Torrian (The Highland Clan Book 2)(4)

By: Keira Montclair

Stop thinking horrid thoughts.

The bouncing of the horse kept her from sleeping, which was good. She needed to give them directions. Steering them toward a well-hidden path, she led them through the twists and turns to the cave. As soon as the purple wildflowers came into view telling her they were close, she leaped down from the horse.

Her cave was well hidden, and she took off in its direction without him, trusting he would follow her. Before she could spare a thought for the others, she needed to know Nellie still breathed. Racing up the narrow path, swiping the tree branches away from her face, she hurried into the cave, only stopping when she fell to her knees beside her daughter. “Nellie?”

Nothing. She lifted the bairn into her arms and spoke into her ear. “Nellie. Wake up. Please, you must speak to Mama.” Still, the wee lassie did not answer. Heather spun around to carry her out of the cave, but a soothing voice stopped her in her tracks.

“Set her down there,” Brenna said. “I’ll come to her, or you may settle her on your lap if you’d rather.”

Heather glanced into Brenna’s warm gaze. “Many thanks for coming. I do not know what I would do if…” Her voice cracked, so she stopped.

“I understand, I have three daughters,” Brenna said, squeezing her shoulder. “I’ll do my best for her, I promise.”

Torrian came in behind Brenna after he delivered instructions to his guards. Torrian acted as if he’d been in charge his entire life, something unusual for one so young. But then again, she had little to compare him to.

Heather did Brenna’s bidding, and soon she was sitting with Nellie’s head cradled in her lap. She watched as Brenna gave Torrian a jug. “See if the guards can find fresh water.”

“To the north. There’s a creek there,” Heather choked out.

When Torrian left to send the guards out for water, she found herself watching him. A brief tug inside her was persistent enough to cause her to stare at him before she remembered where her focus belonged.

Brenna worked on Nellie for almost an hour, washing her body with the cool liquid from the stream, doing her best to get her to drink, and rubbing a salve on her chest. Heather prayed over and over that her daughter would awaken, but she did not.

“Heather, I know this is probably against your wishes, but I think you should bring her to our keep so I can spend more time with her. This cave is fine for the two of you when she is well, but now that she’s sick, I suspect you haven’t been able to spend much time searching for food. Our keep is quite large. Why not bring wee Nellie to stay in a chamber with a soft bed and pillows—somewhere she can be warm until she heals? We can place you and Nellie in your own chamber so you can care for her, and we have maids to assist you.”

“You will not try to make us stay, will you? You’ll not try to keep her against my will?”

“Nay, I promise.” Brenna patted her hand, then arranged her supplies and returned them to her satchel.

Torrian returned and strode over to her. “Here’s an oatcake for you,” he said, staring into her eyes as he reached out and handed it to her. “My guess is you have not been eating much.”

Heather reached for the oatcake, her mouth watering at the mere thought of food, let alone the sight of it. “My thanks. I have not eaten.”

Torrian added, “I remember what my sire was like when I fell ill. He barely left my side for years. You must take care of yourself, as well. ‘Tis probably in your best interest to return to the keep with us for a short time.”

Heather paused for a moment to consider their offer. Torrian was right—she’d stayed by Nellie’s side ever since the fever struck, and she hadn’t given food much thought. She’d barely had the strength to run to the Ramsay keep today.

“You’ve left the cave unguarded, lass.” Torrian tipped his head toward the two spears she kept nearby in case any animal came inside the cave, along with a pile of rope and strings she usually tied across it to keep the smaller birds and animals at bay.

She gasped at the realization that she’d left without placing any ropes across the opening. Nellie had been in the cave without any protection. Tears flooded her eyes at her poor judgment. “We’ll come along. Many thanks.”

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