The Sins of the Sire by Emily Royal

Prologue

Tavish stood over the body of the woman on the pallet. Her fingers clenched and unclenched the rough blankets in timing with her breathing. Though she whimpered softly now, her screams still echoed through his mind; cries of terror when she’d realized what was to happen, followed by shame and agony as she had struggled against her assailants.

He thought of his sister, the gentle Flora who had suffered the same fate at the hands of de Montford. He remembered her screams as she had died in his arms giving birth to that man’s bastard. Now, at last, after six long years, his clan had the revenge they sought as that Sassenach dog’s daughter lay before him. Lady Agatha de Montford.

But his own shame dwarfed the triumph he’d been expecting; shame at what his men had done to her and shame at his own cowardice.

Ye’re weak, son; always have been. Ye’ve let yer sister down.

The voice of Da’s ghost had swirled in his mind as he’d witnessed his men, baying like wild dogs as they savaged their quarry. At the last, he’d drawn back, unable to bring himself to perform the deed which would have condemned the last piece of his soul to the darkness. The memory of sweet Flora, her gentle voice full of love, had pulled him back to the light.

A moment of weakness.

Or had it been the call of his conscience? For a fleeting moment, the image invaded his mind; Flora lying at the feet of the men who had stripped her of her innocence and everything else until she was a mere ghost of the vibrant young lass he had loved and cherished. This woman before him now had a brother, too. How would he feel knowing what had been done to her?

Nay, today was not the day for sentiment. His clan demanded retribution for Flora, and today marked the first step along that path. It was too late to prevent it now.

He motioned to the man holding her down who jerked at the noose. An ugly ring of shame, it curled around her neck like a serpent; evidence of Angus’s handiwork.

“Turn her over, Duncan.”

Her body flinched, but she did not resist as Duncan rolled her onto her back. Ignoring the red stains on her exposed legs, the marks of her lost maidenhead, Tavish leaned over her.

She might have been pretty before, but a darkening bruise spread across her cheek and one eyelid was swollen. Duncan had said she’d fought like a wildcat, and Tavish had heard her cursing and spitting fire, condemning every Highlander to hell; all teeth and claws. Her eyes were tightly closed, jaw clenched, and her chest rose and fell rapidly.

Tavish swallowed any feelings of compassion he might have had, focusing on the misery of what the English had done to his family, his people.

“Know this,” he said roughly, “you are to be the payment for the sins your sire committed against my clan. Look upon your master.”

She opened her eyes. They were an extraordinary color: two violet gems glittering with fear and hatred. They widened in recognition, and she gave a low cry. A shock of familiarity punched him in the gut.

Elyssia.

God’s blood!

He never thought he’d see those eyes again. They had haunted his dreams for so long. The eyes of the woman who, two years ago, had risked her life to save his.

The woman who, tonight, in the name of the clan, his men had defiled.