Inside, she cringed at the thought of marrying Sir Hugh. With the memory of the intimacy she'd shared with Sir David fresh in her mind, she couldn't imagine such a thing even though she'd known Sir Hugh most of her life. "I wish to remain a healer and the convent appreciates my skills," she said, snatching her hand from his grasp. She couldn't bring herself to be gracious. This was not the first time the subject of marriage had been raised by this knight.
"You will have other duties when you are mine. I expect you to please me well." His gray eyes filled with lechery when he smiled.
Arabel wanted to slap him at his impropriety.
A noise from above them signaled the opening of the doors to the Great Hall.
"Care to join me for refreshments?" Sir Hugh asked, as if she'd not behaved as if he had the plague.
"I have a patient to attend to." She turned to hurry away from him, but he moved quickly for a knight in battle gear, stepping in front of her, barring her way. Sir Hugh was medium in height, but his presence was imposing. An air of violence hung over him like cool mist on a winter's day.
"David McLaird still lives?" he asked.
Arabel steeled herself to show no emotion. Just one hint that Sir Hugh had a rival among the enemy would send David to his grave. "My orders are to heal him. No doubt Sir James wishes to ransom him." She stepped back not wanting his closeness. Unfortunately he closed the gap, his proprietary air made her stomach roll.
"Not so," Sir Hugh said.
"I don't understand." It didn't make sense. "Why heal the McLaird knight if he isn't for ransom?"
"Your brother's soft on McLaird's sister. Sir James is determined to marry her. He should have run McLaird through when he had the chance on the battle field." Sir Hugh's face reddened and his grey eyes narrowed.
"Why didn't he? Enemy knights are ransomed or killed." She made sure her voice showed no compassion.
Sir Hugh tilted his head at her brother who was on the landing in front of the Great Hall with a group of his men. "Sir James seeks to win the McLaird woman's heart. He wants her to say yes of her own volition." Sir Hugh spat on the flagstones.
"Did the king order the marriage?" She'd had no notion that James had had in mind to marry into this clan, though she could see the lady's appeal. Lady Isobel, with her flaming hair and great beauty, would catch a man's gaze and keep it.
Just as David had with her.
"King Robert gave his permission but she was your brother's fancy from the moment he caught sight of her. Sometimes a man wants a woman even if she doesna like him." Sir Hugh's face flushed and his lewd gaze seemed to penetrate her mantle.
"What the lady wants should matter."
"Your mother learned to love your father."
"She'd been promised to another," Arabel said, thinking of her mother's unhappiness until she'd become accustomed to her fate. "I don't understand. I didn’t realize Sir James desired to marry the Lady Isobel."
"We planned a raid three years ago on McLaird land. When we came across the Lady Isobel bathing in the stream, Sir James refused to ravish her. The men were disappointed. Would have been fair sport to watch. It seems he had other ideas."
"My brother doesna rape maidens and well you know it. Do you think of nothing else except killing and fornicating?" she said disgusted.
"Spoils of war should be enjoyed." His tongue slithered across dry lips. "Old man McLaird has given the girl to Sir James in exchange for keeping his title and lands. She belongs to your brother. It is his right to do what he wishes with her."
Isobel looked beautiful and willful, a handful if not managed well. "So that's why my brother wants Sir David kept alive. He thinks kindness will gain the Lady Isobel's trust."
Sir Hugh shrugged. "She'll marry him whether she likes it or no. Her father has ordered her to do her duty to her clan. A wife canna refuse her husband's will. She'll do what he wants when he wants. You'll learn that when you're mine."