Laird Conall Innis swiped the layer of snow off his shoulder after his horse walked under another low branch. Every muscle in his body ached from weariness and the cold. He would rather be back at Urquart Castle warming next to the fireplace with his hounds at his feet and a warm ale in his hand. Instead, he was traveling through the highland’s rough wilderness…hunting.
“Are you sure you chased her this way?” Conall asked his cousin.
Drostan Sullivan glared at him. His oily black hair covered half his face, but Conall could still see a flash of hatred cross his gray eyes before it vanished. His thin lips formed into a smirk. “Aye, the witch of Calcatta ran this way and headed into that cave up the hill. My men have been stationed at the entrance, awaiting your arrival, my laird.”
Conall sighed. He did not like this at all.
The weight of Drostan’s stare felt the same as his fathers. Judging and condemning.
“We have no choice, Cousin.” Drostan said, as if reading his mind. He edged his mount closer. “If we don’t kill her, the family curse her mother put on us will destroy us all.”
Conall halted his horse outside the dark cave, the entrance seem to lead into the abyss.
Drostan continued, “Already our crops are failing, our…” he cleared his throat, “…your people grow restless and are afraid.”
“I know my duty.” An ache formed in his stomach, matching the one in his chest. Even though he had to kill the witch, it did not feel right in his heart. After all, the witch of Calcatta was still a woman.
Pulling his sword from the scabbard, he swung down from the saddle and stood at the cave’s mouth.
His cousin and twenty of his bravest soldiers followed his lead.
“Witch of Calcatta, come out of there or we will come in,” he shouted. The sound of his voice echoed into the shadows.
Neither movement nor sound came from within.
Drostan went to enter, but Conall placed a hand on his shoulder. “Wait.”
From out of the darkness, a slender figure emerged.
Conall stepped back.
He did not expect a witch to look so beautiful. Long raven hair covered her shoulders like a silky blanket and blue eyes glowed even in the dark recesses of the cave. The gown of dark red velvet clinging to her voluptuous curves was in stark contrast to her pale skin. She was breathtaking.
She raised her chin a fraction higher, but her hands were shaking.
Conall had an overwhelming urge to sooth her fears, comfort her.
“I grow weary of being hunted like an animal,” she called. Her voice cracked, but she stood her ground like a fierce soldier. A gold ring the size of Conall’s dagger appeared in her hand. She lifted it in the air and it seemed to vibrate the very air around them. “This ends now!”