A moment later, his brother ascended the rope and Teague quickly scrambled up after him. Graeme lay down on his stomach and inched his way over the edge.
“Hold onto my legs,” he directed. “You’ll have to pull me and Eveline back up when I’ve gained hold of her.”
Carefully, his brothers holding his ankles, Graeme was lowered, and when he was almost able to touch Aiden’s extended hands, Aiden called down for his father to lift Eveline up.
Helped by the other men, Tavis put Eveline into Aiden’s arms, and then he raised her as high as he could while perched on Brodie’s shoulders. Twice he nearly fell, but was able to successfully gain his balance without dropping her.
Finally, Graeme slipped his hands underneath Eveline’s arms and then yelled back for his brothers to pull him up.
He scraped painfully over the rough floor and his injured shoulder protested the rough treatment, but he ignored all pain and discomfort. He had Eveline back in his arms. She was alive, though he didn’t know the extent of her injuries or what had been done to her while she was in captivity.
He waited for the others to make the climb up only because he could not do what must be done while still holding Eveline.
They walked up the stairs to the first level of the keep in silence, Graeme holding Eveline tightly to his chest the entire way. When he reached the top, he turned, and when her father and her brothers cleared the top step, Graeme held Eveline out to Tavis.
“Guard her well,” he said in a low voice. “And wait here until I’ve done what I must. I’ll not have her exposed to him a moment longer. I would not want her to awaken and to see him in life or death.”
Tavis nodded his understanding and took Eveline into his arms. Brodie and Aiden hovered close to their father, their eyes dark and worried.
Graeme turned to stalk away, leaving the others behind. He walked through the keep and back to the courtyard, his single-minded purpose to go back to where Silas was holding Ian.
The weak little bastard actually looked at Graeme in triumph when Graeme appeared in the courtyard without Eveline.
“See? I told you I had no use for the simpleton.”
Graeme drew his sword in one smooth motion and before Ian could even process what was about to happen, Graeme thrust the sword through Ian’s belly until the blade protruded out his back.
Ian stared up in shock, his eyes glazing over with death. Blood bubbled from his mouth and slid down his chin to drip on the ground.
“That was for my wife,” Graeme snarled. “I hope you rot in hell.”
Ian dropped, folding like a ribbon in the wind. Graeme didn’t even wait to see if he’d taken his last breath before he began searching his body for the keys to the manacles. He was the sort who would have carried them on his person, and Graeme was right. The key was in the pocket of Ian’s tunic.
He sheathed his sword, not bothering to wipe Ian’s blood from the blade. Then he hurried back to where Eveline was and carefully unlocked the manacles, prying them from her wrists and ankles.
When he stood back to toss aside the chains, he looked Eveline’s father in the eye.
“I have no intention of breaking our treaty. I want only to return to my keep with Eveline.”
He held out his arms for Eveline, but Tavis hesitated. His hold tightened around the precious bundle in his arms, and he looked at Graeme, his expression pleading.
“Our keep is closer. Let us go there so we can be sure all is well with Eveline. Do not deny me this, I beg you. Her mother will want to know all of what you’ve told me. She’ll want to hold her daughter in her arms and know that she is safe and happy.”
Graeme glanced at his brothers and then back to the Armstrong chieftain. It was no easy thing, what he requested. He was asking Graeme to lay aside the past, to walk onto Armstrong land as a … guest. And to remain there as … family.
He stared up again at his brothers and let his gaze linger, wanting their thoughts. Bowen and Teague exchanged looks and turned their heads slightly, taking in the expressions on the faces of Eveline’s brothers and father, who still held Eveline tightly against his chest.