"It's not?" Emily looked like she was considering calling Lachlan daft again.
"But I'm freezing."
He looked down at her and saw that she did indeed have goose bumps all over her body. He wanted nothing more than to smooth them away with one hot caress after another. "We will start with floating."
"F-floating?" She was cold, but he thought the stutter a result of the nervous fear in her eyes.
"I will not let you sink, Emily."
Her eyes filled with resolve. "I do not want to be afraid."
"You will conquer your fear."
"I want to, but I don't know if I can." She did not sound happy with that fact, but resigned to it.
"You can." He was impressed that she did not insist he take her out of the water.
The longer they stood there, the more rigid she became as terror that was so great it even masked the scent of her excitement overcame her. Something shifted inside him as he saw it happen. He hated to see her afraid and was determined to help her. Even his sexual desire took a secondary role to that determination.
"If you drop me, I'm afraid I'll sink into a dark abyss, that the water will hold me down until all my air is gone, until I die… I… I feel like the lake is bottomless, that I will be lost forever. Promise me, you will not drop me."
He was impressed with her for having the courage to voice her fears. "I have already made this promise."
"Say it again."
"I promise I will not let you sink."
She smiled gratefully, though it was a poor attempt. Her mouth trembled and she had turned the color of parchment. "Thank you."
"The loch is not bottomless either, lass."
"I know, but…"
"I am standing on the bottom now and it does not go over my head for a dozen or more feet out."
"I would like to learn to swim here then."
He kissed her softly on her partially parted lips. "All right, sweeting."
A hot blush stole over her cheeks at the endearment and it was all he could do not to kiss her again. She was so damn precious. And she made him smile. He'd been laird for a decade, ever since his father's death in battle, taking on the responsibilities shortly after his voice changed. He'd learned restraint early. He'd also learned duty was more important than pleasure and he had spent the last ten years proving that.
This slip of a woman made him crave the pleasure. She was dangerous, but she was also irresistible.
She gasped and grabbed onto his shoulders the first time he tried to let her go. He found himself almost forgetting their shared nudity in his quest to help her overcome her terror of the water. It took an hour to get her floating with his hand only lightly touching her back, but he was so proud of her for getting that far that he was grinning when he heard an approaching soldier.
He looked down at her lovely body exposed to his gaze and the summer sun and for the first time in an hour saw her as the soldier approaching might see her. Her breasts, belly and thighs floated above the water, while the rest of her was revealed through its crystal clear depths. He had swum naked with femwolves before, and even had sex with them afterward, but never before had he felt the sense of possessiveness he did toward Emily right now.
She was not his woman, but he did not want anyone else to see her this way. Her berry-ripe nipples were beaded from the cold water, and the golden brown curls on her feminine mound glistened with droplets of moisture. Her thighs were apart just far enough for his hand to slide between them and touch her delicate folds if he wanted to.
His hand itched to do just that, but his senses told him the soldier would be there soon.
He sighed soundlessly and then spoke. "Someone is coming."
She'd been floating with her eyes closed upon his instruction, but now they flew open and she tried to sit up. Because she was in the water, she started to sink instead, of course, and he had to grab her to keep her face from going under.
She spluttered and latched onto his shoulders with urgent fingers. "Where? Who?" She frantically looked around the clearing. "I don't see anyone."
"He will be here in a few seconds."
"I suppose you can hear him," she said sarcastically.
She frowned and shook her head. "It makes no sense and I don't know why, but I believe you."
"I do not lie."
"I need my clothes." When he didn't move fast enough to suit her, she tried to shake him. "Now, before he gets here."
He was in complete agreement, but it still took him a moment to force his muscles to obey the command to leave the water. Now that he wasn't focused on teaching her to swim, his need for her was taking precedence over his common sense. His wolf wanted to touch and taste her delectable naked curves.
The wolf would have to wait along with his wholly human need. Using the speed of his inner beast, he carried her to the shore, and then threw his plaid around her like a blanket. The soldier was approaching at a run and would break through the concealing trees in a few seconds. She grabbed the edges of the plaid, making sure it covered her. It was not a woman's plaid and though he was much bigger than she was, a good portion of her legs was still exposed.
He shoved her shift and tunic at her. "Go over there and dress." He pointed to a dense clump of bushes that would hide her from even a werewolf's gaze, though the man approaching was only human.
Lachlan didn't need to be in wolf form to pick up Ulf's scent at this distance. His senses were superior even in his human body, but not quite as good as when he changed.
