Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Adult, #Novella, #PNR, #Supernaturals
“You look like a capable warrior, Daman,” David said.
Daman glanced at the laird.
“He is,” Alistair answered. “He’s already taken Donald down once.”
“Why can he no’ tell us this himself?” Ronan asked.
Innes pinned him with a scathing look. “If you must know, he can’t talk.”
“He can no’ speak?” Ronan repeated with a deep frown furrowing his forehead.
“I didna think we were here to talk of Daman,” Alistair said. “I thought we met to talk of peace.”
David nodded slowly. “That we did, Laird. Innes, did your brother tell you the terms?”
Her voice wobbled, causing anger to rise up within Daman. She shouldn’t have to make such a sacrifice because of Donald’s mistakes. Daman’s grip on his sword tightened.
“Are you in agreement?” David asked her.
Innes hesitated. Daman could feel her gaze land on him briefly. “I’ve always been willing to do what was needed for my people.”
“But?” Ronan pressed.
“She has nothing else to add,” Alistair stated with a meaningful glare directed at Innes.
Tension filled the area as David and Alistair watched Innes while she looked at the ground. Daman and Ronan were once more locked in a stare.
“Well now, is this no’ cozy,” Donald said as he walked out of the brush behind them, the blade of his sword resting against his shoulder.
Daman whirled his mount around, unsheathing his sword. He was about to charge Donald when Alistair said his name. Daman looked at the laird, waiting.
“What are you doing here?” Alistair demanded of his brother.
Donald chuckled. “You know why I’m here.”
“You can’t win against the Sinclairs,” Innes said. “Why would you want them as an enemy?”
Donald merely smiled. “I never said I wanted them as an enemy. What I wanted was for our clan to see how weak Alistair is. I needed our people to see that I’m the only one who can protect them?”
Daman lifted his lip in contempt.
. Donald didn’t know the meaning of the word.
“That’s why you tried to kill Innes?” Alistair demanded, his voice lowering in his anger. “We had enough trouble with the Blairs, Donald. If you had stood beside me, we could’ve stolen our sheep back and fed our people. Your so-called plan sent our people away and gained us a potential enemy in the Sinclairs.”
Donald lowered his sword until the point was in the ground and set both of his hands on the hilt. “I’ve got my men with me, Alistair. Who do you have? One man who is supposed to save our clan? He willna last against my men.”
Daman swung a leg over his mount’s head and slid to the ground. He gently shoved the horse away.
“Nay, Daman,” Alistair said. “This is my fight.”
Innes tried to dismount, but Daman was too quick. He kept her atop the horse and gathered the horse’s reins beneath its chin. He then turned the horse toward the Sinclairs.
“Daman,” Innes whispered.
He looked up into her dark eyes. Gypsy eyes. Why hadn’t he noticed that before? She had the same coloring as a gypsy. It was exotic and beautiful.
Where had that thought come from? Daman shoved it aside and drank in her features. She had to be kept safe. There was about to be a bloodbath, and the only ones who could keep her out of it were the Sinclairs.
Daman turned to David and raised a brow in question. David nodded once. Daman walked Innes and her horse over the border and handed the reins to Ronan.
“Daman,” Innes said again, louder this time.
He turned his back to her and returned to MacKay land. Alistair and Donald were already circling each other, their swords drawn and at the ready.
Donald was the first to attack. The clang of swords was loud in the quiet. Alistair easily blocked the swing and sidestepped, knocking his shoulder into Donald. Donald stumbled backward, his lips twisted in rage.
Alistair was quick, his attacks calm and on target. Donald let his emotions rule him, causing him to miss Alistair several times. Daman began to relax when it became apparent Alistair would win. Donald cut Alistair’s arm, but Alistair turned away before it could go too deep.
Donald attacked again. Alistair didn’t turn away this time. He met his brother’s attack and used Donald’s force to turn him slightly so that Donald fell on his back.
Alistair put the point of his blade at Donald’s throat. “Call your men out here.”
“It’s over, brother,” he said and kicked the sword out of Donald’s hand. “I’ve defeated you, and since I can no’ trust our people no’ to release you again, I’m going to hand you over to The Sinclair.”
Donald’s dark eyes blazed with hatred. “You’ll have to kill me.”
Alistair lowered his sword and took a step back. “I’m no’ spilling the blood of my brother. Everyone here saw your defeat.”
Daman couldn’t be happier. Alistair’s actions proved he was meant to be laird. The best thing to do would be to kill Donald, but Daman understood why Alistair hadn’t been able to.
Daman was walking toward them when Donald reached for his boot. Daman opened his mouth to call out to Alistair, but there was no sound. Daman rushed to Donald, but Donald had already risen to his feet and plunged a dagger into Alistair’s back by the time Daman reached him. Daman could hear Innes screaming.
Daman slammed into Donald, sending him crashing to the ground. Daman knelt beside Alistair and cradled his head as he looked into the dying man’s eyes.
“Doona let him rule,” Alistair said. “Doona let him hurt Innes.” Then he issued his last breath, his eyes closing.
Daman gently laid Alistair down and gathered his sword as he stood. He pointed to Donald’s sword with his own, waiting for Donald to pick up the weapon and face him.
As soon as he did, Daman attacked. He swung his sword in wide arcs as metal met metal time and again. Donald was taller by a few inches, but he didn’t have the skill Daman did.
Daman blocked Donald’s sword countless times. He kicked Donald and slammed his elbow into his face, which only caused Donald to become angrier. His swings went wide as his emotions took over.
He waited for Donald to get close and then plunged his sword into the man, feeling it sink deep into Donald’s body. Surprise showed on Donald’s face, as if he couldn’t believe he was dying. Daman then shoved Donald off his blade and turned around.
