Under the Highland Moon (Preview)

Chapter One

“Do nae look back,” Alina said, “but Torcall has been looking at ye. He’s behind ye.”

Ceana’s eyes widened, and a blush appeared on her otherwise pale cheeks. “He’s here?” she asked. Ceana hadn’t expected Torcall to be at the feast. Sure, she had prayed to the gods and put on her prettiest yellow dress, which Alina assured her didn’t clash with her vibrant red hair and deep brown eyes. Still, she hadn’t actually expected him to come. The feast wasn’t a large one, and Torcall was not known for frequenting parties or celebrations.

Ceana had a crush on Torcall. It was one that everyone except Torcall seemed to notice. She had met Torcall years ago at a feast for all the lassies who were finally of age to court, and he had stolen her heart. However, the issue was that Torcall had caused this without knowing. Ceana had long since given up on him liking her, but it didn’t hurt to dream.

“Would ye stop smiling like a canary?” Alina admonished her younger sister.

“Do canaries smile?” Ceana asked with a rather canary-like smile on her full pink lips.

Alina shook her head and put her hand in her sister’s. “Come with me. Left t’ye, we will spend the whole feast sneakin’ glances at Torcall, and I have had enough of that.”

She dragged a reluctant Ceana away to one of the many tables at the feast. “Have ye seen ma?” Ceana asked her sister.

“Nay, last I saw of her, she was speaking with some of da’s friend’s wives,” Alina replied, and Ceana nodded. One of the downsides to being married to a guard was that her mother could not enjoy them at feasts like other couples. Most of the time, her father was on guard duty at the palace keep, which made him a very busy man.

The few times he was free, her mother opted to spend quiet moments with him in their home rather than at feasts. Perhaps, being raised in a home with parents that adored each other had made her long for such a love. Since Ceana could remember, she had dreamt of a man to love her just as her father loved her mother. However, it didn’t seem to have the same effect on her sister. Despite being two years her senior, Alina seemed largely uninterested in men. Ceana could not recall her sister saying a word about any man that wasn’t plainly platonic.

Alina definitely didn’t like anyone the way Ceana liked Torcall. Who wouldn’t like Torcall, Ceana thought to herself with a small sigh? The man was heavenly. He was tall, handsome, and well-built. He had the kindest blue eyes that Ceana had ever seen, and even better, there was the hint of adventure that Ceana craved in them. He was a kind man, too—even Alina agreed about this. She had seen him several times stop to assist both men and women who needed his help.

One day, after Torcall had helped Alina fix the wheel of her carriage for hours without accepting anything, she had come home with a newfound respect for him. “It seems to me,” she had said, “that Torcall is the type of man that would treat his wife with respect whether he loved her or not.”

That had been enough for her to subtly endorse her sister’s crush. Although she had never said it out loud, Ceana imagined that her sister didn’t believe in love.

“Ceana?” Alina called for the third time.

“Huh?” she replied, snapping back into reality.

Alina shook her head and thrust a cup into her hands. “Ye have gone off into another daydream again, haven’t ye?”

It was no use lying, so Ceana sighed instead. “Do ye think he will talk to me today?”

“I think ye worry yer pretty head too much,” Alina replied with a shake of her head. “Go on, drink,” she urged.

Ceana closed her eyes, tipped the cup back and swallowed down her mead.

“Ceana,” Alina scolded, “not so fast.”

She shook her head and poured her sister another cup. “Don’t drink this so fast. Let’s go socialize.”

The pair had barely gotten to the door before they were stopped. “Ceana, Alina!”

Ceana sighed as soon as she heard the voice. “Hello, Tam,” she said with poorly faked enthusiasm.

“I didnae ken ye will be here,” he said with a grin on his face.

“Well, we are,” Alina replied.

Ceana didn’t know what she hated most about Tam. Was it his arrogance? His pride? His scheming attitude? Or was it the dangerous look in his eyes that only she seemed to see.

Tam’s Faither was the general of the clan. He had led their clan to many great wars and had conquered the enemy many more times than he had been defeated. Consequently, he was revered and respected. He had two sons, Rannoch and Tam. Rannoch was a cool-headed man who excelled more at creating swords than wielding them, much to his chagrin. His second son, however, had decided that he deserved the same amount of respect.

