Home > Kinsey's Defiance(2)

Kinsey's Defiance(2)
Author: Madeline Martin

Eventually, she just might find out.

Today would not be that day, for the Englishman and his friend scowled and staggered away, grumbling their curses.

The cloth merchant was at the end of a line of booths, beside a cart offering jars of honey.

“Do ye need any assistance?” A voice asked from behind Kinsey.

From an Englishman to a Scotsman. God, how she hated market days.

“Commendable timing.” She glanced over her shoulder.

The man was lean and tall, his brown hair neatly combed to the side, his high cheekbones evident with the hint of a smile on his lips. He was the most handsome man Kinsey had ever laid eyes on.

And he knew it.

What was worse, he was undoubtedly a nobleman. His clothes were too costly to be a reiver. Or even a merchant from the border for that matter.

Before she could open her mouth to offer a smart retort to send him off, Clara spoke up. “Nay but thank ye for offering to help.”

Kinsey gave her sister a long-suffering look, which Clara met with a patient tilt of her head. How was it she never got riled?

“Then mayhap ye can help me,” the man said.

But Kinsey was already turning away, pulling Clara toward the cloth merchant who would undoubtedly take far too much of their time.

“Can we get the wool next week?” Kinsey asked under her breath.

“I’m almost finished with the new dress I’m making for Mum.” Clara navigated the crowd of people as they walked. “I need only this last bit for it to be complete.”

Her older sister slowed just before they reached the cart laden with bolts of colorful fabrics, the scent of dye sharp from the fabric, which had been warming in the sun. “I know ye don’t like market days, and aye, the people can be…coarse, but Kinsey, I worry about ye. The constable said—”

“Excuse me, miss.” The handsome stranger appeared at Kinsey’s side once more. He smiled at her in a way she was sure other women found charming.

To her, it made him look like a false apothecary, selling off a bottle of common loch water as a cure-all potion.

Still, whatever he had to say would at least be more interesting than yet another discussion about the constable and his flimsy threats. She nodded to Clara to go on without her. After all, the vendor was only a few paces away. She would be able to keep watch on her sister from where she stood.

Clara hesitated, but Kinsey waved her on, and she finally made her way to the cart. The man was still smiling when Kinsey returned her gaze to him.

“I’m Sir William MacLeod,” he said as if he thought the familiarity of his name would warm her to him.

It didn’t.

“Ye caught my eye,” he continued. “I had to come talk to ye.”

And here it went…

Kinsey sighed.

“Ye’re an exceptional archer.”

His compliment took her aback.

“I beg yer pardon?” A glance confirmed Clara was at the cloth merchant and being left alone.

“I saw how confidently ye fired those shots.” He nodded the way men do when they’re impressed. “Ye’re damn good.”

Heat touched her face. “Thank ye,” she replied.

Was she really blushing and thanking him? She was getting as bad as Clara. But then, no man had complimented Kinsey’s skills with a bow before.

“I have need of a good archer,” he replied. “How would ye like to join my men and me in the fight against England?” He looked over his shoulder to indicate a group of men outside the inn before returning his attention to her. “To rise with the return of King David and reclaim the land that the English have stolen?”

Her blood charged in her veins at his words.

She’d heard of King David’s return to Scotland after his exile in France. He’d been there so long that she couldn’t remember a time when he had been on Scottish soil. She’d also heard of his determination to take back what belonged to them.

And she could be part of that army.

How long had she wished to exact vengeance on the English for their betrayal of her and her family after their English father was slain in combat? How often had she lain awake in the manor, craving something more out of their quiet life?

This would be the ideal opportunity. The decision ought to be easy.

She glanced to where Clara sifted through several bolts of fabric with a careful hand.

Could Kinsey leave her family? Especially with their brother, Drake, already working for an earl on the wrong side of the border, and Faye being so far away?

Indecision raged within her.

For how could she not fight for Scotland after so many injustices?

 

 

William MacLeod had spied the fiery lass from across the market. What man had not?

Hair like fire, ice-blue eyes that sparkled with a challenge, high firm breasts…aye, he’d have noticed her anywhere. But then she’d brought out that bow, quick as a snake’s strike, and expertly pinned the arrows into the ground right before the Englishman’s feet.

That was the kind of archer William needed under his command.

A bonny lass to warm his bed would be an added benefit.

And yet she appeared hesitant.

“If ye join my men and me in our efforts to regain Scottish land from England, I’ll, of course, pay ye.” He winked at her.

She frowned slightly, almost appearing as though she found his charm off-putting. Strange.

Her pretty lips pursed with shrewdness. “If ye pay me to do the job of a man, I’ll take the wage of one.”

There was something in the way she spoke that made her sound English. The Scottish burr was there, aye, but her words were less lyrical, crisper. He’d bet his life that she had mixed blood running through her veins, which meant neither country had likely been kind to her. He could use that to his advantage.

He considered what she’d said. While most men might balk at such a brazen demand, William found the logic of her request sound. “Consider it done. The pay of a man for the work of a man.”

“And I want armor.” She glanced behind him, where his men stood in their chainmail.

“Of course.”

Her eyes narrowed with a look of cautious intensity. “How do I know I can trust ye?”

He studied her, taking in the blue linen kirtle hugging her well-curved frame. The garment was quality enough, but not grand. Certainly, it was absent fraying hems or worn spots. Which meant she was not poor, but nor was she rich.

Her bow and arrow were of better quality, mayhap the best he’d seen on the borderlands.

She wasn’t unfounded in her lack of trust, especially on the border between England and Scotland, where treachery was prevalent, and reivers left everyone on edge.

She flicked her attention to where her attractive dark-haired companion pulled a bolt of fabric from a stack and handed it to the merchant with a generous smile.

William was running out of time.

“My father is Laird of Dunscaith Castle on the Isle of Skye.” He indicated his family crest on the hilt of his blade, the bull’s head expertly carved into the gold.

“And ye’re his heir?” The weight of her assessment settled over him.

William squared his shoulders. “Why would I no’ be?”

In his father’s eyes, there was one primary reason—disappointment. It had started early on when William was a lad. The knowledge that nothing he ever did was good enough to satisfy his father.

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