Authors: Gerry Bartlett
Tags: #Glory St. Clair#8
Jerry nodded toward a dark corner of the doorway. “Afraid so. Da’s outfitted the entire area with cameras, sensors. He’s
big on security, and you know how the clan is about the feud with the MacDonalds.”
“Don’t start.” I held up my hand. “Let’s get this deal with Mara over with. Then we can be alone.”
“I’m with you there.” He pulled me into the large living area, where his father sat talking with Mara, the widow of Jerry’s best friend.
“Well, now, it
Gloriana. Welcome to the castle, lass. Mara, look who’s here.” The laird, Angus Jeremiah Campbell II, got up to hug me, then led me to the couch to face Mara. We exchanged wintry smiles. As usual, she was dressed expensively to show off her slim figure. She had the dark red hair, pale skin and altogether perfect looks of a true Scottish lass. I was the epitome of a blond, blue-eyed Englishwoman. Or I’d always thought of myself that way. It had marked me an outsider when I’d first arrived on Jerry’s arm.
Angus asked me questions about my trip, and I answered in a general way. Apparently Jerry hadn’t told his father about the problems between us that had sent him home this time. I sure wasn’t going to bring them up.
“Well, Mara. Jerry says you have big news.” I wanted to move things along.
“I do.” She smiled shyly and glanced at Jerry, then held out her left hand. The huge diamond on her ring finger should have given us all a clue. “I’m getting married.”
“Wow. Just wow. Who’s the lucky guy?” I sat down on a love seat, happy when Jerry sat next to me, his hard thigh snug against mine.
“Davy McLeod. You know him, Jeremiah. He says you two used to race horses together at Newmarket.” Mara stared down at her ring and actually looked happy.
“Sure. Davy’s a good man.” Jerry picked up my hand. I had a feeling he was thinking that I’d never accepted a ring from him.
“A fine clan, the McLeods. Allies in times of war. Not like those backstabbing MacDonalds.” The laird got up and
kissed Mara’s cheek. “Well done, lass. Well done. I wish you happy.”
“And you, Jeremiah. Do you wish me happy?” Mara stood and the gentleman in him got Jerry to his feet instantly.
“Of course. If you want this and love the man, have at it.” Jerry put his hands on her shoulders. “But if you need money or feel pressured for any other reason… Well, you are my daughter’s mother. I will always make sure you are cared for.”
“How thoughtful.” Mara stared up at him, and for a moment I saw the bitter twist to her mouth that told the true story. She’d always wanted Jerry for herself. But she realized now that she couldn’t make him love her and had apparently decided to cut her losses. This McLeod obviously had the bucks and was a decent guy if the laird approved of him. Knowing Mara, she’d already run him through his paces in the sack as well. I kept my mouth shut. I knew anything I had to say would be unwelcome at this point.
“You know you and I…” Jerry glanced back at me, then shook his head. He leaned down to kiss Mara’s cheek. “Be happy.”
“Of course. Will you walk me to the door? Help me with my cloak?” She smiled and smoothed her designer skirt.
“Certainly.” Jerry proffered his arm in the courtly manner of centuries past.
I couldn’t sit still. Something about this whole show seemed off to me. Mara was being docile, almost robotic. Where was the fiery woman who would have at least made a cutting remark to me? Instead, she’d treated me like I was invisible. Which was an improvement but so not like her. She should have been gloating, bragging about the rich, handsome husband she’d captured. Even waved that rock under my nose. I was steps behind the pair as they reached the door to the outside.
“I shifted here and will shift away again. I’ll be all right. Davy’s waiting for me in the village.” Mara let Jerry help her
with her long cloak. The Kilpatrick plaid, of course. Once she married, she’d start wearing the McLeod colors. She’d gone back to her original clan when she’d been made a widow. Everyone in this country seemed to wear their plaids like a badge. Jerry had on his kilt and looked a treat. Even the laird was lounging in his plaid in front of his big-screen TV, which he’d just turned on.
was starting. The man loved blood any way he could find it.
“Be careful.” Jerry settled Mara’s long cape over her shoulders and fastened it at her neck.
“Always.” Suddenly a knife appeared in her hand. “Too late for you.” She plunged it into his chest.
“Jerry, my God! Angus! Help!” I lunged toward her as Mara lifted the knife again. Jerry had grabbed her arm, but she’d obviously wounded him seriously with the first blow because he dragged her down to the floor with him, then slumped, seemingly unresponsive.
I jumped on Mara and wrestled the knife out of her hands to toss it away. Then I pulled her off of him and shoved her to the stone floor, where she struggled like a madwoman, scratching and hitting at me.
“Stop it! What the hell are you doing?” I slapped her face and her eyes widened, like she was coming out of a daze.
