Authors: Nina Bangs
And so it went. Leith chose chocolate cream pie and Fortune chose fresh fruit. By the time they reached the checkout counter, the basket resembled an armed camp. Leith’s fatty feast topped off with hot-and-spicy salsa—chosen because the words
hot and spicy
reminded him of a certain Moira McAllister—protected his end of the basket, while Fortune’s healthy harvest converged at the other end. Fortune decided she held the advantage. With all the leafy green vegetables she’d chosen, she had a veritable forest to hide in.
“You know, you and that cat won’t be able to walk
home without bypass surgery if you keep eating that junk,” she grumbled as she pulled out money to pay the clerk.
He shrugged and picked up the bags. “Ye take the cat.”
Ignoring the clerk’s horrified realization that a cat crouched between the spinach and the broccoli, Leith strode from the store, leaving Fortune to lug Ganymede. Luckily, the cat leaped from her arms almost immediately. She would’ve been puffing before they reached home, while Leith strode along under the weight of four bags of groceries as though he carried nothing.
She ran to catch up with him. “I can carry one of those.”
He gazed at her with unexpected passion. “ ’Tis all I have to offer, Fortune. Dinna take it away.”
Pride. He had more than his share.
Fortune remained silent on the walk home. Her nagging guilt wouldn’t go away—probably a product of her society’s attitude. Each person was part of the whole, and therefore had a responsibility toward those around her, etcetera, etcetera. Well, she wasn’t responsible for the grouch beside her, other than making sure he went with her when she returned to her time.
Went with her.
At last she’d identified the source of her feeling. The thought of what she had to do made her feel uneasy, guilty. He’d hate her if she didn’t warn him. On the other hand, if she told him, he’d probably leave and never return.
What a mess.
When they reached home, a two-wheeled vehicle—a motorcycle, if she remembered correctly—was parked in front. Blade bent over the vehicle while Lily heaved knives into a hapless tree.
“I’ll take these inside for ye, and ye can put them away.” Leith disappeared into the house.
Fortune stood with her hands on her hips. “What if I don’t
to put them away?” she inquired of the closed door.
“Leave that man alone, honey.” Lily had retrieved her arsenal and moved up beside Fortune. “Men like to feel in charge, so a smart woman doesn’t sweat the small stuff.”
“But that’s not being honest.”
What you’re planning for Leith isn’t honest either.
Lily threw back her head and laughed. “Nothing’s black or white. Sometimes gray’s the kindest color.”
Fortune frowned. She felt there was a profound truth in Lily’s statement, if she could only find it.
Lily threw a companionable arm across Fortune’s shoulder, blissfully ignoring Fortune’s instinctive flinch.
Fortune drew a deep breath. She’d have to get used to touching. Obviously people in earlier times saw nothing wrong with it. They hadn’t learned that invading another’s space without invitation was unacceptable.
Then why don’t you resent Leith’s touch? Why do you find it so easy to touch him?
“Let’s you and I go inside. We can put those groceries away in a snap.” Lily opened the door, then pushed a reluctant Fortune into the house just as Leith emerged.
A small black body trailed at Leith’s heels. Ganymede had found a new hero. Leith and Ganymede had so much in common. Both were demanding males, and both had a death wish where food was concerned.
Resigned, she let herself be guided toward the kitchen.
Leith felt disappointed. He’d expected Fortune to react when he told her to put the food away. In some perverse way, he liked her fiery and disapproving.
He stopped beside Blade. “What manner of vehicle is this?”
Blade paused to wipe his hands on a cloth. “You really have been out of the loop, big guy. This is a Harley.”
Leith touched the gleaming metal. He thought of sharing this experience with his brother. The sudden ache almost made him gasp. Hugh was gone, perhaps forever.
The sadness he felt was old. In truth, Hugh had been gone from him for many years. Time would not change that.
“You know, big guy, I have a question. If you were raised in Tibet with monks, how come you still sound Scottish?”
Curse Fortune’s lie.
“I lived with Scottish monks.”
Blade scratched his head. “Scottish monks in Tibet?”
“How does this vehicle work?” Leith crouched to peer more closely at it.
