Arthur "Ranger" Campbell is separated from his brothers in
King Robert Bruce's Highland Guards before the induction
ceremony to become a knight in the English army. Arthur is
to use his special skills of recon to scout the enemy, get
the lay of the land, and determine how many men in the area
are needed for King Bruce to attack strategically. After so
many years of playing both sides, Arthur is beginning to
wonder if the war will never end. King Bruce asds Arthur to
infiltrate the clan of the chieftain who Arthur witnessed
murder his father many years ago. Arthur jumps at the chance
to gain personal revenge. It is a priority that Arthur keep
his true identity a secret to keep King Bruce's plans moving
forward. Unfortunately, there is one woman who may be able
to identify Arthur as a spy, and she happens to be the
daughter of his father's murderer.
Anna MacDougall is willing to aid her father in winning and
ending the war with Robert Bruce at any cost, including
selling her hand in marriage to gain support for her father.
So far, Anna has been able to avoid marriage and remain
hopeful that she will find the one man she can really love
for all time. Anna is unable to find a man who can make her
heart beat faster and her breath quicken... until she meets
the tall, dark, and menacing Arthur Campbell. Anna is
unable to get close enough to Arthur to find out if her
feelings are a fluke because Arthur avoids Anna at every
turn. Anna receives her chance as her father sees Anna's
interest in the knight and asks her to keep an eye on him to
make sure he is who he says he is. Always ready to help the
cause, Anna goes out of her way to put herself in Arthur's
path, igniting sparks she can only hope are real.
THE RANGER is the third book in Monica McCarty's Highland
Guard series which continues the saga of Robert Bruce's
attempts to become King. The history in this story is
intriguing and exciting, with a powerful romance at the
heart of it all. Great Read!
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
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
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.
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
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
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 . . .
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
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
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
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
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.
He heard her startled gasp but didn’t dare take his eyes
from the score of men rushing toward him. “Get behind the
damned tree,” he shouted angrily, before turning to block
a blow of a sword from the right. The man left him an
opening, which Arthur didn’t take.
He swore, fending off another. What the hell should he do?
Reveal himself? Would they believe him? He could fight his
way out, but there was the lass to consider . . .
A moment later the decision was taken from him.
A man’s voice rang out from the trees, “Hold!” The
warriors seemed confused but immediately did as the
newcomer bid, stopping in their tracks. Seconds later, a
familiar figure stepped out of the shadows. “Ranger, what
in the hell are you doing here?”
Shaking his head with disbelief, Arthur stepped forward to
greet the black-clad warrior who’d emerged from trees.
Gregor MacGregor. That certainly explained the perfect
arrow shot he’d noticed earlier. MacGregor was the best
archer in the Highlands, giving proof to the nom de guerre
of “Arrow” chosen by Bruce to protect his identity as a
member of the Highland Guard.
Arthur wasn’t sure whether he should be grateful to see
his former enemy turned Highland Guard partner, and at one
time, the closest thing he had to a friend. That had
changed when Arthur had been forced to leave the Highland
Guard over a year and a half ago. At the time, none of his
fellow guardsmen—including MacGregor—had known the truth.
When they’d heard he’d joined with the enemy they’d
thought him a traitor. Though they’d eventually learned
the truth, his role had kept him apart.
They clasped forearms, and despite his initial hesitation,
Arthur found himself grinning beneath his helm. Damn, it
was good to see him. “I see that no one’s messed up that
pretty face of yours yet,” he said, knowing how much
MacGregor’s renowned good looks bothered him.
MacGregor laughed. “They’re working on it. It’s damned
good to see you. But what are you doing here? You’re lucky
I saw you catch that spear.”
Arthur had once saved MacGregor’s life doing the same
thing. It wasn’t as difficult as it looked—if you could
get past the fear. Most couldn’t.
“Sorry about the arrow,” MacGregor said, pointing toward
Arthur’s left shoulder where blood was oozing from around
the splintered staff, an inch of which was still
protruding from his arm.
Arthur shrugged. “It’s nothing.” He’d had worse.
“You know this traitor, Captain?” one of the men asked.
“Aye,” MacGregor said, before Arthur could caution
him. “And he’s no traitor. He’s one of ours.”
Damn. The lass. He’d forgotten about the lass. Any hope
that she might not have heard MacGregor or grasped the
significance was dashed when he heard her sharp intake of
MacGregor heard it, too. He reached for his bow, but
Arthur shook him off.
“It’s safe,” he said. “You can come out now, lass.”
“Lass?” MacGregor swore under his breath. “So that’s what
this is about.”
The woman moved out from behind the tree. When Arthur
reached to take her elbow, she stiffened as if his touch
offended. Aye, she’d heard all right.
Her hood had slid back in the chaos, revealing long,
shimmering locks of golden-brown hair falling in thick,
heavy waves down her back. The sheer beauty of it seemed
so out of place, it temporarily startled him. And when a
sliver of moonlight fell upon her face, Arthur’s breath
caught in a hard, fierce jolt.
