"What is this?"
Alana rose from her curtsey to face her father's bellow. She knew he was aware she was married and with child yet she still quaked. Being told her circumstances was one thing. Seeing her before him in a kerch with a rounding belly was another.
"I am a married woman, Father." She lifted her hand and rested it over the slight bulge of her belly. "Cormac MacDougal has given me your grandson."
"Nay! Ye are to marry me!" William pounded his fist on the boards in fury.
She flinched at the outburst. Her husbands stepped close to protect her. The Earl shoved back his chair and stood. Someone hushed William as guards moved to box them in.
"I gave no permission for you to marry." His tone was icy but he didn't rage.
"My pardon, Father." She sank into another curtsey, staying there. She'd used his relationship rather than his title on purpose. She also kept her voice low as if meek though she did it to make him strain to hear. "Laird Fraser informed me that you wished grandsons. In my shame I could not attract the son of an important man. Laird Fraser had hired Cormac and James MacDougal to escort me home. The clan is well-known for their ability to breed sons. As I had no dowry and my lord was in a haste for grandsons I married Cormac, thinking it might please you."
"You were to marry your cousin William, the Master of Sinclair." Though he stood on a dais the Earl wasn't much higher than her husbands. He turned his attention to them. "I offered you fostering and you repay me by shaming my daughter?"
"Lady Alana has no cause to lower her head for marrying an honest man. She was a dowerless woman whose own father shamed her," replied Cormac.
She heard a grunt, no doubt due to his brother's elbow to the gut. James bowed low, with Cormac following.
"Your Excellency, we beg your pardon for my brother marrying Lady Alana without your permission. As your daughter, the lady was far above us when we left Girnigoe. Lady Alana said she needed a husband and sons to please you. She proposed to Cormac, who agreed. Though we are far beneath her, we hoped her age, lack of dowry, and state of disgrace would allow you to grant Cormac the boon of her hand at this time."
"Why did you not wait, and ask?"
James chanced a glance at the Earl. "I learned battle technique from a master, Your Excellency. The iron was hot, so we struck. You have a grandchild on the way. Does it matter who the father is?"
Sinclair tilted his head, assessing them. James dropped his eyes again. Her father grunted, as close to an acknowledgment as they were likely to receive.
"I sent a message to Fraser of Lovat many months ago. Why the delay?"
"We traveled on horseback to Castle Leod as MacKenzie of Kintail had a priest," explained James. "Colin Mackenzie, remembering your kindness when fostering here, insisted Lady Alana accept their hospitality after our wedding."
"We put a babe in her belly right off and then the wee lass was too sick to travel as each morn her belly—"
James cleared his throat, a suggestion that Cormac shut his mouth and keep it that way.
"We stayed until Lady Alana was better able to travel, then hired a ship."
"A ship? And where did you get the gold for that?" demanded the Earl.
"Laird Fraser grew fond of your daughter over the last ten years. He provided coins so she could return safely."
"Does Lovat know of her marriage, and this babe?"
"Aye, as Laird MacKenzie sent a messenger when his healer said 'twas best Alana not travel. He did not wish Lord Lovat or Lady Janet to think Alana had been kidnapped or killed, as was likely if she'd traveled by horseback to Caithness."
The Earl grunted grudgingly and gave them a signal to rise. Cormac took her elbow to help her up, then kissed the top of her head. Since he did it all the time he likely hadn't even noticed he'd done it.
Her father noticed. He watched them like a well-fed cat toying with its prey. Cormac was not a courtier like James. He had little subtlety to him. Like a bull in a field, his action showed exactly what he thought. Her father would know that from their early years here and would watch him. She swallowed, forcing herself to do so past the lump in her throat.
"You are not suggesting my daughter proposed to this man?" he asked James.
"Aye, my lord," replied Cormac with a cheerful grin. "Alana proposed the weddin', and I took care of the beddin'. She were a virgin but as ye can see, she is nay more." He patted her belly affectionately. She slapped at him, making him pull back with a false pout. "MacDougals dinna have much, my lord, but we're known for makin' sons." He winked. "Hope ye appreciate the effort. As ye see, we're still tamin' her."
