Home > Kinsey's Defiance(3)

Kinsey's Defiance(3)
Author: Madeline Martin

After a time, William gave up trying.

He’d also stopped caring. Or so he told himself. But with his father now threatening to name someone else as his heir for the lairdship, William had no choice. He had to fight for his birthright.

This was his one opportunity to prove his worth by assisting King David in reclaiming Scottish land. And William would stop at nothing to ensure he succeeded.

“I must go.” The lass said abruptly.

“Can I no’ get an answer from ye?” he pressed. “What’s yer name?”

She smirked. “If I decide to join ye, I’ll give it then.”

“We leave at the first light of dawn tomorrow.” A sense of urgency always helped spur prompt decisions. “Meet us by the inn.”

Except she didn’t take the bait. She lifted a shoulder with a maddening air of indifference. “I may be there. I may not.”

She began to turn away, and he knew she would be lost if he didn’t press his cause.

“Have ye or yer loved ones no’ ever suffered at the hands of the English?” he asked.

She slowly looked back at him, and he knew his gut had been right.

“Ye’ve no idea,” she ground out.

“Then why let them win?” He stepped toward her. Her eyes sparked in a way that told him he’d struck a chord, one he could readily play.

There was a sweet, powdery scent about her. Markedly feminine. He could envision himself gliding his lips over the hollow of her naked collarbone, breathing her in.

“The English have had their way with Scotland for too long,” he said. “Starvation. Raids. Homes burned. Lives stolen.” He shook his head. “No more.” His hand balled into a fist. “King David will reclaim Scotland, and I’ll be there. My men will be there. Will ye?”

Her breath quickened, evident by the swell of those alluring breasts against the neckline of her simple gown. “Dawn?”

He nodded, and she said nothing more, leaving to rejoin the dark-haired woman. Though she hadn’t committed to accompanying them, she would be there.

Or at least he hoped.

Hiding a smile, he put his back to her despite the temptation to watch her depart and returned to the inn.

All his men had gone inside the sagging structure, except the largest warrior who merely lifted his brows at William’s arrival. “Will she join us?” Reid asked.

William shrugged and tried to pass it off as though she were of little concern. “She says she’ll think about it.”

“That’s as close to a nay as ye’ve ever had from a lass.” Reid pulled his auburn hair back into a thong, away from his sharp-featured face. “What do ye think?”

“She’ll show.”

Reid smirked. “An early dawn departure, then?”

It was a tactic William had employed before. A highly effective one.

William simply winked. “Did ye secure the rooms for us?”

“Do ye even have to ask?”

William threw his arm around his second-in-command. There was a reason he’d asked his boyhood friend to be his right-hand man in going up against the English. Reid was resourceful, with a knack of accomplishing any task.

They entered the inn together for a bit of hot food and a few ales before settling in for an early night. As William ate and drank with his men, however, he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering back to the bonny redhead who spoke with a blended accent. She was lovely to look at, aye, but many lasses were.

If her archery skills were as good as she’d exhibited, she would be invaluable as a warrior. They were in an age where a capable bow could give them an advantage, plucking off enough of the enemy to change the tide of battle.

She could be the pivotable point that helped him impress his father.

William hated the twinge in his chest at the thought of his da. He shouldn’t crave the man’s approval the way he did, not when it had not been given in so long. But mayhap now…

He knew the night would be a fitful one as dawn slowly approached, with him wondering if the lass would join them or not. And he hoped to God that she would.

 

 

2

 

 

Kinsey was quiet on the long walk back to the manor, lost in the back and forth sway of her thoughts.

In one moment, she was determined to join the knight in his quest to vanquish the English, followed by a second later, when she decided it was best to stay with Mum and Clara. This was followed by yet another entreaty by her imagination of her shining in glory with her bow held aloft in victory.

“Kinsey,” Clara spoke her name with emphatic patience, as though it was not the first time she’d done so. “What did the man ye were speaking with want?”

It was asked with such innocence that Kinsey immediately determined it would be best to remain in Castleton where she could protect her softhearted sister.

Kinsey’s answer caught on her tongue, leaving her uncertain of how to respond. It wasn’t that she couldn’t lie, but that she’d never been able to with Clara. Her sister’s faith in Kinsey made the false truths far too heavy on her conscience.

But while good-natured and gentle, Clara was also exceptionally keen, which made situations like the one Kinsey had landed herself in rather difficult.

Her hesitant reply was noted, evidenced by how the skin around Clara’s eyes tightened. “What is it, Kinsey? Has something happened?”

“Nay,” Kinsey replied.

Just the opportunity for vengeance.

“What did the man want?” Clara pressed.

“My expertise in archery,” Kinsey said at last. Not a lie.

Clara’s face blossomed into a smile. “How very flattering that he noticed yer extraordinary skill with the bow. Now I understand why ye didn’t try to shoot him.”

Kinsey scoffed. “Ye act as though I go about threatening every man in the village.”

Clara didn’t respond.

Kinsey shot her sister a look, but Clara was waving toward the house where their mother was bent over a row of beans in the garden positioned to the side of their home. Mum straightened as they approached, the bucket at her side laden with various vegetables.

She pushed through the garden gate and approached her daughters with a wide smile. “I trust it went well at the market.” Her stare became decidedly pointed as she regarding Kinsey. “Any fines?”

Clara took the basket and gave Kinsey a sympathetic smile before slipping into the house.

Kinsey regarded her mother without a lick of guilt. “I told ye, the constable will never give me one. And I don’t like how the men treat Clara.”

“Ye’re too fiery for yer own good, lass.” Mum sighed and ruffled Kinsey’s hair.

Ordinarily, the affectionate gesture was welcome. Except that now, suddenly, it made Kinsey feel like a child.

Aye, she was the youngest of the four siblings, but she had recently celebrated her nineteenth summer. And now, she had been asked to be a part of a rebellion against England as an archer. A warrior in the king’s army and a woman whose pay would equal that of a man.

She wasn’t a child.

Her mother seemed to sense the shift in her and smoothed her hair. “Ye’re a good lass, though, my Kinsey girl. Always looking out for others.”

Her words lifted at the reservations in Kinsey’s mind and scattered them like chaff on a stiff wind.

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