When the door opened, Katie slipped out of the chair, and just before she left her brother alone with his wife, she touched his arm and whispered, “The bleeding has stopped; she will live.”
He hardly knew what to say, so he just watched her for a moment. Parts of her hair had been clipped so near her scalp, it was a wonder she wasn’t cut. Her eyes were closed and he thought she was asleep, so he quietly sat down in the chair and covered her hand with his. Her skin was much warmer now, but when she pulled away, he knew she was awake. “I am sorry we were not there in time to protect you.”
She lifted her head a little. “You could not protect me.”
“Who did this to you?”
She didn’t answer.
“Did you see their faces?”
Again, she didn’t answer.
“Tell me!” He hadn’t meant to raise his voice and when he saw her tense, he instantly regretted it. In a much softer tone, he said, “Anna, you are surrounded by lads who will give their lives to protect you. You are safe now and you need not fret.”
“They cannot protect me.”
“Aye, but they can. You are new to the Highlands and you do not yet understand our strength. You will see; we can protect you.” He walked to the door and when he looked back, her eyes were closed.
All through the night, women took turns sitting by her side. Anna threw up once more, but there was no blood -- a good sign she had no internal injuries. Her mouth began to bleed again, but not badly and it soon stopped. She woke every time she tried to move and remembered to thank the women for helping her. Finally, she decided the pain was not so severe when she turned on her right side. After that, she slept a full five hours.
When she awoke, she couldn’t figure out where she was. A man, no a god, sat in the chair beside her and she had trouble focusing on his face. The sun shone through the window behind him. His hair was golden and he was far too big to be a mortal man.
“Did I die?” she whispered.
Kevin smiled. “Nay.”
“Who are you?”
“I am your husband, do you not remember?”
“Oh.” It seemed easier and a lot less painful to speak than it had the day before, and he spoke English as well as his sister.
Anna slowly moved her legs over the side of the bed and started to sit up before she realized she had nothing on. She quickly covered herself, but not before he noticed the dark bruise on the side of her left knee, lighter ones on her legs and a large bruise on her shoulder. “Perhaps you should stay in bed.”
“No, I need to walk the stiffness out.” She bowed her head then, and closed her eyes. “I am ashamed of my appearance and I would not blame you for refusing me.” She hoped he would.
He changed the subject. “Who is Rachel?”
Her head shot up. “How do you know…?”
“You talked in your sleep.”
“What else did I say?”
“Answer my question first.”
She hesitated but saw no harm in telling him. “Rachel is my little sister.”
“I see. To answer your question, nay, you said nothing else.” He lied. In fact, he thought he knew a great deal. Some of her muttering was impossible to understand, but Rachel was in danger and Anna had to help her. Danger from whom, he did not know, nor was he certain what Anna could do about it. He was sure of one thing; he doubted Anna would tell him who hurt her until Rachel was safe. Did one of the clans have her? The thought made his rage begin to build again. “Is Rachel in danger?”
She didn’t answer.
“Should I notify your father?”
Anna shook her head.
Her father must be dead, he thought. Her attackers killed her father and her guard, then beat her and took her little sister, threatening to kill Rachel if Anna told. Was that what happened? His mind was racing. If that was it, his wife was suffering a lot more than he knew. He decided to ask her another question. “Do you think Rachel is in the Highlands somewhere?”
She shook her head and that changed his every thought. It was the English then, and that meant …”
“Please do not question me.” She touched her short, dark hair and sighed.
“It will grow back and your face will heal. Are you quite certain no ribs are broken? Do you hurt inside?”
“No.” She tried again to smile and this time when she looked, she recognized him. He was the giant on the hill she nearly shot with her arrow. She’d hidden in the trees, watched him search for her and remembered his face. It was a good face and up close, he was quite handsome.
She suddenly remembered Threcher, her beautiful black stallion and her smile faded. Before she was forced to face her father, she whispered in the horse’s ear, told him to escape and find her. Yet, he was just a horse and she knew it was impossible. Her Threcher was probably dead by now anyway.
He noticed the change in her and instinctively reached for her hand, but she jumped and pulled away. “Give me your hand, Anna.” It wasn’t a request; it was an order.
She watched the look in his eye and when she almost believed he did not mean to hurt her, she reluctantly obeyed.
“I give you my pledge. You are my wife and I will never hurt you. If it is the wedding night that worries you, we will not consummate this marriage until you come to me. I will sleep in the next chamber until then.” He let go of her hand and stood up. “There are at least ten lasses outside this door who want to help you. Do not deny them. ‘Tis an honor to help my wife and their feelings will be hurt if you do not allow it. Is there anything you wish me to do?”
She thought about it for a moment. “My father said there would be a banquet. I do not believe …”
“We call it a feast, but you need not worry. We have delayed it until you are healed.”
He was impressed by her courtesy. Just as his sister said, in all her discomfort, Anna still remembered to be courteous. She reminded him of his mother, but he believed his mother was an exception. The English were rarely thought of as courteous by the Highlanders. In fact, they had little regard for the English on any level. He nodded and walked out the door allowing the flood of skirts to enter.
When Anna saw it, she was thrilled. Mary had made a scarf for her head to hide her missing hair. Anna nearly burst into tears of joy, which actually made some of the other women lose a tear or two. She wanted to wear it right away.
Mary smoothed a small section of hair along the side of Anna’s face, wet her fingers and curled it in front of her ear. On the other side, she did the same thing. Then she tied the scarf in the back and all the women smiled their approval.
“I told you she would like it,” Gretchen scoffed.
Natty said, “Nay, I believe I am the one who said it.”