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Nia Farrell writing as

Erinn Ellender Quinn


by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn

Copyright 2018 Anita Quick (aka Nia Farrell aka Erinn Ellender Quinn)

Adapted from

Rannoch Moor: One Soul’s Journey of Remembrance

by Anita Quick © 2014 by Anita Quick

Edited by Anita Quick

Cover Design by Crystal Visions

Stock Photography from

Formatting by Anita Quick

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Release Date December 24, 2017

Length 7,631 words

Long Branch Books

Shattuc, Illinois


To the readers and fans who have encouraged and supported me from the start, regardless of what hat I’m wearing.

~ Erinn Ellender Quinn

akaNia Farrell akaRee L. Diehl


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Author Bio and Links

Titles and Links


The Gloaming

Rannoch Moor, Scotland

June 1602

It had been five years since Muirgheal MacDhùghaill left here, headed for a new life with a decent man who was her distant kinsman but a virtual stranger. Despite what her husband’s mother said, after entering into the marriage that her stepfather had arranged, she had never failed to perform her wifely duties. She would have continued to honor the bonds of holy matrimony, but death had freed her from her marriage and from the in-laws who had never shown her one whit of kindness nor acceptance.

She had never been good enough for their son—especially when she failed to produce an heir. Rather than have her daughter poisoned by her grandparents’ contempt, she had spirited Fiona away, taking only what else she and her maid-servant could carry. Although Elspeth had eventually deserted her, every step brought the two of them closer to people who loved her, parents who would welcome her and their grandchild with open arms into the only other home that she had known.

Looking at the far horizon, the mountains told Muirgheal that she was almost there.

“Look, Phee. That’s where we are going.” She pointed out the distant peaks to her fey child. “Through the pass and beyond is a house, with a bed where we shall sleep.” It was only a matter of getting there.

Their pace was slower than she’d like, but there was no help for it. Given the circumstances, it was a miracle that they’d gotten this far.

She put it down to her fey child. Phee had ever seemed to attract the best of things, including luck. Full of delight and prone to mischief, Phee was her mother in miniature, with ruddy cheeks, ginger hair, and brilliant blue topaz eyes. Unlike herself, Phee showed little sign of slowing down. Muirgheal was bone-weary. Dirty from traveling afoot, she ached for the warmth of a familiar hearth and the smell of her mother’s cooking. Just the thought of it made her empty stomach rumble. She’d been rationing what food was left to her, saving the little that remained until she had to eat to go on.

She was nearly to that point.

Muirgheal had made Phee walk, hoping to wear her out enough that she could talk her into a nap. It wasn’t long before the little feet slowed, and a small voice begged for a sip. Muirgheal made her lie down with her to do it. Only when Phee drifted off to sleep did Muirgheal allow herself to rest.

Fiona MacDhùghaill was three going on thirty, bright and articulate and inquisitive—a dangerous combination for a bone-weary mother traveling alone with her child.

Muirgheal woke from her nap to find her gone.

Panic gripped her mother’s heart so hard that it hurt. Desperate, she searched the horizon, calling her daughter’s name, insistent at first, pleading next, finally screaming her name as she slogged across the rock-strewn moor, praying that her bright ginger head would bob up from whatever bit of dirt she was excavating.

And then she saw him in the gloaming, coming with her child in his arms. She was too grateful to be afraid. That would come later, when her conscious mind moved past the blessed, safe return of her daughter to the awful awareness that his hunting plaid was the wrong weave. His clan had branches. One of them had a blood feud with Muirgheal’s father’s side that began long before they were born. She had lived with the stories all her life, threatened with them like bogie men if she dared to stray too far afield, to be carried off and never seen again. And here might be one of them, with her daughter’s fingers tucking flowers into the length of his black hair.

“Thank you,” was all that she could say. Taking her from him, she hugged her so tightly that she squealed in protest. “Phee, ye must never go like that again. Ye must never leave me. Ye must stay where ye can see me, and I, ye, to make certain that ye stay safe.”

“I fell asleep,” she told him. “I was so tired, and she wanders.”

He rubbed a hand across his beard-stippled jaw. “Where is her da?”

“Dead,” she said tiredly, “from a chill that settled in his lungs.” It had taken him eight days to die of pneumonia. She could still hear the death rattles as he breathed his last.

The Highlander scowled at her. “What about yer kinsmen? Dinnae tell me ye’re traveling alone.”

She straightened, just a bit. Not that it made much difference. He towered fourteen inches over her, braw man that he was. “I didnae start out alone. I took a maid who served my late husband’s family and me and who’d agreed tae come with us. But when the travel got harder, and the coin went faster than planned, she abandoned us and fled back tae whence she came, leaving me and Phee tae go it alone.”

If he wanted to argue, it was going to be a one-sided conversation. Muirgheal was exhausted, and her empty stomach pinched.

She wasn’t the only one hungry. Phee started pulling at her dress, wanting to be fed. “Please,” Muirgheal whispered, feeling her cheeks pink. “Phee, just a minute. Ye’ll need tae excuse us. I maun1 take care of my child.”

Turning her back on him, she folded her legs and sat on the ground, unfastening her bodice as she went. Phee scrambled onto her lap and latched onto her breast like a hungry chick. Her daughter was past the age when she might have been weaned, but now was not the time to start it. Muirgheal knew that the journey home would be hard and long. She believed—and rightly so—that it would be easier for the both of them if she could offer sustenance on demand when the road might provide none for miles and miles.

Once Phee finished and her clothes were set aright, Muirgheal found him still there, like a bur stuck to a sock, hanging on where he was not wanted.

“Ye’re worn thin,” he observed, tapping his chin as he studied her.

