Chapter 1: A lady in tartan
Adam fell on the ground, gingerly touching the side of his face that had been hit and passing his tongue over his teeth. Just to be sure. Since he started to compete with professional fighters, he had grown accustomed to minor injuries.
He got up, circling the Irish man in front of him, looking angry and huge, with the high molars and the broken nose. He could be extremely tall, almost like a giant, and he also could be strong like a bull, his muscles showing off under the pale skin. However, the man was not very smart and slow like a turtle.
This was the only advantage for Adam Grey, known as The Lord on the underground of London, where those matches wound happen every day. The date and the fighters would be passed among bettors in hushed voices, as the fights were prohibited by the King all over the territory and everyone involved could be hanged if caught.
Adam decided to go for the giant’s legs, exactly on his knees, so that the monster bend with the momentum and fell on the ground with a bang. Adam took advantage of the moment, climbing over the man and sitting on his chest, while punching him on the face.
He had only some minutes of fun, before he flew over the other side of the room, while everyone cheered for the Irish Giant.
“Damn!” Adam whispered to himself, catching his breath before being thrown to the other side again. He felt like a puppet.
Sliding through the floor, he kneeled and waited for the man to come running towards him. He knew it was just a matter of forces and levers. He just needed to act on…the…right…moment…
When the man came closer enough, Adam hold one of his knees and used his shoulder to take the bull of the ground, using the energy left to throw him on the floor, followed by a kick on the chin.
That was the end of it.
The crowd cheered, as the judge came closer to see if Adam’s opponent was, at least, alive. Verifying that he wouldn’t need to call the morgue that night, The Lord’s hand was raised high over his head and he left to get his money from the owner of the pub where he would fight every week.
He waited by the counter, taking the sweat of his face with the sleeve of his shirt. His heart was starting to enter the normal beating rhythm when he felt a hand over his sore shoulder. Adam turned quickly, just to see his cousin, William Ransom, the Earl of Ellesmere, behind him.
“Looking dashing as ever.” Said Adam, taping on the counter and motioning with his fingers some beer for him and his cousin.
“And you’re looking miserable.” Said William, sitting by his side, with his fancy jacket and waistcoat. “You’re a hard man to find.”
“I’m very mysterious.”
“There was one time that I would always know where you were.” Whispered William, taking a gulp of his beer and turning to see his cousin.
Adam remained silent, thinking of everything that happened the last year. He was the middle son of a duke and grew knowing he would not be very important for the future of the dukedom. This was a job for Benjamin, his older brother, that was taught exactly everything he needed to know to be a good heir and lord.
It was an easy decision when the Grey’s decided to serve in the Army. Benjamin would be protected at all costs by his father’s friends, Adam was still too young to be in trouble and Henry would follow Adam everywhere he went.
Well…Things turned to be a little different in the colonies. Benjamin was sent away in a mission and Henry got injured and transferred to Mrs. Woodcock house. Soon, Benjamin was presumed dead and Henry had eloped with Mrs. Woodcock, whose husband was still very much alive.
Her mother was in shambles, his father was roaming around North Carolina and the other states looking for Ben. William had his own business to attend in the army, so Adam decided to sell his patent and go back home, to tend for his mother and the lands.
He was happy, truly happy, for those months where he was the heir. He found his calling, after all. Adam was not a soldier or a minister: he was a farm boy, who loved to go see the tenants and help with the crops. He would get up with the dawn and go back home only with the dusk.
He got to see his mother find happiness helping a girl find her family again and saw his cousin fall in love with her. They got married, William sold his patent and they were the earl and countess of Ellesmere.
And Adam? Well, Adam dreamt of his own family and the future duchess of Pardloe.
Until his uncle John Grey found Ben, married with a kid. He and his family returned to London that spring and his life went upside down. From heir and land-owner, he returned to be the middle son, with no prospects and no self-respect.
He turned to drinking, gambling and women. Soon, he needed more. That’s when the fighting began. First, he would fight every drunk who would be next to him in the pubs. Then, he started to get better, to understand the body and how it would work during the matches. He would learn to anticipate movements and use his understand in physics to win over big brutes. Finally, Adam found something he was useful. And he was earning money with it.
But it was not enough. It never was. He needed…more. He missed his brother but…God…He missed his life more.
“What do you want, William?” Adam asked, regretting being so rude.
The earl just sighed, placing a hand over the man’s fist.
“Peggy is with child.”
Adam’s heart rejoiced for a moment and he forgot he was supposed to be cold and heartless.
“And I want you to be the godfather.”
He paused, blinking.
“I don’t know what to say… I…”
“You don’t need to say anything right now. Think of it and we could meet on the White’s, next week, to talk about it. What do you say?”
Adam just nodded, watching his friend smile warmly to him. He was happy, for the first time in months.
Lady Eleanor MacDonell was standing in front of her father, for what appeared to be the 3rd time that same day. She would spend hours, trying to convince the chief of changing his mind, to be free of the worst marriage she could think of.
However, as usual, chief Leith MacDonell was having none of it. He had been chief of his clan for 30 years and, despite being considered too old (he celebrated his 47 birthday some days before), he had gained knowledge and patience.
Especially with his only daughter.
He had married too young, with a girl from the clan next to his lands, the MacLean’s. Iona was a skinny, scared girl, with big green eyes, the color of moss and blond hair so white she seemed like a ghost. Many would say she was a fairy, a changeling, a gift from the beings who lived on the hills, that traded the sickly baby of the MacLean chief for this ethereal creature.
She would not speak and her eyes would be always lost, somewhere on the hills. She would mumble, sometimes, strange things about fairies and stones, but usually, she would remain quiet, watching him with those big, green eyes.
She got pregnant quickly and for some time, Leith was relieved. He would have an heir and he would be able to send that weird girl to another castle. Or maybe a nunnery. His relief lasted only six months: the baby was a girl and was named Eleanor, in honor of Leith’s mother. Even when she was asked to name their child, Iona remained silent and left the earth with a sigh.
Widowed and with a baby girl in his arms, the chief decided to remarry, a widow that had already two strong sons. Adaira Hamilton was the chosen one and she fulfilled her role with class: three years later she had given the chief three male children, ensuring the lineage of clan MacDonell.
And Eleanor? Well, Eleanor was raised by the woman, who would insist to be called Adaira and would not hold her when she was sad or scared. Her step-mother would provide her with food, enough for her too gain a beautiful body when she became a woman, but not too much so she would seem slob. She would have nice clothes, befitting her status as the first-born of the chief and would have the best education a woman could get, but nothing more.
But Eleanor wanted more than that. She wanted to learn to read and to write, she wanted to use a sword and an arrow. She wanted to get on her horse and be the best rider she could be.
So, behind Adaira’s back, Eleanor did it all. She was the best soldier in her father’s clan, the best rider in the Lowlands and she had the best aim in all Scotland. She would read the manuscripts and letters her father received in secret and write songs by candlelight.
She was too bright for her own sake.
“Father, please!” She screamed. “Gordon Wallace is a mad man!”
“We already talked about it today, Eleanor. Two times before.”
Eleanor was smart, funny and strong. Man feared her and thought they would never be able to control her. And due to that, she remained unmarry until the old age of seventeen. Then, Gordon Wallace appeared.
His clan was famous and rich. He was over 50 and already had so many sons and daughters that Eleanor couldn’t understand his suddenly interest in her. He clearly didn’t need an heir and it was not like he didn’t want to spend the remaining of his days alone: he didn’t had many left to spare.
“There’s no particular reason for you to accept this marriage.” She said. “If you want me to be married, I’m sure there is someone in Scotland that would have me and be younger than Lord Gordon!”
“I’m just saying.” She was starting to get tired.
“Give the man a chance. He will visit us in a week.”
“Father. Please.” She tried again. “Maybe in the Highlands. I know that Duncan Mackenzie have 5 sons of marrying age. Nessa said that they were visiting King James, in Glasgow…”
“Duncan Mackenzie is a fool! And his sons are fools too! You’re not marrying a Highlander, Eleanor, for God’s Sake! They are beasts!”
“Beasts?” Eleanor yelled, walking towards her father. “Lord Gordon is a beast! Nessa said he sold his soul to the devil. He has a room entirely dedicated to the Dark Arts. He hired wizards from France!”
“And you hear the bullshit your maid tells you?” He asked, closing his eyes and walking towards the window. “This are all lies created by his enemies.”
“You should be worried marrying your only daughter with a man with so many enemies.” Eleanor mumbled, for the 3rd time that day.
“Eleanor, please. Just…Meet the man. It would be a nice match between our clans and guarantee our position in the Lowlands. He is a good man and…a good friend.”
She saw her father leaving the room, without looking behind. Eleanor walked slowly towards the doors, pausing for a moment to place her hand over the hard surface of the stones around her.
Since she discovered about the prospects of marriage, she had been trying to convince her father to change his mind. She and Callum, her younger brother, kept thinking, over and over again of ways to convince the chief that the future relationship would not be ideal for Eleanor or the clan.
However, with each day she tried to talk with Leith MacDonell, she would lose a little bit of hope. The news about Lord Gordon would come from every member of the clan and she started to realize that the man was not only old, fat and weird. He was mean and terrible, an agent of evil in his true form.
And Eleanor couldn’t understand why her father was making her do that. Give her beauty and her freedom to such a terrible man, when she dreamt of red locks and blue eyes, in a tender and smooth face.
“How it went?” Asked Callum from the nook in the stairs.
Eleanor shook her head, her eyes low on the floor.
“Oh Ellie… It’s not lost.” The boy said, trying to cheer her up.
“He is coming to our lands in one week, Callum. There’s no hope anymore.” She looked up, to the boy in front of her. “We spent the last days trying to change his mind when we should have known it would never change.”
“No, Ellie. Listen.” Said the boy, approaching her. “I have one more option, but we will have to wait until Lord Gordon is here. I think this will do nicely.”
“I’m so glad you’re here.” Said William to Adam, as they sat together in a quiet room in the club. Some men were having lunch, others were playing cards and a few were just reading the newspapers.
“I had some time to think things over.” Answered Adam, playing with his brandy.
Indeed, he had. After William’s visit on the pub he was fighting, Adam returned to the small room he was ranting in Whitechapel and thought about his life. Since March he hadn’t seen his mother and his brother. He learnt that his father had come back to England, finally, and he hadn’t saw the man either.
It was a long time to be completely lonely.
And as he laid in bed, looking at his only widow, turned to another building, Adam thought about his old life. When he was happy. He missed that and he missed his family.
William had searched for him, just to ask Adam, crazy and pessimistic Adam, to be the guardian of his first born. He truly believed that the lost Grey boy could be able to care for a child if the good earl of Ellesmere and his charming wife were unable to do so.
This was crazy.
But it was… beautiful.
He spent the last of the night remembering the days he spent with William and Margareth in London. Days he went to the fields and tanned below the sun. He could almost feel the warmth in his skin, as his neighbors shouted with each other in the room above his head.
“I would be honored to be the godfather of your son, Willie.” Said Adam, using the nickname created when the cousin was just a boy.
Now, he was going to be a father.
“Or a daughter.” Added William, asking for champagne to celebrate.
“Do you really think so?” Asked the cousin, watching the bubbles go up the cup, smiling to the earl.
“I’m quite sure. Her belly is starting to show. As my housekeeper said, it is very round. A girl, for sure.” The earl assumed, taking a sip. “I was thinking of Isobel. Or maybe Claire.”
Adam laughed, raising one eyebrow.
“And what Margareth think of it?”
He could see the cousin blush under the edge of his cup.
“She thinks it is a boy. She already calls him James behind my back. It’s nerve wrecking.”
A nice silence took over them, as they stared at each other, with the champagne in their hands. There were many things left unsaid and Adam could see in William’s eyes the urge to ask questions about what happened on those last months.
But he hadn’t the strength to go over the questioning.
As if he could read his mind, William placed the glass on the table and said:
“I don’t intend to ask you anything that makes you uncomfortable, Adam. Me and Margareth were very worried when we went to Argus House and you were not there. Aunt Minnie said you left many days ago and never showed up. Not even to see your nephew.”
The earl nodded.
“I know. When I returned from the colonies, you didn’t ask a thing about what happened. When I married Margareth out of the blue, you didn’t ask me either. Even when I returned to the colonies without saying goodbye, you didn’t seem very bothered.” William paused, playing with his fingers. “But you were there for me, when I needed the most. You were busy trying to mend your family, but you were by my side on my wedding and I’m very grateful for that.”
“If it was not for me, you would have fainted and hit your head somewhere on the room. Margareth would have been a widow by now. Probably, she wouldn’t even had the time to marry you before you killed yourself in a dumb way.” Adam teased, making his cousin smile a little.
“You’re right. That’s why we, me and Margareth, want you to spend the next months with us, in Ellesmere Park.”
Adam raised his head, his mouth opening and closing like a fish in a pond.
“Oh, no, William. I would never… I could never… Such an imposition…”
“You sound like your mother.” William teased, raising an eyebrow and taking a chuckle from a flabbergasted Adam.
“I do not sound like my mother!” He laughed loudly, making some heads turn towards him. “God Almighty, William, your wife is in a… delicate… condition and I will do more harm than good, as usual.”
William shook his head in denial.
“No. She misses you. And we need to take care of a lot of things for the baby. I’ve been talking with the Secretary of War and managed to have a safe-conduct for Mother Claire and her husband, Mr. Fraser…”
“I still think it’s quite weird, you being so close to your ex-step-mother…”
“Pay attention. And they will arrive by the end of October, to be ready for the birth. Mr. Fraser has family in Scotland and he has sent a letter with some things to be brought from his home, Lallybroch, to Ellesmere Park for the baby. He is getting old and it’s a long way to get there…But for you…” William mumbled, looking to Adam under his lashes, pretending to pay attention in his glass, while his cousin got precisely the meaning of his words.
“You need an errand boy!”
“No.” William raised his eyes, his face a serious mask of acknowledgment. “It’s just… Something happened and I know it’s not my business. But, I want you to be healed, Ad. I will need you now more than ever and the green hills of Scotland, maybe, can help you to be the man you once was, before you earned money to slap drunks.”
“I was not slapping drunks. We were boxing.” Adam corrected him and saving the few pieces of his dignity he still had left.
“What do you say?” William asked, raising one eyebrow.
“I say… Why not?”
Chapter 2: A lady in trouble
Adan still took his time before packing his things to go to Ellesmere Park. He finished the fights he had promised his presence already and announced to everyone he was having a break for the rest of the year. The news were received with sadness by the betors, as they got used to the man who never lost a fight.
The Lord, one more time, packed his belongings and said good-bye to another part of his life, locking the door of his tiny apartment and giving the keys back to the owner, an old lazy with dirty white hair and few teeth in her mouth.
He was getting too used to saying farewell to the things he got used to do.
Don’t think like that, Adam reprimanded himself, sitting by the side of the coachman in the small diligence he bought his seat to the North of the country. It is a new life. A new beginning.
Or so he hoped.
It was unsettling to see the great city of London being left behind, with the beggars on the streets, the tenements, the dirty streets and the pollution staining the bright white façades in Grovesnor Square.
As they passed the bridges, he could see the green grass winning over the grey cement, the birds singing gleefully around them, as they marched to the countryside. He loved the bright hills filled with flowers, the shade of lazy trees turning to the road, the sound of the horses and the smell of the earth. On the countryside, people would not frown like the Londoners, always in a hurry, complaining about the traffic jams and the pollution around them.
No. Farmers were happy, smiling to the diligence as they crossed lands. Sometimes, they would scream “Hello!” or “Good-Morning!” to the coachman and Adam, making the noble extremely happy. It was so… unusual… for him to be greeted in London. Even by his own peers.
They stop by the evening in a pub and soon Adam found a place nearby to rest. It was not very fancy, but he had a bed for himself and had a private dinner in his own room. For the first time in months, he was able to lay by his side and, while watching the window on his chamber, he could see the stars sprinkled in the sky.
Adam loved the stars, shinning with grace above himself. He loved the moon, as it got fuller and fuller every day that went by, commanding the seasons and the weather. His tenants…well…Ben’s tenants had said to him, earlier that year, that by the time of Samhain, the moon would be incredibly beautiful.
He thought it was funny, the way the farmers would keep the traditions lost in time, such as the festival for the harvest, celebrated by the pagans on the days of old. They would dance around a great pyre, drinking beer and singing old songs, celebrating the food they reaped in the fields, that would provide for them for the next wintery days.
It was told that the veil between worlds was thinner on those nights, especially when the full moon would light the fields and bless the farmers, with a brand new year of prosperity.
If he could, he wanted to celebrate again with the tenants, now in Ellesmere Park. Maybe, if talked to William and Margareth, they could arrange the food and the wine to celebrate. Certainly, the farmers would be glad to see their earl tending for their needs, even if it is a very old tradition that have been passing on since the Celts.
Unless, he was not going to be in Ellesmere Park by the Harvest Feast Day. He would still be in Scotland, watching the full moon from somewhere in the road, if he was lucky enough. If he was not, he would still be stuck in Lallybroch, hearing the insane stories of a highlander, while waiting to fetch whatever William needed to be fetch there.
He woke up on the other day refreshed. It has been years since he slept so well, enjoying the quiet of the countryside. For the first time in many months he didn’t woke up sore or drunk. Or even with a hangover. No. He was sober and whole, without any new bruises showing up in his skin.
Adam got used to the motion of the carriage, the small talk with the coachman and the sounds of nature. He got used to the late nights watching the stars above his head, while trying to sleep wherever he could. The crickets singing, the cows lowing… It was home for him.
He didn’t even care that William lived so far away from London. The four days he spent on that diligence going North of the country made Adam reflect about his life and what he missed most. He craved the air on the fields and the sun in his skin and he was a damn fool trying to substitute that amazing feeling with alcohol and fights.
“I think we are almost here, sir.” Said the coachman, motioning to a gate, open with a small house by the side. They stopped, as the keeper of the grounds left the construction and went to their side.
“Who is coming?” Asked the man, raising one eyebrow.
“Lord Adam Grey, sir. Lord and Lady Ellesmere are expecting me.” Said Adam, leaning towards the coachman so that the keeper could hear him.
“Oh, yes. You were expected.” Said the man to the Lord, giving a quick bow. “You may follow until the end of the path.”
The coachman said his thanks and made the horses move, following the old path decorated with huge pines. Adam could see the roof of the mansion behind the wall of trees, getting closer and closer as they went, the hooves of the horses thundering on the gravel.
“So, ye are a lord, hum?” Said the coachman, as they could see the construction with red stones. “I would never guess, when you entered the coach earlier this week.”
“There are some lords out there who are bankrupt, you know.” Explained Adam, feeling the sourness of his voice over the tip of his tongue.
The coachman just laughed, as it was a joke the fact that the middle Grey brother was left with nothing, after all. He had no time to complain with the man by his side, as the servants were already outside, waiting for the coach to stop and William followed the butler, smiling to Adam as he waved with excitement.
“Finally! We thought you would be here by yesterday morning.” Complained William, as he pulled his cousin to a tight hug.
“I had to take the diligence, unfortunately. I should have warned you and…”
“Nonsense!” Exclaimed William, taking Adam by his shoulders towards the house. “You’re here now. Peggy is in the Green Room and I believe she asked for tee and cake.”
Eleanor couldn’t get her eyes out of Lord Wallace. Not because he was so handsome or because he was charming as a prince. No. He was the most hideous man she had ever seen.
In the past, when she was a little girl, she remembered the man as fat, thin white hair and chubby cheeks, always red with excitement. He was always laughing and had a weary eye over the maids, eyes that were small and black as a pig’s eye. The last time he was in Glengarry, he had lost a bit of weight, making his skin look flat and fold over the belly. He was paler than usual and sweating profusely, but he kept blaming on the weather, as it hotter than usual.
Now… now something weird was happening.
Lord Gordon had lost more weight than ever and his skin was all over the place. He lost his hair entirely and spots could be seen on the top of his head, blueish and greenish spots with different sizes. He was pale but not in a common manner. He had a yellowish hue behind his skin and dark spots around his eyes, as he was not having enough sleep.
He seemed tired, as something was draining all his energy.
Not even the maids interested him anymore.
“What happened to him?” Asked Eleanor to Callum by her side, glancing towards the man, coughing in a weird manner over his plate of food.
“I don’t know, but he looks miserable.” Her other brother, Dougal, commented by her other side. “Nana often says that people who look like that are on the verge of death.”
“You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Complained Malcom, in front of them. “Why don’t you stay quiet and enjoy the meal?”
As it was usual, all the siblings ignored the middle brother and returned to their discussions.
“Do you really think he is dying, Dougal?” Asked Eleanor, again, turning to the older brother. They were only 1 year apart in age, but Dougal was born an old man. Half of his hair was white as snow and he was the quieter of the MacDonell’s brothers.
“His skin is not looking healthy. Too yellow. To me, his years finally caught up to the man or he is being killed. Slowly.” Continued Dougal, chugging his beer.
“Killed? Like poisoned?” Eleanor seemed flabbergasted, looking at the old man. He was talking to her father, his eyes bloodshot and weary.
“Yes, probably.” Said Dougal, glancing the same look to the man. “You shouldn’t be very worried. In a year or two he will be, probably, dead.”
“Oh, God!” Complained Eleanor. “You can’t mock about these things.”
“No, wait, Ellie…” Murmured Callum. “He may be right.”
All the brothers looked to Callum, who, as the youngest continued staring at the old lord.
“Oh, no. God.” Whispered Malcom, glancing at the other side of the table, seeing if their mother was paying attention. “Stop pretending you’re a wizard, Callum! You’re not. Dougal is going to be the chief of this clan, I’m going to be a soldier and you’re going to be a priest.”
“No, I’m not!” Exclaimed Callum. “I’ve a special connection with the gods, Malcom, and you know that.”
“Oh, you two!” It was the time for Eleanor be sick of their arguments. “Don’t you see. The only person losing everything with this banter is me! It’s not Dougal, Malcom or Callum who is marrying an old crone! And everything you can do to help me will be valued.”
