The two brothers stood up at the same time. Iain's gaze settled on Brodick. The anguish the warrior saw in his laird's eyes was telling.
Iain didn't just want Judith in his bed. He was in love with her.
She was cradled against his chest. Iain started up the hill, then suddenly stopped. He turned back to Brodick.
"Find the bastard." He didn't wait for his command to be acknowledged. "Patrick, go and get Frances Catherine. Judith will want her by her side when she wakes up."
The vibration in his voice shook her awake. Judith opened her eyes and tried to comprehend where she was. Everything was spinning around and around, making her stomach queasy and her head pound. She closed her eyes again and let Iain take care of her.
She didn't wake up again until Iain was placing her in the center of his bed. The minute he let go of her, she tried to sit up. The room immediately began to spin. She grabbed hold of her husband's arm and held tight until everything came into focus again.
She ached everywhere. Her back felt like it was on fire. Iain quit trying to force her back down when she gave him that complaint. Graham came hurrying into the room with a bowl so full of water, some lapped over the sides with each step he took. Gelfrid followed with a stack of linen squares.
"Move aside, Iain. Let me get to her," Graham ordered.
"The poor lass took quite a fall, didn't she?" Gelfrid remarked. "Is she usually so clumsy?"
"No, she isn't," Judith answered.
Gelfrid smiled. Iain wouldn't let go of his wife. "I'll take care of her," he told Graham. "She's mine, damn it."
"Of course she is," Graham agreed, trying to placate Iain.
Judith stared up at her husband. He looked furious. His grip on her was stinging.
"My injuries aren't substantial," she announced, sincerely hoping she was right in that evaluation. "Iain, please let go of my arms. I have enough bruises."
He did as she requested. Graham placed the bowl on the chest. Gelfrid dampened one of the linen squares and handed it to Iain.
He didn't talk to her while he cleaned the blood away from the side of her face. He was being extremely gentle. The cut was deep, but Iain didn't think the injury needed to be threaded together until it healed.
She was relieved to hear that decision. She didn't relish the idea of anyone, even her husband, taking a needle to her skin.
Iain appeared to be calming down. Then Gelfrid inadvertently got him riled again. "It's a miracle she wasn't blinded. She could have had her eye plucked clean out. Aye, she could have."
"But I didn't," Judith quickly said when she saw the chilling look come back into Iain's eyes. She patted her husband's arm. "It's all right," she told him in a soothing tone of voice. "I'm feeling much better now."
She was trying to comfort him. Iain was exasperated with her. "You'll feel better after I've put some salve on your cuts. Take your clothes off. I want to look at your back."
Iain gave her the order just as Graham leaned forward to place a cold wet cloth against the swelling above her temple. "Hold this tight against the bruise, Judith. It will help take the sting out."
"Thank you, Graham. Iain, I'm not taking my clothes off."
"That blow to the side of her head could have done her in," Gelfrid remarked. "Aye, she's fortunate it didn't knock her dead."
"Yes, you are taking your clothes off." Iain told her.
"Will you quit trying to get Iain upset, Gelfrid? I know it isn't intentional, but what could have happened didn't. I'm fine, really."
"Of course you're fine," Gelfrid agreed. "We'd best watch her closely, Graham. She might be addled for a day or so."
"Gelfrid, please," Judith said with a groan. "And I'm really not going to take my clothes off," she explained for a second time.
"Yes, you are."
She motioned him closer. Gelfrid came with him. "Iain, we have… company."
He found his first smile. Her modesty was refreshing, and the frown she was giving him made him want to laugh. She really was going to be all right. She wouldn't be acting so damned disgruntled if the head injury had been severe.
"We're not company," Graham told her. "We live here, remember?"
"Yes, of course, but—"
"Are you seeing more than one of anything, Judith?" Gelfrid asked. "Remember Lewis, Graham? He was seeing two of everything right before he keeled over."
"For the love of—" Judith began.
"Come along, Gelfrid. The lass is about to burst with her blush. She won't take her clothes off until we leave."
Judith waited until the door had closed behind the two elders before turning back to Iain. "I cannot believe you expected me to take my clothes off in front of Graham and Gelfrid. Now what are you doing?"
"I'm taking your clothes off for you," he patiently explained.
