Taste of a Highland Lass (Preview)

Chapter 1

The tip of the sword lightly poked Gawain’s throat, his head held high as his father, the wielder, forced him against the wall. His bright eyes darted upward in the darkness, but his breath was carefully measured despite his fuming. A distasteful look hardened the old laird’s face, harsh expression shooting at his kneeling, battered son. Gawain could taste the blood in his mouth and sweat on his lips. He wanted to move, but he was hooked in place by an insurmountable strength.

“What possessed ye, Gawain? Ye force me hand with yer treachery. How could ye’ve brought such shame to our family?”

“I’ve done nothing to cause harm to the clan, father. I only did what I needed to do to gain yer favor once more. I devoted everything to the clan, and I deserve what ye’ve given to him! I’ve worked fer it, dedicated me life fer it and it should be mine. Why have ye decided to brand me a traitor when it is ye who has betrayed me, fa…?” The sword pressed under his chin, a warning from his father. He clenched his teeth as his heart beat harder than ever.

“Watch yer tongue. It was never yer place to rule this clan, Gawain. ‘Tis yer brother’s birthright and nae trickery from ye will change that. Ye are not fit to live among us if ye will not respect our laws. Your soul is vile and I cannae trust you around your brother, so begone. Be gone far away,” the old man threw him to the floor as he retreated, “If ye ever set foot on these lands during my lifetime, I’ll surely have ye punished.”

Gawain’s face plunged into the hard floor. One more wound meant nothing at this point. “Trickery ye say? How have I tricked ye? I had me life planned in front of me. I never wanted to be involved in this but ye told me, ye asked me to fill in fer me brother and I did just that. I pleased ye, did as ye wanted and ye now cast me aside all because he returned? Ye send me to exile because I tried to win yer favor and ye call yerself me father?” Gawain rose to his feet, towering over the aged laird, his rage burned in his sapphire eyes as his lips curled into a snarl. “Farewell father.”

At those words, he felt himself transported through his journey. The rhythmic sound of his heartbeat quickly became chaotic as he relived his journey around high and lows of Europe. He wallowed in his own regrets and misery as he grew, understanding his misdoings by the day. The thoughts of being deserted and hated by the same clan he devoted his heart and soul to plagued him. Like a neglected flower, he was shunned by his own family and friends, who he would have given his life for.

Doubt was deeply rooted in his heart. Why was he raised to take a birthright that was not his? Why was the birthright promised to him snatched away? Why was he tossed aside when the prodigal son came back? His own dreams of a simple life had been sacrificed, his time, his energy, his mind and his soul devoted to one task. The task he was denied from completing.

He found himself drifting in an endless, green field, once again looking up even as bright rays pierced his eyes. The questions in his heart resounded with no answers. He felt he had been uprooted and left to wither in the harshness of the sun. It didn’t matter now, he would do anything for forgiveness. All he wanted was to be back in the familiar soil of his brethren.

He suddenly became aware of something, something important. The sun above set in a breath and a new breeze swept over his face.

He staggered awake.

Blue eyes shot open as their owner took a sharp inhale. Balancing himself in the hammock, Gawain took a steady deep breath to calm himself from his nightmare. He was still in his cabin; the slapping of the waves came from outside his open window accompanied by the call of seagulls.

They were close to shore.

This was his second chance. The shores of the place he once called home pulled closer to him. He swallowed hard as doubt and insecurity once again overshadowed his thoughts. His father may be dead, but everyone remembers.

His hands trembled as he had read through the letter his brother had sent, inviting him to celebrate the news of yet another child. It made no sense. The Laird already had children and he had not bothered to invite his brother then. Why now? Gawain was skeptical, but he yearned to see them again.

He tucked away the letter. Even if his brother did want him there, what would the rest of the clan say? What would the elders say? No one would fully accept him, but Gawain held no grudges against the clan that banished him. His intentions for the clan were the same as all those years ago, prosperity.

He wondered how things must have changed, improved even. He wondered if his clan was still allies with the Sutherland clan as Gawain was to marry the daughter of the Laird, Flora. He had loved Flora as much as he could. She was chosen for him by his father when Gawain was sure he would be the next laird. He wondered if she would have married someone else.

Of course, she would have. She was beautiful and young, the perfect age to be wed. Would he run into her? He hoped not. Would Caillen invite her too? If they were allies, he might. Would Caillen be interested in how Gawain had spent his years in exile?