“Do ye want to dance?” he asked both girls.

“No!” they both replied, not caring who was spoken to.

Tam laughed in a deprecating way. “Come on, do nae be so tight.” He winked.

“We are nae tight. We just do nae want to dance,” Alina replied with pursed lips.

Tam placed his hands on Alina and Ceana’s wrists and locked his grip. “Ye are no fun,” he said with a wink.

Ceana was sure that Alina would deck him, but there came a voice she recognized instantly.

“What seems to be the problem, Tam?”

The group of three turned to Torcall, who seemed to tower above them.

“Nothin’ to bother yerself about, Torcall!” Tam spat out, still holding on to Ceana’s hands, effectively putting them in a terrible situation. If a tussle occurred, it would catch attention, new elements would be added, and then spread into a brawl.

Tam’s grip on her hand grew tighter, and Ceana felt her skin crawl.

With a look of indifference on his face, Torcall bent down and whispered to Tam so she could hear.

“Ye must ken that I do nae shy away from scandals. Not especially when I have the chance to beat ye and have the maids of the clan giggle as ye pass. Now, if ye do nae let her go now, the next place ye’ll be sitting is the ground.” The smile on his face never wavered as he spoke.

From a distance, they would have looked like a small group simply talking.

Tam stared at Torcall for only a moment before dropping her hand and furiously marching away.

Awestruck, Ceana turned to Torcall. The violent look in his eyes was gone, and instead, there was the carefree and happy look she was used to seeing.

“He didnae hurt ye, I hope?” His long lashes fluttered slightly.

Ceana rubbed her wrists and blushed slightly. ‘Nay, ye were here in time.”

Beside them, Alina rolled her eyes and went unnoticed by the pair.

“I’m glad. Have ye….”

“Torcall!” the call came from the other side of the room.

Torcall looked at the caller, and a guilty look appeared on his face. “I’m sorry. My cousin calls. We will see you some other time. Do tell me if Tam bothers ye again,” he said to her.

“Thank ye,” she said breathlessly.

“Even ye,” he said, turning to Alina.

“I will. Although I do nae think we will have more trouble with him. Thank ye,” she said with a polite smile.

He smiled at both ladies and jogged to the other side of the room to his cousin.

Ceana was only to hold her squeal long enough for him to get out of earshot.

“Oh, do be quiet,” Alina said, but she was smiling. “He makes it hard to dislike him.”

“Ye see it too, do ye nae?” She put her hands to her chest and sighed deeply.

“If ye gush over him once more this night, we are going home,” Alina put her hand in her sister’s and dragged her to the other ladies of their own age.

The feast was a great one for its small size. The mead was abundant, and Ceana was on her fourth cup before she knew it.

“Ye should nae drink so much,” Alina said.

“Ye are worse than mother,” Ceana said good-naturedly. “Ye should have some fun.”


Both sisters turned to an acquaintance, Bridget.

“Yer dress is amazing,” she said to Ceana.

“Thank ye,” Ceana said with a smile. “Yer hair looks amazing. Did yer sister do it again?”

“Aye, she made me do her chores, but it was worth it. I think Doug took notice today.”

Doug was the son of the head of the guard. He worked directly under Tam’s and Rannoch’s Faither, Dirk, and was one of the most respected men in the clan. Doug and his older brother, Dan, were a close pair and were hardly without each other. The men were eligible bachelors and had their fair share of admirers in the clan.

However, it was for Doug that Bridget’s torch burned. Sadly, she was not getting much attention from him.

“It seems he did,” Alina muttered. “He is coming up behind ye.”

Bridget’s cheek burned slightly, but she got it slightly under control before they arrived.

The men exchanged pleasantries, and then Doug turned to Ceana.

“I looked for ye. How are ye enjoying the feast?”

Ceana paled. What did he mean? Beside her, Bridget’s pride deflated.

“Oh?” Ceana replied.

“Aye,” he nodded with a smile on his face.

Ceana would have rather been anywhere else on the planet. It wasn’t that Doug was an unattractive man, but she was not attracted to him, and Bridget was right beside her.

