The Highland Outlaw

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Alana. Her name even drew him. She had changed out of the trousers he’d seen her in earlier. A shame, for the skirts covered much of her form, although the stays lifted her ample breasts high, their soft roundness sitting above the lace edge of her smock.

“But unless you suddenly start producing milk,” she said, “you cannot take care of the babe. She needs constant warmth and feeding to survive, and a rough Highland warrior is not equipped to do so on his own. Your men will have to help you. Keep the milk fresh and warm. You can make more pap or a mix of mashed grain with broth, which is called panada, but you need to find a true bottle. The glove will become tainted and could make her ill if you cannot keep it clean.”

Alana released his arm while continuing to rattle off directions. She spoke quickly, her instructions unclear, as if she spoke in a language he only halfway understood. The boulder of worry reformed in his gut. Bloody hell. He was a warrior, not a nursemaid. He had no experience or knowledge in the ways of bairns. He’d only ever held animal newborns before, never a human one. And this one must live.

He glanced between the little face, so intent on sucking from the pricked hole, and the woman as she held the makeshift bottle. “Ye will help me,” he said, making her pause in her list of required provisions.

“I… I will help you find a bottle, although I have not seen anyone bring their babes to the festival, only older children. And if they did bring their babes, the mother would be nursing them, so there would be no need for a bottle.” She huffed, blowing a loose strand of her hair upward. It looked soft, like her skin, silky, and he itched to slide his finger down it. With a silent sigh, the worry in his gut turned into remorse.

“Maybe we could find a hollowed drinking horn,” she said. “My grandmother had one she fed to babes who lost their mothers in the birthing. Or a leather flask, which you will have to wash every day. I can write down the ingredients to make her meals. You can read?”

“Aye,” he said, watching her carefully. The woman could write. She was beautiful and intelligent.

“I will cut up a blanket for you to use for her breech cloths. You must change the cloths whenever you can tell she has fouled them.” The woman was talking without pause. “Just wash the dirty ones out in the streams you come across and hang them overnight to dry.” He picked up a hint of worry in the quickness of her words. Aye, the lass was intelligent enough to grasp her jeopardy in standing alone with a warrior who she realized required her help in keeping the bairn alive. Alone and without anyone knowing her current whereabouts. Not even her giant dog named after a French explorer.

He met her gaze over the bairn’s slack face, its lips relaxing in sleep, letting the nipple release, a drop of milk left on its lip. “Ye, Alana Campbell, will help me keep this very important bairn alive.”

Alana’s mouth dropped open, and she backed away. “I will do what I can here in the camp.”

He shook his head slowly, stalking forward, holding her gaze. “Ye will journey with me to keep her safe.”

Alana shook her head, pulling the sgian dubh she’d replaced in the holster on her boot and dropped the nearly empty glove. He wouldn’t risk the bairn, grabbing Alana, but then again, he didn’t have to. Without a sound, Logan stepped into the tent, followed by Alistair and Rabbie.

“My apologies, lass,” Shaw said, and she whirled around to confront the Sinclair warriors. “But right now, ye are this bairn’s best chance to survive the journey.”