Home > You've Got Plaid (Prince Charlie's Angels #3)(5)

You've Got Plaid (Prince Charlie's Angels #3)(5)
Author: Eliza Knight

   Murray, it appeared, was immune to the smile that made many women swoon. “But it may end up hindering our men as well.”

   The prince looked up then, his blue eyes alighting on Fiona. He truly was a bonnie fellow, almost too soft-looking to be planning a battle. The prince straightened, and Fiona curtsied.

   “You’ve returned, mistress. Good. I’ve a stack of messages awaiting your dispatch.”

   “Your Highness,” she said.

   “MacDougall, give her the coin pouch.”

   One of the prince’s men approached with a heavy purse, her payment for services rendered.

   “Any news?” the prince asked.

   “Cumberland’s men are on the move. They’ve been sighted near the Grampians.”

   The prince nodded. “Good. Then he brings his men to their death.” He came forward and presented her with his hand, and Fiona bent to kiss his ring.

   When she rose, he was grinning at her, a dazzling smile that would no doubt win over many a woman, but not her. Fiona was about one thing—the mission. Falling for a man, especially one as unattainable as the prince, would be disastrous.

   “You have been instrumental in all of this, Mistress MacBean. We could not be where we are without you. Do not forget that. Your loyalty has been noted and you will be rewarded.”

   The heavy coin pouch in her hand and knowing she was helping to thwart dragoons were payment enough. But if the prince wanted to give her more, perhaps offer her and her brothers a place at his court when he was finally sitting on the throne in Edinburgh and London, she would not dissuade him.

   * * *

   Three days later…

   Fiona hopped over a fallen log, slick with ice, and then stilled at a movement some distance to her left. Gingerly she eased toward the sound, peering through thick lines of pine. A troop of men, but not dragoons, rather Highlanders. They thought themselves silent, and they mostly were to anyone of normal aptitude for spying and hiding, but not to Fiona.

   She crouched down, closed her eyes, and turned her face toward the sky.

   Men were on the move, slowly but deliberately, heading back toward Culloden if she were to hazard a guess. But they shouldn’t be. That was not the plan. Why were they headed that way?

   She’d been given a missive from the prince to deliver to the men at Nairn, that reinforcements were catching up but had been waylaid. From the sounds of it, the army from Nairn was returning before she’d had a chance to deliver the news. She’d not been dallying either. Something must have happened.

   “Blast it all,” she muttered under her breath.

   Fiona darted to her left, ducking beneath tree limbs, dodging roots and fallen branches, and yanking her skirts from clawing brambles, pausing every so often to listen to the sounds of the men. She finally spied them, moving shadows mixed with the other obscurities of the night.

   She searched their chests for glints of moonlight on brass buttons that would indicate she’d come across a troop of dragoons instead of the Highlanders she’d assumed to be there. But there was no glint, and the shape of their caps had her believing for certain now that they were Jacobites, solidifying her fear that they’d turned around from Nairn.

   Still, she remained careful as she orchestrated a path to collide with theirs in a way that seemed completely natural, so as to avoid being fired upon or in case she was wrong about who they were. And believing them to be rebels, she plucked the Royal Postmistress pin from her jacket so as not to confuse them be they strangers to her.

   Fiona met the soldiers at the front, standing in the center of the road like an apparition. The lot of them drew up at the sight of her there, a few gasping. Most wore kilts and boots, and even in the night, she could make out the shape of caps on their heads. Definitely Highlanders. Most likely Jacobites.

   “Is it a sprite?” one man asked, followed by jeers and a few whispered confirmations.

   Fiona rolled her eyes, knowing that in the dark they’d not be able to see quite that well.

   When no other men stepped forward, Fiona opened her mouth to speak, only to see a tall Highlander shift from a few men back and come to stand before the group.

   “What are ye doing in the road?” His voice was low, gravelly. Tired and irritated.

   Was he the leader of this pack?

   “I could ask ye the same thing.” This was not the response the man would be expecting, and that was all right. She didn’t often do what people were expecting, and she still stood strong.

   “Move aside, we’ve no business with a woman roaming in the middle of the night. Ye could only be up to one thing—and we’re no’ interested.”

   Fiona suppressed a derisive snort. It would not be the first time someone had accused her of being a whore, or tried to make her into one. Rather than take offense to it, she pitied the man lobbing the accusation, for truly was that the only thing he could come up with for a woman roaming the roads? Sad.

   “’Tis a good thing my house is no’ on fire, or my entire family massacred, for ye’d be of no help.” She tossed her head gently, feigning affront.

   The man’s stance shifted, a sign of guilt, but he said nothing. Lord, he was big. A head taller than most of the other men, and easily twice as broad as herself.

   Though it was hard to see just where he was looking or the expression on his face, the way the hair on the back of her nape prickled she instinctively knew he was staring her down. Examining her as hard as she was examining him.

   “Did they send ye?” he asked.

   This was a tough question, because he could mean the men who had actually sent her or the dragoons she’d just alluded to.

   “Who would send me to ye? Do I know ye, sir?”

   The man grunted, a sound that was an answer at the same time it wasn’t.

   “We’ve no’ met afore,” he said. “I dinna know of any women who roam the forest at night.”

   She would have brought up the healer disguise, except that doing so might lead to him asking for help and any help she gave would be more detrimental to his men than not. Though she’d watched Annie work on men any number of times, Fiona had never quite picked up the skills for healing. And she didn’t really care to. She could sew a stitch if needed, but the lines would be jagged, and she’d have nothing to ease the pain, nor any salves to make sure infection didn’t set in.

   Well, they’d wasted enough time with unpleasantries. She had about thirty seconds or less to establish trust with this stranger in order to relay her message.

   “It is no’ without purpose that we meet upon the road, though I expected it to be closer to Nairn,” she started.

   A few men drew their swords, immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion.

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