Read Lady Miracle Online

Authors: Susan King

Tags: #Romance, #General, #FIC027050, #Historical, #Fiction

Lady Miracle (6 page)

BOOK: Lady Miracle
3.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

She would have to help herself now to make a new life. She found the silver box that contained Gavin’s last letter. She tilted the parchment page toward the candlelight and squinted at the French words, shaped in Gavin’s precise writing hand. His calm personality seemed to exist in those small letters, quiet and comforting and capable.

Quickly scanning the letter, she read again his mention of the captain of Glas Eilean, Ranald MacSween, who had refused to give up his position. Gavin had sent men there by sea to take over the fortress until Michaelmas married. But his sergeant had been killed in a battle at sea below the cliffs of Glas Eilean, and the rest of his men had retreated.

“I have sent word to Ranald MacSween to abandon the castle,” Gavin wrote, “or I will come there myself with a contingent of men to dissuade him. I am not free to do so just now, for the king commands me elsewhere. But I pray that this man understands that the wrath of his king will turn toward him if he refuses me access to my sister’s castle.”

She gripped the page and read on. She did not want Gavin to risk his life over some remote castle, and its more remote role in her life. She would give away that castle if she could, for it only caused men to fight and die, and at the least made strangers hungry to marry her just to gain control over its cliffs, which faced the southern approach to the Isles.

Running her gaze down the lines, she searched for some hint of how to reach Gavin. But he only said that he was still in the borderlands with the king and would not be free to ride to Glas Eilean for weeks, perhaps months.

Her fingers trembled as she replaced the letter in the casket and closed the lid of the great wooden chest. She stood, her back to the open window. The chill night breeze felt crisp, cutting through the fog of fear and confusion in her mind.

She undid the linen wimple and veil pinned around her head, with its pleats and snug chin covering that denoted her widowhood. Then she took off the gold brooch pinned to the shoulder of her surcoat. The piece was quite old, a beautiful circlet of knotwork gold with a straight cross pin, studded with small garnets and sapphires. Gavin and his wife Christian had found the brooch in a horde of ancient gold hidden deep inside Kilglassie Castle. She had treasured the pin since childhood as a symbol of home and safety and love, thinking of it as her own luck charm.

She sighed as she laid it down, thinking that the luck in the golden brooch would have to be quite strong to help her find the home and safety and acceptance she longed for in her life.

She slipped out of her black surcoat and black serge gown—common dress for a widow in Italy, though not so common here—and stood in her long-sleeved chemise of heavy, creamy silk, and her low leather boots. Each movement was deliberate and calm, as if this was any other night when she readied for a few hours’ rest after staying late in the ward.

But her heart beat in a heavy, panicked rhythm. She did not know what she should do on the morrow. She wanted to send word to Gavin as soon as she could, for she did not feel that she could stay here peacefully much longer. Perhaps she should send word to Kilglassie instead, and ask her mother to send a friend or a servant to come for her.

Striving to calm herself by focusing on one small task at a time, she undid the tousled braids pinned over her ears and combed her fingers through until her long tresses slipped, pale and sleek, over her shoulder.

Here, at the window.” The voice was deep and soft, the words Gaelic.

She jumped, deeply startled. Spinning, she saw a large shadow at the open window.

Diarmid Campbell, his head and broad shoulders framed by the simple arched window, looked at her in the moonlight.

“Michael,” he whispered. “Come here.”


“What are you doing here?” she whispered. She went to the window and swung the shutter wide. Her window faced the back of the hospital enclosure, on a ground level, so that Diarmid had no difficulty looking inside. She scowled at him.

“I wanted to talk to you,” he answered, with the same calm manner he had displayed in the courtyard. Then, too, he had made an outrageous statement as if it was ordinary.

She gaped at him. “In the middle of the night?”

“Go to the door,” he murmured, and was gone. She leaned forward to peer through the window, and saw him disappear around the corner of the building.

She ran to the door and waited, hands pressed against the wood, her heart thumping. Within moments she heard a soft knock. She unlatched the door and opened it a crack.

“Let me in,” Diarmid said.

