The Pocket Watch(11)

By: Ceci Giltenan

“Damnation, Margaret. What’s the matter?”

“I’m fine. I just tripped.”

“Ye aren’t fine. Something is wrong; ye’re pale as a wraith.”

“I’m sorry, I just…I might have cracked some ribs when I fell off the horse. It hurts a little to breathe.” And that might have been an understatement.

“It hurts to breathe? God’s blessed bones, I asked ye if ye were injured right after ye fell. Why didn’t ye tell me it hurt to breathe? Ye said ye would be fine.”

“I will be fine. Cracked ribs heal.”

“By the Almighty, woman, I would never have made ye walk if I had known ye were hurt. Come here, ye can ride the rest of the way on Micah.”

“Nay, I’ll be alright. I don’t want to ride.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” He walked toward her.

She stepped back. “Nay, please don’t make me ride.” She wasn’t sure which she feared more, riding again or the pain he would cause by lifting her onto the horse’s back.

Chapter 3

The Central Highlands

June 1270

Logan had never been so shocked and confused. He had been betrothed to Margaret Grant for several years, but she had only recently come to Castle Carr. It was ostensibly so they could get to know each other before the wedding. But Logan secretly believed even her own father wanted rid of her. She was lovely to look at but the most insensitive, thoughtless, selfish woman he had ever encountered. He dreaded marrying her but he had no choice.

At his mother’s request, he had made every effort to court Margaret. His mother thought maybe Margaret’s behavior would change if she were treated with kindness and tolerance until she became more comfortable with them all. For that reason he tried to be gentle and patient with the unpleasant woman.

Nothing Logan did met with Margaret’s approval. However, she did enjoy going riding, so he made the effort to take her occasionally. But even then, she was sharp-tongued and treated him with scorn. He had finally given up all pretense, at least when they were alone. He endeavored not to be discourteous, preferring to simply treat her with indifference. But today, he had reached his limit.

When they had come to the gently sloping heath, she asked, “Are we going to ride like old crones again today?”

He shrugged. “We can pick up the pace a little if ye wish.”

“We can pick up the pace a little,” she mocked him. “Yer docile bag-of-bones may be satisfied plodding along, but Robin needs a run.”

“Margaret, ye have to be careful—” He had started to caution her about the rocky places hidden in the grass as well as the precipitous drop on the far side of the opposite hill.

But before he could finish she had kicked her horse into a gallop, calling over her shoulder, “I am an excellent rider and I don’t need the likes of ye telling me what to do.”

He tried to catch up to her, risking his own mount’s safety in the process. He needed to stop her before she met with disaster, but she intentionally eluded him. He simply couldn’t reach her. He bellowed for her to stop but she kept right on. If she hadn’t reined in when she did…he didn’t like to think about it. Even though, in his anger, he told her she would be no loss, that wasn’t precisely true. If Laird Grant’s only daughter was killed while in the care of the Carrs, it would destroy the already strained relationship that this betrothal was meant to repair.

When she was thrown, his heart nearly stopped. She landed on her back and lay still. She didn’t roll away from Robin’s deadly hooves. His one goal became ensuring the distressed gelding didn’t trample her. When he finally was able to turn his attention to Margaret, she was moving to stand. The relief he felt was as profound as his anger. Over the last few weeks he had struggled to keep his temper under control, and he could do it no longer.

However, when he yelled at her, calling her out for her reckless actions, she said I’m sorry. It was so unexpected, he believed she was mocking him and continued to berate her.

When he told her she would have to walk back to the keep she didn’t turn into the screeching harpy he expected. She followed him silently. It was such unpredictable behavior, he thought perhaps her brush with death had cowed her. Logan surreptitiously glanced back at her occasionally, expecting to see her ire rising as they walked, but it didn’t. She seemed inordinately preoccupied with the surroundings, as if seeing them for the first time. Well she was seeing them for the first time. She couldn’t have taken in much earlier as she was flying past it at breakneck speed.