Wild Highland Magic (The Celtic Legends Series Book 3)(6)

It was fruitless to parse meaning, so instead he tried to make a joke of it by gesturing to his naked chest. “I’ve got plenty of that, lass.”

“I went searching,” she continued, speaking as if to a stubborn toddler, “because I know you’ll need your skin when you return to the sea.”

“Well,” he laughed, “I wouldn’t want to lose it—”

“Don’t be joking,” she said. “I’m no fisherman’s wife lonely on the strand with her husband six months out to sea.”

Unmarried, then.

He felt a kick of pleasure.

“I know what you are, Lachlan, or whatever your true name is.” She stepped back. “I know that you’re a selkie.”


To Cairenn, it made perfect sense. When the angels fell, some fell on the land and some on the sea. The angels on land became fairies and those in the sea became selkies.

She knew the fairies were real enough. She knew them by the feel of the little whirlwinds that caught up in her skirts. She knew them by the distant sound of pipe music she heard over the waves. She knew them by the gift of foxglove she found growing around the dolmen stones on the height, a place where nothing green should ever grow.

But she didn’t feel their fairy minds, not like she sensed the minds of every other creature in the world. Her thoughts passed through them as cold as if they were ghosts.

So it made sense to assume this man spit up from the sea was a selkie. It was the only thing that made sense. But the look that passed across Lachlan’s face when she made the accusation was the same maddening, bemused, condescending little smile that everybody bestowed upon simple Seamus.

Then, suddenly, that look was gone.

“I know of selkies,” he said, in a low, lilting voice that spoke of serious contemplation. “My people tell tales of them.”

She thought of his people and imagined sleek dark bodies rolling and gliding under the waters.

“My clan lives close by the water,” he said, “on a river that spills into the North Sea. When I was a child, seals used to come upriver with the first winds of autumn to bask on the rocks off shore. They’d bark all the night long.”

His rumbling voice flowed over her like the warm June sun, and she took that as yet more proof that her suppositions were right. Selkie men were the sirens of the sea, more handsome than any human man, once they shucked their slick skins. And could there exist any man more handsome than this one, with his powerful shoulders, with his dark hair splayed over the pillow, with his long legs outlined against the blanket?

“I have a half-sister,” he continued, turning his head on the pillow so that he was staring far beyond the thatched ceiling. “Elspeth is a mite younger than you. Last time I saw her, she wrapped a chain of foxglove around my wrist. She said it was a fairy-bond, and it meant that I had to come back.”

The timbre of his voice made her feel that he wasn’t lying, but, then again, maybe she was just becoming ensnared. “It must be difficult,” she said, “finding foxglove at the bottom of the sea.”

His lips twitched. “Do I remind you so much of a seal, lass?”

She wouldn’t look down the long, strong length of him, no, she wouldn’t. “Once you shed your skin,” she said, “there’s no knowing.”

“It’s true I have cousins on the Orkney Islands who claim they’re descended from the Finnar. They were magic folk. Every once in a while, a child of that branch of the family is born with webbed feet.” He raised a hand and spread his fingers. “Webbed hands, too.”

She didn’t like the sly lift of his smile. “You’re mocking me.”

“Teasing,” he corrected. “Maybe a little.”

His eyebrows twitched, and a muscle moved in his cheek, and his eyes gleamed, and a strange uncertainty washed over her. She’d never had to look this hard at a person’s face to puzzle out what they were thinking, for she had her gift that could see right through such nonsense. How strange it was to be forced to do as her siblings did—attribute someone’s true intent by the bend of a brow or the flicker of a lash. What a risky, terrible, unreliable way to communicate.

“You’re teasing me,” she said, “just to get me off the subject. Do you deny that you’re a selkie?”

“It’s a fanciful notion, lass, and I think you know it.”

She did, but she wasn’t ready to embrace that truth. To admit he was human was to admit that her inability to read him was a failure of her gift.

“You’re fresh out of your skin,” she argued. In some of Niall’s tales, a selkie who’d shucked his skin sometimes forgot that he belonged in the water. “You think you’re human now, but at the first sight of the sea you’ll remember.”

“Help me up then,” he said. “Selkie or no, I’ve got a powerful urge to see what’s outside that window.”

She hesitated. The window was only a few steps from the pallet, but for him to see the ocean from it, he’d have to be out of bed.

She said, “My father doesn’t want you to stand up yet.”

“Your father,” he said, wincing as he swung his bare legs out from under the blanket, “is not here.”

“Don’t be foolish.” She looked away from the flimsy linen braies that covered his loins. “I don’t have the strength to hold up a man of your size—”

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