Eveline’s lips turned down into an expression of sorrow. She briefly closed her eyes, but Graeme touched her cheek until she looked back at him.
“Worry not, Eveline. I am with you. I’ll always be with you. I’ll stand by you when you speak to your parents for the first time. I’ll not allow any upset.”
She nodded, her shoulders heaving as she let out a long breath. “ ’Tis good they know. I hated deceiving them so.”
“Aye, I know it,” Graeme said gently.
He kissed her again, treasuring being able to do so when he had feared never seeing her again. Never holding her. Never having the chance to tell her all that was in his heart.
Now wasn’t the time, but soon. He was near to bursting with all he wanted to say. But first he would care for her. Make sure she had food and rest.
“Would you like to see your mother and father now? I’ll send down for food and hot water for a proper bath. You can see them now or after you’ve had time to eat and clean up.”
“After,” she croaked in a strained whisper.
He nodded and then rose to go tell her mother all Eveline needed.
Eveline submerged herself in the wooden tub until the steaming water lapped against her chin. She closed her eyes and allowed the warmth to seep into her bones, replacing the aching chill and soothing away the soreness of her muscles.
Graeme gathered her hair as it fell over the back and began brushing the tangles from the strands. She savored his touch, the comfort of having him so near. She feared nothing when he was with her.
When he was finished brushing her hair, he pulled it around one shoulder and let it drop into the water. Then he picked up a clay pitcher and knelt up so he could dip it in the water.
He turned her face so she could see his mouth and then instructed her to sit forward so he could wash her hair.
’Twas an exhilarating experience to have this hard warrior so tenderly wash and soothe away her aches and pains. She’d never felt so cherished. So … loved.
The thought sent a fierce ache into her very soul. What she wouldn’t give to be able to hear those words from his lips. She’d give anything at all to have one day when she could hear. Just to rejoice in the sound of something so simple as a few spoken words from her husband’s heart.
She closed her eyes and sat there limply while he finished soaping and rinsing her hair and then when he washed the rest of her body, even down to her toes.
As her foot slipped back down into the water, he leaned over the tub and captured her mouth in a deep, seeking kiss. It was a little less gentle than his kisses had been when she was still abed.
There was a desperation about him, almost as if he were still convincing himself that she was here and was safe. His palm cradled her jaw and held her as his kiss deepened and his tongue slid sensuously over hers.
I love you.
The words that she tried to say simply wouldn’t come out. They died painfully in her throat, the strength to vocalize gone.
Graeme drew away, his gaze never leaving her as he reached for one of the drying linens. He took her hand, helped her to her feet, and assisted her in stepping over the rim and onto the chamber floor. Immediately he wrapped her from head to toe in the linen and ushered her toward the fire where a plate of bread and cheese, along with a bowl of steaming rabbit stew, awaited.
“I want you to eat every bite,” he instructed.
She nodded, only too happy to comply with his dictate.
The fire warming her skin, she sucked the broth from her spoon and savored the trail of warmth down her throat. It soothed the rawness and moistened the ravaged flesh.
She ate until exhaustion claimed her and she could barely hold her head up any longer. Reaction set in and to her disgust she began to shake violently.
It was stupid. She was safe. She was miles away from Ian McHugh, and he was dead anyway. And yet she couldn’t stop trembling. She couldn’t stop the horrific realization that she could still be in that dark dungeon manacled to the wall.
Graeme swept her into his arms and carried her back to the bed. He tossed aside the linen he’d wrapped her in and pulled the wool gown back over her head. Taking only enough time to remove his boots, he tucked her beneath the furs and crawled in beside her, pulling her to his body so that his warmth seeped into hers.