How a Scot Surrenders to a Lady Excerpt

Book 4 > Highlander Vows

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Cameron MacLeod paused at the top of the seagate stairs to strip off his clothing, leaving on only his braies, which were hanging low on his hips.

“What are ye doing?” his older brother Graham demanded from behind him, his voice rising sharply above the music of the pipers from the shore below.

Cameron ignored Graham for a moment. His brothers were always questioning him—what he did, why he did it, why he didn’t do something, what was he thinking when he’d done a particular something. It made him so angry!

An all-too-familiar tic began in Cameron’s jaw. He clenched his teeth as he stared down at the torches that littered the shore. They flickered bright orange in the slowly descending night sky. Thoughts of the past stirred on the salty breeze that blew off the loch, cooling his sweat-slicked skin after hours of target practice. His father’s voice, harsh and razor-sharp, hummed in his mind, making the twitch grow worse: Ye’ll nae ever be the warrior that yer brothers are.

“Brother,” Graham growled. “Did ye hear me?”

Cameron nodded absently. How was it that his father’s critical voice could still be so loud from the grave?

Attempting to shake the memories, he looked out at the thick throng of revelers who’d traveled from near and far to join in the MacLeod clan’s annual St. John’s Eve celebration. His father had died right before the same celebration two years prior. The recollections were always strong this night. Father was gone, yet Cameron still expected to see him, eyes narrowed and mouth twisted with disappointment.

He’s nae here, Cameron reminded himself. And ye are worthy.

Below, on the shore that surrounded one side of his and his brothers’ home, Dunvegan Castle, rings of fire blazed in perfect lines, as if an army of flame advanced from the loch to attack. It was a sight to behold and conjured memories that his older brothers Iain, Lachlan, and even Graham had told Cameron about going into battle. His brothers had risked their lives to protect others, but he had not. He’d asked—repeatedly—when scrimmages had arisen, but Iain, as the eldest brother and the MacLeod laird, had denied him each time, insisting fifteen summers was too young to fight.

But Iain had lied. Cameron knew this to be true because his brother had been in battle by fifteen summers himself. Their father had often bragged that one as young as Iain had been a fiercer warrior than men who were much older than he was. Iain simply didn’t think Cameron ready. That desperate feeling to prove himself—and prove everyone else wrong—flushed him like a fever.

“Are ye dallying here in hopes of missing the dagger-throwing competition?” Graham asked, his goading tone snapping Cameron to attention. He opened his mouth to answer, but Graham spoke again. “Do ye fear ye will nae win? I staked my horse, who ye ken I love more than ye, against Archibald MacLean’s boastful claim that he would beat ye so soundly ye’d be ashamed to hold yer head up.”

Cameron smiled grimly. Archibald MacLean, cousin to Alex MacLean—the laird of the MacLean clan and friend to all the MacLeod brothers—thought too much of his own skills. “Dunnae fret, Brother,” Cameron said. “I’ll send Archibald home without yer destrier and with a much-needed reminder that I’m the best dagger thrower in Scotland.”

Graham whistled. “’Tis quite an assertion.”

Cameron shrugged. “’Tis a fact. Iain and Lachlan are the best at hand-to-hand combat,” he started, “ye are the greatest hunter, and I’ve the most skill with forging weapons, throwing daggers, and charming the lasses.”

Graham smacked Cameron in the head with a grunt. “If ye spent less time wooing the lasses, ye’d have more time to focus on becoming a better warrior.”

Cameron’s skin prickled with irritation, but he shoved the anger away. It did no good. For years, he’d been vexed at his father for making him feel unworthy to be a MacLeod, and it had not changed his father’s opinion. Besides, he was focused—merely on the lasses. He still trained diligently, as he’d done when their father was alive, but now he refused to walk around like a dog begging for recognition.

“If training to be a warrior was half as enjoyable as charming the lasses, then I’d dedicate myself to the task body and soul,” Cameron replied, falling into the familiar habit of cloaking himself in indifference. Lately, apathy hadn’t been coming easily, though.

