Fated Hearts 02 - Highland Echoes

BOOK: Fated Hearts 02 - Highland Echoes
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Highland Echoes

 

Fated Hearts Book 2

 

By

Ceci Giltenan

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

 

Copyright 2015 by Ceci Giltenan

www.duncurra.com

V3

Cover Design: Earthly Charms

 

ISBN-10:1942623011

ISBN-13:978-1-94262301-4

 

Produced in the USA

Dedication

This book is dedicated to mothers and daughters.

To my mother who is my biggest fan and more of a rock than anyone will ever know.

To my daughter who fills me with joy and whom I adore. Her tiny hand held a piece of my heart from the moment she entered this world on the Feast of St. John the Baptist and it always will.

To Lily Baldwin and her sweet wee lass, my inspiration for Grace and Kristen. What matters most? Kindness. What never helps? Panicking.

To my cousin Charlene who was blessed by the love of two mothers. One who gave her life and in love, let her go. And the other, who in love, embraced the tiny life entrusted to her and raised her to be a truly lovely woman.

And finally to all my readers whose lives have been touched by the unique love of a mother, a daughter, or any woman in one of those roles.

Pronunciation Guide

Bhaltair

VAHLtare

Catriona

kuh TREE nah

Eanraig

ANE ray

Eoin

OHwen

Fiona

feeOHna

Innes

in NEZ

Naomh-dùn

NAYV DOON

 

Glossary

bairn

(BAIRn) A baby

burn

A small stream

canonical hours

The medieval day was ordered by these times, rather than clock times

Vigil, Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline.

compline

(COMP lin) Night prayer, after sunset, before bedtime.

costrel

A vessel for carrying water, like a canteen.

eejit

A slang term meaning idiot.

ell

A medieval unit of measure that varied widely. In some places it was the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. In Scotland it was twice that amount or approximately a yard.

gob

A rude slang term meaning mouth.

kertch

Also called a
brèid
(BREEdt): a square of pure white linen folded in half and worn by married women to cover their hair. It is a symbol of the Holy Trinity, under whose guidance the married woman walks.

lauds

(LAWDS) Sunrise.

league

A unit of measure equal to 3 miles or 5.6 kilometers. In the middle ages it was considered the distance a typical person could walk in an hour.

matins

Just before sunrise

neep

Turnip.

none

(rhymes with bone) Literally the ninth hour, about 3 in the afternoon.

peevers

Hopscotch. This game dates back to Roman times. Peevers with a burden, is playing hopscotch carrying something heavy.

prime

After the first hour of daylight, about 6 in the morning.

quoits

An ancient game similar to horseshoes except a quoit is a closed ring.

sext

Literally the sixth hour, noon.

shinty

A game played with sticks and a ball, related to an Irish game called hurling (similar in some ways to field hockey). This game dates back to the pre-Christian Celtic people and is still played today.

skelp

Hit, beat.

sweetling

An endearment.

terce

Literally the third hour of daylight, about 9 in the morning.

wheesht

Shh, hush.

vespers

Evening prayer, sunset.

vigil

The night office, the period from compline to matins (just before dawn).

 

The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer

– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Prologue

May 1317, the Isle of Lewis

 

The cold May rain had been unrelenting but finally through the misty gloom Catriona could see the small fishing village that was their destination. The journey from the northern tip of Scotland to the Isle of Lewis with her new husband had taken hours through the rainy, rough seas. She had prayed to all the saints, fearful she would never see land again. Now she whispered her prayer of thanks that they had arrived.

Catriona had defied her parents by marrying Tristan Murray. Her father would be utterly furious when he found out. She believed, without a doubt, that if he had the opportunity, her father would make her a widow in the blink of an eye. She and Tristan could not risk staying anywhere near her clan’s land. Tristan, who had trained to be a warrior, wouldn’t even risk joining the ranks of another clan for fear they would be discovered. Together, they fled to the northern coast where Tristan had found work on a fishing vessel.

The captain never questioned why they wanted to leave the mainland. Rather, he assured them they would be welcome on the isle. One look at Tristan’s well-muscled body told the captain all he needed to know—Tristan would be an asset. “Laird Morrison earns a great deal off of the clan fishermen. As long as ye are willing to work, ye’ll have a home with us,” the old captain had assured Tristan.

Home.

The fishing village was certainly not remotely like the home she was leaving. Still, she loved Tristan with all her heart and he loved her in return. Her home, where ever she found herself, was with this man who held her heart so firmly.

