“What happened with the dog, Celeste?” Tara accepted the water she gave.
“He trampled my tomatoes is what he did. I had one this big.” She lifted her hands showing what she meant. “It was about to turn red.”
“How did he get in your garden?” Tara noticed the small fence surrounding her precious vegetables when she walked in.
“The gate was open while I tended the plants.
That mangy mutt walked right in like he owned the place and made a mess. Haggart should keep better care of his dog.” Tara sensed calm when Celeste talked of the dog and anger when she spoke of its owner.
Tara listened while Celeste went on and on of other times Haggart had neglected his animal and she was forced to care for it. “Who leaves their animals to themselves overnight with no one to feed them?”
Tara turned her thoughts into words, words she hoped Duncan would hear. I think Celeste has the hots for your friend Haggart.
Duncan’s reply was instant. What is the hots ?
Passion! I think she likes him. I’m sensing a love-hate vibe.
Duncan peered over his cup at Haggart.
“I’ll tell ye she’s impossible. She pets Max every chance she gets. The second he acts like a dog, she cry’s foul.”
“Ye believe she invited this on herself? Max digging up her vegetables?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. Why the other day she had me hauling water for her, saying Max drank the supply she left on her step. Why put water on your step when a thirsty dog sat feet away? Answer me that?”
“Maybe the widow needed some help carrying the heavy load?” Duncan suggested.
“Her name is Celeste. A widow she is, but for over eight years now.” Haggart’s voice softened. “I don’t think she appreciates the title.”
Duncan sent his thoughts across the street. Aye, love, I think you’re right. Haggart has the hots for his neighbor.
Poor Max is in the middle. Tara told him.
What shall we do?
They need a little nudge. Try and see if Haggart will come to her defense if you suggest she is accusing him falsely. I’ll do the same. If they take the bait, I’ll suggest she try befriending Haggart by fixing him a meal or something.
“Well my friend,” Duncan said. “Perhaps ’tis time we move Celeste from her home. If she’s accusing you falsely of foul play, she should be punished.”
Haggart’s eyes grew wide, his jovial smile vanished. “Ahh well, wait just a minute. True the woman exaggerates a fair bit, but there is no denying Max spent time in her garden. To punish her wouldn’t be right. I think ye should leave this matter to me. I’d hate to see the poor, old widow suffer because of me.”
Tara grinned over her cup. “If you really think Haggart deserves it, I’ll see that Duncan moves him, and his terrible dog.”
“What? Nay, ’tis not… I mean to say.” Celeste took a breath. “I think my Lady, Haggart and I can come to some agreement on the animal. I shouldn’t have left my gate open. Some fault lies with me.”
Both parties met in the street when Tara and Duncan left. Neither spoke an unkind word to each other. Instead, they talked of the couple who trotted down the dirt road on their way back to the Keep.
“They make a lovely couple, don’t you agree?”
“A couple?” Haggard tilted his head, considered his Lord’s actions. “Are ye sure?”
“Aye, I’m as sure of that as I am they will meet with rain before they get back to the Keep.” She snuck a glance at her handsome neighbor.
“It does have the feel for rain.” Haggart looked over to her cottage. “That roof looks in need of repair, Celeste. Maybe I could help with what needs fixin’ before the rainy season begins again.”
“I’d appreciate that.” Celeste reached down to scratch Max behind his ears, a small smile pealed at the corners of her mouth. “If ye haven’t any supper on the fire, I’ve made enough for two tonight. Ye could come by if ye had a mind to.”
“I never was much of a cook I’m afraid.”
“Fine than. Bring Max. We wouldn’t want him finding another garden to frolic in.”
“Nay, we wouldn’t be wanting that.”
Ian MacCoinnich stood on the highest point of his home and scanned the skies. Clouds had blown in from the sea during the day, hinting at the rain, which would come sometime in the night.
Tonight would be entirely too late for his needs.
He closed his eyes, opened his arms and lifted his palms to the sprinkling of sun he wanted to disappear. Then he called his gift.
The wind slowly started to shift. With more effort, Ian brought darker clouds and the rumble of thunder. The moisture sent a spray of feather soft mist into the air. The bones of the old and broken would feel the shift in pressure as it dropped.
Soon the mist turned to small droplets of water.
When the sky was completely clouded over, and his hair dripped with rain, Ian let his hands drop. A satisfying smile broke across his face.
Below, Lora watched her husband with arms folded across her chest. She tried prying into his mind only to find herself shut out. When the air cooled and the wind started to blow, understanding dawned.
Duncan would be headed back by now with Tara in tow. If a storm kept them from making the entire journey, Duncan would seek shelter at one of the many cabins between the Keep and the village.
Lora laughed. Her husband was such a smart man.
Duncan and Tara were smug in their accomplishment as they rode out of town.
“I’ll bet they’re together within a week.”
“It won’t take that long. You should have seen Haggart when I suggested the widow was not telling the truth and needed to be punished.”
“Celeste was ticked when I told her the vicious dog should be put down. Then when I told her you planned on moving Haggart to a different part of the village if things didn’t settle, her story changed.”
Tara reached over, patted him on his shoulder. “We make a great team.”
“That we do, lass. That we do.”
Lightning split the sky, causing them both to look up and jump. “Looks like we’re going to get wet.” Tara pulled her cloak tighter and lifted the hood over her hair.
The next boom of thunder threatened a decent sized storm. Meg skipped a step when the sound filled the sky. Duncan’s hand darted out, calming the animal instantly.
They rode in silence for a few minutes before the rain started to fall and Duncan shouted over the sounds of thunder, “I think we should find shelter.”