Her Barbarian Master:Forbidden Love (Alpha Male Master Series Book 2)(13)

By: Maggie Carpenter

Killian had settled himself on the window ledge to watch for her. He wanted to study her as she walked up the path and entered the compound. There was much that could be learned from a person's gait and the way they stood, but searching her wide blue eyes would reveal the most, and he couldn't do that until she was standing in front of him. He was beginning to feel anxious. Where was she? The sun was already high in the sky.

In an effort to settle his soul he sent his eyes down to the lush gardens. Though the barbarians were renowned for their skill as hunters, some among them were magicians with the land, able to grow abundant fruits and vegetables, and he allowed himself to get caught up in the detail of their work. It was a welcome distraction, but when he heard the sound of voices he snapped his gaze to the gate.

Layla and Serenity had arrived. His mother was greeting them. Layla was clearly nervous, shifting her weight from foot to foot with her head bowed. In contrast, Serenity had her chin tilted up, her arms were crossed, and her feet were apart and solid on the ground. Killian smiled. Even facing a day of hard labor the girl remained proud and confident, and he found himself admiring her.

Striding swiftly from the window and through the chambers, he followed the hallway and trotted down the wide staircase, reaching the bottom just as Marian was leading the two young women into the great hall. Once a grand entrance, it was now the most ruinous area of the castle. Half the walls were missing, and though the barbarians had removed most of the debris, there was still evidence of crumbling masonry.

"Greetings," he said as he marched forward, his eyes purposely focused on Layla. "Marian will be taking you into the kitchen. Hermione is the cook, and you'd best listen to her. She has a mean wooden stirring spoon, and she won't hesitate to land it on your backside if you misbehave."

"Marian just told me," Layla said fearfully. "I'll do everything she says."

"Aren't I going with her?" Serenity asked.

Killian suppressed a smile. He had hoped keeping his attention focused on Layla would elicit the query, and he was pleased his idea had worked. Shifting his gaze to her, marveling at her dark lashes framing her mesmerizing blue eyes, he folded his arms and sent her a stern stare.

"I have another job for you. Follow me."

He was about to turn when he saw her flicker of panic. He'd surprised her, the girl was unnerved, and he suddenly had the feeling of having the upper hand.

"Not until you tell me where I'm going."

Her response had been tentative, he'd heard it in her voice, but once again the village girl had shown her mettle. Brave but foolish. Or was she being foolish? It was a fair question. She'd been told she'd be working in the kitchen with her friend. Considering her last dose of discipline she had every reason to be worried.

"You'll find out when we get there," he replied, "now do as you're told."

"That's not what you promised us yesterday," she argued. "The agreement was that I would work in the kitchen with Layla."

"The agreement was that you would be punished."

"No, the agreement was that I would be punished by working in the kitchen," she repeated. "Maybe I shouldn't be questioning you. Maybe I should just accept whatever it is you've decided, but it doesn't seem right. Barbarians are supposed to be men of their word."

"And we are men of our word."

Bastian's voice boomed through the great hall, and Serenity's eyes darted across to the fearsome leader as he descended the stairs.

"Serenity, once again you are showing lack of good judgement," he scolded. "Follow Killian and do as he says. You are testing my patience, young woman, and that is not a good idea."

"But I—"

"Make me repeat myself and I will spank you right here," Killian warned, and with a purposeful jerk of his head, he strode away as if expecting her to follow.

Swallowing hard, Serenity shot Layla a reassuring glance then hurried after him. He was turning around a corner, and breaking into a run she finally caught up to him as he entered a door at the end of the hall.

"Will you please tell me where you're taking me?"

He came to an abrupt halt, causing her to trip, but his large hand caught her arm just as she was about to tumble to the ground. His grip was strong, but gentle, as if he knew he would hurt her wrist if he wasn't careful. As she righted herself and looked up at him, she was surprised to see his eyes were warm and brown, his features were smooth, and he looked remarkably handsome.