Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(2)By: Keira Montclair
He closed his eyes again as pain from his head rippled through him. He reached up with one hand to feel the swelling by his eye and the giant egg on his head. Rolling onto his side, he placed his hands on the cold, hard ground beneath him and pushed up with a roar loud enough to send the few birds left in the Highlands squawking off to another tree.
A voice came from off to his side, a voice he knew and trusted but couldn’t quite place yet.
“How’s the head feel? Like you are daft and have no sense? If so, then you have the right of it. You have no sense at all. How many, or do you not remember?” Logan Ramsay, his uncle, chuckled at him. Actually, Logan wasn’t truly his uncle, but his Aunt Brenna had married into the Ramsay family, and the bonds between the two families were so strong that he considered the man an uncle. Loki managed to turn his head to stare at Logan, who was seated on the log next to him.
Logan held his hand out, offering him a bit of ale from a skin.
Loki took it, groaning again. “Arseholes. Every one of them.”
“When the hell are you going to stop trying to get yourself killed, fool? I’ve taught you better than that. You’re interested in working for the Scottish crown like I do, and I’m happy to teach you. I’d like you to take over some of my jobs so I can spend more time at home with my Gwynie before I die. I’m not getting any younger, but you are not getting any smarter, are you?”
Loki took another slug of the ale before handing it back to his uncle. “How did you know where to find me?”
“People talk. Even reivers. They all talked about the tall fool who thought he could take on five men. When will you learn?”
“The news we heard about my sire was wrong. There was no information to be found about him anywhere near Ayr. The lad who gave us that information must have been daft. I was about to return to the Highlands when the reivers set upon me. I’m practicing everything you’ve taught me, Uncle.”
“Apparently not. I’ve taught you that the most valuable weapon you have is your head, yet you keep getting it beaten. You’ll have no brains left if you keep going on in this manner.”
When a rustling from the forest reached his ears, he jumped up and grabbed for his dagger, though he came up with naught. Logan’s wife, Gwyneth, emerged from the trees a moment later, her boots crunching on the thin layer of snow on the ground. “Leave off, Logan. He’ll have enough pain without you making it worse. Loki, where are you hurt besides your head?”
Loki paced in a circle, moving about awkwardly at first, but then settling into a limp.
“How old are you, lad?” Logan asked, his green eyes narrowing.
“How in hell would I know the answer to that?”
“Dinna rail at me. How old did your mother and father decide you were when they found you and took you in?”
“Seven or eight summers. Would make me twenty and four or five.”
“Well, you look and act like you’re an auld man. You better start using that quick mind of yours or you’ll soon be in trouble. There is no call to lose your head because you could not find your sire. You knew ‘twould not be easy.”
“Enough, Logan. Let him get his bearings before you chew his arse out.” Gwynie made her way over to Loki, carrying a wet linen she’d presumably brought from the creek.
“I do not need it. My thanks.” Loki Grant had two goals in life—to find his true parents and to marry Arabella Lewis. At this point, he faced failure on both fronts. Despite his best efforts, he could not find his sire. Thus he could not prove his worth to Bella’s father, who would not allow his daughter to marry a man of uncertain blood. This trip had been intended for a dual purpose—to begin training to work for the Scottish crown and to search for his sire. This most recent experience had forced him to concede to the impossible. Since he could not measure up to Bella’s father’s standards, he might as well leave the clan and work for the Scottish crown as his aunt and uncle had done for years. But he knew Bella, the love of his life, would not be happy about his decision even though he’d attempted to get her ready for the possibility by telling her this trip was to train for work with the crown.