Dark Seduction
The Masters Of Time
Brenda Joyce

On Sale May 2007
ISBN-10: 0373772335

Dark Seduction BookcoverFrom Chapter Three
"the following scene has been slightly modified"

Claire began to realize that she was in a man’s arms--and she was being swiftly carried and then laid down on the ground. It was hard and cold; she was weak and dazed, disoriented. What had happened? Where was she?

“Dinna speak and dinna move,” the man said. “Ye stay with yer back to the boulder, ye ken?”

Claire heard him. She realized her back was pressed unpleasantly against a rock face of some sort while her nails dug into wet, cold dirt. She stared down at the ground, seeing not a tiled kitchen floor but leaves, branches, dirt and grass. Images and sensations scrambled together in her mind—stars and agony, a terrible force, Malcolm and ecstasy, his power huge. And then she heard that bloodcurdling war cry. “A Bhrogain!”

She cried out as numerous swords rang, being drawn from their sheaths. She stumbled to her feet, so weak she staggered. In a panic, she looked for her gun—and an image assailed her, of Malcolm in her kitchen putting the gun aside. And they weren’t in her kitchen now. God damn it. She was in the woods somewhere!

Leaning against a tree, she seized the pendant at her throat, her heart fluttering wildly with fear. It was cold out and the stone was hot. And then she saw Malcolm, a few steps from her, his back to her, holding a branch aloft, his stance defensive and belligerent, at once. Her gaze moved past him and she choked off her cry.

A dozen knights faced him. The men were giants, clad in chain mail shirts, steel chausses, gauntlets and helmets. The eye-plates were closed, making them look terrifying-- and evil. They were armed with lances, swords and axes. Their huge warhorses snorted and pranced, white-eyed. Wildly, Claire realized that they were in a clearing, surrounded by black woods. Beyond the woods she saw the black shadows of numerous mountains. The night sky was the most brilliant she had ever beheld.

Malcolm said, not turning, “Get back to the rocks.”

Claire didn’t move. Did he think to face down over a dozen huge armed men himself? And he had no shield! And before she could even begin to think about what was happening, the first few knights charged, howling terrifying Gaelic war cries.

Claire bent and seized the first rock at hand and ran to stand besides Malcolm. He cursed in his tongue but did not look at her. Claire didn’t think twice. As the first rider came upon them at a gallop, his lance couched under his arm, she flung the rock at the man.

She had been a backyard softball player. And Malcolm was thrusting his makeshift staff as she hurled the rock. The rider ducked and the rock missed but Malcolm knocked him from his horse, then used his longsword to sever the man’s head from his body as if the man were a rag doll. Claire backed up against the tree, seeking the Taser, as Malcolm used his staff to parry another lance, flinging another mail-clad warrior to the ground. In one violent motion, he thrust his sword at the prone knight, instantly beheading him, too. Claire choked.

He turned to face another warrior, this time tossing the staff aside. He locked swords, shouting “Lass!”

But she had already seen the third warrior-knight riding right at her, as if he would simply run her down with his sword, although he clearly intended to use his lance. His black helmet with the sinister eye slits was ominous. Her heart hammering, certain she was about to die, Claire leapt forward, below the couched lance, thrusting the Taser against the horse’s shoulder. The horse instantly reared, screaming, as the rider swung his lance at her. Claire ducked; she had ruined his aim. And she felt his savage fury.

There was no time to run. The horse reared again and Claire went after it. It was in mid-air as she shocked it in the chest. The man cursed while the horse flipped over onto its back, crushing its rider, and then it leapt up and galloped off.

The mail-clad giant lay still, his neck at a grotesque angle, clearly broken.

Claire knew she was not alone. She whirled and held up the Taser threateningly, two mounted warriors having come up behind her. They hesitated, clearly uncertain as to whether to attack her or not. Beyond them, Claire saw Malcolm fiercely slaying man after man. In spite of the odds, he was definitely in control of the situation.

“Lass,” he roared. “Get back to me.”