Her bluster of anger vanished. It was his grin, of course. She had to take time to notice how his smile made him all the more handsome, and then it was too late to argue. He had her stripped down to her chemise and was leaning over her, prodding at the bruise in the center of her back before she had time to order him to stop.
"Your back's fine," he told her. "The skin wasn't cut."
His fingers trailed a line down her spine. He smiled over the shivers his touch caused. "You're so soft and smooth all over," he whispered.
He leaned down and kissed her shoulder. "Frances Catherine is probably waiting downstairs to see you. I'll have Patrick bring her up."
"Iain, I'm fully recovered now. I don't need—"
"Don't argue with me."
The set of his jaw and the tone of his voice told her it would be useless to fight him. She changed into her sleeping gown because he insisted. She felt foolish wearing her nightclothes during the day, but Iain was in need of being placated now. He still looked worried.
Frances Catherine arrived a few minutes later. She glared Patrick out of the chamber because he'd carried her up the stairs and groaned loudly over her added weight.
Gelfrid and Graham served her supper. Judith wasn't used to being pampered. She didn't have any trouble enjoying all the attention, however. Then Isabelle came up to see how she was doing, and by the time Iain returned, Judith was exhausted from all her company.
He made everyone leave. Judith put up a halfhearted protest. She fell asleep minutes later.
She awakened a few minutes before dawn. Iain was sleeping on his stomach. She tried to be as quiet as possible as she got out of bed. She swung one leg over the side.
"Does your head still hurt?"
She turned back to look at him. Iain was propped up on one elbow, staring at her. His eyes were half closed, his hair was mussed, and he looked ruggedly handsome.
She got back into bed, nudged him down on his back so she could lean over him. She kissed the frown on his forehead, then nibbled on his ear.
He wasn't in the mood for teasing. He growled low in his throat, wrapped his arms around her and captured her mouth for a proper kiss.
Her response made him wild. The kiss turned hot, wet, intoxicating. His tongue swept inside her sweet mouth to mate with hers, and when he finally ended the erotic love play, she collapsed against his chest.
"Sweetheart, answer me. Does your head still hurt?"
The worry was there, in his voice, and it did still ache just a little, but she didn't want him to stop kissing her. "Kissing actually makes me feel better," she whispered.
He smiled. Her remark was absurd, of course. It still pleased him. He stretched up and nuzzled the side of her neck. "It makes me hot," he told her.
She let out a little sigh of pleasure.
"Do you want me, Judith?"
She didn't know if she should act timid or bold. Did husbands like their wives to be shy or aggressive? She decided not to worry about it. She'd already started out bold, and Iain hadn't seemed to mind.
"I do want you… a little."
It was all he needed to hear. He pulled away from her, stood up, and hauled her up beside him. He nudged her face up so she could look at him, then said, "I'm going to make you want me as much as I want you."
"You will? Iain, you already want me… now?"
She didn't understand. Lord, she really was an innocent. All she had to do was take a good look at him and she wouldn't have any doubt about his desire for her. She wouldn't look, though. Her embarrassment wouldn't let her. He decided to show her. He took hold of her hand and placed it on his hard arousal. She reacted as though she had just been burned by fire. She pulled away with lightning speed. Her face turned crimson. He let out a sigh. His gentle little wife wasn't ready to let go of her shyness just yet. He wasn't going to insist.
He was a patient man. He could wait. He kissed her on the top of her head, then helped her take off her nightgown. She kept her head bowed until he pulled her back into his arms.
Then he began the appealing duty of helping her get rid of her shyness. She didn't respond the way he wanted her to when he stroked her shoulders, her arms, her back, but when he began to gently caress her sweet backside, she let out a little moan of pleasure, letting him know without words she was sensitive to his touch there.
She finally began to explore his body with her fingertips. It took her a long, long while to get around to the front of him. Iain was gritting his teeth in anticipation. It was well worth the agony. Her hand reached his lower stomach. She hesitated, then moved lower, until she was touching the very heat of him.
His reaction made her bolder. He groaned low in his throat and tightened his grip on her shoulders. She kissed his chest and tried to move lower so she could kiss the flat of his stomach. There wasn't an ounce of fat on the man. He was all hard muscle. He flexed when she kissed his navel. She had to kiss him there again, just to drive him daft.
