Plight of the Highlander (The MacLomain Series: Next Generation Book 5) (10 page)

BOOK: Plight of the Highlander (The MacLomain Series: Next Generation Book 5)
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There was a stretched moment of confusion as light and dark gray simmered within his eyes. He carefully pulled her finger from his lips, brows lowering slowly. As if nature was in on the moment, a cloud covered the sun and his face darkened. Colin started to shake his head then stopped, a few damning words whispered from his lips. “Nay, it cannae be.”

Colin knew Valan. There could be no doubt. It had been one thing to find out she was part dragon, another thing entirely to realize that she had fallen in love with Valan’s friend. The two sensations though different, were brutally similar in their emotional punch.

“I should have suspected this, but I was told so many time-traveled. How do ye know Valan,” Colin pushed past grim lips as he backed away.

Bereft, she felt the loss of his hands on her face, the heat and warmth that had seconds before been theirs. Shaking her head, she reached out but he moved away.

Colin pinched the bridge of his nose, took a few steps away then spun back, eyes meeting hers. “Ye are her.”

“Who?” she started then stopped. Her eyes fell to the floor then she turned to look out the window, unable to hold his gaze. She had known they were all from the same era. Had some part of her purposefully avoided mentioning she knew another from their time? Had guilt truly ruled her that much? No doubt it had. But her time with Colin had been so wonderful and mayhap she had been afraid of losing such.

Colin was having none of her avoidance now. He spun her and held her arms, eyes such a dark shade of gray they bordered black. “He loves you. Did ye know that when ye met me?” When she closed her eyes, he grasped her chin and ground out, voice laced with pain. “Open your eyes. Look at me.”

Torra might have chosen self-induced reclusion but she would only tolerate so much. Though she tore her chin from his grasp, she did not step away from the now furious highlander towering over her. Nay, she jutted her chin forward and looked him in the eye. “Aye, I knew it but I didnae feel the same.”

Obviously unappeased by both her words and passion, Colin’s head pulled back and his eyes widened. “So ye knew there was a lad out there that cared for ye, but still ye turned eyes so easily to another?”

Torra clenched her teeth, emotions brutally raw as she looked into his dumbfounded eyes. “Aye but not with intent. Ye were there and I,” she shook her head, fury growing as well, “and I couldnae bloody look away!”

Colin clenched his fists. Shaking, he bit out, “We have shared so much. Why not once did ye mention that ye’d met another lad from the future?” He shook his head, livid. “Not once.”

Tremors raked her from head to toe and guilt quickly replaced fury as she watched torture churn in his gaze. “I meant to. I should have.” She shook her head, a tear trickling down her cheek. “I just never expected things to…and then I became so caught up in…” Her words trailed into a whisper, “Then I feared I’d lose ye.”

Torra would not give the entire truth. She’d not put Valan in a negative light. Not after all that she had already done.

Colin raised his hands slightly as though he meant to pull her close while simultaneously pushing her away. Breath harsh, face stern, eyes rabid with emotion, he said, “I cannae do this. We
cannae
. I’m sorry. He’s my
friend
.”

For the first time since she had learned she was part dragon, Torra felt the beast surface without the comfort of Iosbail or her chamber in the MacLomain castle. Eyes burning, she said, “I dinnae love him, Colin.” While the human part of her sought not to mention it, the beast within had no such issue. “Besides, he has another lass.”

Colin paused but while she thought he might soften he instead closed off entirely, eyes leaden gray. “‘Tis less what ye did to him and that isnae good but more that ye were not honest with me to begin with. Again, I cannae do this.”

“But I can,” she said without pause.

“Why?” he said vehemently, pain in his eyes. “Better yet,
how
?”

Torra slammed her hand down. “Because he loves another lass!”

 

Startled, the past soon became the future and her hand rested on the table in a cottage along the North Sea.

Memories vanished as she returned to the present.

Valan and Colin stared at her, clearly astounded.

The Colin from her past faded. In his place, a warrior that had since defected from his clan, served four winters beneath Keir Hamilton so that he might keep her safe. Across from him sat the tyrant’s son who was once his friend and first to love his lass…to love
her
.

But none of that mattered as her harsh words resonated in the air.

Because he loves another lass.

Torra closed her eyes and shook her head, unwilling to look at either. But had she not ordered them to sit down so that she might try to settle the unrest between them? This certainly was not doing that. So she rallied her courage and opened her eyes.

To Leslie.