“Daman!” Innes shouted as she came running at him.
Daman gathered Innes in his arms and held tight, turning his face against her neck. She had lost both brothers that day. Daman should have paid closer attention. He might have been able to save Alistair.
“It’s not your fault,” she whispered, her hands stroking his head. “Alistair should never have turned his back on Donald.”
Daman opened his eyes to find Ronan and David watching them. A moment later, two more men rode up beside Ronan. Daman released Innes and pushed her behind him as he glanced over his shoulder to see if any of Donald’s men would attack. There were just two men who walked out from behind trees to stand over Donald and Alistair’s dead bodies.
There was no doubt Daman could take Ronan and the others. He would rather do it after Innes was back at the castle, but he doubted David would allow her to leave.
David’s lips compressed for a moment. “What a waste,” he said. “Alistair was a good man. That was quick thinking, Daman.”
Innes stood behind him, her hands gripping his tartan. Daman gave her a push. But just as he thought, she wouldn’t leave.
“Daman has always been quick,” Ronan said.
David grunted. “So you told me.”
Daman looked between the two before his gaze shifted to the newcomers. One man had sandy blond hair and yellow-brown eyes while the other had light brown hair and hazel eyes. Their gazes were a mixture of shock, surprise, and happiness.
“Daman,” said the man with the blond hair. “You know us.”
He snorted and shook his head. He didn’t know these men.
“He doesna recognize us, Morcant,” said the second man.
Daman took a step back. He needed to get Innes to safety. There was no way he was turning her over to David Sinclair. Not now. Not after she had lost her family.
“Where have you been?” Ronan asked. He nudged his horse and guided it across the border onto MacKay land. He drew up before getting too close. “We’ve been looking for you. It’s been a long time since the gypsy camp.”
A flash of brightly colored skirts in the grass flashed in Daman’s mind a heartbeat before an old gypsy woman’s face, her dark eyes filled with anguish and fury.
The name sprang into his mind, but Daman knew that was the old woman’s name. She was a witch. A gypsy witch. She was the one responsible for putting him in the cave and having him sleep for two hundred years.
He hated gypsies for what she had done.
Daman jerked his head to Innes to see her dark coloring. Gypsy. He squeezed his eyes closed and turned his head back to Ronan.
Ronan slowly dismounted from his horse and dropped the reins. It made Daman frown because he had seen Ronan do that action before, he just didn’t know how or when. Somehow, Daman also knew that he had picked up the reins from Ronan afterwards.
“It was my fault,” Ronan said. He ran a hand down his face. “I can admit that now. I should never have gone to see Ana those times. I was the one who urged the three of you to accompany me,” he said, motioning from Daman to the other two men.
Ronan cleared his throat. “You were the smart one. You remained outside the camp.”
Daman closed his eyes as his head felt like it was splitting open. He grabbed it, doubling over from the agony. As if from a great distance, he could hear Innes calling his name. It took Daman a moment to realize he had fallen to his knees.
More flashes of faces and events filled his mind in rapid succession. He opened his mouth and tried to bellow, to ask someone for help, but there was only silence and the roar of pain.
Three pairs of large hands gripped him, steadying him. Daman kept his eyes closed for fear of letting in any light that might make the throbbing worse.
He saw Ronan, laughing as he put his arm around a dark-haired woman with bright skirts. Those same skirts he had seen lying in the grass. With blood.
Daman felt something tighten around his chest, cutting off his air. He fought to fill his lungs with air even as an image of Morcant held immobile by Illinca filled his mind.
Then there was Stefan. The rage he dealt with constantly taking him over. In a blink, all three of his friends – his brothers – were gone. Illinca had used her magic to curse them.
All of his memories returned in a tidal wave, drowning him in sorrow, happiness, anger, and hope. And just like that, the pounding in his head stopped and the constriction around his chest eased. Daman remained still for a moment.
“He’s no’ rocking anymore,” Morcant said.
So the three of them were holding him. Daman lifted his head, intending to talk to them. But all he saw was David holding Innes who had tears coursing down her face as she shouted his name over and over.
Daman threw off his friends’ hold and jumped to his feet. How he wanted to demand that David release Innes. No sooner had the thought entered his head, than the words left his mouth.
Innes blinked at him. She shrugged out of David’s hold and took a step toward him. “You spoke.”
Daman reached out and pulled her against him. “Aye. I can speak again.”
“What happened to you?” she asked with a sniff.
Daman leaned back. He gazed into her dark eyes before he looked over her head to David. Then he turned his head to the side to where Ronan, Morcant, and Stefan stood.
How many times had his friends told him that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness? To him, however, it was. Illinca had taught him the importance of asking for help by taking away his voice.
“I remember. Everything.” He drew in a deep breath. It felt great to be able to speak again. It felt even better to see his friends.
Now he knew why he’d had that unshakable feeling of needing to search for something. He was meant to look for Morcant, Ronan, and Stefan.
Instead, they had found him.
“Everything?” Stefan asked.
Daman nodded. “I saw her curse each of you. I saw each of you disappear. I crossed into the camp, and she used her magic to keep me still. She said she’d had a vision, knew we would be there, but she hadn’t seen Ana’s death.”
“I still say Illinca needs to die,” Morcant mumbled.
Innes’s head jerked toward Morcant. “Did you say Illinca?”
“What of her?” Ronan asked.
“She’s the grandmother of one of my ancestors, Amalia. Amalia brought Daman to our land and married the MacKay laird.”
Stefan scowled. “Are you telling me that you were no’ in a dark prison, Daman?”