A limp, lifeless form of a woman sprawled on the floor, surrounded by a ring of blood, was becoming a weekly sight. Steel didn’t gag at the image. He no longer noticed the dead. Instead, his eyes traveled to Grainna to see if the years of age had been removed.
When they had returned to this time, Grainna’s skin sagged like that of an eighty-year-old woman, complete with stringy gray hair and spots covering the wrinkles and lines. Now her age had reversed by twenty years or more. Slight streaks of black peppered her hair, and her skin tightened enough to reveal that she’d been a beauty once, in her youth.
It took many weak Druids to give her what she had gained. Knowing the MacCoinnichs were powerful, and therefore able to give her much with their deaths, it became increasingly difficult for him to restrain her.
Even now, they argued over how soon they would be ready to attack.
“We aren’t ready.”
“I have watched the men train, some of them show skill.”
“Some, but not all. And with so many MacCoinnich’s, it will take every one of ours to be at their peak to defeat them.”
Grainna pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. “We will not win this war by massive numbers, but one by one. I say we start picking them off.”
“And warn them? With even one of their deaths, an army will search us out. How confident are you in defeating them all before we are ready?”
He cleared his throat and tread on thin ice with his next words. “Only two of them sent you back the last time. All ten might end your life.”
“I’m immortal, or have you forgotten?”
“A lot of good that will do you if your head is removed from your body.” Michael knew he had said the right words. Although she didn’t fear death, the thought of being kept alive in such a state did spark concern somewhere in her brain.
“We will see them dead. All of them before I am done.”
He lowered his head. “Yes, My Queen. We will prevail.”
She slid to him and touched his cheek, spreading blood from the body of the woman on the floor to his skin. “Together we can rule this world, and once we have the other stones and the MacCoinnichs’ powers, we will rule not only this time but all the others as well. Immortality will be my gift to you.”
“Yes, My Queen.” He was counting on that.
Liz knew Fin followed her. She left the hall and made her way to the gardens outside. “You know what is going on don’t you?”
Liz turned, her hand flew to her throat, in a forged effort to appear surprised. “Why do you sneak up on me like that?”
“I did not sneak. And don’t change the subject.”
“What subject was that?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
She marched over to the tools. “No I don’t. If you’ll excuse me.”
“Dammit, woman.” He put a hand on her shoulder, intending to turn her around.
Liz grabbed his arm, kicked out her leg and knocked him off balance. To both their surprise, he landed on his back staring up at her. Liz did a little happy dance on the inside, but kept it there thinking it wasn’t good to gloat. “Keep your hands to yourself.”
“You didn’t say that in the stable.”
“Momentary lapse of sanity,” she explained. “It won’t happen again.”
Fin wiped his hands on his shirt when he stood.
“What is happening between Todd and Myra?”
“Myra refuses to talk.”
“They’re adults, Fin. Leave them alone.”
“She is my sister.”
“And old enough to make her own decisions.
Leave her alone.”
“My father will handfast them both if he catches them together.”
Liz granted him a smile and a wink before leaving his side. God, she loved getting under his skin. It made her feel so giddy inside.
The subject of wandering off to the village dropped. Todd told Fin he couldn’t hurt Myra, which was the truth. When Fin questioned him further, Todd kept his mouth shut.
Whenever time allowed, Myra snuck into his room and slept in his arms. For the first time in months, Todd started to feel like he belonged.
With their stomachs full and the women retiring in the main hall, one by one, the men filed into Ian’s study.
Todd graciously took the splash of Scotch Ian handed him and stood by one of the long narrow windows. “So when do you expect this rain to let up?” he asked to anyone who listened. It was quite an adjustment having the world be so damp all the time, but then again, adjustment had been his middle name since he slipped through time.
He often wondered what Jake would say if he saw him now. He’d let his hair grow long, but refused to wear a beard or mustache. A few knights shaved, but they were the minority. Even Cian, who was just past his seventeenth birthday, let what chin hair he could manage, grow.
And the clothes, damn if he didn’t long for the jeans. Yes, he’d adjusted all right, as he stood in sixteenth-century attire. The leggings were a hell of a lot better than the kilts. He’d be dammed if he would wear a dress.
“The rain will decrease slightly by the end of the month, and by summer we should have several dry days,” Cian told him.
Duncan tossed another log into the fireplace before he took his seat. “So,” he regarded his father.
“What is this meeting about?”
Ian looked up at his eldest son and then to Todd.
“It’s time we start searching for Grainna, and find out what she is doing. It has been quiet for too long.”
Todd heaved a sigh of relief.
“You agree?” Ian asked him.
“I think it’s long overdue.” Todd pushed off the ledge he leaned on and moved closer to the fire. “I would much rather be on the offense than defense.”
“It does feel like we are waiting for her to make the first move.”
“Do you have any idea where she might be?”
“She could be anywhere, but if history is any clue, she will have found a forgotten shelter of some sort. There are many of them littered over the Highlands.”
“Then we send scouts to see what they can find.”
“And risk her getting a hold of them? Nay, Fin, we have to think of another way. You both told me she controlled the men surrounding her in the future. She may be doing that again. Consider how easily she handled Lancaster.”
Todd noticed Duncan’s worried expression as he no doubt recalled the painful memories. Todd had heard the story many times. Grainna had kidnapped Tara with the help of Matthew of Lancaster and they both nearly lost their lives. Lancaster, to this day, remembered nothing of what occurred. If Grainna was able to control the minds of more experienced knights, there was no telling what evil she could vent.