The Ranger by Monica McCarty

The third book in Monica’s Highland Guard series is The Ranger. Again a loverly cover with the Knight on horseback and the Knightly shield he’s holding. All giving clues to the story, I don’t know if I’ve seen a series better depicted by an art department before.

Traitor, Knight, chivalrous, brave, able to catch spears with his bare hands, spy, vengeful, sixth sense for danger, merciful, sacrificing, loving; all words to describe our Hero of today’s adventure.  Arthur Campbell was recruited for Bruce’s Highland Guard for his sixth sense to sensing danger and being able to blend into the shadows, just the skills that every traitor and spy needs to survive.  Arthur was training to be in The Bruce’s Highland Guard when he failed the final test, a test he himself excels at, thanks to his brothers love at throwing knives and spears at his head. Have I teased you enough??? Actually as you find out it was the plan all along to have Arthur act as a spy and infiltrate the The Bruce’s enemy’s camps. The Guard wasn’t made privy to the truth of why Arthur failed the test and that was a mistake the Chief rectified. Arthur has been apart from his “Brothers in Arms” for a few years and  can’t wait to return and fight along the Guards again. But The Bruce has one more mission for Arthur or The Ranger as he is known in the guard, infiltrate the clan of the man he saw murder his father as a child and steal all from his own clan. Arthur can’t wait to begin his new mission because vengeance will be his, he just has to get close enough to take it.

Anna MacDougall thinks her father is the greatest man alive and does all she can to help him in his fight against the usurper The Bruce including acting as a message carrier also using other women as carriers. She also has an uncanny gift to be able to sniff out deception and is about to throw a spanner in Arthur’s way. Her father has asked her to stay close and watch Arthur to see if she can discover anything a miss with him.  It has Author sweating bullets as he has actually met Anna before when he saved her life while trying to capture an enemy messenger transporting silver that could feed the Bruce’s forces for months if intercepted. I like Anna and how she gets under Arthur’s skin and torments him, causing him to have to make a choice between love and vengeance.

I’m going to make this short today…another amazing story by Monica. The angst between Anna and Arthur and the sacrifice he makes for her as he finds he has fallen in love with his enemy’s daughter and chooses that love over vengeance is well awesome. But it is the road there that makes up this story and like I said I did so enjoy the ride. Anna is driving Arthur crazy being there every time he turns around keeping him from easily completing his mission while flying under the radar of her father, the man he is planning on killing before his job is done. Then when Anna decides to stay away from Arthur he then in turn does everything he can to be around her, in turn driving her crazy.  There are twists and turns and sacrificing for love going on in these pages, much more than I am telling you about so you’ll have to go pick up the book so you can enjoy it as much as I did.

    The legend of the Highland Guard continues…

Handpicked by Robert the Bruce to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule, the Highland Guard is an elite fighting force unlike any the world has ever seen. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. As the tides of war turn, one elite warrior is all that stands between victory and defeat.

Embedded deep behind enemy lines, Arthur “Ranger” Campbell is Bruce’s secret weapon as he wages his final assault on the enemies who stand against him. Recruited to join the Bruce’s secret elite fighting force for his prized scouting skills, Arthur’s razor sharp senses and ability to blend into the shadows make him the perfect spy. But when this shadow warrior must infiltrate the clan of the chieftain who murdered his father, his heart is locked on revenge. Inside he faces unexpected resistance from the sweetest of obstacles—a honey-haired siren who is his enemy’s daughter. But the vivacious, enchanting Anna MacDougall is a woman whose skill at uncovering deception rivals his own. Intrigued by this ruggedly handsome newcomer to her father’s forces, Anna accepts the challenge his determined indifference to her arouses. Though anxious for the war to end and yearning for a quiet life with a good man to love, Anna is drawn to this mysterious knight whose eyes devour her but whose words push her away. But as danger, treachery, and the threat of looming war draw them closer into each other’s passions and secrets, a warrior made of steel must make a choice from the heart: love or revenge.

Excerpt:

From Chapter One: Arthur Campbell, a spy for Bruce placed in the enemy camp, is watching from the shadows as Bruce’s men attack English couriers. Or who are supposed to be English couriers…

Christ. What a damned mess. This mission had just gone straight to hell. Bruce’s men were about to lose their element of surprise—and kill a woman in the process. He shouldn’t interfere. He couldn’t risk discovery. He was supposed to stay in the shadows. Operate in the black. Not get involved. Do whatever he had to do to protect his cover. Bruce was counting on him.

The prized scouting skills that had landed him in the elite fighting force known as the Highland Guard had never been as valuable as they were now. Arthur’s ability to hide in the shadows and penetrate deep behind enemy lines to gather intelligence about terrain, supply lines, enemy strength and positions, was even more important for the surprise attacks that had become a hallmark of Bruce’s war strategy. One lass wasn’t worth the risk. Hell, he wasn’t even supposed to be here. Let her go. His heart hammered as she drew closer.