“This bike’s a Harley classic.” Blade’s narrow chest swelled with pride. “How about I take you for a ride, big guy?”
Leith nodded. Anything to get Blade’s attention away from Tibet and monks. He watched Blade straddle the machine, and he did the same when Blade motioned behind him.
As the Harley roared away from the house, Leith’s heart swelled with newly discovered love.
. He could ride it like a horse, with the wind whipping his hair, yet the amazing speed made his heart pound with excitement. He had to have a Harley of his own.
Ye willna be here long enough.
The thought acted as cold water splashed in his face. He wanted to go home to the Highlands. He needed to go home so he could make his peace with Hugh. But even after two days, the thought of never seeing Fortune again weighed heavy on him. How could he feel sadness at the loss of a woman who despised him?
When Blade stopped the Harley in front of a building bearing a sign that read cajun café, Leith got off and followed his new friend inside. Men wearing vests made of leather milled around the dark interior. Leith needed no one to tell him they were warriors. He immediately felt at home.
Blade sat down at a corner table and raised his hand. Immediately a woman came over with a tray of drinks. Blade set one in front of Leith. “Have a beer, big guy.”
Leith took a tentative sip, then relaxed. It tasted different from what he was used to, but it was a man’s drink.
Blade leaned back. “Feels good to relax.” He took a gulp of his beer. “I ran into Hugh Campbell’s widow today. Told her about you. She wants to meet you, so I said I’d bring you and the little lady over tomorrow. That okay with you?”
Leith nodded. Could this be connected to his reason for being here? He hoped not. Leith wanted no more surprises. He still reeled from the knowledge that Fortune was a MacDonald, and worse still, that it mattered not to his desire for her.
“This here’s Tank. He’s the president of our club.”
Leith forced aside his thoughts to acknowledge the big man with the cold, assessing stare who’d sat down across from him. Leith recognized an equal. He nodded a non-committal greeting.
“Leith just got into town. He ran into some bad luck, so I’m helping his old lady and him out a bit.”
Tank continued to assess Leith. “Where’re you from?” His voice was low, relaxed. A dangerous man.
Leith couldn’t make his lips repeat Fortune’s ridiculous story about Tibet. He shrugged. “Here and there.”
Tank smiled grimly. “I respect privacy. You have a bike?”
Leith shook his head.
Be careful. Don’t say too much.
“If I stay here, I’d like to have one.”
If I stay here.
The words stirred a maelstrom of emotions in him. Thoughts of Fortune, thoughts of Scotland.
Finally making up his mind about Leith, Tank grinned. “When you decide it’s time to get a bike, see me. I’ll make sure you don’t get ripped off. And if you need any help,
give a shout. Any friend of Blade’s is a friend of mine. Here’s my card.”
Leith looked blankly at the small piece of paper Tank handed him. “Attorney-at-law?”
“It comes in handy. If anyone hassles you, call me.” He rose and walked away.
“What is an attorney?”
Blade chuckled. “A lawyer. He defends you if you get in trouble with the law. That’s why we call him Tank—short for Think Tank. Get it?”
Leith didn’t get it, but he understood the part about defending people who were in trouble with the law. He’d found from experience that the law could be as fickle as a beautiful woman. Which brought his thoughts back to Fortune.
He’d been away from her only a short time, but he found he missed her. How much more would he miss her when he returned to Scotland? He’d bedded so many women and rarely thought of them afterward, yet this woman haunted his every thought.
“Tank likes you. He doesn’t tell everyone he’s a lawyer. Surprises a lot of people.” Blade chuckled at some memory. “Guess we better be gettin’ back. Lily gets all nervous if I’m gone too long. Women.”
Blade stood, then wound his way toward the door. Leith followed. This felt familiar, not much different from places he’d visited at home. Men didn’t change, only women. Of course, that made women more of a challenge, and he loved a challenge.
“I absolutely, positively will
sleep on that couch again tonight.” Fortune stood on tiptoe and tried on her most intimidating expression. Leith leaned indolently against the wall of the bedroom and stared across the disputed area.
“Ye dinna have to. This bed is verra large.”
He widened his eyes, probably trying to look innocent. It didn’t work. Even as a baby, she’d bet he lay in his cradle looking up at all the women who’d come to coo over him and mesmerized them with his touch-me eyes and wicked, sexy grin.