Emily had grabbed her clothes and disappeared behind the bushes. "You are going to meet your soldier naked?" she called.
"It is my brother."
His plaid landed on the ground a foot or so from the bushes. "Get dressed."
"A captive does not give a laird orders," he instructed her.
"This one does."
He almost laughed at her impudence. He knew no other woman like her… femwolf or human. He had just picked up the plaid when Ulf came into the clearing.
He was scowling. There was nothing new in that. His brother smiled less frequently than he did, but the look of accusation in his eyes irritated Lachlan. Ulf believed his family position gave him the right to question his laird, and Lachlan often humored him. It was not his brother's fault he had not been born werewolf.
He had pitied his older brother since the year came for Ulf's first change and it did not happen. Their father had been disappointed; their mother had been relieved and Ulf had learned that unlike what he had believed since childhood, he would not one day rule the Balmorals. There had been signs that his brother was fully human all along, but their father had ignored them, insisting his sons were both wolves.
He had been wrong. Only one had carried the ability to change and it had been Lachlan. From the week after his first full moon as a werewolf, he had been trained to take over the clan one day. Ulf had never protested. It would have done no good. A human could not survive a challenge by a werewolf and Lachlan would have challenged Ulf's leadership if he had tried to assert it. For the good of the clan.
His entire life had been lived toward that greater good and he was not about to forget his responsibilities now.
"Where is she?" Ulf demanded by way of greeting.
Lachlan could hear Emily pause in her struggle to tug her clothing on. She'd also stopped breathing, as if waiting to hear how Lachlan answered.
He nodded toward the bushes with his head while he secured his plaid.
Ulf's scowl grew more pronounced. "What is she doing over there? You're wet. You were naked when I arrived. Have you taken to tumbling your enemy's castoffs in the water? I thought you only indulged in that sort of thing with femwolves."
Lachlan knocked his brother to the ground with a hard shove. "Guard your tongue."
Ulf had the grace to look chagrined when he realized what he had said. Emily was no more aware than most of the humans in the Highlands of the wolf nature inhabiting some of their clanspeople. Ulf knew the penalty of betraying the Chrechte's secrets to those who should not know.
Death. And being the laird's brother would not save him.
Lachlan did not know what Emily would do if she knew the pack's secret, but she was human and that meant they did not take the chance.
Then, to cover both Ulf's blunder and his own correction, he said, "She is no one's castoff, as I have told you."
Emily muttered something about arrogant men poking their noses into business that was not theirs and he had no doubts she could hear every word he and his brother spoke.
Ulf showed no evidence of hearing her low-voiced grumbling as he climbed to his feet. "Yet she does belong to your enemy."
"He refused her." Lachlan was bloody weary of discussing the Sinclair laird.
"And you plan to keep her in his place?" Ulf asked with derisive bite.
"No." Lachlan did not understand his brother's derision.
Emily was human, but so was Ulf. She was not the other laird's castoff and if Lachlan chose to keep her, he could not see what objection Ulf might raise. Unless he, too, was concerned about Lachlan's children being born wolf.
Ulf, better than anyone, knew the price paid when a child born to a Chrechte and a human took human form instead of a wolf's. Their race did not reproduce easily, but to do so and not pass on the gifts of the Chrechte was a tragedy.
"You are giving a great imitation of a man governed by his lust rather than his head." Ulf's criticism stung because it was so close to the truth.
Lachlan was too proud to admit such a thing though. "I grow weary of your harping, brother. You sound like a fretful old woman."
"Better than a man at the mercy of his beast."
Lachlan usually let comments like that slide, but enough was enough. His brother needed reining in. "Be careful I do not unleash my beast on you," he said with chilling bite.
Ulf winced, but quickly controlled his features. His strength in the face of even a Chrechte's threat impressed Lachlan. He had always admired his human brother and while he had pitied Ulf's inability to make the change, he'd never made the mistake of thinking the older man was weak for what he was.
Not wanting to risk Emily hearing anything more that might betray his secrets, he led his brother far from the bushes she was now simply hiding behind. She'd finished dressing but had not come out, and he didn't know if it was because she was embarrassed or because she didn't like his brother, or both.
He stopped a good thirty feet away. "Say what you came here to say."
Ulf's hands fisted at his sides. "First tell me honestly if you have plans to marry the woman."
"You should know better than that. I will not marry a human."
