For the first time, Laird MacLachlan didn't know what to do.
He would have slapped her or beaten her for ridiculing him.
But he saw that she was utterly lost. If she was trying to get something out of him or do it for her pride she would have claimed her family name and she would stand proud and tall as she did before.
But whatever hope she had, any flicker of strength had left her body.
He didn't have time for this. He had to get back to his men and make a decision. For all he knew she was probably some lunatic from the Lowlands.
"Then you're coming back to the keep," he simply said.
He had no intention of taking her home, if she belonged to any clan or a kin to a laird he would have gone to get a ransom. Hell, even if there was a caravan nearby or human traffickers he would have gladly dropped her off for a trade worth some good ale, but there was none of that nearby. Now she was not worth any monetary value.
If she wasn't that, the least he was going to do was have some fun with her.
He looked down at her, her hair was a mess with leaves and twigs, her clothes were filled with muddy stains as well as her face, and her flannel pajamas had ripped at the bottom displaying her ankle on her left foot. She was a mess; a mess with a decent face and powerful green eyes, and freckles that covered her skin. She looked like a girl, not yet grown into her womanly years.
She looked like a flower that had not yet known the fears of being picked.
And that had tempted him all the more.
She noticed a sudden hunger in his eyes. Shivers raced down her back and she knew something ominous had just filled his mind.
"Coming back to the keep? As in, I'm going home with you?" she didn't know many things at this moment but she knew this man was not safe and the notion of bringing her back home with him was not even remotely close to the ideal of safety.
"Aye," he grunted.
"No way," she opposed.
"Well, that isn't up to you to decide," he simply said.
"I should have choice to my own being! I am not your property or your responsibility! You can let me be and you shan't make decisions for me!" she cried.
He knew he didn't need to have her. He had many more wenches back at his keep to fulfill his needs. But the more she resisted him, the more he was determined to have her.
He looked forward to every second he could make her cry out with hate and detestation, especially the time when he could make her bend for him. He would have his way, he always did.
"Well that's too bad for you when you decided to call upon my men and deride me. Maybe you should learn your lesson wench," and he ended the conversation.
After he had left, Leora had turned her face towards the tree and wept, quietly.
She felt defeated and never in her life had she had been so hopeless.
Who knew the dangers this man would bring upon her in the walls of his own territory.
There would be no way she could escape him then and she would be stuck forever amongst his people and his ways.
She decided she had to escape. Even if all the other times had failed her she decided she would have to again.
She fell asleep against the tree praying to fate to fix this mess. Fate had brought her here for a reason she had no idea. What had she ever done in her life that was so bad to receive this punishment?
Leora hoped this was one surreal nightmare, one that she could actually wake up from.
She awoke the next morning as a man had untied her.
His face was young, maybe just some years older than she, compared to the Laird whose face seemed twice her age.
He had light brown hair and eyes as he handled her gently, helping her mount his horse.
He wasn't the man from the day before.
This time she sat in front of him and he led his way to the front of the group amongst the leader and his men.
They were continuing on their journey today to his keep, she remembered.
Noting that she was not in the same time period, she also noted, not the same continent either.
She heard the men speak Gaelic and recognized it before as the same accent her grandmother used when she cursed at something in Gaelic.
The sudden thought of her dear grandmother caused tears to swell in her eyes but she would not have dared let one fall in the presence of these men.
Going back to her train of thoughts she had recognized that they were traveling in Scotland, with all these talks of lairds and clans, even the bare sights of their tartan.
Well now she didn't need to take a trip to her mother country to learn more about her heritage and history when she was bloody well living it.
As they traveled on she felt the constant stares of the men and Laird MacLachlan made no effort to hide his.
She shifted in her discomfort as the Laird steered his horse towards her and began to strike a conversation.
"You will like the keep," he said knowing it would provoke her, "'tis better than being lost."
"Being lost is better than being with you," she muttered to herself, but not quiet enough since his glare pierced her with his vicious eyes.
"You ingrate! You disgusting chit! You should be thankful I haven't beaten you by now or left you to become food for the wolves!" he said with arrogance and fury.
"Even the wolves would have shown more compassion than you," she hissed.
"As of now I have no more compassion for you. I was planning to go on you slowly, but you have just erased every thought of that from my mind. There won't be any compassion when I make you cry out my name from under me. Be prepared."
And with that he rode on ahead.
Left with a pale expression and disbelief in her eyes, Leora could not blink.
He did not just say that.
But he did. And she knew it. He was going to take her back to his home and have his way with her.
If there was any way to feel any more horrified than she was now, there were probably no words to describe.
She didn't care anymore. She cried. Loudly.
This was the bottom of the ditch of hopelessness.
Some had yelled loudly from behind to shut her up.
But she continued to cry.
After a minute or so she felt someone hit her, it was another rider, in attempt to make her be quiet.
Startled, she fell off the horse and hit the muddy ground hard.
She felt relief in the burn of the pain because it meant she wouldn't have to think of what was to come when they reached the keep. She hoped the pain would last.
The young rider did not complain or utter any words under his breath when he helped her back up. He even helped wipe the mud off her face and back.
She saw he pitied her.
At other times she would have been furious if someone was pitying her, but she didn't care anymore.
As night had fallen, the group took refuge again in the woods to settle a fire and their blankets, then they had all left.
She asked the man who had ridden with her where they had gone, but he did not speak English well and simply said,
She was soaked in mud and they were bathing.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Taran," he replied.
They sat in awkward silence until she said, "Thank you, Taran."
And he nodded.
After all the men had bathed, no one had given her any direction that she could, too.
She smelled terrible and full of dirt. She decided that if no one was going to tell her she might as well go by herself.
"Where do you think you are going?" she heard a voice she knew by heart call after her.
"To bathe," she stated.
"On whose orders? Not mine I believe. And you certainly aren't going anywhere."
She remembered she was still attached to the rope.
Such an idiot.
She let her lids fall and roll her eyes in frustration.
"Go. I wouldn't let anything dirty into my bed."
She was furious. He had complete control over her. And he taunted her, too.
She left to the water with Taran trailing behind her.
He had to remove the ropes if she was going to take her clothes off, and she wasn't too excited about doing that in front of him.
"I won't escape."
"I do not know."
Of course he couldn't trust her. All she wanted to do was escape.
It was either let him watch her bathe or escape in the nude running in the forest.
Which she didn't mind as long as she would be free, she was desperate at this point.
But he wouldn't let her run off.
Instead he untied the rope, and led her to the water. Once under the concealment of the water she turned around and took off her clothes and tried to cover her chest with her left arm and hand.
She handed him her clothes and tied the rope on one hand only giving her the mobility to wash herself properly while still tied.
She noticed he did not look her way at all as long as he knew she was on the other side of the rope, which he did with the constant tugs she gave as she moved around in the water.
Looking over at him, she realized that he was on a different side of the water, washing her clothes.
He soaked them in the water trying to remove and clumps of dirt and then had laid them out to dry over tree branches.
She didn't understand his consideration.
Why was he helping her?
After she spent awhile in the water a man had come by to call out for them; probably to see if she had run away.
He told something to Taran and after he left, Taran walked over to her, enough distance away from her to not peer into the water.
"Hurry. Sleep," was all he said.
He turned around and she got out of the water and ran towards the large bushes to maintain some sort of obscurity to her nudeness.
She tried to shake away any water as he handed her her clothes.
Still damp, she dressed and the clothes were sticking to her body but she didn't pay attention as Taran began to retie her ropes. Knowingly, that they were looser than before.
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