Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Adult, #Novella, #PNR, #Supernaturals
Daman’s gaze was a mixture worry and anger as he looked at her, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. But that fury wasn’t directed at Alistair.
“Someone released Donald,” Alistair told her in a tight voice as he walked down the castle steps.
Innes looked around at the faces of her clan. Those who remained had left the village and taken shelter at the castle. One of them was responsible.
“Who did this?” she asked them as she came around her horse. “Do you want to see another clan take over the castle? Because that’s what is going to happen. Who would dare to go against your laird and free Donald?”
No one bothered to respond, and it infuriated her.
“Do you have any idea what Alistair and I have done for you? Do you even care? Perhaps we should let the Sinclairs take over,” she said, her voice failing at the end.
She had been willing to give herself to the Sinclair laird for peace, but her clan didn’t want peace. Why should she wreck her life for people who didn’t care?
Innes felt a presence beside her and knew it was Daman. He turned her away to lead her back to her mare. His strong hands wrapped around her waist, and she looked into his eyes.
His long hair was tied back in a queue, giving his stark features more of a dangerous look. His blue gaze sought hers. Then he gave her a slight nod.
Innes took a deep breath. “I’m all right.”
At that, he lifted her onto her horse and walked to his own. Innes didn’t look back as she and Daman left the castle with Alistair.
They hadn’t gone far from the gatehouse before she said, “Perhaps we should just keep riding and forget the clan.”
“Nay,” Alistair said. “They’re my responsibility.”
“They freed Donald,” she stated. “I think that says everything.”
“We doona know who freed our brother, but it wasna the entire clan,” Alistair argued.
Innes snorted. “The fact is, someone did. Someone went against you and released him. We don’t know who supports you and who supports Donald. I fear we won’t know that until Donald challenges you again.”
Daman was riding ahead of them, his gaze sharp. Innes thought of the previous night and waking up in his arms. If only every day could be like that. Was it too much to ask that she be allowed to be happy? That she be able to choose a husband for herself?
“Do you love him?”
She was pulled out of her musing by Alistair’s question. Her eyes swung to him. “What?”
“I’m no’ blind, Innes. I see how you look at him. More importantly, I see how protective he is of you.”
“I woke him.”
“Aye. But I think there’s more you’re no’ telling me. I want things to go smoothly today. In all ways.”
She looked forward, her gaze landing on Daman. “You mean you want to know if I’ll refuse to go with the Sinclairs.”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
“Have I given you any reason to doubt me?”
Alistair was quiet for a long time before he said, “No’ until now. Our clan needs peace, Innes.”
“Then give them Donald,” she argued. “They know he’s the culprit.”
Alistair blew out a breath. “We must all make sacrifices for the clan.”
Innes felt tears threaten. She was a laird’s daughter. She knew better than to cry over things out of her control. It didn’t make it any easier to swallow, however.
~ ~ ~
Stefan sat atop his horse outside the gatehouse looking toward the border between the MacKay and Sinclair lands. The missive from Alistair MacKay had been a surprise, but a smart one, nonetheless.
A horse and rider sidled up next to Stefan. He didn’t need to look over to know it was Morcant. He, Morcant, and Ronan had been up since before dawn scouting the castle for signs of another attack.
David believed the MacKay laird, but the three of them were not so inclined.
“What are you thinking?” Morcant asked.
Stefan looked over at his friend and rubbed his jaw. He didn’t want to be meeting with a laird. He wanted to be out looking for Daman. The four of them had been cursed by a gypsy two hundred years earlier. Ronan had been the first out of his dark prison, with Morcant second out of his. Stefan had arrived just a few days ago.
All three of them had been drawn to Ravensclyde. They refused to believe it was coincidence, which is what gave them hope that Daman would be found soon.
“Stefan?” Morcant asked with a frown.
“I’m thinking of Daman.”
Morcant nodded. “I had hoped Leana would have a vision about him.”
It wasn’t only Morcant’s wife that had special abilities. Morvan was a child of the forest, able to help animals in a way no other could – and she was all Stefan’s.
“We only got to visit a few places on Sinclair land before we were called back to Ravensclyde,” Stefan said. “He could be out there waiting for us.”
Morcant shifted atop his horse. “I doona expect our meeting with The MacKay will take long. Once everything is sorted as David wants, we can get back to our hunt.”
“It was three months between Ronan getting out of his prison and your arrival.”
“We’ll find him, Stefan.”
None of them ever talked about the possibility that Daman hadn’t been cursed with them. Daman hadn’t gone into the gypsy camp with them initially, and he didn’t have the flaws the rest of them had. The only thing Daman had a problem with was asking for help.
The sound of horses approaching from behind alerted Stefan that it was time. Ronan and David drew even with them, and the four of them headed out to the border.
By marrying Meg Alpin, the cousin of Laird David Sinclair, Ronan had become Lord of Ravensclyde. It still boggled Stefan’s mind how he, Ronan, and Morcant had made a life for themselves after being cursed.
“We willna be going to war, lads,” David said.
Morcant glanced at him. “I’ll be prepared either way.”
“David believes Alistair MacKay,” Ronan repeated Morcant’s earlier words. “The marriage will bring peace.”
Stefan frowned as he glanced at the young laird. Without the two hundred year difference in their ages, David would be around their age. He was intelligent, brawny, and fierce as only a Highlander could be. “Nay. Only Donald MacKay locked in our dungeon will bring peace.”
“If Donald acted alone,” Morcant added.
David might believe the MacKay laird, but by Ronan’s tight lips, he was prepared for war, as well.