“Would ye like to dance?” he asked her with a bashful smile.

“Nay,” she said, quick as a bullet. “Sorry, I was supposed to meet with a friend right about now,” she lied.

“Oh,” he said. “Maybe another time,” he smiled.

“How about ye?” Dan asked Alina with a shy smile.

“Nay,” she smiled. “Thank ye.”

The brothers left, and the girls turned to Bridget, whose eyes were tinged red.

“I am sorry, Bridget,” Ceana said, embarrassed.

“It matters nae,” she replied, although it was obvious that it did, in fact, matter. “Why did ye nae dance with Dan?” she asked Alina. “Nae on me account, I hope?”

“Nae,” Alina assured. “I do nae fancy him.”

“Ye do nae?” Bridget asked. “He is an eligible bachelor, ye ken?”

“Aye,” Alina smiled. “And ye do nae fancy him?”

“Nae. I wouldnae fancy him because of who his Faither is. Do ye fancy Tam?” Alina asked with an arched eyebrow. “Tam is the most eligible bachelor after the Laird’s heir—that is if ye do nae consider Rannoch.”

Bridget laughed. “It does nae really count, ye ken. Tam knows just as much about fightin’ as I do. His da is training Torcall, and e’ryone believes that Torcall, and not Tam, will succeed him, so he is nae so eligible, is he?”

“Good point,” Alina said.

“And neither Torcall nor Rannoch catches me fancy. I could have them if I wanted,” she shrugged dismissively.

Ceana said nothing, but her lips thinned.

“I must leave,” Bridget said and bid the sisters goodbye, leaving them to themselves. Alina took Ceana with her as they socialized with people they knew.

As the feast drew to an end, Alina realized that Ceana had consumed more mead than she should have.

“Ye should stick with me, ye silly girl.”

Ceana giggled. “’ Tis nae so much I drank. I can stand perfectly fine,” she said in a giggly voice, causing Alina to sigh.

“Do nae giggle so much.”

“Oh, look, here comes Torcall,” Ceana whispered louder than she should have.

“I’m sorry I didnae find ye earlier,” he said to the pair.

“There is nae need to apologize,” she said flirtatiously,

“But I must nae forget my manners,” he said.

Alina, growing tired of their flirting, decided to say hello to a friend at the other side of the room, living with her sister with Torcall.

“Did I,” Ceana put her hand on his strong arms, “say thank ye to ye for helpin’ us out with Tam?” With confidence she hadn’t known existed, she stroked his arm very subtly.

Torcall looked down on her arm and then back at her with a bashful look.

“Ye did, but I do nae mind hearin’ it again,” he said.

“Good because I want ye to ken that I am grateful.”

His arms felt amazing. Days ago, she had only been able to imagine him and feeling the strength of his muscles beneath her fingertips, but now, here she was—touching him. She looked up at him, and when he smiled back, she realized she wanted more.

She opened her mouth to speak then stopped. What exactly was she doing, clarity forced her to ask? But Ceana refused to pause. For some reason, she thought to herself, she had more courage than ever before. This was a moment she had, one that might never arise again. She would be damned if she let it pass.



“I crave some fresh air, and Alina is nae here to go with me. Would ye?”

“Of course,” he nodded and offered her his arm, which she took gladly.

As they walked to the balcony, Ceana’s heart beat loudly. She could not believe that she would finally be alone with Torcall. Her steps were slightly uneven, but she knew that it was her nerves and nothing more. She hoped steadfastly that Alina would not choose that moment to return.

Finally, they stepped into the privacy of the balcony, and she gave a sigh of relief and turned to Torcall with a massive smile on her face.

“I have ne’er seen anyone so pleased about taking in some breeze,” he said teasingly, and Ceana giggled.

“’ Tis nae the thing itself, ‘tis the who,” she said and looked up into the skies. “‘Tis so beautiful tonight,” she sighed. “Me ma used to tell me that fae princesses lived in the skies and that the stars were the precious stones on their crowns. I wanted to be a beautiful fae so desperately,” she laughed.

“Well, ye are nae fae—or I hope nae, but ye are as beautiful.”

