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About the author:
I've always been an avid reader and love a wide variety of genre depending on my mood for the day. My favorites include romance, spanking romance, erotic romance, post-apocalyptic fiction and historical fiction.
One of my favorite things to do is spending time with my family as I think of new stories to write. Hope you enjoy the books.
Follow me on twitter at @Bethanyhauck11
or send me an e-mail at [email protected] and I'll gladly answer any questions you may have, an e-mail you about new releases in 'The McCabe' series.
For updates on new releases, you can look at my blog on my Goodreads page at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17003489.Bethany_Hauck
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What inspired you to write your book?
This story is a continuation of the McCabe family, book 5 in the series.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Chapter 1 A Chance Encounter
“Thank you again, Alastair, for everything you did for my sister,” Connor Fraser said to his brother by marriage as Alastair prepared to leave.
“Fiona assured me she was well and happy before I left,” Alastair explained to him once again.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Connor said, “When she was first brought out of the dungeon, I was going to kill her husband, maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t.”
“Stop it,” Jacqueline, his wife, and Alastair’s sister said laughing, smacking Connor playfully on the arm. “You have to quit threatening to kill Logan. Fiona loves him, and he loves her.”
“I wouldn’t have blamed him for killing Logan Stewart when we first arrive at Dunnottar,” Alastair said to her, trying to hold back a smile. “It’s a good thing he was still recuperating and didn’t come down into the hall.”
“But everything has turned out well for them, and I think it’s a good match,” Jacqueline told them both before asking Alastair, “you’ll be careful traveling home, brother?”
“Your husband is sending more men than I possibly need to accompany me. I’m sure to be safe,” Alastair assured her.
“I’ll make sure he makes it to Gleann in one piece,” said Angus as he joined them. Angus was in charge of the guard at Tarmon castle and would be accompanying his men as they escorted Alastair back to the McCabe keep.
“Then let’s ride,” said Alastair, giving Jacqueline one last hug before mounting his horse. “Hopefully, it doesn’t snow before we get there.”
“Keep aware in case you run into those highwaymen,” Connor warned both men. “We’re patrolling further out, as are the rest of the clans, but we still haven’t caught them.”
“I’ll be watching,” Angus said, “I wish we would run into them.”
“If you do, make sure none of them survive,” Connor said seriously to him. “They’ve created enough unrest for travelers.”
“Aye,” Angus agreed. “I think they may be out of the area for the winter. But if we catch them, I guarantee, none will walk away.”
“I love you little sister, and I’ll see you in the spring, at Tioram,” Alastair said, he then turned his horse and rode through the gates of Tarmon, finally beginning the last leg of his journey and heading in the direction of Gleann.
Alastair was quiet as he rode, glad to be heading back to the family keep he’d left three months before. He missed Gleann, and once he arrived there, he didn’t plan on going anywhere until spring, when the McCabe family would gather at Tioram for the birth of Ross and Angela’s new baby.
He’d left home with the majority of his brother’s for the best of reasons. To rescue Fiona Stewart, Connor’s sister, from Dunnottar castle. She’d been locked in the dungeon there after being falsely accused of trying to kill her husband, Logan. The Fraser, McCabe, and McCarthy clans had banded together and gone to demand she be set free. After Fiona’s release and Logan healed, knowing his wife would never have tried to hurt him, he’d come to Tarmon to make amends, and begged her to return home with him. Logan’s brother, Gregor, and his once betrothed Isobel had been the ones to try and end Logan’s life and then laid blame on Fiona. Their assassination attempt was unsuccessful, and instead of dead, Logan Stewart had been left unconscious and severely wounded.
Fiona hesitantly agreed to go back home to Dunnottar, after hearing about Gregor’s death and Isobel’s trial, and Alastair volunteered to accompany her. He didn’t mind going since he and Logan had been friends many years before, and the visit had given them time to rekindle the friendship. He’d spent a month at their castle, as Fiona and Logan Stewart’s guest. The couple seemed more than happy with the marriage, and each other, when he left.
He’d departed Dunnottar with a group of guards that accompanied him to his brother Ross’ home at Tioram, less than a day’s ride away. Ross lived there with his wife Angela and her family. Since Ian McCarthy only had daughters, and Angela was the oldest, Ross would one day take over as Laird there.