“Be gone,” she hissed. “You are mad!”

, I will not harm you. I need to speak with you.”

“Speak through the door. Or go back to the window.”

“Will you have everyone listen, then?” he asked. “The monks are on their way back from chapel.”

Sighing in exasperation, sensing his sincerity and recalling that he was a friend of her brother, she let him enter the room. His wide shoulders and wider stance seemed to fill the small cell as she shut the door behind him.

Aware that she was clad only in the silk chemise, she folded her arms over her breasts and watched him uncertainly, suddenly afraid, wishing she had not let him in so quickly. But impulse and a tendency to trust too easily had always been flaws in her character.

He moved toward her. She stepped back. “What do you want?”

“I want you to come with me.”

She nearly laughed, not in mirth but in frustration at his bold stubbornness. “I have already refused you. And I have decided to leave here as soon as my brother can fetch me home. I will be going to Kilglassie, not the western Highlands.”

“I can offer you an escort.”

She lifted her brows, intrigued. She had not thought of that. If she could leave with him, she would be home in a matter of days. “If you mean that, wait until I send word to Gavin and let him know where I am going, and with whom.”

“I mean to leave now.”

“In the middle of the night like a thief?”

“Just in a hurry to be home,” he answered. He kept his hands fisted on his plaid-draped hips, his wide-spaced legs knotted with muscle in the dim light. He reached past her, grabbed her black gown, and tossed it to her. “Get dressed. I have decided to take you out of here.”

She clasped the woolen garment to her chest. “Take yourself out of here—
!” She glanced toward the door and saw the other Highlander peering around the edge. She glared at him. He blinked at her and at Diarmid, who growled low, and then the man closed the door hastily. “Both of you be gone from here!”

“I heard what the prioress and priest said to you today,” he began. He tipped his head to look down at her. “There is trouble here for you. They do not care about your welfare.”

“And you do?”

“I do,” he said firmly. “And I offer you a chance to do as much healing as you like. Go on, get dressed.” He gestured.

She lifted her chin defiantly. “I will not go with you.”

He folded his arms, and let his glance travel slowly down her body and up to her face. “Will you not? Your brother would be glad to know I took you out of a situation where people mean you harm. You are not safe here.”

“I am hardly safer with a lunatic Highland man!”

“Well,” he drawled, “if you wish a hearing and the threat of excommunication, then certainly stay.”

He could not know the effect those words had on her. She felt an immediate urge to run out of here with him. But she only shot him a cool, silent glare and yanked the heavy gown hastily over her head, thrusting her arms through the sleeves. He handed her the surcoat and she pulled that on too, and turned to find the golden brooch and pin it to her shoulder. Then she picked up her wimple and began to fold it over her hair.

” he said, a soft reproval. “Do not cover your hair. Like moonlight, it is.”

She paused, startled by his surprisingly gentle words, then hastily draped and pinned the wimple and veil over her loose hair, then settled a band of braided black silk over the crown of her head before she faced him. “And what makes you think that I would leave with you?” she asked, determined not to give in so easily—although she was sorely tempted to agree soon.

He slid her a glance without comment, then crossed the small room in two long steps and lifted her hooded black cloak from a wooden peg on the wall. He returned and dropped it over her shoulders, and stood so close that she felt his warmth in the dark, heard his quiet breath.

“How will you get word to your half brother if you stay?” he asked, keeping a hand on her shoulder as if to escort her out of here momentarily.

She stared up at him. “You bring word to Gavin. You know where he is. I will wait here.”

“Come with me.”

“I will not leave in the night like a criminal.”

“So would you stay here and be accused like one?” She blinked up at him, disconcerted by the truth in his words, and uncertain how to answer. “Michael.” His fingers pressed her shoulder. Her heart thumped at the vivid contact of his warm fingers. “Listen to me. This is a hospital and a house of charity. But the people here suspect you already. If they discover what you can do—” He drew a breath. “Come with me.”

She watched him, held there by his light, gentle touch. He stood over her like a tall, broad, commanding shadow. Moonlight cascaded over his shoulders and glinted through his tangled dark hair. He seemed somehow unreal, a handsome, magical warrior conjured from moonlight and wishes to save her.