The brothers stared at their sister with shame in their eyes. It was known that Lady Adaira, their mother, didn’t like Eleanor. The girl, with her strawberry blond hair and bright green eyes was a constant memory of the old lady of the castle, who the servants loved dearly.
Adaira never treated Eleanor as her daughter. Or even part of her family. She was only a girl that the old lady had to shelter under her roof until she was with age to be married. And even when that they arrived, a morning when Ellie was 15 years old, Adaira still fought to have the girl far away from her castle.
After all, Ellie had a very strong will.
But for Dougal, Malcom and Callum, Ellie was not the only sister they ever had, but she was also their older sister, who cared for them when they were little and was their best friend until they realized girls were gross.
They had to help her.
“We will help you, Ellie.” Said Malcom, glancing to Dougal, who he considered their leader. “Why do you think he might be really dying, Cal?”
The boy, noticing that all the eyes (well, at least from his siblings) were over him, blushed heavily.
“There are stories of man who deals with black magic that often lose their strength to the dark forces.” He whispered, nervously. “The stories about Lord Gordon tempering with forces he shouldn’t deal with is known all over the Lowlands. Many say they are stories propelled by his enemies, but I really doubt that. Especially seeing him right now. Look at the spots in his head.”
The siblings turned their eyes to the bald spot in the Lord’s head.
“They are a weird shade of green and purple. They didn’t appear due to old age. His skin, the hue over his cheeks, the way he is coughing. Sure, maybe someone is poisoning him but… he has too many symptoms at the same time.”
They stayed in silence for a time, the clamor of the man drinking around them taking Eleanor to a faraway place, where no old man could mess with her.
“Even if Callum is not right…” Malcom said, pausing as Callum was trying to defend his theory. “Wait. I do not believe in your fairies, deities or supernatural forces. But that man could be playing with the devil and I’m not willing to send our only sister to a Satanist. We have to think of something.”
“I have an idea!” Mumbled Callum, anxiously. “But… I don’t think you are going to like it.”
Malcom sighed heavily and Dougal glanced at him, almost like asking for the boy to have a little patience with their baby brother.
“It involves anything that could be labeled as magical, Cal?”
Callum seemed a bit ashamed, as he nodded.
“Well, in fact, yes. But hear me out! It is a good plan!”
“There you are! We thought you have gotten lost on your way.” Exclaimed Peggy, turning her head to see her husband and their friend coming inside the room. Adam remembered the room from one of his few visits with his cousin when they were barely children.
And it was extremely green.
Right now, the only green that remained in the space was the walls, lined with green venetian silk and the curtains, of a deep green velvet. The rest has been changed: the furniture was made of a dark wood and the cushions were cream colored. The wooden floor sparkled with care and a few tapestries could be seen, in the right places. It was a somber room, compared to the luxurious green and gold of the past.
“I liked what you did with the place.” Said, Adam, walking to the woman, who was struggling to get up. “It is still green but it is not like a feverish dream from a fairy.”
“Thank you.” She said, finally managing to get up, placing a protective hand over the growing belly in front of her. It was round, perky and, strangely, symmetrical. Peggy noticed Adam’s eyes over the bulge showing below her bodice and grinned. “Do you want to meet James?”
Adam could hear his cousin muttering under his breath and he couldn’t stop grinning with pleasure to the simple fact that Peggy could irritate William with such simple gestures. She was a pro, already.
“You indeed believe you’re gracing the ancient House of Ransom with an heir?” Adam joked, as he approached Peggy and gave two kisses on her cheeks. “A bit cheeky of you, to think like that.”
She laughed, a nice and warm sound that, for Adam, was the entire reason why William fell in love with her. He wished he could hear this laugh every day in his life.
“It’s not cheekiness if I’m right. And I am.” She answered, showing him his seat, while her husband helped her to get down, again. As she was seated comfortably, William kissed her in her forehead and went on to call the servants for the tea. “Do you want to enter our bet?”
“Are you kidding?” Adam asked, raising one eyebrow and forcing the laugh to stay deep inside his own body. “Are you two betting about the gender of your unborn child?”
William and Peggy looked at each other and turned almost at the same time.
“Naturally.” Answered William, returning to his seat. “Sometimes, the only way to show your stubborn wife that she is wrong is by putting money on the move.”
“The same applies to head-strong husbands.” Bickered Peggy, smiling to the man by her side. Just by the look they exchanged, it was clear the love that revolved around them, especially increased by the baby she was nesting with such care. “Anyway, you didn’t come here to see us bickering about the baby, although… what will you bet? A boy or a girl?”
How could Adam not hope for his own cousin’s wishes? If William wanted a little lady to call his own, with chocolate eyes and a quirky smile, he would bet on it.
“A girl.” He answered and smiled, as Peggy took a little notebook from the pillows by her side and took notes.
Before she could open her mouth, to ask for his money, surely, William interrupted her.
“No, you’re not doing that right now.” He paused, as the tea and cake were being placed in front of them. “Adam is here to enjoy his stay and not worry about a little usurer over his heels.”
Everyone was laughing and chatting, as the tea was being served and the cake was being tasted. Peggy rested satisfied, a look of pleasure in her face and a hand over her belly, as she saw the cousins remember of past vacations together and the fun they used to have.
Adam was glad he went to Ellesmere Park. It was almost like his life was back to its tracks. He loved the fresh air, the chilly wind blowing from the north, the nature sounds all over him. William was lucky to have such a nice estate and home.
“Would you mind, Adam?” He heard Peggy ask, but didn’t really paid attention to what she was saying. His eyes were lost on the small construction far away, a monastery of sorts, claimed by the nature and the time. He and William used to be so scared of it… But… Now… There was something weird about it.
“Adam?” She asked again, with worry in her eyes.
He didn’t want to be pitied by his own family. He acknowledged that his life, for the past couple of months, had been a train wreck, but he was willing to change. Wasn’t he?
“I’m sorry, I believe I got distracted.” He answered.
“William mentioned to you that Mr. Fraser asked us to get some objects in his family manor, Lallybroch, in Scotland, didn’t he?” She glanced to her husband with doubt. “You see, he and his wife, Mother Claire, they are coming for the birth and we would like very much to help them to get what they want. It has been years since they visited the family home and I believe the journey would be too extreme for them, considering their old age.”
“It’s fine, milady. William told me all about it. I will fetch whatever you may need.” He bowed with his head. “I’m your servant.”
Once again, that amazing laugh was heard around the house.
“Oh, thank you, Adam. It’s not a big deal, just some jewelry left by Mr. Fraser parents. Some books, the family bible…” She said, sipping her tea. “Lallybroch is a bit far away, but I truly believe you will be back by the end of the month if you leave next week.”
A month in Scotland. That sounded superb.
“Sure. That is what family is for, right?”
Chapter 3: A lady in white
Well, that didn’t work out, Eleanor thought as she watched Lord Gordon from the other side of the room.
When the dinner finished and everyone gathered around the fire, Callum went to his room to fetch a potion that, according to him, would make the old man forget why he was so interested in the young MacDonnell lady. However, after he convinced the maid to pour the ember liquid in the man’s cup and he drank it entirely, his little beaded eyes kept staring at her.
Eleanor lost all hope that Callum’s potion would work out when she excused herself to her chambers and Lord Gordon called her name.
“Lady Eleanor.” He said, in a broken voice that reminded her of old paper or dust over a bookshelf. “If I could have a word with you. Privately.”
She glanced to her step-mother and her father, sitting on the other side of the fireplace and froze when she saw them nodding to her, with solemn looks on their faces.
Everyone around them understood the request and moved, leaving the room for the young lady and the older gentleman, who stood face to face, waiting. The only person that didn’t dare to move was Lord Gordon’s secretary, a slender and creepy man, who waited in the shadows for his master. As the last footsteps were heard going away, the noble started to speak.
“Do you know, my dear, why am I here?”
She took a long breath.
“Father mentioned you have an interest to be married with me, milord.” She whispered, faintly.
“Speak loudly, my dear. My ears are not the same they used to be.”
“To be married with me, milord.” Eleanor could her heart beating loudly in her chest. Suddenly, she had an idea. “Although, I could not fathom why I would have such honor.”
She usually dreaded Adaira’s speeches, long and boring conversations regarding the importance of education for a young lady. However, there was one thing she could remember clearly in her anxious mind: man loved to be flattered by the others. Especially by women.
She could see the lord smirk, gladly, and chuckle.
“Don’t lie to me, girl. You’re young and beautiful. They say you are quite smart and fearless too. You were waiting to be married with a knight or a younger lord, perhaps, not this bag of old bones.” He murmured, with his voice thin like paper.
She stood very quiet, not sure of how to proceed. Adaira never taught her that. She could only blink, flabbergasted, and wait.
“Your father agreed with my proposal today.”
She nodded, because… well… what else could she do? She couldn’t just kill him. This could start a war between clans, which would destroy everything her father struggled to build.
“You will not have a long engagement, I’m afraid. I’m too old and I have some business to attend over the Highlands. Fortunately, your mother told me your belongings are ready for your new life as a wife, am I correct?”
“My step-mother, milord.” She was able to mumble, out of spite. Adaira disliked the girl and was waiting for the moment Eleanor would go away from the castle since she had her first monthly flow. They detested each other since Ellie was old enough to understand that Adaira would never love her like a daughter.
Well, looking back, maybe not even her father loved her.
He didn’t apologize for his mistake. Lord Wallace just kept staring at little Eleanor, chin high and spark in her eyes, trying to grasp her breath and leave the room with some dignity. She looked lovely with her new dress and veil, her small waist being complimented by the rich brocade.
“Why?” She asked, finally finding the voice that screamed, enraged, inside her, demanding for justice and comprehension. “Why are you marrying me? You have sons and daughters to maintain the Wallace name. You don’t need money or lands. Why?”
Lord Gordon smiled. It was not a smirk or a snigger. It was a full on smile, that showed his crooked black teeth.
“You will be a good wife, girl. A curious mind… yes… and bravery.” He scratched his chin, licking his soggy lips with tongue. “Have you ever heard about unicorns, girl?”
She stared at him, unable to think properly. Why the man was talking about mythical creatures?
“Yes, of course.” She paused. “But…”
“The legend say that the unicorn is the purest of the beings. Its fur is made of moonlight, its horn, of pure diamond, and its blood can give the person who drinks it eternal youth. To protect himself from the man, who would scalp his fur, brake his horn and drink his blood, the unicorn can only be seen by maids, with pure hearts and magic in her veins. When spotted, the unicorn will lay in her lap and dream in a peaceful sleep.”
Eleanor felt uneasy by the story and the way the man kept staring her, with hungry eyes.
“I’m dying, my child. I played with things that no human should play with and I paid the price. But… unicorn’s blood… can save me. I can be young again. Forever.”
The sudden realization hit her in the face. She had heard the stories, about her mother. About the grandfather who couldn’t have any children and when, suddenly, one was born, it was barely alive. The child was a sickly thing, prone to fevers and coughs.
The chief was desperate when he placed the small bundle under a fairy tree and waited for the switch. When he returned, the next day, the baby didn’t had a fever and never got sick again. The fairies heard his wishes and granted him with one of his own.
“You have magic in your veins, Eleanor.” The man coughed. “Your mother was a fairy, brought to this world in exchange of a sickly child. I remember of her, green eyes as the moss and blond hair, so pale that it was like she was being touched by moonlight. I remember how she was quiet, so quiet, like she was longing for a different place.”
“You will bring me the unicorn, Eleanor. And we shall live forever.”
Adam was standing on the entrance, waiting for his horse to be ready for the trip. William had offered him a carriage, but Adam refused, kindly. The thing, even the vehicle built for an earl, with the best in terms of technology, was heavy and slow. As he glanced to the northern sky, dark and grey with rain or, maybe, an early snow, he knew it was not smart to go to the highlands on that monstrosity.
In a horse, he would take something around 3 to 4 days to get to Inverness, the city closest to Lallybroch. If he took the car, he would take, easily, 7 to 8 days, if the weather was fine and it didn’t rain.
Considering his luck, on the past few months, it would surely rain.
“Are you sure you prefer to go by horse, Adam?” Margareth asked, glancing to the same spot in the sky he was looking at. “I think it is going to rain.”
“That’s why I will be going by horse, Peggy.” Two weeks with the Ransoms and he was treating the countess like a sister. “The carriage can get stuck in the mud or fall on a hole along the way. It is dreadful to find a blacksmith to help change a wheel.”
She frowned, not very satisfied with the answer.
“You could wait a bit more, you know.”
He had already postponed his obligations a week, waiting for a better weather. However, each day that he postponed, it was a worse weather following after, the black and grey clouds gathering above the mountain ahead of him.
“I will be fine. A little rain is good for the lungs. And, anyway, I will be delivering only small goods. The crib is coming already, right?” He asked, turning to the lady leaning on the door frame.
“Oh, yes. Mr. Fraser already arranged the transportation. Rest assured.”
Adam nodded, keeping very quiet. His mind was still fumbling around the fact that the man, Mr. Fraser, husband of Mrs. Fraser that was once, for a small amount of time, Lady John Grey, was so involved in the birth of William’s first-born daughter.
“I already told you: Mother Claire is an amazing midwife. I will be at ease with her in Ellesmere Park for the birth of my first son.” Peggy replied, frowning to Adam.
“I know that but… You are not intrigued why the man is so interested as well? I’m going to fetch family heirlooms to give to you and William…” Adam paused. “William told me the man has a family.”
“Yes, he has. We are doing the man a favor, and, in return, he will give us the crib, which is very old and beautiful.” She said. “It was very kind of him.”
“Yes, it was.” But in his mind, Adam kept thinking about the case.
Peggy watched from the door.
“Why the sudden interest? I thought you and William had an unspoken agreement to never meddle into each other’s lives.”
“I’m not asking William about it. I’m asking you.”
“So, why William found you, drunk as a skunk and almost beaten to death in a pub?”
“How do you know that?” Adam glanced to his cousin, talking to the groom.
“We are husband and wife. He tells me everything.” The woman said, her eyes glistening with victory. “So, the cat bite your tongue?”
“You’re lucky that William agreed on marrying you, or you would be an old spinster for the rest of your life. God, how he handles you?”
They stared at each other for a moment, before Peggy blurted laughing, making Adam follow her, cheerily. They laughed for a while, before Peggy was able to ask:
“You’re not answering me, are you?”
He shook his head.
“No, I’m not.”
“Well, good. I’m not answering any of your questions either.”
And the laugh continued, until William walked towards them.
“May I ask the reason behind all the fun?”
They exchanged glances, before Peggy could answer:
“I was having a last laugh before we send Adam to the wild lands of Scotland. Maybe, this will be my last memory of him. If he dies, dear, what do you think of naming our child Adam, in the honor of the man who died of fright the first time he laid his eyes on a highlander?”
“I prefer James, darling.”
William and Peggy laughed, following Adam who gave up of their jest and marched towards the horse.
“I hate you two. You will be missing me, while I’m lost and lonely in a freezing country.”
“We are just playing with you Adam.” Peggy teased, exchanging warm glances with her husband. God, these two… “Now, do you remember everything?”
“Yes.” He said, with a sigh, taking a paper from his satchel and having a look at it.
“You will be fine.” Said Peggy, going towards the man and placing a hand over his. “Just take care, ok? I really do not want to name my child Adam.”
He smiled at her who went back to her husband and rested a reassuringly hand over her growing belly.
“I will, Peggy. By mid-October I will be back and you will have to complain to your husband that I’m getting on your nerves and that he should send me away to another quest immediately!”
What Adam didn’t know, as he parted Ellesmere Park towards the Highlands, was that the weather would not have mercy of him, nor his fate. The heavy storms that fell upon his head and the cold he got with them made him took more than a week to get to Lallybroch.
And by the time he got there, he had to deal with worried highlanders, who only let him leave when he was in a better shape to ride.
By the time he parted his way with the Murrays, it was the end of October and Samhain was approaching, calling for magic, ghosts, unicorns, fairies and brave girls running away from arranged marriages.
Eleanor had managed to postpone the wedding for some days. She needed all the time she could arrange to think.
She had to have a plan.
After she left the room, feeling a chill climbing up her spine. She sprinted through the castle halls towards her brother’s room, telling them everything that happened and the true reason she was chosen to be married.
“Father must know! He would never let his only daughter marry a lunatic.” Malcom complained, watching Dougal stare at the wall, thinking. “We must tell father, Dougal. He would never…”
“Exactly.” The older brother pointed out. “He would never allow such thing. As an unmarried daughter of the chief, Ellies is too important to be married of like that. However, I know our father. If he is doing that, he has a good reason.”
“Maybe, Lord Gordon didn’t tell him the true reason behind his proposal. Father…”
“Our union with the Wallace clan would not benefit us from any aspect. Her sons would not be the heir of the land… Unless… Father is being threatened.”
A silence rested upon the room.
“That’s the only possible reason. We have allies but the Wallace clan is indestructible in battle. Before the peace with England, it took almost and English troops to contain them…”
“I will be married, then.” Ellie whispered, out of breath. “I can’t think of putting our family and our lands at risk, Dougal.”
“You can escape.” Malcom suggested. “A horse in the middle of the night and a nunnery, that’s all you need. Holy ground and…”
“He would follow her. Holy ground would not stop Lord Gordon of getting what he wants.” Said Callum from the other side of the room. For such a young boy, he seemed distressed. “Drink the blood of a unicorn is a man’s worst act possible in this world. He doesn’t care about anything, anymore. We need to send Ellie to a place where he would never…”
He halted and ran away, his steps echoing on the floor. Eleanor stood for a while with her brothers, but no one had any ideas. Everything they could think of would lead to their clan’s demise.
That’s why Eleanor stayed in bed for a week, complaining about a sudden sickness that got over her body. Maybe, the sickness was real, as she watched the servants coming and going, preparing for the nuptials, her new green dress being taken from her trunk with care, waiting to be used.
She had one more week and that was it. She spent the day before crying herself to sleep, alone and scared in her room. Dougal and Malcom would often come to make her company, but Callum did not once appear, locked in the office, with parchments and books around him.
She raised her head, fixed on the stones at her feet. She was dressed and ready, her hair smelling of roses, washed and dried with care by the maids. She was a bride and could show her hair without a veil, making it fall behind her back in soft waves. She was tucked in her dress, buttoned up and ready, the delicate velvet slippers glancing at her from the hem of the skirt.
Callum was there, looking miserable. It seemed like he hadn’t slept for days, his hair all over the place, parchment in his arms and falling towards the ground.
“I know how you will escape Lord Gordon.”
She could hear her heart thundering in her chest, as he entered the room, placing all the documents in her bed, unfolding the ones which interested him.
“But you will still marry him, do you hear me?”
She nodded, anxious. She didn’t care if she would marry the man or not. She was preparing to it for weeks now. The only thing important was being able to run from the man. Forever.
“He will marry you for you to attract a unicorn for him. So, I’ve researched. The legends surrounding the creature mostly come from a region in the highlands. It was not unheard of beings walking around there, specially in the Mackenzie’s land. Which many scholars connected to the presence of stone circles.”
“Stone circles?” She asked, confused.
“Yes. It is all over the place and many were teared down and the stones used to built churches and castles. They were a symbol of the druids who lived here and they scared the Christians, who didn’t understand its magic.” He continued, pointing to a map. “See? The Mackenzie’s lands. Right here, in the corner, is Craigh Na Dun.”
She watched the small dot in the parchment with care, before Callum folded and placed it in her hand.
“Now, Ellie, I need you to listen to me carefully. I’m almost sure Lord Gordon will take you to that region after the marriage, so you can save him as quickly as possible. In any case, I need you to convince the man to take you there, saying that you are sensing a magical presence. Pay attention, you need to be very careful, I do not know with what type of magic he deals with.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You will climb to Craigh Na Dun during the Samhain, alone. Say that you need to be alone to call for the animal and that you will call when needed. You will be seating quietly in the middle of it until the sun starts setting in the sky.” He took an emerald and placed it in her palm. “Take the gem with you and think about home, with all your strength. If I’m correct the portal will close by the dawn of the next day, so youi have to be sure no one follows you, do you understand?”
Ellie nodded, feeling her mouth dry.
“I want you to leave the stones and go back to Glengarry as quickly as you can. Dougal will be waiting for you and you will never anything to fear. All will be well.” He said, without breath.
“I trust you, Callum. I do.” She whispered. “I will do exactly as you ask, but… I don’t understand. Where the stones will take me? I don’t imagine it’s very far, considering…”
“Not where. When.” He said, a smile appearing in his face. “By the time you arrive, all your problems will be gone. I promise you.”
And Ellie walked down the aisle with hope filling her heart.
She would be free and she wouldn’t have to feel so scared anymore.
Chapter 4: A lady on the run
She didn’t blink that first night. Eleanor stood very quiet in her bed, her hands holding tightly the bed sheets, her eyes wide awake watching the door of her chamber. Her maids had taken her out of the wedding dress, brushing her long hair until it was shining like copper over her shoulders to her waist.
She remembered of Lord Gordon’s speech, claiming that only a pure maid, untouched by a man could find his precious unicorn… However, as she laid wide awake in her bridal bed, she feared that his male urges would conquer his desire of power.
When she woke up the next day, she whispered a little prayer, noticing that she remained dressed and alone in her room, her body untouched and her heart light. The man hadn’t broken his promise and she sighed gladly, watching her maids entering the room, knowing that she would be left by herself until she was able to find the creature.
It was hard to say good-bye to her family. Adaira was glowing with complete and utter happiness: finally, the image of the former lady of the castle would leave them behind and would never return. She kissed Ellie in both cheeks and could almost spin with gratitude as the girl marched to her father.
Lord Leith MacDonell had a strange look upon his face, his blue eyes lost in the distance, watching the sickly old man climb with difficulty in his carriage while his daughter approached, carefully. The man turned his eyes to her and coughed, hiding his worries. Eleanor knew her father didn’t had much care for her, considering his past relationship with her mother and the fact she was not born a male heir, just a small silly girl.
“Father…” She started to say, but she stopped. What could be said right now? She was leaving, sold in marriage by her own father, only counting with her brothers to care for her.
