Wild Highland Magic (The Celtic Legends Series Book 3)(5)

He shifted his weight on the pallet. At the movement, the woman startled off the chair, knocking it over beneath her.

“Don’t go.” His hoarse shout caught her just as she reached the door. “Stay—please.”

She hesitated, one hand flat on the door. The thought came to him that an angel would have flown through the window, or disappeared in the blink of an eye, and yet here this woman stood with her hands splayed against the latch, a latch made of iron, and most otherworldly creatures couldn’t abide the touch of iron.

Human, then.

How far his mind had drifted into delirium that he fancied she was anything but.

“Water,” he said, pitching his voice low so as not to frighten her again. “Will you bring me some, lass?”

She was a slight thing, a wisp of a woman in a tunic the color of blueberries. Her ankles were so slim he thought he might be able to curl his thumb and forefinger around one. She pattered to the table where the doctor kept his things. She sought a clean cup, knocked over a wooden one, before finding a vessel that met her standards. She lifted a pitcher and filled it up, water splashing all over. She held the cup with two hands in front of her as she came around the table.

She hesitated more than an arm’s-length away.

“I’m no threat to you,” he said, keeping his voice low. “I’m hardly able to rise from this pallet.”

The bones of her clavicle rose and fell. She seized a hollow reed left on the bedside table and dropped it into the water. The cup shook as she stretched it out to him.

He winced as he took it, for even that slight movement tweaked his wound. He slipped the reed between his lips and took a good pull. The water was cold and spring-fresh. Strength surged through him with each sip.

She whispered, “Why are you here?”

Her voice was low and husky. As she waited for an answer she grasped her own knuckles.

“It was the tide that brought me here.” He met her gaze. “It was you who found me.”

“You remember.”

“As if I’d dreamed it.” A pretty dream, but nothing compared to the reality standing before him. “I have you to thank for my life.”

“‘Twas nothing but a coincidence that I was there—”

“If you hadn’t been, I’d be dead,” he interrupted. “Buried on the beach or sucked back into the sea. And that would have been the end of Lachlan of—”

Loch Fyfe.

He caught himself before he spoke the words. Best not to say too much about his identity, lest those who’d set out to kill him return to see if they had finished the task.

She said, “You don’t remember where you’re from.” It was a statement, not a question.

“My memory is fever-addled, it’ll return in time. Tell me your name, lass.”

She shook her head once, with vehemence. “I know what you’re after.”

He hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. “What kind of curse do you think I could put upon your name, while I lie here with all the power of a newborn?”

“You’ll steal my name,” she said. “And then you’ll steal my soul.”

Her words gave him pause. He wondered if she were touched in the head. Though the thought of stealing this beauty away, touched or not, certainly had him imagining what pleasures could be had with claiming her.

Yes, clearly, he was feeling better.

“I don’t like the sea,” she said, flexing her elbows like an agitated bird. “I don’t like the darkness beneath, and how cold it is, and the thought of the creatures of the deep.”

Her words were odd, but he played along. “I’m not so fond of the sea myself, after the time I spent bleeding and sputtering and trying to stay alive in it.”

“Was it a harpoon, then?”

His mind went blank.

“Your wound.” She patted her own shoulder, three swift little pats. “Was it a harpoon that struck you so deep?”

A tattered memory returned of three men on a dark deck, the flash of moonlight off a blade. “A sailor’s knife, I think. Bought and paid for by my enemies, to prevent me from doing what I was bid.”

“Your enemies.” Her brow knit, deeper than before.

“It’s no secret that I have them. Most stabbed men do. But my enemies are unlikely to find me here, if that’s what you’re worried about. To them, I’m good and dead.”

She mimicked the words good and dead, confusion wrinkling her brow.

“But I’m alive,” he said, “and I’d give a king’s ransom just to know your name.”

“I won’t tell you.” She walked in a tight little circle, turning away from him, and then turning back, distress in every movement. “I’ve been thinking of this and thinking of this until I came to only one conclusion that made sense,” she said, “but I still can’t find the proof.”


“I’ve searched the whole shore where you washed up,” she said. “I’ve been down there twice at low tide to look in the hollows between the boulders, to check every crevice for what you’ve left behind.”

“You shouldn’t have troubled yourself. I had nothing on me but what I wore and the sea stole that.”

“Exactly. I went looking for your skin.”

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