In Bed with a Highlander Page 20

Before one of them could do so, she reached down and yanked the arrow from the ground. Then she slapped it against Ewan’s chest, her fright giving way to fury.

“How could your men be so careless? They could have killed one of the children!”

CHAPTER 18

Ewan was every bit as furious over the incident as his wife, but he wasn’t about to allow her to chastise him in front of his men.

“You will be silent.”

Her eyes widened and she took a step back. Good, she was finally realizing her place. But then her eyes narrowed and she scowled ferociously at him.

“I won’t be silent,” she said in a low voice. “You must have a safe place for the children to play and run free. It won’t do for them to be this close to the courtyard if your men can’t control their aim.”

He took the arrow from her and examined the markings on it. Then he looked up at her again. “Until I know who is responsible, you will cease insulting my men, and me, by thinking we would allow such a thing to happen. You may return to the keep to see to the children. Cormac will escort you.”

Hurt flashed in her eyes, but she whirled around and hurried away, her skirts swinging in her haste.

He turned to Gannon, furious over the mishap. “You will find the man who shot this arrow and you’ll bring him to me. Not only could he have killed a child, he could have killed my wife.”

His fingers curled into a fist at the memory of how close the arrow had come to Mairin and himself. Though the arrow hadn’t struck high enough to have done serious damage to himself, to a lass Mairin’s size, it would have been deadly.

His gaze dropped to the ground where Mairin had stood just moments ago. He frowned and dropped to his knee, touching the soil with his fingers. His throat closed in and his heart began to pound. Blood darkened the dirt right next to her footprints. As he followed Mairin’s path away, he saw more drops.

“Sweet Jesu,” he murmured.

“What is it, Ewan?” Caelen asked sharply.

“Blood.”

He shot to his feet and stared after his wife’s retreating back. “Mairin!”

Mairin was nearly to the steps leading into the keep when Ewan’s roar stopped her ad in her tracks. She winced and turned around. The only problem was the world didn’t stop turning when she did.

She swayed precariously and blinked to try to bring everything back to rights. Odd, but her knees shook and felt suspiciously jamlike. Before she knew it, she found herself kneeling on the ground, looking at her husband bearing down on her like an avenging angel.

“Oh dear,” she murmured. “I’ve really angered him now.”

But he didn’t look angry. He looked … worried. He rushed to her and sank to his knees in front of her. Gannon stood just behind the laird, and he, too, looked very concerned. Even Caelen wore something other than his usual look of boredom. His brows were knit together, and he stared at her as if expecting her to react.

“Why are we kneeling on the ground, Laird?” she whispered.

“I need to take you up to our chamber, lass,” he said in a tone he might use with a child.

Her brow crinkled about the time pain stabbed through her side as if someone had prodded her with a hot iron. She clutched at her side and bobbled, but the laird caught her by the shoulders with gentle hands.

“But why? Surely you can’t …” She leaned forward and whispered urgently, “ ’Tis not the time for loving, Ewan. ’Tis broad daylight. Why, it isn’t much past the noon hour.”

He ignored her and then leaned forward and plucked her right off the ground. She landed with a thud against him, which sent another shard of pain through her side. She gasped and the world went a little watery as tears welled in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, lass,” he said gruffly. “I did not mean to hurt you.”

Perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea that he was taking her up to their chamber because it was God’s truth she was suddenly so tired that it was quite a task to keep her eyes open.

“If you would stop your shouting, I could go to sleep,” she said crossly.

“Nay, lass, don’t go to sleep. Not yet. I need you to stay awake until I can assess your injuries.”

He then shouted again, this time for someone to fetch the healer. Healer? She didn’t need a healer. What she needed was a nice long nap. And she told the laird so.

He ignored her and carried her into their chamber, where he laid her on the bed. She was prepared to close her eyes when he began tugging at her clothing.

Her eyes flew open and she smacked his hands. “What are you doing?”

Ewan looked grim as he stared down at her. “You’ve been hurt. Now let me take your clothing off so I can see where.”

She blinked. “Hurt?” Well, actually, there was a bad pain in her side.

“The arrow must have hit you,” he said. “There was blood on the ground where you stood. Do you hurt anywhere?”

“My side. It does ache something fierce, now that you mention it.”

When he moved his fingers up her side, she let out a whimper. He grimaced. “Bear with me. I’m sorry, but I have to see what we’re dealing with here.”

He took a knife from his belt and sliced a large opening in the side of her dress.

“You’re forever ruining my clothing,” she said mournfully. “Before long, I’ll have nothing to wear but my nightdress.”

“I’ll have a new dress fashioned for you,” he muttered.

That cheered her considerably as he made quick work of her clothing with his knife.

He rolled her to the side that wasn’t hurting and she felt him tense against her.

“Ah, lass, you’ve gone and gotten yourself shot by an arrow.”

She went rigid. And then she sputtered. “Gotten myself shot? More like one of your men shot me. I’d like to know who it is. I’ve a mind to take one of Gertie’s pots to his backside.”

Ewan chuckled. “ ’Tis not so bad, but you’re still bleeding. You’ll need stitching.”

She went completely still. “Ewan?”

“Aye, lass?”

“Don’t let them take a needle to me. Please. You said it wasn’t so bad. Can’t you clean it and bandage it?”

She hated the pleading in her voice. She sounded weak and silly, but the idea of a needle being plunged into her flesh was worse than an arrow slicing through her skin.

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Ewan pressed his mouth to her shoulder and kept it there for a long moment. “I’m sorry, lass, but it has to be done. The cut is too deep and too open for bandaging. The wound needs to be cleaned and closed.”

