"I wasn't being insolent," Jamie countered. "I just want to get this straight in my inferior mind. Tel me this, please," she added. "What are my duties as your wife? I would like to begin as soon as possible."
"You don't have any duties."
She reacted as though he'd just struck her. Alec saw the flash of true anger in her eyes when she took a step away from him. He didn't know what to make of such an odd reaction. Didn't she know how considerate he was being?
He guessed she didn't know when she gave him yet another insolent remark.
"Every wife has duties, even those with opinions."
"By Scotland's law or by yours?"
"Mine," he answered. "You'l rid yourself of those cal uses on your palms, Jamie. You will not be a slave here."
She let out an outraged gasp. "Are you suggesting I was a slave back home?"
"You were a slave."
"I wasn't," she returned in a near shout. "Am I so unimportant to you that you won't let me find my place here, Alec?"
He didn't answer her, for in truth he didn't know what in God's name she was ranting about.
Angus was awakened by a hard command from his laird, then questioned in rapid Gaelic. The injured warrior's mind was surprisingly clear. Though his voice was weak, he was able to answer Alec's questions in a concise manner. When his laird finished his inquisition, Angus managed a smile and asked if he might go along on the hunt.
Alec denied the offer with a grin. Jamie heard him tel the soldier that as soon as he was feeling better, he'd have him moved to his own cottage, where his wife could look after him.
He started to leave the hall without speaking to his wife again, but Jamie chased after him. "Alec?"
"What is it?" he snapped, turning around to confront her again.
"In England it's proper conduct for a husband to give his wife a morning kiss," she lied. She'd made up that dictate but felt certain he didn't know that.
"We're not in England."
"It's proper everywhere," she muttered.
"It's proper here when the wife wears her husband's plaid."
"So that's the way of it, is it?"
"My hearing is quite sound, wife. You needn't raise your voice to me."
Alec kept his expression hard. It was a difficult effort. Her disappointment was obvious. She wanted him to touch her. Alec decided he had just acquired the edge he needed over her. He didn't feel the least bit remorseful using their physical attraction to each other to his own advantage and was actually disappointed with himself for not having thought of it sooner. She'd be wearing his plaid by the end of the week, he estimated, especial y if he refused to touch her in the meantime.
"Alec, where may I keep my coins safe?" she asked.
"There's a box on the mantel behind you," he answered. "Put your shil ings with the other coins if you want."
"May I borrow some of your coins if I have need?" she asked.
"I don't care," he told her over his shoulder.
She frowned at Alec's back, irritated because he hadn't even bothered to say good-bye, then wondered what he was up to when he reached up and claimed his sword from the wall .
"Do you know where he's going, Father?" she asked after Alec had left the hall .
"Hunting," Father Murdock answered as he resumed his seat next to Angus.
"But not for game for our supper?"
"Nay, lass. He hunts the men who did this to Angus. When he finds them, they won't come away so fortunate."
Jamie knew such retaliation was considered honorable by a warrior's standards. Stil , she didn't like it.
Not at all . Violence only gave birth to more of the same, didn't it? It was yet another topic she and her husband were never going to agree on.
Jamie let out a resigned sigh. "I shal go and fetch some more coins for you," she told the priest. "God only knows how many indulgences that man's going to need by day's end."
Father Murdock held his smile. He wondered if Alec realized how well he'd chosen. "There are going to be fires aplenty blazing in our mountains," he told Angus, ignoring the fact that the warrior appeared to be sleeping again.
"'Tis the truth you speak," Angus whispered.
"Did you listen to the way Alec and his bride shouted at each other? If your eyes had been open, you would have seen the sparks."
"What think you of your savior, Angus?"
"She'll make him crazed."
Angus nodded. "Aye, it's time. The Kincaid has had enough pain."
"He doesn't know what to make of her. I can tel by the way he watches her."
"Is she going to give you a coin every time Alec irritates her?"
"I believe so."
