Authors: Lucy Monroe
Tags: #Historical Romance, #love story, #warriors, #Paranormal Romance, #supernatural romance, #scotland, #Paranormal, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Scottish, #Scotland Highlands, #wolves, #highlanders
Sacred mating supersedes all claims among the Chrechte, including that of pack leader,
and parental authority.
AW, FROM THE ORAL TRADITIONS
onsidering the grandeur of the keep’s size
and strength of defense, the actual keep itself was rather sparse. None of the ostentation Shona’s dead husband, the Baron of Heronshire, had been so fond of in evidence at all.
The great hall
easily accommodate a large gathering of the clan, but the silk wall hangings so common in an English baron’s home to denote his wealth and stature were conspicuously absent. No superfluous pieces of furniture graced the cavernous room, either.
The long tables and benches that served the laird and his warriors were plain wood; no special carvings, even on his chair.
Though there was no doubt where the laird and his lady sat, for those two were the only actual chairs at the tables in the hall. There was a grouping of other chairs near the main fireplace, though, which had cushions in the clan’s colors. She had no doubt, however, that the cushions were for comfort rather than show.
The lovely blond woman had a parchment of accounts
in front of her that Guaire frowned at upon entrance. “I thought we were going to go over those together, Lady Abigail.”
“I’d hoped to save you some time, Guaire.”
The man looked pained and Niall laughed. “You know he’ll feel the need to go over them himself regardless.”
The Lady Abigail smiled, mischief glinting in her light brown eyes. “You think so?”
“You do like to tease, my lady,” Guaire said with some exasperation.
“Mama, you shouldn’t tease,” a young boy said from beside the laird. “You get ever so
when I tease Drost.”
“That is because you have not yet learned when not to push so far that your brother resorts to tears or violence, Brian,” Abigail said with a musical laugh.
Shona had heard rumors that the Sinclair lady was afflicted with deafness, but this woman appeared to hear as well as the next person.
“I don’t like him to tease me even if he learns that,” the boy who must be Drost said from the other side of his father.
Brian seemed keenly interested in the sword his father was sharpening, while his brother, who looked too much like him not to be his twin, carefully drew with charcoal on a clay tablet.
Eadan marched up to the table and pointed to himself. “I am Eadan. You are Drost.” He pointed to the boy handing his father a cloth for wiping the oil from his sword’s blade. “And you are Brian.” He pointed at the other child. “I heard you say so.”
Her son was so intelligent, Shona often marveled at how quickly he grasped the world around him.
Both boys looked impressed. Drost observed neutrally, “You aren’t wearing clan colors.”
“Your clothes are funny,” Brian added with a clear
Abigail gasped and looked ready to jump in, but Eadan didn’t give her the chance.
“They’re English,” he said with a shrug.
Brian frowned. “We don’t like the English.”
This time, Abigail jumped to her feet and spun to face her son, a fierce expression on her face. “
to be English,” the laird, who had remained silent thus far, inserted. “However.” He fixed his son with a stare that would have intimidated Shona
, much less when she’d been a small child. “You know very well we do not hate
Abigail’s huff of offense just made her husband shrug, as if to say that was the best she could hope for. It was clearly an old argument.
“You’ll like me, and my sister,” Eadan said with false bravado, pulling Marjory to his side.
The tremble of worry in Eadan’s voice made Shona want to wrap him in her arms to take that fear away, and Marjory, too. Who stood with wide eyes and thumb tucked firmly between her teeth.
But Shona knew this was only the beginning of what they might face in their flight to safety.
The Highlanders were not known for their kind disposition to the English.
Taking a fortifying breath, she curtsied to the laird and his lady. “I am Lady Shona, widow to the second Baron of Heronshire. This is my companion and friend Audrey and her brother, Thomas.”
She deliberately left their father’s name unspoken as neither wished to acknowledge a man who had sold them into service though his own wealth clearly precluded the need to do so.