"Not even a clanswoman?" Ulf asked.
"You're worried the Chrechte's secrets will be revealed."
"That is part of it." Intermating always carried such a risk. There had been a time when it had been expressly forbidden, but that was before the Chrechte joined the Celtic clans. Many maintained the ancient ways though.
His father had not.
"You're afraid all of your offspring would be like me, instead of just one, aren't you?" Ulf asked, sounding bitter.
"It is the responsibility of all Chrechte, but especially the leaders, to make sure our race does not die out."
"I am no less a Chrechte warrior than you because I have no beast to overcome my human logic."
Lachlan did not agree, but he could not explain to his brother, who had no wolf, what it meant to know the beast lived inside him giving him strength and superior abilities. Far from diminishing his ability to think logically, his beast added an animal cunning to his thoughts that no human could emulate.
"There is no need for this argument. I have told you I do not intend to keep the Englishwoman. Why is not important."
"To you maybe."
"To you either. My decisions are not subject to your approval, nor are my thoughts."
"You're so damn arrogant."
"Emily thinks that's a Highland trait."
Ulf did not smile at the jest. "She has a low opinion of us all."
"That you have done nothing to rectify."
"Why should I? I care not what my enemy thinks of me."
"She is not your enemy."
"I do not dismiss the truth in favor of my cock's urgings. She is English and she is promised to the Sinclair laird. That makes her my enemy."
"She is a Balmoral captive, which puts her under my protection. Consider that the next time you are tempted to treat her like your enemy," Lachlan said in clear warning.
"I came to tell you that Duncan is here to give his report." The lack of urgency in Ulf's manner indicated the spy's report was not to tell them that the Sinclair had gathered his troops and was even now crossing the sea to lay siege to the castle.
"I will return to the keep shortly."
Ulf nodded, his mouth set in a tight, grim line, and left.
Lachlan could have ordered the soldier to escort Emily back to the keep and therefore left sooner himself, but he worried Ulf would hurt her tender feelings. When he had started worrying about such inconsequential matters, he did not know, but he refused to leave her to the not-so-tender mercies of his brother.
Emily paced the tower room, her emotions and thoughts in turmoil. She had done and felt so many shocking things she could not decide which one was the most astounding.
She'd exposed her deepest fear and told Lachlan her darkest secret. He had not mocked her fears or implied there was something lacking in her that her father could do such a thing. She had always worried that if she had been more lovable her father could never have rejected her so completely, but if Lachlan saw things that way, he had not said so.
She still struggled with accepting the fact that she had trusted him so utterly.
But then he elicited a unique response in her in more ways than one. She did not find his mouth or touch intrusive, but diabolically tempting. She'd returned his kisses with an ardency she had never dreamed a lady could be capable of. Then she'd let him undress her and when he had removed his own clothes, far from running, as any other unmarried lady would have done, she had touched him. Intimately.
She went hot all over remembering the feel of his hardness in her hand. He had liked her caresses and instead of embarrassing her, that made her feel proud. But he had not taken advantage of her wantonness to tumble her as Ulf had insinuated. Lachlan had used her distraction to get her into the water.
She could barely accept the memory of her being in the lake was real and not a dream. She had floated. Okay… with his support, but for a woman who refused to bathe in water that went above her knees, that was an amazing feat.
And he had not laughed at her nervousness even though it was obvious he was very comfortable with the water himself. He also had not exposed her to his brother's ridicule, but had sent the soldier back to the keep before calling her from behind the bush so he could escort her back. His consideration left her as breathless as when his lips were on hers.
Lachlan had walked her all the way to the tower room and left her here. But he had not barred the door. She'd been listening closely for the sound of the bar sliding into place, but it had not come. Did that mean she had the freedom to leave the room if she wished?
Despite her emotional outburst the day before, she had no desire to hide from his clan. She was not so weak-minded. If she could face Sybil every day of her life from the time she was eight until she'd left for the Highlands, she could face a few possibly hostile Scottish women.
She could have asked Lachlan what her position was if he had stayed even a few moments, but he had not. He had seen her into her room, told her they would repeat the swimming lesson the next day and left without a backward glance. It had taken all her self-control not to reach out and touch him as he left. She had wanted him to stay and now missed him as if she were used to seeing him every moment of every day of her life—an odd thing to feel for a man she had met only the day before.
She picked up the brush from the table, meaning to tend to her hair, but she went still at that last thought.