As the words left his mouth, his gaze fastened on Mary, a household servant with a sweet smile and kind disposition, with whom he’d often flirted. She ascended the seagate stairs, and when she saw him, a smile transformed the look of deep focus on her face to one of pleasure. “Talking of lasses…”

A grunt came from Graham. “Ye’re wasting yer potential by dividing yer attention between training and the lasses.” His rebuking tone, so similar to their father’s, caused Cameron’s jaw to immediately lock, sending a sharp pain shooting along the edge.

His irritation increased, yet he knew well that showing it was pointless. Instead, he snorted and said, “If ye believe time spent with lasses is a waste, ye have simply nae met the right lass.”

“Apparently ye have nae, either,” Graham drawled. “Every time I turn around, ye are with a different lass.”

Cameron winked at his brother, though his tic now beat a rapid tattoo along his jaw. “All the lasses I give my attention to are the right lasses for my purposes.”

“Ye have a purpose, then, do ye?” Graham asked, arching his eyebrows.

Cameron flinched. Devil take his brother for getting to him. “Aye. Enjoyment of life. There are four of us. Four MacLeod brothers.” Sometimes they seemed to forget he was one of them, as if he didn’t belong. “I suppose the duty of enjoying life falls to me since the lot of ye will nae give me another.”

For the love of God, where had that come from?

Graham’s eyes widened, and pity appeared in his brother’s gaze. “Cameron—”

“Iain is the oldest, he’s laird, and he’s married,” Cameron rushed out, his throat tightening even as he spoke, as if he were struggling to hold in a truth. “There is nae a chance he can enjoy life, the poor man, what with his duties as laird and husband to Catriona.”

Graham frowned at him. “Cameron—”

Cameron cut him off again, that tightening feeling in his throat causing him to swallow hard. “Lachlan is too busy fighting battles or training to fight battles. The pitiable wee devil barely takes time to enjoy the sun on his face, let alone a lass.”

Deep lines appeared between Graham’s brows. Cameron didn’t know whether it was because he still hadn’t let Graham speak or because of Graham and Lachlan’s contentious relationship. To say the two brothers were not close was not strong enough. Cameron may only have been fifteen summers, but he saw the things his brothers tried to hide. He suspected much of the problem between Lachlan and Graham was that Graham was jealous of Lachlan. But it was not Cameron’s problem to sort out.

“And ye…” He speared Graham with a knowing look. “I ken ye only have eyes for one lass, though ye dunnae ever seem to make any progress with her.” Cameron was boldly alluding to his suspicion that Graham was smitten with Bridgette MacLean, Alex MacLean’s sister.

Graham’s face turned red, and he opened his mouth—likely to deny it—but Cameron pushed forward again, glad to have the focus off himself. “Dunnae bother crying false. I will nae tell yer secret.” He continued toward the shore but had not gotten more than five steps when he met with Mary, who was slow to climb the stairs with the jugs of ale she was carrying.

She paused directly in front of him and gave him a saucy look. “If ye win the dagger-throwing contest, I’ll give ye a kiss.”

Out of habit, Cameron winked at the lass, though he felt no desire to woo anyone at the moment. “Then I must be sure to win,” he replied smoothly, ignoring the derisive noise that came from Graham.

“Come find me in the kitchens when it’s over, aye?” she asked, stepping around him.

She had already walked past him when he replied, “Aye, I’ll do that.”

He continued at a faster pace down the stairs, wanting to reach the shore before Graham might speak of his purpose in life again. Lillianna, a curly-headed brunette one year his senior, came quickly up the stairs toward them.

The daughter of the stable master paused in the middle of the steps to smile up at him, and he slowed to a stop. “I’ve been looking for ye, Cameron,” Lillianna said.

“Have ye now, lass?” he teased. Lasses and humor usually helped to keep the empty feeling away. “What is it ye be needing from me?”

“I’ve collected fern seeds for ye to rub on yer eyelids so ye can see the fairies that come out tonight during the celebration,” she replied with a flirtatious smile.

