Lowlands of Scotland May 4, 1217
Many things should have occupied his mind at this moment: three dead
men, his betrothal contract that would bring much needed wealth, the
fate of his clan, the fate awaiting him, or even the dawning of the new
day. Instead, Ian, Laird of the Draig clan, sat mesmerized by the sight
before him. He’d heard the tales his whole life, the stories of
passages that brought people from other places, and had always assumed
these to be the imaginings of the old ones, just stories to brighten a
dark winter’s night. Never would he have believed that his ancestor
had truly created these passages without seeing the truth before him.
Haloed on all sides by early morning light, the door- sized opening was
dark, yet small patches of torchlight revealed her to him. The lass wore
an odd, wee gown that exposed her bare arms, shoulders, and even her
long, slender legs. The fabric shimmered like moonlight. Thick brown
hair owed to the middle of her bare back. How he loved a lass’s hair
unbound. She turned just enough for him to see her face. Even with the
distance between them, her beauty called to him. She had high cheekbones
and large dark eyes which, combined with full lips and fair skin, made
his body long to touch hers. The lass took his breath away. She smiled
as she walked along a wall, with her hair blowing in a breeze he could
Ian saw the man stalking silently behind her before she did and easily
read his intentions. He wanted to shout a warning. As the man shoved the
woman up against the brick wall, Ian felt like weeping with frustration.
Her fate hurt his soul. While every ber in his being screamed to help
her, to save her, he could not.
He could do nothing. He was gagged and securely bound to a tree. He
couldn’t even save himself.
Claire was officially her own worst enemy. It was her own fault she was
here. Every move had been carefully coordinated to leave her in this
place, trapped. Trapped was a bit extreme, but she had no one but
herself to blame for making the arrangements for the evening, the ones
that placed her in this loud, music blaring hell. One phone call to her
new stepfather, David, and there had been no waiting at the hottest club
in town. No lines, just a quick check on the VIP list and Claire and her
friend were in.
Unfortunately, this was where they had stayed throughout the evening.
While this was Brook’s idea of a perfect Friday night, it was far from
hers. Shifting her feet in three-inch heels in an attempt to ease the
ache, she let out a heavy sigh. The night was supposed to have been an
evening to celebrate Brooke’s job promotion. Instead, it had become
another evening with Brooke attached to her latest conquest.
“Did I tell you your mom invited me to her surprise birthday party?”
Brooke shouted as she leaned across the table.
Claire smiled and nodded her head in acknowledgment. “David is very
sweet but lousy at keeping secrets. This whole surprise party thing was
his idea.” With a grin, she said, “But I’m glad you’re coming.
We’ll make a night out ofit.” The invitation didn’t surprise her
at all. Brooke had been a constant part of Claire’s life since
Claire’s fingers smoothed down her silver dress as she yelled over the
music, “Mom bought me this dress for the party. Can you believe my
conservative mother bought me something silver, plus so short and
Brooke chuckled at the question. If there was one thing Brooke and her
mother had in common, it was the agreement that Claire needed to date.
Her schedule at the dojo and her class load kept her too busy for
socializing. She had one more semester to go, and the accounting degree
would nally be hers. The fact that it was self-funded only added to the
victory to come.
As she pulled down the short skirt, Claire had only regret for the
impulsive decision to wear the new dress to the club. She felt far too
exposed. The open back, not to mention the lack of a real bra, didn’t
help. The outfit screamed single and available. Unfortunately, the wrong
man had heard the cry.
“Here, I bought you another beer.” The tall blond sounded very
pleased with his offering to Claire. She really didn’t mind if Brooke
liked to meet men in a bar, but they always had a friend who wound up
talking to her and expecting a bit too much.
She stifled her groan as the man she dubbed Smelly Cowboy came back to
their table. He reeked as if he had bathed in cheap cologne before
coming to the trendy dance club wearing a western shirt, giant belt
buckle, and cowboy boots.
“Thanks, but I wasn’t drinking beer, Peter,” Claire said with a
forced smile. If he had spent any time listening or observing he would
have known that. Instead, most of his concentration had been spent
staring at her cleavage.
Claire practically jumped when she felt him slither up against her and
put his hand on her ass. That was the last straw for Claire. She was
done playing wingman forBrooke. Leaning over to separate Brooke from the
male face she was currently attached to, Claire yelled over the music,
“I’m leaving now.”
“Oh no, you can’t leave yet. The fun is just beginning,” Brooke
said as she displayed her patented pouty face.
“Pouty face won’t work tonight. I’m done. Peter keeps grabbing my
ass, and I need to get up for work in the morning.” Brooke seemed to
be enjoying the attention from the guy at her side too much to notice
“Hands on ass can be fun, Claire. Don’t you like Peter? He’s kind
of hot!” Brooke replied with a devilish grin. “Besides, I thought
you were coming back to my place to sleep over. I know you have yoga
pants in that giant bag of yours.”
Claire couldn’t hide her grin as she looked at the giant purse by her
feet; she did have her sleepover gear. She loved a slumber party.