Hands on her hips, she’d just stopped in the doorway. Her eyebrows shot up then she flinched as she looked from man to man then at Torra. “Caught between a Hamilton and a MacLeod. Now that can
never
be good.”

Malcolm came alongside, his sharp eyes assessing the situation. “Ye’ve the right o’ it lass.”

Then Iosbail joined them, eyes narrowed on the three. “‘Tis an ill thing when I’ve got to seek out my guests so that they might come join the festivities, aye?”

Although Torra had hoped to smooth out the tension between Colin and Valan, she’d made things ten times worse. Now there was a new strain between them all.

Iosbail arched a brow at Torra. “Come now, aye?”

Torra clenched her fist on the table, inhaled deeply then nodded. “Aye. I just need to change.”

“As do I,” Colin said, his voice low, troubled, emotional.

Leslie’s eyes shot from Colin to Valan then to Torra. Bless the lass when she said, “Need some help?”

Iosbail eyed the Broun lass but said nothing.

While Torra had no desire to be a coward, the thunderous looks on both Colin and Valan’s faces made her respond instantly. “Aye, ‘twould be welcome. Much thanks.”

“Great.” Leslie entered.

Torra knew that the futuristic lass felt like she was walking into a minefield, but she didn’t hesitate. Grateful, Torra led her into the back chamber.

The minute the door shut behind them, Leslie’s eyes rounded and she nodded at the bed. “If you don’t know how to do it let me explain. We’ve arrived at the part in this story where you fling yourself back on the bed and sigh with relief that you haven’t got two really big Scotsmen glowering at you.” Leslie was relentless in her attack. “And trust me, they might glare something fierce but both wanna do things to you that’d make your head spin…in a really bad, good sorta way I’d guess.”

Chapter Seven

 

Torra paused at Leslie’s words. “I’m not so sure—”

Leslie shook her head, rueful. “Oh no, sweetheart. They want you like—”

“Nay, I ken.” Torra was
more
than sure she did not want to hear what might come out of Leslie’s mouth next.

When they paused and stared at one another, Leslie didn’t take long in saying, “Like I said, this is the part where you fling yourself back on the bed and sigh. Trust me, it’ll feel good. Then we’ll get you dressed and continue on.”

Torra wasn’t as familiar with Leslie as she was with Sheila. But something about this woman empowered her as Colin tried to do. She was forceful without being brutal.

And in truth all Torra really wanted to do was rage against the men beyond the door. Aye, she had made mistakes. Aye, she should have been more truthful.

But was she not human?

She bit her lower lip as pain spliced through her. Nay, she wasn’t
human
at all.

Leslie narrowed her eyes and nodded at the cot. “You can even scream if you want.”

Torra shook her head and frowned. “Nay.”

“Why not?”

Now this was where the twenty-first and thirteenth centuries differed. There were things to be considered, people listening. The actions of one always led to the actions of another.

“Nay,” Torra repeated when Leslie continue to stare at her.

Leslie’s lips twisted before she at last shrugged. “Suit yourself. I might be brave but I’ve seen you in dragon form and sorry but I won’t be pushing you down to prove my point.”

Torra would not be baited. “Forcing someone to do something isnae a good idea anyways.”

Holding the dress up that Torra would be wearing, Leslie again shrugged. “Yep, totally agree.”

If anything, Torra figured that despite her assurance otherwise, this Broun would shove her onto the bed and force her to relax. But instead, Leslie fidgeted with the material, a sour look on her face. “Not going to say it again. Real big men out there that have all sorts of ideas about how you treated them.” Leslie lowered her chin and eyed Torra. “Right here, right now, is a reprieve before all that crap and trust me, it’ll be a boat load.”

Torra sunk onto the cot, shaken but feeling less so by the moment. Leslie was right. Colin and Valan were mad, furious most likely. And now she’d been given a reprieve. Besides, what good could she do while they were both so angry? Little. Nothing really. Yet…should she not be out there explaining herself? Before Leslie had appeared she made it seem as though she was only with Colin because Valan loved another.


Overthinking
,” Leslie chimed in a low voice but said nothing more.

Disarmed by a virtual stranger giving her advice, Torra sat up straighter. Though she meant naught to say harmful words, she did. “What qualifies you to offer wisdom in such?”

Leslie sighed and set aside the material as she looked at Torra. “Because I understand how confusing love can be. I totally get how you think you can completely love one guy then another comes along that makes you question things.”

Torra frowned. “Question things?”

