Wild Highland Magic (The Celtic Legends Series Book 3)(9)

“Perhaps we have been unwise, Conor.” Her mother brushed her hand over Cairenn’s hair as if she were Dairine at bedtime. “Perhaps we shouldn’t have kept Cairenn safe on this island for so long, away from other people, strangers and mainlanders.”

Cairenn felt her heart leap.

“You did not see her collapse that day.” Her father frowned. “You did not try to staunch pain for which there was no visible wound.”

Through Da’s mind she saw herself, barely thirteen years old, collapse on the mud of the strand outside Galway, her eyes rolling so that nothing showed but the whites. Through his mind she saw that her face had been the color of a gray, salt-stained sail. All that she really remembered was a cacophony of thoughts exploding from the city of Galway and funneling into her brain with such force that she’d felt as if her skull would explode from the inside. In the days that followed, pain was her only companion, until she finally came to a shaky alertness on the pallet that Lachlan now inhabited.

That was when her father stopped taking her to Galway, or even allowing her off the shore.

Funny how the one thing you’re forbidden to do becomes the thing your heart longs for the most.

“She was young, Conor,” her mother said quietly. “Her gift was new.”

“And still is,” he countered.

“How will it mature, if you don’t let her test the limits?”

“I will not lose another daughter, Deirdre, I will not.”

Her spirits sank. She knew Da had her best interests in mind, but she could not deny her yearnings. Unless Cairenn could find another moment to talk Seamus into going on their adventure, she’d be spending her days walking the length and breadth of Inishmaan—the whole stretch of her whole world—only to experience in other people’s minds the places she could never see.

Her mother said, “Maybe our new patient can be of help.”

Cairenn sensed a thought passing between them, high above her, moving so fast that not even she could catch it. It was like that with her ma and da. People in love had a special way of communicating that had nothing to do with fairy-gifts and everything to do with the kind of trusting closeness that she would never have.

“A blade needs a whetting stone, yes?” Her mother turned her swirling gaze on Cairenn. “Maybe your whetting stone is this Scotsman.”


Black spots appeared in his vision as Lachlan slumped into a sitting position on the peat-pile just outside the sickroom. The doctor would probably blister him for disobeying orders, but he was tired of lying about. He had to get out of the dim room. He had to feel the sunshine on his face and know he was living on the earth. He had to get strong soon, so he could return to Scotland, tell his father he was alive, and unmask the men who wanted them all dead.

Then he saw an angel emerge from the darkness of a doorway to drift like a feather across the courtyard. The sea breeze batted tendrils of her pale hair out of its braid. Her tunic, in a deep shade of sea-blue, flattened against her legs. Cowhide shoes covered her feet. She hesitated as she saw him sitting there, but not for long. The color in her cheeks deepened as she approached.

She held out a bowl. “I’ve brought you some dinner.”

He slipped his palm under the bowl to take it, by happenstance brushing her fingers with his own. She snapped her hand back.

He said nothing but couldn’t ignore her reaction. He usually didn’t strike fear in women. In fact, the looks he usually got were of a much more flirtatious type. Then again, this was no dark-eyed, dusky-haired, Italianate mignotta standing before him. But he couldn’t imagine what this woman might fear, considering his weakened state.

Well, he was sitting here shirtless in nothing but his braies.

He pulled the bowl onto his lap. “Fish, I see.”

“Aye. A selkie’s favorite.”

“I prefer herring. But I’ll just get that for myself once you find my skin.”

“It may be sooner than you think.” She tipped her head toward the opening in the stone gates. “My brothers and sisters are off looking for it now.”

“I saw a horde of them shouting as they raced out of the courtyard a while back. Are they all your siblings?”

“Seven out of eight are living here now. There may soon be a ninth, with the way my father looks at Ma.”

If she looks anything like you, lass, I’ve no doubt of it.

“My older sister is gone off and has started a family of her own.” She tugged at the hem of a tightly-laced sleeve as if she wanted to pull the cloth over her fingers. “She lives in Wales now, married to one of Prince Llywelyn’s knights.”

He raised his brows. Wales was far from these islands. Prince Llywelyn of Wales was currently engaged in a battle with the English for control of the marshes. How a lass from such a remote place became the wife of a knight was a tale he’d very much like to hear.

“The reason why my brothers and sisters ran,” she said, still fussing with the sleeve-laces, “is because they expect a gift from you if they find your skin.”

His lips twitched. “So you have the whole brood convinced, then.”

“I did what I must to get them out from underfoot. My mother ordered them to collect winkles while they were looking.”

“I don’t like winkles.” He dipped his fingers into the bowl to scoop up some of the fish. “Too much trouble to break the shells. And the shards get caught in my whiskers.”

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