That was a great idea, Claire thought, except that one of the two warriors was between her and Malcolm. He was smiling at her now, smugly, clearly anticipating her death with enjoyment and relish. He tossed his lance aside and drew a steel rod with a spiked ball dangling from its chain.

Claire was terrified. He could take her head off easily with it. That ball, whirling wildly, could flay her body into pieces. She had to attack or she would die.

Claire bristled and stepped forward. Evil had killed her cousin and her mother and if it killed her, she’d take as many of the bastards down as she could. She’d get his horse, too, or die trying.

“Damn it, lass!” Malcolm was shouting at her.

Too late, she realized she was putting an even greater distance between them, but she didn’t dare take her gaze from the warrior. She was certain he smiled, backing his mount just out of her reach.

“Coward,” Claire hissed.

He said something to her in Gaelic, and Claire knew it was a taunt.

His buddy had ridden his horse to the side—clearly thinking to watch her murder or to get behind her, just in case. Claire knew she couldn’t defend herself against them both. Letting him sidle behind her was not a good idea.

“Fuck you,” Claire said. She ran at the knight with the ball and chain and jabbed the horse in the face.

It screamed, rearing, the rider spurring it viciously to bring it back to the ground. Claire grabbed his leg, pulling on him. He was glued into his saddle—Claire had read about how the saddles knights used were designed so they were as secure as if strapped in. She gave up. The horse had come down and he swung the ball viciously. Claire ducked entirely beneath the horse, aware she could be trampled, and as she came out the other side the ball was flying there, at her. She dove for the ground and the ball ripped open his horse’s hindquarter, instead of ripping her open. The horse screamed rearing. Claire glimpsed his bare knee above the plates on his chin. She leapt and jabbed the Taser there.

He stiffened, stunned.

Claire didn’t wait. She stunned him again in the only place she could—the knees. He fell from the horse, crashing to the ground at her feet.

Before she could feel any triumph, he instantly leapt up—when he should have been stunned senseless--the ball and chain in hand. Claire didn’t think twice, she kicked him as hard as she could in the head, snapping his head back and then she jammed the Taser into his neck.

This time he went down.

And she felt the beast coming. Claire whirled to face the bulging whites of the other warrior’s destrier as it galloped towards her, a few feet away. Claire dropped and rolled as the horse thundered past. Malcolm shouted at her again.

And when she leapt up, he was striking her attacker. Claire watched Malcolm cleave the man’s arm from his shoulder. Her stomach protested violently and then the man’s head went flying through the air. Her stomach churned even more.

Thundering hooves sounded in the distance.

More warriors, Claire thought frantically.

“Lass!” Malcolm roared, leaping onto the riderless steed. He galloped towards her and held out his hand. Claire didn’t hesitate. More riders were approaching and she had no wish to stick around to find out if they were friends or foes. She gave him her hand and he pulled her up behind him, suddenly halting the charger. Shocked, Claire saw the rest of their attackers fleeing at a gallop, while from a different direction, a smaller group of horsemen came cantering towards them.

She felt all of the tension leave Malcolm’s huge body.

She was gripping his waist, and still clutching the precious Taser. “Friends?” She gasped, beginning to shake. She was about to throw up.

“Aye, Ruari Dubh, me uncle.”

Claire collapsed against his back, shaking uncontrollably, worse, tears came. She was in such shock she could not think. But nothing had ever felt better than his wool brat under her cheek and nothing could be more reassuring than his musky, sexual male scent.

He slid from the horse, turned, and pulled her down, right into his powerful arms. “Ye be brave, lass, and I dinna ken yer name. But by the gods, when I give ye a command, t’is to be obeyed!” His eyes were silver, hot and they blazed.

She couldn’t speak. Now she understood the scars on his face. She just shook her head and leaned her face against his chest, shaking like a leaf.

But his tunic was wet and sticky against her cheek. Claire pulled away, instantly afraid he was wounded and bleeding. Their eyes locked.