“Hell yeah.” Leslie’s face was uncharacteristically compassionate. “I might be wrong, but from my vantage point you’ve lived a pretty sheltered life, mainly because you had no choice being half dragon and all.” The Broun’s lips pinched together. “Yet the way I see it you’re just a woman inside all that dragon and damn that has to suck, sweetie.”

When Torra frowned, Leslie sat next to her and knocked shoulders. “In a really kick-ass sorta way.”

“There is nothing kick arse about it,” Torra murmured.

This lass needed to leave.

When Torra went to stand, Leslie took her hand and pulled her back down, shaking her head. “Sorry, I haven’t been making much sense. Let’s rewind.” The Broun breathed deeply, eyes averted. “When I fell in love with your brother, Bradon, I was still hung up on another guy.”

This got her attention. Torra paused, listening.

“The thing was the guy I thought I loved had passed away. When that happened I didn’t think,” Leslie shook her head, eyes pained, “No, I know I didn’t want to love another. I didn’t want to let Patrick go. But talking to Bradon…
knowing
him, somehow made a difference.”

Leslie squeezed her hand. “While our circumstances are far different they might not be entirely. There was a moment with your brother when I realized that I loved him far more deeply than my ex.” Leslie’s eyes met hers. “It was true love. And though I’d loved before it wasn’t nearly the same as what I found with Bradon.”

Caught off guard, Torra shook her head. “I never loved Valan.”

Leslie’s expression flattened and her pale green eyes were nothing less than direct. “Pretty sure you did at least a little bit. If not,” she gestured to the room beyond, “all this wouldn’t be happening
aye
?”

Appalled at Leslie’s insinuation, Torra continued to shake her head.

But the lass wasn’t backing down. “Valan’s hot as heck by any woman’s standards so the physical attraction is unavoidable,” Leslie informed, voice matter-of-fact. “And trust me I don’t say that lightly considering his douche of a father, Keir Hamilton.”’

“Not to mention.” Leslie held up a finger to halt Torra’s response. “You met him during what
had
to be your first time beyond MacLomain walls since you were a kid which meant Valan was the first real person you’d talked to in.” Leslie ticked off her fingers and looked at Torra. “What, like five years?”

Torra tried to get a word in edgewise, but Leslie continued. “What you need to realize is that love can have varying depths. From the love of a friendship to something far deeper. Colin affected you as profoundly as Bradon did me but what we share doesn’t erase or dispel what existed between me and Patrick. In fact, it was your brother who helped me better understand it.”

That didn’t surprise her in the least. Bradon might’ve always enjoyed the lasses a wee bit too much, but he had a truly kind soul. She gave him much credit for urging Leslie to not abandon the love she’d had for another but to simply recognize it as different. Growing less irritated with Leslie, she said, “I dinnae think Colin would like hearing that I had any feelings for Valan at all.”

Leslie narrowed her eyes in consideration. “I’m not so sure you’re right about that. Though granted it’s going to take me awhile to warm to Colin MacLeod, I’ve been pretty impressed by him since we arrived here.”

Torra eyed Leslie. “Why, because he worked with you to defeat Iosbail in a fight?”

“Well, that didn’t hurt any.” Leslie chuckled but shook her head. “But no, that’s not the reason. Setting aside the fact he defected from his clan for four years to keep you safe, I see the way he looks at and treats you. Despite what you might think, he’s no fool. I’d bet anything he knows you loved Valan differently than you love him and no doubt knew it
before
he went to the Hamiltons. But that didn’t stop him, did it? Think about that.”

She had, for far too long. Yet the guilt never went away and she shook her head. “‘Tis in the past now.”

Leslie cocked a brow. “Not based on what I just saw. Something tells me you seriously need to clear the air with them both. Besides lessening the friction between them, it might also help lessen the mental weight you still carry.”

Mayhap she was right. Nay, she was
definitely
right. But how to go about that? With a heavy sigh, she nodded. Then, more than ready to take Leslie’s previous advice, she flopped back on the cot and flung her arms over her head.

“There ya go!” Leslie grinned. “Doesn’t feel too bad, does it?”

Actually, it didn’t. Not at all. Taking a few deep breaths, she lay there for several long moments. Her new sister-by-marriage had the right of it. Now she somehow had to tell Valan and Colin where she stood. Because while she was very much in love with Colin, there
had
been feelings betwixt her and Valan. A different sort of love altogether. And though she’d tried to deny it, hearing of Valan’s love for another lass had hurt.

