Anger was starting to prickle over his flesh and up his nape until his jaw was tight.
“I don’t make war against women and the innocent,” he growled. “I won’t repeat myself again.”
“By all that is holy, Montgomery, if any harm comes to my daughter when she is in your care, there is no rock you will be able to hide under,” Tavis bit out. “I will come for you with the full force of me and mine and all that ally with me.”
“I would think less of you than I already do if you did not do so,” Graeme snapped. “Now enough with the endless prattle. I have no more desire to wed a child who isn’t in full control of her faculties than you have to see your daughter wedded to me. But neither of us has a choice. ’Tis better to have it done with before things are said and done that cannot be retracted.”
“In that we are agreed,” the earl said from a few feet away. “You’ve stated your position, Tavis. There is naught else to be said. Fetch your daughter so that Graeme may meet his bride.”
Eveline felt the earth tremble below her and she automatically picked up her head, wondering who had gone riding on the hill where she was sprawled. She saw Brodie astride his horse, his head turning to survey the terrain. When his gaze fell on her, she saw the instant relief in his eyes.
He slid from his horse, dropped the reins to allow the horse to graze, and strode in her direction. As he grew near, she could see what it was he said.
“… everywhere for you, Eveline. You had me—us—worried. Mother is distraught for thinking you ran away in fear.”
She frowned, because where she may have once done something so selfish and cowardly, it was not something she’d ever do again. She might be terrified of her impending marriage, but she would face her future head-on and not give her family any hint of her inner turmoil. She owed them that much.
Brodie reached for her hand to pull her to her feet, and then to her surprise he hugged her fiercely, holding her against his chest for the longest time.
She allowed it, enjoying the show of affection. It wasn’t that Brodie wasn’t affectionate with her. Of all her relatives, he was the most demonstrative. He also treated her less like a half person than the rest. To him she was his baby sister and that was all.
But this felt different. Almost as if it were he who needed comforting and not her. She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him back with all her strength. Which, considering she couldn’t even circle his muscled girth and make her hands touch on the other side, wasn’t much.
She knew he was talking to her because she could feel the vibrations rumbling from his chest, but she didn’t want to give up the hug to push away so she could see what it was he said.
When he finally pulled away, he took her hand and started to tug her toward the keep. She stopped and frowned, then looked back at his horse.
“I’ll send someone back for it. I’d thought to have to go much farther to find you. You know I wouldn’t make you ride with me.”
For a moment, her gaze left her brother once more to find the horse who was grazing contentedly a few feet away. She didn’t hate horses. They’d once been something she loved more than anything else. She hated that when she got close, when she could smell them, could feel their power, that she broke into a cold sweat and terror gripped her.
She hadn’t ridden since her accident. She missed it. Missed the freedom of riding across open land, hair flying behind her, not a care in the world. Now the mere idea of being astride something so strong paralyzed her. She weighed nothing in comparison. It was so easy for a horse to unseat her.
Brodie tugged again, and this time he led her away more forcefully. She had a thousand questions she wanted to put to her brother, but she had no idea how to formulate them. No way to make him understand that she craved information.
What was the Montgomery chieftain like? Was he grotesque? Was he menacing?
She halted again, withdrew her hand from Brodie’s, then touched his arm and tilted her head toward the keep. Then she lifted her eyebrows in clear question.