Authors: Kimberly Killion
His heavy breathing filled her ears and warmed her face. When he continued to hold silent, she became further incensed. If he thought for one moment she would stand idly by while he played the martyr, then he didn’t know her at all. “I demand to know where ye’ve been.”
“I went to fetch a priest.” He flattened her against the wall then feverishly untied the laces of her undertunic. “I intend to be faithful to ye, but I suspect ye would not believe such an avowal lest I speak the words before God and His clergyman.” He lowered her bodice to her waist. “This pleases ye, aye?”
“Aye.” She smiled, flattered by his intentions. It did please her. She parted her lips to tell him so just as his hot mouth formed over her nipple. Strings of arousal pulled taut from behind her breast to her sex. “Magnus!” She scolded him even as she pulled him closer. He massaged one breast while he drew the nipple of the other repeatedly between his lips.
Her eyes rolled beneath her closed lids. Her body warmed, tingled, tightened. Oh, that felt good.
The clicking of booted heels sounded just outside the antechamber.
“Everyone is waiting for ye in the Great Hall,” she whispered and squirmed against him.
“Let them wait.” He snaked his hand under her kirtle and swiped his fingers through her damp curls. “I want ye.”
She wanted him as well, and nearly gave in to the ferocity of his invading fingers, but she was still a mite bit miffed at him for leaving without telling her. She clamped her thighs together, grabbed a fistful of his hair, and yanked him off her breast. “I’m angry with ye for leaving me without telling me your plans. If I am to be your woman, ye cannae just do as ye wish when ye wish it. Ye were gone fourteen days. Where did ye go to get this priest? England?”
The growl vibrating in his throat should have been a warning, but she only pulled his hair harder, waiting on an answer.
“The weather lengthened my journey to Saint Duthac,” Magnus responded in a raw graveled tone as his hands settled on her hips beneath her skirt.
“Saint Duthac? Ye fetched Father O’Rourke?” She loosened her hold. Father O’Rourke had been her rock when Gavin and Bretton died.
“Aye.” A rustle of clothing followed his reply.
“Oh, this pleases me verra much. Did Father O’Rourke tell ye he helped deliver Ann-Elise, and that—”
“Effie,” Magnus whispered against her ear, cupped her bottom, and raised her off the floor, forcing her to wrap her legs around his waist. “Stop talking.” And with this command he palmed the globes of her backside, spread her sex wide with his fingertips and set her atop his cock.
She sucked in a breath, the cool air hissed over her teeth as he plunged inside her. Exquisite ripples cascaded over her body, tickling her, dousing her with agonizing pleasure.
His muscles became rigid. His veins whelped beneath her fingertips as he rocked into her again. “I thought of naught but ye while I was away.” He then delved inside her, hard and deep, until she felt his sac pressed against her folds. Effie squeezed her arms and legs around him and submitted to her base desires. The need tearing through her rushed through her veins like a coiling inferno. Wanting more, she met his next thrust with one of her own.
Heat. Pain. Ecstasy.
She opened her mouth to cry out, but he swallowed her scream and held her hips with rigid fingers while he continued the maddening rhythm, in, out, in, out. The slide of his cock was tormenting, yet magnificent. Every inward stroke brought her pleasure.
He was fierce, savage, exquisite. And he was hers.
She captured his tongue, drew on it, wanting to match his intensity. The head of his manhood tapped that sensitive place inside her, making her burn, making her ache. Pulsing shudders echoed throughout her entire body. She became disoriented, lost in the darkness. Voices hummed in the corridor, but she no longer cared if they were caught.
She’d kept her liaison with Magnus from Vanna and Ian, but soon everyone would know he’d chosen her. Soon they would wed in the chapel before God, and she would have a purpose again. She would have a companion, a lover and a friend.
“Come with me, Effie.” He moaned against her neck. “Reach beneath your skirt and rub your cunny.”
Her hand inched between their locked bodies and stroked the swollen nubbin of flesh while he pistoned in and out of her. Her climax rose to her fingertips. The muscles inside her flexed, squeezing his cock, making him growl, then he pressed her back against the wall and slammed into her a final time.