She indicated her children. “My son has seen fit to introduce himself, and this is my daughter, Marjory.”
Shona straightened, doing her best to hide both fatigue and trepidation, unsurprised when Caelis pulled her back to his side.
He had kept hold of Shona through the trek up the path and into the great hall. He’d managed to maintain his nearness even as they approached the Sinclair laird, clearly intent on giving every sort of wrong impression.
Before either the laird or his lady could reply, Niall said to Eadan with far more assurance than her son had shown, “Of course they will like you, laddie. You’re a good Scottish boy at heart.”
Shona didn’t begrudge the Highland warrior his lack of manners, not when it had been in aid of comforting her child.
“I am?” Eadan asked.
The laird had been looking with thoughtful interest at her son. The Sinclair’s gaze slid to Caelis, then back to Eadan again. When the light of understanding dawned, Shona could not miss it.
Again, she felt the heat of embarrassment steal into her cheeks. She had never thought to be faced with Caelis again, much less have their past exposed so inexorably to anyone who cared to look at him in the same vicinity as his son.
“You are, just as your mother is a fine Scottish lass,” Guaire answered for Niall.
Shona sent him a look of gratitude, which he replied to with a warm smile. No condemnation there; not like in her own parents’ eyes until first her mother had breathed her last breath two years past, and then Shona’s father so recently.
Neither had ever forgiven Shona for shaming them the way she’d done. At least they had not taken their unhappiness with her out on Eadan. His grandparents had loved him well.
Though both had made it clear they thought the baron’s willingness to raise Eadan as his own son fully compensated for any deficiencies he showed as a father.
Eadan nodded, as if settling something inside his head as he often did. “That’s all right then. I’m Scottish. We can be friends.”
“You don’t speak like the English,” Drost said in the
language of his mother’s people, perhaps to prove that like Eadan…he could.
“Mum says me and Marjory must speak both the language of the Gael and Angle. My lord did not like it, but even when he beat Mum, she would not stop talking to us in the way of her people.”
Caelis growled, his anger pulsing around them like thunder in the sky. “He beat you?”
“It is of no consequence.” Her husband had not been the worst of men, but neither had he been the best.
He’d only struck her a few times, and had always been kinder after. Not that he ever apologized.
But then, he hadn’t thought he was in the wrong.
“It is a good thing your mother has returned to the Highlands then. No one will be allowed to beat her here.” The laird’s voice carried absolute authority.
“And me?” Eadan asked with a frown and a telling glance down at his sister. “Will anyone be allowed to beat me?”
“The baron beat you?” Niall asked, his tone even, but the expression in his eyes chilling.
Eadan looked away. “One time, but Mum screamed at him. She said she’d gut him in his sleep if he did it again. I wasn’t supposed to hear. They thought I was sleeping on my stomach, on account of my back and butt hurt too much. But I couldn’t sleep. I was crying quiet like.”
“And he did not take the switch to you again?” Guaire prompted.
Shona just wanted the earth to open and swallow her whole. If the cost to keep her son safe was her pride, she would gladly pay it, but that did not mean each strip at the flesh of her spirit did not hurt.
“No. He blustered some. Said she could not speak to him that way, but he never done it again. He threatened once, but I told him my real father was a giant warrior and he would come and kill my lord dead. He believed me.”
father?” Laird Sinclair asked carefully.
Suddenly Eadan went silent, sending a stricken look to his mother.
She stared at him, completely at a loss as to what to say. She’d never told Eadan that Henry wasn’t his father, though she’d been tempted a time or two.
Even Henry’s odious son, Percival, had not known that Eadan was not his blood kin. He might have guessed as Eadan grew older and the only resemblance between him and the baron had been the dark color of hair the older man was reputed to have when he was younger.
Caelis finally released her.
She refused to acknowledge the abandonment that washed over her, but in that moment she felt more vulnerable than she had since leaving Scotland pregnant by a man who had categorically rejected her.
Audrey stepped forward to slide her arm around Shona’s waist. “All will be well, dear friend.”