He barely repressed the urge to shudder, which would likely offend her. He had as deep a belief in fairies and in seers as any man or woman in his clan, but that did not mean he wanted to see the magical creatures. Before his father had died, he had told Cameron about a time he had sought out Eolande, the seer who lived at the Fairy Pools on Skye and was thought to be of fairy blood. Long ago, Eolande had gifted one of his forefathers with a charmed Fairy Flag to be used to save his clan in a time of dire need, so when the seer had foretold his father’s death, Father had believed her. Not a day had passed that Father hadn’t regretted the burden of the knowledge.

No thanks. He didn’t want to see fairies, or seers, or the seer-fairy of Skye and learn some dire foretelling of his own life. Still, he’d take the seeds so as not to hurt Lillianna, and he would toss them away. He held out his hand. “That was verra sweet of ye to collect seeds for me, Lillianna.”

“Close yer eyes,” she commanded, surprising him.

“What for?” he asked with a frown.

“So I can rub the fern seeds on yer eyelids, of course,” she answered.

Behind him, Graham shifted from foot to foot, and Cameron could imagine the restless, irritated expression his brother likely wore. It no doubt resembled the one his father had worn for years whenever he had looked at Cameron.

His stomach tightened. He was stuck. But he’d not appear fearful now. “Dunnae fash yerself, lass. I’ll do it.”

Did his voice sound panicky, or was that his imagination? He studied Lillianna’s face for signs that she might have noticed his hesitation.

She smirked at him. “Dunnae tell me ye’re suddenly afraid to let a woman touch ye?”

“Aye,” came Graham’s laughter-choked voice. He shoved Cameron in the shoulder. “Are ye scairt to let the lass put the fern seeds on yer eyelids?”

Cameron’s tic returned with the force of a hit to his jaw. He inhaled sharply, his nostrils flaring. His brother knew good and damned well that he had no interest in seeing any magical creatures. Graham was the one person to whom Cameron had long ago confessed his wariness.

Lillianna gave him an expectant look, and then her lips parted. “Are ye fearful of the fairies, the seers, or both?” Surprise muffled her tone.

“Nae either,” he said as decisively as he could manage and promptly closed his eyes. “Just eager to reach the dagger-throwing contest. Be quick about it, aye?”

“To be certain, I will,” she responded before her cool, smooth fingertips touched his lids and gently rubbed the fern seeds on them. Unease stirred deep within him, but he held himself perfectly still. Suddenly her touch was gone, and he opened his eyes to find her face a hairsbreadth from his. “Do ye ken what I have under my gown tonight, Cameron?”

He gave her a wolfish smile. He knew well the tradition of wearing nothing under one’s outer clothing on St. John’s Eve. Legend had it that young, unmarried folk would divine lovers for the night, or perchance even find their future spouses. He had no interest in a spouse, but a lass to dally with…? He started to raise his hand to run it down Lillianna’s rosy cheek when his brother clasped his shoulder.

“Time to go,” Graham barked. Stepping to Cameron’s side without releasing his hold, he propelled him down the stairs.

For the space of a breath, Cameron considered resisting, but he did need to get to the dagger-throwing competition. Still, he glanced over his shoulder and winked at Lillianna. “Wish me luck.”

Lillianna blew him a kiss. “Come find me in the great hall when ye’re done.”

He nodded even as Graham snorted loudly beside him. As they continued their descent, Graham spoke. “How do ye plan to meet with two lasses at once?”

Cameron blinked in confusion until he recalled his promise to Mary. “Simple. I’ll meet Mary first and then Lillianna,” he said with a grin.

Graham scowled at him. “One day, Brother, ye will meet a lass who will make things confusing.”

“And I’ll wish her farewell faster than she can take a breath,” Cameron replied, not liking how much his brother’s glare reminded him of their father’s. The past was haunting him tonight, and he felt out of sorts. “I dunnae want one lass,” he continued, but the feeling of being confused—or rather, on the verge of something important—grew. “Especially a confusing one.” His voice had become quieter, and his mind whirred as if a storm had slipped into his head. “I want nothing more than to be a warrior.” The truth came out before he could stop it.

