Never Seduce a Scot(4)By: Maya Banks
Eveline clamped a hand over her mouth even though she hadn’t said a word in well over three years. The reaction was automatic, to quiet the silent cry that billowed up from her very soul.
She whirled around, not wanting to witness any more. She fled the keep, nearly tripping down the stone steps in her haste. Gathering her skirts in tight fists, she ran over the uneven terrain behind the keep and into the grove of trees lining a stream that fed a nearby loch.
Instinctively, she sought out the large boulder that jutted out over the water. There, the stream ran faster, bubbling over larger stones and rocks. She imagined the sound, holding it like a fleeting memory. It had been so long since she’d last heard anything that the memories of sound were fading.
She mourned that loss. Before, she could sit on her rock and remember the gurgling sounds, the rush of the water and the peace it brought her. Over time, those phantom sounds faded into nothing. A blank void she felt herself slipping further into all the time.
Hunching her knees up so she could rest her chin atop them, she closed her eyes, but then quickly opened them. A world without sound and sight frightened her.
Betrothal was what had wrought the deception she’d maintained for the last three years. Tragedy had befallen her, but it had also rescued her from an unwanted marriage—a marriage her father had been determined to make happen.
How was it possible? Panic clawed at her throat at the idea of leaving her sanctuary. She was loved here. Cherished. No one thought ill of her—or at least no one dared to voice such an opinion aloud. Her father would spit the person on his sword who disparaged his only daughter in any way.
But she knew what they said behind her back. Some of the more unkindly ones. Or rather not to her back, but in her sight. Daft. Mad. Touched. Poor lass. Never a use to anyone.
They were wrong, but she wouldn’t correct them. It was too dangerous to do so.
She’d been betrothed to Ian McHugh. It was a match highly pursued by Ian’s father, the chieftain, and a match that her father finally approved of. Her father was careful with the alliances he made, and Patrick McHugh was one of the few people he seemed to trust. The two men could even be called friends. It was only natural that a marriage be arranged between Tavis’s only daughter and McHugh’s heir.
Ian, however, was not the charming man he appeared to be. Outwardly, he was perfect. The epitome of a gentleman. He’d won her mother over and had, in fact, gained the blessings of Eveline’s overprotective brothers.
But beneath the façade was a man who struck terror in Eveline’s heart. He’d taunted her with promises of what marriage would be like to him and then laughed when she’d vowed to take the matter up with her father. He’d told her that no one would ever believe the aspersions she’d cast on his character. She hadn’t believed him until she’d gone to her father to do as she’d threatened.
Her father had not been unkind, but he’d also put her accusations down to maidenly fears. He’d promised her that all would be well and that Ian would make her a good husband. And that furthermore, Ian was a just and honorable man.
Worse, Ian openly courted and wooed her in front of her family. He visited often, making grand gestures of devotion. He played his part to perfection. He had her entire clan eating out of his hand. Only in private did Eveline see into the soul of overwhelming evil.
Eveline sighed and bowed her head to her knees, allowing her skirts to billow over her legs. Secrets. So many secrets. So many lies.
She’d loved to ride horses, but she was never allowed to ride alone—the threat of the Montgomerys was ever present and her father feared what would happen should his daughter fall into the hands of their mortal enemies.
One morning she’d gone to the stables, saddled her own horse, and had taken off riding. Only it was no simple ride she was taking. She had planned to run away. A foolhardy, impetuous decision that haunted her to this day.
She didn’t even know if she would have gone through with it, if she would’ve had the courage to leave the boundaries of Armstrong land. After all, how was a young girl, alone and without the protection of her family, to survive?