Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(3)

By: Keira Montclair

The truth was he didn’t wish to tell her he’d failed again on obtaining the information necessary to make their marriage possible.

Gwyneth held out the cloth and charged toward him. “I’m cleaning it, whether or not you wish it. You’re not thinking clearly yet. Now hold still.” Gwyneth set to work on him, not speaking during her ministrations. His aunt had the magic intuition of knowing when to speak and when to keep quiet. Her dark leggings and forest green tunic, her favorite colors, almost made her melt into their surroundings. Still as thin as a young lass, she was agile and tough. Whereas most lasses he knew were proficient at needlework, his aunt was a renowned archer and hunter.

Loki did as he was told. He loved his aunt and uncle as much as he loved the rest of his adopted family. His real mother or father had left his life, for whatever reason, too early for him to recollect either one of them. Brodie Grant, his adopted sire, had found him living in a crate behind a tavern, and the two had worked together to save Brodie’s new wife, Celestina. Afterwards, the young couple had brought him back to the Highlands and accepted him as their son. Loki adored them both for all they had done for him, and someday, he hoped to be able to tell them how much, especially his mama, but not yet. He didn’t know why, but whenever he tried to express his love and gratitude, it was as if he turned mute.

But while his adopted family never made him feel less than accepted, other members of the clan liked to remind him that he was not truly of Grant blood. Now it was his job to prove himself to everyone, but he was still making a fool of himself. When Gwyneth finished cleaning the dried blood off his face and placed some salve on him, she said, “You know, you do not have to do this. You’d be happier if you stayed at the Grant castle in the Highlands. ‘Tis where you belong. We all know it but you.”

Loki nodded his thanks for her ministrations, then stalked off into the woods to relieve himself. Once finished, he found a nearby creek and knelt down to throw some ice cold water on his face, pausing to wash his hands and neck as well. He had few memories of the battle, only that five men on horseback had stolen all his weapons and his horse and knocked him out.

He’d failed again. Mayhap his aunt was right, and it was finally time to head back home to the Highlands—only to leave forever. He returned to the clearing and shrugged his shoulders at Logan. “My decision is made. I’ll return to inform my parents that I’ll be working for the crown from here on out. Then I’ll meet you wherever you would like to complete my training. I’ll not go searching for my sire again.”

“Loki,” Gwyneth said, “I think you’re making the right choice about your sire. You have two adoptive parents who love you. Give up on your true parents. You may never know, and there’s no point in allowing it to ruin your life. But are you sure you do not wish to reconsider and marry Bella?”

“I cannot, Gwyneth. Her father will not allow it. So I’d rather leave and work for the crown than see her marry another. Will you train me?” He glanced from Gwyneth to Logan, feeling the defeat weigh down his entire body. All his sword work, all the careful training and eating he’d done to increase his size and his muscles, suddenly taunted him. As a young lad, all he’d desired had been to train as a Grant warrior, to live in the Highlands and fight like the renowned Alexander Grant, his uncle, and now that he was close to accomplishing that goal, it had lost all its power over him. Perhaps he should have done something entirely different with his time.

Logan nodded his head. “Aye, we’ll train you. Gwynie can ride with me. We’ll go with you to your keep.”

“Mayhap we can stop at Drummond or Cameron land and get a horse. That way you can have a shorter journey home.”

“Nay,” Logan snorted. “We’ll travel with you all the way home. Your father would have my arse if I let you ride alone, looking like a lad with no brain to use his brawn. Then, when you’re ready, we’ll leave together. You’ll just have to stop at Clan Ramsay for a bit afterwards.”

Rather than argue, Loki climbed onto one of the horses and flicked the reins.

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