Ceana turned to him with a blush on her face and looked away.

“Thank ye,” she smiled.

“I speak only the truth.”

Ceana blushed and looked into his eyes once more, struck by the blueness of them. His skin looked so smooth that she had no choice but to lift her hands to his face and stroke it gently.

“Ceana?” he said gently but did not take her hands away. Instead, he stepped closer to her. “Did I tell ye how beautiful ye are?” he asked in a hoarse voice.

“Maybe.” She said shyly.

“Ye are a beautiful woman, Ceana,” he repeated with a smile. His head lowered, and he smiled. Their lips drew closer, and Torcall…

“Ceana?” Alina’s voice came, giving them just enough time to draw apart before she stepped in.

“Ceana?” she said tentatively, stepping in between them. It was then that Ceana noticed Bridget behind at the entrance.

“She needed some air,” Torcall said.

“I see,” Alina muttered. She grabbed Ceana’s hands and marched her out of the room.

Bridget eyed Torcall and shook her head.

“I would think ye ken better than this. Bringin’ a young woman here alone!”

“She asked me to follow her,” Torcall replied. “She asked me.”

“Of course, that is what ye would say,” Bridget said, shaking her head.

“I–” Torcall began to say, but he was distracted by a rustle in the bushes behind him. He turned back but saw nothing.

“At least have the decency to face me and answer me,” Bridget said.

Torcall shook his head and walked away from the balcony.

Chapter Two

The courtyard was quiet, attesting to the earliness of the hour. The only people moving about were the maids in charge of cleaning the keep grounds.

It was not unusual for Torcall to be on the training grounds early. When working directly under the general, tardiness was not tolerated. His first son was a contemptible fellow who preferred to spend his time with unseemly things. In contrast, his second son was a master at creating swords, if not so much in wielding them.

However, while Tam was best described as a despicable wart, Rannoch was cool-headed and silent. It was with Rannoch that Torcall got along best; they had been friends ever since Dirk had brought him into their home upon the death of his Faither.

Torcall went round the back and stepped onto the training grounds. He knew that his uncle would be waiting.

“I ken ye wouldnae fail me and come here late,” his uncle said with pride evident in his voice.

“‘Tis nae a barrel of wine that would keep me from arriving here early as I have always done. “

“I wish I could say the same of Rannoch and Tam.”

“Rannoch will be here soon,” Torcall said, quick to defend his friend, and Dirk sighed.

“Tam is a disgrace to me,” Dirk said, never one to mince words. “Rannoch has a talent that pleases me. ‘Tis nae to say that I wouldnae rather he had yer quick wits in battle, but he makes swords fit for a king. Yet he does nae put enough time to the art of the battle.”

“Ye worry needlessly for Rannoch. ‘Tis nay crime if the man tries to spend time to master the sword he makes. “

“A man must ken how to defend himself,” Dirk agreed and tossed a sword to Torcall. Torcall caught it and took an expert stance that pleased his uncle as he drew his sword. “But a man must also ken where he excels. He does nae forget swords and more.”

Quick as a whip, Dirk aimed the sword for Torcall’s chest.

Torcall blocked the blow with his sword and stepped aside.

“Perhaps he does nae feel the burn to return to the forge as one would expect.” Torcall ducked and drove his sword at his Uncle’s flank.

Dirk blocked the blow with the blunt edge of his sword. “A man’s cause must give him the burn,” he replied.

Torcall brought his sword down on Dirk, who blocked it. The two men pushed against each other. “Perhaps he does nae feel it then?” he grunted.

“A man will die without a consistent drive,” Dirk grunted and pushed him back.

Torcall fell back but stood up in time to block a blow. The men sparred with swords as the minutes passed.

Just when Torcall felt an opening for a blow had opened, Dirk drove a false blow and caused him to stagger back and fall on his back. His sword was at Torcall’s throat before he could react.

Both men stared at each other, breathing heavily. Dirk offered Torcall his hand brought him up.

“Ye do nae fight as ye can, boy,” Dirk shook his head. “Do nae hold back. Never hold back. Fear is yer enemy. Do away with it.”

Dirk nodded satisfactorily.