Christ, she was lovely! Her tiny, heart-shaped face was
dominated by large, heavily lashed eyes. Her nose was
small and slightly turned, her chin pointed, and her brows
softly arched. Her lips were a perfectly shaped pink bow
and her skin . . . her skin was as smooth and velvety as
cream. She had that sweet, vulnerable look of a small,
fluffy animal—a kitten or a rabbit, perhaps.
The innocent breath of femininity was not what he was
expecting and seemed utterly incongruous in the midst of
He could only stare in stunned silence as MacGregor—the
whoreson— stepped forward, peeled off his nasal helm, and
gallantly bowed over her hand.
“My apologies, my lady,” he said with a smile that had
felled half the female hearts in the Highlands—the other
half he’d yet to meet. “We were expecting someone else.”
Arthur heard the lass’s predictable gasp when she beheld
the face of the man reputed to be the most handsome in the
Highlands. But she quickly composed herself and, to his
surprise, seemed remarkably lucid. Most women were
babbling by now. “Obviously. Does King Hood make war on
women now?” she asked, using the English slur for the
outlawed king. She eyed the church up ahead. “Or merely
For someone surrounded by enemies, she showed a surprising
lack of fear. If the fine ermine-lined cloak hadn’t given
her away, he would have known she was a noblewoman from
the pride in her manner alone.
MacGregor winced. “As I said, it was a mistake. King
Robert makes war only on those who deny him what is
She made a sharp sound of disagreement. “If we are done
here, I’ve come to fetch the priest.” Her eyes fell on her
fallen guardsman. “It is too late for my man, but perhaps
he can still give release to those who await him at the
Last rites, Arthur realized. Probably for those wounded in
the battle of Glen Trool a week’s past.
Though the helm covered his face, he kept his voice low,
to further mask his identity. His cover had been
jeopardized enough—he didn’t want there to be any chance
that she would be able to identify him.
She had to be related to one of the nobles who’d been
called to Ayr to hunt Bruce. He’d make sure to stay away
from the castle—far away. “What is your name, my lady? And
why do you travel with such a paltry guard?”
She stiffened, looking down her tiny nose at him. With the
adorable little upturn, it should have been ridiculous,
but she managed a surprisingly effective amount of
disdain. “Fetching a priest is usually not a dangerous
task—as I’m sure even a spy can attest.”
Arthur’s mouth fell in a hard line. So much for gratitude.
Perhaps he should have left her to her fate.
MacGregor stepped forward. “You owe this man your life, my
lady. If he hadn’t interfered,” he nodded toward her
fallen guardsman, “you both would have been dead.”
Her eyes widened, and tiny white teeth bit down on the
soft pillow of her lower lip. Arthur felt another
unwelcome tug beneath his belt.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly, turning to him. “Thank you.”
Gratitude from a beautiful woman was not without effect.
The tug in his groin pulled a little harder, the lilting
huskiness of her voice making him think of beds, naked
flesh, and whispered moans of pleasure.
“Your shoulder . . .” She gazed up at him uncertainly. “Is
it hurt badly?”
Before he could form a response, he heard a noise. His
gaze shot through the trees to the church, noticing the
signs of movement.
Damn. The sound of the attack must have alerted the
occupants of the church.
“You need to go,” he said to MacGregor. “They’re coming.”
MacGregor had seen firsthand Arthur’s skills too many
times to argue. He motioned his men to go. As quickly as
they’d arrived, Bruce’s warriors slipped back into the
darkness of the trees.
“Next time,” MacGregor said, before following them.
Arthur met his gaze in shared understanding. There would
be no silver tonight. In a few moments the church would be
swarming with men and lit up like a beacon, warning anyone
who approached of the danger.
Because of one lass, Bruce would not have the silver to
provision his men. They would have to rely on what they
could hunt and scavenge from the countryside until another
“You had best go, too,” the lass said stiffly. He
hesitated, and she seemed to soften. “I’ll be fine. Go.”
She paused. “And thank you.”
Their eyes met in the darkness. Though he knew it was
ridiculous, for a moment he felt exposed.
But she couldn’t see him. With his helm down, the only
openings in the steel were the two narrow slits for him to
see and the small pinpricks for him to breathe.
Still, he felt something strange. If he didn’t know
better, he’d say it was a connection. But he didn’t have
connections with strange women. Hell, he didn’t have
connections with anyone. It kept things simpler that way.
He wanted to say something—though hell if he knew what—but
he didn’t have the chance. Torches appeared outside the
church. A priest and a few of the wounded English soldiers
were heading this way.
“You’re welcome,” he said, and slipped back into the
shadows where he belonged. A wraith. A man who didn’t
exist. Just the way he liked it.
Her sob of relief as she threw herself into the arms of
the priest followed him into the darkness.
He knew he should regret what happened tonight. In saving
her life, he’d sacrificed not only the silver, but also
his cover. But he couldn’t regret it. There would be more
silver. And their paths were unlikely to cross again—he’d
make sure of it.
His secret was safe.