“Go in peace, Eleanor.” He announced, his thunderous voice echoing around the courtyard.
What terrible words to say, Ellie thought to herself, trying to keep her head held up high.
“I wish… Things were different.” She whispered, glancing to the ground, feeling, for the first time in her whole life, defeated. She wished her father loved her mother. She wished she was a boy and her step-mother wasn’t Lady Adaira, but someone who would truly care for her.
She wished she had found a good match with a highlander man, like she had suggested to her father so many weeks past. A Mackenzie, with fiery red hair and bright blue eyes. They didn’t need to love each other. She just wanted them to have a nice relationship and care for their children together.
“Your destiny is sealed, my child.” He whispered back and, for the first time in her life, Ellie saw the fear glistening in his irises.
Her brothers embraced her with warmth. She finally thought she would break in front of all the courtesans, but she held her breath and blinked several times, feeling the heat coming from their strong arms and the faint smell of horse and hay coming from their hair.
“You know what you have to do, right?” Dougal asked in her ear, watching her with care until she nodded. Finally, he gave her one last hug and passed her to Malcom.
“We are waiting for you until the first snow hits the ground…” He started to whisper and Ellie stopped him.
“Don’t say foolish things, Malcom MacDonell. I’ll be here. I promise you.”
“She will.” Callum answered in a low voice, a hand over her arm. “You know the way, Ellie. And by the time you find us, he will be gone. Forever.”
Eleanor almost cried, hugging her younger brother with all her strength. She left him unwillingly, her head turning around all the time, her eyes trying to print in her memories the worried faces of her brothers.
She spent long days travelling to the border of the Mackenzie’s lands. On the first few days, while she was still travelling through the Lowlands, her days were not very different from each other. They would find a tavern or an inn somewhere along the road and she would be taken directly to her chamber.
She would have her supper alone (usually, a heavy broth with all the remains of breakfast and lunch), with stale beer and old bread. Her maid would come to prepare her to bed, the same way she did on her wedding night, clothing her with the best nightgown she had, a silk, soft thing that made her skin as pale as milk.
As usual, Lord Gordon would not appear in her room and, after some few days living the same routine, she started to go off sleep peacefully, without worrying about the old man jumping in her room and taken her unwillingly.
They were a large entourage, with all her chests and her belongings, her maids, the soldiers and the weird servants that Lord Gordon brought with him, men with solemn looks and extremely quiet, who would never talk with anyone at all. Due to the heavy carriages and the amount of people travelling together, they were travelling slowly than expected, taking many days on the way.
When they entered the Highlands, their nights started to be different. They would not sleep in taverns or inns. They would not take the King’s Road or talk with anyone along the way.
Camps were made around fires and tents were put up, where Eleanor would be taken to be cleaned with fragrant perfumes, her hair brushed and braided with flowers. She would be taken outside in a white dress, of fine venetian silk and brocade, so heavy that she thought she would not be able to walk wearing it.
Gladly, she would not have an awful time trying to be alone during those hours. Lord Gordon was certain that the odors coming from the men would terrify the poor, pure creature he was looking for. So, usually, Eleanor was taken to a meadow or the margin of a stream, where she would sit on the ground and wait till morning.
Then, she would wake up startled by the sound of the soldiers coming for her, taking her back to her tent, where they would dress her in her normal clothes for then to keep their journey, following the ancient places where stories about the mythical creatures were told.
She was right on time when they arrived near Craigh Na Dun.
“I’m extremely sorry, Mrs. Murray.” Adam said one more time, standing still in the Murray’s living room.
He had arrived at Lallybroch in a terrible state. It rained almost every day since he left Ellesmere Park and, when the poor horse got scared due to a thunder and launched him towards a freezing pile of mud, things got even worse.
He tried to go on. After all, the last thing he wanted was to spend more time than needed travelling through Scotland. As a pure Englishman, he had heard about the scots and he was not willing to test if it was true.
Alright, he heard the same stories about the Irish and that proved to be not true. So, why fear?
“Och, ‘tis not a problem, Mr. Grey. ‘Tis was a pleasure.” She said, smiling to the man with affection.
Due to his complete and utter dumbness, Adam kept going on top of his horse even with a high fever and sore bones. By the time he finally arrived at the small country house, after many days trying to take his horse out of mud and avoiding the main roads to not get robbed, he almost passed out on the front porch, to the complete horror of the elder daughter, Caroline, a girl of fourteen.
Since then, the Murray’s insisted on tending for Adam, bringing him back to his health, although even Mrs. Murray doubt of her capability of saving him. She would often whisper, late at night, when Adam was turning and tossing with fever, that her Auntie Claire would have made him recover quickly.
What a pity she would only arrive in a moon.
“Please, you really don’t need anything from Edinburgh?” He asked, nervously. “Maybe London.”
Adam was not used to be the very center of attention, which he remained for a long time, even when he recovered from the feverish dreams and could walk around the room without fainting.
Now, with his pockets filled with belongings from another family, he felt bad for leaving the Murray’s with nothing in return for their generosity. He tried to convince Mr. Murray to accept his money for the trouble, but the man took great offense when he mentioned that.
He tried to do some chores, while Mrs. Murray still refused to let him leave with his horse towards the South again. Once more, all the household in Lallybroch was determined to keep him as a visit, pampered and flattered all the time.
Specially pampered by Miss Caroline, with her huge brown eyes, that kept staring at Adam if she has seen love for the first time.
“I’ve told ye, Mr. Grey. Ye’ve done enough for us.” She answered, looking pleased with herself. “And ye got the letters, which are more important than any fabric or ribbons.”
He placed a hand over the internal pocket of his coat, where the bunch of letters were tucked neatly into. They were letters for the Fraser’s, who would be arriving in a few days, and Mr. Murray’s mother, who lived with her brother in North Carolina, tending for her niece and her younger son, who married a girl from the colonies.
Caroline, by the side of her mother, didn’t appreciate his departure. Maybe, she had such a frown over her face due to the fact she wanted French lace and ribbons, things she would never find in a small village such as Inverness, the nearest place where they could find stores.
“I still hoped you could stay a little bit more with us.” Mrs. Murray insisted. “Ye’ve been up for only a couple of days…”
“The man is healthy, Joan. No need to worry.” Said Mr. Murray, coming from the yard. Adam could see his horse ready, its hair shinning in the morning sun. “However, I still insist ye join us for the Samhain, Mr. Grey. ‘Tis a tradition.”
Adam smile to the man. It was, indeed, very kind of them to invite him, a total stranger, to the family tradition. Tenants and independent farmers would gather by sundown to dance around a bonfire, eating and drinking in celebration of the new season that would be arriving in a few days.
“I really must go, Mr. Murray.” He said, walking towards the horse and stopping for a minute. “I do appreciate everything your family did for me. I will think of something to repay your kindness.”
The family waved their good-byes and for a split of second, Miss Caroline almost ran towards the horse. However, she stood very still, watching her first love leaving her house to never return.
Adam kept thinking of the girl for a long time. He remembered being dumb and in love, back in the Colonies, where it would only took a girl having a nice smile and a cunt to turn him head over heels.
He was ridiculous.
Now, as he rode slowly, his mind darted over and over to the family and the small pack of treasures in the purse his horse was carrying on the side. He needed to do something for them. An act of kindness. Respect.
Something that would lighten the burden of his consciousness.
That’s why, instead taking the King’s Road and riding south until he was too tired to think, he rode to Inverness and spent hours finding gifts for the elder Murray’s and the children. He even found a pretty necklace for Caroline, that would get the girl crazier in love for him.
Everyone in the small village knew the Murray’s and thought it was very kind of the Englishman to think so highly of their friends. Soon, the post office guaranteed the gifts would be sent first thing in the morning, with a supply of groceries Adam figured to be of Mrs. Murray satisfaction.
The sun was setting in the sky when he tried to leave, only being caught off guard by the owner of the little shop he bought the necklace for Caroline and the manager of the post office.
Before he knew it, Adam was back at the pub, drinking ale, surrounded by scots. The man sang and shout and played and, for a while, Adam forgot a bit of his duties. He liked the sense of camaraderie that all the pubs had, mainly due to drunkenness and the beautiful, young women who served the tables.
It was not until late hours that he found his way out of the room, jumping in his horse in a weird way, wobbling in the saddle towards the main road. He thought about getting a room on the inn nearby, just to wake up sober and whole, but disregarded the idea as soon he remembered that he would be sooner in Ellesmere Park as sooner he left Scotland.
Probably, due to his state of mind, the heavy eyes and the position of his shoulder, Adam didn’t feel the moment a heavy burden pushed him off the horse, making him land, face-first, on the dirt.
It was almost like the earth absorbed all the alcohol in his system, making him fully awake and sober in a split of second, watching his horse gallop away from him with a new rider on the saddle.
Eleanor was nervous in her white gown, as she climbed to the top of the hill, surrounded by Lord Gordon’s soldiers. She could see the sun preparing to set behind the trees in the horizon and she could feel a strange…sensation over her skin.
Once, when she was a little girl, a horrible tempest hit Glengarry. The wind howled during all evening, making the trees bow under its power and the leaves fall from the branches. The lightning was the first thing Eleanor saw in the sky, white and fast, glowing among the grey sky, followed by the thunder, so close and so loud she could swear it was right upon her room. No rain hit the grounds, at first, while the lightning bolts and the thunders danced in the sky, damping her soul with that strange sensation, like a cold wind had hit her skin, the goosembumps crawling under her flesh.
She could see the stones, now, tall and powerful, grey as the clouds on that frightful day in Glengarry. She could see the bees buzzing louder and louder as they got closer to the ancient circles and she couldn’t help to move her hands across her face, trying to take the insects away from her.
“Are you well, milady?” The soldier by her right asked, glancing at her with a quizzical look.
“I’m fine, sir. Just trying to scare away the bees. I’ve never heard so many together.” She answered, still moving around her hands, with some difficulty, due to the large sleeves.
“I don’t see or hear any bees, milady. Maybe… It’s better if we return until…” The soldier murmured, looking around, searching for the little insects.
“No, sir. I’m sure it was merely an impression.” Eleanor added, stopping right away the movement with her hands and watching her surroundings. Indeed, she could not see the anxious black dots flying around or colliding against her cheeks. The sound was there, so loud, but without any physical reason.
She was left as usual, sitting by a corner of the circle, waiting.
She waited, anxiously, her hands clasped together, until she felt the first ray of light, so orange it was almost red, touching her skin through a passage of rocks. Then, she knew what she had to do.
Raising on her feet, she took the two topazes Callum had gave to her before her wedding on the palms of her hands. He had said to her, very seriously, that she must dance in circles among the stones, chanting the ancient song he made sure she knew it by heart. Now, as she danced like a farmer girl, with her heavy dress and the gems in her hands, she thought she must be looking very silly.
She danced and chanted in a low voice, feeling the sun over her skin, the buzzing of the bees in her ears so loud she couldn’t even think properly and the strange feeling crawling to her skin. She chanted and danced so long that she could almost imagine the drums beating to the rhythm of her footsteps, pulling her body towards the center, where the tallest stone laid untouched.
She was feeling dizzy and was almost throwing up when everything stopped. The buzzing, the crawling, the beating, the sun: it was dark and she was face to face to the ancient stone in the center, in her arms reach.
It was time. So, she tried to mentalize what Callum had asked her to: home. She tried to think of the glens around Glengarry, the meadows and the streams. The sound of the birds in the mornings and the howling of the wind at night. The smell of hay, the texture of horse hair in her digits, the sound of the men practicing their swords by her side.
However, as much as she thought about all the nice things she had in Glengarry, she couldn’t help thinking: was this truly home? Most of the time she would have to sneak away to gallop in her horse or practice with the men, as Lady Adaira didn’t think it was proper for a young lady to do that. Sure, Ellie had her brothers, who loved her with all they got… but it was not the same thing. They had their own tutors, while she had to beg for her father to learn her letters.
Lord Leigh would not care if she was alive or dead and Adaira thought she was a burden. Was that really home for her?
Or just a shelter, a place to rest her head when tired, to eat when she had hunger or to protect her when thunderstorms hit the green hills around the clan?
Her hands touched the cold stone and it felt like she was thrown away in the air, landing heavily on her side, out of breath and out of her mind. It took her a long time to breath steadily and hours to open her eyes. But she had to go. Callum had warned her that she must be on the move as soon as she touched the stones. By the time she finally opened her lids to the sky, it was already a deep blue, surrounded by the night sounds and the bright stars.
Ellie watched the grey monument in front of her and her mind tried to think what have just happened. It was surely… magic. True and wonderful magic, like her brother always said to them. However, now it was not the time to think of that.
She had to move. She had to leave.
A plan started to form in her mind, as she got up from the ground, watching her hands slightly burned where once stood the gems. If she wanted to be as far as she could from lord Gordon and his man, she must find a horse.
For a split of second, Eleanor considered stealing the animal from Wallace. She scraped that from her mind as soon as she realized she would have to enter the campsite to take the beast, making it almost impossible to leave without being seen.
No, she would go the other way round, towards the road that led the travelers to the Lowlands. With quiet footsteps and a shallow breathing, Ellie was on the move, glancing around to make sure she was alone and safe. Her head kept bobbing to the sky, dark and sprinkled with stars, knowing that she needed to be far away from the place when the morning comes.
She heard the sound of the hooves as soon as she got closer to the road. It was a horse, alright, walking slowly, in its own pace, while the rider bobbed around like a drunk.
God, he was drunk!
Eleanor was thrilled to notice the man, going up and down, left and right, his chin resting on his chest, while the beast did all the work. She found a low branch, that spread over the road and climbed on it with difficulty due to the heavy dress. On her knees, she gathered the skirt and opened a slit. Yes, she thought, holding the branch with her hands and breathing steadily, waiting, waiting, waiting, until…
He was right under her and she launched herself, using her hands to swing her to the saddle, kicking him on his side and throwing the rider out of the horse. She landed badly and almost fell, using all her strength to pull herself up, holding the animal with her thighs and galloping away from the drunkard.
That was easier than I thought it would be.
Chapter 5: A lady is caught
When Adam raised his head, the rider was already sinking his heels on the sides of the horse – Adam’s horse – and running along the way, the white cloak of the man flowing around him.
The lord hadn’t even time to think: all his belongings…well, goddammit, all of William’s and Mr. Fraser’s belongings… were on that horse, that was vanishing in the shadows like a dream. He just ran, ran towards the thief and the horse and the jewels.
Adam ran like his life depended on it and it could well be truth, considering that what was laying in his future was a very angry looking scot and a pregnant lady that he learnt not to dismiss.
However, it didn’t matter how fast he could run. It didn’t matter that he was considered the fastest boy in Eton and that he won several awards, thank you very much. He was even praised on the army for his light-foot and smart wits (that were failing him since he jumped on the goddammed horse over at Ellesmere Park).
No. He would never, NEVER, outrun an Arabic pureblood. William had chosen the beast himself, knowing that Adam would need a strong, resilient, and fast animal to get to and from Scotland in time.
That goddammed horse was perfect in every aspect and would never be a match for poor, old Adam. His feet start failing on him and the lord could only think that God was not on his side in that particular match and had sent, from heaven, the first thief that could ride an Arabic Pureblood and not be scared by the fiery temperament of that goddammed...
His mother would have cleaned his mouth with a soap by now, if he wasn’t deep in Scottish woods and chasing his own horse…
Wait! That was it! He knew everything about that fucking horse. He had stayed with the animal for weeks and learned all the quirks and snoots. That infernal horse hated…
“VREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!” He whistled and sure enough the horse reared out of nowhere, startling the man so much that he fell on the floor with a loud thud.
Adam kept running, seeing that the thief was not up to play and tried to control the animal, which was snorting around, screaming on the top of its lungs, eyes white as the moon above their heads.
Another whistle and the horse was on his hind legs, almost knocking the rider on the floor one more time. Adam was almost there, his breath shallower than he would like, but aiming for the figure, still trying to calm down the horse, saying:
“WOAH! WOAH, BOY! CALM DOWN!”
He must have heard his footsteps, as the thief turned around, watching in horror as Adam sped up, bending his torso to grab the man by the waist and shove him on the ground. That’s when Adam saw the bright green eyes of a lady, with long strawberry blonde hair falling on her face.
He didn’t even had time to consider what he was doing. He couldn’t wrestle with a… a girl, for god’s sake! But he was already involving his arms around her and pushing both to the ground.
He felt her entire body under his, her breasts pressed against his chest, her hands on his shoulders. With the impact, he heard her losing her breath under him and he almost mumbled an apology.
He ALMOST mumbled an apology because she was already hitting him in the nose with her head. He didn’t hear it cracking, which was a sound he grew accustomed to in the months he spent over London’s underground system, but it surely hurt, enough for him to sit straight and receive a knee in his balls.
“Fuuuuuuuuck.” He swore, collapsing on his side, watching the girl trying to get up, towards the horse.
Promptly, Adam caught her feet with his free hand (the other was, sadly, swaddling his hurt balls). The emerald eyes turned to him and he saw the other leg preparing for a kick he surely deflected.
She tried once more but this time he was able to grab the other ankle, pulling her under him. For a split of second Adam thought he had caught the girl and rejoiced. That little devil was faster than he had figured out. She was breathing heavily under him, the pink locks sprawled around her, cheeks flushed under the skin, pale as milk. Oh, how lovely would be, to kiss those red lips…
Before he couldn’t even notice, a strong, soft thigh was around his shoulders. He glanced at it, the white skin showing under the slit in her dress, slit that was climbing over her thighs, towards her hips.
Why he suddenly felt thirsty? That didn’t even make any sense. Why she had one thigh in his shoulder, the velvet skin rubbing against his cheek and making him hard as… fuuuuuck.
Her other thigh was on the other side of his neck, tighter and tighter. For God’s sake he fell for this move! What was he? An imbecile? She was using her thighs, as slender as they were powerful, to make him lose his breath, not because they were soft as peaches and most formed to be bitten by his teeth, but because they were physically blocking the passage of air to his lungs.
Like a dimwit, he was holding tightly to her legs, as if it was enough for her to open them for him…
God, what she is doing to me?
Her green eyes were too interested in the reddish tinge his face was getting and didn’t notice his hands climbing to her own neck. The girl must be using her thighs instead of her arms because it was the stronger part of her body. To a man, in terms of strength, she was always going to lose using her upper body. But her legs… that was another story.
But Adam had very strong arms. And hands. And, quite nicely, he knew exactly the right amount of pressure, during the certain amount of time, in the right spot, where he could dismount a beast like The Irish.
So, for a tiny girl like her, it would be a matter of…
And soon enough she was laying on the ground, very still but not dead, you see. Adam could be a brute and was almost heavily beaten by a girl, but he still had principles. Some principles, not as many as before. A few that were enough for him to sigh in relief, take her thighs around his neck and find a rope.
In the morning he would be taking her to justice and would be back to his plan.
Eleanor woke up with the first rays of sunlight hitting her face. For a moment she blinked, trying to remember where she was and what had happened. Her head hurt and her mouth felt dry, as she recollected the images in her brain.
She remembered the thunder, the goosebumps in her flesh, the swarm of bees. The smell of burning in her flesh, the impact of her bones on the ground. She remembered the grey stones, the sky full of stars, as she looked for a horse to escape.
She needed to be far away from Craigh Na Dun by the time the morning came! And it was already dawn. She tried to breath steadily, feeling the soreness on her throat and the dryness of her tongue, as it slid over a different object in her mouth.
Almost as an explosion she remembered the drunk man coming down the path in his horse. She had stolen the animal from him! She remembered it quite clearly…
Oh, no… She thought, remembering the fight that issued, followed by a sudden darkness. Had she fainted?
She surely felt dreadful, her body aching in all the wrong parts and her thighs sore from the effort. Eleanor always thought she was strong enough to deal with every man or woman who crossed her path with ill intent, but perhaps she misjudged her abilities.
If she had her bow and arrow or her sword, things could have been different. She would not found herself tied in the woods, somewhere far away from home, in a tore gown and an aching head.
“Well, good morning, sleeping beauty.” Came a voice from behind her, making the girl open her eyes, watching the trees covered in moss by her sides. “I thought I would have to wake you from your slumber with a kiss.”
Oh, that deviled man… As she didn’t had enough problems without him…
A movement on the corner of her eye made Eleanor aware of a man, coming towards her. She remembered of the hunched drunkard in his horse and the blurred frame fighting her on the ground.
She didn’t recall how pretty were his eyes, blue like a frozen lake, long and dark lashes covering what she could read in his irises. He had a long nose, crooked to the side, as if he had broken it and never cared to put it in place, paired with high cheeks and a strong jaw.
She liked the way his lips were full and arched, enough for her to feel them with her digits, before kissing them…
God, Ellie, you are losing your mind!
But she couldn’t help to think how his dark blond hair would feel on her hands, or wander how thick was his neck, burrowed under his cravat. She couldn’t really discern with her thighs… God, her thighs WERE around his neck. What she was thinking?
“Any last words before I send you to justice?” He said and she opened her eyes wide.
He was sending her WHERE?
“Oh, don’t look at me as if you did nothing wrong. You tried to steal my horse.” He pointed out, which made her open her mouth to correct him that, as a matter of fact, she had, indeed, stolen his horse.
But when she did that, she noticed that everything she tried to say went out muffled. And right as she expected, a rag was on her mouth. She tried to complain about it, but only incomprehensible noises came from her lips, which made her even angrier.
“Don’t blame me! I sure didn’t want to caught attention before the time.” He answered, raising his hands. “If anyone saw you tied like that, they would have thought that I was a vile man and not the other way around.”
She complained again, making muffled sounds. She was not a vile woman. She was just… desperate.
“What?” He asked, watching her with doubt. “What do you want to say so much? It doesn’t matter your motives, I’m still taking you to the guards.”
She shook her head, flabbergasted. Could be a man be more insufferable?
“IF I take of the rag, will you stay quiet, for the love of God?” He asked, which she answered nodding her head repeatedly.
He sighed and walked towards her, untying the not behind her head and taking the rag, carefully, of her mouth.
