Read A Faerie Fated Forever Online
Authors: Mary Anne Graham
Tags: #clan, #laird, #curse, #sensual, #faerie flag, #skye, #highlander, #paranormal, #sixth sense, #regency, #faerie, #london, #marriage mart, #scottish, #witch, #fairy, #highland, #fairy flag
Mary Anne Graham
A FAERIE FATED
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All other characters and all incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Copyright © 2009 by Mary Anne Graham
A gaggle of Maclee warriors lurched haphazardly behind Nial, their mostly sober laird. The annual fair on the Isle of Skye hadn't spawned excitement enough for this group so they headed for a secluded area where they could brew their own - thanks to the antics of “Heather the Hag.”
The girl followed their ambling path, ducking and hiding hither and yon. Currently, she crouched rather poorly behind a pair of barrels a few feet away. The cap of her granny bonnet poked over the flat top like a wild turkey's tail feathers. Every so often, she popped up to peek at Nial, each time wearing the same expression as a priest at the pearly gates.
“Shit,” said the object of all the attention, “can’t she just go away and join some friends or something? Maybe she could find a lad to show her what to do with all that emotion.”
“Join some friends? What friends?” chortled Braden.
“She has friends,” said the laird, almost in defense of the lass. “I’ve seen them.”
“Likely of the sort who want to fare well in comparison. The ugliest duckling would seem a swan standing next to her,” Braden replied.
“She’s a duck all right,” Calum agreed. “The oddest duck of them all.” He took a long swig of his brew before he said, “Heather is a duck destined to quack alone.”
Nial snapped, “What the hell does that mean?”
Fletcher swayed. “Would you quack with her? If you share her longing, audience or no, I bet she’ll quack with you right now.”
“She’s not,” the Maclee gritted between clenched teeth, “exactly my type.”
“Your type?” Fletcher asked. “Ahh, she’s not the cream of the crop, the fairest of the fair. Nothing less will do for you, right?”
“Now, Fletch,” Calum said, grinning, “we all know the curse.”
“Remind us, oh great one,” the other man encouraged wickedly.
“Recite the curse, recite the curse!” Chanted Braden and a barely conscious Grant in unison.
“Stop it,” hissed Maclee, although he knew it was futile to try to halt the script. It varied very little and always got a rise out of him. This time, however, Heather MacIver lurked nearby, surely quivering where she crouched. Her presence and the potent alcohol consumed in vast quantities by his clansmen shed new light on the old drama, making him distinctly uneasy.
Casting a pointed smile at his laird, Calum darted two long strides and leapt atop one of the barrels, facing forward. Outwardly, he appeared oblivious to the lass just approaching marriageable age who shut her lashes to shield her odd eyes, shrank inside her sack du jour, shook from head to toe, and prayed for escape.
The ringmaster cleared his throat, took a heady swallow of his whiskey and spoke in the tone of a chieftain about to lead his clan into battle. “My friends, Nial, Laird of the Clan Maclee, labors under a curse pronounced long ago by the King of the Faeries.”
“Recite the curse, recite the curse!” chanted the others as Nial shrugged and crossed his arms. He’d have walked away and left the drunks to their play, if not for that dratted unsettled feeling that grew worse instead of better. If he left, he would abandon the lass. Some would say the little spy deserved what she got. He'd like to say that too, but for a reason he couldn’t explain, he would not leave her to the taunts and games of his drunken friends.
“Recite the curse, you say?” Calum drew out the moment when the eyes of all rightfully fell upon him.
After long moments when Laird Maclee's discomfort grew obvious even to his sotted companions, Calum spoke. “Lads, Ian Maclee – Nial’s Great Grandfather many times removed, fell in love with the daughter of the Faerie King who disapproved of the liaison but gave in to his daughter’s tearful pleas. He allowed the couple a handfast marriage. After the year and a day passed, the lass had to return to the land of faerie. We know what those two were up to, because a bairn appeared nine months later.”
