Authors: Kinley MacGregor
Henry would be happy, and he was quite sure Caledonia would as well….
He cursed at the irony of her name.
I hate everything to do with Scotland and its people, and would sooner rot with pestilence than ever put one piece of my body in Scotland again
. Sin’s vow echoed in his mind.
Disgusted, he made his way up the stairs toward his room.
When he first reached the landing, he thought nothing odd about the hallway outside of his and Caledonia’s room being empty. Not until he heard a rhythmic thumping that echoed from the other side of her door.
With one hand on the hilt of his sword, he paused with a frown to listen.
Thump, thump…thump, thump…thump, thump…He cocked his head and moved closer to the dark oak door and splayed his hand over the wood.
It sounded much like a bed hammering against the wall while two people…
A stab of rage went through him. Especially when he heard the muffled grunts. He curled his hand into a fist. Nay! Surely Simon knew better than that.
Sin pressed his ear to the door.
There was no mistaking the sound. It was definitely a bed striking the stone wall with a tremendous amount of force. And the rhythm could be nothing other than a man thrusting.
“Simon,” he hissed under his breath, “you’re a dead man.”
Unsheathing his sword, Sin narrowed his eyes and flung open the door to see two lumps beneath the covers, writhing in unison on the bed.
Sin couldn’t remember the last time anything had made him this angry. But for some reason, the thought of Simon deflowering Caledonia made him want blood. Simon’s blood.
Every last tiny drop of it.
His wrath barely leashed, he approached the bed silently, then angled his sword to the small of the largest lump’s back.
Both lumps froze.
“This best not be what I think it is.” Sin tore the blanket from the bed.
Shock rooted him to the floor as he took in the full sight before him.
Simon lay on his side, fully clothed, tied both to the bed and to a lump of pillows with a rope. A gag of linen was stuffed into his mouth. Simon’s hair was tousled all about his head. His surcoat was soaking
wet and his eyes were swollen and red, and they burned with a rage that was tangible.
Sin sheathed his sword, then pulled out his dagger to cut away the gag.
“It isn’t what you
thinking,” Simon said. “But it’s what you’re thinking now.”
“What the devil happened?” Sin set about cutting him free of the lump and bed.
Simon’s face flushed with anger. “She told me she had woman troubles. Then, when I came to check on her to see if I needed to fetch a physician, she blew some witch’s brew into my eyes.”
“Why are you wet?”
“After they tied me down, the wench tried to drown me.”
Sin would have laughed had he not been trying to decide who to strangle first, Caledonia or Simon.
“I should leave you tied up here.”
“If it’ll keep me safe from that she-witch, then please do so.”
Sin cut the last rope. “Any idea where she was bound for?”
“How long since she fled?”
“At least an hour.”
Sin cursed. With that amount of time, she could be anywhere in London.
Caledonia paused as she glanced around the streets of London. The afternoon crowd that bustled in between the large buildings was fairly thick. None of them should recognize her or Jamie.
With her brother’s hand held tightly in hers, she wended her way north toward an inn where she remembered stopping on her way into London. The keeper had owned a stable with horses to be bought. If she could get to those horses, she would buy one for each of them with the money she had managed to hide from Henry. He’d had no idea when he’d taken her that she’d possessed a small fortune in her bodice.
Once they were safely away from the inn, they would don the robes of a leper and no one, not even thieves, would dare stop them then.
They would be home in no time.
“Are we to walk all the way home?” Jamie asked.
Callie smiled. “Just a little farther, sweeting.”
“But my legs are so tired, Callie. Can we not stop for a rest? Just a little one? A minute or two before my legs fall off and then I’ll never be able to run again.”
She didn’t dare stop. Not when they were so close to leaving this place behind.
Lifting Jamie up in her arms, she held him to her side and continued on. “Och, lad, you’ve gotten heavy,” she said as she skirted women carrying baskets of market goods. “Why, I remember when you scarce weighed as much as a loaf of bread.”
“Did Da sing to me then?”