Tristan wrapped his big, strong arms around her from behind. “My beautiful bride, we’re almost there. Are ye excited?”

She turned in his arms to look at him. The wind whipped his dark hair. His storm gray eyes twinkled and his face was alight with unrestrained joy. His excitement chased away any lingering doubt she might have had. She smiled up at him. “Aye, I am. I can barely believe we are married and away. I’m a little scared though.”

“What scares ye, love?”

“What if Da finds us?”

He tightened his grip on her. “He won’t. He’ll search, but only amongst the ranks of soldiers. He would expect me to sell my sword-arm but never to do this, to become a fisherman.”

“This is such a huge change for both of us.”

“Aye it is, my sweet love. But it’s the only way we can be together. Ye know it’s true.”

“Aye, I know. I’m sorry. If my father cared a whit about me, I wouldn’t have had to force ye from the life ye planned for yerself.”

“Enough of that Catriona. This was as much my decision as yers. The life I had planned would have meant nothing without ye in it. Nothing.” He kissed the top of her head. “Once ye captured my heart, I couldn’t have lived without ye. Nay, we both set this course and we will follow it together. I’m sure it will be hard at first, but I know we can build a life here.”

Build a life
. Aye, that is what they were doing. They had chosen not to accept what lay in store for each of them—a life directed by others, over which they had no control. They would never have been allowed to follow their hearts and marry. If they hadn’t taken steps to change their fate, she was certain their lives would have been filled with heartache and regret. Tristan was right. This was the only way. “Aye, we’ll build a life together. I like the sound of that.”

And build a life they did.

Chapter 1

Late April 1340, the Isle of Lewis

 

Grace Breive bounced her three year old daughter Kristen on her hip nervously as she waited with the rest of the villagers to pay the spring rents to Laird Morrison. The previous September her father and Callum, her husband, had made the accounting to the laird. That seemed like a different lifetime now, as if it had been a dream. A dream which had crumbled around as she lost her husband and both parents. At one and twenty, she was alone but for her wee daughter.

A table and chair had been placed near the village well at which the laird sat. His son, Fearchar, stood beside him. She noticed Fearchar staring intently at her several times. His open appraisal disturbed her.

Behind them was a wagon into which goods, provided in lieu of coin, were being loaded under the watchful eye of a number of the laird’s guardsmen.

When her turn came, she stepped forward, stood Kristen on the ground beside her, and curtsied. “Good day Laird.”

“Good day, Mistress Breive. My condolences on the loss of yer mother.”

“Thank ye, Laird.”

“I’m sure it was a terrible blow, coming so soon after the accident.”

She swallowed hard against the knot forming in her throat at the reminder of all she had lost.
Don’t show them any weakness
. She steeled herself. “Aye, Laird, it was but I’m managing.” She stepped closer to the table and handed him a small pouch containing the coins for her rents.”

He spilled the coins into his hand as a slow smile spread across his face. “Aye, ye seem to be managing nicely. Well done.”

“Thank ye, Laird.” Relief flooded her. She curtsied, intending to take her leave when Fearchar stepped forward.

“Wait,” he growled. “Ye haven’t been dismissed.”

The laird frowned. “She has paid her rents in full, son. There is no reason to keep her.”

“Father, ye can’t mean to leave a young widow living on her own.”

“I don’t see the harm.” The laird smiled at her again. “This is her home. She is a skilled weaver and appears to be able to care for herself and her daughter. Unless something changes, I’m inclined to let her continue doing so.”

“Father, I think ye are overlooking the obvious. She hasn’t been alone that long.”

Laird Morrison’s brow furrowed. “Tristan and Callum died in October. She made it through the winter quite well.”

Grace grew increasingly uncomfortable. They talked about her as if she were a head of livestock. Yet, she knew better than to say anything. She stood still, holding Kristen’s hand tightly, looking down and waiting to be addressed, or excused.

Fearchar persisted, “Her mother was still alive to help her. I understand she only passed away two months ago. Nay, I think it’s a mistake to risk leaving her on her own.”

Lachie, an old friend of Grace’s father spoke up. “Laird, her mother had been gravely ill since before Tristan and Callum died. Grace has managed quite well.”

“Aye she has,” agreed Hamish, another of her father’s friends.

“And with no help from any of ye?” Fearchar said, his voice dripping with scorn.

