Slowly, he ended their kiss.
She searched his eyes and asked, “Why did you stop?”
He looked to the stairs. “You know why.” He curved a hand around her face.
Her father’s words echoed in her mind, Unless you plan on marrying this evening, I suggest you step aside.
The threat of a forced marriage stopped him, she thought. Her father would have them married if he caught them like this. The thought didn’t disturb her, but it obviously distressed Todd. Could she live with a marriage of force and not of love?
Myra stepped back and broke their contact.
“You’re upset.” Todd concluded. “Your father would…”
“I know what my father would do.” She pulled her pride together and stood a little taller.
“He would have my head if I put you in a questionable situation.”
“Is that what I am to you? A questionable situation?”
Todd stepped back. “You’re more than that.”
“You know you are.” His anger matched hers.
“How do I know? Because you want me, desire me?” “That and more.”
Myra waited for him to explain, but he didn’t.
“Let me know when you are ready to tell me what more is, Todd. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to not place you in a ‘questionable situation.’ I wouldn’t want you to be forced into anything.”
She marched past him to the stairs, but he caught her before she took the first one. “No one forces me to do anything I don’t want to do.”
“Really?” she pulled out of his grasp. “Look around, Todd. It appears to me you have been forced to stay here.”
“Do you think I didn’t know what would happen when I jumped into the stones? That I didn’t know I might never see my life as it was before again. I knew exactly what I was doing, Myra, and I did it anyway.” He took a step back. “I chose to do it anyway.”
Her hands covered her arms in a struggle to keep warm. “Why?”
“Because of you, dammit! I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” He turned away. “Get some sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day.”
She would need an army, and an army she would have. Far outside the reaches of the MacCoinnich family, Grainna paced the grounds of a forgotten home. It in no way resembled the Keep, but neither was it a hut. Its grounds overgrown with vegetation, its walls crumbled in disrepair. Even the roof leaked.
The overgrowth made for great camouflage and surprise when people passed by.
Their recruitment for her army came slowly.
Only one or two at a time could go undetected from the groups of people who passed by. Much like a lion stalking prey, those who lagged behind their pack Grainna picked off, men and women alike.
The minds of the people she abducted were easily manipulated, much like those in the twenty-first century. For those who had stronger convictions, she bent them to her will by means of force.
Grainna wasted little time negotiating. If they were too difficult, she simply killed them.
Over two months had gone by, and in that time she found only two people with Druid blood running in their veins, bastard blood amounting to very little power.
She considered keeping them alive and using their skills to her advantage, but her hunger for youth was too strong. Ending their pathetic lives in a ritual she had perfected over time returned some of her strength and youth, but none of her powers.
The youth was fleeting. Yes, her body surged when their life-force drifted into her, but the temporary vitality faded quickly.
This only added to her desire to regain it all.
The blood of a Druid virgin would remove her curse in one quick act. It would be permanent.
The rain fell in sheets, causing her bones to ache. She watched Michael push the man he tried to train to the ground.
“Useless,” she cursed. Most of the men were only numbers. A few could hold their own, and in time, she would have more.
She turned and added herbs to the tea simmering on the fire. These herbs kept her minions’
minds bound to her.
Winter lost its grip and the rain took the place of the snow. Torrents of rain and storms crossed the land. The weather was normal to the MacCoinnichs who had lived here all their lives, but the cold and damp took some getting used to for those who’d lived their lives in Southern California. Liz glanced out her window toward the barn where she knew Fin was preparing to leave the Keep. She noticed when Simon snuck out and followed him. He’d been whining for days to get out and stretch his legs. Hell, they were all pent up and had been for months.
Simon’s voice interrupted her thoughts. Simon to Mom, Simon to Mom, come in Mom. He paused, waiting for her mental reply to his call. She laughed at his monotone internal voice and couldn’t help but picture a futuristic ‘B’ movie where the characters closed their eyes, rubbed their temples and spoke telepathically to anyone they chose.
What do you need? She attempted to ask back.
Liz felt certain that not all her words were heard.
I’m in the barn. Can you come in here? I have a question.
Liz concentrated hard, attempting to ask what he needed, but Simon had mastered blocking her out when he didn’t want her in. Donning a cloak, she left her room and made her way out to her son’s side.
The aromatic scent of the stable and the fresh smell of rain mixed when she entered the barn and shook off the collection of rain water she’d acquired in the short walk.
Fin stood beside his horse, adjusting his saddle.
Simon’s teeth glistened behind his smile. He was up to something. “And you wanted a cell phone,” she told Simon as she walked over and ruffled his hair.
“Lot of good it does, if I can only talk to my mom. No offense.”
Fin cast Simon a surprised look, but kept quiet.
“Sorry, sport. I guess it’s just you and me for awhile.” Liz nodded to Fin. “What’s up?”
“Fin told me I needed to ask you first, but I’m sure you’re going to say no.”
“Say no to what?” She eyed Fin, but he didn’t elaborate.
“Fin’s going into the village, and since I’m only going to make you crazy hanging around here, I thought it would be good for me to go with him.”
Fin hunched his shoulders, lifted a brow. “Don’t look at me. I told him to ask you.”
“So I can be the bad guy?”
“I don’t know about that.”
She shook her head. “Right.”
“Fin will watch out for me, won’t you?” Her son sent a hopeful look to him.