Scotland - 1307 - During the Scottish Wars of Independence
Gard Marschand will stop at nothing in his pursuit to regain what is lost. Concealing his true identity, he will associate with his enemies, kill his own countrymen, even sell his soul to the devil if all else fails. He will lie, cheat, steal, rape and siege his way across two countries gaining power and reputation in his malevolent wake. His determination all consuming, until King Edward commands Gard to lay siege on Ross-shire holding, where Braelynn Galbraith obliterates his single-minded purpose.
Braelynn Galbraith wants peace for her beloved Scotland, marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Callum, and a house full of children. In that order. But evil incarnate in the form of Gard Marschand, turns her life inside out and destroys all hope of a decent marriage.
Can Gard abandon his deep-seated need of revenge for a love that might just save his soul, or will he succumb to the demons that hound him and surrender to the devil within?
She stood on wobbly legs, feeling nauseous. Her limbs trembling and weak, she stumbled between the men. One tried to help her but she swatted his hands away. He had not come to her rescue when she needed it, she denied his assistance now.
Her thigh throbbed painfully as she put one foot in front of the other. Warmth trickled down her leg every other step. Where would she go? Home. She would go home. And as soon as she thought the word fresh tears streamed. Home. Sanctuary. Safety. Father.
Brae blindly staggered past the burned out armoury. Where was Ross, their overlord? How could this have happened? They’d been attacked. Again. What of her parents? Had they sought the shelter of the holding? Was it safe to go home? She didn’t have a choice, needed to stop the bleeding. She grew weaker, not only from the attack but the blood loss.
The croft was empty when she reached it. Her father would have joined the men to fight the fire if he was able, and her mother would have gone to help the injured. But she was injured and could use some attention herself.
Brae lifted the basin of water from beside the door and tried not to spill it as she picked her way gingerly to her room. She stripped out of her ruined clothing. The bodice was torn and she hadn’t even realized it. Her skirt felt heavy with the amount of blood it had soaked up.
The bloodstains on her legs had begun to dry, but blood still flowed from the wound. Wetting a rough cloth she cleansed the red streaks from her flesh. When she’d finally managed to clean enough to inspect the wound, the basin of water ran red. The jagged gash marred the upper part of her thigh. When she closed her legs, the cut met with the other leg. The location of the wound and the friction of her walking home must have helped keep it open with every step. The flap of skin resembled a crescent moon. It would need to be stitched or it would never stop bleeding. She needed a physician. But he would have escaped to the holding as well for protection or to help with the casualties.
Her mind went back to Marschand. The man. The demon had spared her for a reason. And for some inexplicable rationale she felt obligated to keep this wound a secret, to protect him as he had done for her.
Brae pulled a fresh chemise over her head, holding onto the bedpost for support. Her stomach lurched. Her peripheral vision blurred as she groped along to find her mother’s sewing kit and her father’s whiskey.
She sat on the edge of the bed with the needle threaded and poised to plunge into her skin, but she couldn’t do it. There was no way she was going to be able to stitch her own flesh together.
Brae took a long drink of the brown liquor. It burned her raw throat, causing her to sputter and cough. She poured some over the thread and needle, as she’d seen her mother do countless times when sewing her father’s wounds, and waited for the numbness to settle into her limbs. But by the time she began to feel it, her fingertips and eyesight were affected as well.
She pinched the puckered lip of skin closed and took a deep breath. She pierced the tip of the needle through the deepest section of the C shape, yelping at the pain. “One stitch. Please jus’ one stitch.” She prayed for help.
Brae pulled the thread through her flesh. It burned like fire, pain worse than the cut, flaming worse than the nettle she’d gotten into as a child. She breathed shallowly in and out through her teeth and forced the needle into the other part of her leg. Brae made one round stitch in a loop, gathering the two sides together pulling the string tight. She quickly knotted it, cut it, and promptly passed out.