Father Murdock let out a rich chuckle as he slapped his knee. "She's going to have a time of it fitting into our way of life. Yet it's going to be a joy for this old man to watch."
Jamie returned to the priest, handed him two more coins, and asked him why he was smiling.
"I was thinking of all the changes you're going to have to make, lass," the priest admitted. "I know it won't be easy on you, but in time you'l come to love this clan as much as I do."
"Have you considered, Father, that it just might be the clan making all these changes?" Jamie asked, her eyes alight with mischief.
The priest thought she was jesting with him. "I fear you've set yourself an impossible goal," he told her with a snort of enjoyment.
"How impossible, do you suppose?" she asked. "As impossible as eating a giant bear all by myself?"
"Aye, just as impossible."
"I could do it."
"How?" the priest asked, fal ing nicely into her trap.
"One bite at a time."
Father Murdock slapped his knee again and let out a whoop of laughter, which was followed by a fit of coughing. Jamie hurried to her bedroom area, mixed the foul-smel ing salve she'd promised him, and went back to his side. "You must wait an hour or two for this to settle before you rub it on your chest, Father."
The priest accepted her offering with a frown. "It smel s like the dead, lass."
"The smel isn't important, Father. I promise it will help your cough."
"I believe you, Jamie."
"Father? Do you think Alec would mind if I had a look upstairs?"
"Of course not, lass. This is your home now."
"Are the rooms occupied?"
The priest shook his head.
"Then I should be able to move my things up to one of the rooms, shouldn't I?"
"You're wanting to move your… Lass, Alec won't like you leaving him."
"It's Alec I'm thinking about," Jamie countered. "There isn't any privacy down here, Father. I'm sure he'l be much more comfortable in one of the rooms upstairs. You'l put the question to him for me, won't you?"
He couldn't refuse her request. Lady Jamie had the most enchanting smile. "I'l ask," he promised.
Father Murdock was content to sit by Angus's side and rest. He was almost asleep when the screech of metal scraping against stone drew his attention. He turned toward the noise and saw Lady Jamie struggling with a large chest. She was pushing the piece of furniture out of the first bedroom at the top of the stairs.
The priest hurried across the hall and up the steps. "What are you trying to do, Jamie?" he asked.
"I thought I'd use the front bedroom, Father," Jamie answered. "It has a nice, wide window."
"But why are you moving this chest?"
"It takes up too much room," Jamie interrupted. "Don't strain yourself, Father. I'm strong enough to move this by myself."
The priest ignored her boast and put his back to the chore of getting the trunk into the second room.
"You should have emptied it before you moved it," he stated as an afterthought.
Jamie shook her head. "It wouldn't have been right to look inside. It isn't my property, and everyone's entitled to his privacy."
"The chest belonged to Helena," Father Murdock announced. "I suppose you could cal it yours now, Jamie."
Before she could respond to that announcement, the priest turned and started out the door. "I'd best get back down to Angus. I'm supposed to be watching out for him until Gavin brings Elizabeth back."
"Thank you for your help," Jamie called after him.
The lass was taking forever, Father Murdock decided almost an hour later. He kept looking up at the bedroom, wondering what she was up to.
When Elizabeth came back into the great hall , Father Murdock decided to see what had Jamie so occupied.
She was stil in the second bedroom. Two candles had been lit, giving the room a soft glow. Lady Jamie was kneeling in front of the chest. She was just closing the lid when Father Murdock walked inside.
"Did you find anything useful?" the priest asked.
He didn't realize she was crying until she turned to look up at him. "What is it, lass? What's upset you?"
"I'm being foolish," Jamie whispered. "She's dead now and I didn't even know her, Father, yet I'm crying as though she were my very own sister. will you tel me about Helena?"
"Alec should tel you," Father Murdock said.
"Please, Father," Jamie begged. "I want to know what happened. I'm sure Alec didn't kil her."
"Good Lord, no," the priest agreed. "Where did you hear that talk?"
