Read Rowan's Lady Online

Authors: Suzan Tisdale

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Scottish, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance

Rowan's Lady (8 page)

BOOK: Rowan's Lady
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Gunther smiled down at her, but it was anything
but pleasant. “I hope ye be no’ afraid of the dark, lass.” He took a step
forward and reached out to touch her hair. “Pray tell. How do ye plan on
gettin’ back to Ireland?”

Arline did not like what she saw in his eyes. He
looked at her as if she were a succulent leg of mutton or a slice of sweet
cake. Her stomach recoiled.

“I ken the laird has no’ warmed yer bed. Ye must
be longin’ fer a man’s touch. I’d be willin’ to see ye to Ireland if the price
were right.”

The thought of this young man with the crooked
teeth and dirty hair touching her was revolting. For a moment, she considered
inviting him into the room behind her and asking Frederick and Daniel to cut
his throat on her behalf. Although the thought was a tempting one she could not
risk it, no matter how appealing it might be.

“Go tell yer laird I’ll be gone shortly. And do
no’ ever touch me again.” Her words were clipped and to the point. Her tone
warned him that she would not be fooled into thinking he would help her with
anything. She spun and slipped back into the room, shutting the door and
locking it behind her.

She took a few steps into the room and was about
to whisper to Frederick and Daniel to follow her when once again, she was
grabbed around her waist and a hand covered her mouth.

She was utterly confused as she was dragged away
from the door and slammed hard against the wall. In the next moment, a hand
covered her mouth and she could feel the cold sharp edge of a dirk as it
pressed against her throat. Had Frederick and Daniel suddenly changed their
minds? Did they think she had somehow betrayed them?

“Do no’ utter a sound,” a harsh and unfamiliar
voice growled at her. “I have no’ problems with cuttin’ a woman’s throat.”

“Rowan!” Daniel and Frederick whispered harshly at
their laird.

“Rowan! Do no’ harm the lass!” Frederick said as
he grabbed Rowan’s arm. “She has been takin’ care of Lily!”

Daniel stood on the other side of Rowan now and
tried to grab his laird’s arm. “Rowan, she is injured! Hold care with the
lady.”

Rowan paused for a moment. He had come into the
room from the balcony at the same time the woman had come through the door. He
hadn’t known the situation or that Frederick and Daniel were within. He moved
his dirk away from her throat and loosened the pressure on her chest.

“Where is me daughter?”

Arline began to wonder if she would ever survive
this night, let alone make it safely out of this castle. Strange men seemed to
be lurking everywhere. Her heart pounded against her sternum, blood rushed in
her ears as the pain in her ribs increased with every heartbeat.

When she didn’t answer immediately, Rowan pressed
his arm against her chest again. “I will no’ ask ye again,” he warned. His
voice was low and menacing.

“Rowan!” Frederick admonished him. “I tell ye the
lass is injured! If ye do no’ show her some kindness, I’ll have to kill ye.”

The seriousness of Frederick’s tone caught Rowan
by surprise. Either Frederick had said it only to gain his attention or he
meant every word.

“Me laird,” Arline managed to find her voice. “I
mean ye no ill will. I have been takin’ care of yer wee one. She is asleep in
the next room. I swear, I have let no one harm her.” Arline hoped he was not
too overcome with anger to hear the sincerity in her shaky voice.

“Take me to her then,” Rowan seethed. “But if this
is some kind of trick,” his words trailed off, heavy with warning.

Frederick stopped him again by placing a hand on
his shoulder. “Rowan, the lass speaks the truth. We will explain it to ye
later, but fer now, ye must have faith that no’ all those within these castle
walls mean us or Lily any harm.”

Rowan shrugged Frederick’s arm from his shoulder.
He knew he was too angry to act rationally. His primary concern was getting to
his daughter and leaving this place without any further obstacles or problems.

He let go of Arline and returned his dirk to the
leather sheath on his belt. “Take me to her,” he ordered.

Arline was not about to waste any more time or
take the chance of angering this man further. She took a few steps along the
wall with her arms outstretched to feel for the door. She found the iron latch
and carefully opened the door and quickly led the men into her sleeping
chamber.

Thankfully, Lily still slept, curled into a little
ball. Arline stepped out of the way to allow the men to enter. She watched as
they reluctantly stepped through the door and scanned the room.

