Taken by the Highland Brute – Bonus Prologue

Clan Fletcher Lands, 1349

If there was something a Fletcher man excelled at besides snuffing out his enemies in battle, it was hunting.

Alistair, laird of the Fletcher clan, was flanked by Keith, his best friend, and Douglas, one of his most trusted warriors. Douglas’s ten-year-old son, sat in front of Douglas on the horse. This was the first time that the boy would accompany them. They were a little distance from Castle Fletcher. Their destination was the woods, which lay just beyond the formidable hill that they were just now descending.

When they got to the bottom of the hill, Tasgall exclaimed in wonder. He then looked at Alistair and Keith. “I am sorry,” he said.

“What fer?” Alistair asked.

“Talking,” Tasgall returned. “Pa says that if you must be quiet on a hunt, so ye dinnae scare the game away.”

Alistair smiled kindly at the boy. “Is that what he said?” he asked. “Well, there is nothing to fear, Tasgall, fer the game we seek is in the woods, and we are not yet there. Also, I dinnae think yer father follows his own rules. On hunts, he is the most talkative.” There was a tilting lint in his eye.

“Nay, I am nae,” Douglas said, addressing his son. “Lad, I am quiet as a mouse and more focused than an ant bringing fruit tae its colony.”

“And more dutiful than a beehive’s workers too?” Keith prompted. “I could never tire of reciting a lot of things that you clearly arenae!”

Douglas chuckled. “A lad is out with his faither. Dinnae spread lies against him.”

“I still think that ye are the best warrior there is, even though ye arenae quiet as a mouse or more focused than an ant or more dutiful than a beehive’s workers,” Tasgall said earnestly.

Alistair and Keith made sounds of mock emotion. “There’s a fine lad,” Keith said. “Supporting his papa no matter what. A better vision I have never seen.”

“Oh, stop it, Keith!” Douglas bellowed, but there was mirth in his voice. “Dinnae listen tae him, lad,” he said to Tasgall.

“You’d better listen tae me, lad,” Keith said. “I am old enough tae be yer faither.”

“Nay, ye’re nae,” Alistair and Douglas said in unison. “But if ye keep at the rate ye are going, ye will have a son of yer own soon.”

“By keeping at the rate he is going, Pa,” Tasgall said, “dae ye mean that Uncle Keith is making very serious plans tae marry?”

“Yes,” Douglas said quickly. Keith howled in laughter. “I am careful,” he said, “in me making of very serious plans tae marry.” He turned to Alistair. “Besides, ‘tis the laird that needs tae find a bride soon.”

“I am aware of my duties,” Alistair said. “But I shall take me time in choosing the right woman.”

“You must accept, however, that ye have lost yer way with women. There is only so much women can take before they give up. This year alone, didnae about twenty women vie fer yer hand? I remember almost all of them: offering tae cook specially fer ye in the kitchens, regaling ye with stories about the fecundity that runs in their families, risking shame just tae show ye their…” He looked at Tasgall. “Ample proportions? And there was that one that shot an arrow almost better than ye and walked like a strapping lad. She challenged ye tae a swordfight thinking that it would arouse ye, I remember.”

“Ah, yes, Caitlin, I believe she was called,” Alistair said. “A very manly sort. But a formidable opponent – fer a lass.”

“Did her manliness stop ye from… engaging in activities with her?” Keith asked.

“Quite simply, aye,” Alistair replied.

“Ah,” Keith said, “but nae with certain of the others, I am sure.” He winked at Alistair. “Fiona, fer example. She had the most-” He looked at Tasgall. “She had the most generous proportions that I have ever seen on a woman. And she giggled whenever yerur eyes met hers. Ye cannae deny it.”

“I have had me fun with women, and now I have more important things tae think about,” Alistair returned.

“Me maither says marriage is about finding yer one true love,” Tasgall said.

“A wise woman she is, is yer maither,” Keith said. “That is the only reason I dinnae fear fer yer future, dear lad. The only wisdom yer faither knows is the wisdom of crashing a skull with his club.”

Douglas and Alistair burst into laughter.

“But,” Keith said, “on this matter, yer maither is blinded by her whims. She believes in love tae a degree that exceeds the advisable level. As a matter of fact, there is no advisable level tae believing in love. Nay one should believe in it. The end.”

“You’ll nae speak ill of me wife,” Douglas said.

“I speak nay ill of me sister,” Keith returned, giving Douglas a proprietary look that said ‘she was me sister afore she became yer wife’. “I only speak the truth.” They had gotten to the forest’s edge now. “Ah,” Keith remarked, taking a sniff of the air. “Game. Waiting tae be caught and killed.”

“Dinnae be so dark, Keith,” Alistair said.

