Authors: Gerri Russell
|The Warrior Trainer|
|The Stones of Destiny |
Scotia knew her duty: protect the Stone of Destiny at all costs. It was the key to Scotland's salvation, the reason she'd become the best warrior in the world--as had the generations of women who'd guarded the Stone before her. Yet those women had never been distracted by a man like Ian MacKinnon.
He'd journeyed to her castle to learn her legendary skills so he could exact vengeance against the brutal English mercenaries who'd killed his brother. On the battlefield, Ian wielded his sword with deadly precision. In the bedroom, he became a man of wild passion tempered by infinite tenderness. But soon he would be forced to move on and avenge his clan, leaving Scotia to face a conflict for which she had no training: her duty to the Stone versus her desire to follow her heart.
The Warrior Trainer
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Gerri Russell on Kindle
Copyright © Gerri Russell
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
To women warriors everywhere who fight every day to better their lives, overcome great obstacles, and work tirelessly to make the world a better place.
To the bravest warrior woman I know, my mom.
You are my guide, my strength, my inspiration.
The saying goes that "it takes a village to raise a child," but in my experience I have also found the saying holds just as true when it comes to publishing a book. I'd like to take a moment to thank my "village," those people who have made it possible for me to follow my dream into publication.
Chuck, the hero of my heart, you are proof that reality is better than fiction. Pamela Ahearn, the most amazing, supportive, and savvy agent on the planet, you have my undying gratitude. My critique partners: Pamela Bradburn, Teresa DesJardien, Karen Harbaugh, Heather Heistand, Judith Laik, Nancy Northcott, Gina Robinson, and Joleen Wieser, you helped me keep the faith for so many years, the words "thank you" hardly seem big enough to encompass what that has meant to me.
To RT BOOKreviews magazine and Dorchester Publishing for sponsoring the American Title II competition. Leah Hultenschmidt, thank you for seeing something special in my entry and for helping to make my dreams come true. And finally, to each and every person who voted for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing that
The Warrior Trainer
deserved a chance to become a published book.
The ominous thunder of hooves echoed through the village of Glenfinnon. Four men on horseback, each with a weapon in one hand and a torch in the other, charged forth with one purpose in mind—to destroy the small village and everyone in it.
For three months now, the Four Horsemen had resurrected their roles as the apocryphal riders, rampaging through Scotland.
"Where is the warrior woman,” the White Horseman growled as he brought his horse's hooves down on one of the villagers, crushing him. The others nearby scattered right and left, grasping for survival.
"Yes, run away. It makes the chase more thrilling," the White Horseman taunted. For days, months, even years he and his fellow Horseman would continue their quest for the Stone of Destiny and the woman who protected it. Then the Stone, and the legendary good fortune it brought, would belong to England. His king would reward him handsomely.
The relentless hunt had driven them to the edge of this tiny village near the coast. Like a force of fury, the White Horseman shot forward, ready to kill. His bow sprang, launching an arrow into the chest of his enemy.
Today was a day for revenge, and a day for answers. Someone must know where the Stone and the Warrior Trainer were hidden. And someone would talk, or they would all die.
The White Horseman reloaded his crossbow, then kicked his heels into his horse's side, urging the beast forward. With a swing of his torch, a dry thatch roof caught fire. A whoosh of sound and light were followed by the crackle of hungry flames.
A child's screams cut through the piercing cries of war and death. A little girl, no more than eight, raced out of the burning house, her yellow skirt on fire. Tears streaked down her cheeks as she batted at the flames, feeding their ravenous tongues instead of dousing them.
Easy prey. The Horseman reined his mount to follow the child. She would die, just as they all would, merely because they were Scots, savage barbarians, and different from their English superiors. Three more steps and the child would be his, crushed and lifeless. He charged forward, a surge of euphoria taking root in his veins. He held the power of life and death. Death was what the Scots deserved for withholding such a valuable treasure as the Stone. Once he had it in his possession, he could carry it into battle for England wherever he went. And he would never lose.
One more step. One last petrified scream. A pull on the reins brought the horse's hooves up, ready, primed, when a dash from the side startled the horse. The beast nearly toppled over. A woman raced toward the child, batting at the flames before thrusting her out of the Horseman's way, to the safety of the nearby woods.
Rage, hot and hard, roared through him. He turned his horse again, this time toward the woman. She ran away from the woods—no doubt trying to save her child's life. He would show her. After he finished with the mother, he would go after the child.
The White Horseman chased the woman at a full gallop, overtaking her in a few steps. At her side, he reached down from his horse, grasping a handful of her thick, black hair through her homespun snood. Her face twisted in pain, but she did not cry out, merely let him drag her alongside his horse by her hair. The woman was brave. But would she be brave enough to tell him the truth? He slowed his horse, then stopped.
She struggled against his grip, which held her suspended, lashing out at his hand in her hair. "Let me go!"
"Perhaps, when you answer my questions, I might feel more merciful," he said with a sneer.
"What questions?" She stopped flailing her bruised and battered arms.
He jerked her face toward him. A sense of power shot through him at the fear that paled her mud-streaked face and shadowed her eyes.
"Where is the Warrior Trainer? Where is the Stone?" he asked, giving her body a light shake to add emphasis to his words.
"I doona know what ye mean." Again, she tried to wrench free of the hand in her hair.
"Tell me now!" He shook her harder, until her teeth rattled in her head, reveling in the surge of power his dominance over her brought.
"What stone?" she gasped, as her body sagged forward
He pulled her roughly back to face him. "The Stone of Destiny. I know it still resides in this godforsaken land."
"Have you not heard?" Steely resolve replaced the fear in her eyes. "Your king stole it years ago, to the shame of us all."
The Horseman sneered. "A monk from Scone told us that Stone was fa
—after we cut off each of his fingers and toes." He smiled at the stark fear glittering in her eyes. "We know the real Stone remains here, guarded by the woman warrior." He watched his victim closely for signs she knew more.
"Nay." Tears spilled down her cheeks, leaving white streaks as they washed away the grime. " 'Tis not true."
The Horseman thrust the woman to the ground, no longer willing to listen to her lies.
The woman scooted over tree branches and rocks that should have impeded her progress, but did nothing to slow her down. Fear had an amazing effect on these worthless creatures. The Horseman raised his bow. "I
ll find the warrior woman and the Stone, if I have to kill every Highlander to do so."
She gained her feet and broke into a run. He gave her just enough distance to taste her freedom before he took aim. With a single shot, he stole her future as payment against the debt the Highlanders still had to pay. Then he turned his horse to the woods to pursue the child. No one made a mockery of England, nor of him, and lived to tell the tale.
dismounted outside the gatehouse of Glencarron Castle and looked around as he patted his mount's sleek neck. The morning mist had rolled back across the Highlands, leaving a startling blue sky as a backdrop against rugged green peaks that dropped dramatically toward the sea.
The waves, lapping at the shore below, sounded like a constant whisper—not the rhythmic beat he heard in his village of Kilninian. The whole place seemed peaceful and quiet. Too quiet for a place where a mighty warrior resided.
Ian tied his horse in a copse of heather nearby and searched the outbuildings and the towers for signs of inhabitants or guards. The entire place looked deserted, further proof of his suspicions that the Warrior Trainer was only a myth, despite his foster father's words to the contrary. He should turn back now, return to the clan that needed him to keep them safe, and stop wasting his time. But the promise he had made to his father to learn to fight in the ways of the ancients kept him moving toward the gate. He had come all this way. He owed it to his father to see it through, trainer or no trainer.