Kristen began to fret and tug at her hand. Grace picked her up again. “Wheesht, Kristen,” she whispered, bouncing the child, trying to keep her quiet.

“She’s no bother to anyone,” assured Lachie’s wife, Sheila.

Fearchar ignored the words of support from her friends. “Father, clearly they all feel sorry for a lass who has lost her parents and husband in the space of a few months. But come next winter when she is unable to feed her sniveling bairn, none of them will thank ye for leaving her here in their midst.”

Grace was stunned. She couldn’t imagine why Fearchar was pushing this issue.

The laird considered Grace for a moment. “What say ye lass? Ye would be more than welcome to work with the weavers at the castle. I might even be able to find a new husband for ye from amongst my guardsmen. The sooner ye remarry the better.”

Grace didn’t want another husband and she certainly didn’t want to go live at the castle. She didn’t understand Fearchar’s motives so she chose her words carefully. “Laird, yer offer is most kind, but this is my home. I believe I can provide for myself and my child
here
. I would prefer not to leave.”

Fearchar glared at her, but the laird seemed convinced. “Then ye shall stay, at least through Michaelmas. If ye are managing well enough at that time and there is no risk of ye becoming a burden to yer neighbors, I will allow ye to continue to live here.”

She wasn’t sure what she had done to draw Fearchar’s ire but she thought it best to leave before he could raise any further objection. She curtsied again, somewhat awkwardly with Kristen still in her arms. “Thank ye laird.” Clutching Kristen close, she wove her way through the villagers. No sooner had she made it to the edge of the village than Fearchar appeared at her side. He grabbed her elbow roughly, sneering at her. “Allow me to see ye home, mistress Breive.”

Grace tried to extricate herself from his grip. “That isn’t necessary. I’m sure yer father needs yer assistance.”

Fearchar only tightened his grip, his fingers digging cruelly into her arm. “Nonsense,” he said, giving her arm a jerk. “Clearly, he doesn’t need my assistance. He certainly doesn’t listen to my advice.”

He strode angrily away from the center of the village, pulling her along beside him, causing her to stumble. She was afraid. No one had ever handled her so roughly. “Please stop, ye’re hurting me.”

He ignored her, yanking her beside him until they reached her little cottage, well out of sight of the people gathered in the square. He shoved her against the front wall. Kristen whimpered.

Fearchar grabbed Grace’s face with one hand and painfully squeezed a breast with the other. He leaned in, planting a brutal kiss on her lips.

Holding her daughter with one arm, Grace tried without success to push him away with the other. When Kristen started wailing, he let Grace go, raising his hand as if ready to backhand the child. “Nay, don’t hurt her!” She turned her back to Fearchar, sheltering Kristen with her body.

Fearchar yanked Grace back to face him. His hand still raised, she covered Kristen’s head with her free hand, preparing to fend off the blow. But he didn’t strike either of them, he simply glared at her. Slowly he lowered his hand. “Ye will be living at the keep before the end of the summer and then ye will be mine to use when I want ye. That is my promise. It will be better for ye if ye decide to come of yer own accord, sooner rather than later. If ye resist me on this, I will make ye sorry.” He turned and strode back to the village square, leaving her terrified and trembling with a screaming child in her arms.

“Wheesht, Kristen.” Grace patted her back, trying to soothe her even as she rushed inside their little cottage and barred the door. “Wheesht, little one,” she crooned. “He’s gone now. We are home. Everything will be fine.” Kristen stopped wailing, but her little body still jerked with sobs.

Everything will be fine
. Even as she said it, Grace knew it was an empty promise. Everything would have been fine if she had just been allowed to live her simple life and raise her daughter quietly, unnoticed. Even that pale dream now laid shattered amongst all of her others. Fearchar had a reputation of being both cruel and self-indulgent. Grace was certain that he would make good on his promise.

She swayed back and forth, humming a lullaby, lulling Kristen to sleep.

There was work to do, but Grace needed to feel the comfort of her sleeping daughter in her arms for just a few more minutes. Instead of tucking Kristen into bed for a nap, Grace sank into a chair simply holding her precious babe and remembering the sweet perfection their lives had been just months ago.

She thought of her parents. Of the many gifts they gave her, by far the most wonderful had been their capacity to love. They showed their love to her and to each other without reserve. Perhaps then it came as no surprise when, at seventeen, she too gave her heart without reservation to Callum Breive.