Callie’s heart clenched at his question. Poor Jamie barely remembered their father, who had died almost three years ago. “Aye,” she said, squeezing him. “He sang to you every night when your mother would put you to bed.”
“Was he a big man like Dermot?”
Callie smiled at the mention of their brother. At
ten-and-six, Dermot stood a good three inches taller than she. “Bigger than Dermot.” Indeed, her father was closer to Lord Sin’s height.
“Do you think he’ll be happy to see my mother while he’s in heaven with yours?”
Callie arched a brow at the odd question. “Mercy, imp, wherever do you think up these questions?”
“Well, I was just wondering. One of the king’s knights told me that poor servants can’t go to heaven, only noble people can. I was thinking then that God wouldn’t want my mother there with yours.”
Callie took a deep breath at the nonsense. Her mother may have been of royal blood and Jamie’s mother a simple shepherdess, but only a fool would spout off such rampant stupidity. And to a wee bairn, no less.
“He was being mean to you, Jamie. God loves all people equally. Your mother is a good soul who loves us, and the Lord in His mercy will see her in heaven along with the rest of us when, God forbid, she dies.”
“Jamie, please,” she begged. “I’m needing every breath to carry you. Please, no more questions.”
“Very well.” He wrapped his thin arms around her neck and laid his head on her shoulder.
Callie walked on for as long as she could, but after a time her arms and back ached. “Lad, I need for you to walk on your own for a bit.”
Jamie got down and held on to her skirts as they headed along another crowded street.
“How many days do you think it’ll take us to walk through London? A hundred? Two hundred?”
It felt like two thousand. “We’ll get out eventually.
Try not to think about that. Think about being home again.”
“Can I think about my mother’s mincemeat tarts?”
“Can I think about Uncle Aster’s horse?”
“Can I think—”
“Jamie, my love, can you please think to yourself?”
He heaved a weary sigh, as if the burden of thinking to himself were more than he could bear.
Callie pulled him to a stop as she spied a group of mounted knights riding through the city. She let go of Jamie’s hand to pull her veil around her face in case they should glance her way.
Laughing, the mounted knights paid no heed to her. But it wasn’t until they had ridden past that her heart stopped thudding and she found her wobbly legs able to continue on.
“That was close,” she breathed. She reached to retake Jamie’s hand, only to realize he wasn’t there.
Oh, Lord, nay!
“Jamie!” she called, scanning the crowd around her. “Jamie!” Her panic gripped her anew. She saw no sight of his brown cap. No sight of his red curls.
Where could the wee lad be?
Terror consumed her. Where was he? Where could he have gone to? He’d been right beside her only an instant before, and she had told him a thousand and one times not to wander off. Especially not in unknown places where strangers were about.
Oh, Lord, anything could happen to him!
Callie scanned the crowd again, seeing several
small children, but none that bore any resemblance to her imp.
Could he be in trouble? Her heart hammering, she searched all around her as fast as she could.
“Blessed Sainted Mary, where could you be, lad?” she whispered over and over as she searched. “Please, Lord, give me my brother back. I swear I’ll never again ask him to be quiet and I’ll answer every single question he asks. I’ll never ever lose patience with him again. Just please, God, please let me find him before something happens to him.” Tears welled in her eyes.
He could have fallen in the river or he could have gotten run over by a cart. He could have been kidnapped by thieves or some horrid such! Her mind played through numerous horrific scenarios, and all of them culminated with Jamie needing her and she not being there to protect him.
If anything happened to him, she would never be able to live with herself.
The pain in her chest was excruciating. It tore through her lungs, making it hard to breathe.
She had no idea where to look. No idea how to find him in this foreign city.
Through her panic only one clear thought emerged.
He would find Jamie. She was sure of it.
Now she just had to find him.
Sin scanned the crowd around him while he rode through the streets. He’d cornered poor Aelfa, and with little provocation the maid had confessed Cale
donia’s plan. Now he just had to get to the inn before the wench bought her horses.
With Simon behind him, they were making good time.
