Loki (The Highland Clan Book 1)(9)

By: Keira Montclair

He should probably tell his sire how much he appreciated him. Rolling the stem of his goblet in a circle on top of the table, he wondered why he found it so difficult to put words to his feelings for them.

The music had started and a few of the younger clan members started to dance. His cousin, Ashlyn, soon appeared in front of him, her eyes cast downward. “Loki would you dance with me, please?”

“Ashlyn, you are close to my age. Are you sure there is not a lad here you would rather dance with?” His cousin was the daughter of Robbie’s wife Caralyn and his uncle had adopted her.

“Nay, you know I’ll never marry. ‘Tis not for me.”

Loki sighed, then got to his feet and held his hand out to Ashlyn. Her face lit up, so they strolled over to the dancing area and joined the group. Ashlyn was someone he could never refuse. He and Ashlyn shared a special bond—both of them had been adopted by the Grant clan after difficult childhoods. To this day, she spent most of her time protecting her younger sister Gracie, and now she had two brothers to protect as well.

Loki was a natural protector, too. He was completely devoted to his adoptive mother and father, his brother, Braden, and his two sisters. He loved every one of his aunts, uncles, and cousins. Bella was also on that list, though he knew he did not have any right to be her protector. He would never let aught happen to any of them. “Someday, you’ll find a lad and change your mind.”

“Nay, I will not. And you know why. I do not trust men.” As she twirled in a circle, laughter erupted from her normally serious face and her brown hair swung in a curtain behind her.

Loki said, “Ashlyn, you’ve become a beautiful lass. You must marry.”

“Do I? And what about you? You’re older and not married.” She smirked as her chin jutted out another notch.

Loki had no answer for her. He decided to let her win this argument, so he focused on dancing instead. Of course, he did not fail to notice that Bella had just moved into the dancing area. His gaze honed in on her and her partner. The lad who was chatting with her was not very big, and not very smooth either, but he was having a laugh with her.

“Your scowl is telling everyone what you think of Bella dancing, cousin.”

Loki jerked his gaze back to Ashlyn. “I’ve no scowl on my face.” He tried to smile, but failed.

Ashlyn giggled. “I can see you are trying. You’re almost there, though I know better than to believe it. ‘Tis making you daft to watch her with another.”

The music ended, so they walked back to the table, but Loki purposefully altered their path so he could swing a sharp elbow at Bella’s dance partner in passing. He could feel the emotion churning in his gut as he headed back to the dais.

His sire moved to the stool across from him. “Jealousy is a wicked emotion.”

“I do not know of what you speak, Da.”

“Nay? I think you do, and if it bothers you so, say the word and we’ll see you married to her. You know your laird can order it.”

“As I’ve said before, I do not want it ordered. I want Bella to want to marry me, and I want her sire to believe I’m deserving of her.” He plunked onto the bench, frustration seeping from his pores. He would never survive Bella marrying another.

“That will not happen if you run away.” Brodie spoke to him quietly, but Loki was sure his mother could overhear.

“Aye, well, her da does not accept me, so there’s no reason for me to stay any longer.”

“Why is that? I think your mother,” he tipped his head toward Celestina, “would say otherwise.”

Hellfire, why did his sire always do that to him? He could not bear to look at his mother now. “Bella may be sent with her sister to assist her upon her marriage.”

Brodie appeared surprised. “We were not aware of that.”

Loki clenched his fists on top of the table. “There is no chance of our marriage.”

“There is, you’re just insisting that it happens on your terms.”

“And if it were up to you, Da, would you do the same or have your laird force it?” Loki knew the answer to this question, but he did not know if his sire would admit it.

Brodie turned to gaze at his wife, who was deep in conversation with her sisters-in-law. His father’s hair had flecks of gray in it and he kept it longer than he had years ago, but one thing about him that had never changed was the deep love he felt for his wife. “At your age, I’d have done the same. But knowing what I know now, I would allow my laird to force the issue. I could not imagine life without your mother.” Brodie reached for Celestina’s hand and held it cocooned in his two while she continued to talk to Maddie and Caralyn. “Pride is not always worth it, Loki. Love is. But I’ll not interfere. ‘Tis your decision to make.”

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