His brother’s eyes widened a fraction, and he sighed. “I suspected.” Graham clasped him on the shoulder. “Dunnae be yer own worst enemy, then.”

Cameron frowned. “I’m nae. I train as much as anyone else, but Iain dunnae seem to see, nor care.”

“Iain sees everything. Dunnae ever forget that. He sees that ye have given up; we all do. Iain is testing ye, waiting to see if ye will rise up and become the man we all ken ye can be. Presently, ye’re failing Iain’s test. Dunnae continue to be a clot-heid. If ye truly wish to be seen as an equal, ye must pursue that desire with utter determination.”

Their eyes locked, and Cameron realized with a start that what his brother had said made sense. He had given up, had settled on being the reckless brother.

He clasped Graham’s shoulder. “Thank ye, Brother. I’ll nae give up.”

Graham nodded as they moved onto the shore from the stairs, and the noise of the assembled crowd swallowed them. They weaved through clansmen and strangers, and in and out of bonfires that had been lit to ward off evil spirits. Near where all the contestants were lined up side-by-side for the dagger-throwing competition, Cameron halted as a group of barefooted children raced in front of him, giggling and waving sticks as they pretended to battle one another. Once they were past, Cameron strode toward Iain and Catriona, who leaned against her husband, looking pale as the moon and fragile as a newborn babe.

Cameron’s throat tightened at his sister-in-law’s sickly state. Her difficulty breathing and horrid coughing spells seemed to be worsening by the day, but he’d not utter the thought aloud. To do so would bring his brother’s wrath down upon him. If a body could be saved from death by the love of another, then Cameron had no doubt Catriona would regain her health, as his brother loved her mightily.

When Cameron moved to his place in the line of competitors, Iain gave him a narrow-eyed look that conveyed, without doubt or words, his vexation with Cameron for being late. His older brother was almost always irritated with him, just as their father had always been, but maybe it was a test, as Graham had said.

Cameron was about to apologize for his delay when Archibald looked at him and spoke. “We were all beginning to wonder if ye were scairt to face me in competition.”

“I dunnae fear ye, Archibald,” Cameron drawled as he donned his plaid once more. “Yer aim is about as impressive as this day is short.” He twisted his mouth in a smirk.

Archibald furrowed his brow. “’Tis one of the longest days of the year…”

“Aye,” Cameron said with a chuckle, then tapped the man on the side of the head. “The day is nae short, and yer aim is nae impressive.”

Guffaws rang out down the line of twelve men.

Archibald smacked Cameron’s arm away. “I’ll show ye how impressive my aim is,” the man thundered, swinging a punch at Cameron.

As Cameron ducked, a hand shot out in front of his face to stop Archibald’s fist.

Alex appeared seemingly out of the mist. Archibald’s cousin towered over him, dark and grimacing. “Keep yer temper and yer wits about ye, or ye’re certain to be bested as ye were the other day by my wee sister.”

Bridgette MacLean tossed her long red hair over her shoulder before offering a smirk from where she stood with the other women. Her green eyes danced with mirth. Knowing Bridgette, she’d much rather be in the competition than watching it, but her brother had refused to let her participate.

“She did nae best me,” Archibald grumbled. “I let her win.”

“Ye’re lying to save yerself the mortification,” Bridgette replied matter-of-factly. “I told ye then, and I’ll tell ye now—women are better at dagger throwing because we’ve more patience.”

“Step up in line and prove it,” Hugo, the Earl of Ross’s son, jeered.

Cameron grimaced. He’d never liked the grasping bastard son of the earl, and it had nothing to do with Hugo being the result of an illicit affair between the earl and his wife’s sister. Cameron didn’t give a saint’s sniff about the shame that others said was attached to Hugo. What Cameron did care about was that Hugo had used the fact that his father was cousin to King David to attain land he did not deserve. But as of late, fate had taken care of Hugo and the earl, as both seemed to be falling out of favor with the King of Scots, who was presently imprisoned in England.

“What’s the matter, Bridgette?” Hugo taunted. “Are ye fearful ye’ll shame yerself if ye throw with the men?”

