The Brightest Star in the Highlands: Jennie and Aedan (Clan Grant Series Book 7)

BOOK: The Brightest Star in the Highlands: Jennie and Aedan (Clan Grant Series Book 7)
7.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

The Clan

 

Grants

  1.    
    Laird Alexander Grant, and wife, Maddie (#1)

a.
                
Twin lads-James (Jamie) and John (Jake)

b.
                
Kyla

c.
                 
Connor

  1.    
    Brenna Grant and husband, Quade Ramsay (#2)
    1.              
      Torrian (Quade’s son from first marriage)
    2.             
      Lily (Quade’s daughter from first marriage)
    3.              
      Bethia
    4.             
      Gregor
  2.    
    Robbie Grant and wife, Caralyn (#4)
    1.              
      Ashlyn (Caralyn’s daughter from a previous relationship)
    2.             
      Gracie (Caralyn’s daughter from a previous relationship)
    3.              
      Rodric (Roddy)
  3.    
    Brodie Grant and wife, Celestina (#3)
    1.              
      Loki (adopted)
    2.             
      Braden
  4.    
    Jennie Grant (#7)

 

Ramsays

  1.    
    Quade Ramsay and wife, Brenna Grant (see above)
  2.    
    Logan Ramsay and wife, Gwyneth (#5)
    1.              
      Molly (adopted)
    2.             
      Maggie (adopted)
    3.              
      Sorcha
    4.             
      Gavin
  3.    
    Micheil Ramsay and wife, Diana (#6)
    1.              
      David
  4.    
    Avelina Ramsay (Book #8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Autumn, 1260s Scotland

 

Dusk had descended, and Jennie Grant grabbed at her hair, twisting, tugging, and pulling it in an attempt to shake the pain from her head, but to no avail. She ached from the senseless violence, the constant blood, and the unending number of warriors who had passed in front of her over the last few days, many of them carried by friends because they could not move on their own.

Jennie and her brother’s wife, Caralyn, had set up a chamber off the great hall of the Grant keep to handle injuries from the latest skirmishes in the upper Highlands. Jennie spent most of her time here, tending wounds and stitching flesh whenever necessary. She was overwhelmed. There were so many horrible injuries that when it came time for sleep, she could not bring herself to rest. She knew the wailing would continue to assault her senses well into the night. The dreams had tormented her since the fighting began, and they made even her waking moments a nightmare.

“Jennie, why don’t you go to bed, lass?” her brother, Brodie, asked.

“I cannot. I will revisit these horrors in my mind all night long.”

Inga came over and wrapped her arms around Jennie. “Many thanks for saving my husband, Jennie. I would die without him. Our laddies would be so traumatized without their da.”

Jennie hugged Inga, then gave her a gentle push so she could weave around her. “I must see how Nicol is faring.”

“No, lass. He’ll be fine till morn. ‘Tis time to seek your rest.” Her brother grasped her shoulder.

But Brodie’s stern look did not sway her. She brushed past him, her skirts billowing behind her, not stopping until she reached the side of Nicol’s bed, arranged near three others presently resting. After sitting on the stool beside him, she set the back of her palm against his forehead. His body still raged with fever, attempting to fight off the trauma from the leg wound he’d acquired fighting in a valley south of them. Jennie had drained the pus out, freeing the foul-smelling liquid from his body into a basin, and Nicol had yelped, his fists swinging haphazardly—his first reaction in the two days since he had been brought back and stitched up by one of the three Grant healers. Jennie, Robbie’s wife, Caralyn, and one of the men oft helped with warrior injuries.

Inga wrung her hands as she stood behind Jennie, awaiting her opinion of the fate of her husband. Jennie could tell how much they relied on her. ‘Struth was, she did not know much more than they did.

And she was tired of it. She wanted to rest her head in her hands and sob, but she knew that would only upset Inga, and she loved the other woman like a sister. She and Brodie’s wife, Celestina, were the best of friends.

“Inga, I think he feels a bit cooler. Continue to mop his forehead with the clean cloth, give him broth if he will take it.”

“He fights with the covers. He wants naught on.”

“Then let it be. Best that he be comfortable, but let him know that you’re here and counting on him to get better. Bring the lads in to sit with him for a while.”

Inga nodded and swung around to do what Jennie bade her to do, but then paused. “Brodie, sit by his side for a wee bit, please? In case he starts swinging again.”