“Aye,” she said. There was no hiding it.

“Ye should rest,” he said. “Start fresh in the morning.”

She wished that it was that simple. “We hae light enough left,” she observed. “Days are long, this time of year. We can get in a few more miles afore we stop.”

“And what then?” he asked, picking at her like a scab. “What if the wee lassie wakes first and wanders off again? She was lucky that I saw her when I did. She was headed for the water. Another minute and she’d hae toppled in.”

Tears sprang to Muirgheal’s eyes. She choked back a sob.

He rubbed his face with his large hands and apologized. “I didnae mean tae upset ye, but it’s clear tae me, ye’ll be nae good tae either one of ye if ye dinnae sleep. Ye should lie down. Rest. Even if it’s but an hour or two. If ye’re worried about her wandering, I’ll watch her for ye.”

He was right, of course. She needed to rest. When he offered to watch her child while she slept, she was too desperate to say no.

The Highlander built a fire. Muirgheal changed stockings and set her wet shoes and damp socks near it to dry. She wrapped up in her cloak and fell asleep watching the man who was watching her child and thinking that nothing in the world could compare to uninterrupted sleep and warm, dry socks.

At least to a bone-weary mother on Rannoch Moor.


Uneasy Truce

Muirgheal awakened to an insistent three-year-old who had burrowed inside her cloak and snuggled down beside her. Phee dug in her bodice the way that she shoveled at the earth, as if half a mussel shell would grant her access to the Flower Kingdom on the far side of the world.

From behind her back, the morning sun was making the warmth of the cloak almost too much. She would gladly have shed it, except for the man sitting on the shadow side of things, quietly observing. But he still wore the wrong plaid, and she dreaded the conversation that she knew was coming. He had not pressed her last night, tired as she was, but this morning, he would want to know who she was and where they were headed.

Eventually, she would have to tell him.

She had no idea what would happen when she did.

When Phee had finished her breakfast, she closed her dress, unhooked her cloak, and let her chick fly free.

Phee danced over to her new friend and showed him the latest scrape on her knobby knee. Muirgheal thought, how very sad it will be if we prove to be enemies when he has likely saved my child for me.

And suddenly, she didn’t care. He would either spurn her or ravish her or carry her off. After the first decent sleep that she’d had in days, any one of those three had some strange appeal. He was not a brutal man, not the way that he held her child and the way that he watched her sleep. She was too close to her courses to fear that he would get a bairn on her. He could not really carry them off, being on foot. That would require cooperation on her part, but she had spent the last four years among her husband’s family who hated her, and him a decent man but not strong enough to fully protect her from ill use. This Highlander was braw and bonnie, a keen observer with an intelligence in his hazel eyes and kindness for a stranger’s fey child. If he really wanted to take her, to hurt her, if he wanted to spread her legs and force himself on her, he could have done it anytime.

Instead, he let her sleep.

Out of courtesy, she gave him names. Her married one first, her maiden name next, her stepfather’s last of all. Recognition registered in his hazel eyes. He looked away and blew out softly. “I cannae go there, ye ken,” he told her. “I can only take ye as far as the glen.”

Muirgheal looked across Rannoch Moor, over the water, toward the distant peaks. Tears stung her eyes, to think that she was almost home.

She stiffened when she heard him move to where she stood. Bracing herself, she held her breath, letting it out when she saw what he carried.

“Drink,” he ordered, handing her a skin full of water.

Muirgheal drank deeply, needing it badly, for herself and for Phee. She didn’t know what they would do if her breasts dried up. Phee had no love of old, moldy bread, and that was all that was left to them.

“Thank ye,” she said, handing the skin back to him.

He gave her an odd look. A fleet, haunting memory ghosted his face. He turned his head rather than share it with her. When he could bring himself to look at her again, he read the question in her eyes.

“My wife,” he said, his voice grown rough with emotion. “She had a powerful thirst when she put a babe to her breast. I learned to keep a full ewer and a glass at hand.”

Well, that explained his ease with Phee.

Feeling oddly more comfortable, Muirgheal asked him how many children he had.

The Highlander swept a hand across his beard-stubbled face and rubbed at his chest. “We had the one, ‘til fever took it. She went next, though I suspect it was less from the fever and more from her puir, broken heart.”

“I am sorry,” Muirgheal whispered, feeling the ache of his loss.

Wishing to give him time alone with his grief, she put on her shoes and went a ways apart to empty herself. When she came back, she fetched the bag that held the sum of her worldly possessions and threw a still-damp sock over each shoulder so the sun could finish drying them as they walked. The Highlander nodded and called to Phee, and off they went, heading the direction of home.

He pulled out some fresher bread and dried meat from the bag that he’d slung across his chest. They ate in amiable silence. Before long, they deviated from the course that she would have taken.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but dinnae we need tae go that way?”

“We will,” he said smoothly, “when I hae broken down my camp.”

She did not realize how far Phee had wandered until he showed her the spot where he’d found her. “We’re close now,” he assured her. “Just over that hillock.”

When she crested it, she thanked God twice over for this man. He had saved her child, and he had a horse. Not a sturdy Highland pony but a great beast that could carry him and one of the red stags that roamed the moor. Today, it would carry them instead.

While he broke camp, Muirgheal folded her cloak into a pillow of sorts. When he helped her into the saddle, he had her sit astride for their safety, since she would have to hold onto Phee. Once she’d tucked her folded cloak in front of her, the Highlander called Phee to him, lifted her as easily as a feather, and settled her on the makeshift seat. Reaching around, Muirgheal held onto her daughter and to the saddle as if their lives depended on it. A fall from this high up was certain to hurt. An accident when they were riding could leave them broken or dead.