“Ptui!” She spited right as the tissue left her mouth, using the last moisture she had in her cheeks.
“For God’s sake, woman!” He said, watching her with a furrowed brow, cleaning his cheek with one hand. “I am trying to be nice here, but you are not letting me. When I saw you the other night, I really tried to not knock you out. But you kept hitting me, so I’m not the one to be blamed.”
“You deserved that.” She said, in a crooked voice and a sandy mouth.
“The audacity…” He started to say but was interrupted.
“Do you think you are in any position to demand things here, girl?” He raised one blond eyebrow, which made her stomach drop in a weird way. She had never felt like that before, the strange tightening of her chest every time he looked at her with those heavy eyelids…
She tried to spit again, but her mouth was so dry by now that she was only able to cough.
“Calm down!” He mumbled, closing his eyes and sighing heavily. “Ok, what do you think of this: if you promise to not spit on me again, I will give you water.”
She just glanced at him with blank eyes. As if she was going to agree with such a terrible promise.
“Alright, I will give you water and will not take you immediately to the guards. But, BUT, if you try to steal my horse again, I will not be as gentle as I was with you. Are we settled on that?”
She nodded slightly. Ellie clearly doubted that the man would try to injure her. He had a way of speaking that showed he was a literate man, maybe a knight or a minor lord, considering the callouses in his hands and the way his shoulders were so broad and…
“Oh, yes. Wait a second.” He said, walking towards a bundle by the next tree, near the remnants of a fire, taking a canteen and bringing to her.
He placed the opening in her mouth, helping her tilt her head with his hand. The water was cold and nice in her tongue and Ellie was thrilled she could taste things again. She smacked the tip of her tongue against her palate and smiled, which made the man look at her with a… weird… face.
“I believe it would be nice if we introduce ourselves first.”
Adam was caught of guard when she smiled at him. She was even prettier in the morning, if that was possible. Her eyes were the same color of the moss in the trees around him, shadowed by heavy lashes. Her strawberry blond hair fell in her shoulder to her waist, soft and delicious, waves and waves of the most vibrant shade of… orange.
Her skin, pale as the moon, was flawless, which was something very rare for men or women. Even he had chicken pox when he was a child, with marks that could still be seen over his chin and his cheeks, if you look close enough.
Well, she was perfect, with the tiny nose and pink cheeks, the lips that were cute and small like a rose button. She still had some flours in her hair and over her what was once a white gown, which was very…sober…for a stunning girl like her. Except for that slit, running from her ankles to her hips. She was wearing leather flat boots and white stockings, embroidered with tiny flowers and foliage, up to her knee, tied with a ribbon. From that point forward, it was only velvety, tender, pale skin…
“Sir, your name.” She insisted, making Adam’s eyes go back to her pretty face.
“I believe, it would only be fair if you start, miss.” He pointed out. “After all, it was you who tackled me and tried to run away with my horse.”
She smiled again, that same smile that took his breath and made his fingertips feel funny. However, as she started to answer him, a bird shrieked behind the woods, making her look up, with startled eyes, wide and bright with… fear…
“Maybe we should be doing this in the horse.” She said, licking her lips. “I would certainly prefer, sir.”
He raised one eyebrow, looking around. He was 100% sure it was just a bird, trying to lure a female to his side. Or maybe being attacked by another larger bird. He was not a very good listener to the ancient mating sounds of nature.
“Are you waiting for someone, miss…?” He let the last word stay on the air for as long as he could, waiting for her answer.
“Eleanor. Eleanor MacDonnell.”
So, she was Scottish. Well, he imagined she had a faint accent, the r’s that rolled in her tongue when she spoke, but it was not very noticeable.
“Well, Miss MacDonnell, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Adam Grey. Now…”
She looked at him, suspiciously.
“Can we leave, please?”
“Are you in a hurry, dear?” He teased, flashing his white teeth to her.
“Don’t call me dear.”
“Answer my question.”
“I will certainly not. Until now, I’ve been tackled by a man, deep into the woods, in the middle of the night, tied and gagged. I do not know your intentions or your how you’re called and only by mentioning my family name, I already put myself and all my clan in danger.” She looked around, her eyes darting to foliage, moved by the forest creatures. Adam wondered what she meant by talking about her clan… They were all dismantled after the raising, in Culloden Moor…
“You forgot, my dear, that it was you who tackled me first, ran away with my horse, then hit me in the nose, then hit me in my balls, then tried to hit me again with your feet and suffocate me with your thighs. It should be me who is worried with my safety.”
His little speech made her smile faintly. Adam sighed, in anguish. That girl was so… stubborn.
“You’re safe here, Miss MacDonnell. I certainly don’t know what happened to you or what made you steal a horse, but I would sure like to listen and help you as best as I can.” He paused, thinking. “If you promise to not hurt me again. My balls are still hurting from yesterday and if I do not have children in the future, I will blame you.”
She laughed – truly laughed – at his response, her emerald green eyes shining in the morning sun.
“Are you’re a knight, sir?”
He looked at her, confused. God, was she one of those types of girls who lived by cavalry novels, like King Arthur and the Knights of the round table or whatever the Scottish equivalent?
“A knight?” He blurted, like a fool.
“Yes, a knight. Certainly, for you to be so confident on your capacity to keep a maid safe and sound, surely, you are a famous knight of sorts.”
Oh, she was mocking him, that little devil.
“Not a knight, no.” He smirked, blinking in what he thought it was a seductive manner. What am I doing? “You can say that I’m, somewhat, familiar to thugs and ruffians and I know exactly what to do to them. Does this easy your consciousness, milady?”
He teased her and she shrugged her shoulder, defeated.
“I believe that you will have to do.”
That damned little devil.
“Now, can we leave?” She added, watching a small bunny jumping from a bush.
“We are fine here, for now. After you answer my question, then we can leave.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Fine, go on.”
“What are you running away from?”
She blinked, multiple times, fast as the wings of a hummingbird. She crisped her lips, wetting them with her pink tongue, deciding what to say and how to say to him. Adam was sure that she was in trouble and did not had stolen him from ill intent. She seemed desperate and lonely, in her white dress with flowers in her hair.
Well, he could be terrible wrong. Maybe he would be found in a ditch somewhere, with his throat cut and all his belongs stollen. But he was gladly paying to see the outcome.
“I was married, you see. To a vile, terrible man. He was truly dreadful. We were going north, to the Mackenzie’s lands when I escaped. I did as my brother told me to do and… I’m truly sorry about your horse, but Callum had asked me to leave the stones as soon as I saw my path free of… him. I need to go back home, to Glengarry. They’re waiting for me. My family.”
He just nodded. He grew by the shadows of Hal and John Grey, the two most noble men he had met in his entire life. Surely, he had strayed along the way, but the righteousness taught the two men during all his life was still buried deep in his brain. And even with his nose and his balls still aching from the assault last night, it was enough for him just to watch her sorrowful eyes, shrug and say:
“Well, lead the way. I’m sure you don’t want for your brothers to wait for way too long.”
Chapter 6: A lady on the way
“Excuse me?” She said, raising her eyebrows. Adam, who was walking towards his belongings, stopped on his tracks. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Taking you back home?” He asked, looking confused to the girl that was disheveled and dirty on the floor.
“Why?” She asked, shock completely changing her features.
Adam shrugged, like it was not a big of a deal.
“Well, you said that you needed to go back to your family’s home, Glengarry.”
“Yes…But I never invited you to come along.” She frowned her brows, frustrated.
Adam sighed, going out of sight with his bundles, to place on the horse.
“And how would you travel to your lands, dear?”
He could hear the annoyed sound that came from her mouth and almost felt in his back her eye roll, while he prepared the animal for the long journey ahead of them.
“With a horse, that you would, gracefully, arrange to me. If you can’t recall, sir, you tackled me last night and for the trouble I faced, YOU should get me a fine and nice mount for my journey.”
Adam turned around, walking towards Lady Eleanor on the ground. Her beautiful white dress was dark with mud, thorn in many places, flashing her skin to the sun. He was tired of her ego and her stubbornness and wanted, dearly, to left her to rot in the woods.
Or be tackled by robbers on her way home.
However… He could listen, whispering in his ears, the voice of good ol’ Hal, the man that let a commander of the scots flee from his grasp due to the fact he owned a blood promise.
She could be insufferable, like a kitty cat with long claws, but he couldn’t let her fend for herself, alone and scared like she clearly was. So, he sighed and kneeled on the ground, facing her.
“We already talk about last night and we know who tackled first. Now, I was raised to fend for those who cannot fend for themselves…”
“I can fend for myself…” She interrupted, looking annoyed.
“My dear, you may think you can but look at you. You were tied and gaged, despite of all the jabs, kicks and punches you gave me last night. Yes, I believe you would be able to find food and shelter, while travelling far away from the main roads.” He paused, unaware how to say that. After all, yes, he was taught to take care for those in need, but the main reason he was doing that right now, the reason that crept in the back of his mind, while he stared at her soft skin was how formidable and red her lips were. “However, you are a pretty girl. Eventually, you would find men and they walk in groups around here. You made a good job fighting me, but what about three, four men? Tall and strong, with no conscience to trouble them at night, while they spread your legs apart and…”
“Stop!” She shouted and the echo of her voice filled the void of the forest. “Oh, you’re so full of yourself, sir. I understand what could happen to me, but do you believe you would be able to scare those men away, if they indeed have vile intentions?”
Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes wide, blinking towards him with green irises promising the mysteries of the woods and its inhabitants.
“I would certainly try and, if I was not successful, I would sure give you time to run away and find sanctuary.”
He barely noticed the words that were leaving his mouth, words of sacrifice and honor. Words that he was not used to, as he lived a life of sin and emptiness. Up to now, he had nothing to give or to lose, so why…WHY…he was offering his life to that fairy, that creature that jumped over him in the middle of the night and had smitten him with her smile?
She was shocked, as she highlighted:
“I…I barely know you.”
She was right, of course.
“And I barely know you. However, Lady Eleanor, you are alone, running away from a terrible husband and managed to find me on your away, a terrible man who was raised by the best.”
He let the silence sink among them, as she blinked, confused. He felt naked, voiceless, scared, with words that he was not ready to speak out loud being poured over a stranger.
To lighten the mood, he decided to ask:
“And it is a nice way to enrage you. After all, if you’re lying and made all this story just to take from me a nice horse and saddle, it would be really nice to see what would you made up once we arrive at the supposed home of your clan.”
This made the sparks come back to her eyes, as she furrowed her brow and whispered:
“Your insufferable beast…”
He laughed and held her tightly, pulling her up to her feet. They stared at each other for some time, her head tilted upwards, to make up for their difference in height. So small, so delicate…
“So, what do you say?”
She had to say yes. Sir Adam had some good points and she, indeed, had some fears regarding her safety. Not because of the brutes who could take her unwillingly, but because of her husband, Lord Gordon, who she was almost sure was up to their tracks, looking for his precious wife.
So, she saw herself mounted on the beautiful pure blood, her thighs scrubbing against the riders, as they walked along the road with such… calm. She had explained to him how to get to Glengarry, based on her knowledge and the few times she travelled to another clans. She figured that, in six to seven days, they would be there, to the complete horror of Sir Adam.
“It was your idea to take me to my castle.” She pointed out.
“I’m already late on my obligations… I will have to send a letter as soon as possible.” He complained, looking straight ahead with a furrowed brow, as if he was really worried about his schedule.
She didn’t try to quarrel further. It was the best solution for her case and, at least, he was a nice company, when he was not being so over himself and calling her pet names, like she was his lover. He was quiet, most of the time, and even allowed her to remain untied, with the condition that she would not try to hit him again and flee with his horse.
No, it was fine.
Her brothers would like for him to be payed generously for escorting their sister back to the clan. Her father and her step-mother would not approve of it, but Dougal being the heir and approving of her escape… that would have to be enough.
Now, surrounded by the strong arms of Sir Adam, Ellie allowed herself to think about the future, that seemed so bleak not so many days ago. Surely, there would be some trouble, but Callum had assured her that everything would be fixed and Lord Gordon would no longer be a problem for her. She didn’t know and didn’t care about what her younger brother would do to the man, as long it would guarantee that she would remain safe in Glengarry.
She felt the rider pulling her closer to his body, assuring she would not fall from the mount, and a strange sensation slid down her belly, towards her lady parts. It was like molten fire, destroying her insides and giving her a tingly sensation, as his wide torso gently scrubbed her back.
Look at her, being so stupid, thinking about the stubborn and egocentric knight, while she could be thinking about the future, a future where she would no longer be married or defenseless.
Well, unless… she would still be defenseless. After all, she may be free from the grasp of Lord Gordon, but… as she would be an unmarried maiden once more, her fate would still lay in her father’s hands.
Maybe this time he would consider the marriage to a Highlander. She didn’t seem to mind, being so far away from home, not being able to visit her brothers she loved so dearly. She would certainly miss them, but could, gladly, leave Glengarry behind, exploring new lands with her new husband, young, tall and blond, who would be her equal in all matters, in field and in her bed…
“I will be back in some minutes.” The soft voice came from behind her and she was startled by the goosebumps that climbed her arm with the sound.
Ellie finally noticed they were not on the road anymore. They were over a small village, bubbling with life.
“Where are you going?” She asked, startled.
“The post office, remember? I’ve told you…” Sir Adam said, jumping off the horse and turning to see her. “I need to post a letter, informing that I will be delayed for a few days. While I’m here… What do you think of a new dress?”
Ellie glanced at her gown, watching the slit climbing up to her hips, flashing smooth, pale skin for all to see. She suddenly felt ashamed of how she was dressed, the stains in the fine fabric, the shreds all around the skirt, where it got thorn when she and the knight fought like animals in the night.
However, she was insecure of changing her garb. The sentinels would recognize her as a lady by the quality of her gown, even dirty and tore like it was right now. This would allow her entrance to the castle and her reunion with her family.
“I would prefer to stay with the dress, sir.”
He nodded, his eyes glancing to her thighs all the time, his irises getting darker with the emotions that ran under his skin, emotions that Eleanor, a maid and a high-born lady, sheltered from the world, would never recognize, despite the sensation that the same feelings were running in her veins as well, while his eyes were so close to her skin.
He sighed and closed his eyes, coming closer to her leg, making her shiver without any reason. Since her escape, her body was doing things she didn’t fully comprehend, especially regarding Sir Adam Grey, the man that she wanted to press her lips against with the same will she wanted to punch his face time and time again.
Before she could even notice, a heavy and long piece of tartan was over her, covering the slit in her dress and herself from prying eyes. She recognized the red, green and blue tartan from the Murray clan, which made her rise her head in search of his eyes, which were gone.
She kept wandering about the tartan that covered her, siting in the horse, while he posted his letter in the few minutes he was out. It was so quick that she was surprised by the closeness of his body and the movement of the animal, making her blurt:
“I thought your name was Grey, not Murray.”
This caught his attention, that stood quiet for a while, pondering. Was he lying to her? The ice covered her skin with that thought, running down the road, as she was suddenly conscious of his closeness and the fact that the road was indeed very empty.
She was ready to tackle him again, despite her promise, when he answered.
“They are friends. Good friends. Good people.” He paused, cleaning his throat. “When I got to their house, I was so sick they thought I would die in front of them. But they took care of me and I was healthy once more.”
He spoke with such tenderness that she suddenly relaxed, again, in his embrace. No one that was lying would talk with such… love.
“Anyway, I have good news.” Sir Adam broke the silence, mostly because he felt ashamed of the way he spoke about his friends and what happened to him. She only got the most basic notions about her knight, a man that was always keeping secrets. It was a blessing to see just this brief glimpse of his life. “I’ve talked to some people and they believe that we will be able to arrive in Glengarry in three days, keeping a fast pace and going by the main road.”
Main road? She thought, confused. There was no main road leading to Glengarry. The roads the romans used, so many centuries ago faded with time and no one never thought to rebuild it. Maybe he was talking about the small trail they often used, marked by the spin of wheels instead by the labor of man.
She didn’t ask, however. She preferred to keep her thoughts to herself, the same way her silent knight would do with his.
He was losing his mind.
The movement of the horse made her arse, so round and soft, rub against his hips, over and over again, making his erection get so hard that he thought he would faint on the middle of the road.
Even with the tartan the Murray’s had given to him to protect his body from the chilly Scottish nights, he would feel every inch of her body close to him. Every. Tasty. Inch.
Lady Eleanor was awfully quiet and Adam was almost sure it was due to the fact that she recognized the hard surface she was rubbing against. He tried to think about other things, count sheep, remember the pranks he used to devise in Eton with his friends or reminisce about the way Lady Woolworth, who was nearly ninety, tits would hang from the deep cut of her gown, à la française.
It was a blessing when he realized the sun had gone down for a long time and it would be better if they found a spot to rest until the next day. Two more days of suffering, and he would be free from the foolish promise.
He would be free from that wonderful arse.
“Why are we stopping?” She asked seeing the horse slow down, as he entered the woods around the road, in search for a shelter. “Where are we going?”
“It’s too late, milady. We need to find a spot to rest.” He answered, trying to recognize the region despite the darkness. He could hear, getting closer and closer, a bubbling stream, a nice place to be near, as they would have food to eat and water to drink. “Yes, right there.”
“No, we are not.” She added, like she had any saying on where they would rest. “We can’t sleep here.”
He saw her head moving around, as he jumped of the horse and tied the animal to the low branch of a tree. He tried to catch her by the waist, helping her to dismount, but the frisky kitty cat moved out of his reach, almost falling from the saddle.
“And why can’t we sleep here, my dear?” Adam asked, awfully tired.
“We don’t have any tents!”
The laugh bubbled from Adam’s chest and he couldn’t stop it from coming, overflowing the forest with the joyful sound.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Your Highness.” He added, wiping a tear. “I didn’t know your skin were so sensitive. I beg your pardon, my liege. I will make amends to this.”
“Oh, your outrageous beast!” She shrieked, as he finally took her out of the mount. “You keep making fun of me like I am a common wench! You are no knight, sir!”
“I’ve told you I was not a knight.” He pointed out, walking away and gathering some branches on the ground. “It was you who kept calling me that.”
He could hear her soft footsteps behind him. It would be so easy, just to whisk her away from her feet, lay her over the leaves and kiss her senseless. But he had already enough problems as it was and would be better minding his business, gathering the wood and scrubbing the stones to make a spark.
“I was doing that as a sign of respect regarding your good nature and the compromise to take me home, despite the fact that I’ve assured you that I can fend for myself. However, I refuse to keep calling you that.” She said, and Adam could feel the hate drip over her tongue.
“So, what will you call me?” He asked because he was stupid and liked to tease the girl. Tease her would take his head of the joining of her legs, a place where his mind would constantly wander, despite the fact he was trying, terribly, to pay attention and light that damn fire.
“I will not call you. I will not talk to you at all. You don’t deserve to hear my voice, altogether.”
He couldn’t help but smile and the sparks flew around and touched the branches, making a small fire.
“But you are talking to me.”
“You’re still talking to me.”
“Oh, your conceited, degenerated…pig!” She screamed, as he got up from his small creation and looked at her.
The trouble was in her eyes, glistening with rage and fury, making her cheeks get rosy and her lips swell. She looked like a goddess, the most dangerous one of the pantheon, but the most beautiful as well. To glance at her power would be a matter of life and death… To taste her skin would be so great an offense, that he would have to remain his days in a long and terrible torture…
It would be so easy, just to take her head in his hands, and tilt her chin towards his, making those lips adjust to his own. It would be easy but his mind was alerting him of the perils, of the stain in what was left of his honor and the disgrace that would befall him before he could count to ten.
He was thinking that, trying to take away her pretty eyes form his mind, as he slid the tartan from her shoulders, to place it on the ground, so that she could sleep without the earth touching her soft skin. However, when his hands touched the skin of her arms, she shivered and something sparkled in her eyes, her mouth opening in a muted “Oh!”, the goosebumps crawling her skin up to his digits. He couldn’t say and, maybe, he wouldn’t be able to speak a word due to the lightning that involved them in that weird moment.
And the moment was broken as she stepped back, his hands were away from the soft skin and his oblivious, stupid mouth was able to say:
“Here is your chamber, my princess.” As he laid the tartan on the ground by her side.
He could see her face changing from that absolute shock from the soft touch exchanged seconds ago to the absolute face of exasperation. She opened her mouth to say something, probably something along the lines he was the worst man to live, when she closed abruptly, probably recalling the fact she promised she would not speak to him again, laying on the fabric with her back turned to him.
As Adam walked to the other side of the fire and laid on the hard ground of the Scottish plains, he couldn’t help but thought about the strange moment he had with Eleanor, where it could almost appear that, as their skins touched, their souls touched as well. Was it too insane to think that right on that moment he saw lust reflecting on those green irises?
With that nonsense in his head, he turned around and tried to sleep, remembering how warm was her shoulders under his digits.
Chapter 7: A lady in his dreams
She woke up with a grunt. A deep sound that echoed in her bones and made her sit straight, confused, looking around her surroundings. She had to blink for a few moments, trying to remember why she was so freaking cold and why she could smell the pines so close.
She sighed, as she recalled exactly what happened and almost laid down again, tucking herself in the tartan, so thick and smooth…
Another sound, like a growl, came from the other side of the camp. The goosebumps were in her flesh, as she looked around, the heart beating fast in her chest. The fire was still going, the red flames covering the small radius of the camp, but not big enough to show Ellie what was beyond the trees.
She hoped to not see the yellow glowing eyes in the darkness. God, she hated wolves almost as much as she hated her step-mother. Once, when she was just a little older than a toddler, she found herself lost and alone beyond the gates of Glengarry.
Alright, that was not entirely true.
Ellie had fled, tired of staying in her chamber, high in the tower, while her brothers played pretend, screaming like banshees, faking injuries and chanting war hymns, while she was sitting, angrily, by the window. Eleanor was determined to play pretend with her brothers and damned be all if they thought she would be the princess to be saved one more time.
She would be a freaking knight.
