Rescued by a Highlander(6)By: Keira Montclair
Laird MacDonald has been beating his stepsister Madeline whene’er he sees fit. We fer for her life. Is not right to beat a woman so. She is only eight and ten summers. Afore her death our lady Elizabeth bade us to call to you for help if we were in need. She sed you were an honorable man. Ples help us.
Alex read the note and handed it to his brother.
After he finished reading, Brodie glanced at his brother with one eyebrow raised, “What’s on the other?”
Alex answered with his jaw clenched. “A map. Our plans are changing.”
Madeline eased her legs to the side of the bed and sat up slowly.
“How long have I been here, Alice?” she asked her maid, unable to hide her grimaces of pain.
“Three days, and you still do not have the strength you need to be getting out of bed!” Alice grumbled as she rounded the bed to help her rise.
Madeline groaned as she rose to her feet. “I need a warm bath to help my aches.”
Sending a girl for hot water, the servant helped her remove her night rail. Maddie forced back tears as Alice removed the binding around her ribs, the maid's fingers gently probing her multiple bruises.
“He went too far this time, Madeline. I thought they may have been broken, but perhaps just bruised. Even so, bruising a woman’s ribs is beyond madness. You need to get away from him,” Alice cried as she helped Madeline into the tub.
“And where will I go?” Maddie sighed as the warmth enveloped her body.
“Have you thought to ask if he would allow you to go to a convent, lass?” Alice’s voice softened as she swept Maddie’s hair back from her face.
“No. For I know what his answer would be. Kenneth means to marry me to Niles Comming. But I will not do it. I will not live the rest of my life with that twisted man,” Maddie cringed at the thought of life as Comming’s wife. “I could not suffer through even one night by his side after what he did to me.”
Alice’s voice grew quiet as she carefully washed her mistress’s back. “I fear for your life now. In fact, Mac and I had the laddie you have been schooling pen a letter for us. Laird Grant and his brother stopped here the other day. Mac hid it in the laird’s things before he left.”
“You did what?” Madeline cried, lifting herself from the tub and promptly falling back into it as pain laced through her. “How could you do such a thing, Alice? Kenneth will beat you when he finds out. And who is Laird Grant?”
“Your mother gave me Laird Grant’s name before she died. We were to contact him if there was any trouble. We did not realize he had passed until his sons were here. Your father believed the old laird to be an honorable man. Do you not remember the visits you had as a child? You loved spending time with the old laird’s daughters, Brenna and Jennifer. Wee Jenny was just a babe when we were there. The Lord looked down on us that day by sending the new laird to us. That is what I believe. The Grants are good people.”
“I do remember them. I loved visiting Brenna and Jennie. Jennie was so little and cute, and she followed her brothers everywhere. I loved their mama, too. Brenna was sweet, it was so nice to have a friend my age. But why would you involve them? I don’t want any trouble or anyone getting hurt.”
“Someone needs to come to your aid, lass. My husband and I cannot fight Kenneth ourselves, much as we love you. I just pray the laird finds the missive and acts on it. I only wish they would come and put a dagger through Kenneth’s cold heart.”
“What an awful thing to say. I hate Kenneth, but I do not wish him dead. He cannot help how he is. They say his mother was a mean-spirited woman and made him the same.”
“That does not make it right. He can choose to be different. He should have learned the way of your precious mother. He was around her enough.” Alice plaited Madeline’s long golden tresses while she finished soaking. Maddie leaned her head back toward Alice, enjoying the soothing ritual.
“And if not, he could learn your kind ways, Maddie. Everyone knows you would never knowingly hurt anyone. But it seems the more kindness you show, the meaner he gets.”