“OK, I’ll sleep in the bed. Where are you going to sleep?” She did some eye-widening of her own.
“In the bed with ye.”
She sighed. “Then I guess it’s the floor for me. That couch killed my back last night.” She hunched over, placed one hand on the affected area, and tried to look pathetic. She hoped her pathetic look was a little more sincere than his sympathetic look.
“The floor is verra hard, but ’twill do yer back good.”
? No chivalrous offer to abandon the bed for the sake of her aching back? She
programmed self-sacrifi ce into
men. “Right. See you in the morning.” She stomped from the room with vengeful thoughts swirling in her head of the circuitry changes she’d make if he were one of her men.
Pulling a throw pillow from the couch for her head, she settled onto the floor. Nothing would make her budge.
There had to be a more comfortable position, though.
Rolling onto her side, she found herself eyeball-to-eyeball with…an insect! A huge insect with big, hairy legs and long, waving antennae. And behind it were assorted family members, all with evil intent.
Springing from the floor, she stood breathing hard. She’d been taught all life was precious, but she doubted that included big, ugly bugs with extended families. Clenching her teeth with determination, she headed down the hall.
When she finally stood beside the bed, she didn’t have
to wake Leith. He lay with his hands behind his head, and even in the room’s dim light she could see his amused expression.
“Did you know there were bugs in this house?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” It was hard speaking through gritted teeth.
“Ye dinna like people telling ye things, so I thought ye’d rather discover it yerself.” His wicked grin flashed in the darkness. “Climb into bed, lass. I dinna take up much space.”
“Fine. But the space you take up had better not be on my side of the bed, buster.” She couldn’t believe she’d agreed to sleep in the same bed with him. It was like the ancient tale of the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood had been dumb, but even she wouldn’t have
with the wolf.
Do it now.
She made a flying leap into the bed that would’ve done a Havlan jumping-dorne proud. Quickly turning her back to his side of the bed, she waited tensely.
Did she hear a quiet chuckle? She felt the bed give beneath his weight as he shifted onto his side, then nothing.
It was too quiet. It was the silence of the jungle just before a predator leaped upon its helpless prey.
Oh, good grief.
She’d always known she had a vivid imagination, but this was ridiculous. She couldn’t help wondering, though…Was he naked? What was he thinking about? Was he naked? Would he try to move closer? Was he naked?
Get a grip.
She’d simply breathe deeply and think calm, rational thoughts. There, she was under control again.
OK, if she was so calm, why did she feel the need to fill the silence with nervous speech? “I guess everyone back in Scotland will wonder where you’ve gone.”
“No one will wonder.” His tone said
She couldn’t. She suddenly had an urgent need to know. After all, she was sharing a bed with this man, and she didn’t know a thing about him. “OK, I remember you said your parents were dead, but didn’t you mention something about a brother?”
“I dinna see Hugh often.” His tone had turned glacial.
She couldn’t let it alone. It was like poking a stick at a hibernating bear, all the while knowing the bear might very well wake and mistake you for a midnight snack. “Why don’t you see him? He’s your only relative, for heaven’s sake.”
Fortune could feel the tension. The air around her seemed to explode, twisting in tortuous coils of agonizing emotion.
Maybe she shouldn’t have asked that last question. She felt the bed shift and knew he’d propped himself up on one elbow.
“Look at me, Fortune.” His voice held a quality she’d never heard before, a pain so deep she couldn’t even fathom it.
Without attempting to argue, she turned to face him.
A full moon shone in the window behind him, making him nothing more than a dark silhouette. The shifting shadows played across the dark walls, hinting at secrets. “You…you don’t have to tell me about Hugh if you don’t want to.”
“Ah, but I do, lass. Ye canna call back yer question. Mayhap ye might wish ye had once ye hear my answer.” He reached out and touched the side of her face with one finger. She resisted the urge to flinch away—from his touch, from the truth.
“Hugh hasna spoken to me for eight years, since the morning he slaughtered a host of unarmed men, without pity, without mercy. I was there, lass. I saw the blood. It
stains my soul. Even three hundred years canna wash away the blood.”