However, when she got to the courtyard, her brothers were not there. She saw their wooden swords on the ground, and, slowly, Ellie took one, looking to each and every side, just to be sure no one was watching her stealing what was not hers to take.
With the sword in hand, she felt bold. She was, suddenly, a true and real knight, capable of doing everything. Including vanishing from the castle grounds, seeking her own adventures and her own dragons to slay.
So, she went outside, almost dragging the heavy wooden sword behind her, humming softly to herself, thrilled by the quest she had chosen for herself: the pond beyond the woods.
It would be obvious to anyone, but a five-year old, that it was not a good plan to roam by herself by the forest. She could get lost, after all. And get lost she did. She spent hours trying to find the pond, that once she went with her nanny, a pond that was nowhere to be seen. However, as much as she roamed, she couldn’t find it and, for her horror, the sun was starting to set on the horizon.
That was it: she needed to go back home.
However, by then, she was incredibly lost, so deep in the woods, for her, that she would never go back. So, she sat on the ground and did what a five-year old would do: cry.
She cried until it was too dark for her to see anything, her eyes aching from her tears and her body convulsing from the gulps she was releasing in her throat. When she felt too tired to keep trying, she sniffed, raising her head from her folded arms, trying to think where she could sleep.
That’s when she saw the eyes, glowing in the darkness and the snarl that followed. It was a matter of luck, though. Probably, as soon as she got out of the castle, someone noticed her absence. It was just a matter of time, the guards seeing the mark of the sword zig zagging their way until they heard her soft cries.
That was why, before Ellie could even scream of complete terror, the glow of a torch took over her, scaring away the hungry beast. She was taken back to the castle in the arms of one of her father’s soldiers, where she was scolded and grounded for many days, prohibited of going anywhere until she learnt that she would never, ever, be allowed to roam, alone, the woods.
She heard again, the growl, and she crawled closer to the bonfire, thinking if it would be a smart thing to scream. If she had her bow or her sword, the wolf would not be a problem.
She would just kill him.
But, without any weapon to protect her now, she felt powerless. Maybe, she could wake Sir Adam up. No. She would not do that. The vain, ignorant man… She promised she would not talk to him anymore. He didn’t deserve to be called sir and he was not allowed to hear the sound of her voice. And, after all, she could deal this, thank you very much.
She was a trained knight, her father liking that or not.
Then, the sound was not a growl anymore. It was a cry… low and long, coming from somewhere behind her next to the fire.
Ellie turned around to see Adam squirm, his legs moving slightly, as his shoulders trembled and his face was frowned with… pain. Ellie started to move, slowly, towards the man, noticing that he was moving, slowly, to position his legs and his hands in front of his belly, almost as protecting himself.
The cold night hit her with sudden realization that her knight was having a nightmare. She knew nothing about Sir Adam Grey besides his name and the fact he was in a quest and that she delayed him from completing it.
Now, watching him tremble with pain, trying to protect his body from the imaginary villains that were assaulting him, she felt her heart ache. He seemed so full of himself, so completely proud, arrogant and brave, that Ellie never realized that behind that façade laid a man with… fears, as any other.
She touched, slightly his shoulder, trying to comfort him back to calmer dreams, when he opened his eyes, suddenly.
“I… Erm…” She babbled, staring at the blue eyes. “You were having a nightmare.”
“Go back to sleep.” He barked back, moving away from her hand.
“Now.” And he got up, walking towards the darkness of the woods, darkness that she would not dare to go, with the fear of finding yellow eyes staring at her still.
He had dreamt with it. Again. Adam was getting used to those terrible dreams, where he would be kicked in the guts time and time again by an unknown man, mostly resembling the day he decided that he had to truly learn how to fight to survive the nights out on the pubs and shallow places he would often find himself after Ben returned from the Colonies.
He hated those dreams, that made him wake up drenched in sweat, cursing the day he found himself with lands that were not his, a title that was not his either, a broken hearted mother and a hollow father.
However, that night was different.
Usually he would receive kicks and punches until his image, in the dream, could not open his eyes anymore. For every aspect, he was dead. And that was why he would wake up, startled and confused, realizing that he was, in fact, surrounded by pillows filled with goose feathers and 300 thread count sheets.
Now… He was woken by a gentle touch in his shoulder, like a caring hand that took him away from the fighter, and cared for him in his lap, while he died. A hand that comforted him.
And when Adam opened his eyes. He saw her, watching him with furrowed brows and pierced lips.
He felt naked, in front of her, that beautiful girl with emerald green eyes, that saw her knight (as she would call him when she was in a good mood), squirm with anguish due to a silly dream.
He was rude to her, Adam admitted. He could not even look in her stunned face, as he got up and walked among the trees, forgetting his coat on the ground and feeling the cold night air enter under his clothes.
He was unable to sleep and roamed around the trees until the sun started to show above the trees, breaking the camp and waiting for Eleanor to wake up. She was curled under the tartan, only the tip of her nose showing, pink as the sun in the horizon.
He could see her stirring, starting to wake from whatever dream she would be having, her lashes fluttering like the wings of a bird. She glanced at him, waiting by the horse, and asked, with a deep voice:
“Are we leaving?”
He didn’t answer, still ashamed for what she had seen the other night. Adam was only able to nod, while she got up, wobbly, and walked towards him.
Now, she was munching a piece of apple pie, quiet in front of him, while they travelled down the road. No one dared to say a thing and he was not going to be the person to break the silence. He was enjoying the soft bumping of her behind in his trousers, the way her chest moved while they rode, her small bites and the happy sigh she would let go when she tasted the cinnamon or the sugar in the pie.
There were some frosty patches on the road. The winter was coming, and Adam was scared of it. He only had a winter coat, with no gloves and no scarf. He had left Ellesmere Park with only a new pair of socks and a clean shirt, that he already wore of.
And then, there was Eleanor. Her dress was tore down and, despite the fact she had said to him, clearly, that she had no intentions of changing it, he wished the next stop they made, he could find a new dress for her. It would not be as rich as the one she was using, made of a smooth brocade, but would be warm.
However, the silence made it impossible to Adam to even ask to Ellie if she wanted to stop in a town, to eat a broth of some kind or just to rest a bit. She would only, eventually, ask for water or a piece of bread, that he would give to her gladly.
It was far after lunch that she asked for a private break and she was so quick, for a woman, that he could not even rest properly. He was tired from his sleepless night and wanted to close his eyes… just for a little while.
No. He hadn’t time for that.
So, quickly they were back in the horse, marching down the road towards the castle. The animal was as sturdy as expected and did not show signs of being tired until it was late in the evening.
They have stopped only for some hours, during the evening, for the horse munch some grass and for him to fill his flask with new water. Eleanor stood by a tree, protected by the tartan she held like a cape behind her back, protecting her arms and her chest.
“You will not address it?” She asked, startling Adam. His hands shook and he spilt almost all the new water, making him pour it back to the stream and try again.
He didn’t answer her.
“You are not speaking to me either?”
He sighed, getting up and corking the flask.
“I thought it was you who was not speaking to me.” He teased, placing the flask in his bag.
She paused, blinking at him like she was trying to get back her composure.
“Well, in fact, I was not.” She paused, unaware of how to go on with the conversation. “However, I thought you would like to talk about what happened yesterday…”
“I do not want to.”
“Really, Adam?” She asked, correcting herself soon after. “I mean, Sir Adam. I think that you should be addressing what happened to you.”
“And why do you think that?” He asked, turning back to her, who was playing with her tartan-made-cape, unconsciously.
“I…” She paused. “I think you were injured. Gravely. And not physically. I’ve seen soldiers…”
“Eleanor…” He said, tired.
“Eleanor.” He insisted. “Don’t try to over think what you’ve seen. It was just a bad dream. Had you ever had a bad dream?”
She paused, unsure how to answer.
“Well, of course I did… But…”
“That’s it. Just a dream.” He said, waiting for her to come to him. “Now, let’s go.”
He had called her Eleanor, she thought, watching Adam take the saddle from the horse. Why that shook her so much?
They have travelled for hours after their weird conversation near the stream. He had not said a word, until they passed a sign on the road and Adam told her that only two more days.
She glanced around the old barn that Adam, well, Sir Adam, found near the road. It was mainly, rocks, a roof that was almost falling, with so many holes she could see the stars. Still, it had hay for the horse and for them to lay over, walls to protect them from the cold and something like a roof to protect from the eminent snow that was going to fall, any minute now.
“I don’t think it will snow today.” Said Adam. Since they arrived in the barn, he had been trying to talk to her like nothing had happened.
“Oh, it will sure snow today.” She answered, entering his game. If he didn’t want to talk about what happened, she would not force him. He was only her knight for the journey, nothing more, nothing less. In two days, they will be parting their ways for life. “Look at those clouds, forming, near the horizon. Heavy snow.”
“Oh God…” He complained, walking towards the barn, to start making the fire.
“Are you afraid of snow, Sir Adam?” She teased, raising one eyebrow.
“Of course not.” He answered, shaking his head. “But it will be fucking cold.”
She took some hay from the small bunches she had made for their beds and gave to him, to feed the fire that was being formed.
“I always thought that, when it was not snowing, it was colder.” She whispered, raising her hands to the fire, feasting with the warmth. That made her tartan fall from her shoulders to the ground, where Adam soon recovered and placed it back.
“I should have found some new clothes for you…” He whispered, his eye fixed in the slit next to her hips. “I will deliver a frozen stick to the clan.”
She laughed, truly laughed.
“Don’t be silly.” Ellie said, adjusting her skirt to close the slit. “I will be fine. I’m stronger than you think.”
“So, you keep telling me…” He joked, taking his coat and laying on the bundle of hay.
“I tell you so because it is the truth.” She insisted, watching him walk towards the doors, and close to keep the cold from coming in. Suddenly, everything around her turned red.
“I would have to see that for myself.” Adam said, going back to his place near her and pulling some things from the purse.
“Are you asking me to defy you in a duel?” Ellie exclaimed, her eyes getting wider with delight.
“God Heavens, no!” He shouted, laughing. “I don’t even know if this is allowed.”
“Well, it doesn’t say you can’t duel with girls. So, time and place.”
“I’m not fighting you, Eleanor.” He laughed, taking a dagger from his boot and cutting the onions and mushrooms he had found nearby.
Then again, there it was. He called her Eleanor again, which made her insides curl with… happiness? What was it?
She was truly losing her head.
“You can’t say that.” She whispered, watching the red and orange light hit his beautiful, angel like features.
“I think I can.” He joked, smiling at her, in a breath-taking way. “I’ve seen what you can do to a drunk man. I would prefer to measure your capacity of taking a man down far away, thank you very much.”
“I was not talking about that.”
He raised his head from the vegetables that were being cut, confused.
“You can’t call me by my birth name, sir.” She explained, feeling her cheeks get rosier and she talked. “It is not proper.”
He smiled at her, those bright, white teeth glistening at her, as he poured the vegetables in a tiny pot filled with water.
“Well… Nothing about you is proper, is it, Eleanor?” He said, flashing her his teeth, while placing the pot near the fire.
Suddenly, she was fully aware of the scene forming before her. The closed wooden doors, the roaring fire near her feet, the bundles of hay, close together, almost forming a bed.
“And if it could easy your mind, I would call you Eleanor and you will call me Adam. No Sir in front of it. Just Adam.”
“I can’t call you that.” She answered. “It is not proper.”
Her heart was thumping so loudly in her ears that she truly thought Adam, no, Sir Adam, had listened to it. It was shacking on her torso, as he got closer to her, his hands stretched in front of him, going towards her thighs.
Ellie truly thought she would faint any minute now.
“This slit in your hips that is not proper.” He played with the fabric between his fingers. “I think you will survive calling me Adam.”
“Your… your discourteous, indecorous… bastard!” She answered, so low, that she could be sharing a secret. Ellie didn’t know why she said that, as her heart wanted her to pull his hand back to the fabric, to her body, to her naked thighs and her naked core.
The laugh that came from him woke her up from her vivid dreams, making her blink fast with shame.
“I thought you would say that.” He teased, that awful smile sliding through his lips to from the corner of his mouth. “Do you mind if I put some chives in the broth?”
She shook her head slightly, watching him cook with a sparkle on his eyes. She couldn’t speak, think or move. She could only feel the weird urge of having his body on top of hers.
Chapter 8: A lady in private
She was glistening.
That was what Adam thought, watching her hum in front of him, her feet jingling with happiness, while they were in their last day of travelling. She had woken up to a frosty field, snow covering the road, the trees and the plants but didn’t care. She was happy when she ate their breakfast, while Adam shivered and complained under his breath. She was happy when they went outside and the chilling air hit their warm faces. She was happy when he involved her with the tartan and pulled her closer to his body, trying to maintain her warmth, despite of the tear in her dress.
She was even humming.
“You’re happy today.” He commented and she turned her head around, watching him.
“You’re very observant, Sir Adam.”
“Well, it is not difficult to notice a girl that is humming like a bride after her wedding night.” He mocked, waiting to see the faint blush that would appear in her cheeks and her complaints about him being so rude.
“Sir Adam, you’re just… terrible.” She teased, not frowning or throwing a tantrum. She would just smile at his childish attempts to annoy her and make her blush with shyness, accustomed to his brute manners. Manners which, in his defense, were not taught by his mother, God bless her. “But, yes. I’m happy and I don’t care. I’m coming home.”
“To Glengarry.” He said and she nodded. “Do you like the place?”
A smile showed upon her lips.
“Are you by, any chance, interested in my life, Sir?”
“I’m just curious.” Adam answered, feeling her relax against his chest. “After all, I’m taking you to your family, despite the delay in my schedule and the fact that you almost killed me. It’s just fair.”
Eleanor giggled and sighed.
“I do, indeed, like Glengarry. It has been my home for all my life. And my father’s life. It has been in the family for nearly two hundred years, which is a lot, if compared to other castles.” She answered. “It is surrounded by glens, so green that they are almost emerald. However, we do have some woods, in the back, free and wild and…”
Her voice got lost in memories and Adam felt a weird tingling in his chest, a warmth, listening to that girl remember her home, that he did not expected.
“And your brothers? You said that they were the one’s that prepared your escape.”
He felt her head leaning on his shoulder and he was out of breath.
“I have three brothers. Half-brothers, from my father’s side. My mother died when I was a baby and father soon got married to Lady Adaira. They had, in a quick succession, Dougal, the elder, Malcom and Callum, who is turning fourteen. Malcom is so serious that sometimes we feel like he is older than me. And Dougal… we are only one year apart in age, so… we are best friends. But Callum…”
“He is your favorite.”
“It will be a bad thing if I say he is?” She asked, her head turning to the side in his chest, the hair so soft against his neck.
“Not at all. I also have a favorite sibling.” He answered and, for a moment, a shadow passed through his heart. “How is Callum?”
“Oh, he is…adorable. He truly thinks is his duty to protect me. And he is a wizard in making.”
“A wizard?” Adam asked, turning to see her face, glowing with happiness. “I thought all of them were hunt and hanged in the Great Witch Trial.”
“Don’t be silly. These things only happen in the Continent. We are very respectful of our heritage, although Father would prefer for Callum turn into a priest. They are far more respected…”
A priest? No Witch Trials? Were they papists?
It was the first time he met a papist. Adam had learned about how the King had broken with the lying catholic church and founded his own. The religion had its ups and downs, but for the last one hundred years, it was the true practiced religion for England, Scotland and Wales.
Since the Jacobite rise, the King had made it illegal to be a catholic or to display any connections with the Highlander lifestyle. With the years passing, they started to allow some things, such as the tartans. But almost all turned to anglicism.
As she continued to babble about her life, Adam couldn’t help but thought about how sheltered Eleanor was in Glengarry. She could fight like a frisky cat, but… she barely knew the history of her own country, living in a fairytale about knights and quests. She should not have been married, at all…
He needed to talk to her father about it. She was not ready, not now. Maybe wait a few years. Dottie married young, but Peggy was nearly 21 when she met William. A nice age. Eleanor could travel and understand her world. Read, study and then…
And then, maybe, he would be ready for her as well.
They have stopped near a stream. It was still light, the sun kissing the earth with its warm rays, watching the snow melt, faintly, under its power. The cold wind was still blowing over them in the road, making Adam hold her tightly under his body, warming her with his own body heat.
He tried to convince her of changing the rags she called clothes, but Ellie was certain that she would be recognized by her garb. She could almost see, the guards waving at her, from the distance, the gates opening, her brothers waiting for her in the courtyard.
Oh, how she was waiting for that.
What would be of her after that, it was a mystery that Eleanor avoided thinking. Her father would not be happy and her step-mother would be furious, but Callum had assured her that all would be well. That was enough for her to close her eyes and let the dress slip over her skin towards the ground.
Although she had refused Sir Adam’s offer of a new wardrobe, she knew she must have been looking terrible. She hadn’t taken a shower in days and she slept and traveled with the same clothes. She thought she was smelling bad and, by the time she walked towards the stream, far away from Adam’s gaze, she discovered that she was right.
Slowly, afraid of the cold, she took of her dress, underdress and camisole, untying her leather boots and her stockings, feeling her body tingle with the cold air in her naked skin. She walked, gingerly, towards the stream, feeling like a thousand daggers were on her feet, as she touched the water with fear.
Eleanor took away the feet, cursing under her breath. She could stink for one more day, before having a nice, warm bath in Glengarry, with oil of roses and essence of tulips. She would wash her long hair, brush it and dry it in front of the fireplace.
It would be heavenly.
However, as her mind dreamed of warm baths and fragrances, she almost could imagine a dark shadow walking towards her, as she sat naked in front of the fire. Eleanor could see the sharp blue eyes, blue like a frozen lake and the soft blond hair, falling in his shoulders.
Ellie gasped, opening her eyes in terror, realizing she had imagined Adam, her Sir Adam, seeing her naked as the day she was born. Dear God, she had lost her mind…
She stared at the bubbling stream one last time.
Well, she had to do that.
So, Eleanor took a deep breath and jumped on the water, screaming loudly as the freezing water touched all her warm and soft parts. Her heavy hair was covered with water and it would take ages to dry properly, but, as numb as she was, arms holding her shivering body, Ellie could feel the dirt leaving her pale skin, floating in the clean stream.
She scrubbed the best as she could, taking away the dirt and the mud, feeling the cold transform into freshness. She dipped her head in the water, scrubbing the scalp gently, to avoid any knots. It would not be very good, by the time it was dry, but it was the best she could have done, considering her situation.
Probably, if she had asked to Sir Adam to found a tavern for them, just for her to take a warm bath and have a proper sleep before meeting her family, he would have agreed. However, as Eleanor sat in the stream, watching the clean water roll around the mossy stones, she realized that she didn’t want that.
She liked the time she spent around the fire, deep into the night, with her knight. They would talk in low voices, as he would prepare their supper. It was always something bland, with a mixture of vegetables and mushrooms in water. He had said to her that he learned to cook when he was fighting in the colonies, as, most of the time, he would have to roam to places alone, looking for the enemy and their troops.
The word colony stuck with her. She didn’t know what it meant and she was afraid to ask. Her knowledge was very patchy in the main areas, even for a girl, and she preferred to listen to his stories quiet, trying to understand where he was and who he was fighting.
Maybe… She would ask him. He could be rude and unnerving but… he was nice to her. Always had a smile on his lips, that paired with that weird light that shone in his eyes.
He would probably mock her due to her lack of education, as usual. And, then, he would answer her question, as best as he could, changing the subject when he got tired, probably starting to debate the supper.
Ellie got up, shivering from up and down, walking towards her clothes and the tartan she planned to use as a towel. By the time she was near them, a ray of sun, soft and meek like it was expected so late in the year, showed over the long tree branches, laying the little warmth it had over her skin.
The girl rejoiced, lifting her head to the sky. She glowed in gold as long as the clouds allowed and, once they thought it was enough for the water nymph that was bathing in the streams, the sun was gone.
She had to change unwillingly, shivering from the lack of warmth and still a bit wet, as the wool of the tartan didn’t absorb well the moisture in her skin, specially in her hair. Ellie was finishing tying the laces of her dress, when she heard:
She turned around and watched Adam…Sir Adam… marching towards her, with his brows frowned upon.
“ELEANOR!” He exclaimed, reaching her and looking for the wet and sad version of her. “Have you lost your mind?”
She was shivering, searching for warmth, holding the wool tartan in her numb hands, while the water in her heavy hair dripped in front of her dress, dampening the fabric and the tip of her toes, only in its stockings.
“I…” She paused, looking for the right words. “I was dirty. I took a bath.”
He stared at her for a second that lasted the eternity, until he rolled his eyes and sighed, with a smirk on his lips.
“Dear God, come closer and give me this tartan.” He said, pulling her to him and taking the fabric from her numb hands. “Once more the Murray’s come to the rescue.”
And to her complete shock, he turned her around and started drying her hair with the soft fabric, taping the curls and the waves with care.
He had seen her. In all her naked and wet glory, leaving the stream like Aphrodite coming from the waves of the Greek sea. The water was dripping from her body and she was shivering from the cold, goosebumps sprinkled all over her skin, her nipples hard and so, so red.
Adam felt ashamed of what he did.
He truly did.
But, oh God, how she was lovely.
He had heard her soft scream from behind the woods, when he was starting the fire and left everything, scared of what could make a girl like her scream like she had seen a ghost. His heart was on his sleeve when he got closer from where the sound came, where she was bathing peacefully, although he could see her lips purple with cold.
So, he waited in the shadows, watching her long fingers scrubbing her soft skin, the breasts laying softly over the surface of the water, the hair floating around her in that marvelous, copperish hue.
She was indeed a goddess.
And then, she left the stream, walking with long steps towards her clothes and, for a split of second, Adam thought that she would finally dress up and he would be able to feel ashamed of himself. As it, for now, mesmerized by her beauty, he could only think of her and her only.
But the sun, the glorious star over his head, that feared the winter and loved the summer, shone over her gracious body and Adam prayed thanks and she lifted her chin up, her entire body glowing golden as the twilight.