“Aye, I will stay. Take your time. I’ll tell an auld story or two while you fetch the laddies. He’s a strong warrior, Inga, that husband of yours. He’s been by my side for many years, and I know him well. He’ll fight for you. You shall see.”

Inga hugged Brodie Grant and shuffled out the door, her face grim.

Brodie moved behind his sister and grasped her shoulders, forcing her to stand. “Lass, I’ll do that. You need to rest. Lie down on the pallet by the door and close your eyes for a wee bit. You’re almost swaying on your feet. Caralyn will handle the newest injuries.”

Hearing someone approach, she stood and turned, expecting to see Caralyn. She froze mid-motion. Just the person she had hoped to see stood not ten feet away from her. The large form of her brother, Laird Alexander Grant, filled the doorway, blocking anyone from moving in or out. The brother who had been like a father to her stood there shaking, sweat pouring down his brow, his hand always at the ready to grab his giant sword.

“Alex? Are you injured?” She glanced from head to toe, but saw no fresh blood.

He shook his head. “I’m fine. How many?”

“How many what?” she crossed her arms in front of her as she moved toward the door.

“How many dead, lass?”

His eyes bore into hers, his entire countenance casting the intimidating laird aura over the room. Her brother, renowned as one of the best swordsmen in all of the Highlands, renowned for fighting the Norse and sending them scurrying back to their ships at Largs, could frighten almost anyone.

Anyone but her. “Two dead, Alex. Many injured…so many I am unable to count. This must stop.” Her hands settled on her hips as she moved closer.

“Jennie, I’m exhausted. I will discuss this with you on the morrow. I need rest.”

“On the morrow?” she barked. “And how many more injured will I have to treat by then? How many more widows must I hold up after informing them of their husband’s death? This is too much. You cannot continue to do this to your clan. ‘Tis wrong.” Her fingernails bit into her palms.

Brodie’s gentle hands descended on her trembling shoulders once more. “Jennie, do not speak to our laird so rudely.”

She jerked away from Brodie’s grip. “I’ll speak to our laird any way I wish. You are no better than a murderer, Alex. A murderer! Our men are dying out there.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed. She could see the tic in his jaw, a sure sign of the fury that he usually kept controlled around her. “I did not start this fight,” he responded through clenched teeth.

“Then who did?” She glowered at her brother, wanting him to listen to her. Just once, just this once, could he not back off from being the powerful Alex Grant?

He hissed through clenched teeth. “I know not who began this foolish warring, but I refuse to leave our neighboring clans defenseless. The attackers wear no tartans and they claim no clan. They wreak havoc wherever they go, and I mean to stop them, Jennie, whether you approve or not. I will not desert our neighbors.” He gave her his back and stalked toward the great hall.

One of the men groaned, and she turned to check on him but he’d just rolled over in his pallet.

She raced to the door and held onto the two sides of the frame. “Alex! You must be the peacemaker. Stop hurting, stop fighting.” Tears slid down her cheeks as she braced herself with both hands. “It
must
stop.” Her voice dropped to almost a whisper as sobs overtook her small frame. “I cannot listen to the wailing any longer. I simply cannot. Please, Alex—” she crumpled toward the floor, “—no more.”

Brodie picked her up in his arms and settled her on the empty pallet, covering her with a worn plaid. She rolled to her side and closed her eyes, wishing the specter of death would leave her alone.

She had to make Alex stop.

***

Aedan Cameron paced back and forth in his father’s solar, unable to come up with a solution to his problem. His father was near death, and no healer had been able to fix him. Ranulf Cameron, Chieftain of the Camerons, would soon die, leaving his son to face the one thing he had dreaded his entire life.

He would soon become clan chieftain. Aedan Cameron would be forced to step into his sire’s shoes and run the dwindling Cameron clan. Their holdings included the most beautiful double abbey in the Highlands, Lochluin Abbey, home to both monks and nuns, and they were rarely attacked since Highlanders held the religious in such high esteem.

The abbey was not of import at the moment, but his father’s waning health was. His sire could
not
die. Some memory tickled at the back of his mind—another healer, someone they had not yet brought to see his father—but it refused to surface.

The door burst open and his friend, Drew Menzie, flew in. “There is little time left. You should speak to your sire before he leaves this land.”

