Never Seduce a Scot(14)By: Maya Banks
Graeme’s expression hardened. “I would never bring her here. She is home and well guarded. She is young yet, and I would not have her exposed to a potentially … hostile … situation.”
“And yet I am forced to send my daughter into the bosom of our enemy,” Robina said in a near whisper.
“My lady, I do not wage war against women. Your daughter will not die by my hand nor the hand of any of my clansmen. As the wife of the laird, she will be afforded every courtesy due her position.”
Robina didn’t look heartened by his vow. She looked like she wanted to weep.
Graeme turned, surveying the nearly empty hall. It was as if every Armstrong had vacated in anticipation of the Montgomerys’ arrival. Only he and his brothers, the earl and Tavis, and the laird’s wife and sons were present.
He then focused on Tavis because he truly didn’t want to upset the laird’s wife more than she already was. She bore no blame for the sins of her husband and his kin.
“I would like to see the woman I’m supposed to marry. I would make her acquaintance before we are wed.”
“Laird Montgomery,” Robina interjected, turning his attention back to her. Her expression was pleading. “Please, may I speak to you plainly of my daughter before you seek to have her in your presence?”
“Speak your mind, my lady. I will take no offense if none is intended.”
“Has no one told you of her?”
“He called her defective,” Brodie snarled from across the room.
Robina whitened, though Graeme couldn’t tell if it was in anger or upset.
“I have heard she is … unwell,” Graeme said in an effort to be kind.
“Speak the truth,” Teague snapped. “ ’Tis widely known the lass is daft and cannot bear you heirs. ’Tis madness for this marriage to take place. It can solve nothing.”
In that moment, Graeme truly believed that if Robina had been armed, she would have tried to kill his younger brother. He stepped automatically into the pathway between her and Teague to ward off any confrontation.
Brodie began to argue loudly while Tavis turned on Teague. The hall erupted in a fury of yelling, and insults flew. Only the presence of the earl prevented bloodshed.
“Enough!” the earl roared. “Clear the hall!” He pointed at Armstrong’s sons and then Graeme’s own brothers. “Out. Leave them to discuss the matter before them.”
“I’ll not leave my brother to be murdered in this viper’s nest,” Bowen snarled.
Graeme held up his hand. “I am well protected, Bowen. Take your leave. Go check on the men and make sure all is as it should be. The sooner this is done with, the sooner we can be back on our own lands.”
Reluctantly, his brothers and the Armstrong whelps took their leave. Then Graeme turned back to Robina. “Now, my lady, speak your mind. I grow impatient.”
Tavis came to stand beside his wife, almost as if daring Graeme to show her any disrespect in speech or look.
“Eveline is … different. She’s not daft. ’Tis God’s truth, I do not fully understand the depth of what has afflicted her. When she was younger, three years past, she took a fall from her horse into a ravine and remained there three days before we were able to find her.”
Graeme frowned. “Are you saying she wasn’t born this way? That whatever affliction she has was because of an injury?”
“Aye. Well, nay. She wasn’t born this way. There has never been a sweeter child. Intelligent. Sharp witted. Full of life and laughter. She would have made any man a wife he’d fight for. But she was ill for a length of time after her fall. And she was never the same afterward. She doesn’t speak. Hasn’t spoken since she awakened from a deep slumber of over a fortnight.”
“ ’Tis all? She doesn’t speak?” Some husbands would be grateful for such a gift.
Robina shook her head. “I’m trying to tell you that she won’t make you a fit wife. You can’t treat her as you would another woman. Please, if you have any mercy at all, you’ll treat her kindly and leave her alone. She does not deserve to be punished for what has been wrought by her kin.”