Never Seduce a Scot(10)

By: Maya Banks

The earl shook his head. “I am not here to bargain with you, Tavis. ’Tis too late for talk of treaties and peace. The war between you has gone on for too long. Alexander is impatient to bring peace to the highlands, and this blood feud between your clans is a threat to the stability Alexander wants. I may not agree with his methods, but he has my full support. He sent me to bear witness to the marriage and give official report upon my return. I’m to give his order and blessing upon the ceremony and bear with me the letter having his royal seal and the official declaration of the union        .”

“She is doomed,” Tavis whispered.

“I believe Graeme Montgomery to be a fair and just man,” the earl said carefully. “I do not think he would be cruel to your daughter for vengeance’s sake.”

In all his years, Tavis had never felt so helpless. As he lifted his gaze, he saw his wife standing across the great hall, her grief a living, breathing thing in the room.

But she hid it well as she crisply walked forward. She’d dressed her best in deference to the earl’s visit and only Tavis’s keen eye could detect the turmoil that simmered just beneath the surface of her careful composure.

He and the earl both rose as Robina drew nigh.

“My lady,” the earl said smoothly, lifting her hand to press a kiss to its back. “ ’Tis been many years since we last met and I vow you’ve grown more beautiful than you were even then.”

Robina smiled graciously, but it didn’t reach to her eyes. “You’re too kind, my lord. You do us an honor by attending the wedding of our daughter. I do hope you’ll find your accommodations to your liking. If there’s anything you require, please make me aware of it and it will be provided at once.”

Tavis hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath until his chest began to burn in protest. He hadn’t been certain that Robina wouldn’t have planted a dagger in the earl’s heart if she thought it would save her daughter.

Robina was outspoken, strong willed, and he loved her with every part of his warrior’s heart. If she’d been a man, she would be the fiercest in all of Scotland.

Many a man wouldn’t tolerate her quickness to speak her mind or that she matched his strength with her own. They’d want to subjugate her. Make her weak and stamp out the very thing that made her so very special.

Robina was no meek lass and for that Tavis gave thanks on a daily basis. She was his and he’d offer no apology on her behalf. He loved her just the way she was.

But then he began to worry. Because Robina was being too nice and too accommodating. Her smile made him nervous. Was she plotting to poison the earl’s drink? Or perhaps she’d slip a dirk between his ribs when she escorted him to his chamber. Either was possible, for Robina was ferocious when it came to her children.

“I’ll show the earl to his chambers,” Tavis said, before Robina could extend the offer. “Have food and drink delivered to him so that he may rest from his journey.”

Before he could guide the earl toward the stairwell, one of the tower guards burst into the great hall. He came up short when he saw the earl standing next to Tavis, and then he inclined his head in a respectful bow.

“Laird, a Montgomery messenger has arrived bearing news that the chieftain and his accompanying men will arrive by nightfall.”

Robina’s lips tightened, but to her credit, she remained silent even as her hands were fisted into knots at her side.

The earl lifted one eyebrow and regarded Tavis in amusement. “One might gain the idea that Graeme Montgomery is eager to claim his bride.”

Tavis’s gut rolled into a knot, disgusted by the mere thought of his daughter in the hands of the Montgomerys. He exchanged a look of sorrow with his wife because it was becoming increasingly clear that there was nothing short of declaring war and betraying their king that they could do, and to do so would mean the deaths of their entire clan.

Their beloved daughter or the lives of every single kinsman who depended on them for protection.

It was a choice no man should ever have to make.

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