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By Monica McCarty

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Another man asked. ” Patrick could tell from Montgomery's reaction that the other man's jest embarrassed him, but Montgomery masked his discomfort with crudeness. ” The ribald humor found an appreciative audience as the other men snickered. Asses. Doing his best to ignore them, Patrick glanced down at the field, noting that the number of competitors had lessened to only a handful, including, among others, Alasdair, Rory MacLeod, and the Campbell Henchman. He hoped to hell his cousin was being careful.

Patrick didn't doubt it. His cousin had a streak of daring in him that at times bordered on foolhardy. The head of clan Campbell—Archibald the Grim, the Earl of Argyll— was not a man to prod: He had a crushing bite. But knowing Alasdair would not be dissuaded, Patrick nodded. “Good luck, then, cousin. And take care. ” Patrick cocked an eyebrow. ” His cousin chuckled and bounded off toward the line of contestants. Patrick admired his cousin's easy confidence, even if he couldn't share it. He'd been on the wrong end of a hagbut or arrowhead too many times in his life not to recognize the scent of danger.

But her words were unnecessary. The warriors had already drawn their swords and started to attack the outlaws. It didn't take long to measure their skill and see their superiority. Her cousin's remaining guardsmen fought with renewed vigor, energized by the additional sword arms. It was as if the wind had shifted; the attackers had become the attacked. The dark knight dismounted, his horse an encumbrance in the narrow clearing, and came to the aid of one of her clansmen, swinging his sword down hard to fend off an attacker.

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