The light from the low fire and the candle Arline
kept lit during the night cast the room in a soft white light. When she turned
her gaze from Lily to the three men in her room, she nearly collapsed from the
shock.

“Daniel!” Arline whispered loudly. “Is it truly
ye?”

Daniel and Frederick turned to look at her, but
Rowan’s gaze remained transfixed on his sleeping daughter.

Arline could see the recognition as it grew in
Daniel’s eyes. After a moment, a warm smile grew and he came to her. Taking her
hand in his, he knelt on one knee. “Lady Arline,” he said before giving a
slight kiss to the back of her hand.

“Och! Stand ye foolish man!” Arline tried to
return he smile, but it made her cheek hurt.

Daniel smile and stood before her. “I canna
believe me eyes, m’lady. Is it truly ye?”

Arline nodded her head and gave his hand a tight
squeeze. It had seven years since last she’d seen him. She had been married to
Carlich Lindsay at that time.

It seemed a lifetime had passed. She had been a
naïve young woman, married to a man three times her own age. Arline had been
instrumental in helping to stop the unjust deaths of two men.

“Ye are a site fer sore eyes, m’lady,” Daniel
said. “How on earth did ye come to be here?”

“’Tis a verra long story, Daniel. I’m afraid there
be no time to tell it. We must get ye out of here and quickly.”

Daniel nodded and turned back to Rowan and
Frederick. “Rowan, do ye ken who this be?”

Rowan was too focused on his daughter. The relief
he felt at seeing her was immeasurable. She was alive and she looked quite
well, even in her sleep. He knelt beside the bed, one hand tenderly caressing
the back of her head. He could not help it, but tears of relief and joy filled
his eyes.

“Rowan,” Daniel repeated. “I asked if ye ken the
lady?”

Rowan finally turned to look at the woman. Anger
swelled when he saw the blood on her night dress, her cut lip and red, swollen
face. Unruly auburn hair framed her face and cascaded down her shoulders. Guilt
enveloped him for having treated her so harshly before.

He thought she looked vaguely familiar but he was
having a difficult time placing her face with a memory.

Arline however, knew
him. Good lord!
she
thought to herself.
’Tis him
.

She had never known his name but his face had been
permanently burned into her memory. Theirs had been a very brief encounter in a
dark hallway seven years past. He had come to thank her for helping save the
lives of his friends, Angus McKenna and Duncan McEwan. Nothing else had
happened other than the stranger thanking her for what she had done.

It had been his beautiful face and dark brown eyes
that taken her breath away back then. Time had done nothing to lessen the
affect he had on her.

He still wore his dark brown hair long, past his
shoulders. His face, though seven years older now, was still beyond handsome.
If anything, time had only added to his good looks. Arline felt her legs grow
weak as his dark brown eyes stared up at her.

“This be Lady Arline Lindsay,” Daniel explained.

“It be Lindsay no more, Daniel,” Arline corrected
him.

Daniel gave her a thoughtful nod. “Aye, I heard
what Blackthorn said in the hallway, m’lady. But ye no longer be married to the
whoreson, so I think we can call ye a Lindsay again.”

Arline supposed it was better than being referred
to as the former Lady Blackthorn and decided now was not the time to argue it
further.

Daniel turned back to Rowan who continued to stare
at Arline. “She be the one that helped Angus and Duncan back in ’47,” Daniel
explained. “She was married to Carlich Lindsay. Do ye remember now?”

Rowan’s eyes grew wide with surprise. He
remembered. She had been younger then and not quite as skinny as she was now.
She had saved Angus and Duncan from hanging. Angus was the chief of the clan
that Rowan had fostered in, the clan MacDougall. Duncan was married to
Aishlinn, Angus’ eldest daughter. To this day, he and Duncan remained as close
as brothers.

Had it not been for Lady Arline Lindsay, Angus and
Duncan would be dead. Rowan had told her seven years ago that he would be
forever in her debt. Now, it seemed, he was beholden to her again.

His face suddenly turned ashen with embarrassment.
“Me lady, please, forgive me,” he began.

She stopped him with a wave of her hand. “Do no’
worry it, me laird. There is no time now. Ye must away this place now!”

Rowan stood, looking perplexed and torn. Frederick
stepped forward to speak. “Rowan, there be no time fer explanation. But we
must
take Lady Arline with us. Blackthorn has annulled their marriage and is
casting her out this night. Without escort or even a horse.”