Out of the crowd, Sin spied a light blue veil on a woman so tall she stood head and shoulders above those around her. Even though she appeared frantic and hurried, he recognized her instantly.
“Caledonia!” he called.
She stopped immediately.
Instead of running away as he expected, she rushed to his side. “Blessed saints and glory,” she said, her face streaked by tears as she placed her hands against his right leg. Her desperate touch shouldn’t have affected him at all, and yet it burned his skin with a throbbing heat that pulsed straight to his groin. “I am so glad to see you.”
Her words set him back. Never in his life had anyone said such a thing to him, let alone held such a sincere look about it.
Something bad must surely have happened, for her to want to see the likes of him.
It was then he realized the boy wasn’t with her. Sliding from his horse, he held her by her arms. “What has happened?”
“It’s Jamie.” She shrugged his touch away, grabbed his arm and started pulling him down the street with her as she looked all about. “He’s gone and we have to find him. He was here a few minutes ago and then he vanished. Jamie!” she shouted his name.
Several people looked at them, but no one answered.
“Simon,” he called. “The boy is missing. Can you see him from up there?”
Simon shook his head and moved his horse to stand beside them. “Where were you when he disappeared?”
She wiped her eyes with her hands and looked up at Simon. “Not very far from where we were yesterday. Maybe one street over.”
“By the baker’s shop with the stuffed squirrel in the window?” Simon asked.
“Aye. I believe so.”
Sin arched a brow at the expression on Simon’s face. “You think you know where he might have gone?”
Caledonia took a deep breath and her grip on Sin’s arm tightened.
“But,” Simon said, his voice sour, “I’ll take you there provided neither one of you ever mentions the bed incident to me or anyone else. Ever.”
Caledonia blushed. “I am so sorry for that. But I did wash your eyes out. Do they still burn?”
Simon’s face turned the color of Caledonia’s hair, though whether from anger or embarrassment, Sin couldn’t tell.
When Simon spoke, his voice was colder than a snowstorm in January. “They are fine. Thank you, milady, for your kindness.”
Sin mounted his horse, then reached his hand down to Caledonia. Her eyes relieved, she grabbed on to him and he noticed the tiny bones of her hand. The softness of her touch. He’d never felt anything like her delicate hand in his.
He pulled her up to ride before him and turned his attention to Simon. “Where are we bound for?”
“On the way back yesterday, I was telling the boy about the sweets at the Unicorn Maiden. I even showed him where the shop was located and he said he would give anything to see the pastries and cockapies. I have a feeling he might have gone there. Though why I should bother rescuing
I’ll never know. I swear my head still throbs from the little demon.”
Callie felt heat sting her face. “He didn’t mean to hit you, Simon. I swear that part of it was an accident.”
He gave her a droll glare that told her he didn’t believe a word of it.
Callie didn’t say anything as they rode toward the bakery. Jamie knew better than to leave her side. He’d never done anything this foolish in his life and she couldn’t imagine what had possessed him.
And the lad had best be in trouble when they found him. If not, she was going to throttle his young life right out of him.
It didn’t take long to retrace her steps to the corner where Jamie had vanished. Simon led them a few yards over to a small bake shop, where an old woman was leaving with a basket full of bread.
As they approached the store, Callie saw the squirrel Simon had mentioned and she recognized the small face staring out the window, scanning the passersby, and noted the smile of extreme jubilation as its large blue eyes focused on her. He was obviously as glad to see her as she was to see him.
“Oh, Blessed be St. Mary,” she whispered.
Relief tore through her as she slid from the horse and ran inside the store to her brother. He’d been
close by the entire time, but without the men, she’d never have known to look here.
Tears ran down her cheeks again as she swept him into her arms. “Little runt,” she breathed. “You scared me.”
“I’m sorry, Callie.” He pulled back and showed her the honey bread in his hand. “I thought we’d be needing something to eat for the journey. You’ve had nothing all day.”
Her hand trembled as she took the bread from him. “I would much rather starve than lose you.”