The Highlander put his foot in the stirrup and came up snugly behind her. Kicking his heels and clucking, he headed them toward Glencoe, or as far as he could take her safely.

Danger was closer than either of them knew.


The Flight

Muirgheal felt the Highlander jerk at the same time a searing pain ripped across the top of her right shoulder. Behind them, a shot rang out, startling the local game. It was a surreal moment, to feel it happen before she heard it, but the sound is what cemented her understanding. As if to confirm that they were hit instead of some red stag, the Highlander leaned forward against her and slapped the reins, putting the horse into flight and them with it.

Muirgheal clung to Phee and to the saddle. Feeling the wet warmth grow on her shoulder, she dared to look at the damage and saw that the blood was not all hers. The single ball that had clipped her shoulder had passed clean through his. The hurt was bad enough to challenge her hold. She could not imagine how he must feel.

Rannoch Moor was a fairly desolate place. They raced for safety across a landscape that afforded little to none. Spotting a lonely, distant tree, he headed for it, throwing backward glances behind them, watching for a pursuit that blessedly never came.

Had it been something as simple as a hunting accident? Perhaps that was all it was. Someone loaded a gun for a stag and missed. If someone meant him harm, surely they would have followed and ridden them down.

Feeling the warmth on her back, Muirgheal had to wonder just how much blood he was losing. How far could they get before he was forced to stop? Worse, what if he passed out and took them with him when he went down?

Phee had no idea of the danger they were in. She thought that their wild ride was a lark. She opened her mouth to let the wind fill her laughing little cheeks, while her mother prayed to heaven, and the man behind them fought to stay conscious, pushing the big horse to the limits of his endurance.

They reached the tree. He brought them up to a low-hanging branch that Muirgheal could use to help herself dismount. She took hold of it and lowered Phee over the side as far as she could reach before turning loose. Phee hit the ground dancing, bouncing and begging for more.

Muirgheal’s shoulder pinched with pain but she managed to slide down without twisting an ankle. When she looked back up, she saw the Highlander’s blood-soaked shirt.

“How can I help ye? What do ye need me tae do?”

He grimaced. “Niall,” he grated between clenched teeth. My name is Niall MacDhonnachaidh. In case…”

He did not finish the thought. There was no need. What mattered more was figuring how she was going to help him down, big, braw man that he was. Being six feet tall to her four-feet, ten-inch self was hardly an advantage when he struggled to dismount from that massive horse of his. Muirgheal helped where she could, but her wound wouldn’t let her bear his weight, and they both went down like wrestlers at a local fair.

She managed to roll free of him. Snatching the horse’s reins, she tied him securely to the trailing branch. Their lives might well depend on keeping the stallion here and fit to be ridden. Grass was plentiful hereabouts. Hopefully, water was close by. The horse would require both, but Niall MacDhonnachaidh was the one in most need.

The hole in the back of his shirt was mirrored by the larger exit wound in front. He was lucky that it missed his lung. He could be thankful that it didn’t pierce the plaid draped over his left shoulder, but it’s more likely he’d rather have holes in it and the use of his right arm. As it was, the shirt could be patched. A good soaking in cold water might get out most of the blood, but first, she needed to get the bleeding stopped.

She looked at him, sitting on the ground exactly where he had landed. “Let’s get ye tae the tree,” she told him. He needed its support. If he didn’t move now, he might just spend the rest of his life where he was, with his life’s blood pouring out like some pagan offering to the spirit of the moor.

Using his good arm, he dragged himself to the tree and collapsed against it, breath hissing between his teeth. He had them, strong, white, fairly straight, a better set than most men his age and without the foulness of breath that comes from a mouth full of rot.

Muirgheal sacrificed one of her two petticoats to make bandages and a sling. She needed a dry change of socks worse than an extra layer in June. She helped remove his shirt and set it aside until she could get him cleaned and tended.

Folding a pad from a torn strip of petticoat, she placed it against his exit wound in front. “Can ye hold this?” she asked, uncertain how much strength he had left in him.

Niall grunted. “Aye.”

Muirgheal knew the thirst that came from losing blood. She went to his horse and managed to untie what was behind the saddle. Carrying everything to where Niall sat, she set aside their bags, opened the skin of water, and bade him drink.

“I need tae clean ye,” she said when he had finished. “Keep pressing. I shall be as quick as I can.”

Before she could wash him, she needed to staunch the flow of blood from behind. Taking a clean, dry cloth pad, she moved to kneel behind him. “I need ye tae lean forward, just a bit,” she said. “I need tae stem the tide on this side of ye. Once that’s done, then I’ll see about getting ye clean.”

He bent at the waist, giving her room to work.

She pressed the cloth pad to the entrance wound at the back of his broad, muscled shoulder. Once the flow of blood had slowed, she held the one pad in place and reached with her free hand for another. Putting the folded cloth on her lap, she picked up the waterskin and pulled the stopper from it with her teeth. She left his wound only long enough to soak the pad, then went to work, applying pressure to his wound with one hand and washing the expanse of his back with the other.

“I’ve got ye as clean back here as I can,” she told him. “Now, I need ye tae lean against this pad and put pressure on yer wound. Once we get the bleeding slowed more, we can bind you up and let ye get more comfortable.”

Muirgheal took a deep breath and prepared to face the Highlander. Working on his back had been challenge enough. She’d never seen a man with a body as perfect as his. If he’d been anyone else, she could have admired him freely, but the plaid pooled at his taut waist and covering his sturdy thighs warned her that he was still the enemy and reminded her of their differences.