Cameron glanced swiftly at Graham, wondering if his brother was going to finally make known his feelings for Bridgette by coming to her defense. His jaw was set and his sword drawn, but as he stepped forward, Bridgette snorted and waved a dismissive hand at him. “Och, if my brother would let me throw, ye’d be the one shamed, Hugo.”

Iain raised his hands for silence, and a hush fell over the assembled crowd. “Ye all ken the rules, but they bear repeating. The dagger closest to the target wins. Twelve men stand ready to compete and have offered up the necessary purse of coin. The winner takes all twelve purses.”

Iain quickly called out the clans present, as well as one lone competitor. The man had no plaid on to indicate he was part of any clan, so Cameron assumed the stranger was a Ceàrdannan. He wasn’t overly taken aback to see a Summer Walker at Dunvegan for the festival, but he hadn’t expected to see one competing. The clanless land travelers usually did not partake in such things.

Cameron studied the man at the end of the line. His build was unimpressive—slight, really, almost like that of a lass. The stranger’s hands looked smooth, his fingers long and thin, but he displayed amazing skill as he stood there flipping his dagger repeatedly. He twisted it over his wrist and then under it, clearly adept and comfortable with the weapon. The competitor wore a cloak with a hood pulled low. Cameron’s gaze trailed up to the warrior’s face, but all he could see was the tip of the stranger’s chin. Cameron would have thought that odd enough to confront the man, but Summer Walkers were known for disregarding convention, so he let it go and began his own exercises to warm up his throwing hand.

He took a long, slow breath in preparation to throw and moved his gaze across the crowd and down the long center of the twenty blazing circles of fire. The small target was fastened to a post at the end of the circles.

He gasped at the sight of Eolande suddenly standing in front of the target, her dark hair billowing around her shoulders, though the wind was not strong enough to cause such a thing. His gut clenched as he felt the coldness of her violet gaze land on him. The white léine she was wearing seemed to shimmer like jewels upon her as she raised a hand and motioned in his direction. Was she beckoning him? He glanced around at the others, but no one else seemed to notice her.

Cameron rubbed his eyes, unsure of his own mind. When he brought his hands away, all he saw was the fire and the shadows cast in the darkening sky. Relief washed over him, and he raised his hand just in time for Iain’s signal to throw the daggers.

The knives swished through the air, numerous thuds resounding in rapid succession, almost simultaneously meeting their marks. The men whooped in hopeful triumph, and Cameron’s blood rushed through his veins in his own expectation of victory. He took one step out of line toward the target with the surety that he was the winner, but as he moved, a dagger whistled through the air and hit the target hard, sending a vibration through the now-silent crowd. A collective gasp sounded from the spectators, and Cameron glanced at the man who had thrown his dagger well after everyone else—the Summer Walker.

His first inclination was to cry foul, but he kept his mouth shut. No rule had been made that all contestants had to throw their daggers at the same time. The only thing this man had done was make a clever choice to wait. Cameron clenched his teeth in anger, but it was at himself. All the competitors, save himself and the Summer Walker, rushed toward the target, and most of the crowd that had been watching did so as well.

Cameron looked from the stranger to the target. His gut told him he’d lost. His dagger had a black hilt, and from here, it looked like a dagger with a light-colored hilt was lodged in the center of the target. He turned to study the man once again. The Summer Walker stood perfectly still except for his slender hands, which were twined together as he tapped his thumbs in a frenzy. The man was nervous. But why?

~ ~ ~

“’Twas clever of ye to see the advantage of waiting to throw and taking it,” said the man—well, he was nearly a man—standing beside her.

Sorcha Stewart sucked in a sharp breath at the warrior’s admission. As she looked at the man who was studying her, it was hard to think upon her plan, upon anything other than him. He was tall and surprisingly thick with muscles for a man with such a young face. He looked to be a year, maybe two, ahead of her fifteen summers. His gaze was probing, like that of someone much older, and it was locked upon her. It felt as if his will alone could move her hood to reveal her face. She nervously tugged the material farther down, though she knew very well it was impossible for someone to move something without touching it.

