“What would I do without you?”
She laid her head in his lap and felt his hands stroking her hair. She wanted his apprehension over things he wasn’t in control over to end. Because of her conviction, she kept from him the feeling she had been carrying with her since Tara had arrived. Lora sensed that after a short amount of happiness, turmoil would return.
Lora couldn’t shake the feeling that something was coming.
“How long are you going to give her?” Fin asked when he came up for air after sparring with his brother. Duncan took a long drink from his cup. “As much as she needs.”
“You’ve both been circling around each other for weeks. Even the men are starting to talk.” He kept his voice low to keep their conversation private.
“Exactly what are they saying?”
Fin wasn’t sure how much he should tell. “They ask if you have actually spoken for her, or if she’s your leman.”
Duncan whipped around catching his brother unaware, his eyes ablaze with anger. “Such gossip could ruin Tara’s reputation. Who would question me?” “Calm down.” Fin spotted a beige skirt peaking from the shadows. “You must know how it looks from the outside. Neither one of you look to be the happy couple.”
Fin formulated a plan in his mind to bring the couple in question closer. “I’m sure the talk is nothing. Come. Let us work with our swords.”
Frustrated, and having a need to move, Duncan sparred with his brother. He worked out some necessary energy.
They danced around each other, practicing their blocking and agility. Duncan had pushed his brother twice into an un-defendable position. “You hesitate on that move every time. Any foe would see it as your weakness within a few minutes.” Duncan helped his brother to his feet.
They started again.
Short of breath and giving under his brother’s physical demand, Finlay glanced over his shoulder.
“She watches us now.”
Distracted, Duncan shot a look around to see where she was, knowing Fin spoke of Tara.
Fin took his opening and bested his brother.
“Ahh…now I’ve found your weakness.”
Again they circled. Each thrust and block more powerful than the last. “Women hate to see their men hurt or injured. I wonder how yours would act if you took a fall? Of course, it would have to look good.”
“Most likely she’d thank the one who put me down.”
Fin used his shield to block Duncan’s blow.
“Maybe. ’Tis only one way to find out.” He didn’t give his brother the chance to react. He kicked out his feet, tripping Duncan, and came upon him. Normally he would have stopped the sword from going near his skin. This time however, he let the blade connect enough to scratch and startle his brother, enough to bring blood to the surface.
Enough to rip a scream from the shadows of the Keep.
Tara came at a full run with skirts lifted to her knees. She pushed Fin aside. “Get out of my way, you big jerk.”
Men stood back. Tara dropped to the ground, completely uncaring about the dirt or the scene she made in doing so.
She brushed aside Duncan’s bloody hand clenching his side. “How bad is it?” She pushed away his chain mail to get a good look, but couldn’t manage to see where the bleeding came from.
Frantic, she struggled with his clothing.
Duncan stared at the top of her head. She smelled of roses. Her hands were soft on his skin, her voice purred concern for his well-being. He glanced at his brother and nodded his thanks.
The other men watched as Lady Tara took great care in helping Duncan to his feet. “We need to get you out of this thing.”
Fin offered his help while holding back a smile.
“You’ve done enough already. You should be more careful. Save the actual blows for someone who deserves it.”
“Aye, my lady.” Fin bent in a mocking bow.
Tara noticed the men who gathered and watched. “The show’s over cowboys. Why don’t you all get back to work?”
The men watched her walk away. Daniel, Finlay’s trusted friend, turned and asked, “What is a cowboy?”
Laughing, Fin shook his head, “I don’t know.”
Duncan leaned on her as they slowly made their way up the stairs and she helped him into his rooms across the hall from hers.
When Megan saw them approach, she jumped to follow them.
“Fetch me hot water and clean cloths,” Tara ordered.
Alone in his room, Tara pulled his chain mail over his head and helped him out of his tunic. Naked to the waist, he sat and watched her inspect his body. Small holes marred his skin.
Blood oozed making it difficult for her to see the damage. Megan soon returned with the supplies Tara requested. When she saw Duncan’s half-naked body, she lowered her gaze and blushed like the virgin she was.
Tara rolled her eyes at the maid’s blush and dismissed her with a flick of the hand.
Duncan shot her a quick grin she hardly noticed before she started to clean him up.
She drenched the cloth, rung it out and dabbed it over his wound. When he winced at her touch, she pulled back, warning him, “This is going to sting.
Try and hold still.”
He watched her clean away the already dried blood. Her touch was tender, even if her words had a bite to them. “Your brother should be more careful.
He could have done some serious damage.”
Tara leaned back and studied her handiwork. A small amount of bruising already formed, but none of the cuts were deep enough to cause any worry about infection. “The chain thing you wear helped keep this from being worse, even if it contributed to a bit of the damage.”
She glanced at him, his eyes were shut, his fingers clenched. “Does it hurt that bad?” She reached a hand and touched his cheek.
“Nay, lass. Not so much.”
“Still, I think you should take it slow for the rest of the day.” She moved to take the bowl of grimy water away from the bed. “You don’t want any dirt getting in your wound. Maybe your mother has some type of salve to put on the worst of them to keep out bacteria.” She returned to his side, and sat on the edge of the bed.
“What is this thing you call bacteria?”
He was still puzzled.
“Microscopic organisms that cause infection?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Germs are small bugs that make you sick.”
“What do you know about stopping these germs from making an infection?”