“Will you … Will you stay with me?”

He stroked his hand down her arm and then back up and over her shoulder to her cheek. He pushed her hair away from her face and then his hand cupped her nape.

“I’ll be here, Mairin.”

CHAPTER 19

“What do you mean the healer isn’t here?” Ewan asked in disbelief.

Cormac had no lovfor telling his laird that the healer couldn’t be fetched. The dread was there to read on his face.

“Find our healer and bring her here,” Ewan said through clenched teeth.

“I cannot, Laird,” Cormac said with a heavy sigh. “The MacLaurens lost their healer and Lorna went to help deliver the laird’s babe. You gave her permission yourself.”

Ewan blew out his breath in frustration. Of course he had. Lorna was a skilled midwife and MacLauren had sent a frantic appeal to Ewan for help when his laboring wife had failed to bring forth a babe in a timely manner. At the time, he’d considered that if any of the McCabes needed the services of a healer, he himself would tend to the need.

Only now his wife needed stitching and it was God’s truth he had no liking for the chore.

“Bring me ale, as strong as you can find,” he murmured to Cormac. “You might need to ask Gertie where she stocks the blend we keep on hand for injuries and sedation. I need water, needle and thread, and something to bind her wound with. Be quick about it.”

When Cormac left, Ewan turned back to Mairin, who lay on the bed, her eyes closed. She was unnaturally pale and it lent an even more delicate look to her features.

He shook his head at the direction of his thoughts. The wound wasn’t serious. Certainly nothing she’d die of. Provided he could prevent her from taking a fever.

Gannon and Diormid stood close to the bed, hovering anxiously. While Ewan waited for Cormac to bring the supplies, he turned to his men and spoke in low tones.

“I want every person in the keep questioned. Someone must have seen something. I refuse to believe this was an accident. My men are far too careful. Find out who was practicing with bows and arrows.”

“You think someone tried to harm the lass?” Gannon asked in disbelief.

“That’s what I’d like to find out,” Ewan said.

“I’m sure no one meant to kill me,” Mairin said in a bleary voice. “ ’Twas an accident, that’s all. You may tell your men I forgive them.”

“What do you want me to do, Ewan?” Caelen asked, his features drawn into a tight line.

“Remain with me. I’ll need help holding her.”

Cormac rushed in, his arms full and his fingers clamped tight around a flask of ale. Ewan took the items from Cormac and set them next to the bed.

He didn’t want anyone touching Mairin, but he also recognized the impossibility of him being able to do everything. If he was going to do the stitching—and if the healer wasn’t able to, no one else was going to do it but him—then he’d need one of the others to hold her steady and make sure he didn’t do more damage than good.

He looked up at Cormac. “Go make sure the children are all right. Make sure that Crispen is attended to. He’ll worry when he hears what happened to Mairin. Have Maddie and the other women keep him below stairs until I am done.”

Cormac bowed and hurried from the chamber, leaving Ewan and Caelen with Mairin.

Taking the flask in hand, Ewan sat on the bed close to Mairin’s head and trailed a finger over her cheek.

“Lass, I need you to open your eyes and drink this.”

Her eyelids fluttered and her unfocused eyes found his. He helped her lean up enough so that she could put her lips to the opening. As soon as the liquid hit her mouth, she flinched away, her face drawn into an expression of intense dislike.

“Are you poisoning me?” she demanded.

He held back the chuckle and put the flask close to her mouth again. “ ’Tis ale. You’ll need it to help relax you. It will also help the pain.”

She bit her lips and turned worried eyes back to him.

“Pain?”

He sighed. “Aye, lass. Pain. I wish it weren’t so, but the stitching up will cause you pain. If you drink this down, you won’t feel as much. I promise.”

“You likely won’t feel anything at all after a good taste of that stuff,” Caelen muttered.

She wrinkled up her nose and sighed fatalistically as she allowed Ewan to put the ale to her mouth again. To her credit, she drank it down with only minimal gagging and choking. When he lowered the flask, her skin had a greenish hue that made him worry the ale would come back up with the least provocation.

“Deep breaths,” he said. “In through your nose. Let it settle.”

She flopped back onto the pillow and promptly let out a very unladylike belch followed by a series of hiccups.

“You didn’t hear that,” she said.

Caelen arched an eyebrow and shot Ewan a look of amusement. “Hear what?”

“You’re a good man, Caelen,” she said dramatically. “You aren’t near as fierce as you look, though if you’d smile on occasion, you’d be quite handsome.”

Caelen scowled at that.

Ewan waited several minutes and then leaned over to stare down at Mairin. “How do you feel, lass?”

“Wonderful. Ewan, why are there two of you? I can assure you that one is entirely enough.”

Ewan smiled. “You’re ready.”

“Am I? What am I ready for?”

Ewan dipped one of the cloths into a basin of warm water that Cormac had prepared. After wringing it out, he carefully wiped the now drying blood from Mairin’s side. It was only a graze, and in fact, it looked as though the arrow went right between her arm and her side as there was a bloody crease on the inside of her arm as well.

The arrow cut through more of her side, and it was that flesh that needed stitching.

He motioned for Caelen to take position on Mairin’s other side. Caelen walked around the bed and carefully pulled her arm away so that her side was bared to Ewan.

“You’ll have to hold her,” Ewan said patiently. “I don’t want her moving when I put the needle to her flesh.”

Reluctantly, Caelen anchored her more firmly against his body and held her wrist so that she couldn’t flail her arm.

Mairin roused and stared dumbly up at Caelen. “Caelen, your laird will not be pleased to find you in his bed.”

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