Her Clan MacDhùghaill had a raven totem, a heather badge, and the motto of “Victory or Death” (Buaidh no bàs). This wounded man came from a clan who wore bracken for a badge, held that knowledge is power, and lived by the words Garg ‘n uair dhuisgear—Fierce when roused. Still waters ran deep, and the man who had found and saved her daughter had depths that she had not plumbed.

Enemy or no, he was a good patient. She’d give him that. Once he was leaning off-center against the tree, she moved to his front and started washing the blood from the tempting expanse of his chest. There was a strength to him, even in his weakness. He was built like an athlete who competed in the games. His muscles were developed and well enough defined to trace with her fingers. She would not be surprised to learn that he tossed cabers as easily as he had carried her child.

He had the musky, manly scent of someone who’d been hunting. His clothes were neat and made of better fabric than a poor man could afford. His hair was clean enough, and shaving his face revealed a strong jaw, a wide, expressive mouth, and a scholarly look to his chin. It boasted a dent, as if he had tapped one into it from the thinking that he did.

The sight of a crucifix nestled in his short, wiry hair gave her an odd sense of hope. Even if their clans had clashed, their faith remained the same.

When she had finished cleaning and padding and binding him, she lifted his skin of water and bade him drink again. Looking about, she saw that Phee was digging close by.

“Stay here,” she told him. “I’m going tae take Phee and look for water. We willnae be long.” The tree would make it easy to find their way back. It was the exception to the Rannoch rule, where the nearby ground sprouted stones and boulders, grass and heather, and other low-growing plants.

Before leaving, she made certain that his mind was with her, not addled by pain and bloodletting.

“How old are ye, Niall?” she asked him.

“Twenty-seven,” he grated, his words etched with pain.

He was seven years her senior.

“And where are yer kith and kin? Where is home?” She asked, just in case. She needed to take him there, one way or the other.

Seeming to understand, he nodded stiffly and pointed east.

“Loch Rannoch?”


“Guid. Now, Niall, can I take yer shirt? When I find water, I can wash what blood I can from it.”

“Aye,” he grimaced, too tired to care.

Thankfully, water was not far away. Muirgheal scrubbed the worst from his shirt, then she and Phee did a quick wash in the tumbling little burn. Drinking their fill, she topped off the bag and returned to find Niall sitting against the tree, eyes closed, with an otherworldly paleness to his sun-browned skin. His breath was so shallow, for a moment, she thought that he had gone to join his wife and bairn.

Mo nighean2,” he whispered, and she wondered if he saw her, waiting to help him cross over.

But a frown furrowed his brow, and he seemed more distressed than at peace. Still, to correct him would be cruel.

“I’m here,” she told him. “Would ye like another drink?”

He managed a few sips. Even that little exertion took a heavy toll. Phee decided that she needed to drink, too, and tugged on her dress. Muirgheal put the wood stopper back in the neck and hung the skin on the branch. She found a spot in the shade that looked as clean and soft as anything around. Sitting cross-legged, she opened her bodice and was grateful when Phee stayed long enough to drain both breasts, instead of getting wiggly and breaking to play before she decided to finish.

While she nursed, Muirgheal’s attention kept wandering to her patient, propped against a tree that now seemed a metaphor for his loneliness. She wondered who missed Niall MacDhonnachaidh. No one knew to look for her. She had not let her family know that she was coming. She could not risk alerting her in-laws to her plans. They might have stopped her from leaving.

Chances were better that they were glad to see her go. She had failed to give them a grandson. She and Phee were just two extra mouths to feed. Two more bodies to clothe, and poorly at that. Muirgheal had always felt more like a servant than a wife, and nothing on earth could make her stay there, once her husband was gone.

She was so close now to her childhood home, she swore that she could taste her mother’s cooking. If something happened to Niall, his horse would see them there. But she owed him more than a shallow grave marked for another to find and take what was left of him to his people. She preferred to take him there alive and set herself to making that happen.

On the way to get water, she had taken note of the local fauna. There were patches of wild strawberries to eat and wood sorrel that would be good for him, brewed as a tea or eaten if she couldn’t get a fire going. Should she manage to light one, Niall had a tin cup that she could set nearby to heat water. He kept it in his bag.

“I need your cup,” she told him. “I want to fix you some tea tae help with the bleeding.” Her skills at sewing far surpassed her knowledge of medicine and herbs, but what she planned to make was given to her after she nearly died in childbirth, and she was still here to speak of it.

Niall made a noise. It could have been anything. She chose to interpret it as permission to proceed and opened the bag that had been slung across his chest. Its strap was now pierced with two round, bloody holes. The cup, being a commonly used item, was on top of whatever else was in there and spared her from feeling guiltier than she did at rifling through his things.

With nothing to sweeten the sorrel tea, she mashed a few wild strawberries between her fingers. Turning them into a drinkable mush, she added them to the water with the lemony-flavored wood sorrel. Gathering sticks, she piled them up, chess board fashion.

“I need a flint and steel. Do ye hae them?”

Niall nodded. His hand went to the sporran that hung over his abdomen. It made sense, that he would keep those on his person, but when he had trouble fishing them out, she quickly found herself with her face in his lap, looking through his private pouch.

Trying to find them by feel was as much of a challenge as striking a spark to the dried leaves, dead grass, and twigs to get the fire started. Once the flame caught, she added the driest branches she could find and built enough fire to brew a cup of sorrel tea.


Coming Home

As the sun rose and the heat of the day increased, Muirgheal was grateful for the shade. She was already worried about how to keep Phee safe. Eventually, she would need to sleep.

She had not used all of her petticoat, thinking that she might need to change out Niall’s bandages or her little pad where the leaden ball scored her. Taking part of what was left, she used her embroidery scissors that she carried sheathed in her pocket to cut three strips as wide as the last knuckle on her thumb. Folding them in thirds length-wise for extra strength, she finger-pressed them from one end to the other, intending to braid them in a long rope that she could use to tether Phee to her.