He didn’t get involved. He stayed in the shadows. It wasn’t his problem. Sweat gathered on his brow beneath the heavy steel of his helm. He had only a fraction of an instant to decide . . . Bloody hell. He stepped out from behind the trees. He’d been playing a knight for so long he must have started to believe it. He was a damned fool, but he couldn’t stand by and let an innocent lass go to her death without trying to do something.

Maybe he could intercept them before they came into view. Maybe. But he couldn’t be sure where all of Bruce’s men were positioned. He moved stealthily through the shadows, coming on her from behind. In one smooth motion, he slid his hand around to cover her mouth before she could scream. Hooking his arm around her waist, he jerked her hard against him. A little too hard. He could feel every one of her soft feminine curves plastered against him—particularly the nicely rounded bottom saddled against his groin.

Roses. He smelled them again. Stronger now. Making him feel strangely lightheaded. He inhaled reflexively and noticed something else. Something warm and buttery with the faint tinge of apple. Tarts, he realized. In her basket.

Her struggles roused him from the momentary lapse. “I mean you no harm, lass,” he whispered.

But his body was responding to her in a manner that might be construed otherwise, crackling like wildfire at her movement. A hard shock of awareness coursed though him. She had a tiny waist, but he could feel the unmistakable heaviness of very full, very lush breasts on his arm. A rush of heat pooled in his groin.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a woman.

Hell of a time to think about it now.

Her guardsman must have heard the movement. The knight spun around. “M’lady?”

Seeing her in Arthur’s hold, he reached for his sword.

“Shhh . . .” Arthur warned softly. He kept his voice low, both to avoid being heard and to disguise his voice. “I’m trying to help. You need to get out of here.” He relaxed his hold on her mouth. “I’m going to let go of you, but don’t scream. Not unless you want to bring them down on us. Do you understand?”

She nodded, and slowly he released her.

She spun around to face him. In the tree-shrouded moonlight, all he could see were two big, round eyes staring up at him from under the deep hood of her cloak.

“Bring who down on us? Who are you?”

Her voice was soft and sweet, and thankfully low enough not to carry. He hoped.

Her gaze slid over him. He’d traveled lightly tonight as he always did when he was working, wearing only a blackened habergeon shirt and coif of mail, and gamboissed leather chausses. But they were fine, and from his helm (which he’d lowered to cover his face) and weaponry, it was clear he was a knight. “You’re not a rebel,” she observed, confirming what he’d already guessed of her sympathies. She was no friend of Bruce.

“Answer the lady,” her companion said, “or you’ll feel the point of my sword.”

Arthur resisted the urge to laugh. The knight was all brute strength and moved about as deftly as a barge. But cognizant of the situation, he didn’t want to take the time to prove the soldier wrong. He needed to get them out of here as quickly and quietly as possible.

“A friend, my lady,” he said. “A knight in the service of King Edward.”

For now at least.

Suddenly, he stilled. Something had changed. He couldn’t describe how he knew, other than a disturbance in the back of his consciousness and the sensation that the air had shifted.

Bruce’s men were coming. They’d been discovered.

He cursed. This wasn’t good. No more time to convince her gently. “You must leave now,” he said in a steely voice that brokered no argument.

He caught the flare of alarm in her gaze. She, too, must have sensed the danger.

But it was too late. For all of them.

He gave her a hard shove, pushing her behind the nearest tree moments before the soft whiz of arrows pierced the night air. The arrow meant for the lass landed with a thud in the tree that now shielded her, but another had found its mark. Her guardsman groaned as a perfectly shot arrow pierced through his mail shirt to settle in his gut.

Arthur barely had time to react. He turned his shoulder at the last moment as the arrow meant for his heart pinned his shoulder instead. Gritting his teeth, he grabbed the shaft and snapped it off. He didn’t think the arrowhead had penetrated deeply, but he didn’t want to risk trying to pull it out right now.

Bruce’s men thought he was one of the couriers. An understandable mistake, but one that put him in the horrible predicament of battling his compatriots to defend himself or betray his cover. “Answer the lady,” her companion said, “or you’ll feel the point of my sword.”

Arthur resisted the urge to laugh. The knight was all brute strength and moved about as deftly as a barge. But cognizant of the situation, he didn’t want to take the time to prove the soldier wrong. He needed to get them out of here as quickly and quietly as possible.

“A friend, my lady,” he said. “A knight in the service of King Edward.”

For now at least.

Suddenly, he stilled. Something had changed. He couldn’t describe how he knew, other than a disturbance in the back of his consciousness and the sensation that the air had shifted.

Bruce’s men were coming. They’d been discovered.

He cursed. This wasn’t good. No more time to convince her gently. “You must leave now,” he said in a steely voice that brokered no argument.

He caught the flare of alarm in her gaze. She, too, must have sensed the danger.

But it was too late. For all of them.

