Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Shaw MacDougall stood in the great hall of Edinburgh Castle with dread in the pit of his stomach. He was amongst dozens of other armored knights—though he was no knight. Nay, he was a blackmailed pirate under the guise of a mercenary for the day. And though he’d not known the job he was hired to do until he arrived at the castle, and still didn’t really. He’d been told to wait until given an order, and ever since, the leather-studded armor weighed heavily on him, and sweat dripped in a steady line down his spine.
The wee King of Scotland, just ten summers, sat at the dais entertaining his guests, who were but children themselves. William Douglas, Earl of Douglas, was only sixteen, and his brother was only a year or two older than the king himself. Beside the lads was a beautiful young lass, with long golden locks that caught the light of the torches. The lass was perhaps no more than sixteen herself, though she already had a woman’s body—a body he should most certainly not be looking at. And though he was only a handful of years over twenty, and might be convinced she was of age, he was positive she was far too young for him. Wide blue eyes flashed from her face and held the gaze of everyone in the room just long enough that they were left squirming. And her mouth… God, she had a mouth made to—
Ballocks! It was wrong to look at her in any way that might be construed as…desire.
There was an air of innocence about her that clashed with the cynical look she sometimes cast the earl, whom Shaw had guessed might be her husband. It wasn’t hard to spot a woman unhappily married. Hell, it was a skill he’d honed while in port, as he loved to dally with disenchanted wives and leave them quite satisfied.
Unfortunately for him, he was not interested in wee virginal lasses. And so, would not be leaving that lass satisfied. Decidedly, he kept his gaze averted from her and eyed the men about the room.
Torches on the perimeter walls lit the great hall, but only dimly. None of the candelabras were burning, leaving many parts of the room cast in shadow—the corners in particular. And for Shaw, this was quite disturbing.
He was no stranger to battle—and not just any type of battle—he was intimately acquainted with guerilla warfare, the pirate way. But why the hell would he, the prince of pirates, be hired by a noble lord intimately acquainted with the king?
Shaw glanced sideways at the man who’d hired him. Sir Andrew Livingstone. Shaw’s payment wasn’t in coin, nay, he’d taken this mission in exchange for several members of his crew being released from the dungeons without a trial. Had he not, they’d likely have hung. Shaw had been more than happy to strike a bargain with Livingstone in exchange for his men’s lives.
Now, he dreaded the thought of what that job might be.