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Loved By a Warrior

By:Donna Fletcher

e height. Their misconception gave Reeve an advantage since most thought him no threat though it never took long for the poor blokes to realize their mistake.

Reeve’s hand struck out so fast that the heavy man was on the ground flat on his back with Reeve’s booted foot at his throat before he realized what had happened. Reeve kept his foot firm at the man’s throat even though he flopped around like a fish out of water, as Reeve spoke to the other three.

“Leave now, and I won’t hurt a one of you,” he told them. “Think otherwise, and your already offending stench will join that of the rotting dead.”

“We’ll split the wealth with you,” one offered, and the others nodded agreeably.

“I’ll give it all to you if you’ll help me.”

The three men turned to glare at the woman, while Reeve slipped his boot off the man’s throat, leaving him gagging for air as he stepped over him and walked to the woman’s side.

Reeve was no fool. People didn’t part with wealth that easily. He didn’t for one moment believe that if he disposed of these men, that would be the extent of it. He knew it. He could feel in his gut that she wanted more from him.

And he was curious.

“We got to her first,” the bolder of the men shouted. “She’s our prisoner, and the booty belongs to us.”

Reeve drew his sword and pointed it at the man. “The booty belongs to whoever is the strongest to take it. Are you strong enough to take it from me?”

The men huddled together, the one on the ground having finally gotten to his feet and joined them. They mumbled amongst themselves until they finally separated.

The bolder one spoke again. “How about you give us a bit of the booty, and we leave you alone.”

Reeve grinned and brandished his sword. “How about I run my sword through every one of you and leave you to rot.” With a quick step and a jab, he nicked the one fellow’s ear with the tip of his sword.

The other men stumbled back, knowing it took a skilled swordsman to perform such a feat. Most would have just lopped off the whole ear.

“Be gone with you, or I’ll cut you open and leave the animals to feast on your innards,” Reeve warned, and jutted forward, scaring the men so badly that they turned running into each other and tripping over their own feet as they scrambled to run away.

“Won’t they follow us?”

Reeve turned to the woman, her eyes steady on where the thieves had disappeared into the woods. He realized that while her voice had turned soft, her violet eyes held a hint of apprehension. “Not if they know what’s good for them.”

“But they could follow and attack—”

“Let me worry about that,” he advised, sheathing his sword. “That is, if you still wish me to help you.”

“I hope that you can help me.”

It sounded as if she pleaded, yet with courage, and Reeve admired her bravery since she truly wasn’t in any position to haggle. He could easily take what wealth she carried and be rid of her.

And so he had to ask, “Why trust me?”

“You didn’t join forces with the thieves.”

“Perhaps I wanted the wealth for myself,” he suggested.

“Then I would be dead by now.”

He stepped closer to her. “What if I wanted something else from you?”

Her soft voice turned as hard as solid stone. “Kiss me or touch me, and you’ll die.”

“What if I don’t believe the tale of a death bride?”

“If you know that I am one,” she said, “then you truly would be a fool to take the chance.”

Her eyes turned a deeper shade of purple and filled with such heavy sorrow that Reeve couldn’t help himself. He reached out and was about to touch her when she stumbled back, in a rush to avoid him.

He drew his hand away. “You are not my bride, so therefore I have nothing to fear.”

“There is more to the tale than you know.”

Her blunt tone warned she would say no more, but that wasn’t what stopped him from satisfying his curiosity. It was the utter despair so visible in the slump of her shoulders, the slight drop of her head, but mostly the way she hugged herself, her arms tight around her middle.

How long had it been since someone had embraced her?

He knew she wouldn’t let him near her, so he offered comfort the only way he could. “How can I help you?”

“I don’t wish to bring death to any more men.”

Reeve wondered just how many times she had been a widow.

“I wish to find a safe place where I may live in peace and harm none. In return for helping me find this haven, I will give you my substantial bride price.”

He certainly had no intentions of leaving her on her own. He also couldn’t help but think how her offer would benefit his mission. His three brothers, not by blood, though as close as if they were, would surely agree. They had been working hard in gathering forces to help bring the true king to the throne when the time was right. This offer could help bring that to fruition.

“Agreed,” he said firmly.

“I’ll have your word on it as a Highlander warrior.”

He saw no reason not to give his word since he intended to see her safe. “You have my word.”

“Let me gather a few of my things, and we can be on our way,” she said.

“First, call me curious, but I would like to know your name and the name of your intended,” he said.

“Does it matter?” she asked, a bit startled.

“Well, I could call you lass, bonnie, darling,” he shrugged. “Take your pick.”

“Tara,” she said quickly. “My name is Tara. As for my intended, I prefer not to share his