Authors: Lucy Monroe
Tags: #Historical Romance, #love story, #warriors, #Paranormal Romance, #supernatural romance, #scotland, #Paranormal, #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Scottish, #Scotland Highlands, #wolves, #highlanders
“It is complicated.” And he was clearly reluctant to share the nature of that
“You are welcome to spare me the details.”
Again it appeared as if she’d surprised him. “You used to be so curious.”
“The one thing I want to know about you, Caelis—the
thing that matters to me any longer—is if you are going to try to rob me of my son.”
“I will not.”
She wanted to believe him, for her own sake. Wanted to feel relief at the hard promise. Not only could she
trust his promises, however, she didn’t believe it could be that simple.
Caelis had already verbally claimed Eadan. To walk away now would be to impugn his warrior’s honor. He would not do that for her sake, or even their son’s. Of that, she had no doubts.
“Then you have no objection to us traveling on to Balmoral Island as soon as the Sinclair laird gives us his leave to do so?” She didn’t believe it, but she needed to push Caelis into revealing his plans.
“Why Balmoral Island?”
“I have family there.”
“I did not know that.”
She shrugged. Confidences that they had, or
shared six years ago had no importance today.
“Who is it?”
“My great-grandmother came from the island. Her sister also married and had children. The last I had heard, some still lived from that generation as well as those of my own.”
“You do not know?”
“There has been no direct contact between the two branches of the family in many years, but I am certain my Balmoral kin will welcome my children and me into their clan.” At least, she hoped with great fervency.
Everything she had learned of her grandmother’s clan of origin pointed to a people who put great store by family and loyalty. A clan she could depend on to keep her and her children safe from a greedy Englishman’s desires.
“The Balmoral clan is a good one. I have spent the last year training with a special group of their soldiers.”
That at least explained what he was doing away from MacLeod lands. Though the fact her former laird had sent one of his soldiers to train under another did not meet with overweening arrogance she remembered.
“What are you doing here then?” She knew the Balmoral and Sinclairs were allies, and Caelis staying in the keep on his way southward made sense, but he was more of a long-term guest here.
That seemed clear enough.
“More training with the Sinclairs.”
Things must have changed a great deal since she left her clan behind. “I see.”
He waited for her next question with a patience she did not remember from their past.
“So your plans are to return to the MacLeod clan?” she asked with undisguised hope.
Caelis’s expression turned very serious. “Aye.”
“You will not take my son from me.”
“I told you, I have no intention of separating mother from child.”
“But?” She knew there was a caveat. Why did he have to pretend there was not?
“I cannot live among the Balmoral. I have obligations to my people. I have to return to the MacLeod.”
“What has that to do with me, or my children, for that matter?”
children,” he emphasized, finally revealing his
true colors. “If I am not living among the Balmoral, naturally you and the children will not be, either.”
“I will not go back to that clan.” Her former laird had not been a good man, no matter what Caelis might think.
“Not immediately, no, but once I have discharged my duty, you and our children will join me.”
She laughed then, the sound bordering on hysterical. The man was completely daft. “You speak as if we have promises between us, plans to be together as a family. We have none.”
Her voice rose and the hysteria edged closer. She forced air in and out of her lungs as she pushed away the overwhelming sense of panic.
have the future we dreamed of six years ago.” He dropped to his knees in front of her, his big hands engulfing her own. “I am no longer willing to live without my true mate for the sake of a corrupt alpha.”
“You are not making any sense, Caelis.”
“You belong to me. ’Tis simple as that.”
He could not truly believe that?
“Oh, no. It is not simple at all. I
belong to you.” Though her heart called her a liar. “Mayhap I did all those years ago, but not now. Never again.”
“Never is a long time, lass.”
“And sometimes not long enough.” When it came to seeing Percival, new Baron of Heronshire, again, never would be too short.
She’d thought the same about Caelis, but the heart that had gone dormant when she left Scotland began to flutter again. True that flutter brought naught but pain now.
And yet a very tiny part of her was glad not to be so dead inside. She’d felt emotion for her children, but it was a different place in her heart that had been sleeping these past years.
A place that at one time had given her both her greatest joy and most devastating sorrow.
“I will change your mind.” He promised. “We are meant to be together.”
“I used to believe that.” She’d been certain to the very depths of her soul that she and this man had a glorious future together.
A love story to write with their hearts and their bodies so profound, their children’s grandchildren would tell it to their babes. Losing her faith in the future had hurt almost as much as losing him.
“Believe it again.”
“No.” She’d been hurt enough by this man and by her own dreams.
Neither would ever be given free rein in her heart again.
His impossibly blue gaze bored into hers. “Some things in life, we have no choice about.”
“You mean like six years ago?” she asked sweetly.
An expression of relief (no doubt that she’d
understood) came over his features. “Exactly like six years ago.”
“Then you are a very ineffectual man, Caelis of the MacLeod. Six years ago, you had a choice indeed.”
“I told you—”
“That our laird denied us the right to marry in the clan,” she interrupted. “But what does that signify? Only that your love for his regard far exceeded any small feelings you might have had for me. You denied me.
You denied our son.
All on the say-so of a despot worse than the man I am currently running from. Do not you claim you had no choice. You had a very real choice, Caelis, and you made it!”
“You do not understand.”