By the time she finished preparing the strips to weave, the sorrel tea was done.

“It must sit and cool,” she told Niall. “As soon as it does, I’ll help ye drink it.”

Muirgheal took off one shoe and stocking. Anchoring the strips of cloth to her big toe, she moved her foot further and further from her body as the braiding progressed. Phee came over, fascinated with the process, and “helped” her finish, leaving little strawberry stains wherever she touched the rope that her mother was making for them.

Niall had been watching her, too. Remembering his tea, she replaced her stocking and shoe and fetched it for him. The cup was still fairly hot, but it had cooled enough to handle. She took a cautious sip.

“I’m going to add a wee bit of water tae finish cooling it. Ye need tae drink this sooner, rather than later.” Done, she knelt beside Niall and lifted the cup to his lips. “Here, drink. Dinnae try tae hold it. If ye must, put yer hands on mine tae guide them.”

The loss of blood had weakened him, but his mind seemed clear enough. He let her hold the cup, at least. An addled man would have tried to take it and would have ended up spilling her efforts down his front.

He managed to finish what she had made. Muirgheal set another cup to brewing. It was close to noon by this time. His shirt would be dry enough to put on when the sun finally dropped and the air began to cool. Meanwhile, she had nothing to offer but the possibility of strawberries if she could find them.

“I have more meat,” he said.

Muirgheal tapped her chin, considering. His dried meat offered needed nourishment but would take effort to chew.

“With yer permission, I can cut small pieces and add them tae the next cup. ‘Twould make it more of a soup, with bits of meat mixed with the greens.”

“Do it,” he said, seeing the wisdom of it.

He pulled the sgian-dubh3 from his stocking and offered it to her. Picking it up from where it lay on his palm, she used it to shave off bits of the dried meat that she found in his bag.

The addition of venison seemed to be exactly what he needed. Though still too pale, his color had improved. She took heart in that.

“Ye’re far from well, but ye do look better. How do ye feel?”

“The worse for wear.” He actually managed half a smile for her.

She looked at his horse, grazing peacefully nearby. “Can ye ride?”

Niall was doubtful. “‘Twould take an effort just tae get on. I dinnae ken how long I would last after that. I fear that I maun4 stay here, at least until tomorrow, tae give me a chance tae recover. I’ll understand if ye want tae take Phee and go. Ye are nae pledged tae stay wie me.”

Weren’t they? It certainly felt as if they were, but Muirgheal did not tell him so. Instead, she took Phee to find and pick more berries.

Afterwards, Phee wanted to nurse. She fell asleep at Muirgheal’s breast, which was unusual for a child who required little sleep and typically took no naps and wore her mother ragged, trying to keep up with her.

Muirgheal decided to try out their tether. She tied one end around Phee’s wee wrist, the other end around her own, and lay down to nap with her daughter. She was awakened a miraculous two hours or so later by Phee, testing its length, seeing how far she could go in a full circle around her.

Pleased with its success, she freed them both and checked on Niall.

Ye look better,” he murmured, sounding as if the mere act of speaking was all that he could manage.

“As do ye,” she replied. If she were judging by looks alone, she would have deemed him fit for travel. But his voice betrayed his weakness. They would be here at least one night, possibly two.

The last time she was on Rannoch Moor, she was a frightened fifteen-year-old, headed for a marriage that her stepfather had arranged. Now, she was a woman grown and had a choice—to stay with Niall or go. Wounded though he was, she still felt safer with him than alone. Too, she owed him her daughter’s life. Saving his seemed the least that she could do.

She gathered berries and wood sorrel, shaved more meat, and made tea. Eventually, she helped him up when the water she’d been pushing in him demanded to be let out. Judging the hour, she gathered bits of wood and dried dung, anything that would burn to help ward off the chill of night. They spend it hunkered by the fire, trying to stay warm, with her child tethered to her so she could not wander off.

In the morning, Muirgheal steeped more sorrel and shaved meat for him, and fed Phee and herself. Niall was quiet. She wished that he would speak. Even if he was not up for conversation, he could at least tell her exactly where he lived. She prayed that it was close. Hopefully, it was within a day’s ride. Surely he would not range far from his home to hunt, but with men, one never knew.

By the time the three of them finished breaking their fast, Niall deemed himself ready to try riding.

Muirgheal said nothing. She nodded, keeping her doubts to herself. Willpower alone might get him in the saddle and keep him there. But he would be seated alone this time. He could barely handle himself. There was no way that he could handle Phee and her.

She tied their bags behind his saddle. At least that much of her burden would be lighter. The two of them walked beside him, or she walked and Phee rode her hip. They traveled until they entered Gleann Dubh—the Black Glen, which lay west of Loch Rannoch, about eleven miles east of where they had been on Rannoch Moor. It was almost as pretty a place as where she was born. The stone cottage they finally reached looked cozy and well-made.

Approaching it, Muirgheal noted a small garden out back. The door in the side of a hill marked where a root cellar had been dug into it. The barn behind the house had a paddock. From beyond the barn, she thought she heard the laugh of a stream as it tumbled over rocks and rills.

The trip had taken most of Niall’s strength. “Ye need to rest,” she said. “I’ll take care of yer horse if ye will tell me what ye want.”

There was a long, awkward pause.

He had to clear his throat to answer her.

She listened to his words, but more than that, she searched his eyes, wishing to rewind the clock and read again what she thought they were saying.

Tell me what ye want.

He wanted her.

