Highland Hellcat(5)

By: Mary Wine

Her father cast a look back at the darkened corners. Brina could feel tension flowing through the air, and when her sire looked back at her, his face was a mask of disgruntlement.

“Did ye see anyone leaving the castle?”

Brina suddenly gasped, her mind connecting her sire’s unexpected appearance and the serious nature of his questions. She should have thought to question how the woman she’d seen had been riding a horse. That fine animal was a mark of wealth, and so was the thick cloak that the woman had worn. Brina didn’t need to see that the beds were empty to understand her sire’s suspicion, but the idea stuck in her throat, for it meant that her sister Deirdre was turning her back on her clan, because Kaie had been in the kitchen.

“Sweet Christ, she’s gone insane.” The words went past her lips before she recalled that there were others in the room.

Her father made a low sound that left no doubt of his displeasure. Even though it was not directed toward her, Brina felt a ripple of apprehension travel across her skin.

“Ye have a temperament that would scare most men, Brina, but I suppose I should be thankful, for ye will tell me the straight facts.”

“Well, of course I will. I do nae lie.” Brina propped her hands onto her hips, and her father’s lips twitched in spite of the darkness of his expression.“Nae, ye do nae, for ye fear no living soul because tradition demanded that I promise ye to the church.”

There was a note of regret in her sire’s voice.

Brina relaxed her stance, her heart aching to see him in such turmoil. “I will honor yer word, Father. I swear it.”

“Ye swear too.” Robert shook his head. “It’s obvious that I did not force ye to learn to be meek and pleasing for a husband.”

Brina felt her cheeks warm. “I should have said that I promise to make ye proud.”

“Nay. Be who ye are, Brina. I let ye learn from Bran because ye needed more strength than yer sisters. Ye will have no husband to shoulder burdens for ye. I’m right proud of ye.”

Shock held her silent for a moment.

Her father chuckled softly. “Did ye think that I would nae know that he was teaching ye to hunt with the bow?”

“I did think ye might be unaware of it.” She raised her chin again. “But I swear… I assure ye that I meant no deception, only that it seemed rather unimportant compared to the tasks ye must deal with each day.”

Her father growled, startling her with how much anger there was in that sound. She’d witnessed him yelling at other men, but he had always maintained his control with her and her sisters. That was a Highlander’s way.

“Aye, there are pressing matters that I must face, ones I have no liking for, but I know now which of me daughters is set on deceiving me tonight.” He pressed his lips into a hard line. “Did ye see her face?”

Brina shook her head, staring straight back into her father’s eyes in spite of the rage she saw flickering there. “Nay, Father, I was too far away, and dusk fully fallen. She also wore a cloak with the hood raised over her head. It might nae be Deirdre.”

There was a soft step near the doorway, and a figure appeared there, pausing in surprise just as Brina had. Kaie’s eyes widened, and she raised a hand to cover her lips, but her trembling fingers betrayed her.

Their sire snorted. “Why so frightened, Daughter?”

Kaie’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears, and she clutched the door frame tightly with fingers that had turned white. Robert didn’t hold his temper in check tonight but let it fall on his second daughter.

“I’ve no stomach for a coward, and even less when that person is me own daughter. Stand ye firm in the face of my displeasure and tell me where yer sister is gone, for I see the guilt on yer face. Make yer choice, Daughter, for I’ll nae be tolerating this behavior from me own children.”

Brina had rarely seen her father so angry. He normally controlled his emotions and left one guessing as to his true opinion on matters. Once she had heard him telling her brothers to always mind their tongues, for as the sons of the laird, a hasty word might cause suffering when the other members of the clan followed those rashly spoken phrases.

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