Highland Hellcat(10)

By: Mary Wine

Shawe wasn’t surprised by the silence of his laird. Connor Lindsey was a man who had been put in his place many a time while a lad, because he’d been born illegitimate to the way of thinking of many of the Lindsey clan. His childhood had been rough and full of fighting because the clan was in turmoil as it waited to see who would inherit the lairdship. The fact that his mother had wed his father, even if it was after his birth, had led to many who would have liked to see him die before becoming a man. Connor had learned to hold his tongue and keep his thoughts to himself well, something he was doing right at that moment while Shawe took another glance at the ale being served.

“Buy a round, Shawe.”

Connor Lindsey didn’t want to drink. He wanted to kill, and that was an honest fact. He produced a silver coin and sent it sailing through the air between him and Shawe with a flick of his thumb.

He also wanted to see whom Deirdre had been meeting with even more, even if he suspected that he knew the answer well enough. There was one thing he always did, and that was never condemn anyone unless he saw the evidence with his own eyes. He stepped into the tavern and heard the slight ripple of whispers heralding his arrival. Men moved their gazes toward him, while keeping their faces on the companions they shared the rough trestle tables with. Long benches were jumbled about the tables, with only a few chairs at the far side of the tavern, where the high table was cleaned and waiting for a customer with the coin to spend on more grand accommodations.

The landlord looked at him, hope glittering in his eyes, but Connor swung his leg over a bench and straddled it. He wasn’t there for wasting coin on having his ego pampered. The ale came from the same barrels, no matter if he was drinking it while on a bench or in a chair. Let the Douglas retainers he suspected were upstairs in the private suite squander their money.

Connor ground his teeth together. What was more correct to think was that Melor Douglas didn’t think twice about spending the hard-earned silver of his people on his own comfort. The man held an interesting position in the clan, because while he wasn’t in direct line to inherit any title, he still stood a good chance of gaining one, because so many of the Douglas were getting themselves killed. His fellow Douglas did everything they might to keep themselves in the man’s good graces, because he just might inherit. Of course, that was a fine place for Melor to be. The man had all the money he wanted, but none of the responsibilities a title would press on him.

Connor had watched the man sidestep messy situations for years, but tonight he was going to connect the man to the deed of sullying Deirdre Chattan. A mug of ale landed in front of him, and Connor reached for it. He wanted to crush something, and his fingers wrapped around the drinking vessel with too much strength.

“We could just go up the stairs…” Shawe remarked.

“I’m waiting to see Melor Douglas.”

Shawe raised an eyebrow, and Connor growled at him. The men around them were listening, and he watched one go up the stairs. Connor grinned, and Shawe chuckled in response.

“It does look like the fight will come to us soon enough. My purpose was to discover the truth of these rumors about Deirdre, and I intended to make sure I do nae jump too quickly and miss learning something that may be of use later.”

Shawe lifted his own and drew off a long swallow of the amber liquid. “I’ve seen plenty already; ’tis a mess to be sure.”

Connor stared at the ale but didn’t lift the mug. He didn’t trust himself to maintain control over his temper if he had even one spoonful of the intoxicating beverage inside him. Anger was flowing through him like a swollen spring river that had plenty of snow to feed it. But he’d learned to be patient and hold his thoughts deep inside until the time was right to strike out against those who tried to grind him beneath their boot heels. The Douglas had been trying to steal what was his for too many years.

That didn’t mean he was going to allow Melor to ride back to Douglas land with a smirk on his lips.

“Maybe we should just take a ride on up to Chattan land and see what her father has to say.” Shawe’s voice was even, but his mug was empty, betraying how nervous he truly was.

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