“Oh bluidy fuck!” he cried out in a deep throaty whisper.
She shattered at the peak of a stinging orgasm.
Like two hot waves crashing into one another, they came in unison, both bodies quivering in uncontrollable bliss. Tiny pulsing sensations spread over her skin, reaching out to every nerve ending. Snapping stars burst behind her closed lids. She bit back a whimper, clung to his neck and prayed his seed took root this time.
Magnus held her while the deluge of their release doused the inferno inside them, then kissed her with a gentleness that brought tears to her eyes. Her breathing had no chance to regulate as emotions burned beneath her breast. She wanted to tell him how deeply she cared for him, but ’twas too soon for such words.
Silence echoed between them for long moments before his head fell into the curve of her neck. He drew an audible breath of air. “Would ye think me a coward if I said I wanted no part in Ian’s war?”
“Nay.” Effie kissed the side of his head and stroked his hair. She didn’t want him going to war, not even to avenge her sire.
“My reasons are selfish.” He lowered her to the floor and righted her garments while he gathered his words. “A month past I would have proudly sacrificed my life to protect my clan like my father and my brothers. But I’ve come to realize I have a reason to live.”
“And what reason is that?”
“Ye.” He held the side of her neck and caressed her skittering pulse with his thumb. “Ye make me want to live. Ye make me want to be a better man. Ye’ve bewitched me body and soul, and I fear I’m more than half in—”
“Where the hell is he?” Lady Katherine’s shrill voice cut off his words, but Effie knew what he intended to say.
He was in love with her. Her heart sang. Her toes curled. Her spirit rejoiced while Lady Katherine continued to rant outside the curtain.
“Bluidy faugh!” Magnus cursed beneath his breath and battled his
“He was here only moments ago, m’lady.” A maid’s footsteps whispered through the rushes outside the antechamber.
“I swear the man behaves like a child. He is…” Lady Katherine’s grumbling became inaudible as she stomped in the direction of the Great Hall.
Magnus let his forehead fall against Effie’s. “My mam can be…”
“Overzealous,” Effie supplied. Not even Lady Katherine could sour Effie’s mood. Her giddiness made her feel intoxicated, which is most likely the reason she didn’t protest when Magnus pulled her into the corridor.
“Come. I’m eager to announce our union.”
Effie’s lips quivered trying to contain her smile as she walked beside him. When they entered the Great Hall, a swarm of his kin separated them, each eager to welcome him home.
Sylvie pulled up beside Effie. “Ye look like a woman with a secret.”
“Aye, but ’twill not be a secret for much longer.” Effie squeezed Sylvie’s hand, grateful to have a confidant among Magnus’ people. “Will ye stay beside me until Laird Sutherland makes his announcement?”
“Of course.” Sylvie folded Effie’s hand over her forearm as they watched Magnus work his way through the masses. He stepped onto a raised platform and raised his hands to quiet his kin just as Ian approached the dais.
“Laird Sutherland, welcome back.” Ian pulled Vanna to his side. “Ye cannae begin to know how worried we all were for your well-being, especially Vanna.”
Effie’s sister poised herself in front of the dais and looked up at Magnus, but he paid her no attention. His eyes were on Effie, making the flutter in her belly feel like the eye of a hurricane. She held fast to Sylvie’s arm as Magnus explained his absence.
“I went to fetch a priest for my wedding.” Magnus’ lips lifted slightly at the corners. His eyes sparkled like blue gemstones. “Father O’Rourke will administer the ceremony.”
Effie returned his smile and nibbled on her bottom lip, waiting.
“Splendid,” Ian replied. “Then ye will be thrilled when ye hear Vanna’s news.”
“What news?” Magnus’ gaze lowered to Vanna. His smile fell when she flattened her hand over her belly.
She angled her chin over her shoulder and smirked at Effie, then announced, “I am with child.”
Effie’s heart punched her ribs. Her entire body jerked. The floor seemed to disappear beneath her feet. She swayed, dizzy, nauseated.