For Gawain, they weren’t the best years of his life. He had close to nothing when he left the clan and he roamed Scotland before he boarded a ship on its way to England. Strange people they were, always at war with each other and everyone else.

He stayed in a small village where he did any work, he could get his hands on. Times were hard as the English did not like outsiders. Then he fled to Ireland for a few months. He particularly amused himself with the fights at the tavern every night. He soon left for Scotland, having to almost take over the ship alongside the innocent passengers when the captain and his crew turned on them. The scuffle earned him a nasty looking scar that ran over his lips.

He arrived in Scotland which was where the letter found him. He had no idea how his brother knew where he was, he had a mind to ask but felt Caillen would brush him off.

On getting his brother’s letter, he boarded yet another ship, not wanting to travel by road. It would have been faster but Gawain was trying to drag out the time he had to get there, he dreaded what reactions he would get from the clan.

Memories of life before his brother packed up and left flooded in. Things were simple, things were normal, and he had no worries. He had wanted to live a simple life. He would build a house away from the clan and settle there. He’d marry himself a pretty wife and have his own children. There had been a girl he had his eyes on before his Flora. He remembered her fondly.

Davinia had come to the castle to work as a servant but it did not take long for her to become a valuable asset. They had grown on each other quickly as she was the only maid who he could trust with anything.

Davinia had always shown him her affection. She made his meat as tender as he liked it, she always got him the best spiced wine, the freshest bread. She lent an ear or a shoulder every time he needed it. She had been perfect until he got exiled and even though they kept in touch with letters.

He recalled her last letter. She hardly talked about herself. It contained the usual greetings, asking about his whereabouts and his wellbeing. Telling him to stay safe or she wouldn’t forgive him for it. He never asked about how things were going in the castle and thankfully she never told him. The most she could go on about in the castle was about her sister, Emer who had given birth to a proper set of children. She had talked about how his brother took care of her sister, giving her precious gifts from jewelry to silk ribbons. She had taken a few of her sisters as hers had gotten very old.

For this reason, Gawain had gone out of his way, almost earning another scar as he tried to procure Davinia a silk ribbon. He wondered how he always got into a fight everywhere he went.

As he swung his feet off the hammock, the door of his cabin opened for one of the crew members, a short grumpy man who had a mouth filthier than a drunk Irishman. His bloodshot grime filled eyes twitched. “Ship will be docking soon. Pack yer bags.”

“Aye. My thanks fer letting me accompany ye on this journey.” Gawain gave the man a small smile but was met with a glare before the man left, muttering what Gawain knew were insults. Gawain hopped off the hammock properly, grabbing the bag he had come with off the floor. In the cabin sat a small table where a jar of water sat, he washed his face with the majority and downed the rest before he made his way up toward the deck. The first person he ran into was the captain.

“Was sure I’d have to come wake you myself.” The captain was an English guard who had fled after an attempt to assassinate the duke he worked for had failed. A dirty man, almost as crooked as his yellowed, incomplete teeth, Gawain deduced from their late-night talks while they enjoyed the calming waves, a jar of rum or ale each in their hands. The night before was one of those nights as Gawain had turned to ale instead to distract him of what laid ahead.

“Aye captain, I did nae drink that much.” Gawain was polite at all times. Men who sailed were never to be trusted. “I’ve been told we’ll dock soon. Thank ye fer yer kind hospitality.”

“And thank you for your kind donation, Sir MacLachlan, wasn’t it?”

“Aye.” Gawain toyed with a gold coin in his breeches before he handed it to the captain, not missing the wide eyes. No more words were said between them and frankly, Gawain hoped he never encountered the captain again.

The ship docked a few hours at sunrise and he hurried off along with the other passengers. It was times like this he was grateful that he did not own much. Slinging his bag over his shoulders, he was met by the familiar port. The ships for journey docked on one side, while ships for goods, sat on the other. The hustle and bustle of the docks was just as he remembered, nothing changed from when he left. Mindless chatter and shouts filled the air, there was the occasional fight breaking out between people or merchants. Gawain braced himself as he started his last journey to the clan’s castle.

He stuck to walking rather than paying for a cart or horse ride. He sighted guards wearing the clan’s tunic, each one with their head held high on their stress. They paraded the docks, market and even the forests. The village’s population increased, the different and new sights at the market intrigued him, often pausing to see what a few merchants sold.

