“ ’Tis not a big thing they ask,” Bowen said in a low voice. “A mother would want to know her only daughter is well after such an ordeal.”
Graeme’s heart lightened and relief crushed through his chest. For Eveline he could set aside years of hatred and the burning desire for revenge, but he could not expect his kin to feel the same.
“We should hasten, Graeme,” Teague said. “The lass should awaken among those who love her and not here, where she has suffered abuse.”
Graeme turned his gaze to Tavis. “If you’ll have us, then we’ll be grateful for your hospitality and for any care you can render to my wife.”
Tavis took the three steps that separated him from Graeme and gently placed Eveline in Graeme’s arms.
“Let’s ride and allow Patrick to bury his dead. We can further settle the matter with the McHughs and conduct a full investigation once we are sure that Eveline will recover from her ordeal.”
Graeme lowered his face to his wife’s head and briefly closed his eyes in the sweet wonder of having her back, alive. Then he nodded his agreement to Tavis and turned to stalk back to where his horse was being kept by his men.
As soon as they approached Armstrong Keep, Robina Armstrong ran out to greet her husband, her expression frantic.
She stopped short when she took in the presence of the Montgomery soldiers. Her eyes widened as she stared in bewilderment at the impressive display of might. And then her gaze settled on Graeme, and her hand went to her mouth when she saw it was Eveline he held before him.
She ran, skirts flying, as fast as her feet would carry her until she was directly below Graeme. He had to hold his horse in place so she wouldn’t be trampled.
“Damn it, Robina!” Tavis roared. “I told you to remain within the keep no matter what occurred!”
“What has happened to Eveline?” Robina asked, her distress evident in her choked words. She completely ignored the anger of her husband as she stared imploringly up at Graeme.
“I know not all of it,” Graeme said in gentle tones. “Allow me passage so that Eveline may be tended to.”
Robina stepped hastily to the side. “Of course.”
Then she turned and ran as fast as she’d come back to the keep, leaving them to follow on horseback.
By the time they rode into the courtyard, Robina was waiting anxiously on the steps, her fingers laced together in a ball in front of her. Tears shone on her cheeks as she waited for the warriors to dismount.
Bowen circumvented Eveline’s brothers when they would have reached up to lift Eveline down from Graeme’s horse. In a clear message that he considered Eveline one of his own, Bowen reached for her, taking her from Graeme’s arms and carefully lowering her.
He waited for Graeme to slide down and then handed her back into Graeme’s care. Mindful not to jostle her, Graeme walked toward Robina, displaying no discomfort over the fact that he and his men were fully ensconced on Armstrong land and that they were, in effect, at the mercy of the Armstrong laird.
Robina urged him inside and then hurried ahead of him, directing him to follow her up the stairs. When she would have pushed into the chamber that Eveline had occupied before, Graeme halted.
“Will this chamber accommodate me too?” he demanded. “I’ll not leave her.”
Robina’s eyes widened, and then she cleared her throat. “Perhaps it would be better then to put her in the chamber you rested in when you were here as a guest.”
Graeme nodded and followed her farther down the hall until they came to the room where he and Eveline had had their first true conversation, even though Eveline hadn’t spoken a word the entire time. How things had changed since then.
He lowered her to the bed and then sat on the edge and ran his hand over the dark bruise on her jaw. Another marred her entire temple. There were fingerprints on her cheek, as if Ian had grasped her harshly.
His fingers trembled and his nostrils flared. His emotions threatened to crumble as he stared down at his fragile, bruised wife. Oh God, he’d thought he’d never see her again. He’d never been so afraid in his life. Never had he cared so much for a woman that the mere idea of being without her had threatened to crush his entire world.