“T’is nay mine,” he said softly, the same softness coming to his eyes

Relief made her knees buckle. He put his arm around her, allowing her to stand upright against his powerful side

And then she saw the bodies—and body parts—lying scattered about them. She really saw them. And every single moment of that awful battle raced through her mind. Claire pulled away, ran a short distance, dropped to the ground and vomited violently. What in God’s name was happening?

A medieval man—knights welding swords and axes—a night sky the likes of which she had never before seen.

Claire couldn’t breathe.

And there were no electric lights anywhere, no telephone poles, no cars, no sounds at all except for trees whispering in the breeze and the horses snorting, bits jangling.

“Lass.” His huge hand was on her back. “T’is over now. Ye got a good weapon there an’ I ken ye can use it. Ruari and his men will see us safely on.”

Claire closed her eyes, wanting to vomit again, but she had nothing in her system to heave. They weren’t in her store. She recalled being hurled at a huge force through walls, past stars—almost like being thrown from an airplane without a parachute. But there hadn’t been any airport or any plane. There had been so much pain.

She struggled for air, panting hard now.

He was the real deal. He was medieval, not a loon. There were a dozen bodies in the clearing to prove it. Oh, God.

His arm went around her. “I ken ye never been in battle afore. T’will pass. Ye need to breathe deep.”

Claire was in disbelief.

Something terrible was happening.

He was speaking over his shoulder in French now. Claire was fluent, but she didn’t hear what he said. She did not want to be there and she didn’t want to believe that they had had sex. She turned and struck him as hard as she could.

Her blow landed on his cheek and echoed. He didn’t move, but his eyes went wide.

Claire then backed as far from him as she could. “Don’t come near me,” she warned. “I want nothing—nothing—to do with you!”

His face was expressionless, but she saw his chest rise and fall more swiftly now, a sign of some agitation on is part. Well let him be pissed, she thought wildly. She was pissed!

“Lass, tell me yer name.”

“Go to hell,” she cried. Then, “Where am I?”

His nostrils flared, his jaw flexed. A terrible moment passed before he answered, making Claire wished she hadn’t cursed him. “Alba. Scotland,” he amended. “Morvern.” He tried a smile on her. It was cool. He was angry with her now. “Not far from me home.”

The irony made her laugh, shrilly. She would have been at Dunroch by Sunday, and now, she was just a few miles away!

“We’ll be goin’ to Castle Carrick fer the night. Come, lass, ye be tired. I ken.” His tone was cautious now.

She shook her head, now shivering, even though the night was pleasant once more. Her teeth chattered as she spoke. “We’re in your time.” She had no doubts.

His expression remained deadpan. “Aye.”

She swallowed. “What time is that?” When he did not respond instantly, she yelled, “What year is this, damn it?”

He stiffened. “1427.”

Claire nodded. “I see.” She turned her back to him, hugging herself. She had always wanted to believe in time travel. There were scientists who actually believed it was possible, and they had put forth theories of quantum physics and black holes to explain it. Claire hadn’t even tried to understand, as science was not an easy subject for her. But she understood the basics—if one traveled faster than the speed of light, one would go into the past.

None of the theories or what she had thought or even currently believed mattered. She knew with every fiber of her being that Malcolm was the medieval laird of Dunroch, and no Hollywood set would ever be able to replicate the battle she had just seen—and had been a part of. Her knees went weak all over again. She was sick and she was exhausted. She wanted to get as far from this man as she could. And she was also afraid.

The last place she wished to be was medieval Scotland. She wanted to be home in her safe apartment with its state of the art security system. In fact, right now, she’d give just about anything to be in her kitchen, sipping a glass of wine and watching the reruns of I Love Lucy or That 70s Show. She slowly turned. And their gazes clashed.

“We need to go,” he said flatly, with no compassion reflected in his eyes. “There is evil in the night.”

Unfortunately, she could not agree more. She had learned a long time ago that bad things happened at night. She told herself not to think about her mother now! But it was impossible, not when he believed that evil stalked the night as well. On the other hand, she did not want to go anywhere with him. What she wanted was to go home.

As if reading her mind, he said, “I dinna give ye a choice. Ye come with me.” And it was a command.

 

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