Feeling far better, or at least far more honest with herself than she had before, she sat up and took the dress from Leslie. “Many thanks, lass…on several counts.”

“Anytime,” Leslie said.

As Torra crawled into the dress, she suddenly felt a little embarrassed. Here she was with the powerful blood of a dragon running through her veins and more magic than most, yet when it came to matters of the heart, she knew less than nothing.

“No need to be embarrassed. You’re half human and like the rest of us, have to learn as you go.” Leslie put a few fingers to her forehead and flinched. “Sorry, my empathic abilities are really growing. I didn’t mean to intrude on your emotions.”

Torra quickly plaited her hair into a braid and tied it off with a swath of plaid. “No need to apologize. It seems as I am to learn more about myself as a lass, you are to learn more about yourself as a witch, aye?”

Where Torra had at first wondered about Bradon’s attraction to Leslie, she now better understood. It seemed there was more to the lass than a pretty face. Though she might be overly blunt, there was not only a kindness but a fire of the spirit in her that would likely always keep Bradon enamored.

When they exited, Torra was startled to realize Colin, Valan and Iosbail had already left. Only Malcolm waited outside. He shook his head at Torra. “Well, you’ve got them stirred up good you do.”

“Aye,” she murmured as they headed up the woodland path toward the castle. Yet she couldn’t help but be disappointed that Colin hadn’t waited for her.

“Dinnae look so down, lass,” Malcolm said. “‘Twas upon Iosbail’s order that they went. She’s eager for new blood in her gaming.”

“Wasn’t there enough of it last night?” Leslie said.

“It seems not.” Malcolm shrugged. “Besides, I’d say she meant to put the bad blood between the two to the test once more.”

Torra wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that. “More swordplay?”

“At the verra least.”

Though worried about Colin, Torra couldn’t help but notice Malcolm’s unpleasant disposition. Though it was clear he enjoyed spending time with Grant, he missed Cadence and she couldn’t much blame him.

Which, of course, turned Torra’s mind to task. She needed to speak with Iosbail.

“Och, ‘twas as I suspected,” Malcolm said as they rounded the castle.

This time Grant was clashing swords with Valan. Meantime, the MacLeod was watching with both a critical eye and an obvious hunger to be fighting as well.

“How are things betwixt you and Iosbail?” Torra asked Leslie, thinking of the battle the eve before.

“Better than I would’ve expected,” Leslie replied. “Though I haven’t had a chance to chat with her since we fought. Still, I get the sense that she’s good with me.”

Torra nodded, glad to hear it.

Colin’s eyes locked on her as they approached. Leslie looked at Malcolm. “What say we go shoot some arrows? I’ve yet to learn how to do that. Besides, I see Sheila over there.”

“Nay, I want to watch the fighting.”

“And I wish to shoot some arrows.” She shot him a look and arched her brows.

When he frowned, she looked skyward, exasperated. “Let’s give Torra some privacy.”

Malcolm cast an eye to Torra. “Is that what you wish for, lass?”

“Aye, if you wouldnae mind, cousin.”

Malcolm muttered under his breath but soon took Leslie’s elbow and steered her toward the archery. Colin, clearly agitated, turned his attention to the men fighting and didn’t bother to look her way as she joined him.

“We need to talk,” she said, thankful that her voice sounded strong because her heart was flipping about.

Colin gave no response for a long stretch before he finally said, “Did I ever tell you that ‘twas Valan who helped me become the great warrior I am today.”

Torra shook her head, voice soft. “Nay, you didnae.”

“I should have,” he murmured, eyes on the heavy clang of swords. “I should have talked about our friendship sooner. How he helped me to better ken what my Da expected of me as next in line to be chieftain. Before I met Valan, I thought my Da a tyrant. Little did I realize that he only sought to make me a stronger warrior, a better leader, but always did he love me.” Colin shook his head, staring without seeing the battling. “Valan shared much about Keir Hamilton and what life was like with such a Da.”

Pain tightened her chest. They’d never much talked about their individual time with Valan and now she realized the mistake in that. So, though difficult, she said, “Aye, he shared as much with me as well.”

So it was that she got a good idea of what Keir Hamilton was like before he ever pursued her. Or so she thought. And while Keir had likely manipulated them all from the beginning a harsh wave of renewed anger blew through her that Valan all but handed her over to his Da.

“I’ll fight ye now Grant MacLomain,” Iosbail declared though there was yet a victor between him and Valan.

BOOK: Plight of the Highlander (The MacLomain Series: Next Generation Book 5)
7.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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