"I tried to explain but he wouldn't listen to me. And then he insulted me again. I admit I said some rather mean things to him. Stil …"
"What did he say?"
"He said I was probably just as cold as a fish, Jamie, that all the Englishwomen are."
"Oh, Mary, it was an unkind thing to say to a new bride."
"That isn't the worse of it, Jamie," Mary mumbled. "When we reached his home, there was a fat, ugly woman waiting for him. She threw herself in Daniel's arms right away. He didn't fight off her advances, either. They kissed each other in front of me. What think you of that?"
"You're right, sister."
"You've made me hate him."
"I told you I could," Mary announced. "Wel ? What am I going to do, I ask you? I'l never find my way back to Papa, and I'm certain Daniel's men won't believe me if I tel them I have their laird's permission to go back to England."
"No, I doubt they'l believe that lie," Jamie agreed.
"I want Papa!"
"I know you do, Mary. I also miss him. Sometimes I want to go home, too."
"Does Alec think you're as cold as a fish?"
Jamie shrugged. "He hasn't said so."
"Does Alec have a leman?"
"Does Alec have a mistress?" Mary repeated.
"I don't know," Jamie answered. "Perhaps he does have another woman," she whispered. "Oh, God, Mary, I hadn't thought of that possibility."
"Could I live here with you, Jamie?"
"Are you certain you want to do this?"
Her sister nodded. "Mary, do you know, when we first met our husbands, I thought Daniel was the kinder of the two. He smiled and seemed to have such a cheerful disposition."
"I noticed that, too," Mary said. "Jamie, what if he's right? What if I am as cold as a fish? There are women who can't respond to a man's touch. I think Aunt Ruth was like that. Remember how mean she was to her husband?"
"She was mean to everyone," Jamie interjected.
"I know this is embarrassing for you, but I was wondering…"
"Are all men like Daniel, or is Alec more… Oh, I don't know what it is I'm asking. I'm terrified of letting Daniel touch me now, and it's all his fault."
Jamie didn't know how to help Mary, but she was determined to try. "Mary, I must catch Alec before he leaves on his hunt," she blurted out.
"Do you need his permission for me to stay?" Mary asked, her fear obvious. "What if he says no?"
"I don't need his permission," Jamie boasted, trying to make that lie sound true. "It's another matter I must speak to him about. Go and wait in the hall , Mary. Introduce yourself to our priest. His name is Father Murdock. Now, don't frown, sister. You'l like him. He isn't at all like our Father Charles. I'l join you just as soon as I've spoken to Alec. Then we'l finish this discussion, I promise."
Jamie watched her sister leave before she started down the hil . She thought she'd look to the road below to see if Alec and his men had already left.
Her exit as soon as she stepped outside the wall was blocked by a line of soldiers. They fil ed the wooden planks of the pathway across the moat.
She thought they'd dropped out of the sky. They were certainly more formidable than the wall . And damn if she didn't have to look up at every single one of them.
"Why are you blocking my way?" she asked a red-bearded man directly in front of her.
"By order, mistress," the soldier announced.
"I see," Jamie replied, trying to keep her irritation out of her voice. "And has my husband left his fortress yet?"
"Nay," the soldier answered. A smile softened the corners of his eyes. "He's standing right behind you."
She didn't believe him until she turned around and came face to chest with Alec. "You move like a shadow," she muttered when she'd regained her composure.
"Where did you think you were going?" Alec asked.
"I was looking for you. Why did you order your men to block my way?"
"For your safety, of course."
"I'm to be a prisoner while you're gone, then?"
"If you choose to look at it that way," Alec answered.
"Alec, I would like to go riding in the afternoons. If I give you my promise not to run away. Surely—"
"Jamie, I never thought you'd run away," Alec countered, his exasperation most evident.
"You'd get lost."
"I never get lost."
"Aye, you do."
"If I promise not to get lost?"
He let her see how foolish he thought that question was. Gavin approached his laird, holding the reins of Alec's stal ion. Before Jamie could explain her need to talk to him about Mary, he had mounted his steed.
She blocked his path. "Mary's here."
"I saw her."
"I must talk to you about my sister before you leave. It's a very important matter, Alec, else I wouldn't bother you."
"I'm listening, wife. Ask me what you will ."
"Oh, no, it must be in private," Jamie explained hurriedly.
Jamie frowned. The obstinate man certainly wasn't making this easy for her. She walked over to his side, touched his leg with her finger, and then said, "Kincaid, I'm asking to speak to you in private. You did tel me you'd give me all I asked for if it was possible. This certainly seems possible enough to me."
She stared at the ground while he made up his mind. She knew she'd won when she heard him sigh, yet stil let out a surprised yelp when he reached down and effortlessly lifted her onto his horse. Jamie only had enough time to grab hold of his waist before the stal ion was in full gal op.
Alec didn't stop until they were well away from the men and the wall .
Jamie took her time smoothing her skirts. They were surrounded by trees. She gave the area a thorough look just to make certain they were all alone. Then she turned her attention to her hands.
Alec's patience was nearly gone when his wife suddenly blurted out, "Why didn't you wait to bed me?"
He hadn't been prepared for that question.
"Alec, Daniel is waiting out of consideration for Mary's feelings. He wants her to get to know him better first. What think you of that?"
"I think he doesn't particularly want to bed her, else he would have by now; that's what I think.
"And I took you because I wanted to," he continued. "You wanted me to, didn't you?"
"Yes," Jamie admitted. "I mean, no, not at first anyway. Look, Alec, it is Mary's problem we have to discuss, not mine."
He ignored her embarrassment. "You liked it."
She gave him the truth, knowing full well his arrogance would get completely out of hand. "I did."
"Look at me."
"I would rather not."
"I would rather you did."