"Helena kil ed herself, Jamie. She jumped off the ridge above the pasture."
"It couldn't have been an accident? She didn't fal ?"
"No, it wasn't an accident. She was seen."
Jamie shook her head. "I don't understand, Father. Was she very unhappy here?"
The priest bowed his head. "She must have been terribly unhappy, Jamie, but she hid her feelings well .
We didn't watch out for her the way we should have, I now realize. Both Annie and Edith think she planned to kil herself from the moment she was wed to Alec."
"Does Alec believe this?" Jamie asked.
"I would guess so."
"Her death must have hurt him terribly."
Father Murdock didn't comment on that statement, but he believed she was right. The fact that Alec wouldn't discuss Helena was proof the topic was too tender stil .
"Father, why would a woman who is contemplating suicide bother to bring all her cherished possessions to her husband's home? She even packed baby clothes," Jamie continued. "And beautiful linens too.
Don't you think that's odd for someone—"
"She wasn't thinking clearly," Father Murdock countered.
Jamie shook her head. "No, Father. I don't think she kil ed herself. I'm sure it was an accident."
"You have a tender heart, lass, and if it makes you feel better to believe that's how Helena died, then I'l agree with you."
He helped Jamie to her feet. She blew out the candles and walked by the priest's side back down the stairs. "I'l pray for her soul every night, Father," she promised.
A servant came rushing into the hall , spotted Jamie, and called out, "Your sister's here, milady."
Jamie clasped Father Murdock's hand. "It must be Mary cal ing on me," she explained to the priest. "Wil you excuse me, please?"
She was halfway out the door before Father Murdock nodded permission. "I'l bring Mary inside to meet you," she called over her shoulder.
Jamie hurried on outside, a smile of greeting on her face. The minute she caught sight of her sister, however, her smile evaporated. Mary was in tears. Jamie glanced around to see where Daniel was, then realized her sister was all alone.
"How did you ever find your way here, Mary?" she asked after giving her sister a proper hug.
"You're the one who gets lost all the time, Jamie, not me," Mary told her.
"I never get lost," Jamie countered. "Hush your weeping now." She noticed several Kincaid soldiers watching them. "Come, we'l take a nice walk so we may speak in private. You must tel me what has you so upset."
Jamie tugged her sister along the path down to the lower bailey. "Three of Daniel's men showed me the way here," Mary explained when she'd regained her composure. "I lied to them, Jamie. I told them I had Daniel's permission to come cal ing."
"Oh, Mary, you shouldn't have done that," Jamie said. "Why didn't you just tel Daniel you wanted to see me?"
"You can't tel that man anything," Mary muttered. She lifted the hem of her yel ow bliaut and mopped the comers of her eyes. "I hate him, Jamie. I've run away."
"No, you cannot mean what you say."
"Don't sound so horrified, sister. I hate him, I tel you.
He's cruel and mean. When I tel you what happened, I swear you'l hate him, too."
They reached the gap in the wall . Jamie and her sister sat down on the low stone ledge. "Al right, Mary, tel me what happened," Jamie instructed.
"We're quite alone here."
"It's such an embarrassment," Mary warned. "But you're the only one I dare talk about this to, sister."
"Yes?" Jamie prodded.
"Daniel didn't demand that I give myself to him."
The sentence fel between them. Jamie kept waiting for Mary to say more, and Mary kept waiting for Jamie's reaction.
"Did he give you a reason?"
"He did," Mary answered. "And at first I thought he was being most considerate. He said he would give me time to get to know him."
"That was very considerate of him," Jamie admitted. She frowned, wondering why Alec hadn't shown such compassion with her. Then she remembered Alec didn't have any compassion to show anyone.
Mary burst into fresh tears. "I thought so, as I've told you. Then he told me he was most unhappy with me because I made you protect me when those men attacked us. He actually thought I should have shielded you ."
"Because you're the baby."
"Didn't you explain that I was far better trained than you in the skil s—"