Images of him walking towards her, the surprise in her eyes as he pulled her head towards him for a kiss, the way her body moved against him, asking, claiming, demanding what they both want…
And then, she was dressed once more, the hair dripping in front of her filthy dress, her entire body shivering so much that he thought she would faint. Eleanor was struggling with the laces on the back of her dress, probably due to the numbness of her extremities, so common when someone was feeling really cold.
He had seen enough soldiers losing their thumbs during war.
Maybe that memory, the stump of fingers in a soldier’s hands, was what propelled him to call her name. Adam still wasn’t sure about it. But he was calling her name and walking towards her with intent, marching from the place where he was hiding.
She looked at him surprise and, if possible, she would have blushed heavily. Her stockings were showing from the hem of her dress, her shirt was still unlaced and her hair was wetting all the front of her garb.
As he stared the dripping hair, he had only one urge: to take that mass of curls and waves in his hands and dry it for her.
Was it weird?
Yes, a bit.
But, God, she looked so helpless, in her wet dress and her dirt stockings… And soon enough he was drying it, as he took the tartan from her numb and violet hands, pulling her close to his own body.
What was he doing?
Once, Adam would never guess he would, willingly, dry the hair of a lady. Ever. And now there he was, so close to her that he could feel the shivers in her body and the way her nose had turned so adorably red.
Eleanor was looking at him with the corner of her eye, her head slightly turned towards him, questioning, probably, his sanity. He was questioning it himself.
“You don’t need to do that.”
He didn’t answer. What could he say? Yes, I don’t need to do that but I want to?
He could never say that.
“Really, Sir…” She said, turning around and touching his hand. Strands of her hair, red and pink like the sunset, were in his palm, which made him gently stroke them, without thinking.
She was so, so close.
Her eyes went to his hands, where he was caressing her hair and back to his eyes. Her irises where so green, green like the moss around him, the vales of Scotland, the emerald from the earth.
It was so easy, to pull her closer to him, lowering his head and capturing her lips in his. It seemed so natural and so right, the way she took a step forward when he gently pulled her to him, how she licked her lips when he lowered his head and how she sighed, deeply, against his mouth, when he captured her lips.
Eleanor lips were soft and full, tender to his teeth and his tongue. She wasn’t shivering anymore. She was pressed in his body, her hands sprawled in his chest, her fingers holding tightly to his shirt, in search of a support.
He would never know how long the kiss lasted. It could have been hours, days, centuries. Adam would have not been surprised if he raised his head and saw archeologists in shock to see the two lovers who remained kissing for millennia finally parted their lips.
It could have been just seconds. A heartbeat, a lighting in the sky, a storm in the night.
He would not know, as his mind was twirling, shouting, dancing and screaming with excitement, thrilled to touch, to kiss, to have such a woman in his arms, so soft, beautiful and… amazing.
The only thing he knew was that Eleanor parted their kiss, walking fast towards another tree, far away from where they were. Her hand was clasped shut over her mouth, eyes closed.
“What…?” She whispered, opening her eyes filled with desire and taking away the hand over her lips full with his kisses. “No!”
“Hey… Hey…” Adam whispered, calmly.
“I… I can’t do that. We shouldn’t… You shouldn’t… I…” She stammered, closing her eyes. “I’ve got to go.”
“Wait, Eleanor.” He said, walking towards her, who was already marching along the woods, without shoes and with her shirt still unlaced. “You can’t just leave.”
“I can’t stay with you. You… We…” She turned around, confused. “I can’t stay.”
“Where are you going?” He begged, truly begged, behind her. “It is dark and cold and you… you’re distressed.”
“You don’t understand.” She insisted, still walking. “This couldn’t have happened. This was a mistake.”
“Eleanor, please.” There he was again, begging. “This was surely a mistake and it will never happen again. I promise. I don’t know what happened to me, but I promise you…”
But she interrupted him.
“What about me, Adam?” He could see the worry in her eyes. “I kissed you too. I wanted that. I wanted you. And each day that we spend together…”
She felt it too. Adam stood, shocked, unable to move a muscle, just thinking: she felt it too… she felt it too… she felt it too.
“I just can’t stay. Please, Adam. Just… Let me go.”
And she continued walking, as Adam realized that, although she wanted him as much as he wanted her… she was leaving. And he, like the dumb fuck he was, was letting her go.
Because he was a fool.
Chapter 9: A lady in doubt
It was long dark when he walked back to the camp. The branches that he had gathered to build a fire where in the same place that he had left them, but Adam didn’t bother to go there.
He just sat by a tree and closed his eyes.
He didn’t sleep, not when his mind was twirling around him, pulling him back from the chaos that was the previous day, calling him to get back his pieces and do something.
He wanted to take the horse and call her name.
He wanted to stop her with kisses and beg on his knees for her to stay.
Adam passed his hand over his face, annoyed by his thoughts.
He couldn’t do that. Why he was so obsessed with this girl? She was annoying, rude and aggressive. Sure, she was pretty, but was she worth the trouble?
Oh, he knew she was.
She left. She was gone. She freaked out due to his kiss and didn’t want to stay near him. That was obvious.
She doesn’t want me.
Why she had kissed him back?
Why she had leaned over his body? Why she had sighed over his lips, why she had melted under his digits?
“GOD! FUCK! DAMN!” He screamed, getting up and walking around the camp.
He could see the faint shinning of moonlight above his head and the condensed air coming from his breath. It would snow again, soon enough, and he would be found freezing to death by one of those Scottish farmers that he couldn’t understand one word they were saying.
He should leave this place soon.
After all, Eleanor was gone. She was very clear when she announced that she couldn’t stand being near him and needed that he kept himself far away from her.
Which was fair.
He was losing his mind with her so near, all the time. Probably it was an overreaction of his body, that hadn’t taken a woman in so many months, that wanted to be near her.
It was his cock talking.
Not his heart.
Adam almost could see it. After he finished what he was aching to do with her, he would look to her steaming body, with a satisfied smile on her face and feel… nothing. He would get up, dress up and take her back to her castle, no longer a maid and crying because, after all, he didn’t want her.
He just wanted to fuck her.
Yes. I just wanted to fuck her.
He couldn’t actually love or care so much for a girl that he only met some days past. A girl that assaulted him. And, by the way, he just decided to escort her back home because he could HEAR his uncle John and his father saying, in low voices:
“You just can’t leave the poor girl alone, son. It is your duty, as a gentleman, to take her back home, safely.”
Damn those two. Have they not understood that Adam was no longer a gentleman? He had no lands, no worth, nothing to be a gentleman for. He was fighting on the suburbs of London, passing out with the cheapest ale he could find and fucking the pub owner’s daughter.
He just couldn’t bring that girl back home. Which home? He owned nothing. They would sleep in his parents house while his father would get in contact with his friends in the Parliament and find a job for him.
There was nothing more humiliating than having your father finding you employment when you are 25 years old.
No. Thanks God he just wanted to take Eleanor to bed. It would be easier to forget her.
It would be easier to leave her.
So, with that thought in mind, Adam decided to lay down and, finally, sleep. He would have a busy day, going south to Ellesmere Park, back to his friends and, God help him, his family.
However, as he covered his shivering body with the tartan that Eleanor left, he smelled her. Her fresh and sweet smell, like moss in a rainy day, stuck in the wool and now in his heart.
It was so cold.
Eleanor was breathing over her hands, while walking in that early morning. After leaving Adam. After their kiss.
After that wonderful, breath taking kiss.
Oh, God, why she had left?
She asked herself repeatedly, as she walked away, her feet sinking on the soft earth, still moist from the snow that had fallen the other day. It was not long when her stockings were too wet and her toes were too cold for her to keep going.
She had to find shelter.
There was nothing in miles. Just old and mossy trees, laying to their sides, trying to whisper secrets to one another. That was an old tale, told by nannies and milk maids, a tale that still made her look with respect to the creatures that stand tall over the valleys and the hills.
After much walking, she found a tiny house, made by uneven rocks, with smoke coming from one rocky chimney in its side. She almost ran to it, sitting with her back pressed against the rock, feeling the warmth, unbearable warmth against her skin. It was not properly a shelter, but she wouldn’t die of cold that way.
However, as she sat there, watching the stars above her head, Eleanor had time to think.
To think of Adam and what had happened.
Oh, God. She wanted that kiss so much. When he looked at her, with those light blue eyes at her, she could see everything she ever dreamed of. He wanted her, almost as badly as she wanted him, and when he pushed her to his arms and leaned his head towards hers, she knew that she wouldn’t fly away.
It was warm and soft and gentle. She wanted to stay in his arms forever and ever and be a fool for him.
But in the back of her mind… she could hear.
She could hear her brothers, waiting for her in the castle. Her father, saying that her importance was to make great alliances. Her step-mother, with that acid smile in her sunken face, saying that she shouldn’t dream too big, as she was only a pawn in other’s games.
That was what made her push back and stare at him with horror. He had kissed her, truly kissed her, while touching her body in a way that almost convinced her to stay with him.
To never leave.
To simply forget about her brothers, and her clan, and her father and everyone that counted on her behind.
To be with a stranger, a complete stranger.
Adam had begged. He had begged for her not to leave, to stay with him. He would not kiss her again, he said. He would never dream of doing that ever again.
But Ellie wanted him to do that. She wanted him to do that so much it hurt.
So, she left.
She left to find her brothers again. To make her clan proud. Callum had said that Gordon wouldn’t be a problem anymore and she hoped it was true. With that horrible man away from her life (and maybe away from his own life), the Wallace’s couldn’t threaten the MacDonnell’s anymore.
Her father, being not afraid of what could happen to the clan if the Wallace force come towards them, would try to make a better arrangement for her. It would still be a political arrangement, but it would be one with true benefits for the clan and her family.
Maybe in the Highlands.
Her father had been talking about the highlanders for as long as she could remember and it would be a good match. Dougal was good friends with the Mackenzie’s boys and if the MacDonnell’s had the support of one of the greatest clans in the north… everything would be possible.
The clan MacDonnell would be one of the greatest clans in Scotland and Dougal would have a true legacy in his hands by the time his father passed away. Malcom would be his right-hand man and Callum could be whatever he wanted to be. Wizard, priest, it didn’t matter.
He would be under the influence and the protection of half the Scottish clans.
Now, if she had stayed with Adam…
Oh. It would be wonderful, indeed.
But she would have to leave.
Adam would not ever be accepted by her father or her clan, not after so many years fighting the English. Callum would always welcome anyone with open arms, as it was his nature, but Dougal and Malcom would not trust him, truly, at first.
She wouldn’t dare to leave her brothers. Not now. Not after they saved her life, in so many ways.
She needed to be with them, for a while, even if it is not much while her father arranged her next marriage. Maybe she could take Callum to the Highlands, as the page boy of a minor lord. Maybe Malcom would come along, for his training. Maybe Dougal would visit his friends for some time, while her sister learned to be a highlander lady.
With Adam, she would not see her brothers anymore, not while living in England, not while married with the enemy, not while…
She shook her head, trying to not think of it anymore.
Eleanor had made her choice. She would stay with her family and that was that.
She was entering a village now, in her tore dress and her sad eyes. She had clean skin, but her hair was a mess and her garb was so dirty it was no longer white, just… brown. It was still visible that was a fancy and rich fabric, but… Maybe she should have accepted Adam’s offer and changed her dress. A new, fresh and warm dress.
“I beg your pardon, sir.” She said and the man, who was selling bread on the street looked at her with an angry look on his face. “I’m going to Glengarry…”
“Go away girl, we don’t want your kind here.”
She took a step back, confused by the hate in his speech and went to another man, giving water to the horses, some steps away. He ignored her, not daring to even look her in the eye, as she asked, kindly, if she was too far of Glengarry. And so, Eleanor kept going, kept trying to ask for information, to every man around, while being shooed away, like a boring fly.
It was only when she passed by a house of ill repute, by the sounds coming out of the doors, that a woman, with red lips and cheeks, called her.
“Hullo, sweethert.” Eleanor turned to her. “I saw ye goin’ up and doon the street, talkin’ to the lads. We cannae do that ‘ere. We hae to be filiated to a hoose, dear.”
“Oh. I…” She felt so conscious of her tore dress. “I’m asking for directions, actually.”
“Whaur to, angel?” The woman asked, coming closer. “I mich help ye. I ken the area weel.”
“To Glengarry, miss.” Eleanor answered. “I was following the road, but don’t know if I’m closer or not.”
“Och, ye almost thare. If ye keep goin’, followin’ this trail right thare, ye wull be thare by the end o’ the day.” She scratched her chin. “A dinnae unnerstaun how come ye are goin’ thare, though.”
Eleanor froze, staring at the woman.
“Weel, darlin’, the castle is in shambles. Thare’s only a doiter thare and that’s it.”
But before the woman could finish speaking, Eleanor was already running down the trail.
He took the road to the south. It was an easy thing to do: he woke up and prepared his breakfast, consisting of stale bread and the last remains of ale. He probably would sleep on an inn the next day. He had been avoiding taverns and such due to Eleanor and her fragile state. He couldn’t protect her there and the mere thought of her, alone at night, in a place filled with man, was enough to make him stay on the road.
Now, he didn’t had Eleanor with him.
And it was too cold for him to keep sleeping outdoors.
He finished his breakfast, getting up and walking to his horse, well fed and restless to keep going. Maybe, he should name the horse. It was with him for so long and never let him stray. A nice name, perhaps, would do for him.
While he thought about names to give to the black-haired beast, he went back to the road. He looked to the west, to where Eleanor left to, in search for her family and her castle.
He had to go there, before taking the road back South.
But he was dreading to do that.
If he followed her footsteps, if he followed her… Would he be able to turn back to Ellesmere Park? To the life he didn’t want to go back to? Would he not march through the gates of Glengarry and demand for Eleanor, right there and then?
They were so close to her family home. He had decided to rest the day before just because it was so damn cold. If they travelled, just three or four hours more, in the back of the horse, they would be in Glengarry.
At least, Glengarry the village. The castle was only a few miles after it, as someone had told him. Not very far, not at all.
He stood there, for a long time, over his horse, watching the slow movement of people and cattle going by, watching him like he was insane, staying still in the middle of a road, while the grey clouds above their heads started to gather, showing that snow was to come.
He had to go. He would pass by the village and turn towards south, following the road and going back to Ellesmere Park and his family. He needed to go back. William and Peggy were waiting for him. His mother would have arrived, by now, with Ben and his family. His uncle John, his father and the Frasers would be there as well.
And Eleanor… She was with her family now. He watched the faint pinkish hues of the sun setting behind the trees and he knew. She would be in Glengarry, already, hugging her brothers in joy. Adam hoped that they would not try to marry her to another old fool.
She needed a young man. To love her like she needed to be loved. Like she craved to be loved. Someone that would fight her battles, that would protect her, even though she would say that she didn’t need to be protected.
He would like to see her being pampered, her smooth skin over linen sheets, her hair, that strawberry blonde that screamed the woods and the magic of Scotland, over feathered pillows.
That’s it. No need to worry.
She was happy. She was fine. Away from him. Away from them.
Adam kicked the horse, slightly, and they started the movement, towards Glengarry and the road that would take him back to his life. The life he dreaded.
Oh, shut up, he reprimanded himself, focusing on the plants along the way, the way the wind was blowing cold over his brows, the singing of the birds and everything that could take his mind away of Eleanor.
The problem was: everything reminded him of her.
Adam was glad when he saw the faint lights of the village in front of him. The sun had set in the sky and he couldn’t see any stars or the moon. Clouds, only grey clouds, over him, making the night even darker and colder. They would have a white Christmas that year.
He glanced to the bifurcation on the road, one leading south, where it would meet with the Great North Road, and the other, taking him towards the village and the castle, beyond the hills.
He needed to go, but was too tired and hungry. So, he turned to the other side, going towards the lights of the village, searching for the tavern and aching for a bit of beer. He could hear the loud voices coming from the small space, some words he couldn’t understand, due to the strong Scottish accent. He simply took his horse to the stable and walked towards the warm room, shining bright with lights and laughter.
He promptly found a place for him to sit and asked for the supper and a pint. The waitress reappeared with broth, sausages and bread, still warm and soft from the oven. The smell was delicious and, when he put the sausage in his mouth, he couldn’t help but to moan. The food he cooked was, indeed, tasteless. As he munched his way through the dishes, his ear caught a conversation near him.
“Ye cuid imagine that the auld marquis would have stop makin’ bairns… It has been, what, seven years sin the lest laddie appeared in the great Hoose.”
“Another one, hum?”
“A lassie, noo. She cam runnin’ doon the hill and kept gawkin’ at the ruins lik’ she had seen a ghost. A’m told her that the castle has been empty fur decades noo but she wouldnae stop askin’ things and touchin’ the walls o’ the castle.”
This made Adam stop eating. If he listened to it right…
“Poor lassie. And noo?”
“A’m sent her to Glengarry House. Maybe the marquis wull help her… He’s a guid lad, better than the auld laird…” The old man stopped, shaking his head. “Poor miss Eleanor MacDonnell… Another bastard left in this world.”
The men only saw a figure running from his table, leaving coins for the waitress and jumping on his horse to run through the night. What they found was odd was that the man ran towards the old ruins of the old castle, which no one has lived in since the Stuarts.
Chapter 10: A lady in pain
She ran like she never had run before. She stretched her legs and filled her lungs with that cold and fresh air coming from the hills of Glengarry.
She must be wrong, Ellie kept thinking trying to calm herself after those dreadful words…
The castle is in shambles…
She was trained for that, Ellie realized. All her life, when she incited the rage of her father lifting heavy swords, fighting with the soldiers, training with her brothers, riding through the glens… She was trained for that sprint, the miles between Glengarry and the tiny village.
A village that had grown significantly since she left her home.
You have no time to think about that, she reprimanded herself.
No, she had to focus on her home. On her brothers. In her life.
There it was, deep on the valley, surrounded by the soft, emerald green hills, with the forest around it. For a split of second her heart rejoiced: there it was, with the grey, heavy stones, the towers reaching for the sky, the tiny windows for the guards around the wall protecting the home of the chief of clan MacDonnell.
And then, she noticed: the tumbling stones, the holes on the walls, the lack of roof in several different spots, the green weeds growing beneath the cracks and the creases of the castle. The lack of the flags, announcing that there was the house of Clan MacDonnell.
She stumbled, in shock, collapsing on the wet grass. Her heart had lost its pace and she had to breathe quickly, short spasms of her torso, while her mind panicked. She didn’t dare to raise her gaze, to look again to her home and see its decay.
The question lingered around her, as the chilly wind entered her clothing, taking her skin and freezing her bones. Maybe this could freeze her heart, her mind, and help her to get up, to go to the ruins.
Eleanor blinked, repeating the word several times in her head. It didn’t make any sense. The castle couldn’t be in shambles, it could be a trick of her mind. It was impossible, to be on that state after only… some weeks.
She had been away for just some weeks.
This prompted her to raise her glance, helping her arms to keep her straight, to lift her up and make her legs walk towards the stronghold, sliding through the tall, emerald green grass, the sun setting behind the castle, as the grey clouds started to form and gather beyond, preparing to fall down the weary head.
She could only hear the birds, chipping away, from within the walls, like they belonged there. The gates were broken, the wood rotten to its core. Eleanor passed through the hole of what was, once, a heavy and strong door.
The courtyard was basically the same, despite the grass growing where once was dirty and sand for the horses. The door, so gigantic for a girl so tiny as her, was blocked by heavy wooden pieces, mossy and green. It was silent, oh so silent, that she shivered and held tightly to her own body, her eyes coming and going from and to each overturned stone.
“Hey! Lassie!” A voice came from the other side. “White ye are doin’ ‘ere?”
She looked to the man, dirty and tired, with long white hair coming towards her. Perhaps, this was the doiter the girl was talking about.
“Is this… Glengarry?” She managed to ask, feeling silly. Of course, it was. It was her home, she knew it.
“Aye.” He watched her walking towards the stones, her digits feeling the texture, the moss, the humidity that lingered there. “Why?”
“What happened?” She asked, unable to think of another thing, the questions jumping and twirling in her mind.
“Och. It’s bin like that sin the Stuarts reigned. Too moist, it is. The auld marquis decided to build a new hoose, just after the hill over thare.” The man pointed to a hill behind the walls of the castle, where once stood a vast forest.
What had happened?
Stuarts… It didn’t make any sense. James Stuart was the king when she left. They have been the clan in command for… years. Centuries. She realized that she had said that out loud when the man answered:
“Lassie… The castle wis abandoned whin James Stuart became king o’ England. In 1603.”
She felt her heart missing a beat, as the words echoed in her brain. How it was possible? She had left… She was… What had Callum done?
No, not what Callum had done. What had she done? She was the one that entered the stones, the one that sang the words, that danced during twilight… She must have said something wrong, missed some steps…
“Ye look lik’ him.” The man said, walking towards her, as she shivered with her arms holding the grey stones of the castle. “Whit is yer name, lassie?”
Ellie was finally able to take her gaze from the grass growing near her feet, watching the old man attentively. She should not tell him, she should have gone away, she should have…she had nothing and she never felt so lost.
“Eleanor. Eleanor MacDonnell.”
The man didn’t blink. He only shook his head, smacking his lips together.
“A’ve thought so. And ye came fur ye brother, right?”
Callum. Oh, Callum!
“Yes.” She answered, feeling her throat suddenly dry. “Where is he? Is he here? Where? How?”
The man tried to calm her down, putting his hands over her shoulders, but she took a step back, nervously.
“He is in the new manor, lass. Juist behind that hill, I kin take ye there if…”
But it was too late. She was running again, feet deep in the tall grass, the skirts gathered in her hands and her heart in her throat.
No one was there.
Actually, there was barely a castle at all. There were only old rocks, weeds, and, most probably, bats. Adam walked around the yard, looking to the black windows watching him, like open mouths screaming secrets.
Begging for him to go away.
“Eleanor MacDonnell, what have you done?”
He was expecting to see light and… more than this. In a weird corner of his mind, maybe he was expecting to see knights and damsels, with pointy hats and long veils. A dragon would have been a nice addition as well.
But he wasn’t expecting all this… emptiness.