Alastair had only planned on staying at Tioram one night, until a snowstorm moved in, making his visit last three. He wasn’t upset by it; he’d enjoyed spending time with his older brother and sister by marriage. The entire McCarthy family had been very welcoming during his extended stay at their keep.
Ross and Angela had bid him farewell and sent him on his way with their own guards to escort him to Tarmon, where his baby sister lived with her husband and twin daughters. He’d again only planned on staying one night, but his sister Jacqueline had ideas of her own. He’d always had trouble telling her no, and the visit there had lasted another three days. He’d finally put his foot down, and told her it was time for him to go home.
The weather was good as they traveled. The snows so far in the highlands had only left a few inches on the ground, but Alastair knew that could all change soon. Winters in the highlands were unpredictable, with large snowfalls one day, that melted three days later.
“Let’s stop and take a rest,” Angus said, riding up beside Alastair. They’d already been traveling for more than half the day. “The horses could use some water and food, and so could the men.”
“Agreed,” Alastair replied. “I need to step into the woods for a minute myself.”
“There’s a small river up ahead,” Angus told him. “We can rest and water the horses there.”
“I know where it is,” Alastair replied, nodding his head.
They quickly rode the short distance, and the Tarmon guards unmounted their horses and led them over to the river, which wasn’t much more than a creek. While the animals drank, the men unpacked the provisions Jacqueline Fraser had prepared for them and sat down to eat. It was a quiet bunch as they enjoyed the peaceful sounds of nature around them and ate their meal.
“Did you hear that?” Alastair asked Angus, who was sitting next to him, as he quickly stood up.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Angus replied, although he quickly stood up too.
“Shhh, listen,” Alastair said, walking quietly towards the road they’d been traveling on, with Angus following. “I thought I heard a woman scream.”
“I believe you’re hearing things,” Angus told him, as he joined Alastair on the road, where they both stood silently, listening.
“There, did you hear it?” Alastair asked, as again the faint sound of a scream floated on the wind that blew towards them.
“I heard something,” Angus answered, turning to his men he said quietly, “mount up. We’re going to move out as quietly and quickly as possible; there may be trouble beyond the next rise.”
The Tarmon guards were well trained and followed Angus’ orders without question. They all mounted and rode towards the sound only Alastair and Angus had heard. As they came to a stop at the top of a small hill, Alastair finally got a look at what was causing the screams. A wagon was sitting just off to the side of the road, and searching through it were three men. They pulled out crates and satchels, throwing things onto the ground, breaking some, and ruining others as they landed in the melting snow and mud. Some of the more valuable items, they were stuffing into their pockets or setting them on the edge of the wagon to grab later. Off to one side of the wagon was a young woman being held between two other men. They laughed as a third taunted her, grabbing at her cloak and skirts. Two more stood next to the wagon on the opposite side, where a man’s body could be seen lying in a pool of blood, these men were also laughing, as they watched what the others were doing.
“We’ll all get a turn with the lady won’t we, Kirk?” one of the men next to the wagon yelled.
“Yeah, Kirk,” said the one standing next to him. ‘It’s been a fortnight since I’ve had a good romp. I’d like some time with the lass.”
“No one touches her,” the skirt grabber, who must have been Kirk, answered. “Lord Thompson wants her brought to him alive and well.”
“He’ll never know,” one of the men said. “Afterall, she was already married, so she isn’t pure anymore.”
“You may be right,” Kirk called back, smirking. None of them had even noticed the group of highland guards that were bearing down on them until it was too late.
Alastair was angry, angrier than he’d ever been in his entire life, as he watched the men manhandle the girl. He wouldn’t have been able to explain why, but he felt an unstoppable need to protect her. He pulled his broadsword from its sheath on his back as he charged towards them. Angus and his men were with him, and they did the same, following Alastair’s lead.