As he crouched down in front of a young girl who manned a space which sold beaded jewelry, a commotion broke out behind him. Hurrying to his feet to see what was the problem, he was surprised and angry to see a guard was the problem.

The guard had a young man by the front of his shirt. Gawain tapped on a woman’s shoulder, asking about the problem and his anger flared at her words. “Nae, do nae worry. They do this all the time. The guard’s horse was startled and it kicked away the boy’s stall. They will leave him alone soon. It happened to me granddaughter a few days ago too.”

“But this should nae be happening.” Gawain was about to take a step forward but was held back by the woman who shook her head at him.

“It should nae but it’ll end fast if ye do nae interfere.” The old woman warned as she let go of his arm.

“I was nae—”

“I can see it in yer eyes. Ye are angry. If you fight fer him now, they’ll leave but they’ll come back fer him. Ye might be long gone by then. Believe me, there is nothing ye can do to help but watch.”

Gawain saw no reason to, other than the guards having a chance to abuse their power over the people but the woman was right. It wasn’t his concern anymore. It was his brother’s concern. It never was as his father had said. It took him years to realize it was the truth.

It wasn’t his birthright, it wasn’t his place, it wasn’t his responsibility. He tried to make it his and he suffered for it. He had to be careful, trying too hard didn’t work for him the first time around. In the meantime, he’ll try to enjoy doing nothing.


Chapter 2

Davinia froze, forest green eyes widening at the loud crash that came from behind her. “Oh dear.” She turned, slowly assessing the damage. It was a new servant so occurrences like that often came by. The servant girl had already begun to wail as she tried to salvage what was left of the spilt broth, but the liquid slipped from her fingers. Hurrying over to the girl, Davinia tucked her hands under the girl’s and pulled her to her feet.

“Miss, I split it. I split the broth, miss. I did nae mean fer it to happen.” The girl years running down the sides of her face, a slight vein popping out by her left temple. This earned a few snickers from the other servants as Davinia wiped off her tears with the back of her hand.

“Stop crying, child. It’s only broth. Ye’re too young to carry something this big, didn’t the cook tell ye? But it is fine, do nae fret.” Davinia held the girl’s hands to inspect them, frowning slightly at the redness of her palm. “Oh, ye burnt yerself. That’s enough, go back to yer quarters, wrap a wet cloth around it. I’ll see to ye once I tell the cook about the broth.”

“But she will be angry with me, miss.” The servant protested but Davinia turned the girl around and gave her a tap on the back to get going. She couldn’t have anyone getting injured or upset over broth. She looked down at the broth and shook her head. She would have to hurry to the kitchen and have the cook make another one.

“Gwen, please clean this up fer me.” Davinia hurried off to the kitchen after the order, meeting the head cook fretting over her stove. “Is there a problem?”

“Nothing I can’t fix, miss.” The woman replied, still not looking at Davinia. “Everything is going smoothly here. There’s no need to hound us.” Davinia plastered a toothy smile on her face as the woman turned to face her. “What?”

“Can ye make another broth?” She folded her hands behind her back as Gelda raised a greying eyebrow at her.

“What happened to the last one?”

“I split it. On accident.”

“Or a servant split it and ye do nae want me to give them a scolding.” Gelda scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest, head raised high.

“Yer scolding is rather harsh, Gelda. The girls are terrified.”

“As they should be. Not every crying face is innocent, miss.”

“Thank ye fer the advice, Gelda. And the broth.”

“I never said I would make another broth!”

“But I ken ye will because ye would want yer dishes perfect and complete.” Davinia teased lightly before the older woman cracked a smile.

“Alright then. If me broth is split again, I’ll have yer pretty head, Davinia.” Davinia opened her mouth to talk when she was interrupted.

“Miss, we have a problem with the drinks.” A voice called out to her, and she gave the cook one last smile before she made her way toward her next challenge.

This was her life, it was a life she was satisfied with. She had never been one to be pampered as her upbringing showed. She had her principles in life, not relying on a hand to feed her.

Born into a poor family, their main occupation was farming. At a young age she had been faced with the hardship of life until she met with the kitchen matron, Maria by chance. Impressed with Davinia, she took in the girl as a servant. It was a better way to make a larger earning for her family.

It was difficult at first as she had missed her family dearly, it dampened her spirit anytime she thought of them. She missed her sister the most of all but the determination to change something, no matter how little in their lives, always kept her going. She worked for the MacLachlan clan for years, getting to know the Laird’s family better. Of the two sons, she was particularly attracted to the second son, Gawain. They stayed as friends as she thought but she did show her affection in her little ways never seeking praise.