Rowan blinked in disbelief. “Ye canna be serious,”
he exclaimed. Although he had known Garrick Blackthorn for many years and knew
him to be a selfish bastard, this bit of news shook him.

“Aye, I am,” Frederick said.

“Nay,” Arline interjected, finally pulling her
eyes away from Rowan. Had circumstances been different, she wouldn’t have
minded staring at him for say a few short decades. “I canna go with ye! Garrick
is sending a man back at any moment, to escort me from the keep. If he returns
and finds us both missin’, we’ll no’ be able to survive this night!”

Arline made her way to the closet and pulled out
the dress, cloak and stockings she had made for Lily. She had no time to think
about the pain shooting down her side or her legs. Quickly, she made her way
around the wall of men and to the bed. “I was plannin’ on taking Willie--” she
corrected herself quickly, “Lily, away this night. I found a way out just last
night!” She explained her plan to the men as she carefully drew back the
blankets and began to dress Lily.

“There is a secret corridor that leads to a set of
hidden stairs. Ye’ll take those to the bowels of the castle. There is a metal
gate at the end. The water spills out into the stream. Ye can follow that east,
to the forest.”

Lily fussed and slowly opened her eyes as Arline
pulled the dress over her head. “Will -- I mean, Lily, please lass, do no’ make
a sound. Yer da is here to take ye away,” Arline explained as she wrapped the
cloak around the child’s shoulders.

With sleepy eyes, Lily began to look for her
father. Before she could squeal with delight, Arline held a finger to her lips.
“Wheesht, child. If ye make a sound, the mean man will hear. I need ye to
promise not to utter a word or a sound until yer da gives ye permission. If
we’re found out, Garrick will be verra,
verra
angry.”

Tears welled in Lily’s eyes as she listened
carefully to Arline. “I do no’ want him to hurt ye again,” Lily whispered,
looking quite fearful.

“Wheesht, sweeting!” Arline told her, forcing a
smile. She tied the cloak and gave Lily a kiss on her forehead. “There is no
time to waste, lass. Ye must go with yer da, now.”

Lily held out her arms and Rowan lifted her to his
chest. He hugged her, kissing the top of her head. “Och, child, how I’ve missed
ye!”

“I missed ye too, da! The mean man took me. But
Lady Arline took care of me.”

“I ken, Lily. I be forever in Lady Arline’s debt.
Now, no more talking. We have to hurry.”

Arline made her way around the men again and went
to the small closet. She pushed the trunk away and lifted the tapestry. “In
here,” she directed the group. “Ye will turn right here. Ye will turn left in
about twenty-five paces, then left again when ye come to the T. Not long after
ye will find a door on the right. There is a stair case that winds all the way
down. Once ye reach the bottom, ye’ll be in water to yer ankles. Turn right and
follow the water until ye reach the gate. ’Tisn’t locked, but it is old and
squeaks a bit. Remember, it leads to the stream that runs through the forest to
the east.”

She pushed Frederick through first and then
Daniel. Rowan paused briefly. “Me lady, what of ye?”

“Do no’ worry over me! Ye must get Lily away from
this place and quickly. Hurry, before they come fer me.”

She gave Lily a kiss on her cheek and pulled the
hood up. “Please, child, remember to be quiet, no matter what happens, aye?”

Lily looked positively forlorn. “Yer no’ comin’
with us?” she asked.

“Nay, I canna come with ye, babe. But we’ll see
each other some day.” Arline felt her heart shattering like fragile glass
slammed against an anvil. She would miss the precocious and sweet babe.

“But,” Lily began to protest. Arline held her
finger to her lips once again.

“Wheesht, sweeting. I shall write to ye soon, I
promise. Now, be a good lass and listen to yer da!” She turned her eyes to
Rowan’s. “Please, hurry me laird,” she told him as she pressed down on his
shoulders. Rowan bent to his knees and handed Lily through the opening.

Turning back one last time, he said, “If ye ever
need anything, me lady, anything at all, ye need only ask it.”

And with that, he turned, crawled through the
opening and disappeared into blackness.

Six

Originally, Rowan and his men had planned to escape
with Lily by the same route as they entered. But with most of the castle
unexpectedly awake, they decided not to take the risk and use the means Arline
had given them. After losing themselves within the walls more than once, they
began to question their choice.

BOOK: Rowan's Lady
8.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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