By the time the highwaymen looked up, it was too late for them to defend themselves. Alastair rode as close to the men who were still holding the girl’s arms as he could and brought his sword down with as much force as he could muster, severing the arm of the one on the right. Angus was right behind him and did the same to the man on the left. Although Angus’ hit didn’t severe the arm, he felt his blade hit bone before he pulled it back. Both men fell to the ground, the first dying quickly as blood spurted from the stump that was still there, and the second, in too much pain to be a threat any longer.
Once again the girl screamed, falling to the ground with her arms around her stomach as if she was protecting herself. The Highlanders made short work of the outnumbered highwaymen, and they were all dead or dying within minutes. Alastair unmounted his horse and checked the body of the lass’ companion, an obviously older man, that was lying near the wagon. The man was dead already; there wasn’t anything they could do to help him. He slowly approached the girl, who lay on the ground with her eyes tightly closed, crying quietly.
“Lass?” he said softly as he knelt down next to her, trying not to frighten her anymore than she already was.
“Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded with him.
“You’re safe now,” he said quietly, trying to soothe her.
“Please, just go away and leave me be,” she said, still keeping her eyes tightly closed.
“I’m afraid I can’t-do that,” Alastair said. “I won’t leave you out here alone. I’m sorry, but you’re Da is dead.”
“He wasn’t my Da,” the girl answered so quietly Alastair barely heard her. “He was my husband.”
Alastair was stunned by that revelation. The dead man lying next to the cart must have been close to his own Da’s age, if not older. This young girl lying in the snow and mud couldn’t have been more than twenty. “Then I’m sorry to tell you, lass; your husband is dead.”
“I’m not sorry,” she said, finally opening her eyes and looking at Alastair, he could see she was still fearful of him.
“What’s your name?” he asked, offering her his hand, which she shrank back from, seeming to be afraid he was going to grab her.
“Mairi,” she answered quietly.
“I’m Alastair McCabe,” he introduced himself. “If you tell me what clan you belong to, I’d be happy to escort you home safely.”
“I don’t belong to any clan,” she answered. “We were heading to Edinburgh but got caught in the snows last week. My husband is a…I mean, was, a traveling tinker.”
“Do you have family in Edinburgh?” he asked, again offering her his hand, which this time she took, tentatively, as he helped her to her feet.
“Nay,” she said, stunned by the warmth that coursed through her as Alastair enveloped her hand in his and carefully pulled her to standing.
“Do you have a home there?” he asked, holding onto her hand just a few seconds longer than necessary, he gave it one last reassuring squeeze before finally letting go.
“Nay,” she answered again.
“Do you have the means to rent a place to stay for the winter?” he asked.
“I don’t know what Samuel has,” she answered, motioning towards her husband’s body. “He never told me much.”
“Do you have another name besides Mairi, lass?” he asked.
“I won’t use his name,” she said, once again motioning towards her dead husband.
“What was your name before you married him?” Alastair asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered, tears filling her eyes.
“How can you not know?” he asked her.
“I was an orphan,” she explained, shrugging.
“What do you want to do now, lass?” he asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said again, looking defeated.
“Load her wagon back up,” Alastair said to the guards that were standing around, others were busy pulling the dead men off to the side of the road and stacking them, while one last group was picking her husband up off the ground to lay him in the quick grave they had dug. “We’ll be taking it with us.”
“You’re going to steal my wagon?” Mairi asked, a little fight coming back into her. “How will I make it to Edinburgh without it?”
“Nay, lass,” Alastair said, “but I can’t leave you out here alone. I’m on my way home to Gleann; you’ll be coming with me. Your welcome to stay there until you figure out what you want to do.”
“I don’t even know you,” Mairi said to him. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“You have a choice, lass,” said Angus, interrupting the pair, “you can go with Alastair to Gleann, or you can travel back with me and my men to Tarmon, but we won’t leave you out here alone.”
“You can’t make me go anywhere,” she said to them both. “Just leave me be.” As she spoke, she put her hand on her belly, her very round belly.
“Are you with child, lass?” Alastair asked her, noticing the large bulge for the first time. It’d been well hidden by her skirt and cloak up until now.
“I am,” she said, her eyes again filling with tears. “I won’t let you hurt my babe.”
“I would never hurt a bairn,” Alastair said, a bit offended. “What were you doing traveling on a cart in your condition? You must be due to deliver soon.”