“No, I don’t like Peter. All he does is stare at my boobs and talk
about how his last girlfriend was a fool for breaking up with him.”
She left out how Peter gave her the creeps. Claire’s instincts said he
was bad news. Challenging her friend, she said, “Fine, Brooke. Tell me
you actually plan on going home tonight and I’ll stay.”
The two friends stared at each other until both burst out laughing.
Brooke broke free from the male arms circling her waist and hugged
Claire. Yelling in her ear, Brooke said, “You know you should try it!
You may like it. I mean no one is going to be perfect. That dream guy of
yours does not exist.”
At that moment, Claire regretted telling her friend everything. She
vowed from then on she would keep her recurring dreams private.
“Enough with my dreams. I’m not looking for some fantasy guy. But
Peter is so not going to work for me.” Besides, I didn’t spend this
long waiting for the right guy to settle for drunk, stinky, and
Brooke let a grin cover her face as her eyes surveyed theclub. “Then
let’s find you a different guy. Why should I be the only one who is
having all the fun?”
Claire could only laugh. That was Brooke, always having fun. “Going
home with strangers isn’t my idea of a good time. Call me tomorrow.”
“Thanks for coming out tonight and for getting us in here. Call me
after work, maybe Tex-Mex for dinner tomorrow?” After a quick glance
at the guy behind her, Brooke amended, “Or maybe Sunday night?”
“Tonight was great.” Claire managed to say with a straight face,
though Brooke’s laughter acknowledged the white lie. “We’ll talk
in the morning. Remember, text me the address where you end up. I can
always come get you.” Claire made the offer, knowing Brooke would
“I will.” After they hugged goodbye, Brooke was back on her new man,
Claire couldn’t get out fast enough.
Claire smiled as she walked behind the club to the parking lot. The
night hadn’t been so terrible. Brooke had a great time, which was what
mattered most. As a bonus, she had managed to get out without Smelly
Cowboy touching her again. Being out in the fresh air was what she
needed to find balance after hours of ridiculously loud music.
She raised her face to enjoy the warm breeze but was immediately shoved
into the back wall of the building. Just before her face hit the bricks,
her hands braced against the wall in a move that was pure instinct.
Someone grabbed her hands and yanked them in place over her head. Her
heart raced, and her sense of smell identified her attacker: too much
bad cologne and breath that reeked of beer.
“You left without saying goodbye, Claire,” Peter said into her ear
as he pressed roughly against her back. “This could have turned out
differently, but you had to be difficult,didn’t you?” Pausing to
smell her hair, he said, “But I’m willing to forgive you. My car is
around the corner. Let’s go back to my place.”
Claire knew something was not right with Peter. However, she hadn’t
thought he was dangerous, but being a good judge of people only worked
if you paid attention. She had also ignored her surroundings in the dark
parking lot, which doubled the mistake.
With an attempt at levity, Claire joked, “This is really not a great
way to ask me out.” Not feeling any slack in his hold on her wrists,
anger surged through her veins. Finding a false calm voice, Claire said,
“I’m only going to warn you once. You’re making a mistake, Peter.
I’m giving you one chance to back away . . . now.”
Peter’s hold on her hands tightened painfully. Rocking into Claire’s
backside, Peter started to laugh. “What if I don’t want to back
She felt her anger rising at the laughter, and her face flushed with
silent fury at being accosted. “You didn’t pay attention to a word I
said, did you?” She knew if he would talk, she could distract him. If
he loosened his grip, she could push him away. If not, shame on Peter.
Years of training pushed the emotion aside; all she needed was a single
moment to end this threat.
“Sure I did, baby, I heard it all. Blah, blah, blah, you are a
bookkeeper, blah, blah, you still go to school, blah, blah, out with
friends, blah, blah.” Leaning into Claire’s ear, Peter harshly
whispered, “All that matters is how fantastic you feel.” After
securing her hands in one of his, he ran his hand up her bare thigh.
“Maybe I don’t want to stop. You are just like all the rest. You
don’t want me to stop, do you?”
Claire shuddered with revulsion at his clammy hands on her flesh.
“Last chance to let me go.”
As Peter shifted his grip to grab at her skirt, Claire seized the
moment. Raising her foot, she kicked backwardto connect with Peter’s
shin. Wrenching her right arm free, she tilted her arm up and elbowed
him in the side of his face. Turning quickly, Claire grabbed his
shoulder, pulled him forward and down so her knee could meet his chest
hard, twice for good measure. She pushed him backward as her foot
stepped behind his ankle, tripping him. He hit the ground hard. She even
winced when she heard his head smack the pavement.
Glaring down at her attacker, Claire said, “No, you didn’t listen,
asshole. I’m a bookkeeper for a martial arts academy. If you have any
sense at all, you will stay down.” She assumed Peter couldn’t get up
now if he wanted to. She figured she should call an ambulance.
