Binding Vows (Page 19)

Binding Vows (MacCoinnich Time Travel Trilogy #1)(19)
Author: Catherine Bybee

When he escorted her to the door of her tent, true to his word, he didn’t press her for as much as a kiss goodnight. If he had, would she have offered him more?

She downed the wine, hoping it would put her quickly to sleep. At least in her dreams, she could enjoy the man. The wine did have the desired effect.

Within minutes of putting out the candles and lying down, her brain filled with images of Duncan, and what life could be like with him.

Grainna hovered over Tara’s bed and watched her sleep. Slipping into her drugged mind was like putting a hot knife to butter. Grainna added force by lightly touching Tara’s temples before she started her chant. Visions and verses swirled in her head and remained behind the curtain of dreams in Tara’s mind. Grainna slid in the image of the man she intended for Tara to desire. Tara struggled in her rest, her mind dark. She frowned in her sleep, and for a brief moment, Grainna worried Tara would wake.

To her horror, Tara replaced Duncan’s form where Grainna’s man once stood. Repeatedly, Grainna fought to erase the image of her would-be lover, only to come up against the sheer will of a first love. After hours of fighting, she gave up and worked with the man Tara desired. The vows Grainna chanted into Tara’s subconscious were easily placed once the vision of Duncan was secure.

Her task complete, Grainna left Tara’s tent and made a slight alteration in her plans.

The aspirin did nothing to resolve the headache plaguing her. To Tara’s relief, Cassy looked as bad as she felt. “Where were you last night?” Tara forced the black coffee down even though it made her queasy.

Cassy picked her head off her folded arms.

Bloodshot eyes peered back. “Out.”

“Yeah, I figured. But where and with who?”

“This is going to sound bad, but I don’t remember. I remember Fin and I were talking after you and Duncan left. We both assumed you would end up here, so we stayed away. Once Fin saw Duncan return, he took off. I was on my way to see you, when the hunky blond you danced with last night stopped by. You know the one?”

With a nod from Tara she continued. “We danced a bit, drank too much, then nothing. Blank! I don’t even remember how I got in here last night, or what time it was.”

Tara’s brow creased. “You and he didn’t…”

“No. We didn’t. I guess I drank too much. God, I hope I didn’t make a fool of myself.” Cassy cringed after sipping her coffee. “I’m giving up drinking.”

Tara smiled and agreed.

Tara had already filled Cassy in on what had happened with Duncan. She agreed to leave first thing in the morning with the contingency that if things got crazy that night they would go after dinner.

Gwen arrived an hour before the games were scheduled to begin. “There you both are. I was worried when we didn’t see you at breakfast this morning.” She took one look at them both and gave them a sympathetic smile. “I see the festivities were too much last night, for both of you. Well, I can fix that.” She opened the bag she kept at her side.

Gwen removed what looked to be a packet of herbs and mixed them with the water. She divided it between them both. “Drink. It’s my own special blend to help clear the cobwebs.”

Desperate, Cassy downed the brew in one quick swallow. Tara looked at it suspiciously.

“Drink it or not. It makes no difference to me.”

Gwen swept across the room and pulled out the gowns they were both to wear for the day.

Tara’s was a pale gold and white, virginal and perfect for a woman who would be handfasted at the end of the day.

Tara and Cassy had already signed releases, so their images could be plastered all over next year’s brochures.

“Wow.” Cassy stood up and looked into her empty cup. “What was in that stuff?” she asked Gwen. “It really worked.”

“Only herbs,” she smiled. “Healing was here long before modern medicine you know.”

“You should try it, Tara. My headache is gone.

You could market those herbs and be rich, Gwen.”

Gwen smiled when Tara drank her portion of brew. “Maybe sometime I will, but not today. There are better things for this day.” She turned to leave the room. “Take care in your appearance, ladies, and be sure and have a good time. Tomorrow you go back to your everyday life. Tonight is for fantasy and pleasure.”

The ache in Tara’s skull eased, although she hated to admit it.

“You know, the old lady kind of grows on you.”

Cassy murmured when Gwen left the room.

“Yeah, I guess so.” The fuzziness and pain had completely cleared in a matter of minutes.

Tara looked at the gown she was going to put on and repeated Gwen’s words to herself. Tonight is for fantasy and pleasure. ****

Colorful flags and banners surrounded the arena. The wind caught their ends and the sound of flapping added to the scene. Polls standing twenty feet in length with massive rings stood at the entrance to where the games would be played.

All the fair’s guests were dressed in their finest attire. Even the horses were garbed in fancy blankets and ornate tack.

The day was meant for pomp and circumstance.

Tara and Cassy were surrounded by guards dressed in intimidating black tunics. The platform, housing their special seating for the event, was placed center stage. On each side, large canvases created shade, keeping the area cool and comfortable.

Tara looked over the crowd in search of the man who held her captive in her dreams. Neither he nor Fin could be seen anywhere. A minor tremor went through her when she considered Duncan might have already left. She knew it was pointless to want to see him again but she wanted to, never the less.

When Tara and Cassy approached their seats, trumpets sounded, drawing everyone’s attention.

The sound warned everyone the games were about to begin.

Gwen had explained in detail what was expected of her. Tara imagined this event was simply another weekend for the old woman. It made sense she would pick new royalty at each fair, to take the load off her.

Besides, sitting in the sun for hours on end would be difficult for anyone her age.

A young boy dressed in finery fit for a squire bowed to Tara. “My Lady?”

Tara smiled at him and motioned for him to stand.

“My Lady, Madame Gwen said the games are to begin now.” His teeth flashed once his role was done.

“Thanks,” Tara whispered and winked at the nervous boy. She stood and motioned for the trumpets to sound.

The people settled down and all eyes went to her. Tara’s heart tripped over itself before she started to speak. She would never see any of these people again, and none of them would know if she said the wrong things. At least the thought kept her nerves calm.