When men from the northern town of Brock come to Adencass, sharing tales of a dragon, Ian MacGree thinks it’s a ploy to get out of sending their share of support. His father, Chieftain Goth, sends Ian to discover the truth. Never does he think the stories of a dragon terrorizing the area would be true until he runs into Roark, who claims to be a dragon hunter. Ian’s attraction to Roark is almost instantaneous, but as the second son of the chieftain, romance has no place in his life, for his father plans to wed him to another to seal an alliance. But he’s not the only one with secrets. When he discovers Roark’s, will their secrets bring them together or drive them apart?
Easing his horse to a slow trot, Ian MacGree looked over his shoulder at the figure galloping down the road after him. He recognized his buddy Ewan MacNiery. Smiling, Ian drew his mount, Goat, to a stop and half turned to face him.
“Ewan. What are ye doing? I thought ye were in the south field today,” Ian commented by way of greeting.
“I just heard,” Ewan replied. “I came as fast as I could. Are ye really going to Brock? To investigate the rumors of a dragon?”
“Aye,” Ian replied. “Chieftain Goth ordered it.”
Brock rested near the base of the western mountains and was the northern-most town under Chieftain Goth MacGree’s protection. As the chieftain’s second son, Ian would never refuse his father, even if he thought this a ridiculous errand.
If it had been up to Ian, he would have ordered a score of warriors—to be led by Ryder, his older brother and heir to the clan—to ride to Brock and remind them of their loyalties. Stories of dragons were nonsense, just tales to scare children. Trying to use tales like that to get out of sending their share of support for Goth’s protection was utter nonsense.
Ewan’s dark brows furrowed. His brown eyes gleaming with confusion as he shoved a big, broad hand through his thick dark hair, pushing the shaggy locks away from his face. “Then why are ye goin’ alone?”
“Also the chieftain’s order,” Ian admitted. “He wants information, not conflict.”
After hearing his father’s reasoning—we support our people, aid them and lift their spirits, not subjugate them—Ian’s respect for the man grew, and he’d already had a healthy amount of respect for his father. Goth led well. His abilities just didn’t extend to parenthood. He ruled his family like he ruled his clan…with an iron fist. If he decided a course of action, it was final, regardless of how it might affect others.
“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if ye took someone with ye. I could go—”
“Nay, Ewan,” Ian cut him off, lifting his hand to stay his words. “Ye’re needed here. It’s plantin’ season.” He didn’t add that, by heading out on this mission, he’d get to put off something he didn’t want to do. Ian wondered how long he could drag this out.
Evidently, Ewan must have read his mind, for he gave him an understanding smile. “I’m surprised he’d send ye off, what with yer upcoming nuptials. How’d ye’re betrothed take it?”
Ian shook his head. “Well, I didn’t actually say anything to Agatha,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Oh, Ian, she won’t like that when ye get back, ye know,” Ewan warned.
Nodding, Ian grimaced.
He and Agatha Allanach had never been particularly interested in each other. They’d been betrothed since just after her birth eighteen summers before—he’d been six at the time—and they’d met on several occasions over the years. Ian knew, eventually, he’d have to fulfill his duty and wed the woman. He’d been dreading it for the last four years. Ever since he realized he’d never be interested in her…or any woman for that matter. Unfortunately, she’d arrived the fortnight before from her own clan home which lay over seven days hard ride to the east. The time Ian had dreaded had finally come.
Ian shoved aside his useless thoughts.
Ewan reached over and gripped his shoulder, squeezing tightly. Ian grimaced at his friend, the only man he’d ever told of his wish not to wed. The other man commiserated, but Ian knew he didn’t truly understand. How could he? Ewan happily bedded any woman interested and had commented on Agatha’s fair features and even temperament many times. Although, Ian suspected that was more in an attempt to tell him how lucky he was than an actual interest in the woman.
He crossed his left arm over his chest, reached up, and gripped Ewan’s clasped hand where it still rested on his shoulder. “I’ll see ye soon, my friend,” Ian finally assured.
“Safe journey,” Ewan replied.
Ian nodded, released Ewan, and pulled away. Without another word, Ian turned his horse and urged the gelding forward. The animal lunged into a gallop, carrying Ian with it.
For the first hour, Ian passed by fields of tilled soil and the people planting them. He received waves and greetings from dozens of people, most of whom he recognized. The fields gave way to rolling hills. He paused at the crest of a rise and took in the field of blooming heather and the couple dozen sheep grazing below.
On the far side of the meadow, Ian spotted what he wanted, a narrow track leading into the trees and out of sight. He knew from experience that the trail would take him through a narrow pass to the town of Pith and then on to Brock. Cutting over the mountain, instead of taking the wagon road used by traders, would shave off four days of travel.
Ian pointed his horse down the hill and continued his journey.