It looked like the place had been like that for centuries and it was certainly weird that the girl continuously insisted that she needed to be there, to meet her family again. She was clearly insane and still…
Still, he wanted to find her and see if she was well.
Adam, you’re a fool.
He should have taken his horse and gone back to the road. To his path. But he had to listen to the conversation, he had to listen to Eleanor’s name being said and his heart… just dropped from his chest.
Adam walked towards the doors, just glancing behind his shoulders to check on his horse, munching the tall grass and looking satisfied. As he ran his digits over the ancient wood, feeling the green, slippery moss…
He pulled the frame and it came with his pull, old and battered, fragments of sawdust and dried fungus falling on the stone floor ahead of him. It was dark and empty, but Adam was a soldier. He had faced worse places.
He had to even cook for himself.
He entered, carefully, feeling the corners with his boots, listening to the hoot of the owls, and the fast sounds coming from the gallery. The castle was huge, his steps echoing all around him, while his heart thundered fast in his chest and he cleaned his throat, calling:
Silence, complete and horrifying. Adam supposed he would not find her there, as he got closer and closer to the old ruins, to the closed entrances and the weeds covering the yard. The castle was, indeed, in shambles, like the old man had mentioned.
But he had said something else.
A house, wasn’t it? Glengarry House. A marquis that would help Eleanor. That would help the bastard. He felt his toes hitting a larger stone and he raised his hands, feeling the carved columns of a fireplace.
Was Eleanor a bastard? Maybe… She had said that she was married to a horrible man and that her brother managed for her to escape his grasp. If she was the natural daughter of a nobleman… that would explain everything.
As a bastard, Eleanor would not have been accepted by the society. It was quite scandalous every time someone discovered the existence of a new child from a man of irrefutable character. The offspring would be, largely, abandoned in private houses to be taken care of and, when the time has come, they would follow a mercantile path (if a boy) or marry a gentleman, perhaps a landowner in the colonies, a pastor or a teacher.
However… If the child was fathered by a duke or a marquis… It was different. They controlled power not only in those lands but in the society itself. A natural daughter, the only daughter, of a marquis, especially a beauty as Eleanor, would be extremely important for the father and the family. She could be married to powerful people, people that didn’t necessarily would have a title.
Adam paused for an instant, satisfied as he finally understood Eleanor’s secrets. It made sense: raised alone in a private house, married to some weird old man, in a quest to the protection of her half-brothers, in the famous family estate, to discover it in ruins.
However… She told him stories about Glengarry. She loved it and she was eager to go back. To see it for herself. It was her home.
Nothing made sense. Every time he thought he had a nice explanation for Eleanor’s story, he would find a mistake or a detail that would put his explanation to the ground. It would be easier to simply admit that the girl was crazy and lived a fairytale in her head. He would be gone and she would be taken care of by worried siblings, most likely.
The poor, crazy, bastard who dreamt of knights in shiny armor and evil spouses.
But… Her eyes. They were steady and hopeful and… amazing. They had truth written all over each dark-green fragment in her irises.
He reached the large window from the other side of the room, raising the old blankets that served as shutters and watched the valley and the hills, smooth as a calm sea, the grey clouds coming from the horizon, preparing them for the winter.
And right there, in the valley, facing the old castle, a Jacobite structure, light up in the dark night, screaming wealthy and warmth. Glengarry house, most probably. The house the old man had mentioned, where the new lord lived, the half-brother of the broken-hearted girl that could be roaming anywhere…
Oh. There she was.
A lonely and still figure, so tiny from where he watched, placed near one of the bright lights near the house.
It was Callum. But it was not at the same time.
She closed her eyes, feeling the pain on the back of her head, as she tried to understand what was happening, standing there, watching a family mingle after dinner. A family that what not hers. Or, at least, she thought it was not.
He had the right eyes and that different shape of the cheekbones, that made it so… singular. It gave the impression that Callum was always smiling, as it prompted his cheeks up and made his eyes slant upwards as well. He had the right format of his eyebrows and lips, with the high bow and the soft chin.
But… The way his nose seemed a little… narrow. It was his hair, that didn’t have the blond hue she was used to or the curls that would twist around his head, making him look like he had just woken up. It was the fact that he seemed to be too old.
He was there. But he was not.
Callum, or the man that looked like him, was talking to a woman, with a high up-do and several layers of silk over her. She looked like a desert that had gone wrong, all pink and fluffy. Her black hair was a contrast with her pale skin and when her hand rested, unconsciously, over her belly, Ellie knew that he was not Callum.
But who was he?
As though he had heard her silent plea, the man raised his head, locking his eyes with her, standing in front of his window, in the middle of the night. Sad, tired, dirty, and hungry. She had not eaten all day, eager to come home, to find her family.
And she only found the pieces of a castle.
He got up, quietly and vanished from her view. She must have scared him. Probably, right now, he would be fetching the guards and taking her to prison. Or the dungeons. Or whatever he would seem to fit the poor image of a girl.
However, she heard a voice, calm and quiet, so similar to Dougal’s that she shivered.
“May I help you, miss?”
She turned, expecting to see her older brother, while still knowing that she reached a point there was no hope anymore. And hope, indeed, she had not: the man was there, with the candle lights behind him, so in peace that it made her almost cry in front of him.
With her heart missing a beat and her head in pain, she approached the man, going towards the light, which made him say a soft ‘oh’. She halted, hands clasped over her belly, trying to control her stomach, which was not happy with all the emotions in that room.
“I see it now.” He said and she didn’t know what he meant by that statement. Maybe… He acknowledged they looked alike? She had the high cheekbones from Callum, inherited from their father, a man that even with the features, would never seem to have a day of joy in his life.
Maybe he was talking about her thorn dress and her mud-stained socks.
It could have been a million things, but he didn’t say anything else. He just didn’t see the need in explaining his meaning. He just went back to where he came from, leaving Eleanor shocked and more lonely than ever.
Since she had locked eyes on the man and realized he was not her brother, she hadn’t thought about what she would do now. She had nowhere to go. No house, no home, no family, no money.
She had abandoned her knight and he would be probably too far away now for her to reach him. She didn’t even know where he was heading, which made it almost impossible to find Adam.
She was alone.
So, so alone.
And she was sad. She was hurt and she was in pain. A feeling she never took very seriously, until now. Until the moment she laid her eyes in her empty castle. When she touched the fallen stones and the weeds growing between the cement. When she searched for the flags and the soldiers in their posts and found just bats.
When she watched a man that looked like her favorite brother and sounded like her older brother and… And he was not either of them.
And she was so… terrified, a feeling that she never felt so raw in her skin, not even when she saw that pair of yellow eyes on the woods, or when she noticed that her feet were not touching the ground anymore when she jumped through the stones. She didn’t feel it when she learned to use a sword, or that she would marry Lord Gordon, or when she tackled a drunk man in the night.
Because… She had the certainty that somewhere, within her reach, her family would be there for her. Her three stupid, insufferable brothers, that loved her as much as she loved them.
And Eleanor was so… angry. She was angry because Callum left her alone. Because Dougal didn’t insist on her father to break the marriage contract or because Malcolm didn’t escort her to Mackenzie’s lands. She was angry because she thought she would be safe, first by following the mystery witchcraft Callum created and then believing Sir Adam would keep her safe and sound until she reached Glengarry.
She was a fool.
A complete fool.
Callum’s magic was fake. Dougal was not interested in her marriage prospects and Malcolm would never go so far north near the winter. And Adam… Sir Adam, with his bright blue eyes and gentle smile… he was just a man.
He gave her the world in his words. He promised to keep her safe and sound. He swore it, even when she thought she would be fine by herself. And then, he kissed her. And it was magical and perfect and she wished she could just… die in his arms.
And he let her go. And she left.
And, as all the men in her life, he just didn’t care about her at all.
“I asked for the housekeeper to find you a room in the servant's hall.” The man said, coming back, in his calm attitude. “I can’t take you as a guest. I… My family… they don’t understand. They… have issues with Father and can’t… separate his doings from the lives he made.”
She watched him closely, trying to grasp what he was saying.
“There will be supper for you. And new clothes. And a bath.” He paused, unsure. “I’m really sorry you discovered like that. I tried to track down as many as I could and I never knew… that there was a girl.”
“Excuse me?” She was able to say, finally, blinking at the bright lights. “I believe I lost your meaning, sir.”
“I… Lord MacDonnell… I mean… Father. He was not the best man or the most faithful husband. There were more like you, that I found around the area.”
“I believe, sir, you’ve might mistake me for someone else…” She began to say, being interrupted by the man.
“But, you… we… we look alike…”
“I was indeed very intrigued by your little celebration. But I do not intend to bother you further. Thank you.” And she walked away. Even when he kept calling for her, or the girl he thought she was, one of the many offspring of a Lord MacDonnell she didn’t recognize. Of a life that it was not hers.
In a place that she didn’t belong to.
And that was when Ellie saw him coming. Her knight. And she just crumbled to pieces.
Chapter 11: A lady in pieces
He couldn’t see her. Not with the bright lights coming from the manor behind her, shining over her back and giving the girl a halo. Not with his heart in his throat, as he ran down the trail, fearing what he would see when he got there.
And then, Adam didn’t fear anymore, as the girl began running towards him, her arms pulling him against her cold body and her head burying deep in his chest.
“Oh, God, Eleanor…”
And she shivered. She shivered in his arms for a long time, not talking or looking at him, just holding his torso like her life depended on that. Adam didn’t dare to move, his arms around her, caressing the mess that was her hair, while he watched the surroundings, searching for whatever made her act like that.
Like she trusted him completely. Like she truly feared the world.
“Eleanor…” He begged, trying to pull her of him. She didn’t move. “Eleanor, look at me.”
“Eleanor, please. I need to know.”
She shook her head and held him tightly.
His heart crumped a little inside his chest and he let her be in peace, buried in her feelings. He held her in place as she melted in his arms, giving her the heat that had left her completely. He stood there until she stopped shivering. Until she sighed, loudly, and raised her head.
Adam couldn’t see her features, but he saw the spark in her eyes when she said:
“I want to go.”
He didn’t ask her where she planned to go, how or when. He just nodded and let her lead him to somewhere, even when her feet failed beneath her and he had to hold her, preventing an ugly fall. She tried to stand up again, but he could see her struggle, her pain, her anger all in one façade and he simply pulled her in his arms.
“Let me down.” She commanded, while he held her like a kitten, as he tried to find the path he had used to get down there.
“Why? You will fall again. No.”
“I will not fall.”
“Stop.” He begged, trying not to lose his balance.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Stop. Stop trying to be so strong. You don’t need that right now.” He paused. “Just… trust me.”
And for his complete surprise, she did. Eleanor didn’t complain about the fact she was being carried uphill, like a lap dog or something worse. She just rested her head in his shoulders and closed her eyes.
Adam could feel her body resting and adjusting to his own, her limbs getting softer under his touch, adjusting to the corners of his arms. Her hands played with his ponytail, pushing and pulling the leather ribbon he tied to keep all the strands in place, like she was deep in her thoughts.
He wanted to know what she was thinking. What was going on deep inside her mind. Was she thinking about the abandoned castle? Who was the man that kept calling for her? Was he her brother? A cousin? Or no one at all?
That’s when he felt. The soft, freezing cold on his right cheek, followed by another one on his forehead and nose. He paused, raising his head to the heavy, grey clouds and the fast, light white dots that fell from it, twisting and dancing by the command of the freezing wind, falling on the earth with a gracious sigh.
The light and pretty snowflakes started to get heavier over his head, changing his vision to white, covering the emerald fields with no mercy. Adam pulled Eleanor close to his body and started walking faster, praying for anyone that could hear him to make him find shelter before the storm started.
Maybe he was heard.
Or maybe, he was just on the right spot.
But as he tumbled through boulders and slid through the moist grass, he saw the black grey mass of the ancient castle, so big and scary that he could see it even amidst the storm that hit their frail bodies. Without thinking, he jumped through the opening he made on the door, happy to find a place where the cold fingers of snow couldn’t catch him.
“I don’t want to stay here.” He heard the soft whisper coming from his shoulders and he halted mid walk to look at her, so tiny in his arms.
“It is snowing. Heavily.”
“I know.” She paused, for what seemed ages. Adam considered trying to convince her of his reasons, maybe a speech of some kind, when she said, faintly: “Just… don’t leave me. Please.”
She shivered and moved closer to the fireplace, her fingers feeling the designs carved on the stone, drawings of leaves and fruits, chosen by her own father, when he became a chief for his clan. Now, the soot was covering the margins, so heavy and old that even she was scrubbed with her nails, it remained the same.
She heard Adam’s horse snorting near the entrance, placed there by the owner, to protect the animal from the heavy snow that was falling from the sky. It was nice to hear the comforting sound coming from so near, lulling her to a place where she was more… herself.
“I found some old covers and pillows.” Adam said, coming from upstairs. “Take of the stockings. I’ve a spare pair for you.”
Eleanor blinked, confused, while the man arranged everything on the ground, fetching his satchel and taking a very white pair of socks. He handed it to her and waited, for what seemed a very long time, while Eleanor stared at it.
“Eleanor, please. Just take it.”
“My brothers called me Ellie. I… I would like if you call me Ellie too.” She blurted, her hands tucked beneath her.
“This is not very proper.” He teased and for the first time during that night, she smiled, a sad movement of her lips, slow and unwilling.
“Birds of a feather flock together.” She answered and tried to pull the slit over her thigh to the corner, covering the exposed skin.
For a moment, they just stared at each other, Adam still holding to his socks. When the warmth coming from the fireplace started to be almost unbearable, he said:
“The castle has been empty for centuries.”
He didn’t ask. He stated the thought that have been rushing through her mind, since she heard from the old man himself.
“He said that it had been like that since 1603.”
“But you said that your brothers were here. Your family. You said you left them here.”
“I did.” She sighed, taking her hands from underneath her, playing with the knuckles. “I did because, when I left, it was 1447.”
Silence, so loud she thought she would throw up. Eleanor broke it with a faint laugh.
“I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing.” She scrubbed her hands over her face. “I’m delirious. There is no way in the world that this is real. I must be dreaming or hallucinating. And still…”
She took her hands from her face and her green eyes were shining.
“And still it is not like a dream. I’m feeling things. I feel the dirt and the cold and the warmth. And, when you kissed me, I…” She halted, blushing heavily over the orange flames. “I felt it too. Maybe Callum was right. He said that we lived in a world filled with magic. He would often say that once Britain was covered with amazing things… Maybe…”
“You said that he had told you how to escape your husband.” Adam said and she nodded, embracing her knees.
“Do you believe me?” She asked, raising her gaze.
Adam stood still, moving slightly only to place the socks on the ground.
“What if I don’t?” He asked, watching her with those pale blue eyes.
“I would not judge you. It is so… surreal.” He could see her throat moving, nervously. “When I asked you to stay with me, I… You didn’t know. I… You can go. I will be fine.”
Adam, to her surprise, moved so quickly, pulling her to his lap, holding her tightly against his chest. She could only hear his words reverberating under his chest, as he leaned to her ear:
“No. Stop saying that, stop trying to be strong. I can see it in your eyes, I saw on the way you stood proud and tall in front of that house. You are scared and you don’t need to be.” A hand caressed her curls and her heart thumped in her throat. “I will not leave you. I may not believe you yet. Or maybe I never will. But I vowed to deliver you to safety.”
“You have nothing to prove to me, Adam.” She answered, a muffled sound coming between the layers of his clothes. “I deliver you from your promise. There is no one here for you to deliver me. There is no reason in keeping this… farse.”
“It may be not to the family you were expecting. But I will make sure you are happy and safe, anywhere you want to be. If you want to get back to the stones, for your family, I will take you there. If you want to stay in Scotland, I will arrange that. Anything you want.” She could hear his heart thumping beneath her ears, so quick and so strong… “I’m your knight, remember?”
And a broken, sad laugh left her body, as the tears fell from her eyes. They just stood there, one holding the other, as the snow fell outside the castle walls.
“What do you say?” He finally asked, hearing her soft sobs. “What do you want me to do, Ellie?”
Her name, so private, in his tongue sent chills down her spine and made a sudden warmth appear in her lower belly. She raised her head, that was buried deep in his chest, staring at those blue, gelid eyes, that could freeze anyone who dared to look for too long. But not her. His eyes made her soft and warm and wet and so, so… thrilled.
“Take me away from these ruins. These memories.” She mumbled. “Take me with you.”
And as he nodded, she cried. She cried for the loss of her family, her home, her life. She cried for the crushing pain of being alone in a new world. And she cried of relief, as the strong hands of her knight caressed her, reassuring that she was not alone anymore.
“Tell me about you, sir.”
Adam was lifted from his thoughts, as Ellie called him. Ellie. She was buried in a sea of covers, being held tightly by his warm body in front of him and, still, she was so, so cold. He would have to buy her some clothes, quickly.
They have been travelling for hours. They were not too far away from Ellesmere Park now. They were almost reaching the border and, perhaps, by the end of the next day, they will be on the earldom.
The anxious voice that kept repeating in the back of his mind reverberated in his ears, asking:
“How you are going to explain Ellie to William?”
Dear God, he couldn’t just bring a girl, scared and lonely, to a house filled with his family. Peggy would be heavier, almost ready to give birth and he would be bring a stranger to her nest.
What was he going to do?
“Adam?” She called again and he pulled her closer. “Considering everything that I told you, it is only fair for you to share your story as well.”
He chuckled, asking:
“What do you want to know? I’m an open book.”
She stood in silence for a while and Adam thought she had just given up. The cold wind was blowing on their backs and snow kept falling over their heads, in a constant twirling.
“I know your name and your last name. I know you have brothers… Just brothers or brothers and sisters?”
A glimpse of blue, mischievous eyes passed through his mind.
“I have two brothers and one sister.” He paused, unknown how to proceed. Should he say more? Should he wait for more answers? He glanced at her form and, seeing that she stood still, waiting for more, he continued. “Ben is the older. Married, with a child, the heir to the title.”
“The heir?” She asked and suddenly he realized that a huge part of his life was kept a secret, a secret that would change everything. A secret that he wished it was not true.
“My father is… the duke of Pardloe.”
He felt her freezing in his arms, her head turning to the side, the pink cheeks turning a bright shade of red.
“Oh, my. I’m sorry, milord. I…”
“Please, don’t. I’m only a middle child and not even deserving of this form of treatment. Dottie certainly deserves it, even after marrying to a Quacker. That girls was born with the royal seal stamped on her forehead.” He begged, trying to change the subject.
“My sister, Dorothea. She lives in the colonies now, with her husband, a physician. They had their first child last year.”
She stood so, so quiet.
“The colonies? You mean… France?” She asked and he almost laughed. The pilgrims would only settle in the 1600s. This small question remembered him of the fact she was alive three hundred years ago.
Or so she said.
“You said that you had two brothers. What is his name?” She said, probably embarrassed by the other question.
“Henry. He is in the colonies. With a woman…” How he would explain his brother’s and Mercy’s relationship? As he thought how to carry the conversation, Ellie said, in a low voice:
“You must miss them.”
“I do.” He blurted, realizing that he, indeed missed his family. He should be there when Dottie married Denzel, when Henry was injured, when his first nephew was born and when they found Ben. But he was home, in England, taking care of his broken mother, of the miles and miles of bright green fields, of the finances shaken by the war and all those things he had to supervise, being the new heir, the Viscount Grey.
“At least you have your brother, Ben.” She said, trying to me more gleeful. “It must be nice to have a nephew, so close.”
Ben, that was reborn from the ashes, with a wife and a child. Ben, who took away everything that he had and Adam couldn’t even be mad with his brother. He loved Ben, with all his heart and would give his life to have him back. However…
However, he had left everything he was invested in. He had left his post to replace his brother in a responsibility he never truly wanted. And when he learned that he loved it, that he loved the grass, the sun, the mud… It hurt to see it being taken away.
He missed seeing the crops growing on the fields, the soft sound of the animals, the baby sheep running behind their mothers, the faithful dog in his heals as he spent the whole day supervising the estate.
“I have a cousin as well. William. We are going to his country estate.” He said, trying to change the subject, trying to stop thinking of the brother and the fields that were once his. “But, perhaps, we should rest for today. The sun is setting in the sky and it is too cold for us to keep going.”
She just nodded, not daring to say a word. Adam wished she understood his silence and his discomfort. He didn’t want to think about things he couldn’t change. He wanted to think about her, warm in his arms, the strawberry blond hair falling in curls around her, like a veil.
“We should find a shelter. This snow is not going to stop so soon.” She commented, raising her head to the sky and letting those soft flakes touch her pale skin. Adam watched it melt with the warmth coming from her body and he wanted to lick it right where it was, tasting the water and the salt of her cheeks.
“We are not going to stay in another barn or cave.” He answered, searching in the distance for his last hope of warmth and safety.
“Oh, Adam, surely you would not think of spending the night in the snow...”
“No...” He paused, smiling to the picture that appeared in front of his eyes, between the hills. “Far better.”
In front of them, a small village started to get closer, friendly and calm amidst the furious snow storm. There he would find an inn for them, with hot supper, nice beds and a hot bath. There he would find new clothes for Ellie and prepare his speech for all the questions he will receive the moment he put his feet in Ellesmere Park.
As she sighed with pleasure from the sight of the small stone houses, Adam hoped he could have her body near him, her laughter in his ear, her hands in his and her mouth...
Good God... That will be a long night.
Chapter 12: A lady in flesh
“What do you mean ‘there are no rooms available’?” Adam asked, in a low voice that made Ellie’s hair stand up.
“As I’ve explained to you, milord. The snow is heavy and every traveler within a 5 miles reach went looking for shelter. And shelter I gave.” The owner of the inn answered while looking to the dining room crowded with people, demanding food, beer, and warmth.
“I understand that, but surely… You could at least find a room for the lady!” He insisted and the innkeeper looked at her. She could see his gaze trailing down her messy hair, tore clothes, and dirty fingernails. Ellie even closed her eyes, hoping for him not to see the lack of shoes on her feet.
“The lady, hum?” The man decided to say.
