Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(121)

By: Ceci Giltenan

“My mother was a Sinclair and ye knew this?” Grace asked Laird Sinclair.

“As soon as I saw ye sitting under that tree, I knew ye had to be Catriona’s daughter.”

Annice’s face lit up. “She is Aunt Catriona’s daughter?” She ran across the room and threw her arms around Grace. “This is wonderful. Oh, Grace, we’re cousins.”

Grace was still having trouble grasping what was happening. She looked at Ranulf. “Ye’re my uncle?”

“Aye, Grace. I’m sorry I didn’t tell ye right away. I thought perhaps Eanraig needed to realize yer value solely as the woman Bram loved first. Otherwise, ye’d never see it yerself.”

“Tristan Murray is the one who ran off with yer sister.” Eanraig said, as if still trying to believe it. “I couldn’t believe the Tristan Murray I knew would cower from anyone. It was one of the reasons I didn’t want to believe Grace was his daughter. But by all that’s holy, I never would have believed he’d cross Kynan Sinclair. Grace, lass, yer da was no coward. He was a reckless eejit.”

Bram was affronted. “Da!”

“In fairness, Bram, my father was…well he was fractious. Few men willingly crossed him. He took offense easily and when offended, he was ruthless. It tore my heart when Grace told me how much Catriona feared our father, but as much as I hate to admit it, her fears weren’t ungrounded. I was there the day Tristan asked for Catriona’s hand. Da was furious. I fully expected him to kill Tristan at that moment. Oddly enough, it was probably my father’s love for Catriona that stayed his hand. His anger when he eventually learned she had already gone knew no bounds.”

Grace said, “I think what my parents feared most was that others would suffer because of their choice.”

Laird Sinclair nodded. “And they were right to fear that. Da mounted an extended search for them. First he accused the MacNicols of harboring them.”

“I have a vague memory of that now,” said Lady Sutherland. “At some point didn’t he get the idea that MacLeod was sheltering them?”

Ranulf agreed. “Aye, that’s what started the feud with the MacLeods.”

Lady Sinclair added, “And it’s why Ranulf’s father pushed for our Joan to marry Andrew MacLeod. He wanted to resolve the feud he started.” Lady Sinclair blinked back tears.

Rodina crossed the room and put her arms around Lady Sinclair. “Lara, I am so very sorry.”

“She was unhappy?” asked Grace.

Annice, who also had tears in her eyes, answered. “Nay, actually she and Andrew grew to love each other. She died in childbirth two years ago, God rest her soul.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Grace.

Everyone was silent for a moment before Laird Sinclair continued. “So ye see, our father’s temper was terrible. As much as I missed my wee sister, I prayed he would never find them. If he had, I have no doubt he would have killed yer father and exacted revenge on whomever gave them refuge.”

Laird Sutherland shook his head sadly. “Aye, that was his reputation. Grace, now that I know who yer mother was, I understand why yer parents didn’t ever contact Innes. If Kynan Sinclair found out Tristan was a Sutherland, we would have had an all-out war on our hands.”

The elderly Lady Sinclair took Grace’s hand. “Come, sit with me child.”

Grace followed her to the refectory table, and helped her into a chair, but remained standing to one side. It seemed inappropriate for Grace to sit with her.

The elderly woman patted the table beside her. As if reading Grace’s thoughts she said, “Ye belong here, Grace. Ye are my granddaughter. Please sit with me.”

Bram appeared at Grace’s side, pulling out a chair for her. He placed the box on the table in front of her but stayed with her, his hands resting on her shoulders.

Her grandmother said, “Grace, yer grandfather was a rigid man with a short temper and a long memory. He was guided more by his pride and his need for revenge than anything else. I begged him for years to forgive yer parents—to let it be known that they would be welcomed home. He refused me. I knew she was out there, somewhere, with the man she loved. That gave me a little consolation but oh, how I missed her. I had hoped someday, after Kynan died, I would see her again. From things said earlier, I know ye came here after her death. Please tell me she was happy.”