She melted. “Do they give you guy’s lessons in this time?”
“Lessons in what, lass?”
She laughed. “Never mind. Where’s my present?”
He laughed keeping pace with her. “Over here.”
“Is it big or small?”
“Did you wrap it? We women like to unwrap presents you know,” she said, getting into the spirit of things.
“It can’t be wrapped.”
“Can I close my eyes and shake it? Guess what it is?” Duncan kept laughing. “You could try.”
“Okay, I’m closing my eyes. Don’t let me fall.”
Tara stumbled along beside him. They slowed their pace once she heard other voices. She heard Duncan shush those who were around them.
“Give me both hands,” he said.
Under her fingers she felt the warm fur of what had to be a horse. A small noise and movement from the animal brought Tara’s eyes open.
Tara caught her breath. The mare was beautiful. Her tan coat was the color of caramel, her mane as rich as chocolate. Her big brown eyes flittered with trust.
“Hello,” Tara said in a soft greeting. “Look at you, so strong and regal.” Stroking her neck, Tara glanced at Duncan. “For me?”
“You’re making me cry again.” She looked at her horse with awe.
“Sorry.” Duncan gave a half apology.
“No, you’re not.” She moved in to thank him.
Even Finlay started to blush before he broke the lovebirds apart. “You two are making me ill with this. Brother Malloy had better not dawdle in his ceremony on the morrow. Least you announce a birth before a marriage.”
Everyone in earshot agreed.
The village was brimming with activity everywhere. Anyone within a fifty-mile radius filled the tiny streets, adding to the purses of the local merchants. Grainna couldn’t have picked a better time to come into the small parish of people and blend in. No one noticed an old woman walking with a cane.
Again, she considered luck was on her side, a luck that hadn’t been with her for centuries. The Ancients must be asleep at the wheel, she thought.
There was no other explanation for why her presence had yet to be discovered. They were so damn proficient at banishing her the first time.
Calling attention to herself by using her black magic would certainly make her presence known. Their lack of diligence kept her more subdued than she would be normally.
She made her way to the village merchant who bartered and sold any and everything the town had to offer. Provisions of food, candles, and cloth woven from the wool of the sheep littering the landscape of the surrounding hills, were for sale.
She waited for a few of the gentry to finish with the man, while she kept to the back of his small home, which doubled as his store. “How can I be of assistance to ye?” he kindly asked, obviously happy with his burgeoning business.
“Only a few little things if you will, sir.” Grainna put her old woman smile of kindness on her face. “A few candles and a measure of salt pork if ye have it.”
It didn’t take long for the man to start talking.
“Are ye here for the wedding?”
“My grandson and I are passing through.” She had guessed the nature of the festivities, but she kept herself from slipping into the minds of the people to confirm her assumption, again to keep her presence concealed for as long as possible. “It looks to be a grand wedding.”
“Lord Duncan, the eldest son of the Laird, is marrying on the ‘morrow. ’Tis good ye came today for these.” He set the items she requested down on the counter.
“Quite lucky for me then.”
The man kept up with the gossip, happy to have someone who didn’t know his stories. “Now if only his daughter would pick a husband. Methinks she may find one during the celebrations. The village is filled with so many eligible men who would suit.”
“How old is the lass?”
“Almost an old maid if ye ask me. She is twenty and one on her last day marking her birth. Why Laird Ian has not bound her to someone is always a question asked at dinner tables.” He looked up and caught Grainna’s gaze. Confusion crossed his brow and she felt his skin start to crawl. You should squirm you lower than life bit of a man. Grainna shook his trance away, realizing she had slipped into his mind without trying to.
He moved away in obvious discomfort. She would have to be more careful in the future.
They bartered with a bit of her jewelry, and because it’s worth was more than what she had purchased, he gave her some coin.
She walked the streets, keeping her eyes and ears open. She didn’t fear any of the MacCoinnich’s coming into the village with the wedding the next day. So she took advantage of her luck and gathered more information.
An eligible daughter? A wicked smile curved at her lips. And dwelling only a few miles away? She contained her laugh. How poetic.
Grainna stopped at the smith and bartered for a pot. There she saw a young woman, not more than eighteen, smiling up at a man dressed in knight’s clothing. She eavesdropped on their conversation.
“So, ye are Matthew of Lancaster. I’ve heard many stories of ye, my Lord.”
“Ahhh.” The knight searched the busy street.
“I’m sorry, ye have me at a disadvantage, and ye are?”
“Alyssa.” She flashed him a smile.
“’Tis a pleasure.” He gave a quick bow, his eyes skirting to the street, obviously looking for someone.
Alyssa smiled and leaned into him enough to show off the curve of her breast and caught his eye with the necklace she wore. In whispered tones she asked, “I hope ye will not be leaving so soon after the wedding. I would like to get to know ye better.”
Grainna noticed the exchange and the small amount of power the woman used over the man.
Quietly and with swift skill, Grainna slipped into the man’s mind. Yes, the woman speaking with him was Druid, and she was using her gifts on him.
From what she could tell, the lass was looking for a husband, and wasting her time with the man in front of her.
“Maybe I could stay for a day or two.” His hands twitched at his side. “Or return at a later date.”
“That would be lovely, Sir Lancaster.” She touched his arm, sending a path of red to his cheek.
Grainna gathered her things and walked out of the village from the opposite way she came. Once hidden in the woods, she picked up her cane and moved with speed to the horse she took from one of the gypsies.