“As ye command, me laird.” He turned to Tasgall. “Ye must be quiet now. Especially when ye sight game. We must have none of that blathering that ye assaulted our ears with on the way.”

Tasgall gasped. “But it was ye who did most of the talking on our way here, Uncle Keith!” he protested.

“Keep the untruths in your belly and focus, lad,” Keith hissed. Tasgall turned to look at his father. Douglas smoothed a hand over his chest to indicate to his son to calm down, but there was a smile on his face. This was simply his brother-in-law’s nature.

Keith listened for a while, but his ears caught nothing interesting. “Ye can talk as much as ye want tae, there’s nay game on this side of the forest,” he said to Tasgall with a sigh. “Did I ever tell ye that the men on our side of the family, except me, can never grow hair on their head as soon as they turn twelve years old?”

Tasgall looked at his father in horror.

“He is only jesting,” Douglas assured. “Yer uncle loves tae jest…”

Alistair heard the sound of footsteps. His eyebrow arched. He wandered away from the group in the direction of the sound. They led him to a lake. The rays of the sun glimmered on the water like pure crystals. At the lake’s bank, he saw an old lady with a wooden bucket. He swallowed his disappointment. He had no idea what he had expected to see, but it was surely not this. Her clothes were well-worn, and her hair was white as the driven snow. He had never seen hair that white before. He turned to go.


He turned swiftly. His eyes fixed themselves on the woman. But she did not look at him. She continued at her task of filling the bucket up as though she had not just called his name. “Ye are the laird of the land,” she said. “I saw ye in a dream just last night.” She looked up and Alistair inhaled sharply. How could he not have guessed? She was the witch of the Highlands, believed to be real by most, thought to be an old wives’ tale by others, but feared by all.

“What dae ye seek outside yer cottage?” Alistair asked.

The woman chuckled. “Ye have never visited me tae find out about yer future and ye must. Great leaders take advantage of divinity instead of hiding from it. ‘Tis the only way ye can have the advantage in life.”

“I make me own advantages,” Alistair said.

The woman cackled, exposing toothless gums. “Of course, Alistair. As brave and ambitious as yer faither.”

“Ye ken naething of me faither,” Alistair said, fighting to keep his voice even. It was Highlander law to leave the witch alone, but some adventurous souls sometimes visited her with gifts in exchange for a reading. His father had had to deal with such cases: a swordsmith, for example, had attempted to kill his neighbor because the witch had told him that it was the neighbor who would cause his death. Just as his father had been about to give judgment, the neighbor had begun to laugh at the seeming absurdity of him causing someone else’s death. The man who had consulted the witch had, in one deft movement, pried a warrior’s sword from its sheath and decapitated his neighbor. Two days later, he had been put to death, for that was the law.

Alistair had found ways to explain it away, for he did not want to believe that the witch’s words had come true. But there was a part of him that knew that they had.

“Dinnae ye want tae ken yer future, dear laird?” the witch asked him.

“I have nay interest in doing so,” Alistair responded.

“Well, I insist,” the witch said matter-of-factly. “Ye will meet the woman ye are destined tae fall in love with a year from now. She is the opposite of everything that ye would expect, or want, in a soulmate, but she truly matches ye in all the ways that truly matter.”

Alistair burst into laughter. “Why would I marry a Highland lass that is the opposite of what I want?”

The witch grinned at him, and if he were a man of a weaker constitution, a chill might have run down his spine. “Who said anything about a Highland lass?” she asked.

Alistair heard Keith and Douglas calling him and he turned to look behind him. He then turned back to the lake, but the witch was gone. Keith, Douglas, and Tasgall made their way to him.

“Me laird, why did ye decide tae disappear in the middle of the forest?” Douglas asked.

“I thought I saw something,” Alistair replied. “A deer. And since ye and Douglas were busy discussing like two little lasses, I decided tae go after it meself.”

Douglas and Keith laughed. “Your braither is the one acting like a little girl,” Keith said, “hiding secrets and skipping the hunt all the time.”

“Alistair chuckled, for Keith was not wrong. “What me brother does with his free time is his problem. It is probably a lass. Kenning him, it will be over soon and we will be our merry little trioagain.”

“Frio,” Tasgall said suddenly.


“Frio. I want to come on all your hunts from now on. It is either this or being forced to mind the castle with Maither. So, we will be a frio. A trio is a group of three people. But when the laird’s brother joins us, we will be four. A frio.”

Alistair, Douglas and Keith burst into laughter.

As they made their way back to the original path, Alistair’s mirth gave way to worry.

What if the witch was right?


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  • What a hauntingly, bewitching beginning to Alistair’s story. I can’t wait until Alistair meets his “destiny”! Super start, Juliana!

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