“Please, Lora. I’m not even awake yet.”
“Nonsense! You can’t confine yourself to this room any longer. I absolutely forbid it!” Lora smiled.
“Besides, flaunting yourself in front of my son will bring him much more pain than hiding in here all day long.”
“You think so?” Tara liked the sound of pain and Duncan in the same sentence.
“I know so!” Lora bounced off the bed like someone half her age. “First, we need to heat up this room. Even with the sun shining, our summers are nothing like yours.” Lora strode to the fireplace, tossed a small log on it, and then turned her hands up. Flames leapt where none were before.
“How do you do that?” Tara asked, stunned to see the wonder of magic again. “I tried it myself. All I got was tired.”
“Practice my dear and a bit of skill I suppose. I’ll teach you.” She opened the door and allowed the maids to enter. “Let’s get you ready for your day.”
A couple of young men carried a trunk into the room. Inside the trunk, were several gowns, which paled anything she wore in the twenty-first century.
One by one, the maids sorted them into piles.
Some needed alterations. Some were simply not the right color for Tara and her auburn hair. They finally settled on the one she would wear for the day.
The maids made quick work of the needed alterations. Within the time it took Tara to bathe, brush out and dry her hair, they had completed the dresses.
The gown she chose was made of cotton and wool. The dark umber color blended beautifully with her hair and a hint of gold along its edges gave it a sense of elegance normally saved for special occasions. Tara had to admit the dress was stunning.
Eat your heart out, Duncan. She let the thought escape when she saw her reflection in the mirror.
Pleased, Lora led her from the room.
The meal which broke the family’s fast was beginning when they entered the dining area.
Ian, knowing what Lora was up to, sensed their presence before they came in the room. Fin took notice and dropped his food midway to his mouth.
The others at the table sized up the woman who had caused so much talk and tension in the Keep.
Duncan, the last to realize something was amiss, turned only when everyone else grew silent.
Lora’s hand on Tara’s arm kept her focus. “Tara, I want you to meet the family. Amber is the youngest at ten.” Amber stood and made a quick curtsey.
“Cian, who is trying not to drool in his food, is ten and six years of age.” Cian sent his mother a wicked glance before coming to his feet and bowing at the waist. Tara started to squirm under the family’s stare.
“Myra, our oldest daughter, is twenty and one last spring. I’m sure you both will get along well.”
Myra stood, but instead of a bow, she tilted her head and smiled. “’Tis a pleasure to finally meet ye, I mean you.” Her glance to her mother told Tara the line was rehearsed. But her effort was sincere.
“Of course, you’ve already met Finlay and Duncan.”
Fin opened his mouth only to be cut off. “I’m not ready to talk to you,” Tara interrupted. He wasn’t without blame in the whole ordeal.
Tara’s eyes traveled to Duncan. His face sported a look of awe and a five o’clock shadow.
“What is this?” Tara touched her own jaw, indicating the growth of beard he had managed since she had seen him last.
His hand reached out and scratched the growth.
“I normally have it when I’m not…traveling.”
It was a bit sexy, but she blocked the thought from her mind. “I guess some might like that Brad Pitt look.”
“Who is this, Brad Pitt?” Duncan asked.
“No one you would know.” No matter, you won’t be close enough to scratch my skin. She cleared her throat, more confident by the second. “Have you heard of a shower, Duncan? Oh, that’s right. Indoor plumbing hasn’t been invented yet. Just one of the many pleasures you ripped from my life.” She accepted the nod of approval from Lora. “You smell like a tavern. Maybe your mother won’t tell you to give her respect at her table, but I will.”
Duncan’s younger siblings tried in vain to hide their mirth. Even Ian couldn’t hold in his laugh.
Although her words were meant to sting, Tara sensed a weight lifting from Duncan’s shoulders.
Their connection was so fierce, she nearly sighed when his mouth lifted into a small grin.
“Tara is right, Mathair, ” he said to his mother in Gaelic. “I could use fresh water and a change of clothes.”
Lora said nothing, and everyone watched as the eldest son left the room. Only when the women took their seats did the men sit down.
The conversation flowed after that.
Except for Finlay, who stared, with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
Duncan, on the other hand, struggled with the decision to shave his skin bare. He had done so before his journey, knowing he would blend more with the people. Now, he saw his reflection and heard Tara’s voice vowing she wouldn’t get close. He turned his blade over in his palm and considered his options. He took his bath, replaying Tara’s words in his mind. Her mere presence in the dining hall brought a smile to his face. He knew the pall hanging over their relationship had lifted slightly.
While water cooled around him, his eyes drifted down. Sleep was easy once he no longer sensed Tara’s desire to leave. ****
She didn’t think it possible to adjust to Medieval Scotland. But adjust she did, and in a short amount of time.
About the time Tara would be settling into a new routine of classrooms and clinical work at a hospital, she was in a different type of school.
The school of the MacCoinnich clan.
As promised, Myra and Tara fell into a friendship more like a sisterhood. Myra was fascinated by Tara’s stories of the twenty-first century. Her mind craved knowledge. She longed to know what the future would look like.
Tara spent her time observing everyone’s behavior. She learned what was expected, what was proper, and what was not. Myra was Tara’s personal sixteenth century encyclopedia.
The women wore dresses all the time. This wasn’t a surprise to her, but getting use to it was.
She longed for the simplicity of t-shirts and shorts.
When she was alone in her room at night, she would slip into her twenty-first century clothes.
“Why do all of these men bow to your father?”
Tara asked Myra while they watched the men train.
“My father is Laird over this land.”