The man—Cameron, she’d heard him called—tracked her movements, and she had to force herself not to fidget. His expression had become one of fixation, as if he was trying to figure something out—likely her—but there was a friendliness to his face that made her want to smile at him.

Down near the target, a cacophony of shouts exploded in the semi-silence. A deep, angry male voice sounded above the others.

She tensed as she glanced toward the target. She had to flee now before she was caught. She took a step to do so, but Cameron clasped her shoulder. It took only a breath to realize fighting him would be futile. She jerked away twice, and his grip tightened, unrelenting.

“Are ye nae going to speak to me?” he asked, his voice gravelly. His eyebrows, thick and golden like his hair, rose into a high arch.

She shook her head. She prided herself on her ability to judge people the minute she met them. It was a skill she’d acquired when quite young and living in a house where everyone had secrets. She considered herself quite adept at forming quick conclusions on the make of a man—or woman, for that matter. This warrior before her was clever and curious; it was in his searching, twinkling eyes. He’d hear her voice and know immediately that she was not a man, and then she’d be found out. And her father would learn she’d not stayed in the tent as he had told her to do, which would be a very bad thing. Father had ordered her twin brother, Finn, to stand guard at her tent, but Finn had left to chase a lass the minute Father had departed. So if it was discovered that she had departed the tent, Finn would pay dearly, and she didn’t want that.

Devil take her faults! If only Hugo had not bested her by cheating when they had thrown daggers yesterday, then she would not have felt the need to best him today in an honest competition. He was such a braggart, and she detested the way he tried to make her feel inferior and weak every time he and his father came to visit her father. He did it to Finn, as well, and she could never fight the urge to protect her brother. Yet, it did seem that lately he was resentful of and irritated by her need to watch out for him. She intended to tell Hugo what she had done later and happily watch his face drain of color. There was no worry Hugo would reveal her secret either, as he would rather have his eye stabbed out than let it be known that a lass—especially one three years younger than he was—had bested him.

“That man used tricks to win!” someone bellowed from near the target.

Sorcha flinched, and her heart jumped from her chest to her throat. Pinpricks raced across her skin as her stomach tightened. Now she was done for. If they dragged her down to the targets to quarrel about if she had won fairly, they may demand she pull back her hood, and then they would discover she was a girl and not a man at all. Of course, Hugo would be humiliated, but risking her father’s temper wasn’t worth the public shaming.

“Cameron!” called a deep male voice from the target. “Get yer arse down here now and bring the Summer Walker with ye. The man needs to defend his win.”

A fleeting spark of pride filled her, but it died quickly, smothered by worry.

“Ye heard my brother,” Cameron said. “It seems ye’ve won, and though it pains me to be outwitted I’ll take it like a man… unlike some others.” Releasing her, he glanced toward the crowd gathered in the distance. “Shall we?” he asked, his head still turned.

Her answer was to run.

She quickly turned and sprinted in the opposite direction of the laird and the other competitors. Behind her, Cameron’s footsteps thudded as he raced to ride up to her. Her breath rang in her ears, the puffs coming in a rhythm of one in, two out. He called to her, his voice seeming closer now. She dashed in front of a cart, and a woman yelped and threw a pitcher, which Sorcha ducked under just before it thumped to the ground.

She pushed her legs harder, her hood falling away, and her hair flew out to flap against her shoulders as she twisted through the crowd. She made for the thick rows of tents beyond the rocks. If she could reach them, she felt sure she could lose Cameron and make it back to her own tent before anyone was the wiser.

A group of children ran in front of her waving sticks and laughing, and she had to come to a shuddering stop to keep from trampling them.

“Part!” a high, melodic voice commanded. The children gasped as one and quickly obeyed, leaving an opening for Sorcha to run through.

She didn’t question it nor hesitate to flee. She glanced over her shoulder only to see how close Cameron was, and her jaw dropped as their eyes locked. Even from a distance, she could feel his gaze burrowing into her, memorizing the details of her face. Thanks be to God that Cameron had been stopped by the children and a woman with long, flowing black hair.