“Michael,” he murmured. “Come with me.”

The moment held like a spell. She did not answer, but looked away, breaking the lure of his touch and gaze. She feared he was right, yet fleeing with this wild Highlander was foolish. Sending for Gavin was the sensible course.

“I will stay,” she said finally. “Be gone.”

Diarmid sighed, half turning. Then he swore under his breath and spun, scooping her up and over his shoulder like a sack of beans. She gasped out as air was knocked from her lungs. As she regained her breath, he stepped to the door, kicked it open and strode outside. She gathered a scream and let it burst forth.

Just as she uttered the cry, the bell for lauds began to ring. She pummeled at Diarmid’s back as he carried her through the moonlit yard and around the corner of the building toward the low wall that surrounded the hospital enclosure. There he set her on her feet.

Before she could scream again, the other man grabbed her from behind and clapped a large hand over her mouth. “Hush now, Mistress Physician, if you will,” he whispered. “We do not mean to harm you.”

She struggled while he held her, and looked wildly past him to see Diarmid Campbell throw a length of thick wool over her head. Swathed in darkness, she grunted in surprise as Diarmid grabbed her up again and threw her over his shoulder.

She arched and kicked ineffectually at him. The arm around her legs fit like an iron band, and the hand that steadied her lower back was just as strong. Trussed upside down like a side of beef, struggling against the plaid cutting off fresh air, her efforts soon exhausted her.

A series of bumps and shifts told her that Diarmid had climbed the low stone wall and was striding down the slope away from the hospital. She struggled again, and screamed.

“Hush, girl,” he said. “Hush.”

She did not. She began to utter full-bodied curses in Arabic culled from Ibrahim’s servantman, whose oaths and condemnations, uttered to vendors, had taught her a great deal. She was surprised at her own vehemence.

“I do not understand what you say, girl,” Diarmid said, sounding amused, “but I can feel the sting of it.”

“I said you have the breath of a camel and the heart of a snake,” she hissed.

” he said, and strode on. She thought he laughed.

“I told you she makes me quake,” his friend said.

Diarmid began to lope, an easy running stride that pushed his shoulder into her midsection and forced the breath rhythmically out of her.

Within moments she felt herself lifted onto a saddle and seated sideways, her knee resting on the saddle pommel. The horse shifted beneath her as Diarmid secured her to the saddle with ties around her waist. Nearby, another horse shuffled and snorted as Diarmid mounted into the saddle.

When the other man yanked away part of the plaid, she gasped in fresh, cold air. Her horse stepped forward, led by the second man, who held the reins and walked ahead.

Twisting to look over her shoulder, she saw that they had descended the long slope and now crossed the valley. The eerie brilliance of the moonlit sky revealed the glittering river and steep hillsides that soared to each side.

Diarmid rode beside her, his profile clean and strong in the moonglow. She glared at him.

“I am not merchant’s goods to be stolen away!” she snapped.

His glance was sharp. “And I am no thief.”

“No thief, but a lunatic!”

The man who walked chuckled. ”
, that’s the physician’s word on you, Dunsheen,” he called over his shoulder. “I’ve told him the same myself, I have, Mistress Physician.”

“And you are no better, for helping him,” she said pointedly.

He looked hurt, tugged at the reins and walked on.

, go light on Mungo,” Diarmid said. “He only did what I asked.”

“You asked him to help steal me away like a sack of meal?”

“Well, some of it was his idea,” he admitted.

“Is he your brother?” she asked, watching Mungo’s long back and strong legs as he loped ahead of her horse, reins in hand.

“A cousin, and a good friend.”

“And a
whenever he needs one,” Mungo added.

She glanced at Diarmid. “Your runner? Are you a chieftain of the Campbells, to have your own ghillie?”

“A laird in Clan Diarmid, which some call Clan Campbell,” he explained. “Mungo’s MacArthur kin have long been ghillies for the lairds of Dunsheen. He carries messages for me, and accompanies me when I travel.”

“Then this is his horse I ride,” she said.

BOOK: Lady Miracle
3.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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