She had begun to suspect it, the way that he tried, so very hard, to not look at her. He was a quiet one, except for the occasional tune he hummed or sang before a bullet had nearly felled him. He didn’t feel the need to fill the air with idle chatter, and in that, they were alike. She would rather listen to his breath and to his heartbeat and know that when he did say something, his words had weight and meaning.

Niall rode the horse into the barn and managed to dismount. While Phee jumped on a rick of straw, Muirgheal helped him with the saddle and pad. He took off the bridle and turned the stallion out into the paddock to graze on lush, green grass.

The inside of the house was cooler than outside, thanks to the thickness of the stone walls and windows that faced east. It was a typical one-room Highland cottage, with a bed downstairs and a sleeping loft above. Niall lived here with his ghosts, in the framed silhouette of a woman on the wall, the abandoned spinning wheel near the hearth, and the empty cradle in the corner.

“Nap!” Phee gave it a push and giggled, wanting to lie in it.

“Nay, lassie. Ye willnae fit.” Even if she did, her climbing in the cradle might violate his sacred space, and Niall was already hurting.

“Sit,” she insisted when Niall stopped beside a pair of wooden buckets. “Tell me where tae fill them, and I shall.”

“The burn,” he said, pointing in the direction of the barn.

Taking a bucket in each hand, Muirgheal ordered Phee to come and set out to find water. The burn was close by. In the summer heat, the spring-fed water was blessedly cold and clear. She walked to a point above where the horse drank and brought the wooden pails back full.

Setting them by the door, she found Niall asleep on the floor by the hearth, choosing to lie there rather than dirty his sheets or climb to the sleeping loft. To let him rest, she took Phee with her and visited the root cellar, taking stock of what was there in crocks, baskets, bottles, and kegs. Niall clearly needed more variety in his diet. There was dried meat aplenty but little in the way of vegetables, and his garden was too small to meet more than the moment’s need.

Next year, she thought, then stopped herself. So close to home, she was. So near to her mother, her family, her friends. Try as she might to picture herself on the far side of the pass, she could as easily see herself here, sewing by the hearth, mending stockings and making clothes for her growing little girl who was more comfortable with Niall than she’d ever been with the man who wished only for a son.

Did she want to stay? Dare she ask? And if she did, would he let her? She knew next to nothing about the man who lived here. How did he earn his living? Was he wealthy? Was he happy? If he wasn’t, could she be the one to ease his sadness and make him so?

She’d only known him three days, and already she could envision a future with him. In her heart, she was willing to risk it. Whatever happened now, he would be the one to decide.


Midsummer Night

She watched him sleep and watched him wake, stretching like a great bear and coming to a stand. He was better, she could tell. Stronger. He worked the stiffness from his muscles and excused himself to go outside.

Muirgheal was tempted to keep an eye on her patient, but she respected his need for privacy more. She busied herself, instead, finding what she would need to make supper.

With no fresh meat, she shaved more of what she found dried. Putting it into a cast iron kettle, she added vegetables from the garden and water, built a fire, and hung the kettle to cook.

Niall watched her work. He tried not to, but she swore, she could feel the moment his will eroded and his eyes could stay away no longer. She yielded to temptation a time or two and caught him looking. The blush on his cheeks told her all that she needed to know.

A new awareness hummed between them, now that they were here.

Now that they were home.

Three days, they had been together. On the third night—Midsummer Night, they crossed a line that they had subconsciously drawn and honored. It happened unplanned, without a word, just a look, a breath, and the courage to take a chance.

He had offered to sleep in the loft and gave her and Phee his bed. His scent was on the pillow and sheets. Muirgheal’s body thrummed with awareness of him, so close and yet so far from where she wanted him to be. Sleep was elusive. At one point, she awakened and, she saw him in the darkness, sitting at the table, watching them.

Watching her.

She slipped away from Phee. Making certain that her daughter still slept, Muirgheal walked past Niall and went outside. He followed her to the rowan tree that grew on one side of his cottage.

She put her hand on the rowan, reputed to be a kind that the fey folk favored. On a night when they were certain to be out and about, she could almost feel the magic in it.

He stood back, wordless, waiting for her to give him what another man would simply have taken. Thinking how best to do this, she put her feet hip-distance apart, flexed her knees, and bent at the waist until her good shoulder was braced against the tree. Hugging it, she looked back over her other shoulder and wordlessly offered herself to him.

Niall dropped his plaid and came behind her. She only got a glimpse before he came to her, gloriously nude. Stroking her back from the base of her neck to the bottom of her spine, he bunched her chemise in his fists and pulled it to her waist, exposing her buttocks. His fingers slid between her legs and found her ripe and ready to receive him. Taking himself in hand, he parted her seam, wet himself on her juices, found her opening, and breached it, just barely. Just enough to confirm that he was a larger man in all ways than the only one she had known.

Taking hold of her hips, Niall thrust inside her, more than filling her. Muirgheal gasped, wincing when he hit bottom. Attuned to her, he pulled partially out and worked his way back in, stretching her as he went. When her body could accommodate his length and girth, he surged against her, driving into her, claiming her body as he’d started to claim her heart.

He bent over her and bit the base of her neck at the same time his hand claimed a breast and his other cupped her sex. His questing fingers did not stop until they had uncovered her pearl.

He polished it with practiced skill, coaxing it from its hiding place and making it swell. A strange, new tension took hold of her. She clung to the tree with a keen desperation. With every thrust, every touch, he stoked the fire that he’d kindled inside her until she burned so brightly, his passion threatened to consume her.

Given his wound, she’d thought it would be over and done in a minute, or two, but only now was he showing signs that he was nearing the end. His breaths were hot and harsh against her skin. His pace changed. His fingers rubbed her secrets, demanding a response. Her body gave it, stiffening, then breaking, convulsing in spasms that gripped his length and pulled him even deeper into her. Feeling it, his rhythm broke. One more meaty thrust and he poured himself inside her, filling her with his seed.

