Authors: Lucy Monroe
Tags: #Historical Romance, #love story, #warriors, #Paranormal Romance, #supernatural romance, #scotland, #Paranormal, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Scottish, #Scotland Highlands, #wolves, #highlanders
Though his focus was so intent on Eadan that Shona could not believe Caelis had seen the gesture, he turned and took the wee girl into his big arms without hesitation or pause.
The world grew black around the edges, but Shona would not give into the blessed solace of unconsciousness. She inhaled more deeply, clutching at Audrey, pleading silently with the other woman for help.
Audrey, true friend that she was, strengthened her hold and asked Lady Abigail if they could not have a goblet of watered wine.
Abigail’s attention shifted from the spectacle of Shona’s children clinging to the man they’d met only that day. When her eyes landed on Shona, they widened and concern filled her gaze. “Of course.”
Caelis turned then, as if somehow attuned to Shona’s distress. He stood with Marjory in his arms.
Shona lifted her hand in a staying motion and spoke through barely moving lips. “Do not come near.”
The hand not holding her daughter fisted at his side, his expression hardening. “Shona…”
“Nay.” It was Thomas speaking, surprisingly enough. He shifted so his body was a physical barrier between Shona and Caelis. “You have wrought this with your actions. I do not know how our Shona came to be in the predicament she is, but you’ve done her grave damages in the past, breaking sacred law and dishonoring your own nature. The boy standing by your side is testament to it.”
Incredibly, Caelis made no effort to deny it. In fact, he nodded, his jaw hewn from rock, torment she neither understood nor wanted to see swimming in his gentian gaze.
Thomas’s own visage was harsher than Shona had ever seen it. “She has told you to stay away. You will stay away.”
“Are you her protector then?” Caelis asked in a dangerous voice.
“I am her
Audrey added, “A truer one than you have been. Thomas and I were there the few times the baron’s temper overcame his sense. My brother taught the boy you seek to claim for your own to sit his first horse. Like me, he helped nurse both Eadan and Marjory through the fevers of babyhood when neither the baron, nor his son, nor even the snooty servants they employed were willing to lift a finger in aid.”
Caelis dropped his head, then lifted it to meet Thomas’s stare. “I am in your debt.”
“Aye, you are, but more important, you are in Shona’s.”
Caelis nodded, his gaze slipping back to her. The yearning she saw there had to be a trick of the light.
He was the one who had told her love meant nothing between the two of them. That the marriage he’d promised those nights they had shared their passion would not come to pass.
Not content with that, Caelis had made an official declaration of lack of intent, telling both her mother and father that he would no longer be courting her.
They had accepted his rejection without comment or argument, telling Shona that it was for the best. They had not known she carried his child then. She had not known it, either.
She’d had a feeling and taken Caelis aside to express her worries, but he’d adamantly denied any possibility that she could have his child in her womb. He’d gone so far as to say that if she were with child, it must be another man’s by-blow.
Sick at heart from the memories and unable to stomach the sight of him one more moment, she turned away.
He made a sound like denial and plea all rolled into one, but she ignored it. Just as he had ignored her begging and desperate words of love six years ago.
“Mummy?” Eadan’s little boy hand tugged at hers.
She looked down at her son, always so beautiful to her regardless of the memories his visage kept alive. “Yes, sweeting?”
“You are sad.”
“No.” She was not lying.
It was so much more than sadness. Despair fought for control, but she would not give in. She was stronger than that.
“I can smell it,” Eadan chided.
He was always saying things like that.
She squeezed his hand. “I am well.”
“You are tired,” Audrey corrected. “Too exhausted by worry and travel for this discussion.”
Thankfully, the goblet of watered wine arrived then, delivered by a smiling young woman who looked like the princess Caelis had called Marjory.
“Drink, it will help,” she said in tones that soothed. “I am Ciara, oldest daughter of Talorc and Abigail.”
She was too close in age to Abigail not to be adopted, but Shona had enough manners not to remark on it. “Thank you.”
She hadn’t the wherewithal for further pleasantries.
“You are most welcome. Mother is quite excited to have an Englishwoman visiting who can share news of her former homeland.”
“No news of England is always good in my eyes,” the laird opined.
Ciara laughed. “Watch yourself, Father, or one extra guest room will be in use tonight, I am sure. And I do not think it will be one with a comfortable bed.”
Surprisingly, everyone laughed at that, rather than taking offense, even the laird himself.
The banter went on around Shona, but she paid it no heed. Drinking the watered wine in small sips, she was proud that she did not require Audrey’s assistance to bring the wooden goblet to her lips.
At some point, everyone had stopped talking. And now they all looked at her, an air of expectation indicating someone had asked her something they expected her to answer.
“I’m sorry?” Shona looked to Audrey to tell her what had been missed.
But the Englishwoman simply shook her head.
“Further talking will wait. It is clear that Lady Heronshire needs her rest. If you will allow your children to keep mine company until the latemeal is served, you can find rest in your guest chamber, my lady,” Abigail said with perfect manners and in clearly native English.
Shona wanted to accept without caveat, but she did not know these people, no matter what she thought she knew
them. There was also Caelis to consider and his undeniable desire to now claim Eadan as his son.
Could Shona trust the Sinclairs to stop him from leaving the keep with the boy?
“Do not worry, I will stay with them,” Thomas offered. “Brian and Drost are bound to like the game of sticks I taught Eadan this past winter.”
