Already soaked to the skin in a few short minutes, Tara yelled her agreement.
They changed course while torrents of rain pelted down. Duncan kept the horses at a brisk trot, not wanting them to bolt when the lightning danced in the sky.
The cottage was small and dark. But most important, it was dry. Duncan quickly helped Tara inside, then rushed to care for the horses.
Tara shook out her cloak and hung it on a hook beside the door. The sack of food Mrs. Claunch had given them for Ian and Lora would have to do until the rain let up. After wiping off the only table, Tara set their provisions down and searched the cupboard for cups.
A small bed, covered with blankets, dominated the space. Tara fluffed off the collected dust, scattering any spiders from their would-be home.
Even inside, Tara could see her breath. She noticed the fireplace and pined for a match. There was wood outside stacked up on the porch so she knew once Duncan returned, they wouldn’t be cold.
It was nice having a personal fire starter, she thought. Until he returned from dealing with the horses, she curled up under one of the blankets to keep from shivering.
Duncan lingered outside longer than necessary. It didn’t take him long to pen up the animals and feed them grain, but he dawdled.
Inside the small cabin was a woman he desired more than life itself. He accounted his rampant emotions to the vows they took, but somewhere deeper, he knew it was more. There would be no interruptions from anyone or anything once he passed through the door of the cottage.
As sure as the sun would shine the next day, he knew he would have her. Their passion had simmered long enough.
She was his wife, even if she didn’t know it yet.
Duncan wondered if he should tell her, before…
then decided against it. The knowledge would shock and anger her. He wanted her passionate, not irate.
With a temper as lethal as the color of her hair, he wouldn’t chance confronting her with the facts until she was his, completely.
Confident in his plan, he squared his shoulders and entered the cabin.
She sat balled up on the bed, shaking like a leaf in the wind.
“Why didn’t you start a fire?”
“Withhh whaat?” she chattered.
He went to the fireplace with palms spread, called one flame, then another. He placed a log inside the hearth and kept his hands elevated until it caught.
The atmosphere in the room changed with the glowing light of the fire. “I should have started one before I left to do my chores.”
“It’s o-okay.” Tara held her hands in an effort to stop her body from shaking. But with her hair and clothes drenched, her effort was useless. She shrugged off the blanket and stood near the fire. “D-do you think you can show me how you d-do that?”
He removed his own wet outer garments and hung them with hers. “Of course, maybe once you’ve warmed up.” His hands rubbed the chill from her arms.
“You need to get out of this.” He helped unlace her gown, trying not to notice her silky skin. Her chemise wasn’t very wet and covered most of her.
Duncan pulled a chair close to the fire and encouraged her to sit. He took his boots off and laid them with her clothing to dry.
While Tara combed her fingers through her wet hair, Duncan wondered what she thought, and probed into her mind just a little.
The song she sang in her head made him smile.
She avoided his eyes as he put his belongings in place for the night. Under lowered lids, her eyes shifted to the narrow bed. Her fists clenched.
“Why so nervous, love?”
“Nervous?” Warmer now, Tara played idly with her hair. “Who says I’m nervous?”
“If not nervous, than what?” He sat on the edge of the bed.
“I’m just…thinking, wondering really.” She huffed out a breath, pulled in another and spit out the next words, “Yeah, I’m nervous!”
Her hands shook more, even though the chill had left the room.
“You. Me. Us.”
“Because, we can’t be alone together without jumping on each other, that’s why.”
He hid his smirk. “This is a problem?”
“Damn straight it is. Maybe not for you, you won’t have to be the one raising the potential consequences of it. I will.” Her words came out in one steady stream.
She was thinking beyond the now, and it scared her. And it cheapened him.
“You think so little of my honor? You believe I would leave you to ‘raise the consequences’ by yourself?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know.” She stood and put some space between them.
Her conclusion had angered him. He got up and paced while she talked.
“Listen, Duncan, I can’t deny our strong physical attraction anymore than you can. But it isn’t like we’ve made any promises to each other.
Anything could happen when we…” Her eyes shot to the bed. Let the obvious go un-said.
He reached her in one step. Holding her face in his hands, he forced their eyes to meet. “Look at me,”
he demanded. “Into me. What do you see?”
Tara tried pulling away from him. Doubt crept over her, showing its ugly face in her mind. “I can’t.”
Smoldering eyes leveled to hers. Her body started to relax, her vision blurred and mixed with his. Duncan forced his thoughts into her mind.
Finally, she saw herself through his eyes, passion churning in his blood, through his veins.
His vision overtook her. She saw herself standing in front of a mirror, holding a swollen stomach and smiling. Behind her Duncan smiled with a possessive hand around her waist.
The vision left her lightheaded. Tara swayed in his arms. “Wow.”
He knelt down beside her. “I would never leave you to raise a child on your own, Tara. You have my word.”
Believing he meant what he said, Tara gave a timid smile. “I didn’t mean to question your honor.”
“The men in your life have held little honor to you or your sister. I understand why you would question. I am not them.”
“I know. You’re right! I just…” She swallowed hard. “I don’t think straight when I’m with you.”
“We have that in common. I have not thought clearly since before I went to your time.”
Duncan read her thoughts and smiled.
He pulled her hand to his cheek and snuggled into her warmth. “Do you know the pleasure I can give you, Tara?” His lips skirted over the inside of her wrist. “I have dreamed of how I would make you ache for me. How I would make you mine.”