Home > Newest Books > When You Love a Scotsman (Seven Brides for Seven Scotsmen #2)

When You Love a Scotsman (Seven Brides for Seven Scotsmen #2)
Author:Hannah Howell

When You Love a Scotsman (Seven Brides for Seven Scotsmen #2)

Hannah Howell




Chapter One


Ozarks—1864





Matthew MacEnroy sniffed the air and sighed. Fall was here and soon winter would come with all its misery for a soldier. The memory of how badly his brother Robbie had been injured when attacked by some men who wanted to make him join the Rebel army was no longer strong enough to make him eager to spend another year in the Union Army. He was tired of the blood, the death, the amputations, and the never-ending filth.

He glanced at the boy riding beside him and suddenly felt every hour of his thirty years and more. Boyd was still carrying the pride of turning older, to an age many considered a man, and finally leaving his childhood years. He was undoubtedly new to the army and found pride in his uniform. Matthew knew it was going to bother him deeply when the youth finally lost that glow of innocence.


The other three men who rode with them had some seasoning. Their years of fighting and lying in the mud and blood, seeing friends and kinsmen die or be horribly wounded, showed in their faces, especially in their eyes. Matthew wondered if his eyes also had that look, but he had not yet found the courage to check.

It was time he went home, he decided. He had contracted for two years and that ended in a few months. That was true of the other three men and he had no idea if they would stay or leave. He felt strongly about sustaining the Union but was not sure even that could make him stay.

“When did ye sign up, lad?” he asked Boyd.

“When the war began,” the boy replied.

“Wheest, how old were ye? Ten?” He heard the three men at his back badly smothering their laughter.

Matthew bit back what he wanted to say, that the boy was a fool to leave such relative safety and comfort for the killing and filth a “true soldier” had to wade through, and just nodded.

“Sir?” James said as he rode up beside Matthew, his blue eyes watchful. “Thinking we may have unwelcome company soon.”

“Then we best move a wee bit faster. There is a cabin up ahead a ways. Have passed it several times. We can hold up there.”

James nodded. “If the folk in the cabin don’t feel inclined to shoot us.”

“Aye, true enough. Bend low in the saddle,” he urged as he kicked his horse into a trot.

He did not question James’s warning. The man had a knack for sensing approaching trouble. It had saved him more often than he cared to think about. Glancing back to make sure his men were with him, he saw the gray uniformed men just clearing the edge of the trees behind them.

“Ride hard, lads!” he yelled and urged his mount into a gallop.

*

Abigail Jenson straightened up from the weeding she had been doing, grunted softly, and rubbed at a twinge in her lower back. She hated weeding. There did not seem to be any position one could get into to accomplish the task without some part of your body aching.

She was just bending down to begin weeding a new section of the garden when she tensed and slowly straightened up. Cocking her head to the side she listened more carefully to the sound that had drawn her attention. Someone, more than one in fact, was heading toward her at an increasing speed.

Sprinting to the cabin, Abigail cursed beneath her breath. This would be the third time they had been attacked. The first had cost her her brother who was dragged off to take up arms in a war he had never wanted any part of. The second time the men had robbed them and beaten her father nearly to death when he had tried to stop them. That time she had hidden from them and still felt guilty about it, for she was certain they had done her mother harm as well. The woman had not been the same since and Abigail was certain it was not just because her father was badly injured.

Abigail rushed inside to find her mother kneeling by her father’s bed, bathing his face and chest as he lay unconscious. Each time Abigail saw her father now grief choked her for she knew he would never rise again. The smell of death was on him although she was painfully aware that she could find few who would understand what she was talking about. It had been over a week since he had spoken a word or even opened his eyes. She slowed down, cautiously moved to her mother’s side, and lightly touched her on the arm.

“Riders are coming. We need to hide,” Abigail said, hiding her shock at the look in her mother’s glazed eyes. “We must move quickly.” Tightening her grip, she tried to pull her mother to her feet.

“No!” Her mother yanked her arm free. “We cannot move your father and we cannot leave him here!”

“I doubt they will do anything to him as he does not move or speak. Does not even open his eyes.”

“I will not leave him. You go and hide. Go!”

“You cannot stay here! Da will not be harmed, for there is no reason for them to do so. He is no threat to anyone. We are. Please, come with me!”

“No! I will not desert your father. As I said, you go and hide if you wish to. I am staying. They can do no more harm to me. They have already done their worst.” She wrung out the rag she held and gently bathed her husband’s face again.

Glancing behind her, Abigail felt her heart leap. Five men were reining in in front of the cabin. She had lost her chance to flee. Racing to the fireplace, she grabbed the rifle hanging above it. Checking that it was loaded, she was just turning to aim it at one of the men when it was snatched out of her hands. All Abigail could think of was that her mother was helpless, vulnerable as she tried to shield her father. She lunged at the man and struggled to get her rifle back. There was no give in his grasp, however. Muttering a curse, she kicked him in the shins. To her surprise, he fell back and took her with him.

“Enough, lass. Ye have to stop fighting me. I am nay your enemy.”

Something in his voice made her grow still. She looked at him and suddenly thought that she would not have been able to shoot him. His face was unshaven, the dark stubble accentuating the sharp lines. His dark hair was a bit too long and a lock fell over one green eye. He had a strong, well-shaped nose and a mouth that revealed a softness she doubted he often showed. Suddenly that mouth cocked up in a small smile.

“Who are you?” she asked when she decided she had flattered him by staring for too long, but she did wonder what the accent was, for she had never heard the like before.

Matthew stepped back, letting go of what he considered a very nice armful of woman, and made a little bow. “Lieutenant MacEnroy, officer in the Union Army. We are, at this moment, fleeing some Rebs.”

She looked over his uniform. “The Rebs are the ones in gray? The men now outside?”