Shona simply shook her head. How could it possibly? The greatest fear she had not even prepared herself to feel now stared her in the face with the ferocity of a ravening beast.
In her desperation to save her son’s life, Shona now risked losing him to the father who had denied even the chance of his conception.
The same man who even now dropped to one knee in front of
son. “No one will be angry at you for the truth, do you
The boy nodded.
father. Why is that?”
know,” Eadan said in a fierce whisper they all heard.
Cold chills washed over Shona as her breath turned shallow. Her son knew Caelis was his father? How could he?
It was impossible. Not only untenable to believe her son knew Henry had not been his father, but that Eadan would have somehow divined that Caelis
, thoroughly flummoxed her.
“Aye. I do know,” Caelis said, exhibiting none of the disbelief plaguing Shona, wonder and warm affection
shining in his blue eyes. “And my heart rejoices in this knowledge, but I am needing you to tell me how you came to know of it.”
“Oh. Do you like me, then? You think I’m a fine Scottish laddie?”
The broken sound that came out of Shona made Caelis tense, but he did not turn away from their son. “I do,” he promised with absolute solemnity.
“You want a little boy. In the dreams you cry for me, wishing I was with you.”
“The real dreams. The ones that come true.”
“Do you have other
dreams?” Caelis asked.
Eadan looked to Shona, asking for permission to speak.
She nodded her head. She knew about the real dreams. Or thought she did, but he’d only ever told her about two. And Shona had always wondered if the dreams had been more wishful thinking and imagination on her son’s part than anything else.
She’d always considered his dream about her daughter and the pond fortuitous, not prophetic.
Clearly her son had not shared all with her. Mayhap her initial disbelief had shown through and that was why?
“I dreamed my lord would die and he did. I dreamed Marjory would fall into the pond and hit her head. Mum saved her from drownded.”
,” Shona automatically corrected.
Eadan nodded and repeated obediently, “Drowning.”
“Oh, Heavens, he’s another Ciara. Did you know Caelis was of the royal blood?” Abigail demanded of her husband.
He didn’t reply, but with a furtive glance at Shona, Abigail subsided just as if he had.
Shona had no idea who Ciara was, or what Abigail meant by Caelis being of royal blood. Any other time, she would have demanded answers, insisted on understanding, but she was barely able to maintain her composure as it was.
Exhaustion beat at her more relentlessly than her husband had ever done, mention of her son’s “gifts” bringing additional worry Shona simply could not take in at the moment.
“I did dream of you,” Eadan said to Caelis. “Lots. ’Specially since we left the barony. I knew we’d meet you here.”
Shona gasped. That was a bit of information she would have liked to be privy to. Though would she have believed her son, or thought him guilty of wishful thinking again? This time with an uncanny similarity between reality and his dreams?
“I am very pleased you dreamed of me,” Caelis told their son. “I am even more pleased you have come to the Highlands so we can be a family again.”
Shona’s knees would have buckled if Audrey had not held her up. Shona had her own dreams, but they had
been prophetic and she’d known without any doubt that they could
For him to stand there and talk like everything had been decided without a word from her…it was too much. Once again, a man she could not trust sought to take her choices. How would she fight him? Law and tradition stood firmly on Caelis’s side.
Shona felt the waters closing over her head as air became more and more difficult to draw into her lungs.
“You have to love Marjory, too.” Eadan had no trouble making demands of his own. It was not the first time she’d seen similarities between father and son. “She’s your daughter like I’m your son. My dreams said so.”
Her son accepted Caelis’s easy agreement with a firm nod of approval, but Shona could not be so trusting. Even if he told the truth, she desperately did not want to link her life to this man’s after the way he’d hurt her so deeply six years ago.
Then, incredibly, Shona’s overly shy daughter, who would hide in her mother’s skirts at the first sign of a stranger, released her brother’s hand and moved over to
Caelis. Marjory put her hands out to the big warrior as if to be picked up.