“In about a month,” Mairi answered. “My husband said it wouldn’t hurt the bairn or me to travel another sennight, or two.”
“Have you seen a midwife recently?” Alastair asked.
“Quit asking me so many questions,” Mairi said to him. “What I’ve done or haven’t done is no concern of yours.”
“Stop with the attitude, Mairi,” Alastair warned. “Babe or no babe, there are ways of correcting a woman. I’m trying to help you, just accept the kindness I’m offering.”
“I didn’t ask for your kindness or your help,” she said. “Just leave me be, and I’ll be on my way.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Angus said. “Gleann or Tarmon lass, your choice.”
“I don’t understand why you can’t just let me be,” Mairi answered. She looked at the faces of the two men and knew she wasn’t going to talk either one into leaving her alone to travel on her own. Instead, she decided to be agreeable, while beginning to plan how she could get away from them later. She’d had enough experience with men to know none of them could be trusted, and she’d escape from them the first chance she got. “I’ll go to Gleann. Could one of you help me back up on the cart?”
“You’ll be riding with me, Mairi,” Alastair said to her. “I don’t care what your husband told you; you’re too far along with your bairn to be riding on that bumpy cart bench. I’ll have one of the guards drive it for you.”
Mairi could see there was going to be no talking the big Highlander out of it. “Alright,” she said, nodding. “I’ll ride behind you.”
“You won’t be safe riding behind me,” he said, mounting his horse. “Hand her up to me, Angus.” Before she could protest, Angus gripped her gently around the waist and easily lifted her up to Alastair, where he carefully sat her sideways across his lap. “Comfortable enough?” he asked her once he got her settled.
“Does it matter?” she asked. “I’m assuming I have no other choice.”
“You’d be correct, lass,” Alastair said, as one of the guards climbed up on the bench of her cart. “We’ll head back to the river where we watered the horses, and bed down there for the night. I hope we can make it to Gleann tomorrow, but with that cart slowing us down, it may take another day.”
“I’ll lead the way, stay alert, we don’t know if there are any more of those bandits out there,” Angus called out to the rest of his men, as he moved forward and the rest of the group mounted their horses and followed.
“At least those highwaymen won’t be attacking any more travelers on the road,” Alastair said. “I wonder if that was all of them?”
“They weren’t highwaymen,” Mairi told him.
“What do you mean, Mairi?” Angus asked, slowing his horse and letting them ride up next to him since he couldn’t help but hear the conversation they were having. “Who else could they have been?”
“I don’t know,” she answered, “but they said Lord Thompson paid them to bring me to him. I think they must have mistaken me for someone else; I don’t even know who Lord Thompson is.”
“You don’t know why the man would want you?” Alastair asked. He glanced down at her, she was a beautiful girl, he had a feeling he already knew why a man would want her.
“Nay,” she said.
“Where are you originally from, Mairi?” Angus asked her, still riding alongside them.
“I don’t know,” she answered again.
“You’re making no sense, lass,” Alastair said to her.
Mairi sighed, not knowing how much she could trust these men. She’d never met a man she could trust before, at least not one she could remember. “It’s a long story,” she said to them, “one I’m not willing to relive today, maybe one day I’ll tell you my tale.”
“I look forward to hearing it,” Alastair said to her, as they continued riding towards their camp.
They weren’t aware of it, but as they rode away, three sets of eyes peered out of the woods, watching them. “Those idjits,” said one of the men, “I told them to grab the lass and hurry back, but they insisted on taking whatever was of value the tinker had on his cart.”
“What do we do now, Donovan?” asked one of the others.
“I’ll ride back and tell my brother what happened and that she’s being taken to some place called Gleann. You two, follow them, and if you get the chance to grab the lass, do it and get out of there,” the man named Donovan answered. “If not, leave word at a tavern near this Gleann on where you’ll be staying, and I’ll find you when I return with more men. Stephen isn’t going to be happy about this.”
“Why’s he want the lass anyway?”
“That’s nothing you need to know, but he’s paid you a lot of coin to find this woman and bring her to him,” answered the man named Donovan. “I wouldn’t worry about the reason.”