She dismissed his outburst. “Why has my mother sent you? Is she unwell?” Anna made it to the bottom of the stairs before she stopped.
Harold took a deep breath, walked to her and tried to recognize her. It wasn’t easy to look at the extraordinarily beautiful face, that was now all swollen and bruised. He had to take another deep breath and then another. “She sent word by way of her maid, who said to say, the beast has broken out.”
Anna’s good eye danced and she smiled. “When?”
“Not more than an hour after you left, your mother guesses. I set out not long behind and did not see him, but I will not be surprised if he is trying to find you.”
Kevin glared, “What beast?”
“Threcher is my horse. My father hates him and calls him ‘the beast.’ But Harold, you did not come all this way to tell me about a horse.”
“No, no, I did not.” He glanced at Kevin and then looked back at her. “‘Tis a private matter.”
“Then we will ask Laird MacGreagor to excuse us.”
Kevin was not pleased. “Nay, she is not to be alone with any lad save me, until we find the swine that beat her.”
“I agree,” Harold said, surprising everyone. He was an old man and so short, his head barely reached the giant’s armpit, nor was he aware the three MacGreagor warriors were now standing right behind him. “In that case, I will whisper it…with your permission, Laird MacGreagor.”
Kevin allowed it, but the warriors made sure Harold kept his hands off Kevin’s wife.
Anna listened to his words and then asked, “Does my mother know what is happening?”
“That is how I knew where to find you.” Harold took a step back and trampled the toes of one of the giants. His eyes flew open wide and he was sure he would meet his maker that very day. Fortunately, the giant didn’t strike him and accepted his hasty apology.
Now Anna was actually crying. Through a cloud of tears, she thanked Harold and turned to her husband. “Please see that Harold gets home safely. I need him.” She started up the stairs and again Thomas stayed by her side.
When she turned her back and Harold saw the rope burns, he had to bite his knuckle and turn away until she was out of hearing. Then he lost all control. “That scunner!”
Kevin and his warriors moved closer. “Who? Tell me his name?”
“I cannot and neither can she.”
“There are lives at risk.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Kevin watched his wife disappear into her bedchamber and then studied the sincerity on the man’s face. “Is Rachel one of them?” Harold looked distressed and could not even begin to speak so Kevin decided to explain. “Anna talked in her sleep.”
“Oh.” Harold slumped. “That is what I came to tell her. They moved Rachel and we do not know where she is.”
“Who moved her?”
“Laird MacGreagor, please do not ask me that question. Rachel is very young and she could be anywhere by now. I cannot say for sure, but I would be willing to wager Anna took that beating to save her sister’s life.”
Thomas asked, “How did you get all this way on our land without anyone spotting you?”
“Oh, they spotted me; they just did not know it. And if I tell you how, I will not be able to come back.”
Thomas rolled his eyes, “Kevin, what should we do with him.”
“See him safely home. Anna wants his help and so do I.” With that, he turned and headed up the stairs. He knew whomever Thomas assigned to see Harold home would grill the man all the way back to England if he had to. Kevin was determined to find out what the hell was going on.
When he entered the bedchamber, Anna was staring out the window. “Are you all right?” He asked it so softly he wasn’t sure she heard.
“‘Tis a beautiful land.” The window looked out over the colorful glen at the edge of the forest and she was right, it was beautiful. “I suspect I could see it better without all these tears in my eyes.”
He picked a cloth up off the table and handed it to her. “Would you like to go for a walk?”
“I cannot. I mean, I would not want your people to see me like this.”
“They are your people now too, and they have already seen you.”
“Yes, but not for long. Katie will not let me look, but I see it in her eyes and Harold was revolted. I know it must be dreadful.”
“Would you like a mirror?”
She turned to him and nodded. She carefully dabbed at her tears, heard him open the door to the next bedchamber, and then watched him come back in.
He gave her a hand mirror and stepped away. “It was my mother’s and you may keep it if you like.”
“Thank you.” It took all of her will power, but finally she lifted the mirror and looked. Horrified, she instantly lowered it and closed her eyes. At length, she looked again and began to study the damage more closely. She opened her mouth as wide as she could and looked at the inside of her cheek. It was obvious both her upper and lower teeth had deeply cut it. Then she looked for chipped teeth. They seemed undamaged.
He watched her and was also relieved her teeth were not broken. He noticed how meticulously she examined every inch of her face. Weeks before, he wondered how it would be to have an ugly wife, but dismissed it, thinking no woman could live up to the beauty of the one on the horse. Besides, he intended to ignore the woman most of the time. Still, Anna seemed to care, and if she cared, she would likely try to look her best and it would be enough.
Anna took a deep breath. She was most concerned with her nose. It was bruised, tender to the touch and had a lump on the bridge, but it was once again straight. “Thomas fixed it for me.”
“He told me. He also said you did not cry out. As I recall, when I fixed his nose, he yelled and stomped his foot.”
It made her smile. She looked in the mirror again and then set it down on the table. “I suspect it will take a week or two to find my face again, and I will go daft if I stay hidden away. I believe I would like to take a walk.”
He was pleased with her; she seemed to be sensible. He could have done a lot worse, he reminded himself, and perhaps he might even like her eventually. He already admired her. She didn’t seem to need his comfort either, as he imagined most women would. Instead, her calm manner seemed to soothe his anger and he marveled at the feeling.
Her husband never left her side and was there if she needed him, as she slowly walked down the steps on the outside of the Keep. Clymer was waiting at the bottom and she remembered he was one of the men who had been kind to her the day before. As soon as she reached the bottom, she touched his arm and thanked him.
Anna didn’t notice the two older men standing in the courtyard at first, and when she did, she was intrigued by their different colored plaids. Each had two guards behind him and each had his hands clasped behind his back.
Kevin knew they would be there and wanted them to know she would live, as well as to see her brutalized condition. They were his friends and Lairds in their own right, having control over thousands. One held the land closest to Kevin’s to the north and the other to the west. If there was to be a war, he needed them to know firsthand the reason.