“Ye undermine yer strength. That is yer weakness.”

Torcall wanted to speak, but the soldiers had begun to troop in, so he said nothing. He waited patiently for Rannoch and waved at him when he did show.

“Do ye nae sleep?” Rannoch asked.

“I do, but yer Faither’s image haunts my dreams.”

“I thought that was me,” Rannoch grinned.

“Nay, I do nae fear ye,” Torcall replied and shoved his cousin.

Rannoch shoved him back, but it was as far as they could get before they were summoned by Dirk.

“Ye will nae attend training today. I have a message I need delivered, and I will send ye both and nae a runner.”


The chirping of the birds woke Ceana up, which was most unusual. Usually, she was woken up by the crowing of the cocks, which allowed her to wake up and have her chores done in good time and before the birds came out to sing. Groggily, she sat up in bed and was hit by the worst headache she had ever experienced. Her head pounded so terribly that she wondered if she was being hit.

“Dear God!” she croaked and fell back in bed.

The door opened soon after, revealing a dressed Alina. “Good,” she muttered, “I knew I heard ye.”

Much to Ceana’s pleasure, she disappeared. However, she appeared moments later and moved to part the blinds to let the sun in.

The rays pierced through Ceana’s eyelids, intensifying her headache and making her shriek. “Why does my head ache so?” she groaned. “Close the blinds!”

“That’s what ye get for drinking too much mead. Come on,” Alina said, “sit up.”

When Ceana managed to sit up, she noticed the steaming cup in Alina’s hand. Alina offered the cup to her. “Here,” she said. “It will soothe the headache.”

At that point, Ceana decided that she would have taken anything to stop the ache. She took the cup from her sister and sipped some of the tea down.

“More,” Alina urged.

When she was satisfied, she took the cup from Ceana. “How do ye feel?”

“I have felt a lot worse. ‘Tis reducing.”

“It does work fast.”

“How would ye ken? Ye have probably never drunk more than one cup of mead in a day.”

“Aye, but I am yer wiser older sister,” she said with a tease in her voice.

Alina was a year over twenty and two years Alina’s senior. It wasn’t much, but she had decided that it was her sworn duty to care for her sister.

“Is ma home?”

“Aye, but she is downstairs with the help. Ye ken that da returns tonight.”

The guards had shifts that they worked for efficiency. Alina and Ceana’s Faither worked as the head guard of the keep. He wouldn’t have been considered for the position had he not saved the heir during an attack eight years ago. He had done so at the risk of his own life. Luckily, he had not died, and the attack had failed. The Laird had rewarded him by appointing him as the head guard of the keep.

The guards had different work periods, and although her father was not required to be present as often, he still was. Like the other men, he worked full shifts as he was required. Due to the generosity of the Laird, the keep employed enough guards so that none was overworked. Each man worked his shift and came home when he was not needed. Her father would be free to return that night, and whenever he was due home, it was a small celebration as her mum did all she could to make it special.

“Did I really drink so much?”

“Aye, ye did.”

“Now, can ye tell me what happened yesterday?”

“What?” she feigned ignorance but was betrayed by the building grin on her face.

“Ceana,” Alina dragged out. “Ye cannae allow him to take ye to hidden places.”

Ceana narrowed her eyes. “And do ye think that I am a silly little girl that does nae ken what she wants? I asked him to go with me, and I would have kissed him if nae for ye two.”

Alina sighed. “Why would ye want to kiss someone who ye do nae even ken whether he likes ye? Has he shown that he likes ye? Has he said it?”

Ceana opened her mouth to speak, but Alina beat her to it.

“And do nae tell me he flirts with ye. Torcall has a lot of women at his pick. Flirting is nae a sign.”

Ceana looked away, feeling deflated and guilt-filled Alina. She took Ceana in her arms and hugged her. “I do nae mean to sound harsh, but I care more about ye than him. Surely, ye understand this. I do nae want gossip with yer name in it. And Torcall may like ye, but he may nae too. Do nae live in keeps and grasp anythin’ except his words. For all my anger, I ken that he is a good man. He will nae say what he does nae mean.”

“He is rather blunt, too,” Ceana added.

