Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(8)By: Keira Montclair
Sounds of wee feet in the passageway brought Loki back to his senses enough to set her away from him. The door flew open and Catriona and Alison ran in and stopped in front of Loki, wee Alison staring at him wide-eyed. “Look, Aunt Madeline sent two sweet tarts for you. May we share one with you?”
Loki smiled at them, then glanced over his shoulder as Bella walked out the door, unable to tear his gaze from the enticement of her bottom. “You can eat them all, lassies. I’ll eat the stew. My taste for something sweet is leaving me.”
Bella turned to grin at him, and Loki winked at her.
He ate the food Bella had brought, trying to figure out a way to convince her father that he was a fit husband for his daughter. At the moment, he could think of naught that he hadn’t already tried.
Just for a moment, he imagined what it would be like to tell Bella’s father that he, Loki Grant, truly did have noble blood in him. Being of noble birth would change everything. If he could just find his true sire, he’d know. What had his father been like? Was his mother as sweet as Celestina? How had he ended up living alone behind an inn in the royal burgh of Ayr? He’d tried so hard, but now he would never have the answer to his questions. Perhaps it was better to just leave it all alone.
He’d also understood he could discover the complete opposite to be the truth. Was his father a thief or a murderer who had been condemned or sent away? He’d never know, and perhaps it would prove a blessing.
Nay, coming home had been the right thing to do. Unfortunately, Bella could soon leave Grant land to assist her sister. This news told him he was doing the right thing. He’d never have a chance with her, so his decision to leave with his aunt and uncle was the right decision. Everything here would merely remind him of his love and his loss.
He loved Bella, but some things just could never be.
Loki paced in the great hall after dinner. Alex and Madeline had insisted on a special meal for the clan once a week, with everyone invited inside for meat pies, bread, cheese, and fruit tarts. The men would hunt boar, deer, or wild pigs for the meal—even a pheasant if they could. They’d had a good summer this year, so the food stores were well-stocked with apples, pears, beans, and peas. They had music and dancing as well, and the minstrels stopped in whenever they came this far into the mountains. Two were here tonight, but once heavy winter set in, they would be gone.
Highland weather was another reason he needed to leave soon. Once the heavy snows came, there would be no departing Grant land. Loki sat at the dais with his mother and sire, along with his other aunts and uncles, Alex and Maddie, and Robbie and Caralyn. Most of his younger cousins sat at a nearby table, but he had finally been given a seat at the dais, along with Alex’s eldest lads, Jamie and Jake.
Jamie leaned over to address Loki. “Who have you chosen to warm your bed tonight, Loki?”
Loki scowled at his cousin. “You will not speak in such a way at the same table as my mother.”
Jake gave him a look that was probably intended to convey maturity. “Why are you so sensitive?”
“Because ‘tis my mother. You two have the sweetest mother on the face of the earth, and you do not respect her enough. That, then, is your choice. But if you do not respect my mother, I’ll take the two of you outside and explain it to you with my fists,” he whispered.
His mother gave him a sweet smile. Hellfire, but he would miss her. His sire Brodie wrapped an arm around Celestina’s shoulder and hugged her close. Watching the two together was much like a fist in his gut. This was what married life should be—loving and supportive. It was undeniable that the sight of their happiness often made him wonder what had happened to his true parents—sickness, an animal attack, reivers, what? What could make two parents desert their child? He knew his adoptive parents would never do such a thing.
He scanned the room automatically, though it would only cause him pain when Bella crossed his line of vision. Shite, she was a beauty tonight. He caught her gaze once in a while, though she sat with her disapproving sire, a man with a permanent frown on his face because he was in the same room as Loki. Loki glanced at Brodie, who was laughing as he spoke to his brother, Robbie, also laughing. Aye, he had been blessed to find himself in such a family.