Lauren didn’t care that she was a woman or that men were stronger and bigger than her. She was just as capable as any man. Aye, she may have to go about things a little differently and use her head instead of brawn, but she was smart and could work out a problem or a way around using brute strength.
She drew a deep breath, pushed her shoulders back, lifted her chin, and embraced her anger once more, and then she walked inside.
The men of the council didn’t even bother to look up as she approached the long table where they sat discussing clan issues. They just continued talking, drinking, and eating as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Lauren stared hard at her laird and his commanders, trying to ignore the familiar shiver of wantonness that skittered up her spine whenever she looked upon their handsome faces. It didn’t matter to her that she found them attractive because none of them had ever looked at her once, let alone twice, and was unlikely to do so now. She was considered as strange as her friend Maeghan Fraser had been.
Lauren had thought to wait for a lull in the conversation, but the likelihood of being acknowledged was slim since she was nothing but a mere lass, and she was out of patience. The men in her clan made her so mad thinking that, just because she didn’t wield a sword and didn’t have anything hanging between her legs, she didn’t have a mind of her own.
She moved closer to the table, and when she saw her laird, Alec MacTavish, glance her way and then dismiss her as if she was nothing, she exploded.
“How could ye?” Lauren shouted her question, and when she was close enough to the wood table, she slammed her closed fist down as hard as she could. She was pleased to see a few members of the clan council jump in their seats. “Ye are supposed to be our laird and protector, and yet ye barter one of yer own as if she were a brood mare? What is wrong with ye? Why would ye do that to Maeghan? Why would ye give away one of our own to wed a Campbell?”
Lauren was panting with anger from her diatribe and hoped she hadn’t gone too far, but from the look in her laird’s eyes, she guessed she had. He slowly rose to his feet, the seat behind him scraping on the stone floor, and he pinned her with his gaze.
“Leave,” he shouted his command.
Lauren gulped and took a step back, her muscles tensing as she readied to flee, but as she spun on her heel a hand shot out and clasped her wrist. She slowly lifted her head until her neck was tilted back and met her laird’s furious, blue eyes. She almost sagged with relief when his gaze left hers, and though she tugged trying to get free, Alec’s grip on her wrist tightened. However, he wasn’t holding her hard enough to hurt her or bruise her skin, but she knew she wasn’t about to get loose.
“Leave us,” Alec commanded.
Lauren lowered her gaze to where Alec’s large hand was wrapped around her wrist. The man was so big his finger and thumb overlapped by half a finger length. Why she thought she could take on a man his size verbally, let alone physically, hadn’t even been thought out when her rage had taken hold. Lauren began to get nervous and wondered if she’d made a grave mistake. She watched the members of the council leave the great hall one by one from the corner of her eye. Each of them glared at her with displeasure before taking their leave.
When the room quieted until all she could hear was her own rapid, panting breaths, she licked her dry lips and swallowed nervously.
“What is the meaning of interrupting a council meeting, lass?”
Lauren blinked up at her laird, and when she caught movement from the corner of her eye and saw that Alec’s commanders, Lachlan O’Donnell and Conall McKenzie were still sitting at the table watching her intently, she tugged on her wrist again. She was also shocked that he’d asked why she’d interrupted rather than addressing the questions she’d asked about her best friend.
“You gave Maeghan away.” Lauren had tried to keep the emotion from her voice, but she’d failed. The hurt she felt had been as clear as day. Tears stung her eyes, and she lowered her head again as she blinked them back and tried to regain control of her emotions.
The hold Alec had on her wrist relaxed slightly, but as she tried to pull away yet again, her laird nudged her chin up with his finger and stared deeply into her eyes. She thought she saw a flash of heat cross his gaze but figured she’d imagined it when he blinked. His blue-eyed gaze was emotionless, but when he shifted on his feet and she saw a muscle clench in his jaw, she realised he was as tense as she was.
When he finally released her wrist she turned, about to walk away, but she squeaked out a startled noise when she was swept from her feet and held up against a big, brawny chest. Her teeth snapped together when she noticed her mouth was hanging open, and she wriggled in his arms, trying to escape. He ignored her efforts, walked back to the table, shoved the bench seat he’d been sitting on back with his foot, and then sat, taking her with him.
Lauren tensed once more when she felt the muscles in his thighs flex and the heat of his body seeping into her own. Her face flushed, but this time the colour in her cheeks had nothing to do with anger. A shiver worked its way up her spine, and goose bumps broke out over her skin.