A tear slipped down Grace’s cheek as she remembered her husband. When she caught his eye, he had been a tall, shy, slender lad of nineteen with sandy brown hair and gray eyes who was alone in the world. He worked on the fishing boats with her father and as much as her father had hated to admit it, he liked and respected the young man. After about a year her parents had finally consented for them to be wed. She delivered their wee perfect lass, Kristen, nine months later, on the day after Grace turned eighteen.

Had it only been six months since her world began to unravel? It seemed a lifetime ago.

Shortly after Michaelmas, her mother became ill and never completely recovered. Then, late in October, a terrible gale blew up suddenly, early one afternoon. Wind, rain, and ice pellets pounded the little cottage. Grace’s anxiety had risen as darkness fell and her father and husband hadn’t returned.

“What never helps, Grace?” Her mother had asked the question that she had asked for as long as Grace could remember. It was intended to teach her to stay calm.

“Panicking. Panicking never helps, Mama.”

Still, it had been all Grace could do to keep from panicking when Sheila came to tell them the small fishing boat Tristan and Callum worked had gone down in the storm. Lachie and his men on a nearby vessel had witnessed it, but were barely able to stay afloat themselves and could do nothing help.

Maybe her mother would have been able to recover from her illness if the heart of her heart hadn’t been ripped from her and dragged to a watery grave. However, the loss of her husband took a toll on Catriona’s already fragile health. She finally succumbed to her illness in February.

Sheer determination had kept Grace rising to face each new day but she kept them fed and earned enough to pay the rents. She had convinced herself she could build a life for her daughter. Perhaps not the one she had always imagined, but at least they had a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and some measure of security.

Security. How could she have been foolish enough to believe they were secure in any way? She gave a mirthless laugh, which caused Kristen to stir, drawing Grace from her memories to the present where there was work to do. After soothing her back to sleep, Grace tucked her in. She had barely left the bedroom when a soft knock sounded at the cottage door. She called through the door, “Who’s there?”

Sheila answered, “Friends, love. Ye can let us in.”

Grace unbarred the door and opened it. She expected to see Sheila and Lachie but there were also several other men from the village. They all wore grim expressions. Sheila rung her hands and looked to be on the edge of tears. Lachie said gently, “Grace, lass, we need to talk with ye.”

“Aye, Lachie. Come in, but we’ll need to keep our voices down, Kristen is napping.”

They filed in, some taking seats, others standing, all clearly worried. “Ye all look so somber, surely it isn’t that bad.” But she knew that was wishful thinking.

“Sit, lass,” Lachie said and guided her to the chair by the hearth. “What happened after ye left the square? I saw Fearchar leave as I spoke to the laird about me own rents. I worried that he was after ye so I excused myself as soon as I could, only to see Fearchar, clearly angry, striding back to the square alone. Were ye able to get back here and bar the door?”

“Nay, he caught up to me and insisted on
seeing me home
.”

Several of the men groaned. “Did he hurt ye, lass?” asked Hamish?

“Nay, not really. He tried to kiss me. It scared Kristen.” Grace didn’t admit to how much it had scared her too.

“What did he say to ye?”

A hot blush rose on Grace’s cheeks and she looked at her hands, clenched in her lap. “He said that I will be living at the keep before the end of the summer and then…then…”

“Then what, lass?” prodded Lachie.

“He said…I will be his to use when he wants.” Grace’s voice was barely audible but by the men’s reactions, she knew they had heard her.

Several men swore under their breaths.

A pained look crossed Lachie’s face. “Aye, that’s what I feared. He threatened some of us before he left.”

Grace was shocked. What could he do to her friends? “Threatened ye? How?”

“He told me that he will not take any further public support of you kindly,” said Hamish.

“Aye,” said another villager, “and he’s done worse. He told me he would be greatly pleased by anyone who tells the laird that ye have become a burden.”

Grace bowed her head. “It is worse than I thought.”

“Ye know we won’t lie about ye Grace,” said Lachie. “But when Fearchar wants something, he usually gets it. He will not rest until he has ye, regardless of what we do. The only thing to do is get ye off the island.”

Sheila knelt beside Grace, and took her hands. “Yer mama and da weren’t born here on the island. Do ye know anything about their families?”

Grace sighed. “I don’t know much. My Da was a Sutherland.”

“I can get ye to Sutherland territory,” Lachie assured her. “We’ll sail to Durness. I have friends there who will be able to see ye safely south to the Sutherlands’ holding.”

BOOK: Fated Hearts 02 - Highland Echoes
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