A relieved laugh escaped her, and she boldly raised her hand, waving farewell to the warrior she’d bested. But the woman beside him caught Sorcha’s notice. Her gaze probed Sorcha, causing unease to prickle across her skin. Though it was impossible to hear the woman say anything given the distance between them, Sorcha was certain that the woman was talking about her.

~ ~ ~

“Allow the lass to flee,” Eolande said.

“And why should I do that?” Cameron demanded, stepping to move around the seer and frowning when she shifted to stay in his way.

“’Tis not yer time to meet her.”

“Well,” he said, “considering I’ve already met her, I’d say it is my time. It seems—” He stopped talking as he stared in amused shock at the slip of a lass with long golden hair. She paused in her flight, turned toward him, and grinning, waved a farewell before turning her back to him once more. He started toward the lass, her smile as blindingly beautiful as the now-full moon, but Eolande put up a hand. Before he could move away, she grasped him.

His entire body went rigid as she curled her long fingers around his arm. He could have broken free if he’d had the ability to move, but that was the thing he had always heard about seers: once they touched ye, they stole yer capacity to move as they saw into your future. His feet felt heavy as stones as Eolande’s nails dug into his skin and her violet eyes speared him.

“’Tis nae time yet,” she pressed.

“Why?” he demanded.

Eolande hissed between her teeth, her breath coming out in white circles as if it were freezing cold out, not as warm as it was. Wariness stirred deep within him as she spoke. “Because it is too soon. She will come to ye again, but this time in battle, bathed in blood and marked by a heart.”

“What do ye mean she will come to me?” he found himself asking, even though he had never wanted to know his future.

Eolande didn’t seem to hear his question. She looked through him as if he was not there. “To yer knees she will bring ye, and for her, ye will betray everything ye hold dear.”

Cameron jerked, his denial surging through his veins. “I’d nae ever do such a thing.”

“Ye will,” Eolande said flatly in a voice so eerily certain that his gut twisted. “Ye will betray yer king, yer family, the very honor ye cloak yerself with.”

The tic from earlier began to pound in his jaw. “I’d nae ever do these things for a lass, nor any other,” he growled.

Eolande’s mouth pulled into a thin smile. “I only tell ye what I have seen.”

“Yer vision is cloudy, then, Seer,” he ground out.

“Perchance,” she said with a shrug that contradicted the surety of her tone. “But I dunnae believe so. She is the mate of yer heart and the enemy of yer clan. With her comes life and death born of yer choices.”

He looked past the seer toward where the lass had disappeared. The powerful urge to search for her, despite what he’d just heard, swept over him, leaving him vexed. He locked gazes with Eolande once more. “I will always put my family, my king, and my honor above all else.”

“So says the blind man,” Eolande replied, releasing him. “Yer eyes have just begun to be opened to lasses.”

He could not help but laugh at that. “I assure ye, Seer, I have seen lasses for a good while.”

“Nay. Ye have used lasses to cope with the loneliness ye bring to yerself.”

Her words struck so close to the truth that a knot formed in his chest.

“That lass”—she pointed to where the girl had last been—“will catch ye like a fly in a web of longing. Kenning her will lead ye all the way out of the prison ye have created by allowing yer past to overshadow yer future.”

“Enough,” he snapped, not wishing to hear one more word about a future he’d never let come to pass. “I bid ye a good night,” he growled and moved away.

Behind him, Eolande chuckled. “Ye kinnae run from yer future.”

“Who’s running from it?” he called back without stopping his flight. “I’m racing toward it. There are two lovely lasses waiting for me, and I intend to see them both. What say ye to that?”

She laughed. “I say it will be amusing to watch a blind man stumble in the dark.”

“Blind man,” he muttered, ignoring the curious gazes of the people he passed. “She’s the one who has lost her sight.”

Yes, that was it. He was certain of it. Because the future she foretold was simply not possible. Even on the slightest chance that it was, he knew of it now, and he would not allow himself to become so attached to a lass that he was willing to sacrifice honor, family, or king. He was worthy of the MacLeod name, and he’d never do anything to confirm otherwise.

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