Home > You've Got Plaid (Prince Charlie's Angels #3)(4)

You've Got Plaid (Prince Charlie's Angels #3)(4)
Author: Eliza Knight

   Aes would never know how that simple phrase changed her life. How she lived every day with it racing through her brain. Because though she was brave and though she risked much, she was not without fear. Not reckless as some might accuse her. She was crossing the mountain of fear and reaching for her dream—a better, safer Scotland, ruled by the Stuart line as it should have been since before she was born.

   So although she understood fear, she wasn’t going to be ruled by it. Fiona was going to be the conqueror of all the things that terrified her. The conqueror of everything that stood in the way of what she wanted and cared about.

   She’d made a pact with her friends, with herself, to stand up to the blasted dragoons and wouldn’t let a little thing like fear stand in the way. And so she’d traveled to the secret meetings of the lairds, though her da was no longer present. She offered her services as a courier to them, and with the help of Aes, and out of respect for her departed da, had made it happen. Though most of the men at first thought to send her on fool’s errands, she quickly proved she was not the wee idiot many believed her to be.

   With a thick cloak, gloves, and an extra pair of hose covering her feet in sturdy boots, Fiona slipped out of the castle unnoticed. The air was frigid and the sky gray. Soon it would either snow or pelt frozen ice onto their heads. She was guessing the latter. She slinked around the guard’s blind spots until she crossed the forest edge.

   Normally, she would have taken a horse, but given she didn’t want anyone to know she’d left right after her brother’s very public proclamation that she should stay, and her destination was only a few hours’ walk away, she chose to take the path on foot.

   To some, a forest was a vast and haunting place, dark and shadowed, littered with two- and four-legged creatures that could just as easily do harm as ignore a body’s presence. Within the wood there were spaces to hide, places to leap out from. There were nooks to curl up inside and high-altitude places from which to observe the world. The forest was at once peaceful as it was chilling.

   Fiona felt at home in the forest, even when the green of the pines had turned into glistening gray icicles. The place housed her greatest triumphs and had the potential to harbor her worst nightmares.

   Having grown up with a wood surrounding her clan, she’d become quite intimate with the way roots looped from the ground, and which trees would give her hives, and which would give her shelter. She knew paths to get to the surrounding clans and could peer through the leaves at the top even in the height of summer to see the sky, and then would know which direction to take.

   Since she was a girl, she’d expanded her forest knowledge, recognizing landmarks and remembering events that had taken place. For example, the route from Dòchas Keep to Cnàmhan Broch, the castle of her dear friend Jenny, held a path she’d not traversed since she was twelve years old, the day they’d run into the dragoons.

   And she hadn’t let running the forest end when she’d become a woman. If anything, she considered herself an expert in forestry. An expert in people too.

   When danger was afoot, Fiona either made herself invisible, or she made the ones who messed with her disappear. Sometimes, just from her own memory.

   There was a reason she’d been gifted with the name Phantom.

   Fiona liked to think she was the most well-versed at keeping herself hidden. Even when in plain sight. She was a master at her trade and had dozens of costumes that she could don, voices that she could use, and various personas that she plucked out of her basket. But when she wasn’t dressed in costume, she was aware of how she turned heads. It was one of the reasons she kept her fiery hair in a cap. The flaming-red color often garnered notice, as did her unusual eyes. They were a color of blue that was nearly violet.

   Men and women alike called her beautiful. She wanted to be flattered by that, but in the end, she also didn’t want anyone to remember her.

   Thinking of that, Fiona shoved her red hair farther into her cap. Powder smeared on her face paled the natural flush to her skin and hid the smattering of freckles over her nose that everyone thought was adorable. She’d smeared coal beneath her eyes to give her a more tired look, not that it was truly needed. She sported exhausted circles any time of day or night, for she only slept in short snatches. When this war was over, when Prince Charles was back on the throne, she’d sleep for days.

   Until that time, she had to keep moving forward.

   Never stop.

   Tonight, she was dressed as a healer. Her frock torn in a few places, stains on the front apron to look as though she’d been elbows deep in a man’s guts, and a basket looped over her arm filled with herbs and vials, she continued on. Inside the tiny bottles were various tinctures that she had mixed herself—poisons, if truth be told. If she were to administer these tinctures to anyone, they would find themselves feeling a bit ill. Or dead.

   Fiona wasn’t a violent type, despite the knives and poisons. She would much prefer to avoid any sort of conflict or confrontation whatsoever.

   If she were stopped by a dragoon along her postmistress route, she typically pled her duty to the mail, batted her lashes, and went on her way. But that was by day. During the night, things were a bit different, hence the costume. If caught now, they’d question why she was traveling alone at night, and she’d say because the ill did not wait for sunup, and she couldn’t wait for an escort when someone could be dying.

   But being that it was night, the darkness helped to keep her hidden. Not that they’d have any easier time finding her during the day. Fiona’s costumes were always muted browns and greens to help her blend in with the foliage of the forest or hedges lining a road, and the moors if she were lying in the thick grasses.

   As a child, she’d been an expert at playing seek and find. In fact, her siblings could not get her to come out even when their mother was demanding their return. One of her favorite games was to sneak out of her hiding spot while they were in a panic, rush home, and be seated at the table having a bite to eat when one of them finally reappeared. This used to drive them all crazy, and she rather liked doing that—well, at least driving her brothers into a rage. More often than not, she tried to spare Leanna.

   Wasn’t that the job of every younger child? To make one’s older sibling go a bit mad?

   She smiled thinking about it now as Culloden House finally came into view.

   Straightening her shoulders, she prepared to present herself to Prince Charles. The men recognized her as she walked through the courtyard and into the house, nodding with respect, and she in turn greeted them the same.

   The prince was at the dining room table, which was spread out with maps, scouring the area.

   “This ground here.” He pointed to a spot on the map.

   “’Tis surrounded by bogs,” his advisor Murray responded.

   The prince grinned, showing off a bonnie dimple in his cheek. “All the better for the dragoons to get stuck in.”

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