“We like games very much,” Drost agreed, so obviously trying to comfort the adult woman falling to pieces in his father’s great hall, Shona wanted to cry.
She managed a very forced smile instead. “Thank you.”
“I will go with you,” Audrey said, proving her friend’s staunch support and ability to see correctly that Shona had reached the very end of her tether.
After she slept, she would again be strong, but right now, Shona had naught left to give to the circumstances so overwhelming her.
“I would have your word,” she said to Niall, falling back on instincts when reason was too difficult to employ. “You will not allow Caelis to take
son. Eadan and Marjory will be safe under the protection of you and Thomas.”
The young man’s loyalty had no equal in that room, but he was an untried youth of nineteen. No true match for the hardened warrior Caelis had become.
“I would not,” Caelis claimed, trying to make it sound like a promise.
But his promises were long past being trusted by her. So, Shona ignored him, demanding with the fierceness of her expression that Niall give her
The scarred warrior nodded. “Aye. You have my word.”
“Let us pray it has more value than the last time a Scotsman gave me his pledge.”
Niall placed his fist over his heart and bowed his head to her. “On my honor and that of my clan, I will keep those you hold dear safe.”
A small and genuine smile touched her lips at that promise. He was assuring her he would keep Thomas safe as well and she was grateful to the point of tears. A weak and foolish reaction to be sure, but she
With a nod of acknowledgment, she turned away before anyone could see the evidence of her emotions.
Eadan, Marjory, Thomas and Audrey were all that was dear left to Shona in the entire world.
She would not only die to protect them but kill as well. And so that blackguard Percival, new Baron of Heronshire, would discover if he had the impudence and stupidity to pursue her and her own into the Highlands of Scotland.
There is no colder bed than the one without your mate.
ARR OF THE
aelis watched his sacred mate leaving the great hall
, his wolf howling with the need to follow the petite female form, his body itching with the desire to shift.
But like he’d done so many times in the past six years, Caelis forced his beast to heel.
Their beautiful mate wanted nothing of them.
Shona’s scent used to be the most delectable of fragrances to both him and his wolf, though she’d never met the beast. All wild heather and summer rain, he would sit outside her parent’s hut in his wolf form, inhaling it for hours.
Now the acrid scent of bitterness came off her in waves when he was near.
’Twas no easy thing to accept, that change in his mate’s regard, no matter that his own actions had brought it on.
He’d survived the last six years holding her promises of eternal love inside where none could see, question or condemn. He’d known he didn’t deserve her love after letting her down as he had, but he’d been without choices.
Though she did not know it, he’d taken the blame on himself. He hadn’t wanted to add to her resentment of their laird, realizing too late what a mistake that had been. Not least because when her parents decided to move away from the clan, showing no hesitation, Shona had gone with them.
Caelis had never considered she might leave their people,
. He’d thought he would have time to change his alpha’s mind about the mating, to make up to Shona the hurt he’d caused her.
Caelis had believed in their future even as he told her they had none. Her father’s leaving the clan had been an unforeseen circumstance. The fact that Shona went with him had shocked Caelis to the core. She had a life among her clan, friends if no family left.
The clan was her family. It was what they’d been taught since infancy.
And Caelis had believed her love stronger than even his alpha’s will.
There was no love in her pretty green eyes
when they fell on Caelis. At worst they swam with pain filled fury, at best with distrust so sharp it cut him to the core of his soul.
Not even the briefest flicker of joy had shown in the emerald depths since he’d first spied her in the courtyard, none of the relief or happiness
felt at this chance reunion. She did not share his delight that they had made a child together.
She would deny Eadan’s paternity if she could. Caelis had seen it in her eyes, but the boy looked too much like Caelis to be mistaken for anything but his own.
In Shona, Caelis could sense only resentment toward him.
While it might be well-earned, he hated it—almost as much as he had loathed every moment of their time apart.
He had spent six years craving nothing more than to be reunited with her. She had spent those same years despising him completely.
Even when he’d believed his laird that she was
true mate and the later lies (when word had come of her death, which he’d later come to question but could never be certain about), Caelis had never stopped aching for her.
Not one day had gone by in six years that he had not wished to have the mate of his heart by his side.
But ’twas clear she’d rather be in the presence of a diseased rat than him.
She trusted the two
wolves and even Niall more than she did Caelis.
Shona worried that he would take their son away. His promise to the contrary had had no impact on her at all. She denigrated his vows as of having less value than the border treaties signed by an English king.
But he was not the only one who had broken promises.
She had sworn she would never stop loving him and that she would always belong to him.
Mayhap he had no reason or right to expect her to keep such a promise, but he and his wolf shared a sense of betrayal that would not simply be shaken away.
’Twas clear that Shona did not understand Caelis’s determination to make them all a family, either.
His duty to his people would prevent them being together for a time. But now that he knew where she was, that she was indeed his true mate, nothing would keep them apart permanently.
Caelis had begun to doubt his laird’s claim that Uven alone could identify a pack member’s true mate within a year of Shona leaving their clan. Caelis’s wolf had grown increasingly difficult to control after she left and only Caelis’s dedication to his pack and his duty kept him among the MacLeod instead of chasing after her.
But Caelis had believed Uven, laird of the MacLeod and pack alpha, to be a great man. Caelis had accepted the other man’s words as truth when they’d been nothing more than vicious lies.
It had been hard to admit he was so wrong about the other man and too easy to doubt himself after the laird told him Shona had died.