Wild Highland Magic (The Celtic Legends Series Book 3)(7)

“I’ve been stabbed in the back, not in the legs.” He paused while sitting at the edge of the bed. “Your hand, lass.”

He was already half up off the pallet. In her mind she saw him keeling forward, crashing to the floor, ripping open the stitches under the wound while the linen that bound it turned black with blood.

“Stubborn selkie,” she said, as she reached for him. His hand was warm, firm and so much bigger than her own. She allowed him to draw her close, but once within the circle of his warmth, she shook free of his grip. She slipped her arm behind his back and slid under his good shoulder to brace him. “You don’t listen to what’s good for you.”

“It must be because of all the water in our ears.”

She couldn’t laugh because her cheek was pressed against a powerful chest that smelled of medicine and sleep and sea-salt and man. The closeness addled her in the same way the dolmen stones on the height addled her when she dared to creep closer, stealing her senses and making her feel dizzy and tingly at the same time.

“You’re a wee bit of a thing.” He tucked her under him as he rose to his full height. “I’ll try not to crush you with my fins.”

“Full of teasing, you are.”

She glanced up to meet his gaze and that was a terrible mistake. The face that looked down upon hers was so very human. His unshaven jaw was rough with bristles. Shadows gathered under his cheekbones and in the divot of his upper lip. A crescent scar pulsed white against the skin on his temple. His nose and cheekbones sported a faint, boyish scattering of freckles. And those otherworldly eyes, those deep, deep, blue eyes fringed by dark lashes…she felt as if she were falling into them, even though she was looking up.

Still, beyond the gleam of those eyes, she sensed nothing, nothing, a darkness like the bottom of the sea.

He whispered, “Don’t be frightened of me, lass.”

She was frightened, for that was exactly what a selkie would say when he came upon shore seeking the lonely girls, longing for love. Niall’s stories teemed with selkie men glimpsing a sore-hearted woman on the strand and feeling the pull of that lonesomeness. And hadn’t she been the solemn one these past years, staring out from atop the cliffs, watching wistfully as ships sailed out of Galway Bay?

She must have been a bright, glaring beacon, standing alone on that strand.

Then the sound of the sea drew his attention away. He took another step toward the window. He put very little weight upon her, but she felt every bit of it, his muscles moving in strange and wondrous ways.

They reached the window and the salt breeze hit them.

Her home of Dun Conor stood at the height of the island. Because of the fierce winds, it wasn’t the best place to build a home, but her da had chosen it the moment he brought his bride to Inishmaan. He’d raised this fortress upon the ruins of some ancient stronghold that had been here for as long as the islanders had memory. The fortress had high walls to cut the wind coming off the Atlantic. This window gave a view of the nearby island of Inishmore as well as the turbulent channel between.

As soon as Lachlan caught sight of the white caps of the churning sea crashing against the rock below, a shock bolted through his body. She felt it as surely as if it shot through herself.

He murmured “by the Dagdá” in a voice full of awe and disbelief.

Her heart did a skitter-skip. Hadn’t she known this would happen? The minute he laid eyes on the waters of his home the longing would overwhelm him. Her sister Aileen would call this hiraeth, a wistful nostalgia for something that was lost combined with a yearning that would not let go.

“I’ll find your skin,” she said, as her throat closed up. “I’ll find your skin and you can go back home to the sea.”

“You mistake me, lass.” His weight began to bear down upon her. “Those waters are home only to the dead.”

She stared at the churning channel and a strange chill went through her because she knew that he spoke the truth.

“I will go back to the sea,” he said darkly, “but it’ll be upon a ship.” He turned back to the pallet, sweat beading on his brow. “And when I do, I’ll go with a sword gripped in my hand.”


“I spoke to the boy last night.”

Cairenn looked up from pouring ale and froze under her father’s steady blue gaze. An image flashed through her father’s mind—Lachlan on the pallet with his dark hair spread across the pillow.

“His name is Lachlan,” she stuttered. Every man was a boy to Da, who’d lived more years than he could count. “I told you that yesterday.”

She’d told Da that Lachlan was Scottish from a place on the shores of a tributary to the North Sea. She’d told Da that he’d been stabbed on a ship, and that he was determined to wreak vengeance on somebody. As soon as Da had come back from the alehouse, she’d told her father everything she knew—except that she couldn’t read the man’s thoughts. She couldn’t confess that then, for her brothers and sisters had been swarming around them, their minds hungry with curiosity.

Her father continued, “I heard him shout in the middle of the night and went to find him collapsed by the window. A few more days and I would take out those stitches, but he’s determined to rip them himself.”

She put the pitcher of ale on the table and slipped onto the bench. Her brothers and sisters were lined up on the other side, stuffing their mouths with whitefish as they watched them with that preternatural sense that something was about to happen. Something was about to happen, indeed, but if she had her way her siblings wouldn’t be around to witness.

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