She thought Gawain to be selfless, taking up his brother’s position after Caillen abandoned it to travel. She did feel his banishment was unneeded as he had only done what should have been done as a true son of the clan. She had watched him fit himself into the role of Laird, even going as far as engaging to a woman from another clan. A woman Davinia could not compete with. Lady Flora was a perfect match for him, and Gawain simply adored her. Davinia could only watch from a distance. It was not her place but that did not mean she could not desire it. In her eyes, Gawain was perfect, being what many men could not.

She could delude herself, pretend to make herself feel better and say Gawain could have loved her as much as she did him but she knew it wasn’t going to happen. She knew her place.

She continued to guide the servants on setting up the grand hall for the event. How overjoyed had she been when she learnt her sister, Emer was with child once more. The Laird had insisted on yet another feast to celebrate it. Emer would rather not but was soon persuaded by her husband. Important people had been invited and it was up to Davinia to make yet another impression.

“Miss, miss.” A girl was coming toward her, a tray filled with pitchers of wine balanced in her hands. Had she been trying to show Davinia something, it did not matter anymore as the girl stumbled just a little over her own feet, collapsing into Davinia’s arm, forcing her to take the tray before the servant met with the ground.

Unfortunately for Davinia, she didn’t quite catch the tray just right and ended up falling backward but just before she met with the ground, strong arms caught her, steadying her and the wine tray, a few drops spilling from the pitchers.

Everything was still for a moment, servants pausing their tasks to make sure she was alright, the one on the floor scrambling to her feet to take back the tray and awaiting a scolding. Davinia felt the heat of the body behind her, the person coming close enough that she could hear their breathing before they chuckled. The vibrations from the person, she could feel them on her back. “I love what ye’ve done with the place. It’s perfect, as always.”

Davinia prided herself on being able to control her emotions. It was how she got into working for the clan properly, it was how she could push Gawain and Flora to the back of her mind but unfortunately, there was a first time for everything.

She slowly turned, a part of her knowing who the deep voice belonged to, another part of her, convinced she had finally lost it. Faced with a man who towered a good head above her, brown hair fell in loose ringlets over his shoulder with sharp facial features, a scar over the corner of his lips. He was big, perhaps bigger than the Laird himself. She almost couldn’t recognize the man until he smiled. A soft, small smile that made his blue eyes light up in a manner.

It was him. It really was him.


His eyes lit up brighter at the mention of his name, his smile, wider. She stood frozen almost unable to believe it was truly him. Why had he come? How had he been let in? Had something changed and she wasn’t aware of it? Had he been pardoned? Would he stay? She had no idea but she surely couldn’t be the only one who believed his presence was going to cause an uproar and she was not talking about the clan.

Her heart ached as she reached up to touch him. Her hands landed on his shoulders, she felt him. He was real, she was not dreaming. She cupped his face, running her finger across his scar, his hair tickling her.

“Gawain, it really is ye.” Her lips split into a smile that almost mirrored his as an elated giggle left her lips. “Tis ye. Tis really ye!” She laughed as she let go of his face.

“Ye are excited to see me again, Davinia. I was certain I would have to endure a scolding.” She laughed, placing her hands on his biceps.

“I forgive ye so I’ll nae scold ye.”

“Davinia, I—”

“Gawain!” The voice of the Laird, Caillen cut out through the hall, breaking Davinia away from his embrace. Servants scurried to complete their tasks, pretending not to notice the Laird and his pregnant wife trailing behind him.

“Brother.” Gawain’s smile was tight, spreading across his face. He was satisfied, seeing his brother happy with his life but couldn’t bring himself to actually smile back. Caillen pulled his brother into a tight embrace, laughing when he pulled away to look at his younger brother.

“Look how rugged ye look now, Gawain. It has been so many years, I’m so glad I finally found ye. And brought ye back to the clan.”

“Aye, ‘tis good to be back.”

“I’m so happy to see ye, Gawain. We must talk about everything that has happened. This is me wife, ye ken her.”

Emer stepped forward, a smile on her lips.” Gawain, it is wonderful to see ye again. I’m glad that ye came.”

“Excuse me, milord. I must be on my way to the kitchen.” Davinia said as she started to leave. Gawain noticed and tried to go after her, but Caillen stopped him.