She had known him for two days and she had shared more of herself with him than she had anyone in her whole life. She remembered reading a poem about love at first sight, but had thought it rather silly at the time. She could not imagine such a thing. She could imagine it now.
She sat down with a thump on her bed and began to brush the wet tangles from her hair. How could she be so stupid? If she loved anyone, it should be Talorc. She would have to marry him. She had no choice. How could her heart have betrayed her this way? Or were her feelings nothing more than an instinctive trust in a strong man and a strong lust she had no experience controlling?
She could only hope it was the latter, because if she did love the laird, she was destined to have her heart broken.
Love or desire, she had not acted like a lady with Lachlan, but she could not regret it. No matter how shocking the events of the morning, Emily would not undo any of them. And she would be ready for her swimming lesson tomorrow morning with Lachlan, too. If he kissed her, she would kiss him back. If he touched her, she would learn pleasure at his hand and not regret it.
She had enjoyed every moment in his company… except when she overheard him tell Ulf that he would not keep her. That had hurt, but it should not have. It was not as if his stance had come as a big surprise. He'd told her the same thing, only using different words. He did not want a future with her, but that shouldn't matter because a future was out of the question anyway.
She would not love him. Only a fool loved where heartache was sure to follow and she was no fool. She would enjoy this time as a captive as a respite from the life she was committed to living, but when the moment came to return to that life, she would return.
Highland warriors were not the only ones who knew their duty.
Cait was snuggled into Drustan's body, her own a boneless mass of satiated pleasure. She had never known lovemaking could be like it was between them. It certainly had not been in her first marriage, but she did not tell Drustan that. The werewolf was arrogant enough as it was.
And he had made her beg.
She wasn't ashamed of that fact. She was impressed with his strength.
It had been a mating night filled with unbelievable pleasure and when they had woken that morning, he had renewed their intimacy. She'd remained hidden in bed when a servant brought them breakfast and had only protested weakly when he'd taken that as an invitation to explore the desire between them further. She wasn't sure now why she had protested at all.
His hand brushed up and down her side. "You are a passionate femwolf, Cait. It will be a pleasure to have you in my bed for the years to come."
She didn't know where he got the energy to talk. It was all she could do to kiss his chest where her face rested against him in acknowledgment of his words.
A rumble of pleasure rolled through him.
She was contemplating whether she should actually attempt to get out of the bed when a knock sounded on the door. It was too early for the noon meal, but late enough that she would be embarrassed to be caught lazing in bed. She was usually up with the sun and it had risen hours ago.
"Do you have duties today?" she asked, trying to work up a little guilt for keeping him from them and not succeeding.
It had been his idea to make love yet again, after all. Not hers.
"Nay. It is probably my mother come by to find out what we discovered of Susannah's plight. She showed great restraint not asking a dozen questions last night."
That woke Cait up as a bucket of frigid water would not have and she sat straight up in bed. "Your mother?"
She jumped off the bed and started scrabbling for clothes. "Susannah is not in a plight, she's in a marriage and she's happy. I can't believe your mother is here to visit and we're naked in bed." She sniffed herself. "I smell like you… I smell like sex. She's going to know what we've been doing."
"Even those members of my clan who do not come visiting this morning are going to know what we did. We are married and last night was the claiming, although the humans would call it the wedding night."
She glared at him. "That general knowledge is not the same as being caught in bed by your mother."
Drustan got out of the bed and tugged her plaid from her hands. "You are to wear Balmoral colors from this point forward," he said with gentle censure, indicating a plaid folded neatly on top of the small chest beside the bed. He leaned down and kissed her. "Take time to wash and compose yourself. I will let Mum in and talk to her while you do."
Cait threw him a grateful glance before he walked out of the bedroom carrying his plaid, which she sincerely hoped he planned to don before letting his mother inside. He shut the door behind him, but it wasn't as thick as the door to their quarters and she could hear him letting his mother inside a few moments later.
Cait did wash, not because she thought she could rid herself of his scent—she didn't want to—but because she was sticky with dried sweat and wetness between her legs.
It felt good to be clean, but she would have preferred a swim. Her muscles and the tender flesh between her legs ached. She felt marked by Drustan inside and out.
It was a new sensation, but not unpleasurable.
She hurried through her ablution, listening with only half an ear to Moira and Drustan's conversation. His mother asked about Susannah and if Drustan had seen her. He told her he hadn't, but that he'd heard her and she sounded happy. It gave Cait chills to think the Balmoral soldiers had gotten that close without being detected by the Sinclair werewolves.