“You think not? I know this. Had the choice been mine six years ago, I would have run from the clan, abandoned my family and followed you across the waters if need be for us to be together. You wouldn’t even leave with me to another clan.”
“I could not!” His bellow was louder than hers, but she was not impressed.
“Then I say again, Caelis, you were a very ineffectual man. And I believed you a warrior at heart.”
“I am. How dare you doubt my fighting spirit!”
claim one when you never fought for the right to be with me!” He surged to his feet, towering above her, his rage a palpable force around them.
She was not impressed.
“I thought he wanted only what was best for me. As you said, I was one of his favored ones. He claimed that as my alpha he could tell you were not my true mate. How was I supposed to know he lied?”
“You wanted to believe him. You wanted to believe that some in the clan were more important, superior to others. You wanted to be one of those
beings.” She put all the derision she felt into that word, letting Caelis know just how
superior she considered a man who could abandon her as he had done.
His face contorted as if holding something of great import back. Finally, he said, “I was.”
“I would say that I am sorry you lost your place, but I am not. The longer you held favor with that man, the more of your humanity you would have given up to him.”
“You do not know how true your words are,” Caelis said, his tone subdued, his face cast in shadows so she could not read his expression.
She had no answer for him. He had chosen, no matter that he claimed there had been none, and he had done so poorly.
He sat on the edge of her bed, leaving his scent behind, though she would not tell him so. She’d always been sensitive to it, reveling in his nearness even when she could not see him.
He looked down at the floor, as if it might have the answers he sought. “There are things I did not tell you then. Things you will have to know now.”
“You sound very mysterious.”
He nodded, his expression sober. “It is a great mystery, a secret the humans who are privileged to know must keep at the pain of death.”
like you think yourself something
greater than.” Was this truly the man she had loved so dearly?
His sense of superiority and excessive vanity might even rival Percival’s.
“Not better than—I understand that now—but not the same either.” Caelis’s expression pleaded with her for understanding.
But once again, his words were more confusion than explanation.
“Will you ever start making sense?” she demanded with asperity. “No matter what your exalted laird would have you believe, you are
some superior being.”
“I am Chrechte,” Caelis blurted out with exasperation, jumping to his feet and turning away as if frustrated with her obdurate behavior.
Really? If he persisted in trying to unite them as a family, he would soon learn that she was capable of far more obstinacy than this.
And the whole Chrechte mystique? Not so mysterious after all. Everyone in the clan knew about the band of warriors that considered themselves elite among the soldiers.
She rolled her eyes. “So I heard on more than one occasion six years ago from you and others. You considered your skills as a warrior something to set you apart.”
He spun back to face her, his expression growing increasingly astonished as she continued speaking.
“My skills as a warrior
above those of other men, Chrechte as well,” he declared with affront.
“And I am an English lady with claim to title and little else. Do you know how it has set me apart?” she asked scathingly. “Not one wee bit. I am still a mother, a friend, a woman with less say in my life than the steward who ran my dead husband’s estates.”
“You ignore everything you do not wish to hear,” he accused, his frustration obviously mounting.
She glared at him, her own ire rising to match his. “If you want me to
you, may I suggest you try talking sense rather than the ravings of arrogant idiocy.”
“I am no idiot!”
“Well, you’re certainly not a lord of logic, either.”
“I am a shape-changer,” he practically yelled. “Chrechte means I share my nature with an animal. Mine is a wolf.”
Her heart nearly stopped in her chest. She’d called him daft, but she hadn’t meant it. Had not truly believed he had lost his ability to think and behave rationally.
His talk now made her cold with dread.
“Stop this nonsense. Please, Caelis, do not show yourself truly insane,” she pleaded with him.
He simply shook his head and then removed his plaid with an economy of movement. He made no move to come closer to her, but she jumped off the chest anyway, sidling toward the door and escape.
“No. Caelis. I will not take you to my bed.”
“Aye. You will, but not right now.”
She shook her head, her heart beating so fast in her chest that it hurt.
He lifted his head, sniffing at the air and then looked with concern at her. “You have nothing to fear, Shona. Not ever from me.”
“You have hurt me more than any other,” she baldly disagreed.
That was one lie she simply could not let stand.
“Let me show you why.”
What did he expect her to do? Give him permission? She just wanted out of the room, but before she could make her move for the unbarred door, a flash of light shown around Caelis.
Then, where he had stood was now a large dark-haired wolf.
One must have grave reason for revealing the knowledge of the Chrechte’s true nature to a human. For to betray that knowledge carelessly is to invite certain death.
HRECHTE ORAL TRADITIONS
hona blinked slowly.
Perhaps it was
who had lost her grasp on reality, but when she opened her eyes again, the wolf still stood there.
She backed toward the wall, fear mixed with disbelief making her stomach roil. When her shoulders encountered the hard ungiving barrier, she whimpered.
The wolf whined, tilting his head to one side as if trying to tell her she had nothing to worry about.
“Caelis?” she asked in a voice that trembled. And then immediately began to berate herself for doing so. “No, he is not a wolf. He cannot be. My eyes are deceiving me.”
The wolf stalked across the room, crowding close to her.
Her entire body shook with the terror and confusion gripping her. “No, stay away.”
The wolf stopped, letting out a short bark that sounded so much like Caelis when he was exasperated with her, she gasped.