(Seasons of Fortitude Series)
Spring is the stolen sister of the triplets of the Legendary Bastards of the Crown. She has been raised as a warrior by Cromwell Gunn – the man she believes to be her father.
Laird Shaw Gordon is a widower and father of three children in need of a wife. When his enemy, Cromwell Gunn offers his daughter, Magna Spring as part of an alliance, he rejects it since he doesn’t trust them. But when he sees the bow and arrows of his late father in the girl’s hands, he changes his mind.
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Excerpt from Highland Spring:
“Can I see that bow?” He held out his hand to the girl. She gripped the bow tightly.
“Why?” she asked.
“It – intrigues me,” he said.
“Let him see it,” grumbled Cromwell.
She hesitated, then slowly held it up for him to see, but did not give it to him.
Shaw’s heart beat faster and it wasn’t because of the girl. It was because he’d seen this bow before. It was the bow of his late father. He took it out of her hand, running his fingers over the leather-wrapped wood, plucking the bowstring to test it. There was animal fur on the tips. Just like the one his father had. That is – the one he’d helped his father make when he was just a boy.
“Now the arrows.” He reached for the quiver on her back. Her hand shot up like a wall, blocking him from reaching for them.
“Give it to him,” said Cromwell.
She obviously didn’t want to do it but didn’t go against her father’s word. She slipped the quiver from her back and held it up for him to see. Shaw gingerly plucked one of the arrows from the quiver, feeling his breath leave his body when he saw the etchings on the shaft. He’d made these with his father. He’d also helped collect feathers and dye them bright colors to put on the ends.
“Where did ye get this?” he asked in a low voice.
“It’s my weapon of choice,” she told him.
“Who did ye have to kill to get it?” His blood started to boil, thinking that the Gunn Clan had been the ones responsible for killing his father. If that were the case, not a one of them would be leaving his courtyard alive.
“I got this bow and arrows off a dead man when I was a child,” she told him. “It was durin’ Burnt Candlemas.”
His body stiffened. Burnt Candlemas was when his father died. “What man?” His eyes wandered over to Cromwell, but he looked the other direction.
“I dinna ken. He was a Scot,” she answered.
“How did the man die?” he asked, wondering if she would tell him the truth. He knew for a fact that his father’s throat had been slit. He’d been the one to collect his father and mother’s bodies and bring them back for burial at the castle.
“His throat was slit by the English,” she said. “He was layin’ across a woman. She was dead, too. They were dead when we found them. We did no’ kill them.”
Shaw’s eyes traveled over to Cromwell as he wondered if this was the truth. It could have very well been Cromwell who did it, even if he was pretending he didn’t know the dead man was Shaw’s father. The Gordons and the Gunns hadn’t always been enemies. The feud had started when Shaw’s father fought with Cromwell over the castle and won, many years ago.
“Is this the truth?” Shaw asked Cromwell.
“My daughter has no reason to lie.”
“How about ye, Cromwell? Are ye sayin’ ye didna recognize the dead man?”
“Magna was young and wandered off on her own,” Cromwell answered. “I never even saw the man she took the bow and arrows from. Besides, what does it matter? Like she said, he was dead.”
“It matters to me because this bow and arrow are verra familiar to me. They were once my faither’s.”
“Yer faither’s?” The girl’s words softened as she looked up at Shaw. “Ye’re sayin’ the dead man was yer faither?” He saw a shadow cover her face. The strong bravado he’d momentarily glimpsed was pushed aside, replaced by a deep sadness.
“He was,” Shaw admitted.
The girl nodded slightly. “I can see the resemblance in yer face. He had the same eyes as ye.”
With their gazes interlocked, he felt a wall between them removed. Perhaps this girl wasn’t just a hardened warrior like he’d thought because, deep in her eyes, he glimpsed compassion.
“Enough with the talk.” Cromwell snatched the arrow out of Shaw’s hand and held it up in front of him. “How would ye like yer precious bow and arrows returned?”
“I would,” he said, grabbing for the arrow, but Cromwell pulled it away from him.
“No’ so fast,” he said. “If ye want the bow and arrows then marry my daughter.”
“Nay. She’s no’ right for me. Now give me the bow and arrows. They belong to me.”
“They’re mine,” said the girl who referred to herself as Spring. “Ye canna have them.”
“I dinna want a war over this,” said Shaw. “I’ll pay for them. How much do ye want?” He reached for the sporran hanging from his belt that held his coins.
“They’re no’ for sale, Gordon,” said Cromwell. “If ye want the bow and arrows, then ye’ll have to marry my daughter because that is the only way ye’re goin’ to get them.”
“Marry her, Da,” Colina urged him from his side. “I like her.”
“She’s no’ what I’m lookin’ for in a bride, nor is she right to be the mathair of my children,” Shaw protested.
“We dinna need a mathair. Let her go,” begged Donel.
“Let her stay,” said Colina.
“What kind of man lets his children decide his actions?” asked Cromwell.
“What kind of man forces his daughter to do somethin’ she doesna want to do?” Shaw answered in return.
“Who said Magna doesna want to marry ye?” asked Cromwell.
“I want to hear it from her mouth.” Shaw looked at the girl. “Tell me the truth. Is yer faither forcin’ ye to marry me or is this somethin’ that ye want to do?”
“Our clans are enemies,” she told him. “Our marriage would bring about an alliance.”
“I ken that. But that is no’ what I’m askin’. Now tell me, Magna. Are ye willin’ to marry me of yer own accord and no’ because yer faither is forcin’ ye to do it?”
The girl glanced over at her father, and then her eyes shot over to Colina and Shaw’s sons. He saw her reach one hand into her pocket. When she pulled it out, she fingered something in her palm, but he couldn’t tell what it was. Finally, she nodded.
“I am willin’ to marry ye of my own accord,” she told him.
“All right then. We have a deal.” Shaw reached out to shake Cromwell’s hand. As soon as he did, he regretted his decision. Alliance or not, Shaw knew better. The Gunns were not to be trusted.