Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(119)

By: Ceci Giltenan

As they passed villagers—people who she had considered friends until Laird Sutherland had turned them against her—most of them stared at her with derision. However, she saw pity on a few faces. That was something at least. Perhaps a few minds and hearts were changing.

Laird Sinclair’s scowl grew darker as they went. “Why do they show ye such contempt?”

“Laird Sutherland tried to turn Bram against me and, well, it worked on nearly everyone else.”

“This will stop. Eanraig will see to it.”

Grace wasn’t convinced but she was already in enough trouble so she held her tongue.

When they reached the doors to the great hall, he stopped and faced her. “Things might get…tense. I know ye are Bram’s wife, but Bram is likely to be at the heart of any…uh…tension. For the next few minutes at least, if I ask ye to do something, will ye do it? Without question?”

“I—I—I suppose.”

“Why doesn’t that instill me with much confidence?”

She shrugged and gave him a half-smile. “Because I’m not particularly good at following orders but I have trouble lying.”

He chuckled, opening the door for her. “Just remember, no matter what is said, I’m on yer side.”

When they entered the hall, things were indeed tense. Bram and his father were having a heated discussion. Bram’s mother sat to one side, looking worried and not a little frightened. Ian also stood by silently, arms crossed and face set in a scowl. A young woman and a much older woman sat at the opposite end of the table from Lady Sutherland, watching the proceedings with concern. These were surely Annice and her grandmother. Another woman, who Grace assumed to be Lady Sinclair, had been pacing in front of the hearth and men from both clans stood by, clearly poised to act at the slightest hint of trouble.

Lady Sinclair was the first to notice them. She rushed toward her husband, her face flooding with relief. “Ranulf, ye were gone so long, I was worried.”

“I’m sorry, Lara.” He kissed her cheek. “I met a lovely young woman while I was walking. I’m fairly certain she has a vested interest in these proceedings. This is Grace.”

Bram turned his head towards them, a pained expression on his face. “Grace, my love…”

Lady Sinclair glanced at her and gasped. The elder Lady Sinclair looked equally shocked, exclaiming, “By the angels, Ranulf…”

“Aye, we have a few things to sort out. Annice, pour yer grandmother a goblet of wine.”

“Ranulf, she—”

He shook his head at her. “We’ll figure it out, mother.” Turning his attention to Laird Sutherland, he said, “Eanraig, I understand ye threatened to kill Grace if she married Bram. Are ye prepared to do that? Here she is.”

Grace gasped. Laird Sinclair still held her elbow and tightened his grip as she tried to pull away.

Confusion reigned for several minutes, with everyone talking at once.

Both Laird Sinclair’s wife and mother were outraged.

“Papa, ye can’t,” exclaimed Annice.

Lady Sutherland jumped to her feet, facing her husband, “Ye did what?”

As shocked as she was, Grace could barely take it in. Laird Sinclair seemed so nice and he had said he was on her side. What was he doing?

“Rodina, stay out of this,” ordered Laird Sutherland.

Bram turned on his father. “Nay. Father, ye didn’t mean that, I know ye didn’t.”

Grace tried to escape Laird Sinclair’s grip but he only pulled her close and whispered, “Be still, Grace. Let this play out. I told ye, I’m on yer side.”

Finally, Laird Sutherland roared, “Silence!” He glared at Laird Sinclair. “She is my son’s wife and the mother of a charming wee lass. Ranulf, ye know I didn’t want Bram to marry her, but nay, I will not kill her.”

“Then ye’ll banish them? This is a grave insult, Eanraig.”

“Ye’ve already said that several times.”

“So banish them and be done with it. Maybe that will assuage my temper.”

Lady Sutherland said, “Nay, please don’t ask that, Laird Sinclair. Eanraig, tell him nay.”

“Wheesht, Rodina. Laird Sinclair, I love my son. I’m angry with him and I am terribly sorry this all happened. But nay, I will not banish him.”