“I doona make agreements lightly,” David said and pinned Stefan with a look, his dark gray eyes intense. “I learned the truth of the MacKays. Donald is trying to oust his brother for control. Alistair is doing what any good laird would do. He’s saving his clan.”
“And you’re willing to take a bride you’ve never met?” Ronan asked.
David smiled, though it was forced. “I doona have the same luxury as you three to marry someone I love. I’m laird. I marry for alliances.”
“I wouldna think the MacKays are much of an alliance,” Stefan said.
“Their land borders mine,” David said. “If the Blairs decide they want the MacKay lands and holdings, I’ll have to prepare to go to war with them. The Blairs take whatever they want, and I’ll no’ have my people put through that. Most of the MacKay clan has come to us. Once they realize the MacKays are allied with the Sinclairs, and Alistair has ensured Donald can no’ cause any more trouble, the people will return to the MacKays.”
Morcant nodded and said, “Alistair will once again have soldiers to hold off the Blairs.”
“As well as my men,” David added. “I’ll be married to his sister.”
Daman wanted to pretend he couldn’t hear the conversation between Alistair and Innes, but it was impossible. He felt her pain and it infuriated him that he couldn’t help her as she needed. All Daman could do was fight and kill. He was damn good at it, too.
If he couldn’t stop Alistair from handing his sister over to the laird of the Sinclairs, then all Daman could focus on was watching out for Donald.
The middle MacKay wasn’t just loud and abrasive. He was obvious. Daman hadn’t bothered to mention that Donald would show up at the meeting because Alistair already knew, and there was no sense in putting an added worry on Innes.
Daman may not have been part of a family, but even he knew that to go against a brother as Donald had Alistair was beyond terrible.
Donald had put everyone at the castle at risk, and he didn’t seem to care. All Donald wanted was power. He was an idiot. It took more than brawn to lead a clan.
Daman had learned that from...
His thoughts went blank and his head began to throb dully. He ground his teeth together against the pain as the realization hit that he had almost remembered something. But what?
And who was he thinking about?
Need to be looking.
Daman gave a shake of his head. His thoughts were jumbled, his mind swimming with an urgency he couldn’t elude. He was supposed to be looking for something.
Or was it someone?
He glanced over his shoulder at Innes. He had already found her, so she couldn’t be it. Was it Donald? Nay, he was just a troublemaker. Besides, Daman didn’t know of him until he woke.
Whatever pushed Daman had been with him for a long time – possibly as long as he had been asleep.
“We’re no’ far,” Alistair said.
Daman licked his lips, wishing he could ask Innes specific details. If he could only talk, he might find out what he was supposed to be searching for. She might even know more details of his past.
A warning tickle pulled him out of his thoughts and focused him once more on his surroundings. They came to a river, and Daman waited for Alistair and Innes to cross before he followed.
He glanced behind him as the hairs on the back of his neck rose. Someone was watching them. Donald most likely, but how many men had Donald brought with him?
Once across the river, Daman nudged his horse into a gallop and caught up with Alistair. He motioned with his head behind him as Alistair’s gaze landed on him.
The laird of the MacKays frowned. “Donald?” he whispered.
Daman lifted one shoulder in a shrug as he set his hand atop the hilt of his sword. Alistair then moved his horse over and motioned Innes forward.
Finally, they reached the border between the MacKay and Sinclair lands. Daman saw a man sitting atop a large gray stallion. The man had light brown hair hanging to his shoulders and a full beard. His gaze was focused on them, looking each of them over. With the way he sat confidently and with a commanding presence atop his mount, he was obviously the Sinclair laird.
They came to a stop with ten feet separating the groups. Daman then let his gaze move to the rider next to the laird. The man’s horse pranced in agitation. Daman looked into the man’s face to find the Highlander staring at him intently.
Daman frowned as the man refused to look away. He watched Daman as if he knew him, which was impossible. The man couldn’t know Daman, he had just been awakened after two hundred years of sleeping in a cave.
Daman inwardly snorted. Two hundred years. The passage of time was mindboggling, but it was the knowledge that someone had put him there that really caused anxiety. He had no recollection of anyone or anything that would explain that, and neither did he have time to think on it at the moment.
“David,” Alistair said. “Thank you for meeting with us.”
David bowed his head. “Attacking your clan didna seem right after so many have left.”
“My brother will be punished,” Alistair promised.
David glanced at Innes. “Where is Donald?”
Daman once again narrowed his gaze on the man next to David. It was obvious he was a warrior, a man trained with a sword. No wonder the Sinclair laird had brought him along.
If Daman were David, he would have brought more warriors. Daman had wanted Alistair to bring more men. The problem was, there weren’t enough left.
“As of last night, he was in our dungeon.” Alistair sighed. “Unfortunately, someone released him.”
“Does he know of this meeting?” the man next to David asked.
David motioned to him. “Alistair, this is Ronan Galt, Lord of Ravensclyde. He is married to my cousin, Meg.”
Alistair nodded to Ronan in greeting. “No doubt Donald knows of this meeting. It’s why I’ve brought Daman along as extra protection for my sister.”
“Where did Daman come from?” Ronan asked.
Daman tensed. Why would he ask such a question? Wouldn’t anyone assume Daman was part of the MacKay clan?
“He has always been with our clan,” Innes stated in a clear voice.
Her leg brushed Daman’s as her horse shifted, and it was all Daman could do not to reach over and take her hand, to pull her onto his horse and claim her lips.
Ronan looked from Daman to Innes and back to Daman. There was something about the way Ronan stared that agitated Daman. If he could talk, he would demand that Ronan state whatever bothered him.