Black Raven's Lady: Highland Lairds Trilogy

Black Raven's Lady: Highland Lairds Trilogy by Kathleen Harrington Read Free Book Online

Book: Black Raven's Lady: Highland Lairds Trilogy by Kathleen Harrington Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathleen Harrington
alone again. Is that perfectly clear to you, Lady Raine?”
    Raine looked into the older man’s harried blue eyes and felt a rush of mortification. It was clear Barrows felt he’d been given the duty of watching over a recalcitrant child and was none too happy about it.
    “I wasn’t up there alone,” Raine protested. “And I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. I don’t need a sea-daddy.”
    “Nevertheless,” Keir stated, “you have one now. We assign all new youngsters a veteran seaman to show them the ropes and keep them out of harm’s way. And if you manage to slip away from Barrows and clamber up there by yourself, he’ll be the one I toss overboard.” Keir raised his voice just loud enough to drive the point home. “Do you understand?”
    “Aye, aye, sir,” Barrows replied, as though Keir had addressed him, rather than Raine.
    “This is preposterous,” Raine stated with a rebellious toss of her head.
    Keir rounded on her. “No, it is not preposterous. It’s an order. And on my ship, under my command, you will follow orders or suffer the consequences. If you go up there without me ever again, Raine Cameron, you’ll get the thrashing you deserve.”
    Raine straightened her spine and threw back her shoulders, refusing to show just how intimidated she felt. No one had ever threatened her before. Only someone as ill-tempered as Keir MacNeil would dare to do so in front of others.
    “And do you intend to flog me before the crew?” she asked.
    Something in her question brought an unholy light to his deep green eyes. His low voice reverberated with a sardonic humor. “Nay, lass. I’ll administer your punishment in the privacy of my quarters.”
    Thankfully, not one of the sailors listening gave so much as a snicker.
    “You’re a vile, evil man, Keir MacNeil,” she whispered. “I regret the day I came aboard your ship. And now with your permission, I’ll retire to my cabin,” she added, remembering too late that she couldn’t turn and leave with a regal swish of her skirts. Not when she was clad in boy’s clothes.
    “An excellent idea,” Keir retorted. “And Barrows here will escort you.”
    Raine didn’t wait for the gray-haired bosun’s mate. She drew her dignity around her like a protective cloak and walked quickly past the gaping crew, with the surprised Barrows hurrying to catch up.
    Keir watched Raine retreat with all the composure she could muster, her slender figure, attired in the loose sailor’s clothing, straight and taut as a pikestaff.
    When had there ever been such an aggravating female? He had to admit, however, few women would’ve had the courage to stand up to a battle-hardened privateer—and a MacNeil clan chief, at that.
    A picture of Mariota rose before him. The one and only time he’d spoken to the maid of Strathfillan, she’d hung her head, too ill at ease to speak above a whisper. In spite of her reticence, he’d been certain she’d fit his requirements in a wife. Namely, he’d never fall in love with her, nor she with him.
    A burgeoning doubt regarding the wisdom of that decision appeared like an unmapped sandbar in an otherwise welcoming harbor. He shook his head, wiping the image away. He’d made his decision, and by God, he’d stick to it.

 
    Chapter 4
    F OUR DAYS OUT of Inverness the three warships reached the Pentland Firth, which ran between the northernmost tip of the Scottish mainland and the southern end of the Orkney Islands. They’d made acceptable, though not excellent, time. The weather had held, with a steady wind filling the sails and a few clouds scudding across the bluest of skies. Every afternoon the ships would take time for gunnery practice, shooting the eighteen-pounders at empty barrels, until the sky darkened with the soot of gunpowder and the air hung heavy with the stench of sulphur.
    At their present latitude, the June days were long and filled with sunshine. The night sky grew blacker than Hades, the stars, brilliant

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