Chuckles broke out, the first coming from her father. Her face heated at Cormac's crass comment. She was not one to need taming!
"I will get you for this," she whispered to Cormac.
He delved between her legs again. She squirmed, clenching his hand with her thighs.
"Girnigoe is big, with many strangers," he continued. "If yer father allows us to be yer husbands he may send us far away to do his bidding. We may be gone from ye for weeks. If ye've shown use disobedience a man may think we dinna care about ye. He might take what isn't his, and not care that ye call rape." He reached farther between her legs to massage her clit. She relaxed her thighs, moaning when he found it.
"Ye belong to me, and James, Alana. I dinna wish ye to forget that. Ye are our wife and the mother of our babe."
"And a good chess player," added James. He brushed the hair off her face, smiling gently down at her. "You have a brain and understand strategy. Use it. Aye, we enjoy spanking you, and filling you with our cocks. But know that it is Alana Sinclair we choose to spank and fuck, not just any woman. We'll not seek another's bed, when you are in ours."
Cormac agreed with James, though he'd never have been able to put those words together. She was quiet for a bit. Cormac continued stroking her, slow circles from her neck to her thighs and back again.
"The Earl never uses my name," she whispered. As she was face down, forehead resting on her folded arms, he had to listen closely. "He calls me lass or daughter because I am his possession and naught more."
"Your father is an arrogant bully," said James. "A very powerful, wealthy bully. He likes to attack for no reason other than he can. We ken who you are, other than our wife. 'Twould be a great blow if someone harmed you, lass. Not because of our pride, but because we care for you. When you were a wee lass and you skinned yer knee, we kissed it better and you ran along, laughing. If a man harms you, or our babe, ye'll not recover as easy. Nor will we."
"And whoever touched ye willna live long enough to boast," said Cormac quietly. "Lass, I couldna bear to have ye harmed." He ran his fingers over her face to her ear. "Ye are a treasure to us, worth far more than gold. We need ye to obey us so we ken that ye'll be safe."
Her shoulders rose as she inhaled deeply, then fell.
"I'll do my best to obey. But I canna promise I'll listen when I know you are wrong."
Cormac gritted his teeth. He looked out the porthole at nothing. "I swear to ye, wife, if ye get harmed by refusing my orders…" He couldn't think of what she might do, or his reaction. "Ye best ensure that never happens."
"And what about you?" she demanded, twisting her body to look up at him. "Do you think I like knowing you could get killed? My father just killed my brother, though it took him six years to die. He's caused the deaths of hundreds, many of them his own men. I dinna wish to lose you, either."
Cormac tossed off the blanked and pulled her into his lap. She curled into him, clinging. James stood near, rubbing her back.
"None of us know what the future will bring," said James. "We can only live with today and pray that tomorrow will be as good, or better."
Cormac lifted her chin with his knuckle. Tears glistened in her light blue eyes.
"Never did I dare to dream ye'd be my wife." He placed his hand on her belly. "Or that ye'd be carrying our babe. No matter what happens, my life is more than I could have believed."
"Brother, if you speak like that our wife will think you're soft. I'm the one with the words. You're the muscle."
"I have the words this day." He squeezed her rump affectionately, then patted it. "As for being hard, if ye get off my lap I'll show ye how hard I am." James scooped her up, holding her above his own erection. She was so small and light that James could easily rub her arse back and forth over his cock. Cormac quickly shucked his plaid.
"Hands and knees," he said. "On the bed."
James set her there. The bed was the perfect height if he spread his legs wide. Her full cheeks, pink and rosy from his attention, drew his eye to the white line between them. Her belly hung down, just enough so they knew there was more in there than food. He slid a thick finger in her wet pussy. She clenched around him. He would not last long. Careful of the babe, he entered her heat slowly rather than slamming deep as he wished. She groaned, low and long.