Wed to a Highland Warrior

By: Donna Fletcher

Chapter 1

            Highlands of Scotland, 1005

            Bliss waited, not sure of her fate.

            She often wondered why she could see the providence of others and yet when it came to her destiny, she was blind. At times it made sense to her. After all, it was a burdensome lot to unwillingly peer into the future and see not just happiness but pain and sorrow. Certainly, if she saw that for herself, life could possibly become unbearable. Even knowing the destiny of others brought a burden that, at times, Bliss would much rather not carry though she had no choice.

            This gift, as her people, the Picts called it, or curse as others often referred to it in whispers, had been part of her as long as she could remember. There had never been a time she had been without her knowing, and while she could see small, incidental moments in her future, she could not see the whole of it, the important moments in life that had others seeking her knowledge.

            If her knowing wasn’t enough, there was also her ability to help heal. Her touch held power, not that she understood it, but nor did she question it. Like her knowing, it had always been a part of her, and she had always willingly shared it with those in need.

            At the moment, though, her instincts warned her that this was where she must stop and wait. Why, she did not know. She truly had no time to dally. There was an ill woman in need of healing, and she was still a day’s journey away. But to ignore fate’s warning could prove unwise.

            Bliss hugged her dark blue wool cloak more closely around her. Winter’s bite was sharp in the air, leaving no doubt it would be a bitter one. She wished, however, this year she need not spend the cold days and shivering dark nights alone. Being one-and-twenty years, she had thought for certain, though had never foreseen it, that she would have a husband and children by now. She didn’t, and she worried that she never would.

            Respected for her abilities by her people, she also found it a deterrent to finding a mate. Most men feared her knowing, one fellow being adamant about it, saying, “There would be nothing I could keep from you—nothing.”

            Bliss realized then that she wanted no husband who would hide things from her. She wanted honesty and trust from the man who would be her husband, or she would remain alone.

            The crunch of leaves alerted her to heavy footfalls, and it was easy to tell that more than one person approached. In an instant, she knew that soldiers headed her way. Normally she would detect their presence much sooner giving her time to flee to safety.

            Why had she been cautioned to wait for those who could very well do her harm? Could they possibly be in need of healing? Or had she been mistaken? She dismissed the foolish thought as soon as it entered her head, reminding herself that fate knew well life’s course and she need not fear.

            Three king’s soldiers broke past the trees and into the clearing where she stood. Apprehension fluttered her stomach, but she remained confident that all would be well.

            “We’ve found ourselves an angel,” one young soldier said with a grin.

            “She is a beauty,” remarked another with a sneer that warned that his thoughts bordered on carnal.

            All too often, men remarked on her beauty so much so that the words no longer meant anything to her and certainly not from this lot. Someday, she hoped to find a man who would look past her features and see her true worth. But at the moment she needed to wait, for she sensed these soldiers were not why fate had her linger.

            A sudden ill wind blew around them scooping up leaves and twigs and swirling them in the air before carrying them off on a rush of wind. A fast-moving mist followed, sweeping in along the ground. It would not be easy to take a step or find one’s way if it grew any thicker.

            Gray clouds rushed in overhead, warning of an impending storm, or was it a portent of someone’s arrival?