Aedan waved his hand in dismissal. “I’ve spoken to him many times since he has taken ill. I know his wishes. But I fear I’m missing something. Where else have we encountered a healer? There was someone else, I swear it, I just cannot recall…”

“Other than the lass who shot you in the arse and claimed to be a healer, I know of none. You have searched all of the Highlands for healers, and each has told you the same thing. Naught. Your sire continues to worsen, retreating into himself, more and more as each day passes.” Drew scowled at him.

Aedan stopped in the middle of the room. “Aye! ‘Tis the one I’ll seek.” His finger brushed his bottom lip, a smile breaking out across his face. “Aye, the one near Lothian. Her brother chased us with his destrier. ‘Twas a few years ago. What was his name?”

“Grant. ‘Tis all I remember.”

“Aye.” His finger pointed toward the ceiling. “Aye, Alexander Grant. ‘Let it be known that you have just met the sister of Laird Alexander Grant.’ Does that not sound correct to you?”

“Aye. ‘Tis exactly what he said, you have quite a memory. He was furious because you had touched his sister.”

“And now we have something to do.” A smile crossed his features, unbidden. Grant’s sister, whatever her name was, held considerable beauty in his mind, and he would enjoy bringing her to his keep for a while. “We’re bound for the Grant land. I must bring her here to heal my sire.”

A knock echoed through the chamber. “Enter.”

“Aedan, your sire asks for you.” His mother, Morag, stood in the doorway.

“I’ll speak to him, but then we go to the Grant clan to seek another healer.”

Morag kneaded her hands in front of her, her brow furrowed. “To what end, Aedan? They have all told us there is naught that can be done. Whatever illness he bears, it has been a slow progression, robbing him of his zest for life. The fluid no longer leaves his body. He puffs up more every day. There is no hope, ‘tis our job to see to his comfort on his last days.” She swiped at the tears misting in her eyes.

“Come, Mama. I’ll walk with you. But you’ll see when I return. She’s a young healer, unlike the old crones who have told us nothing and stolen our hope.” He escorted his mother up the stairs to his father’s chamber, leaving Drew behind.

Before they stepped into the sickroom, Morag turned to her son. “Aedan, nay. Let him go. ‘Tis his time, we both know it. You cannot postpone the inevitable. You will be chieftain within a sennight.”

Aedan stared at his mother, willing her to be wrong. He had no desire to be chieftain, and did not have the strength, courage, or wisdom to be a leader. The clan’s future would be dire under his leadership, he was sure of it. Why could his blessed mother not see this?

Her hand moved up to cup his cheek, and she brought him back to focus. “Aedan, you will be a fine chieftain. Stop punishing yourself for your ways. Your father supported your quest for knowledge. You can do both.”

Unable to hide his fears, he said, “Aye, he did. But what will become of my quest now? How can I continue to seek the answers to my questions if I must lead the clan? How will I discover the true purpose of life, or what the stars mean, or why men must always fight?” Panic infused his body at the mere thought. “If he could just hold on for a few years, Ruari could take charge. He will make a fine chieftain.”

“My son, your sire cannot wait, and your brother is too young at eleven summers. Ruari will be at your side forever, do not fear.”

She pushed on the door, and Aedan stepped inside the dusty chamber, his nose recoiling from the smell of death inside. “Da?”

He stepped to the bed, and his sire’s hand reached out in the dark, finally connecting with his hand. “My son, promise me you will lead our clan,” he said in a ragged voice.

Aedan held his breath, not wanting to make that promise, desperate to think of some acceptable alternative. No, he could not be chieftain; he would fail miserably.

His father’s eyes cracked opened, and he pleaded with him. “Please, Aedan. Promise me. I must have your word.”

Aedan sighed and fell onto the stool beside the bed. There was no alternative. “I promise, Father. I will lead the clan upon your death.”

“Thank you, my son. I will be watching. You will do a fine job. And don’t worry. You’ll still be able to continue your search for knowledge. If ‘tis in my power, I’ll send someone to help you.” His father’s eyes closed, and a few moments later, he released his hand. The life force had left him.

Aedan was now Chieftain of the Camerons.

BOOK: The Brightest Star in the Highlands: Jennie and Aedan (Clan Grant Series Book 7)
7.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
The Forgotten Queen by D. L. Bogdan
Exit Wound by Michael Marano
The Bond That Ties Us by Christine D'Abo
Where Secrets Lie by Donna Marie Lanheady