“Ye just join us fer the early festivities tonight. Davinia has decorated the hall just for that. We can talk better then and I do want to hear everything, Gawain.”

“Aye, I’ll be there but I need to talk to Davinia urgently in private. I’ve brought her a gift.” He said and Caillen’s eyebrows went high and his wife cast Gawain a look, both surprised at the statement.

“Oh…of course.” Caillen nodded, stepping back for his brother. “Do nae be late fer later.”

“Aye.” Gawain bowed his head respectfully at his brother before taking Davinia’s hand “Come along.”

He led her toward the guest chambers where his bag had been put. They walked through the halls in silence, Gawain slowing his steps when he noticed how far behind she was.

“Aye, Davinia. Perhaps we’ll get to me chambers after Emer gives birth. Hurry up will ye?”

“Aye, yer legs are longer than mine.” She joked as she caught up to him, holding on to the arm he offered. Gawain felt his chest swell with her action.

“Ye told me the old matron had retired.”

“Aye. I’ve only just taken over. She lives in the village with her grandchildren. I visit her every once in a while.”

“I see. I suppose ye’re fit fer the job. Ye’re ever so diligent, Davinia.”

“Please, do nae flatter me.” Davinia suppressed a laugh.

“When I came, I only dropped me bag and came to find ye. I thought I would find ye alone.” Gawain inched toward her as he spoke.

“To be honest, ye did nae have to bring me anything.” Davinia replied with a shy smile.

“I wanted to. Ye deserve it, Davinia. Yer letters brought me immense joy. It made me feel as if I was nae alone.” He opened the door, stepping in not noticing her still by the door. “Thank ye.”

“Nae, Gawain. I only wanted to be sure of yer wellbeing. I tell ye, ye were never alone.”

“Come in, Davinia. I’m nae a highborn anymore.”

“I’m still a maid and ye’re the laird’s brother and guest. I’m only being respectful.”

Gawain stretched out his hand for her, she hesitated but took it, allowing him to pull her into the room. “There is nae need fer that, Davinia.”

She watched as he dug through the bag on the bed, nearly emptying its contents until he found a small pouch and he handed it to her. “What is it?”

“Open it.” He said, a grin creeping onto his face. She nodded, dipping her fingers in it to take out a single silk ribbon. Do ye like it? I ken how much ye love blue.” He pointed at her blue dress and she laughed, admiring the ribbon.

“I love it, Gawain.” Her voice was soft as her green eyes peered up at him under her lashes. “Thank ye.” Gawain found himself at a loss for words as he watched her take off her old ribbon, pocketing it before tying her hair back with her new one. Why had he never properly realized her beauty until it was too late.

He brushed the stray strands of hair out of her face when she looked back up at him. Her green eyes just as bright as he remembered, he stepped closer to her, cupping her face. “Ye’re beautiful, Davinia.” A deep blush spread out on her cheeks when he lifted her face upwards. He could lean in, brushing his lips over here before she took a step out of his hold. She swallowed as she pressed her back to the door, “Davinia?”

“Me apologies, Gawain.” Her voice shook, her eyes refusing to meet his. “I must be on my way back to the kitchen.”

“Why?” She perked up at the question but still kept her eyes trained on his chest. “Why won’t ye meet me eyes all of a sudden? Have I made ye uncomfortable? I apologize.”

“Nae, please! Nae.” She rubbed her arms not knowing what to say. “It is nae what ye think.”

“Are ye married then? Do ye’ve someone that ye…nae, I apologize. I shouldn’t have tried that.” Gawain looked down at his feet. “I was too forward but do ye like the ribbon?”

Davinia let her hand touch her old one in the pocket of her apron. “Aye. It is beautiful, thank ye. I’ll treasure it. I’m glad ye remembered something as little as me favorite color.”

“Do nae thank me. After all ye’ve done fer me over the years, taking care of me and noticing little things about me, it would be terrible of me if I did nae remember little things that you like.”

“Oh.” She sounded a little disappointed and Gawain looked up at her.

“What is the matter, have I said something wrong?”

“Nae, Gawain. I must be on me way. The festivities will begin soon.” She had gathered her dress and was already making her way out of his chambers. He called out to her but she had already shut the door in her wake leaving him to deal with his rejection alone.


If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

  • Gawain and Davinia are two lost souls. It’ll be interesting to see how their futures collide. Great start, Ms. Wight.

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