“Aye, and ye say he would have kissed ye. That may be something but ye must be sure.”

Ceana understood what her sister meant. She had never shared a kiss with a man and had an ideal picture of how her first kiss would be.

“Ye will need to get up soon,” Alina urged her. “Mother has been generous. She’s given me money for new dresses for us.” Alina said, knowing it would cheer her up.

“Oh yes!” Ceana grinned. “I ken what I want–” There was a loud knock on the door interrupting their discussion. It came again, more frantic this time, and Alina threw it open.

It was the cook, and there was a tear streak on her face. Ceana shot out of her bed, and despite her headache, ran up behind her sister, who was questioning the cook.

“Marge? What is it?” Alina asked, her hand resting on the door frame. She looked at the cook with worry in her brown eyes. “What is it, Marge?”

Ceana ducked under her sister’s arm to stand directly in front of the cook. “Is aught amiss with me ma? Where is she? What is wrong?”

But the cook would not say. “Come quick. Yer ma calls for ye,” she said and hurried downstairs. Still in her nightdress, Ceana ran after Alina and the cook. When they arrived downstairs, they met their mother at the entrance to their home.

Her eyes were red, and she had been crying. It occurred to Ceana. Her father. It was her father. Something was wrong with her father.

She ran into her mother’s arms and held her tight. “What is amiss?” she dared to ask.

“‘Tis Bridget,” their mother, Regina, sobbed. “She was found dead this morn!”


“‘Tis silly to be sent all the way here for a box,” Rannoch shook his head. The pair were riding back after making their delivery.

“Do nae think of it that way,” Torcall said to his cousin. “I believe that me uncle sent us because he trusts none other. It makes the task easier to do.”

Rannoch looked to his cousin and shook his head. “Me, perhaps. But I would think ye are better left training with the men. Ye are the brilliant fighter.”

“And who is a fighter without the expert swordsman?”

Rannoch laughed. “I trust ye to belittle yer talent.”

“Nay, ‘tis nae so. I wouldnae win a battle if my swords were weak. I have ye to thank for that. Even though ye have gone back on yer promise to make a special sword for me.”

“‘Tis been a while since I have forged. Ye can buy another. If ye do nae have money, da would be pleased to buy one for ye. He offered me money to upgrade me forge.”

“And did ye take it?”


“Ye ass. Why? Ye could have had a great forge! The biggest there is. Men would fight for yer swords. Ye made the sword that deals death in a single blow, and ye do nae want to make more?”

“I do nae ken if I am ready to return to the forge.”

“There is nae pressure on ye. We will wait till ye are ready. There is nae better sword maker in the whole of Scotland, and I will use me old sword that ye made for me when I was still dear to yer heart, and if it falls apart, I will ne’er wield a sword again.”

Rannoch laughed. “We cannae let that happen.”

A scream from the right caused both men to stop. They paused again and listened. The scream had sounded like that of a woman.

When the scream came again, they turned their horses to the source of the noise. It was a woman’s scream, and her distress was clear.

When they arrived at the spot, what he saw made his head boil. There were six men—nasty-looking ruffians, four of which had pinned a helpless woman to the ground. She was crying and pleading, but the men would not even listen.

“Shut up, ye whore!” the man closest to her face said and then struck her.

Torcall flew off his horse, followed closely by Rannoch. He pulled the first man off her and drove his fist into the man’s face. The force of his fist broke his nose, and blood spilled from it. The man fell back, screaming and holding his nose.

The second man put his hand on Torcall’s shoulder to pull him to himself, but it was a wrong move. Torcall met his stomach with his elbow. Repeatedly, he drove his elbow into the man’s gut and jumped in the air, turning with a spin, landing a kick on the third man’s jaw, knocking him out. He went back from the second man and pulled him to his fist, punching his stomach until blood spilled from his mouth. When the man fell dead, he turned to his cousin and found him on the ground between two men.

His blue eyes took the shade of the sea, and he cracked his knuckles. They had chosen death.


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

  • Only two chapters, and already there are so many elements to this story. Can’t wait for the rest.

  • So far, very good. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story and getting to know even more about the characters.

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