of exhilaration, each man grabbing a lass and tossing her on her back, sometimes two to one. She managed to struggle out of her bindings to locate her dagger inside her clothing, praying that Duff hadn’t removed it, and sighed when she found it. No one would get her without a fight.
A meaty hand gripped her by the front of her tunic. The warrior’s clothing she favored had not confused the man in front of her. The brute tossed her flat onto her back, then landed on top of her with a shout of jubilation. His hand reached down to fondle her breast, and she brought her head up with a snap, knocking her forehead against his hard enough to stun the lout for a moment. He slapped her twice before pinning her to the ground. Furious and fueled with new purpose, he continued by ripping through her clothes and fondling her private area. A jolt spread through her as a hard piece of flesh met her entrance. The last haze of the drug wore away instantly.
Naught could have brought a stronger reaction from her. A fierce growl wrenched from her gut as she reached into the fold of her clothing and pulled out her knife, aiming directly between the blackguard’s legs. When she connected with his flesh, he bellowed and screeched as blood spurted out before he could reach for his bollocks. She had found her mark. Swinging his fist, he caught the side of her head before she managed to roll away from him.
Another Norseman bellowed out a warning, and the fool she had speared glanced back to look at his comrade, who was pointing up the firth. More ships headed in their direction. She could tell from the expressions on their faces that they were worried. Norse or Scots? After a quick murmured conversation, the invaders scrambled back onto their longboat and rowed away. Gwyneth pulled herself into a sitting position, not even bothering to hold her ripped clothing together. She surveyed the deck, fighting to stay awake and think clearly. At least five other women were moving; two weren’t. Dead? Could they be dead already? Scanning the area again, she couldn’t find one male on board.
She put her hand on the nearest woman. “Are you unhurt? Can I help?”