Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(115)

By: Ceci Giltenan


She nodded.

He kissed her before remounting Goliath and riding with his men to the castle. Bram and Ian handed their horses over to a stable hands and headed for the hall. Bram paused before entering the keep. “This is going to be much worse than I imagined, isn’t it?”

“With the Sinclairs here, I fear it is,” agreed Ian.

“If anything happens, please get Grace and Kristen off of Sutherland land as fast as ye can.”

“Aye. I will.”

*

It was good to be reunited with Kristen again and for her part Kristen was happy as a lark. Innes, however, was beside herself with worry. Grace tried to distract her by telling her a mild version of what had happened over the last week. She packed Kristen’s things as she talked. When she had finished, Innes asked, “What’s going to happen? The laird won’t like this.”

“Nay, I’m sure he won’t. Bram expects that he will banish us. That’s why I am gathering Kristen’s things. Grandmother, if he does, I would like ye to go with us. But I understand if ye can’t.”

“Grace, I have always been devoted to Laird Sutherland but ye are my granddaughter. I will not stay here and serve a laird who sees fit to banish ye. Aye, I’ll come with ye.”

Innes too packed her things to be ready to leave. Once everything was ready to go, they waited.

And waited.

It was taking much longer than Grace had expected for Bram to return.

Innes occupied herself making bannocks. “If we have to leave, we will have them to take with us.”

Kristen begged to go out and play. Grace wasn’t anxious to run into any of the villagers until she knew what was happening.

“But I wanna pway,” whined Kristen.

“I know ye do. Let’s have our midday meal and maybe we can go later.”

“We could cwimb the hiww and eat on the gwass.”

“Nay, we need to wait here for Bram to come back.”

“But mama, I wanna cwimb the hiww. We haven’t done that for a wong time.”

“Kristen, ye know we shouldn’t go alone.”

“Because it wowwies Sir Bwam.”

“Aye, because he worries.” Frankly, although she could wear her shoes again, she wasn’t quite sure she was up to climbing the headlands. “I suppose we could sit under the big tree and have our meal. Would ye like that?” It was just beyond the cottage and far enough away from other cottages to afford a bit of privacy.

Kristen nodded.

“Grandmother, will ye join us?”

“Nay, lass. I’ll finish making the bannocks. The two of ye enjoy yerself.”

So with a fresh hot bannock, some cold chicken, and a jug of water, Grace and Kristen walked the short distance beyond the village to the big tree. They spread a plaid on the ground and ate their meal. When they were done, Grace leaned her back against the trunk. Kristen snuggled up next to her, putting her head in Grace’s lap. Grace stroked Kristen’s reddish-blond curls. She had missed this.

“Wiww ye sing to me, Mama?”

“Aye, precious, I’ll sing.” She closed her eyes and sang to her baby. It fed her soul like nothing else. Even after Kristen had drifted off, Grace kept singing. She only stopped when she heard movement in the grass nearby. Her eyes flew open.

There was an older man standing perhaps ten paces away from her, staring. “Hello.” He said. “And who might ye be?”

Two more men stood a distance away on the road. Grace glanced back towards the village. If she called for help, would anyone come? She wasn’t capable of running away with Kristen and she hadn’t had a knife strapped to her leg since the Morrisons took her.

The fear must have shown on her face because the man said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle ye. Ye have nothing to fear, I won’t hurt ye. I heard ye singing. Ye have a lovely voice.”

“Thank ye,” she said cautiously.

What’s yer name lass? Are ye a Sutherland?”

Grace’s first instinct was to say no, but she was, in fact, Grace Sutherland now. “Aye. I am. My name is Grace.”

Mild surprise registered briefly on his face. “Very nice to meet ye, Grace. My name is Ranulf.”

“Are ye a Sutherland?”