She supposed there were wolves in her pack that adept at hiding their scent, but she'd never had occasion to know about it. She certainly wasn't. Her brother might be. Did that mean he would be able to breach the security of the Balmoral fortress? If he did, would he take her away?
Unfamiliar fear washed over her.
As a femwolf prevented from the change by her pregnancy, she had few options to protect herself. The babe had to be kept safe at any cost. She'd almost forgotten that yesterday when she had fought like a madwoman for her freedom, but she would not forget again. The responsibility to reproduce was a sacred one the Chrechte continued to honor.
No matter how difficult the task.
She could only hope Drustan was as good at protecting her as he had been at taking her… and that he did not kill her brother in the process. As surly as Talorc might get, she loved him. He would not come for her, but for her baby. He lived by the old ways and that meant he would respect her bond to Drustan; however, he would not tolerate the loss of a future Chrechte warrior to his clan, nor would he tolerate the insult of her kidnapping without redress.
He and Lachlan were very much alike in that way.
In all likelihood, he would demand the babe's return to the Sinclair holding. If she chose to come with it and live as a widow, he would allow that, but she had little hope he would allow the Balmoral clan to keep her child. Especially if she gave birth to a son. There was also the very real possibility he would declare war over the insult of her kidnapping well before the babe's birth.
Her heart heavy and her mind spinning with possible outcomes to her situation, she finished dressing. She brushed her hair with several quick strokes before going into the outer room.
"Susannah is happy with Magnus," she said by way of a greeting, wishing that truth could make a difference but afraid it would not. "She has found many friends among the Sinclairs."
Both Drustan and her new mother by marriage looked toward her. Moira sat on one bench and he sat on the other. He beckoned her to come and sit beside him. She did, but it felt odd. Sean had never been this possessive.
"You have seen her?" Moira asked, hope alight in green eyes so like her son's.
"Yes." Cait reached out and squeezed the older woman's hand. "Magnus lives in a cottage in the bailey. He is the blacksmith for our clan and very good at it, too. My brother relies on him. You would like him, I'm sure of it."
"Why did he take my daughter?"
Cait knew her answers were going to anger Drustan, but she could not lie. "Magnus did not take her. Not exactly. He mated with her in the fur and then, according to the custom of our pack, insisted she return to our clan as his wife. It happened on Sinclair land."
That was the part she knew Drustan would not like. She herself didn't understand why Susannah had been on their land, but she knew her brother's blacksmith had not lied. "Susannah told him that she had her laird's permission to hunt off the island during the full moon. She said she was not yet ready to take a permanent mate."
Moira's gaze clouded. "She wasn't. She'd gone into heat and she knew that if she ran with the pack during the full moon she would end up mating in the fur."
Cait could imagine the girl's thoughts. Every werewolf and femwolf knew that if an unmated female ran with the males of the pack when she was in heat, their wolf natures would take over. The unmated males would fight for the privilege of mating her, even if they didn't like each other as humans. The winner would then woo the femwolf and they would end up mating. It was inevitable. What the femwolf's mind told her in her human form would not hold sway in her animal form, and most were smart enough to realize it and take action accordingly.
Susannah had thought she was protecting her independence by hunting alone. Though in ancient days, she would not have been allowed to do so, no matter what her personal desires. Not all femwolves went into heat, but most did. And when they did, they were expected to mate and have children to increase the numbers in the packs.
Most packs still adhered to that tradition, much as human fathers insisted their daughters marry when they came of age. She'd already been mated the first time she went into heat, but she knew her brother would have insisted she take a mate at the time if she hadn't been.
"I thought the wolves among the Balmoral do not consider physical mating a life commitment." That attitude had caused Susannah and Magnus some conflict in the beginning and Cait had wondered why the girl had chosen to hunt alone if it were the case.
Wouldn't she have been safer running with her own pack?
Moira sighed. "Mating in the fur when a femwolf is in heat usually results in pregnancy. Susannah knew this. In our pack, making a cub together means a lifelong bond that cannot be broken under any circumstances."
That made sense. The Balmoral wasn't the only clan who had a pack that practiced physical mating outside of life bonding. Since the act of physical intercourse was the trigger for so many werewolves gaining control of their change after their coming of age, some packs believed it should be practiced without lifelong consequences. To Cait's way of thinking, that was giving in too fully to their wolf natures.