“You listen here…” Adam said, pointing a finger to the man, while Eleanor whispered under her breath:
“Adam, really, we should just try the next village…”
He turned to her, eyes wide in his face.
“Look at the snow outside! Knee-deep! It is dark, it is cold and you...” He would point out that she didn’t have any shoes on, as his eyes reached the tip of her toes. “You need to sleep somewhere warm, comfortable, after everything that happened.”
She stood quiet, eyes fixed in his, pain stamped on her face. She bitted her lower lip, while embracing her shivering body, still covered with the Murray tartan.
“Sir.” Adam turned back to the man. “Anything you have. Any room, any spare bed. We will pay whatever you ask for.”
This caught the innkeeper’s attention, who slowly caressed his beard, thinking of what should he do. For a while, hell went loose, without his watchful eye over it, as he thought about Adam’s offer.
“Alright. I have a room. We always keep it ready for the Duke of Stirling. A nice, wide chamber, with a maid to tend wherever the… lady’s wishes are. It will come with a cost, of course.”
“Of course.” Adam agreed, which made the innkeeper smile widely, showing black teeth below his heavy mustache. With a movement, the man asked them to follow him through the filled inn, climbing tiny, wooden stairs and traversing halls decorated with heavy tapestry.
He opened a door, showing a big chamber, with a huge canopy bed, covered by warm blankets and fluffy pillows. In the corner, by the window, there was a wooden table with two chairs. Next to it, a large fireplace, with a fire crackling softly against the stone. It didn’t look like anything Ellie had seen before, for a place like this. Surely, the duke would come often and stay for long periods, to need such fancy accommodations.
“Ask the maid to prepare a bath and fetch the dinner.” Adam said, turning to the innkeeper. “We are in need of new clothes, as well…”
“I will arrange everything for you, milord.” He answered, bowing deeply and leaving them in the wide room.
For a moment, Ellie just stared at Adam, standing still near the door. The fire was crackling soft in her ears and she could already feel warm. Maybe she was feeling a little too warm. There was something in the way they locked eyes, that made her heart beat fast in her chest, heat spreading over her cheeks, neck, breasts…
“If you need anything, please, just ask.” He finally said. “Don’t need to worry about the payment. I got it covered.”
“Really, Adam, I couldn’t…”
“No, please.” He interrupted her. “You needed this. Consider my gift.”
She blushed, heavily. God, she was losing her mind.
He nodded, crisping his lips and looking around the room. For a moment, she could see him staring at the large, comfortable bed, standing so close to them… What it would be like, to be taken by his strong arms and pushed in the soft bed? How would it feel, to have his body over hers, his lips in hers one more time…
“Well, I see you in the morning.” He finally said, breaking his gaze from the enormous bed, smiling at her and turning towards the open door.
He turned around, eyebrows high in his forehead and Ellie noticed that she said that out loud.
“I mean… Where are you going to stay? The man said they are full…” She let her voice slip away, realizing what her words could mean.
Was she offering for him to stay with her? To sleep in the same room as her? To share… her bed? Her heart started to beat faster and she felt sick. She couldn’t be serious… Thinking about being so intimate with a man. A man that she was not even married to.
Alright, they have slept together, in the open, before the days started to turn so cold that she could freeze in any minute from now. The room, so hot and cozy and shadowed… It made her feel something.
And maybe she shouldn’t feel this way.
“I will be staying in the stables.” Seeing that she would complain, she continued. “I will be fine, Eleanor. Just… rest.”
And he finally turned around, leaving her in her huge and, suddenly, cold, room.
He could see her window from the stables. Far in the corner where he stood, if he tilted his head to the right, he could see, between a hole in the wall, the thick glass, illuminated by the candlelight coming from where he had left her.
It was so freaking cold.
For a while, Adam didn’t complain about his decision. He knew it was the right thing to do. After all, he was raised by Hal and Lord John and one of the many things they had shoved in his head during all those frightful teenage years was that a gentleman, a true gentleman, should never, ever take advantage of a lady.
With this thought in mind, he drank the ale and bite the bread without any worries. He went to the stables and talked to the man seeking shelter there. He pulled a cover from the corner and enveloped himself in its warmth. However, as the hours passed and the snowstorm got heavier, he started to question himself.
When the cold wind entered his cocoon, he questioned himself. And when he saw her window, he questioned himself.
Eleanor must be so…warm in her new room. She must have bathed already and his mind dreamed of pale white skin covered in water, the pink nipple hard and ready for his touch…
And then, the light went out. She must have gone to bed, clad in a new shift and new socks, laying on her side, just like the way she liked to sleep. One hand under her cheek and the other sprawled by her side, almost like she was reaching for something.
His mind couldn’t stop wandering, walking to her and her soft body, cupping her buttocks against his groin, pulling her closer to him, as his fingers trailed down her shift, pulling the hem over her hips, touching where…
He tilted his head to the other side and closed his eyes. He tried to take her out of his mind… He really tried. But under his lids, there she was, naked, open, ready for him. She was whispering sweet nothings in his ears and he knew that he would love to stay like that for all his life.
Even if it was just a dream.
Even if it would remain just a dream.
He would take her to Ellesmere Park and Peggy, William and his mother would think of something to help the girl. The Frasers were coming, as well. Maybe, she could start over with them, back in the colonies. He would have to explain to them about her delusions, but they seem to be a very nice couple.
And the mountain weather could help her to be at ease.
That’s why it would all remain as a dream. She would be far away, with the Frasers or whomever his mother would send her to. Everything that happened between them would be only a memory, faint and worn with the years that would pass by. She would get married, have children, and forget him.
But Adam… He would remember, even when he was old and tired. If he lived until then. He would think of the green-eyed beauty that swept him of his feet, literally, and took his breath away.
“Adam?” He heard, faintly, coming from somewhere far away.
For an instant, he thought he was finally dreaming and, gladly, it has nothing to do with erotic dreams and such. But then he heard again:
“Adam? Are you there?”
He raised his head, looking for the voice coming closer and closer to him and saw her. In a shift, so white as the snow outside, woolen stockings and the Murray tartan wrapped around her body, Ellie searched for him.
“Eleanor!” He whispered, getting up and walking to her. “What were you thinking? Coming here, alone, in your underdress…”
“Adam, look at the storm outside!” She whispered back, taking his hand. “You can’t sleep here, with the horses, feeling cold, while I’m in a comfortable and warm chamber. There is enough room for both of us.”
“Eleanor…” He said. “I can’t. I… It is not…”
“Proper?” She mocked.
“Well, I don’t care.”
And that was when Adam knew he was doomed.
What was she thinking?
Adam stood in her room, barefoot, with his jacket and his doublet in his arm. With the dim light coming from the fireplace, she could see the blond hair coming out of his shirt, calling her attention and begging to be properly seen.
He coughed, unsure of what to do, and placed his things in one of the chairs near the table, scrubbing his hands on the front of his trousers and thinking of what to do. Ellie had no clue, as well.
During the night, after being bathed in warm and scented water, fed with a wonderful supper, and dressed in a clean and soft chemise, she couldn’t stop thinking about Adam. Laying on the soft sheets, she just thought about his blue eyes and his full lips. How it felt to have them on her skin. And what could she do to have them back again.
She never forgot that kiss. And she never understood it.
Too scared to face him. Too hurt to ask when they found each other.
She watched Adam deciding to poke the flames on the fireplace, reviving the dim light and sending sparkles through the air. The orange light showed the muscles in his back, the curves of his hips, the dip on the side of his thigh and she suddenly felt… thirsty.
Eleanor went near her bed, where a jug and a cup waited for her. She filled it with freshwater and took small sips, feeling it go down her throat, taking the heat from her insides.
“That’s it, I think.”
She glanced at Adam and felt the heat coming back once again. He was cleaning his dirty hands in his trousers and the movement, up and down, right to left, reminded of the way he caressed her.
Back when he had kissed her.
And without thinking, she heard her voice coming out in a question:
He waited. Of course, he would wait for her to finish her sentence.
“Why did you kiss me?”
He crossed his arms, raising one eyebrow.
“Why I would not kiss you?”
Eleanor felt her cheeks blushing heavily, as she said:
“Certainly, there are many reasons. It would be easier for you to recite the reasons you had to kiss me. I believe there are fewer of them. Much less.”
And then he walked to her, slow and careful, like a wolf.
“If I answer your question, will you answer mine?”
“What is yours?”
He paused by the edge of the bed, near one of the pillars.
“Why did you invite me to sleep in your chambers?”
“An easy question.”
“If it is so easy, why don’t you answer it?” He teased, crossing his arms and leaning on the pillar.
“Well…” What was that again? “It is too cold outside.”
“It is not that. Try again.” Adam stared at her and she felt her knees fail.
“I… It was unfair for you to sleep with the horses, while I sleep in a room made for a duke.”
He started to move again, his fingers trailing down the edge of the bed, caressing the sheets beneath his digits.
“Why you don’t tell me the truth, Ellie?”
Ellie. He had called her ‘Ellie’. The last night, he had used her nickname as well. But during that moment, it was sweet and gentle and… Now… It felt like honey dripping from his mouth, sensual and so, so… Oh, God.
How the same man could be a gentleman and a rascal, almost at the same time?
“I’m telling the truth.” She answered, trying to compose herself. Focus, Ellie. He is just a man.
“No, you’re not.” He answered back and he was so close now that she could almost touch him if she reached with her hand. “I know that because I have a feeling that your reason for calling me here is the same reason why I kissed you.”
“Boredom?” She mocked, trying to gather all her strength.
“A sudden death wish?”
He was too close now, the shirt rubbing against her knuckles, tightly holding the tartan in her shoulders. She could feel, up and down, his chest moving with his breathing, against her hands, against her finger that got away from her grasp and slid, gently, against the hem of the neckline.
She waited. Waited for him to say something, to pull her closer and kiss her lips. She waited, with her heart beating so fast in her chest that she thought she would faint. And, even so, she knew. She knew why she had called him there, despite the snow and the heavy smell of horse back in the stables.
She had called him there because since she met the man, knocking him down of his mount and stealing his horse, she knew that something had changed. It was not only the magic in the stones, that led her to another century, far away from her family.
It was another type of magic, primitive and dangerous, that intertwined her life with Adam’s, attracting each other like honey and bees. Her mind has been filled with his eyes and, since the kiss, she couldn’t help but wonder about his lips too.
He had been her cross to carry, the most insufferable man she had ever met, but the most charming and handsome as well. And when she needed, he was there, her knight in shining armor, like she was a damsel in distress of some sort.
Was that to be? Was this Callum’s intent? To lead her to this man forever?
And as her mind raced with thoughts, she raised one hand, placing it gently over his heart, that was beating almost as fast as her own.
“I can’t stop thinking about you.”
And she saw his eyes melt in front of her, the icy blue irises lightening with… warmth and something else. Something deep, that took her breath away, as he smiled and said:
“I’ve told you we had the same reason.”
Chapter 13: A lady in his arms
His fingers were caressing the side of her jaw, amazed by how soft her skin was. Ellie’s eyes were locked in his, her breath caught in her throat. She brushed her face against his fingers, her lashes flickering with the pleasure of his touch. Adam reached for her waist, taking it in his hands and making her gulp with delight.
“What are we supposed to do now?” She whispered, as he stroke her curves with care.
He could feel her warmth underneath her thin shift and felt an urge to take off the piece of fabric from her body. However, at the same time, he wanted to be like that, with her in his arms, her shallow breath against his torso.
“I don’t know.”
He could take her clothes off. He could expose her breasts to the warmth, tasting her nipples with his tongue and feeling her with his digits. He could kiss her like she demanded to be kissed before and like he never kissed a woman in his life.
He could hold her, until she fell asleep in his arms, watching her through the night, thinking of what they would do, now that the words were said.
He couldn’t stop thinking about her.
“You have never been with a woman?” She asked and he blushed.
He had had many women before. Prostitutes and widows. Married and separated. He liked the blondes with pretty eyes, the red-headed with luscious smiles, the brunettes with sharp tongues.
He had fucked them. He had tasted every little part. He had discovered their little secrets and whispered things in her ears to make them blush with pleasure. He had worshiped each body that he met during his life and never disappointed a lover.
But now, with Ellie here, long lashes spreading shadows over her cheeks…
“It’s different.” He decided to answer.
“How is it different? I’m a woman, like the others.” She said back, lifting her gaze to meet his.
It was different because she was pure. A virgin, from a noble and ancient family. A girl, well-educated and bred, despite the fact she attacked him in the middle of the night and tried to steal his horse. Everyone had defects and God knows how…what truly happened to her.
She said she came from the past and Adam wanted to believe her… He wanted to believe her, despite his mind kept telling him what was probably the real reason for all that confusion.
He had met soldiers, soldiers who were too distressed by the death and the sorrow of war, soldiers who lost their minds. They created worlds where things were different. There were small things, like family members that still lived, limbs that still existed, friends that were not missing. Others imagined a life where they were related to the king or the colonel.
Maybe… Life was not easy for Ellie. And she created that world for her, a world that was the only protection against the truth.
“Adam.” She said, playing with his shirt. “You’re thinking too much.”
He was. He would never do that with another lady in his arms. The Adam from before would have taken her to his bed, spread her legs, and tasted her core.
But things… Were not the same. He was far away from home, his brother had resurrected from the dead and… He was enamored. Adam Grey, the heartbreaker, was smitten by the tiny fairy in his arms.
“I want to kiss you.”
She smiled and he could see the tip of her tongue.
“So, why don’t you kiss me?”
Because kissing her would lead to other things, things that she was not prepared to deal with, not after all the trauma.
“I…” He tried to put his thoughts in words, to no avail.
“It’s because we are not married?”
“You think you’re taking advantage of me?”
“I will be taking advantage of you, Ellie. You… After yesterday, everything changed. Your whole world… Your family… I vowed. To be your knight.”
He stopped, raising his eyebrows.
“No.” She repeated. “You vowed to keep me safe and happy, whenever it may be, whoever it may be with. And I’m safe with you. And I’m happy with you.”
He pulled her against his body, resting his forehead in his, watching those bright green eyes.
“I can’t be with you the way we should be. I can’t… Marry you. Have a family with you. I…” I’m too broken. Too sad. Too lonely.
“I don’t care.”
“You say that now, but in the future…”
“In the future, I will still want you. Marriage was only a big disappointment in my life. It was a way to sell me to the highest bidder and the only thing that it truly presented me with…Was you.” She paused, rubbing the tip of her nose against his. “I will have you, any way you will have me, as long as you want me the same way that I want you.”
She opened her eyes to find the depths of the sea.
“And how will you have me?”
Eleanor blushed profusely, her heart beating fast in her rib cage. She didn’t dare to say it, the words that were bubbling in her chest. She just stared, lips apart and eyes amazed, trying to focus on the tall man in front of her, his blond locks falling from his shoulders and blue, bright eyes staring straight at her.
“How will you have me?” He insisted and she had to exhale, slowly.
That was it.
This would change everything.
And she was so excited.
“I will have all of you.” She answered and before she was aware of her surroundings, his lips were already pressed against hers.
His fingers pulled her against his torso, grabbing the fabric from her underdress and pushing and pulling like he intended to tore it from her naked body. This mere thought made her break the kiss, finding air for her excited lungs, her lashes so heavy against her cheeks.
Adam’s lips moved to her neck, caressing and licking and biting his way through, towards her clavicle. Lower and lower he moved, shallower and shallower was her breathing, until he found the hem of the underdress, were a little ribbon tied it in place.
That’s when her knees failed her.
“Let’s go to bed.” He whispered against her warm skin and she wasn’t able to say anything. She tried to mumble words or letters of agreement, but the only thing that left her was a soft moan, as he lifted her in his arms, walking slowly, too slowly, towards the huge canopy bed.
He placed her in the center and watched her for a long time. Eleanor blinked, stunned, watching him with the same intensity he was watching her.
“Come here.” She was finally able to say after her body started to slow down and be aware of what was happening. She didn’t like that, at all. She wanted to be dizzy with feelings, flabbergasted by the power Adam had over her senses.
She wanted more.
And he came, eyes so intense over her that she shivered with anticipation. His body was huge and heavy over hers, in a nice way. She sought his lips with her own, moaning softly as she found them, the same time Adam’s hands found her breasts, swollen and sensitive under his digits.
He played with the size and the weight, finding her nipples under the fabric of the underdress and pinching until she exhaled against his lips. When she opened her mouth, a tongue appeared, gently, shyly, asking for permission. The mere taste of his tongue against hers was enough to make her spread her legs, circling him with her thighs and pulling him closer.
“Oh, God.” She heard him whisper against her mouth and she smiled. It was good to know that she was not the only one losing her mind that night.
Gathering courage, she spread her hands in his torso, feeling the quick heartbeat coming from his chest, the way the muscles shook every time she touched a new part of him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel his skin under the shirt and discover how it would feel against her own naked skin.
Eleanor, without thinking twice, pulled his shirt from his breeches, taking in a fluid motion over his head and throwing it across the room. He was magnificent, with all the tensed muscles and the bright, golden, tanned skin. She placed a kiss over his breast, just a bit over his nipple, and he gasped.
She looked down and saw his fingers playing over the ribbons in her underdress.
And then he pulled it, slowly and sensually, as they both watched her flesh show under the white fabric. Adam left the ribbons and caressed her thighs, pulling the hem of the underdress up and up, up her hips and her navel and her breasts, until it was on the other side of the room, sprawled by the side of his shirt.
She couldn’t help but smile, as he licked his lips, his hands traveling from her breasts to her belly, resting just a little above the small triangle of hair that the maids once said it was called her flower.
Ellie saw his gulping and her hands traveled to his chest. His heart was beating so fast that she didn’t know how he was still standing over her. With such a quick heartbeat, he would have fainted some minutes ago.
“Are you sure you want this, Ellie?” He asked, his fingers playing with the hair over her flower. “If we finish what we started… You will not be a maiden, anymore. You will be… mine. Do you understand?”
She understood alright. And she was eager to it.
Calmly, she slid her hands down to his hands and pushed it down against her flower, to where once she had touched and trembled with so many feelings. When his hands met the spot, she let a sob, her hips searching for more.
And Adam went down over her, letting a grunt of satisfaction, as his fingers tickled her and their skins met.
She was beautiful. Beautiful and warm and soft and so… bold. She had given herself to him and his touch and Adam could not be more… ready. His trousers were in his way, impending the erection that was trying to burst out of its container.
His lips were sucking a nipple, while his fingers were playing with her button. She was so moist and soft down there that, even when he inserted a finger, she just sobbed with pleasure, her hips scrubbing against his hand, asking for more.
Oh, he wanted to give her everything.
He knew that he was being an utter fool and was not thinking straight what all this meant for him in the future. But this was not his problem now. No. Now it was his pleasure, watching her surrender under him like that.
He wanted to taste her.
But he would scare her.
Or wouldn’t he?
Would she be surprised with his lips touching her down there? Or she would be terrified, leaving him half-naked and with an erection alone in a room during a snowstorm?
His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden tension around his fingers. She was frozen, her breath caught in her throat, her fingers and toes curled in anguish… And sudden, the release, the moan, deep and long, leaving her chest, the sprawled limbs, twitching slightly with pleasure.
He left his hands over her privates, licking his fingers and finally tasting her. She was sweet and refreshing, the flavors playing in his tongue, as she laid down and let her body relax.
He laid by her side, caressing her hair and watching her eyelids flutter.
“I… I liked it…” She started to say. “It was different from what I thought it would be.”
This made him raise his head.
“What do you mean, Eleanor?”
“Why…” She paused, opening her eyes. “I heard the servants saying that it hurt.”
“We didn’t…” He would say they didn’t make love, but they had. If that wasn’t love, he didn’t know what love was. “We didn’t…”
“Oh…” He could see her eyebrows going high in her forehead. “So… What was… this?”
“A part of it. The beginning.” He paused. “For the other part, I… My… Erm…” He pointed to his groin and this made her understand.
“Oh. The yard.” She mentioned, her hands traveling to the hem of his trousers instantly. “I thought it served only to piss. But… Thinking about it… Now it explains much of the jokes the soldiers made during training.”
“Can I see it?” She asked and how could he say no. So, he used his hands to unlace them and pulled it down, getting completely naked in her bed. He kept his eyes in her, waiting for a surprise or lust in her gaze. However, she only tilted her head, slightly, and mentioned. “Oh, it’s different from the ones I’ve seen.”
“Oh, you’ve seen others?” He played and was glad to see her blush.
“I’ve three brothers, Adam. However… Yours is far… larger.” She lost her words.
“It is because I want you.” He said, covering her body with his, placing his erection between her legs, the tip on her entrance, still swollen and moist from her pleasure. She sighed, her hands going to his shoulders and her eyes searching for his.
“I do.” He paused, kissing her neck and biting the tip of her ear, feeling her parts getting moist with each seductive movement. “But do you want me?”
“Oh, yes.” She whispered, her lips searching for his.
He kissed her, with all his heart, waiting for her heart to lose a beat, for her limbs to get weak, to her hips start searching for him. She moved, unconsciously, towards him, and with one hand, he guided himself, entering slowly, as she rubbed herself against his body, as she pulled him closer with her legs.
With a sob, he was all inside her and she kept moving, rubbing, her tongue playing with his in a mimic of what was happening with their bodies. And he moved and she exhaled, her fingernails entering his skin, her head tilting backward with the new sensation. His hand, placed gently under her thigh, went towards her button, stimulating it enough for her to feel the pleasure, forget the new body inside of her, the ache that will appear afterward, with her in his arms and her heart slowing down in her ribcage.
She squeezed him and Adam knew that it was coming again, the pleasure they were seeking. He moved, faster and faster, his fingers playing with her button and she cried loudly, her body shivering with sensations, her release so intense that he almost came inside of her.
Quickly, he left her, almost forgetting she would be sore, and let his seed spill over her navel, his heart thundering in his chest, his buttocks trembling with the pleasure being left of him. Ellie’s hands were still holding him tightly against her, her heart beating in the same rhythm as his.
And that was when he knew he would never let her go.