Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(5)

By: Keira Montclair

A bony finger pointed at her. “You need to watch that sassy mouth of yours, lass. You’ll get yourself in trouble. There are plenty of other lads you can marry, or you could stay here and take care of me once your sister marries.”

“Papa, I’d like a family of my own. You know that, and I’m sure Mama would want the same for me.”

“Mayhap one day, but for now you can help your sister get ready for her marriage. I may even send you with her for the wedding, then you can return shortly after. She must keep her hands pretty for her husband. He is a cousin to noble blood, so she will not be working once she’s married.” Her father slurped up the last bite of stew in the trencher, glancing up at her with veiled innocence once he was done. “Sorry, but you did not want any stew, now did you? You’ve probably had plenty working in the kitchens and all.”

“Nay, Papa. I do not need any. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

Bella ignored her rumbling stomach and moved over to her small pallet behind the partition in the corner.

“Bella, you need to wash the dishes from the day,” her sire shouted.

“Morna could not wash them?” Exasperated and exhausted, she flounced down on her pallet.

“Nay, all that water would ruin the tender skin on her hands.”

Bella glanced at the red skin on her own hands, calloused from carrying heavy pots in and out of the great hall.

“I’ll take care of it in the morn, Papa. I’m too tired.” She leaned back onto her pallet and covered herself with the threadbare plaid, dreaming of a lad with one blue eye and one green eye.

Chapter Two

Once inside the Grant castle gates, Loki thanked Logan and Gwyneth, dropped his horse off at the stables, and headed straight for the great hall. Jake and Jamie, his twin cousins who were younger than him by five summers, ran to his side from an unknown location.

“Loki, you’re back. What tales have you for us today?” Jake asked.

Jamie added, “Must be at least one good one. Look at the scars and wounds he’s wearing this time. Tell us how you beat the devil out of the whoresons who attacked you.” His eyes widened in anticipation.

Not bothering to lift his head, Loki continued on his way. “I have naught to tell you, lads. I’m off to see my mother. I’m sure my sire is in the lists.”

“Aye, ‘tis where we’re going, to train. We’ll let him know you’ve arrived. But at least tell us where the black eye came from? Please? We’ll tell the others!”

He quickened his pace, but shouted back over his shoulder at them. “Uncle Logan and Aunt Gwyneth are on their way. They’ll be happy to tell all. I need sleep.”

He stepped inside the door to a large chorus of greetings. He waved to all the friends and family gathered in the great hall, then turned to the right to head toward the corner passageway that led to the tower rooms, the place where his parents lived. His uncle had continued to expand the keep, eventually adding another building of chambers due to the swelling size of their immediate clan, but his parents had remained in the towers—the most comforting place in the world as far as Loki was concerned, mostly because of his mother. He continued down the passageway, wondering how his parents had been. He grimaced and reminded himself that he was thinking of his adopted parents.

He’d been so fortunate to be adopted by Brodie and Celestina Grant, no one knew it better than he did. So why had he risked hurting them by seeking out his true parents? Even though they had never said so, he could tell how much it wounded his mother by the look that came into her eyes every time he mentioned searching for his real parents. He could not tolerate that look. In fact, every time he saw it, he turned away, feeling so guilty he wanted to run in the opposite direction. If not for Arabella’s foolish sire, he would never have tried to seek out his true sire. He believed he was a lad of value, but there was no way of proving his lineage.

Celestina’s English father had kept her locked up in their house as a young lass. Loki had first set eyes on her as she sobbed from the balcony of her home, basically her prison. Being wee at the time, he could sneak anywhere without being seen. So he had followed Celestina, his ‘missy angel,’ as he had referred to her, wherever life took her. It was this sneakiness that had earned him the admiration of Brodie Grant, the youngest brother to Laird Alexander Grant, for it had helped Brodie to find her after she was kidnapped, right before the Battle of Largs.

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