Wild Highland Magic (The Celtic Legends Series Book 3)(11)

She glanced away from the blue blade of his gaze and saw that he’d taken a tress of her hair and curled it around his hand, trapping her as sure as if he were about to drag her into the sea.


He gave her name a burr she’d never heard before, a sound that rubbed against her like a cat against her leg.

He whispered, “Does someone own your heart, lass?”

Who could she trust her heart to, when she knew the weaknesses of every man on the island?

“The men on this island must be blind,” he said into the silence, “to leave such a beauty unmarried.”

“It’s a very small island.”

“And your father keeps you close.”

That much was true, even if she couldn’t tell him the reason why. “Doesn’t every father keep his daughters close?”

He narrowed his eyes a bit, as if contemplating her question, and then shifted his weight and changed the subject. “On the day you found me,” he said, “what were you doing upon the shore?”

She huffed a frustrated breath. How maddening it was not to understand why he bounced from one idea to the next.

“Winkles,” she lied. “I was collecting them from the stones.”

She certainly wasn’t going to tell him that she was coercing a young man to row her off shore just so she could imagine what it was like to venture unafraid into the world.

“Your mother must cook a powerful lot of winkles.” He gave her a half-smile that made his eyes laugh.

She shrugged, unnerved. She didn’t know what he was thinking, what he expected of her. It was like finding one’s way along the cliff side blind, when any wrong move would send her reeling into open space.

Her mother’s advice rang in her head. Learn to read this man and maybe you’ll finally master your gift.

She took a deep breath. For years she had lived only among her family and the village folk, whose thoughts tended to drift to the caring of the cows, or the flow of the herring. She knew their troubles and their fantasies, their worries and their wishes. Despite her father’s strictures, she had learned how to keep to the edge of the village and not be overwhelmed by their chatter. Over the years, their collective thoughts had become part of the sounds of the world, as constant as the rumble of the sea.

She had taught herself how to do that. She’d managed to learn it without collapsing under the assault of their minds, as she had outside the teeming city of Galway. Now her mother believed she could teach herself how to read this man, too.

Perhaps, she thought, all she needed to do was get a little closer.

She slid down a fraction on the peat pile. She lifted her hand between them, waiting for him to say something or stop her or do anything except stare at her with increasing intensity. When he didn’t move, she slid her hand across his jaw and felt the bristle of his unshaven cheek rasp against her palm.

Shock registered in those fathomless eyes, but he did not flinch.

“I just…want to check for fever,” she said. “Da has ordered me to look after you for now.”

Lachlan did feel warm, but that was not what seized her attention. When she touched him she felt an associated softening of his mind, a flexing like the pliability of a new pair of calfskin boots. She dared to mentally probe a little deeper, hoping to find a weakness that would let her slip into his thoughts.

Nothing moved, it seemed, not the scuttling white clouds above, not the breeze that had only moments ago been sweeping across the hill, not the birds nesting in the thatch above their heads. Sound thickened, muffled, as if the sea had receded, and the gulls stilled to glide soundlessly on the updrafts, and all she could hear in her ears was the frantic beating of her own heart.

It was strangely soft, this half-beard beneath her hand. Some of those bristles were dark, some reddish in color, all catching the glint of the sun. A pulse by his ear beat against her fingertip. His lips parted and she saw the gleam of his tongue, but no words left his mouth.


She was close enough to hear his unsteady breathing and see the pulse in his throat throbbing. She knew she had to look into his eyes but she hesitated to lift her gaze from the fascination of his cheek. Finally she did, and oh, how the flood came. A cascade of sensation that had everything to do with the intensity of his stare, the sudden tightness of his lips, and the flexing of a muscle in his cheek as he searched her face with as much unbound curiosity as she used to search his.

There was no mistaking what he was thinking. His mind was as blocked to her now as it had ever been, but she read with different senses than the one she was trying to hone. He was so beautiful, from the divot in his chin, to the sweep of the scar by his eye, and to the strange beauty of his midnight-blue eyes, dark and full of stars. She couldn’t read his mind because she was too busy thinking about what it would feel like if he kissed her.

Suddenly his hand covered hers. He peeled her fingers off his cheek and lowered her hand so it lay, palm up, between them. He scraped one thumb over the tender skin at the inside of her wrist. She felt that touch all through her body.

“Warm,” he said, his voice a rumble. “I can feel the rush of your blood.”

She felt it, too, throbbing through her veins, making her as breathless as if she’d raced the whole length of Inishmaan.

“It seems, Cairenn, that we’re both very human.”

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