“M’lady.” Sylvie held Effie upright while shock seized her limbs.
She covered her mouth to hold back the bile rising in her throat and raced out of the Great Hall.
Magnus swayed atop the dais. Regret numbed his body as he stared at the now vacant space beside Sylvie. Had he sent for Effie first, this never would have come to fruition.
’Twas too late for regrets now.
“This is tremendous news!” Mam wrapped Vanna in a hug and gave Magnus a victorious look.
His hands fisted at his sides. He would like naught more than to take his fury out on Mam, but this was his doing. A coppery taste sat on his tongue. He’d promised Effie he would never hurt her, and it made him physically ill to know he’d broken that promise.
Beaming from ear to ear, Laird Mackay leapt up onto the dais and clapped Magnus on the back. “Soon our clans will be united by blood, my brother.”
Magnus snapped. His nostrils flared. His eyes narrowed on Ian. “An alliance does not make us brothers.”
“Mayhap not, but a union with my sister does.”
Magnus growled like some feral beast and strode toward the double doors where Effie had fled only moments before.
Eoghan’s wife stepped into his path. The shadows that always sat beneath Jocelyn’s eyes only added to the sneer twisting her face. “Mayhap ’tis time ye quit making promises ye cannot keep.”
His eyes pinched shut. His head shook as guilt filled the hollows of his being. There was naught he could say that he hadn’t said a hundred times before. If it was within his power to bring Eoghan back, he would. “Jocelyn, I wish I could change what happened to—”
“I know.” Jocelyn cupped his cheek. ’Twas the first time she’d showed him any compassion since Eoghan died. She turned sideways, giving him access to the door. “Make things right with Effie. I do not wish to see her hurt.”
“Nor do I.” He kissed Jocelyn’s knuckles, gaining strength from what he hoped was her forgiveness, and stepped out of the Great Hall into the snow-covered courtyard. Effie’s footsteps led to the pigeon house he’d built last spring. When he entered the beehive-shaped structure, the pigeons warbled and fluttered, but quickly settled in their nesting nooks.
Light streamed into the doocot from the hole in the roof and poured over Effie’s flame-red hair. With her back facing him, she reached out and stroked one of the pigeon’s silky feathers. The bird cooed against her gentle caress. “After Ann-Elise died, Gavin built a doocot next to the stable. I spent a great deal of time there, mourning her death. She loved birds.” Effie’s voice cracked over her words and caused a fearsome ache in Magnus’ chest.
He didn’t know why she was telling him this, but suspected ’twas because she was mourning a different kind of loss. “Forgive me, Effie.”
Her spine straightened. She drew her sleeve over her face. “I will be returning home come the morrow.”
“Nay.” The thought of losing her pained him more than any wound. He closed the distance between them and touched her shoulder.
She spun away from him as if he were infected with the foulest of diseases. Dampness shone over her cheeks. A red hue surrounded her deep green irises. “I cannot stay and watch ye marry her.”
“I dinnae want to marry her.” He reached for her again, and again she twirled out of his reach. The pigeons’ warble grew in volume, responding to her agitation.
“It matters naught what ye want. Vanna is carrying your child.” Fat tears rolled over her cheeks, breaking his heart.
“I cannae live without ye.” His words were selfish.
Effie stopped circling him, stepped forward and slapped him hard. “Damn ye!” She fisted her hands and pummeled his chest, cursing him, until she collapsed against his chest in a fit of sobs.
He embraced her and stroked her hair, wanting to tell her he loved her, but knew such a profession could do naught but hurt her more. His face burned with pent-up emotions, fearing this would be the last time he would ever hold her. She was right. It didn’t matter what he wanted. It didn’t matter that he loved her. He was honor-bound to marry her sister.
A thick knot formed in his throat as he realized his presence here caused her more misery than comfort. He set her back and lifted her chin. “I hope someday ye will forgive me for hurting ye.”
His heart wept as he pressed his lips to hers a final time. He memorized the silky tenderness of her kiss, the desperate grasp of her fingers in his
, but it was the salt of her tears that would forever haunt him.