Rescued by a Highlander(7)By: Keira Montclair
“I shall find a way out of this without hurting anyone. Perhaps the next time a priest comes to visit, I can find my way to the convent. Besides, where could I go if I were free of Kenneth? I have no other kin. Finding an abbey is my only alternative.” Maddie’s voice dropped as she stared into the water.
Alice’s voice trembled as she spoke, “I do not know what to tell you, lass. Kenneth will force you to marry the Comming whether you agree or not. Why must he beat you? You know those two men will force you to their bidding. The priest will not be able to deny them either. Between the two, their power is too mighty for all of us. The Lord needs to help you either to a convent or away from here. No good will come from you staying. The danger is too great for your fine-boned constitution.”
Alice sighed as she continued, brushing the stray curls back from Maddie’s face. “You belong with a strong, gentle man and many bairns at your feet. Your kindness and loving ways would be wasted at a convent. You know you are happiest around the wee ones. But you belong with a good man, Maddie, not the Comming. I hope the Grant laird heeds our message.”
Maddie placed her elbow on the side of the tub and leaned her head into her hand. Every night her mother had told her a story at bedtime. She had rubbed Maddie’s back and talked about fairies and dragons when she was younger. But the last year had always been about Maddie’s blonde-haired knight coming to claim her as his bride. Sometimes the story had been about arriving to meet her and her family. Other times, he rescued her from terrible situations.
She sighed as she thought of her troubles. Was her current situation bad enough to warrant being rescued by her knight in shining armor? Oh, how she hoped it was.
“Do you know I have been having dreams?” Maddie raised her gaze to the only woman she trusted, wondering how she could ever fare without Alice.
“About what, child?”
“A man, a dark-haired man, a stranger. He comes to me and comforts me. He seems familiar, but I have never seen him before. He reminds me of my father because he makes me feel safe. But he is not fair like him, and he is much larger than my da.” Maddie ran her finger through the water as she thought.
“In my dream, he touches me. He is so gentle. He makes me feel very different than da. I think he loves me. But I know it could never come true.”
“Why is that, lass?”
A single tear gathered in the corner of Madeline’s eye. “Because I could never allow another man to touch me.”
Alex sat with his brother on a log in a clearing at dawn. The peaceful silence of the Highland forest greeted them. Crisp morning air always cleared his head. He rubbed the rough stubble on his face as he listened to the rustling of critters through the trees.
“If we ride most of the day, we should make the MacDonald keep by nightfall. We can search for the entrance shown on the map and plan to enter the tunnel a couple of hours after dark. I hope this tunnel is still functional. If the previous laird is the only one that knows of this, it could be difficult going.”
“Most castles have secret tunnels built into them.”
“True, but it isn’t often the stable master has knowledge of the secret tunnel. Usually, only the laird’s highest command members have knowledge of the access.” Alex stood up, striding over to a patch of mint leaves and grabbing a few to chew on.
Brodie didn’t answer right away. He crossed his arms in front of him before he spoke. “Alex, are you sure this is what you want to do? You know it could cause a war if MacDonald believes ‘tis us.”
“Aye, I understand your concern, but I cannot walk away. I saw the bruising around her eye and on her throat.”
“Mayhap she fell.”
“The missive from the stable master says the laird beats her. How can I walk away from an innocent lass? Someone has to help her.”
“Is this what da would have done?” Brodie stared into his eyes.
Alex didn’t look away. “Aye, without a doubt. You know our father would not walk away from the brutalization of the weak or innocent. Do you no’ remember the night he and our mother sat and talked to the three of us about women and how they should be treated? Our brother, Robbie, knew how serious da was. He ne’er made a joke through the entire conversation. ‘Tis near impossible for him.”