She sighed and tentatively moved her tongue along his and shivered when he groaned. The kiss grew hotter, more passionate, and Lauren felt as if she was drowning. Drowning in his clean, fresh, masculine scent, his taste, and his fire. She was so consumed by him she couldn’t think and wasn’t sure she wanted to.
Her arms somehow found themselves around his neck, and her feet left the floor. Although she felt him moving, she was so involved with the sensations he evoked in her she didn’t care.
Her back connected with something soft, and it took her a couple of moments to realise that she was on her back on her bed. Alec’s big body came down on top of her, his hips between her thighs. Since she was still wearing the borrowed trews and her plaid had been taken from her earlier, she felt every inch of his body pressed against hers. His warmth and hard body felt so right against her. For the first time in forever she felt as if, maybe, she could belong, and the thought terrified her.
The thoughts passing through her mind flitted away and she moaned when he pressed something hard into her core. When she realised what that hardness was, her cheeks heated, but not from embarrassment.
Alec’s lips lifted from hers, and he peppered kisses over her face, then sucked on the side of her neck. She gasped as sparks of heat shot through her body to her breasts, making them ache, and her nipples were so hard they almost hurt. Her cunny clenched, and wetness trickled out, dampening the crouch of her trews. Her legs moved with abandoned restlessness, and she tried to still them, but it just seemed impossible.
Alec shifted to his hands and knees, and she glanced up at him, only just noticing that Conall and Lachlan were on the bed on either side of her and were watching her with hungry eyes.
Alec moved back to his haunches and stared at her. She closed her eyes and gasped in a deep breath, feeling very vulnerable and exposed with the way he was staring at her so intently. When a hand landed on her hip, she flinched and opened her eyes. She wasn’t startled because she was scared they would hurt her, but because she hadn’t been expecting the touch and her muscles had contracted reflexively.
“Donnae be scared, lassie.” Conall all but whispered the words as he slowly leaned closer.
She opened her mouth to tell him she wasn’t, but he breached the distance between them before she could speak.
His mouth slanted over hers, his tongue licking into her mouth with a hunger that was primal, which had her blood heating and her cunny throbbing. He tasted different than Alec did. Where Alec had tasted spicy and dominant, Conall was a mix of spicy and sweet, which made her think that their tastes were relative to their personalities. Lachlan had kissed her earlier. His demeanour was a little of both Alec’s and Conall’s, and he’d tasted minty and sweet, with a hint of spice. She knew that all the men could be arrogant and commanding, but they all had a softer side as well. They hated seeing women, children, or anyone weaker than them hurt.
She moaned when Conall drew her tongue into his mouth and suckled on it. Lauren’s whole body was a fiery ache, and she felt as if her life was spinning out of control with no way to stop it.
Cool air wafted over her heated skin, causing goose bumps to race over her exposed flesh, and then she shivered when large, warm, callused hands caressed over her belly. Up and down they moved, getting closer and closer to her breasts. Conall eased the kiss back until he was sipping at her lips, and then he nudged her head toward Lachlan.
Lachlan’s green eyes were ablaze with lust, and her breathing hitched just before he cupped the back of her head and drew her mouth closer to his. She lost herself in the taste of him as their tongues rubbed along and duelled with each other’s.
Hands tugged and caressed, and it wasn’t until she felt the cooler air on her whole body that she noticed she was naked. Since she had never been bare in front of another living soul other than Matilda, embarrassment washed over her until she was sure her entire form was tinged pink.
Her lids lifted when she heard a loud gasp and she quickly squeezed them shut again when she saw that Alec’s gaze was roving over her bareness. Her immediate instinct was to curl into a ball and hide. She lifted her arms, intending to cover her breasts, but Conall and Lachlan quickly clasped hold of her wrists and pinned them to the bed beside her head.
She forgot the fact that Alec was between her legs and tried to draw them up and together to hide her sex. Her knees bumped into his sides, and before she could bring them up higher, he wrapped his arms around her thighs and held them open. She was breathing so fast she felt dizzy, and she tried to kick out to escape as shame washed over her.
“Ye are so beautiful, Lauren,” Alec said in a raspy voice. “I have to taste ye, lass.”
Lauren frowned, wondering what he was talking about. She felt him move between her legs, and before she could ask him what he meant, she felt his warm breath on her sex. Shock had every muscle in her body tightening, and her eyes snapped open when she felt his tongue on her. Down there.
“Oh! What—” Lauren moaned, and all the embarrassment she’d been feeling washed away, replaced by fiery need racing through her blood and melting her insides.