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Highlander in her Bed

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David knew the moment Arabel walked into his chamber. He could smell her lavender perfume. He opened his eyes to see her seating herself. "I dreamt an angel gave you your healing powers. I think you have a calling."

     Her serious expression didn't change. Instead, she moved her chair closer and rested her hand on his forehead. "Your words are still parritch but your fever is gone. If you can bear more of my attention, I wish to cleanse the blood from your hair."

     He took her hand and pressed it to his heart. "So why is my body on fire when you touch me?"

     "Your strength is returning."

     He longed to remove her veil so that he could tangle his hands in her hair and pull her down with him. "It is far more than that and you know it. And yet you show me no warmth." He shifted and pushed himself to a sitting position. "What troubles you, Arabel? Something has changed since your brother arrived home."

     She poured him a beaker of ale and handed it to him. "I have news that concerns you. Surprising events. My brother, Sir James, has sought your father's permission to marry your sister, the Lady Isobel."

     James choked on his ale. "An alliance between our clans? My father would never allow it."

     "He has granted permission. In exchange, your father will keep his title and lands providing he supports the Bruce cause."

     David flung the covers from his body and sought to rise. The moment he flexed his muscles, a searing pain roared through his wounded thigh. "My own father has betrayed us. My men have put their lives on the line for the Balliol cause." The news was a stab to his heart. He'd rather Sir James had cleaved him through than hear this.

     She put her hand on his chest. "David, please don't try and stop this wedding. Our clans have never had peace before."

     "Peace? My twin is to be sacrificed on the Bruce sword." Anger made his words crude, but dammit, he wanted to challenge Sir James. Frustrated with his incapacity, he slammed down his mug of ale, so that it slopped over the side onto the table.

     Her face fell and the light died in her eyes. "Is it so bad to wed a Bruce?"

     He saw how his cruelty had marked her. "I was not talking of you. To join with you would be a pleasure for any man. You're a beauty with hands that touch a man's heart."

     "My brother is tender with womenfolk. I do not like the manner of this marriage but I know my brother will honor the Lady Isobel." Her gaze dropped away from his for a moment.

     "I've no wish to argue with you." How could he damn the Bruce clan to hell when he saw the hurt in Arabel's eyes? She was so kind, so sweet. If not for her, he would be dying of his wounds.

     David lay back. He put his hand to his temple and closed his eyes, massaging where the pulse beat. He tried to think. Wounded and without his armor and sword, he could do nothing to save his sister from this unwanted marriage. Even if he did, his chances of getting out of this well-fortified castle alive with his twin were grim. Yet if he cooperated with this marriage, could this open the door for his courtship of Arabel? He wanted no other to have her, except him. Yet her brother would expect him to swear allegiance to the traitorous Bruce king. The thought sickened him. He felt a soft touch on the crown of his head and he opened his eyes.

     "Let me tend to your head wound." Arabel's voice was gentle and it steadied his heart.

     She picked some small bottles from her basket and added them to the fresh basin of water the maid had brought earlier. He could smell rosemary again and astringent herbs he didn't recognize. She picked up a cloth, dipped it in the ewer and began to soak it over the crown of his head where she had found blood earlier.

     He winced and his head throbbed when she pressed against the swollen lump, but it was nothing compared to the worry of his situation. Even so, he swore her calming touch sent a sense of wellness through him. After a while the throbbing sensation lessened while she sponged him, the sweet lavender smell floating around him. The intense desire to bed her built. Yet, this maiden was so much more than a man's plaything.

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