Brodie and Aiden came to hug her. Brodie was fierce in his embrace, and he touched a gentle finger to the bruise so close to her mouth.
“I love you, little sister. Never forget your home here and the people who love you.”
She smiled. “Nay, I’ll not forget ever.”
She returned to Graeme and he once more sat on the bed, pulling her into his lap. She felt safe and sheltered there, his warmth and strength aiding her own.
“There is more we must know, Eveline,” Graeme said. “Ian McHugh took you, but when we rode to McHugh Keep, Patrick McHugh claimed he had no knowledge of his son’s actions. We left the holding quickly because we feared that you were sorely injured. Can you tell us all that occurred, if ’tis not too painful for you to relate?”
Eveline stared at her husband in shock. “Not know of it? Graeme, he was there, in the dungeon when Ian struck me. I saw him and he backed into the shadows as if he didn’t want me to see, but he was there. He knew of it all.”
Graeme went rigid and he stared at the others in the room, his features locked in fury. She touched his cheek so he’d look at her once more.
“He acted afraid of his son. It made no sense to me. Ian was so much smaller than I remembered him to be. Much smaller than even his father. When I was younger, he seemed so huge, like a monster of myth. When I saw him again, I could scarcely believe that this was a man who’d fueled my nightmares for so long.”
“He dies,” Graeme said, his expression ice cold.
Eveline glanced worriedly at the others who wore similar expressions of fury. Her father’s cheeks were red with rage.
Bowen stepped forward. “I know you are angry, Graeme. No one blames you. But Eveline needs you right now. You should not leave her side even to avenge her. You exacted punishment on the one who was most responsible for her torment. Let me take our men and ride to McHugh Keep to take care of the matter.”
Graeme started to shake his head, but Eveline’s father held up his hand. “Your brother is right, Graeme. ’Tis not a matter for you to take up. Your place is with your wife. I will lend troops. ’Tis likely they’ll give up without a fight. They know they cannot win.”
“I’ll go with him,” Aiden said, a scowl on his face.
“And I,” Teague said.
Eveline’s head swam from moving from face to face in order to see all that was said.
Tavis smiled as Brodie also took up the cause. Then he glanced at Graeme. “What say you, Graeme? Can two chieftains stand aside and allow their most loyal men to rid the highlands of a viper?”
“I lay claim to the holding,” Graeme said. “It will be granted to Eveline and our daughter, no matter when she is born, be it first or last in line. Any son she bears me will eventually take over the role of chieftain to our clan. But I would have our daughter provided for so she never feels as Eveline did when she sought to escape marriage to a brutal monster.”
Eveline’s eyes filled with tears and she threw her arms around her husband’s neck, holding him tightly as hot trails tracked down her cheeks.
When she finally pulled away, she kissed him full on the lips, uncaring of who witnessed the intimacy. He cradled her once more against him and she glanced at the assembled group of men who were steadily making plans for the Montgomerys and Armstrongs to go forth in their first joint task as newly formed allies.
Her brothers and Graeme’s were already arguing over who was granted the task of executing Patrick McHugh for his lies and treachery. She forced her glance away, not wanting to dwell on death.
Graeme tipped her chin in his direction and stroked his hand over her cheek.
“Your mother wants to have some time with you. I’ll go below stairs with the others while they discuss the planning. I’ll come back up to check on you later.”
He gently set her aside so she sat on the bed, and then he rose, gesturing to the others to exit the chamber.
When they were gone, Eveline turned her gaze to her mother, suddenly nervous now that they were alone.
Robina sat on the bed facing Eveline and took her hands in hers.
“You love him,” her mother said, her expression soft.