“We all know the tale,” Nial grumbled. “Why repeat it again?”
Calum ignored the protest. “On the appointed day, awash in tears at leaving her mate and newborn babe, the princess forlornly left with the escort, a band of faerie knights. Her
spouse raised nary a protest, much less a sword. Some months later, a loud party at the keep lured away the pair of nurses. Their abandoned charge, the forsaken bairn, wailed loudly. Wee Ian's cries alerted the faerie princess who secretly returned to comfort her child. The princess swaddled Ian in a cloth and crooned a lullaby. The tune called the swaddling cloth a faerie flag and said 'twas a charm to protect the clan when its laird can’t do his job.”
“Damn you, shut up!” Maclee insisted.
“How did Ian repay such bounty? He married a lass for the coin she brought which royally pissed off the Faerie King, who appeared at the reception to pronounce a curse:
From this day forward, every laird of the Clan Maclee shall be more handsome and more irresistible to the lasses than the one before him. Ladies shall chase him and try to trap him, but he must not fall prey to their wiles, for he shall fall in love only once. His faerie fated love shall set the claws of passion to his manhood, the need to possess to his soul, and the magic of love to his heart. If he marries another he will live a wretched existence beset by unsatisfied desire for the love he cannot have and cannot forget for all of his mortal days.”
Calum turned and gestured. “So tell us, Laird Maclee, have you found your faerie fated love? Do you still face that wretched existence if you are caught by another?”
“This drama grows old,” Nial replied. “Surely we would all enjoy a dram of whiskey with a willing lass on our laps. Why do we not adjourn?”
For a single moment, before he shielded it, an evil sparkle lit Calum’s gaze. “Leave? Now? When we have a wench here, amongst us? And not just any wench, 'tis Heather, the only child of the Laird of the Clan MacIver. She is single and a most suitable mate for our unwed friend. The answer to the question he avoided must be no. He has not yet found his faerie fated love. Has he considered this lass?”
Calum jumped down and caught the girl as she turned to flee. He lifted her struggling form and hauled her towards Nial. “For a girl who follows my friend around with her heart in her eyes, you seem remarkably unwilling to have your all too obvious dreams come true.”
Calum stopped a short step away from his laird as he continued to lecture the quivering girl. "You watch and yearn but you've never dared venture within touching distance. It all starts with a touch, lass. Why would you run from him now?"
When Heather gathered her nerve to speak terror threaded her voice, but the adoration in her demeanor belied her words. “Don’t be silly. I but paused for a private moment here where it wasn’t crowded and I ah...,” she stuttered, casting wild looks all around before pausing when Grant staggered, tripped over his own feet, and landed on his bum. “I became alarmed when I heard you approach. Yes, alarmed because I could tell you had all been drinking and are all clearly intoxicated.”
Nial could not allow even such a mild accusation to pass unchallenged. He said, with a quirk of his brow, “Indeed?”
“All but you,” she whispered.
He smiled in response to her admission, and a strange current passed between them. He refused to acknowledge it, much less examine it.
Abruptly, Calum unloaded Heather from his grasp, and tossed her into Nial’s arms. He caught her, still charged with that odd spark. His staff twitched at the sudden press of her generous breasts and he widened his stance. Unwisely and very nearly unwillingly, he put her down by sliding her against his body. As it passed, her nether regions snagged his stiffening member and he moved his hand to the lowest curve of her back. He thrust against her once and had drawn back to do it again when a howl of laughter brought him to his senses. Aroused by Heather the Hag? Surely not.
Seemingly amused by his friend’s visible dilemma, Calum said, “Laird, I believe your search has overlooked Miss MacIver altogether. I believe she thinks that she knows the answer to your quest. Tell me, could she be your faerie fated love?”
She spoke no denial of Calum’s words.