Iain let her have her way until she reached his groin. He pulled her back up and kissed her sweet mouth. It was a long, hard, passionate kiss. She still wasn't waylaid however. "Iain, I want to—"
"No." His voice was harsh. He couldn't help that. Just thinking about what she wanted to do to him made him ache to be inside her. He wasn't about to find his own fulfillment first, however, and he knew he sure as hell would if she took him into her mouth.
"Yes," she whispered.
"Judith, you don't understand," he began, his voice ragged.
Her eyes were cloudy with passion. That notice shook him. Was she becoming aroused just by touching him? He wasn't given time to wonder about it. "I understand it's my turn," she whispered. She leaned up and kissed him just to gain his silence. Her tongue thrust inside his mouth before he could take command. "Let me," she pleaded.
She got her way. Iain's hands were in fists at his sides. He took a deep, shuddering breath and forgot to let it out. Judith was innocently awkward, wonderfully unskilled, and so lovingly giving he felt he'd died and gone to Heaven.
He couldn't put up with the sweet torment long. He didn't have any idea how they got into bed. He might have thrown her there. He was so completely out of control he couldn't think about anything but pleasuring her until she was ready for him.
His fingers thrust into her tightness, and when he felt the liquid heat of her, his composure almost vanished. He moved between her thighs and let out a low growl of pure male demand.
And yet, before he moved to make her completely his, he hesitated.
He was asking her permission. That thought penetrated her haze of passion and tears came into her eyes. Dear God, how she loved this man. "Oh, yes," she cried out, knowing she would surely die if he didn't come to her now.
He still tried to be gentle, but she wasn't in the mood to allow it. He eased slowly at first, until she lifted her h*ps up to meet him. She gripped his thighs to pull him closer, scoring his skin with her fingernails.
His mouth never left hers as the mating ritual took control. The bed squeaked from his hard thrusts. His groans blended with her whimpers of pleasure. Neither could form a coherent thought now, and when Iain knew he was about to spill his seed into her, his hand moved between their joined bodies to help her find her fulfillment first.
The fire of passion consumed him. His own release made him feel weak and invincible at the same time. He collapsed against her with a low grunt of raw satisfaction. God, he loved her scent. He inhaled the light womanly fragrance and thought that he had surely just visited Heaven. His heart still felt like it was about to burst, and he didn't think he'd mind if that happened. He was too content to be bothered about anything now.
Judith hadn't quite recovered yet, either. That realization arrogantly pleased him. He liked being able to make her lose her inhibitions and her control so thoroughly. He kissed the base of her neck where her heartbeat pulsed so wildly, and smiled over the way that caress made her breath catch in the back of her throat.
He tried to find the strength to move away from her. He knew he was probably crushing her, but damn, he never wanted this bliss to end. He had never experienced this kind of satisfaction with any other woman. Aye, he'd always been able to hold a part of himself back. He hadn't been able to protect himself from Judith. The realization shook him, and he was suddenly feeling damn vulnerable. "I love you, Iain."
Such a simple declaration and yet so freeing. She'd snatched his worry away before he had time to let it gain control. Iain yawned against her ear and then leaned up on his elbows to kiss her. His intention was forgotten when he saw the jagged cut and the swelling around her eye.
Judith was smiling until he started frowning. "What's the matter, Iain? Didn't I please you?"
"Of course you pleased me," he replied.
"You could have lost your eye."
"Oh, Lord, you're sounding like Gelfrid," she remarked.
She was trying to tease him out of his frown. It didn't work. "You're damned fortunate, Judith. You could have—"
She placed her hand over his mouth. "You pleased me, too," she whispered.
He didn't catch on. He turned her attention by asking, "When you fell, did you happen to see a man… or a woman standing nearby?"
Judith thought about his question a long minute before making the decision not to tell him about the little boy she had seen. The child was too young to be dragged before his laird. It would be terrifying for him, to say nothing of the embarrassment and humiliation it would cause his family. No, she couldn't let that happen. Besides, she was certain she could take care of the matter. She would have to find the little hellion first, of course, and when she did, she would have a good, long, blistering talk with him. If he wasn't properly contrite, she might have to ask Iain's assistance. Or at least threaten to ask him. But that would be a last resort. And if the boy was old enough—though in truth she didn't believe he could be seven years yet—she would haul him off to Father Laggan and make him confess his sin.