“I will build you a cottage anywhere you like.” Justin picked Rachel back up and turned them toward the Keep. “Athena will be glad to see you and she will...”
Thomas and Clymer each grabbed one of Harold’s arms and began to walk him toward the bridge. Each demanded to know exactly how he got in this time.
Kevin hadn’t taken his eyes off his wife. He knew she was terrified, so he waited. When she finally looked at him, he thought of his shoe problem. He smiled, pointed to the foot with the shoe and then to the one without.
She returned his smile, but she was trembling when she slowly started toward him. Where had all her courage gone? She was still a good ten feet away when she stopped.
“I love you,” he said.
“I have loved you for years.”
She nervously giggled and then she grew deadly serious. “I must know...”
“Anything, you may ask me anything.”
“Are you going to have your lads hold me down?”
“Anna, my lads would never do such a thing. They would rather cut out my heart.” He wanted to reach out to her so badly it hurt. Still, he waited. “Did your father’s lads hold you down?”
“No, just my mother. I saw it start once, but when she screamed, I ran away. I have been so ashamed of not helping her.” A tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away.
“Would you like me to hold you?” Suddenly, she ran into his arms. He wanted to comfort her, but she wanted to be kissed, so he lowered his lips to hers and remembered to be gentle and loving.
In the window of the Keep, Katie sighed. “At last.”
It was another two weeks of long walks, talking, laughing and kissing before Anna began to feel more comfortable. She wanted to know every detail of what would happen when she came into his bedchamber and he didn’t hold back a single thing. Sometimes, he explained two different ways until he was sure she understood. When he told her again that she would find pleasure in it, she rolled her eyes.
Then at last, she opened the door to his bedchamber in the middle of the night and went in to his waiting arms.
Rachel had a dark secret and even she didn’t know what it was. She was seventeen, determined to become as good a warrior as any Highlander and was firmly against taking a husband. Connor had other ideas. He loved Rachel and when a rival clan took her, he thought he would lose his mind. How would he ever get her back and if he did, would her dark secret separate them forever?
She knelt down behind a tree and waited. Her prey was a Highlander, a giant of a man and a fearsome warrior. Rachel wasn’t all that big at seventeen, but she was quick, cunning and rarely missed her mark with a bow and arrow. She always carried at least one dagger and she wasn’t afraid to use it, but today she planned to topple the giant with her bare hands. If she succeeded, her joy would be complete.
Waiting was something she was not good at. Where was he? Quite some time ago, she watched him head to the loch to bathe and it never took this long. She didn’t watch him bathe. She hadn’t done that since she was nine and her mother told her not to. Now, she knew exactly how close she could get to the loch without accidentally seeing anything.
The men in the MacGreagor Clan paid far more attention to keeping themselves clean than men in the other clans, and Rachel had been close enough to unfamiliar men to know the reason why. She could sometimes smell them long before she could hear or feel their nearness.
She spun around, lost her balance and landed on her bottom at the base of the tree. Chagrinned, she flipped her long, dark curls behind her shoulders with both hands and looked up at the giant. She was caught. Rachel slowly closed her eyes and let the breath she’d been holding escape from her lips. Then she stood up, glared and folded her arms defiantly.
“I will have a word with you.”
“Of course ,you will.” She sighed and followed Laird Kevin MacGreagor away from the loch to a big rock she sometimes hid behind. Then she sat down and waited for what she knew was coming.
Kevin’s shoes had the long leather straps the men customarily laced up to their knees. She was grateful the women didn’t have to go to so much trouble to dress. They wore matching pleated plaids held in place by leather belts. The women spread one length over their hearts and one shoulder, just like the men, but their plaids hung down to their ankles and they didn’t have to wear those cumbersome shoes.
Rachel realized she wasn’t paying attention and finally looked up. Kevin had a pleasant face, blond hair, blue-gray eyes and he wasn’t frowning. He was, however, standing in front of her with his legs apart and his hands clasped behind his back. She rolled her eyes. “Well, get on with it.”
“I have been meaning to thank you.”
She was completely taken aback -- but not for long. She tilted her head to one side and looked at him suspiciously. Rachel was even more shocked when the giant sat down beside her on the rock. “Thank me for what?”
“When you first came to us, you were very little and you followed a cat around for hours, watching to see how the cat caught the mouse. When he succeeded, you were as happy and as proud as the cat. By the time you were five, you began to sneak up behind the men and pinch them right above the knee.”
Rachel smiled. “I remember.”
“The first time you did it, I feared Clymer would throttle you. You got him twice more and after that, he became aware of where you were at all times. Do you know what I did then?”
“I let you keep doing it.”
“Because we were not as mindful as we should have been, and I had not found a way to sharpen our skills. You did that for us.”
“But Kevin, you have been scolding me for years.”
“Aye, but have I ever told you to stop?”
Her eyes shifted from side to side. “I do not believe you have.”
“I have not. Yesterday, two of our lads became aware that someone was watching them. They were able to avoid a possible attack because you taught them so well.”
I hope you enjoyed Anna's story. Marti Talbott