Nial stepped forward, telling himself he did it to cloak her trembling form with his protection. He had himself half convinced of the purity of his motives until a most impure twitch convinced him otherwise. If his one-eyed wonder worm had a mouth it would howl with laughter at the notion that returning to nestle against the curve of her ass had anything to do with nobility.
Cradling her even closer, Nial felt his solid protection penetrate her fear. He felt a lot more than that, wanted to penetrate a lot more than that, and he was too randy a bastard not to be fully aware of the biological truth. His staff stretched and warmed, straining the fabric of his pants, as he stood behind her, pressing and releasing ever so subtly. His need for the homely little wren throbbed with a ferocity that left him light-headed.
Into the charged and uncertain silence, a new voice fell. “Indeed, Nial. Calum asks a good question. It appears that now would be an excellent time for you to consider my daughter as a bride.” Laird MacIver, Heather’s father, pushed aside jeering onlookers to clear a path for his lady wife.
“In view of the circumstances,” Lady Bonnie said, “my husband is correct.”
The presence of two old men standing at the MacIver's side told Nial he was cornered. They were elders of his clan, and they grinned broadly at the circumstances likely to prompt the union for which they had lobbied so persistently. A wedding between the heirs to these clans would promise a wealthy, secure future for all of Skye.
“What say you, Nial?” Laird MacIver asked, face to face with the other man.
“Under the circumstances," Nial began, wishing he knew how he intended to finish the sentence.
Heather tried to step away, but he held her tightly with arms that perversely slid higher, resting just below the generous curve of her breasts. His hands clenched at her sides as his palms itched with the need to cradle the weight burning his forearms. It took the full measure of his control to prevent himself from fondling her in full view of her parents and his clan elders who frothed with eagerness to spring the trap he could never step into. He shook his head to try to clear away the layers of contradictions.
Heather faced her father. “Nial hasn’t done anything.”
“There is much he hasn’t done,” Laird MacIver replied, raising a brow at the force he had to exert to wrench his daughter from the young laird, who resisted his efforts.
The tug of war ended when Carrick MacIver quietly inquired, “Nial?”
Reality returned. He ordered himself to let go immediately. Instead, he closed his eyes and thrust- not once but twice- before he could force himself to let his arms fall away.
“Heather, go with your mother,” Carrick instructed. After a single glance backward, the girl walked through the crowd that jeered no longer. Carrick waited until the ladies left, before he turned back to the young laird. Nial held himself stiffly to counter his insane urge to follow Heather the Hag. What had possessed him?
“Laird Maclee?” he demanded.
Nial watched her swaying hips until the crowd swallowed her, wishing all the while that he understood why it felt so wrong to watch her walk away. It was a long moment before one of the elders cleared his throat and Nial heard Carrick’s question play back in his head. “I won’t be forced,” he said in reply. “As Heather said, I didn’t do anything.”
“There is much you didn’t do, Laird Maclee.” The other man slowly swept his eyes downward. Nial stood haughtily, giving no visible evidence of his internal struggle to keep his hands by his sides instead of allowing them to cover his arousal like an untried youth. Carrick’s eyes reached the betraying bulge and lingered. Nial felt every set of eyes in the crowd fix on that portion of his anatomy. “There is also much you did,” the other laird said after an uncomfortably long moment.
Nial imagined himself facing his father’s fate, wed to a woman who hated him for his inability to hide his love and longing for another lady. He saw the corner and his impulse to push back flashed in his eyes, before he forced himself to respond as the laird who didn’t want civil war on his beloved island. “I can make no promises. However, I will invite your family for a visit to Kilcuillin at a suitable time when Heather and I can become acquainted. More than that, I will not accept.”
The elders held their breaths for the response. Finally, MacIver nodded. “I will await the invitation.” The other laird turned and left with the chattering MacIver elders following on his heels.
Nial turned his back on the crowd and spotted a young barmaid, who winked at him. He strode forward, took her hand, and headed for the wooded area a short distance away. The crowd watched their exit, and their laughter swelled as Nial pulled the wench along.