Walking to grab her phone from the dropped bag, Claire saw a man. She
turned to Peter, still lying on the pavement. “You sick bastard, what
have you done? Why did you tie that guy up?” Given the fall to the
pavement, she wasn’t surprised he was unable to reply. Claire spoke
the thought aloud, “But you didn’t do this, did you? You were in the
Claire stared at the man sitting gagged and tied to a tree. His
surroundings looked too bright, like the bound man sat bathed in
sunlight. But how can that be? It’s after midnight. Something about
the situation didn’t add up. Claire moved to close the gap between her
and the bound man. He stared at her while pulling against his ropes.
Even with the distance between them, she knew there was no choice; every
fiber of her being screamed to save this man. Without hesitation, she
stepped into the light.
Claire stepped through what appeared to be a doorway and fell to her
knees. Her stomach rolled, and she felt like she was going to be sick.
She gasped in shock as cool grass and sharp stones dug into her palms
and knees. Cold, damp wind blew her hair back from her face as she took
a deepbreath of the rich, earthy-smelling air. Goosebumps rose on her
skin as she stood on shaky legs to face the bound man less than ten feet
away. His green eyes stared at her, eyes that were almost electric.
Long, dark hair fell to his massive shoulders. The captive’s face was
covered by a short beard. He was disheveled at best and still made
Claire’s breath hitch in her throat. Mess or not, the man was very
attractive, even wearing a filthy shirt, tattered plaid, and leather
Claire closed the distance between them on unsteady legs. “Who did
this to you?”
Realizing the man couldn’t answer, she bent down to lower the gag,
pulling her hand back quickly when she saw his smile. She had been lost
in the tingle in her fingers from the sensation of his warm skin after
the cloth had dropped.
Speaking with a dry throat and a deep baritone, he said, “Cut my
bindings, lass. They will be coming back soon. My dagger is next to me
in the ground. Left there to torment me, out of reach, yet in sight.”
Following the motion of his head, Claire spied the dagger sticking out
of the earth. Several things dawned on her at that moment. She was
standing in the woods, not in the club’s parking lot, and it was cold
and damp, not desert warm. The man spoke in what could only be described
as a Scottish brogue. It was early morning here, definitely not the
midnight sky she had just seen. So many things were so very wrong.
Grabbing the dagger, Claire noted it felt very solid in her hand, even
if the pattern felt strange on her palm. The metal of the handle was
engraved with some type of dragon, with a head on each end and no tail.
Reestablishing a firm grip on the weapon, she pointed it at the bound
man. “What the hell is going on here? Where am I?”
As the man stared at the point of his blade, the response was soft but
commanding. “Lass, cut the ropes. I mean nothreat to you. Keep the
dagger. Just do it with haste. The men who captured me will be back
Should I trust him? The bound man was obviously trying to keep her calm,
and she was already reaching for the ropes that held him, as if by
instinct. Giving in to her urgings, she stepped behind the large old
tree to cut the ropes. As Claire leaned into the bindings for more
leverage, the man’s smell caught her by surprise. Even though he
wasn’t at his best, he still made her senses reel. He was a heavenly
combination of earth, fresh air, musk, and something she couldn’t
name. The rational part of her brain quickly chastised her lack of
focus. What I need is to get the heck out of here, not to inhale him
like he’s the best smelling person I’ve ever met. As the ropes fell
away, the man stood to full height, stretching his sore limbs. He stood
at least six foot two and looked to weigh more than two hundred and
He turned to face Claire. “Lass, I am Ian, Laird of the Draig clan,
and I am in your debt.” His bold green eyes never left hers as he
moved to stand in front of her.
Claire just stared. She knew this was wrong and she shouldn’t be
there. It wasn’t right. You don’t just wind up in the forest from a
door in a parking lot. You don’t untie men like this from trees. Now
is the time to go back. Where is that door? Her head turned to see the
door just to her right, and through it, a view of the world she knew.
She moved toward it. As Claire reached the threshold, Ian gently clasped
“Your name, lass?” Ian asked as his eyes studied her face.
Caught in his gaze, she had trouble remembering who she was. After
managing to mumble it, she stumbled on her heels.
“Claire,” Ian repeated with a small smile.
It seemed to Claire as if Ian savored the sound of her name in his
mouth, spilling them gently from his lips. She couldn’t stop staring
at his lips. Enough! She knew she should go.Ian reached gently for her
face. He moved very slowly, and his face inched closer to hers. She
looked up at him, unsure of his intention. Ian leaned closer, gently
brushing his lips against hers, just the softest of kisses.
Delighting in the feel of his mouth against hers and the rush of sparks
that shot through her limbs, Claire could only let the kiss blossom into
something more, enjoying the tingly warmth it created. She was unable to
stop her soft whimper as Ian broke the kiss. She found her cheek cupped
in his warm hand and Ian tilting her head up so that he could see her.
His soft smile was replaced by something different, an intense gaze that
all but screamed raw sexual desire. She stepped back abruptly. She
needed to leave.
Appearing all too pleased with her response, he said, “Go back,
Claire, with the knowledge you will always have my thanks.” Ian
released her hand.
She immediately missed the feel of his hand, even as her lips wanted
more of what he had offered. Claire shook away the unbidden thoughts;
she needed to get back home.
Excerpted from "The Draig's Woman" by Lisa Dawn Wadler. Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Dawn Wadler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.