He slowly lifted her chin, forcing her to gaze at his face. Alec saw how she blushed. He couldn't resist leaning down and kissing her wrinkled brow.
"Now what has you worried?"
"Did you like it?" she asked.
"You couldn't tel ?"
"Daniel says all Englishwomen are as cold as fish," she said with a nod, lest he think she was jesting.
"This isn't amusing," she said sternly. "And you've yet to answer my question."
"What question?" he teased.
"Am I as cold as a fish?"
She sighed with relief. "A wife does need to hear these things, Alec."
"Do you want me to bed you now?"
"In daylight? Heavens no!"
"I'm going to make love to you now if you don't move your hands away," he said hoarsely.
She realized she was gripping his bare thigh with her hands. She immediately let go of him. "Then it wouldn't matter if I was wearing your plaid or not, as you suggested earlier to me?"
"I didn't suggest it; I stated it as a fact. You will wear my plaid before I touch you again. Now, are you finished with your questions?"
"Are you getting angry?"
"You sound angry."
"Quit chal enging me."
"Do you have another woman?"
Alec decided then and there he was never going to understand how her mind worked. She came up with the most absurd worries. "Would it matter to you if I did?" he asked.
She nodded. "Would it matter to you if I took up with another man?"
"Took up with?"
"You know what I mean."
"I wouldn't all ow it, Jamie."
"Well, neither would I."
"You speak as though we're equals, wife."
She knew she'd angered him. She wanted to brush the frown away from his brow. "You stil haven't answered my question, Alec."
"No, I don't have another woman."
She smiled. "You aren't cold," he told her. "And you insult me by asking such a question."
"How do I insult you?"
"Because it's my duty to make you hot. And you were hot, Jamie, weren't you?"
His arrogance actually comforted her, though she had absolutely no idea why. "Perhaps," she whispered, staring at his mouth. "And then again, perhaps not, husband. I seemed to have forgotten."
He decided to remind her. He captured her face with his hands and lowered his mouth to hers. Jamie closed her eyes in anticipation.
His mouth settled on hers possessively, and his tongue thrust in and out in a sexual ritual that made her heart feel as if it might shatter. She tried to pul away when she felt her own surrender, but Alec wouldn't let her retreat. His mouth slanted over hers again and again, hungrily, thoroughly, and she soon forgot all about stopping.
He made her burn for more. Jamie imitated his action, timidly at first, then boldly, until their tongues were rubbing against each other in the most erotic, arousing way. When she moaned and instinctively tried to get closer to him, he knew it was time to stop. He'd take her now if he didn't gain control over his own raging emotions.
Hel , he was probably hotter than she was. With a growl of frustration, he pul ed away from her. He had to pry her hands away from his shoulders.
Jamie immediately buried her face in the crook of his neck.
Her breathing was ragged, as if she'd just run a long distance, all uphil , and she noticed his breathing was sounding almost as uneven. The realization made her think the kiss had affected him almost as much as it had affected her.
Her hope was destroyed when he said, "If you're finished with your foolish questions, I'd like to get back to more important matters."
How dare he sound so bored after sharing such a wonderful intimacy with her? "You needn't act as though I'm nothing but a bother to you, Alec."
"You are that," he returned with a sigh. He nudged his horse forward just as Jamie shoved away from him. He immediately slammed her back up against his chest. The woman needed to learn her position in his household. He was her master, her laird, and she'd better start accepting that fact soon.
"You don't know your own strength," she muttered.
"Nay, wife. You're the one who doesn't understand my strength yet."
She shivered over the harshness in his voice. "Are you—"
"Don't you dare ask me if I'm angry with you," he roared.
She guessed she had her answer. The man was angry, and that was that. God's truth, her ears were going to ring for a week. "You needn't shout at me," she said. "And I was only going to ask if Mary could—"
"Don't bother me with your sister's problems," he ordered. He softened his voice when he added, "Your family is always welcome to visit."
A visit wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but she decided she'd bothered him enough for one day.
"Your moods are most difficult to judge," she remarked when they'd returned to the wall and Alec had assisted her to the ground.
"I think I'l use every day of the two weeks you've given me before I wear your plaid. Perhaps you'l use that time to learn to… to care for me just a little."
Alec leaned down, gripped her chin with his hand, and said, "Care for you? Hel , woman, right this minute I don't even like you."
He'd spoken in anger and frustration because he believed she'd dared to taunt him. Yet the hurt look in her eyes made him regret his outburst. She hadn't been goading him at all , he realized. And she looked as if she wanted to cry.
Jamie suddenly pul ed away from him and let him see how angry she was. She reminded him of a wildcat now. And she didn't look as if she was going to cry, either. Alec was vastly amused. And relieved.
"I don't particularly like you either, Kincaid."
He had the bad manners to smile at her. "You're too bloody arrogant," she added. "No, I don't like you at all ."
Alec motioned to his men, then glanced down at his wife again. "You lie."
"I never lie."
"Aye, you do, Jamie, and not well at all ." She turned away from her husband and started up the hil . Alec watched her, thinking to himself how pretty she was going to look wearing his plaid. She suddenly whirled around and called out to him, "Alec? You will be careful, won't you?"
He responded to the fear in her voice. He nodded, giving her what he thought she wanted, yet couldn't resist adding, "I thought you didn't particularly like me, English. Have you changed your mind so soon?"
"Look, Kincaid, this isn't the time for a lengthy discussion," Jamie told him. She hurried back to his side so their conversation wouldn't be overheard by his soldiers. "You have your hunting to do," she said.
"And I have Mary to get comfortable. I'm asking you to be careful, Alec." Her hand touched his leg and she began to pat him. Alec doubted she was even aware of that action. Her worried gaze was directed at his face. "Do it just to annoy me."