When they were done, walking proved a challenge. Niall had expended his strength, and her legs still shook from the force of her climax. To spare him, she picked up his plaid and handed it to him, touching his arm in silent thanks when the words that she had seemed insufficient.

It was everything that she hoped it would be, and more.

Slipping their arms around each other’s waist, they helped each other back inside. Niall eschewed the loft and joined her in his bed. She curled against Phee, and Niall curled against Muirgheal, taking her once more in the night. This time was a gentler joining. Stroking her neck, he turned her face back towards him, and he kissed her.

Oh, yes.

It didn’t matter that he wore a bracken badge or the wrong plaid. Three days, and she knew that her future lay here, with him. Lying in the circle of his arms, she pledged to see that the lingering sadness was lifted from his soul, replaced by the joy that they would find together. She dreamed that the cradle, which now held only bittersweet memories, held the first of the children they would make.

And although she didn’t know it then, she would rock six bairns in that cradle.


Erinn Ellender Quinn is a poet, a mystic, a dreamer, and a believer in love at first sight and happy endings. She loves history, genealogy, myth, and legend, and has been known to slip into silver-buckled shoes and trod the boards at period dances. First-hand experience helps her bring the past to life when writing her sultry historical romances.

Erinn is published in other genres under different names. Ride the Wind was her debut romance novel.


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Touch the Wind (Touch the Wind Book 1) by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn. Christiana Delacorte has loved Justin Vallé since her misspent youth, sailing disguised as a boy. When she hires the French privateer to rescue her father, she’s delighted that his price includes her presence in his bed. The first of a swashbuckling series set in the 1720s Caribbean. Released December 1, 2016. Length 91,354 words.

Winner, Favorite Historical Couple, EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads Midyear Awards, 2017.

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Ride the Wind (Touch the Wind Book 2) by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn. Set in the same year the last witch burned in Scotland, indentured servant and Wiccan healer Beth Gordon risks her life to save her master, Irish sea captain Ian O’Malley, a man with dark secrets of his own. A paranormal historical romance. Released October 1, 2016. Length 70,059 words / 244 pages.

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Reap the Wind (Touch the Wind Book 3) by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn. A vicar’s unconventional daughter meets her match in the bastard son of a Spanish spy. Release Date February 1, 2017. Length 67,087 words.

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Touch the Wind Set 1: Touch the Wind, Ride the Wind, Reap the Wind (Books 1-3) by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn. 440 (8 ½ x 11) pages

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Dare the Wind (Touch the Wind Book 4) by Nia Farrell writing as Erinn Ellender Quinn. Irish Captain Tristan O’Dea finds passion on the high seas with his commander’s widowed half-sister, free-thinking musician and composer Jessenia Bougeureau. Release Date April 1, 2017. Length 67,703 words / 245 pages.

Winners, Favorite Historical Hero (Tristan O’Dea) and Favorite Historical Heroine (Jessenia Bougeureau), EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads Midyear Awards, 2017.

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Something Else (The Three Graces Book One). Three soulmates forge a future from the flames of their pasts in an interracial New Age New Adult MMF ménage BDSM erotic romance. “It’s part paranormal, part BDSM, part love story, but all good.” Released August 25, 2015. Length 17,872 words.

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Something Different (The Three Graces Book Two). Starving artist Anna James has sworn off men. Rock gods Jackson and Jacob Thomason just promised her the best sex of her life. Does Anna dare submit to the part-Comanche twins who perform as No Mercy? Released September 29, 2015. Length 17,235 words.

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Something More (The Three Graces Book Three) Finalist for Best BDSM Book of the Year, Ménage Category, 2016 Golden Flogger Awards. Rachel Givens is supposed to be dead. She has post-rape PTSD and a three-year-old autistic daughter, father unknown. When her former lovers—a biker and a porn star—walk into the restaurant where she works, this single mother learns just how much more she can handle. Released October 15, 2015. Length 18,613 words.

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The Three Graces Trilogy (paperback) includes Something Else, Something Different, and Something More. Welcome to fictional Posey, Minnesota, the ménage capital of the USA and home of the Three Graces—young women whose names all mean “Grace.” Three women. Six men. Things are about to get interesting. Released April 2, 2016. Length 230 6x9 pages.

Second edition e-book and paperback to be reissued January 2019

Something Special (The Three Graces Book Six—the sequel to Something Else). When morning sickness hits the house, a Dominant veteran with PTSD and an American Indian musician propose to give their psychic submissive a very special honeymoon. They’re giving Grace the capture fantasy of her dreams at Replay, a BDSM theme resort where patrons role play in the past. Released May 5, 2016. Length 21,578 words/105 5x8 pages.

Nominated Best Erotica and Best Romance, 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards. Winner, Favorite Audiobook, EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads Midyear Awards, 2016.

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Dark Moons Rising. On the most dangerous night of the year, a daughter of light finds unexpected sanctuary with two dark lords, handsome as men, stunning as centaurs. An otherworldly sword-and-sorcery paranormal shifter ménage erotic romance novelette. Released March 10, 2016. Length 9,210 words.

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As Wicked as You Want (Forever Ours Book One). It’s a past life for The Three Graces’ Nico, J.T., and Grace, a Victorian erotic romance BDSM MMF ménage with a bisexual British history professor, his American stepsister who’s been living as a man since serving in the Civil War, and her Irish messmate who is an apprentice in her art studio and who has been fighting his attraction to “Lane.” Released August 1, 2016. Length 155,467 words / 609 pages.