“What? Get off of me!” She looked over to where Jerry lay in a pool of his own blood. “Jeremiah? Who did this to you? Gloriana! Did you hurt him?”
“No, you stupid bitch. You stabbed him. How can you deny it?” I climbed off of her and thrust her into Angus’s arms, then dropped to my knees next to Jerry. “Jerry, can you hear me?”
When he didn’t answer me, I got frantic, searching him for other injuries. There was only the one wound, though, and it was relatively minor, for a vampire, and had already stopped bleeding. I pressed my hand to his heart and felt the slow, steady thump. Of course, he was alive, but why wasn’t he stirring? I felt my own heart in my throat as the hall filled with men and noise.
“What happened here?” Angus held on to Mara. “Lass, what’s this about?”
She sobbed and leaned against him. “I don’t know. I don’t know. There was a knife. I only remember the knife. Someone gave me a knife. Outside.”
“Witchcraft. You were spelled.” Angus gestured at the men who’d gathered when he had sounded the alarm. A few murmured questions and hard looks at Mara confirmed my version of what happened. Obviously the security cameras had caught the whole attack. “Outside, search the grounds. Who gave you the knife? What did this person look like?”
“I don’t know.” Mara shook her head. “A woman. Old, I think, not sure. Face covered. Stayed in the dark. I—I couldn’t help myself.” She collapsed on the floor next to Jerry. “What have I done?”
“Well, you haven’t killed him. Lucky for you, or I’d put that knife into your heart and rip it out of your skinny body.” I cradled Jerry’s head in my lap. “Come on, Jerry, please wake up.” Why had he lost consciousness? The knife had gone in between two ribs but hadn’t hit his heart.
Yes, he’d bled a lot and would need to feed, but I’d be more than happy to take care of that. Jerry was strong and healthy. This kind of stab wound shouldn’t even have dropped him. I heard Mara blubbering and wanted to slap her silent. Witchcraft? Not sure I was buying it, but something was off about this.
“Careful with that knife. It may have poison on it.” That was the only explanation I could come up with for Jerry’s condition. The servant who’d been about to pick up the weapon jumped away from it.
“Poison.” Angus stared at Mara. “Are you sure you don’t remember who gave it to you?” He shook her, not too hard, but as if he wanted to make sure she was truly aware of her surroundings. “Speak up, girl. You just stabbed my son. No lies now. Why did you try to kill Jeremiah?”
“I don’t know, Laird. I feel like…” She rubbed her forehead. “I need Davy. Can you call him for me? I only remember
a woman, all in black. She gave me the knife and told me what to do. I didn’t want to do it. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. Like you said. I was bewitched.” She stared up at Angus with her bright green eyes, almost feverish now. “He’s not going to die, is he?”
“He’d better not.” I couldn’t look at her as I ran my hand over Jerry’s strong jaw and the slight roughness of his beard, there no matter how often he shaved. To my relief he moaned and his eyes fluttered open. He stared up at me for a moment, then glanced around the hallway before focusing on me again.
“Jerry, are you all right? How do you feel?” I leaned closer, willing him to say something.
“Like I took a knife in my gut. But if you’re offering to feed me back to health, lass, then I reckon I’ll be up and about in no time.” He grinned and slid a hand to the back of my head to draw my neck down to his mouth. I saw his fangs descend.
“Here? On this cold stone floor? Let’s get you cleaned up and moved to your bed.” I tried to pry his fingers off of me, but he wasn’t ready to let go. “Come on, Jer. This is ridiculous. I’ll feed you. But not here.” I glanced at his father and Mara, who kept staring at us.
“Tell her, Da. The lass seems reluctant. But you paid her well, didn’t you? I need to feed, so I can go after whatever bastard stuck me.” Jerry jerked me close again.
“Wait!” I put my hands on his chest and shoved. “Look at me.” I bit my lip, terribly afraid that I knew what was wrong. “Jeremiah Campbell, just who do you think I am?”
“Your name? No notion. But you’re comely enough and your blood smells like fine wine, damned if it doesn’t.” He sniffed the air, but his smile faltered when he pressed a hand to his chest. “Bloody hell, but that hurts. Let’s get on with it, lass. Quit playing coy and do your duty.” He struggled as he tried to sit up, then looked at his father. “Da, was it the MacDonalds again? Tell William to saddle Thunder and
we’ll ride out as soon as I’ve healed. We’ll teach them to attack us inside our own home.”
Angus didn’t answer, just nodded at me to allow his son to drink. As if I’d deny him. So I let Jerry pull me close until his fangs pierced my neck. He drew deep and I closed my eyes before I slipped my hands up to cling to his silky hair. I sat on the cold stone floor in his father’s castle, the man drinking my blood holding me as if we were strangers. Jerry, my sire, the love of my life, didn’t know me. What was I going to do?