But she wasn't about to get into a morality argument with her new husband and mother-in-law right now. But woe betide any werewolf who mated a daughter of hers without promising a lifetime commitment. She would rip his throat out and Drustan would have to learn to live with it.
She wasn't going to allow any barbaric custom like that to hurt a child of hers.
"Why was Susannah encouraged to hunt on Sinclair land?" Cait asked, still confused on that point.
It made no sense in light of what Susannah had been trying to do… remain unmarried. Whether the wolf was Sinclair or Balmoral, the femwolf was going to end up mated once her scent in heat was caught. Which was exactly what had happened.
"She wasn't," Drustan said harshly.
She turned to her new husband, unsure how to take this change in his demeanor, but not about to back down. "Your sister told Magnus she was instructed where to hunt during the full moon. She did not know it was Sinclair hunting ground, but you cannot tell me the males of your pack were as ignorant. It is a thing the lairds take care to learn about each other."
It was supposed to be a secret, but the packs spied on each other and knew much more than they admitted about one another. There had been a time when all Chrechte were one pack under a common king, but that was not the way they lived now. Not since MacAlpin's betrayal. Even so, they did not war as much with each other as they did with the wholly human clans or with those to the south. There were unspoken laws they all lived by, and those governing mating with a femwolf from another pack were some of the most sacred. But they had not been breached for the reasons Drustan thought.
Cait's brother respected ancient tradition, very much. He would never have allowed Magnus to keep Susannah without a formal request of the Balmoral laird. If the request was denied, he would not have ordered his blacksmith to return her to her former clan. That was governed by the even more ancient law of true-bond matings, but none of that mattered.
Talorc had not made the formal request because he considered Susannah's presence on Sinclair hunting lands the result of shameful neglect for the femwolf's safety by her laird and family. Soldiers as adept at hiding their scent as the Balmoral werewolves would know more than most. They would have known the land they sent Susannah to was hunting ground for the pack within the Sinclair clan. It was inconceivable that they would not.
"Of course we know where the Sinclair pack hunts," Drustan growled, confirming her thoughts. "Neither Lachlan nor I would have instructed her to hunt there alone, or otherwise."
"But she said you did."
"Susannah did not say I gave her these instructions," Drustan said in a voice that dared her to disagree… at her peril.
"I don't know who she claimed instructed her in this matter. I never asked. I just assumed it was your laird."
"Your assumption would have been right… if she had spoken to anyone. She would have sought permission for such a thing from me or from Lachlan." Anger sizzled in the air around Drustan, and Cait would never have known they had spent so many hours locked together in passion from the way he looked at her now if she did not have her own memories to go by. "She came to neither of us and if she had, we damn well would not have instructed her to hunt where she was likely to end up mated against her will."
Cait laid her hand on his forearm in entreaty. "She did not mate against her will. It doesn't work that way and you know it."
He shook off her touch, wounding her. "But she did not want to mate yet," he gritted out.
"But she is happy to be married to Magnus now. Truly. She is. You say you heard her… you know she is content to be his wife. They are good together. He's very tender with her," she said wistfully, thinking how gentle-spoken Magnus was with Susannah, while Drustan was practically yelling at her. "They love each other now."
"Is she pregnant?" Moira asked.
"Yes. And they are both very happy about the coming baby." She rubbed her own protruding tummy as her babe kicked. "It is a blessed event."
Moira's eyes filled with tears. "I will never see my grandchild."
"Talorc will give you permission to visit. I'm certain he will. But if you are worried, I could ask him for you."
"You will not be seeing your brother."
She tried to dismiss the biting tone of her husband's voice, but it was hard. He was obviously not as content as Magnus in their marriage born of the disaster of Susannah hunting alone during the last full moon.
"You must see that there is a misunderstanding that needs to be addressed. My brother did not dismiss ancient law on a whim. He and Magnus believed your clan had failed in its duty to protect Susannah. That is why the formal request for het hand was never made to you or Lachlan. I'm sure if I talk to him and explain, the situation can be resolved."
"You are going nowhere near Sinclair land."
Cait had known he would take that stand, but it still hurt. He didn't even act like he believed she'd told the truth about Susannah, and she didn't know how to convince him. Presumably, Susannah was not known as a liar and thus, he thought Cait was lying about what his sister had said.
After the night and morning they had spent together, she needed him to trust her. She had given him more of herself than she had ever done with Sean, but apparently that was not enough to merit belief in her integrity. What had been cataclysmically emotional for her had been nothing but physical lust for Drustan… and perhaps the fulfillment of his duty to his clan.