Voted #1 Erotica and #10 overall, The 50 Best Indie Books of 2016. Nominated Best Erotica, Best Historical, and Best Romance, 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards.

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A Wicked Christmas 1869. Elena, Edward, and Daniel from As Wicked as You Want celebrate their second Christmas together. Release date December 1, 2017. Length 6,307 words.

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Pride and Prejudice meets 50 Shades of Grey” in Pride and Punishment – An Erotic Retelling of Jane Austen’s Beloved Classic by Nia Farrell and Jane Austen. A Dominant Mr. Darcy must find a way to win the submissive heart of a woman who abhors him. Released June 1, 2016. Length 91,133 words/344 pages.

Voted Best Historical Romance, 2017 Ménage Romance Readers Favorites. Nominated Best Erotica, Best Historical, and Best Romance, 2016 Summer Indie Book awards.

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Wicked Lady. In Restoration England, a lady highwayman who demands more than money from her victim must pay for her crimes. It’s a tale of dubious consent, first his, then hers, with a degenerate lord, one desperate woman, and two nights that will change their lives. Reached #37 on Amazon’s Best Seller list, Historical Erotica Mystery.

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Rules of Engagement. Corporate attorney Dylan Reynolds wants to become a first time Daddy Dom with his latest submissive, a twenty-two-year-old genius whose lack of experience intrigues him. Holly Knox can’t deny her attraction to Dylan, but she’s never had a serious relationship, let alone been with a Dominant who’s into the BDSM lifestyle. Can this innocent embrace ageplay and be Daddy’s good girl? Length 18,814 words.

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Replay Book 1: VIKING RAID. A curious virgin makes Replay resort’s Viking Dom an offer he can’t refuse. Released July 1, 2016. Length 20,051 words/99 pages.

Nominated Best Erotica, 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards.

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Replay Book 2: TRIPLE PLAY. A celibate sex addict meets a Scottish Dominant who’s determined to be the exception to her rules. Released September 1, 2016. Length 20,232 words / 100 pages.

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Replay Book 3: HONOUR BOUND. A psychologist interested in BDSM experiences it first-hand with the owner of Replay resort. Released November 1, 2016. Length 19,946 words / 97 pages.

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REPLAY SET 1: Viking Raid, Triple Play, Honour Bound. Contains books 1-3 in the series.

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Replay Book 4: HOOKED. During pirate weekend, a curious librarian explores BDSM with a Dominant veteran amputee. Released January 1, 2017. Length 21,950 words/ 121 pages.

Winner, Favorite Leading Lady, 2017 Our Book Stars Awards.

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Replay Book 5: NIGHT MUSIC. In an updated version of Cyrano de Bergerac, bisexual Replay resort psychiatrist Sir Josef plays matchmaker with a blind concert pianist and her mentor and falls for them both. A MMF ménage. Released March 1, 2017. Length 19,438 words / 104 pages.

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Replay Book 6: HIGHLAND FLING. During a special music weekend at Replay resort, a former ballerina must choose between two Dominants. Released May 1, 2017. Length 20,081 words.

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REPLAY SET 2: Hooked, Night Music, Highland Fling. Contains books 4-6 in the series.

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Replay Book 7: WING MEN. During World War I weekend, a singer comes under the sights of two rival fighter pilots. If they want her, they’ll have to learn to share. Release date August 1, 2017. Length 20,081 words.

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Replay Book 8: THE DARK SIDE. It’s Cinema Classics weekend at Replay BDSM theme resort. When 1930s Hollywood vamp meets vampire on the dark side of the resort, the chemistry is off the charts. But can a relationship survive the light of day, when a doctor requires anonymity and his submissive is a celebrity? Release date November 1, 2018. Length 25,313 words.

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Replay Reunion 1: NAUGHTY NEW YEAR. Replay BDSM theme resort hosts its third New Year’s Eve party in the newest addition, The Steamroom, built for Iron Domination Steampunk play. Release date January 1, 2018. Length 6,218 words.

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Keeper—The Avenging Angels MC Introduction. Isabella Castellari is rescued from a roadside breakdown by Luke “Mad Dog” McLanahan, Vice President of the Avenging Angels MC. He takes her to the clubhouse, but it’s his rules, his way, if she chooses to stay. Released June 1, 2017. Length 2,724 words. Includes a free sneak peek at Find Her—Avenging Angels Book 1.


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Find Her (Avenging Angels MC Book 1). Rose McLanahan is the daughter of the Avenging Angels MC president and younger sister to four of its members. When she’s rescued from a rival gang, her oldest brother’s best friend is entrusted to take her where the Blackwater Demons MC won’t find her. Michael O’Flaherty has known the Angels’ princess since she was born, but alone in the Angels’ safehouse, Dominant Michael and submissive Rose will finally discover each other. Released June 8, 2017. Length 40,627 words. Reached #9 on Amazon’s BDSM Erotica Best Seller list.

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Keeper: Avenging Angels MC Book 2. When Mad Dog McLanahan comes to Isabella Castellari‘s rescue after her car breaks down, he quickly realizes that she’s nothing like her porn star sister. Isabella is an innocent, but the secrets he’s been keeping will either bring them together or tear them apart. Length 42,925 words / 225 pages.

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The She-Wolf on the Twentieth Floor by Nia Farrell writing as Ree L. Diehl. Erotic romantic comedy HEA ménage. A neglected mistress teases the wrong window washer and gets a whole lot more than she bargained for. Length 9,273 words. Release date January 15, 2018.

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1 Maun—must

2Mo nighean = My girl

3 A sgian-dubh is a small, single edged knife, often tucked in the right stocking.

4 Maun—must

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