She knew better than to argue with him, yet she did wonder how he was going to repay Baron Andrew.
He was riding bareback and didn't have a pouch on his belt. He had carried his sword along, though.
"Alec, are we expecting trouble?"
He didn't answer her. Jamie was left with her worries as she followed behind her husband. He was right, she decided after thinking about it a long while, she really should have gone directly to him. Husbands and wives should share their problems. It felt good, too, to have someone help with the burdens. No, she admitted. It didn't just feel good. It felt wonderful to have him to lean on every now and again.
They didn't speak again until they'd reached Andrew's camp. Jamie tried to move in front of Alec, but he grabbed the reins of her mount and forced her next to him. He raised his hand. His soldiers immediately lined up on either side of their laird and his mistress.
"Oh, Alec, did you have to bring so many soldiers?"
When he didn't answer her, she let out a loud sigh. "At least they'l keep my shame to themselves," she muttered.
Alec smiled, drawing her attention. Then he motioned again.
The other clans came forward then. While Jamie watched in astonishment, the lairds and their clansmen took their positions. A wide, yawning circle formed, with Andrew and his men trapped inside.
The English soldiers drew their weapons. Alec signaled again. The circle began to tighten as the horses moved forward.
When the English soldiers saw the numbers they faced, they threw their weapons to the ground.
Andrew separated himself from his men and started toward Jamie.
She'd forgotten what a little man Andrew was. Had she ever thought him handsome? She couldn't remember. He was certainly unappealing to her now though, and his short-cropped hair reminded her of a little boy. No, she thought to herself, she couldn't have found him the least bit attractive.
The man didn't even walk properly. He strutted. A shiver went through her when she realized she might have ended up with him. Jamie suddenly wanted to turn to her husband and thank him for saving her from certain misery.
Alec raised his hand again when Andrew was stil some thirty feet away. The baron understood the silent command. He came to a quick stop.
"We cut off a man's feet when he trespasses on our land."
Alec's threat seemed to take the wind out of Andrew. The baron backed up several spaces before regaining his composure. His expression showed fear and disdain when he looked from Alec to Jamie.
"You wouldn't let him do it, would you, Jamie?"
Jamie's expression was very serene. She stared at Andrew when she spoke to her husband. "With your permission, I would like to answer him."
"You have it," Alec replied.
"Andrew," she called out in a voice as cold and clear as a frigid winter morning, "my husband does whatever he wishes to do. I am sometimes all owed to help, though. If he decides to cut off your feet, I will , of course, offer him my assistance."
Jamie heard Marcus's low grunt of approval but kept her gaze on Andrew and her smile contained.
The baron looked furious. "You've become a savage," he shouted, obviously forgetting in his anger his precarious position. He pointed to Alec and added, "He's turned you into a… Scot."
She knew he thought he'd insulted her. Jamie couldn't keep her amusement contained a minute longer.
Her lusty laughter echoed through the hil s. "Andrew, I do believe your compliment has just saved your feet."
"State your business," Alec roared. He wanted to finish this as soon as possible so he could take Jamie into his arms.
He ached with the need to tel her again how much he loved her, cherished her… and how very proud he was to have her for his own.
His roar accomplished his goal. Andrew fairly tripped over his explanation. Jamie, humiliated to the very core of her being, kept her gaze downcast as the baron explained the dowry he'd given her father.
When he finished his explanation, Alec pul ed his sword from its sheath.
"Are you going to kil him, then, husband?" she asked in a whisper.
Alec smiled. "You know damn well I'm not going to kil him. It would displease you, and I'm forever wanting to make you happy, wife. I'm going to give him the sword. Its value—"
"You'l not give the likes of him your magnificent sword, Kincaid," Jamie returned, staring straight ahead.
"I'l forget my dignity and make a scene you'l never live down. They'l be talking about it for years to come, I promise you."
She heard him sigh and knew she'd won. "Aye, you probably would, you contrary woman. Give me your dagger, then."
Jamie did as he ordered. She watched as Alec used the dagger to pry one of the large rubies from the hilt of his sword. When the task was done, he gave her back her weapon.
She watched Andrew when Alec threw the stone. The ruby landed at the baron's feet. "Repayment, Baron, from Lady Kincaid."
Another fat stone hit Andrew in the shoulder. Jamie turned in the direction the stone had come from and saw Laird McPherson replacing his sword.
"Repayment from Lady Kincaid," the old man bel owed before turning to look at her.
A third stone hit Andrew on the side of his face. "Repayment," came the shout from Daniel Ferguson.
"Repayment," echoed once again. Jamie didn't recognize the laird who'd thrown that jewel.
"Alec? Why are—"
"McPherson repays because you saved his son's life. Daniel repays because you placed yourself in front of his wife to protect her. Harold threw the emerald. You took his son's insult and then pleaded for his life."
A fifth stone cut the skin on Andrew's forehead. "Repayment," another man roared.
"Who is he?"
"Lindsay's father," Alec answered. "You didn't think I knew about the boar, did you?"
She was too stunned to answer him. Yet another stone fel in front of Andrew's boots. A young warrior had thrown it. "Repayment," he shouted.
Alec explained before she could ask. "Laird Duncan. His wife wishes you to attend her birthing. He's paying for future aid."
"I am overwhelmed," Jamie whispered. "Do I thank them, Alec?"
"They're thanking you, Jamie. Each would give his life to keep you safe. You've done the impossible, love. You've actually united our clans."
She closed her eyes to keep herself from crying. Her voice shook with emotion when she said, "You've made Andrew a very rich man."
"No, Jamie. I'm much richer. I have you."
His voice had been so soft, so fil ed with love. A tear slipped down her cheek. Alec saw it. He immediately turned back to Andrew. "Go home, Baron. The next time you step on Highland ground, we'l all take a turn putting our swords through you."
A resounding cheer echoed around the circle. Andrew was kneeling on the ground, col ecting his treasure. Alec pul ed Jamie into his arms. She immediately wrapped her arms around his waist.
Baron Andrew stared at the fortune he held in his hands. When he looked up again, not a Scot was in sight.
Jamie closed her eyes and hugged her husband. She stil didn't understand most of the odd habits of the Highlanders, guessed it would take her a good twenty or thirty years before she truly did comprehend them.
There was joy in the learning, though, such incredible joy and love. Perhaps, she thought with a secret smile, when she and Alec had grown old together, perhaps then she might just settle in.