Graeme nodded, appreciating the older man’s candor. When he spoke, he was just as blunt. “I don’t like it any more than you.”
“You sacrifice nothing,” Tavis bit out. “There is nothing for you to dislike. You walk away with my daughter and you give up nothing in return.”
Graeme lifted an eyebrow as anger crept up his nape, seizing the back of his skull. He had to work to keep from losing his temper. It took all he had not to lunge for the other man. All he could see was his da’s face and stare at the man whose father was responsible for murdering his da.
“Think you I do not? I am saddled with a defective wife, one who will never bear me heirs. I give up much. I give up everything.”
“She’s not defective!” one of the Armstrong sons roared as he leapt forward.
Teague and Bowen drew their swords in a split second and stepped in front of Graeme to ward off attack. Their arms shook, and Graeme knew what it cost them not to just run the Armstrongs through on the spot.
The entire situation had the potential to explode at a moment’s notice. The two sides were too eager to have any excuse to shed the other’s blood.
“That’s enough,” the Earl of Dunbar barked. “The king would be most displeased. He wants peace and it’s peace he shall have. When this wedding is done, an oath will be sworn between the two clans and a treaty will be signed in blood. Any breach of the treaty will be viewed as an act of treason against the crown. Your lands will be forfeit and you’ll be branded outlaws and hunted as such.”
“Brodie, stand down,” Tavis said to the son who’d roared in anger. “Aiden, put your sword away.”
Brodie glared at Graeme as if he wanted nothing more than to spit Graeme on his sword right here and now. Graeme gave him a slow smirk that clearly said, “Try it.”
“She’s worth ten of you,” Brodie bit out as he backed away.
He and Teague slowly resheathed their swords, but both kept their hands on the hilts.
Tavis held up his hand, and he looked suddenly weary, lines of age creasing his forehead. He looked like a man who’d waged war with the very devil. Graeme couldn’t feel any sympathy. Not when the man’s father had murdered Graeme’s own father. Not when his clan had lost so much over the years to the Armstrongs.
“Come inside,” Tavis said in a tone that conveyed just how much he loathed having to issue the invitation. “My lady wife will have drink and refreshment after your journey.”
“Indeed, and I should like to meet my prospective bride,” Graeme said in a mocking voice.
Brodie’s lips turned into a snarl again, but Tavis silenced him with a quick look. He motioned to Graeme and his brothers, and they walked inside the keep, the earl standing between the two groups as they filed into the great hall.
A petite woman rose from her chair by the hearth and laid aside her sewing. It was obvious that she must be Tavis’s wife, though she didn’t look to be a woman of any significant age.
Fear engulfed her face even though she tried valiantly to hide it, and it left Graeme disgusted, for he’d never raise arms against a woman. No matter that she was the wife of his enemy, she should be accorded the respect and courtesy due her station.
He walked forward, hoping she didn’t turn and run screaming from the room, but she held her ground and returned his stare without flinching.
“My lady,” he said, making a deep bow.
When he lifted his head, he reached for her hand and she allowed him to take it. He raised the back to his lips and brushed them barely over the top in a gesture of respect.
“You are Graeme Montgomery,” she said in a strained voice.
“I am,” he said solemnly. “And you are Lady Armstrong.”
“Robina,” she amended. “After all we are to be … f-family,” she stammered out and looked ill for saying the words.
To be honest, they made him just as ill. Family? Never. “Robina, then.”
He turned to his brothers. “These are my brothers, Bowen and Teague.”
“You have a sister as well, do you not?” Robina questioned.