Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(6)

By: Keira Montclair

After the conflict ended, Brodie and Celestina were reunited in the Highlands, and it was then they had adopted Loki and brought him into their home. He still counted the day he became Loki Grant as the happiest—and luckiest—day in his life.

He opened the doorway to the tower chambers and stepped inside.

A chorus of “Loki!” greeted him. His mother sat with her needlework in her lap, but she stood as soon as she laid eyes on him, dropping her sewing onto a nearby stool. Her expression had gone from sadness to excitement in an instant. His two sisters, Catriona and Alison, twelve and five summers, ran up and hugged him. His brother, Braden, would be in the lists with his father.

His mother waited for him to come to her, as she always did—a relic of her proper English manners. With a still trim figure and long yellow hair threaded with only a few strands of silver, Celestina Grant was still a beauty. Some of his aunts had widened at the hips after carrying bairns, but not his mother. She was still the most beautiful woman in the Highlands.

But that wasn’t really what he saw. To him, she was simply the woman with the biggest heart he had ever known. She held her arms wide and he stepped into her embrace, towering over the wee woman.

“Loki, how I have missed you.” She patted his shoulders. “I am so glad to see you.” She stepped back and cupped his cheek. “How do you fare? Did you find your true parents?”

And that look of excitement in her gaze changed to one of worry as fast as could be. Just the mention of the identity of his true parents was enough to send heartache through his adopted mother. Loki chastised himself, as he’d already done countless times already. He could never love his birth mother as he loved Celestina. Someday, he promised himself, he would tell this woman how much her love had meant to him.

It had all been for Bella—to prove to her father that he was not some worthless orphan. True, his uncle could force the marriage, but it would feel wrong to allow his powerful adoptive relatives to fight his battles for him. Since he’d been so long without parents, he wanted Bella’s relationship with her sire to be strong. He had no desire to cause any discord between the two. Someday, he hoped he and Bella would have their own bairns, and bairns needed their grandparents, just as he had needed parents of his own.

But he had searched and searched, turning up naught. Now it was time to give up.

Or was it?

“Nay, Mama, I have not found them. I believe I’ll stop searching. There is no way to determine who they are or were.”

Celestina took his hand and ushered him over to the table. “Catriona, find your brother some mead. He must be thirsty.”

Five-year-old Alison stood next to him and said, “Loki, my friend said you are not really a Grant. ‘Tis not true, is it? I told her that you are truly my brother, and she said you are not and you are a phony.” She turned to her mother. “Mama, she’s wrong and I’m right, do you not agree?”

“Shush, child. You are not to bother your brother with such foolishness when he has only just arrived home. Of course, he is a Grant. Now apologize to him.”

Alison hung her head, clasped her hands behind her back, and whispered, “My apologies, Loki.”

Loki smiled at her and ran his fingers through the golden strands that were just like her mother’s. “Do not worry, wee one. They cannot hurt my feelings.”

How he wished that statement were true. Aye, it was this incessant need for others’ approval that niggled at him. He wished to prove he was of value, that he deserved to be a Grant, that he was intelligent, braw, and strong of his own right.

He wanted to prove that he deserved his adopted name—and that he deserved Arabella.

But how was he to do that if not by finding his birth parents?

“Catriona, if you please, after you have gotten the mead, I would like for you and Alison to go to the kitchens and find something for your brother to eat.”

As soon as the girls left the chamber, his mother drew his attention again. “Loki, will you speak to Arabella while you’re home? Will you be staying for a while?” His mother settled on a stool across the table from him, her back straight and her hands on her lap as she’d been taught. The beautiful woman in front of him had been brought up by a brute. How Loki wished he had gotten his hands on her father before Brodie Grant had killed him. His mother was as prim and proper as anyone Loki had ever met. Loki would do anything to keep from disappointing her.

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