She was his wife by edict of his laird. He had not chosen her and she had best remember that before giving her heart away to be trampled. She was nothing more than the captive he had married, not a wife he valued or trusted.
She stood up. "Would you like some refreshment?" she asked Moira. "A cup of water, some wine?" Her eyes took inventory of what was on the shelves by the table as she spoke.
"No, thank you, child."
Cait nodded. "Drustan?"
She poured him a cup and one for herself. She handed him his before sitting at the table and taking a long drink of her own. Her throat was suddenly very dry and tight. "I would like to see Emily."
He frowned. "She is in confinement in the tower. I do not know if Lachlan will permit her to have visitors."
"I do not think our laird considers her a prisoner," Moira offered, a worried expression on her kind features as she looked at Cait, but she spoke to her son.
"Why?" Drustan asked.
"He took her swimming in the loch and personally escorted her back to her room not thirty minutes past."
"He took her swimming?" Cait demanded, fear for her friend clawing at her insides. Emily was terrified of water. Had the laird been torturing her?
She had not thought Lachlan that cruel, but Emily would never have willingly gone swimming. After the boat crossing the day before, Cait was absolutely certain of that. Then another thought hit her with the force of an anvil. Emily could not have gone into the water in her gown.
She jumped up from the table as the implication of that truth seared her mind. "I am going to see Emily right now."
She rushed out the door and was halfway down the stairs to the great hall, using one of the few wolf strengths left to her in her pregnancy (her speed), when Drustan's big hand clamped onto her elbow.
He dragged her to a halt. "What do you think you are doing?"
"I told you. I am going to see my friend." She yanked her arm, but there was no give in his hold.
"You did not ask my permission, nor did you even have the courtesy to say good-bye to my mother or thank her for her visit. On top of that, you are running at speeds guaranteed to harm you or the babe if you were to fall. Have you no sense at all?"
"I was in no risk of falling." Moira was right behind them and Cait turned her body toward her, wishing she could dismiss her husband's presence as easily as she did the sight of him. But his hold on her elbow made such a thing impossible. "I am sorry. Thank you for visiting. I would love to talk more some other time."
Moira nodded, her expression showing concern, not annoyance. "I'm sure we will find the time."
To Cait's sensitive ears, the words were more threat than courtesy, though she was sure her mother-in-law had not meant them that way. They reminded Cait that she was stuck with the Balmorals. She had thought she had accepted her fate the night before when she spoke her vows, but that was before she realized her husband meant to keep her from her brother entirely.
She knew some clans were that way. Indeed, Talorc had become increasingly wary of outside contact since the betrayal of their clan by their English stepmother. However, she had not expected the Balmorals to be so isolated from others. A rather shortsighted conclusion she realized now. After all, they lived on an island and had a castle that would keep out all intruders. She'd never seen anything like it.
Despite standing on a stairway and the crush of her thoughts, Cait managed a credible curtsy toward Moira. "I look forward to many more visits."
It was not a lie. She did look forward to getting to know the older woman better and she knew Moira would want more details about Susannah's life. Especially if her laird refused to allow her to visit her daughter. But that would have to wait. Right now, Cait needed to assure herself that Emily was all right. She did not know what she would do if she found out the contrary, but she would help the sweet Englishwoman somehow.
Moira nodded her head and then reached up to kiss Drustan's cheek. "I will be leaving now. Bring Cait for the nooning meal tomorrow."
Cait saw Drustan nod out of the corner of her eye. Moira left, skirting nimbly around them.
Cait turned to her husband, removing all warmth from her expression. She did not feel even remotely charitable toward him at the moment. "Will you release me now? I wish to go to Emily."
"You have yet to ask my permission to do so."
"May I please go to visit Emily now?" she gritted out.
"I will ask Lachlan. If he agrees, then you may go."
Cait wanted to scream, but instead, she asked, "Will you ask him now?"
"I would prefer to return to our quarters."
"I would prefer you find your laird and ask permission for me to see Emily," she said stubbornly.
"You defy me at your peril."
"Do I? What more can you do to me, Drustan of the Balmorals? You have taken me from my clan, forced me to marriage and decreed I must remain estranged from my family for the rest of my life. I do not see how you can hurt me further, unless you wish to beat me… but we both know you will not do that while I am pregnant with a Chrechte child."