He gave her a hard shove, pushing her behind the nearest tree moments before the soft whiz of arrows pierced the night air. The arrow meant for the lass landed with a thud in the tree that now shielded her, but another had found its mark. Her guardsman groaned as a perfectly shot arrow pierced through his mail shirt to settle in his gut.

Arthur barely had time to react. He turned his shoulder at the last moment as the arrow meant for his heart pinned his shoulder instead. Gritting his teeth, he grabbed the shaft and snapped it off. He didn’t think the arrowhead had penetrated deeply, but he didn’t want to risk trying to pull it out right now.

Bruce’s men thought he was one of the couriers. An understandable mistake, but one that put him in the horrible predicament of battling his compatriots to defend himself or betray his cover.  “Answer the lady,” her companion said, “or you’ll feel the point of my sword.”

Arthur resisted the urge to laugh. The knight was all brute strength and moved about as deftly as a barge. But cognizant of the situation, he didn’t want to take the time to prove the soldier wrong. He needed to get them out of here as quickly and quietly as possible.

“A friend, my lady,” he said. “A knight in the service of King Edward.”

For now at least.

Suddenly, he stilled. Something had changed. He couldn’t describe how he knew, other than a disturbance in the back of his consciousness and the sensation that the air had shifted.

Bruce’s men were coming. They’d been discovered.

He cursed. This wasn’t good. No more time to convince her gently. “You must leave now,” he said in a steely voice that brokered no argument.

He caught the flare of alarm in her gaze. She, too, must have sensed the danger.

But it was too late. For all of them.

He gave her a hard shove, pushing her behind the nearest tree moments before the soft whiz of arrows pierced the night air. The arrow meant for the lass landed with a thud in the tree that now shielded her, but another had found its mark. Her guardsman groaned as a perfectly shot arrow pierced through his mail shirt to settle in his gut.

Arthur barely had time to react. He turned his shoulder at the last moment as the arrow meant for his heart pinned his shoulder instead. Gritting his teeth, he grabbed the shaft and snapped it off. He didn’t think the arrowhead had penetrated deeply, but he didn’t want to risk trying to pull it out right now.

Bruce’s men thought he was one of the couriers. An understandable mistake, but one that put him in the horrible predicament of battling his compatriots to defend himself or betray his cover.

“Answer the lady,” her companion said, “or you’ll feel the point of my sword.”

Arthur resisted the urge to laugh. The knight was all brute strength and moved about as deftly as a barge. But cognizant of the situation, he didn’t want to take the time to prove the soldier wrong. He needed to get them out of here as quickly and quietly as possible.

“A friend, my lady,” he said. “A knight in the service of King Edward.”

For now at least.

Suddenly, he stilled. Something had changed. He couldn’t describe how he knew, other than a disturbance in the back of his consciousness and the sensation that the air had shifted.

Bruce’s men were coming. They’d been discovered.

He cursed. This wasn’t good. No more time to convince her gently. “You must leave now,” he said in a steely voice that brokered no argument.

He caught the flare of alarm in her gaze. She, too, must have sensed the danger.

But it was too late. For all of them.

He gave her a hard shove, pushing her behind the nearest tree moments before the soft whiz of arrows pierced the night air. The arrow meant for the lass landed with a thud in the tree that now shielded her, but another had found its mark. Her guardsman groaned as a perfectly shot arrow pierced through his mail shirt to settle in his gut.

Arthur barely had time to react. He turned his shoulder at the last moment as the arrow meant for his heart pinned his shoulder instead. Gritting his teeth, he grabbed the shaft and snapped it off. He didn’t think the arrowhead had penetrated deeply, but he didn’t want to risk trying to pull it out right now.

Bruce’s men thought he was one of the couriers. An understandable mistake, but one that put him in the horrible predicament of battling his compatriots to defend himself or betray his cover.

He could still get away.

Maybe they would realize it was a lass? But he couldn’t make himself believe it. If he left, she would die.

Arthur barely had time to process the thought, for in the next moment all hell broke loose. Bruce’s men were on them, bursting out of the darkness like demons from hell. The lady’s guardsman, still staggering from the arrow, took a spear in the side and a battle-axe in the head. He toppled to the ground like a big oak tree, landing with a heavy thud.

Arthur heard a startled cry behind him and, anticipating the impulse, blocked the lass’s path before she could rush forward to help the fallen soldier. He was past help.

But one of Bruce’s men must have caught the movement.

Arthur’s next move was nothing but instinct. It was too fast to be anything else. A spear hurdled through the air, heading straight for her. He didn’t think, he reacted. Reaching up, he snatched the spear in his hand midair, catching it only a few feet from her head. In one swift movement he brought it down across his knee and snapped it in two, tossing the splintered pieces to the ground.

I give The Ranger 5 tail swishes

Here are Monica’s links again.  http://www.monicamccarty.com/index.php    or visit with her here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Monica-McCarty/18042425673 or her blog here http://monicamccarty.blogspot.com/ or if you twitter http://twitter.com/monicamccarty

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