Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(118)

By: Ceci Giltenan


“That I did.”

She swallowed hard. “Ye introduced yerself as just Ranulf. I thought ye were a Sinclair guardsmen. Oh sweet mother of God, ye’re Laird Sinclair. What have I done?”

“Aye, I am Ranulf Sinclair, Laird Sinclair, but calm yerself, Grace, ye’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Please Laird, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. I’ll take Kristen—”

“That’s enough, lass. Let’s get Kristen tucked up for the rest of her nap.”

She nodded and led him into the cottage. The fresh bannocks sat cooling on the table. Her grandmother dozed in her chair by the hearth. “Grandmother, we have a visitor,” Grace said, holding the door for Laird Sinclair. Her grandmother looked up, surprise registering on her face when she saw the stranger carrying Kristen. Grace opened the door to the little bedroom for him. “There is a pallet for her in here.” She watched as Laird Sinclair gently laid Kristen on the pallet, covered her with a blanket, and to Grace’s utter surprise, kissed her forehead before coming back into the main room.

Overwhelmed, Grace said, “Grandmother, I would like ye to meet Laird Ranulf Sinclair. Laird Sinclair, my grandmother, Innes Murray.”

Her grandmother’s eyes grew wide with alarm, but she stood, curtsied and said, “Welcome, Laird.”

“Very nice to meet ye, Innes. Please sit down. I have spent the last little while getting to know Grace and she has completely charmed me.”

Innes glanced cautiously at Grace before asking, “Is there anything I can get ye, Laird?”

“Nay, thank ye Innes. Would ye object to minding Kristen for a bit while Grace and I go up to the keep?”

Innes shot worried glances at Grace. “The keep, Laird?”

“Aye, Innes, the keep. Do ye mind?”

“Nay, Laird, of course not. Whatever ye wish,” Innes said weakly.

“Grace, get yer mother’s box and we’ll go.”

“Please, Laird. Don’t ask me to do this.”

“I already have asked ye to and I am not accustomed to my requests being ignored. I promise ye everything will be fine. Now, yer mother’s box please.”

He had gone from kindly stranger to commanding laird in a matter of moments. He was polite, but his request brooked no refusal. She retrieved the box and followed him outside. The men who she now realized were his guardsmen waited for them.

“That’s the box? May I see it?”

Reluctantly, she handed it to him. He looked at it and ran a hand over the carved lid. “It’s very pretty. We’ll look at what’s inside it when we get to the keep.” He gave the box back to her. “Grace, lass, ye look terrified.”

“I don’t want to go to the keep. Bram said I should stay here and…I—I’m afraid of Laird Sutherland.”

“Why are ye so afraid of him?”

“He doesn’t like me. He’s bound to be livid with me…and Bram.”

“Oh he is, but he’ll get over it.”

“But…”

“But what, lass?”

“Laird Sutherland threatened to kill me if I married Bram.”

“Did he?”

“He wanted Bram to marry Annice for the good of the clan but—”

“—but he didn’t want to be the villain. He didn’t want his son to hate him. He gave ye that privilege.” Laird Sinclair looked furious.

“I’m so sorry, Laird.”

“There is nothing to be sorry for, Grace.”

“Ye’re not angry?”

“Oh, I’m very angry, but not with ye or Bram. I am furious with Eanraig.”

“But he tried to stop us.”

“That’s what annoys me. He knew Bram loved another woman and let us travel here anyway. I guess he hoped to fool us. My wife is affronted, even my mother is upset by this whole mess. Frankly, I had to leave the keep before I did something I would regret. That’s why I was out walking.”

“What about Annice?”

“What do ye mean?”

“Is Annice terribly upset?”

He smiled at her. “Annice will be fine. She is rather in love with the idea of being in love. She is more concerned about Bram and his new bride”—he looked pointedly at Grace—“than she is herself. Well, my sweet lass, a few problems await us at the keep but they should be easy enough to solve now.” He took her by the elbow. “Ye have nothing to fear.”

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