Chapter 7

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"Christ, dearie! What have ye done to yourself?" Ann exclaims, grabbing my jaw. I shake my head, unwilling to get out of bed. I flatten against the pillows and she sighs, walking to the windows. "What happened?"

"Fell into the side of the... bed last night."

She straightens, humming skeptically. "Aye? Must have been a nasty fall. You're blue as a berry!"

I close my eyes, but groan when she grabs my arms.

"Ach! Nay, you've got to get up. You're newly engaged! The clans people will want to congratulate ye."

"I doubt they care."

"Of course they do. You're becoming a Scot, love. You'll be accepted in no time."

"I am a Scot already. It's just my accent that gets them. It blinds them to who I truly am."

"Aye, it does. Anyways, Gillian, you're marrying the chief of this here clan... Not even mentioning, he'll be the chiefton of Clan Chattan in a mere couple weeks. Ye should be celebratin' such a union!"

I don't hassle her as she helps me get dressed for the day. I remain silent as she pulls my hair back into a bun, settling it on top of my head loosely as to not start up a headache.

I've already got one but I keep that to myself, not wanting her to grab MacCallan.

"I don't rightly ken if there's something to do for that ghastly bruise but I'll look around... You're sure it was the bed that did it?"

Surprised by the comment, I look into her eyes and nod. "Yes."

"Alright then," she sighs, obvious that she doesn't believe it. "Holler for me if ye be needin' anything. I'll be down in the kitchen, as always."

Chuckling, she leaves me, closing the door behind her and I feel my barriers come down once more.

...

"Thank you, really," I murmur softly, feeling cold rain drops coming down in the chaos of the village. The young woman smiling up at me nods and lets go of my hand, headed back towards her husband. I've been bombarded by women today- women who would like to remain close to the new lady of the house.

As soon as I turn away from her, my smile fades, like the sinking of the sun. I raise my hood over my head, hoping concealing my face will stop the constant stares. I move beneath cover as the storm intensifies, the droplets pattering against the ground like feet.

"Hello."

I freeze at the voice, unwilling to turn. "Lachlan."

He moves next to me, staring out at the people trying to cover their crops and items for sale. "Good job."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, because you called me Lachlan. Secondly, because you performed your duties without complaint."

My duties. I resist rolling my eyes. "You've made it clear I have to."

"I expected more of a fight so I'm relieved, naturally..."

I look at him at that. "You're a monster."

"Who's fallen in love with you- maybe? You've made me this way."

"No, this has been in you all along. It's why I ended things at that party. It's why I had decided to cut you out of my life... When this nightmare began, I had hope you could change but it was inevitable."

"What was?"

"That you'd be a cruel man."

"You're so sure of me- of what I am. You've never even given me a chance to change your mind."

"You never deserved it. Ever."

"I am your future, Gilly. I suggest you get used to the idea. This banter isn't too terrible but I could think of a lot better things I'd rather do with you."

"I'm sure you could."

My head twists like lightning as he rests his hand over his handiwork, brushing his fingers along the dark bruise softly. He leans down and whispers softly, "I can still hear the sound you made when you came around me."

My lips turn up in disgust- I'm unable to hide it. My eyes open in reluctance, and immediately settle onto MacCallan, across the square, who's standing still, gaze hard on Symon and I. When Symon presses his lips to my cheek, I watch him inch forward and stop, his face contorting angrily.

"It was a kind of high-pitched sigh..."

"It was fake," I state, bluntly. He pulls back immediately, his face cold as ice.

"Is that so? ... I can never win with you, can I?"

"If you treated me like a human being and not a prized possession, I could have loved you."

"You will love me."

I glance to the side, finding MacCallan gone. He grasps my arm to regain my attention and I growl, "No, I won't!"

His eyes slant dangerously and after a moment, he shakes his head from side to side, releasing me. "You will learn to, I promise you that."

He sets out into the rain, bounding back towards the castle. The square, now rather empty, is dark and gloomy, the perfect setting for my emotions.

Closing my eyes in regret, unsure if I'll ever feel my heart rate slow again, I go in the opposite direction- more willing to trek through the icy rain than endure another one of Symon's threats.

The whole clan knows about the engagement now. While I'm sure they're not altogether pleased about it, it is their reality and many have now made the efforts to speak with me. I, of course, conjured up a lie, explaining when asked that I have family in North Carolina, the first place I thought of and came to spend time with the Grant clan, until I met Laird Lachlan on my way.

I'm convincing too. More convincing then I thought I'd be. They believe my stories about Alligators and animals they've never heard of. They, somehow, believe I'm from this time.

My repetitive thoughts are halted suddenly as I'm pulled into a darkened hallway, pulled into someone's arms.

I stare into MacCallan's stormy eyes, my breath halted, feeling as though time were immediately still. As if the particles of nature and dust that soar in the wind stop and for a moment, our world is silent and unmoving.

His hands are strong on my arms, holding me in place as he stares down wordlessly into my features, breathing heavily. There's the sound of metal clashing with stone and I come to my senses, glancing over towards the light.

I shake my head, looking back to him resignedly. His beautiful, smooth features are curved in worry- in reluctance. "You were right... We-we can't do this."

I pull back from his grasp, turning slowly and take a breath of courage in order to walk away from him. I'm doing well until I hear him whisper my name, softly.

"Gillian."

Frozen in place, it takes all I possess to turn back to him, straight-faced. He swallows nervously and looks down, clearing his throat. When his eyes pierce mine again, they're decisive and clear.

"Meet me at the willow, on the east side of the castle- tonight, after he retires."

"Callan-"

"Please."

I clutch my basket tight and bite my lip viciously, looking down at the stone. "I will try."

He moves, walking past me. I'm surprised when he stops beside my body, staring out into the light. "I'd wait till the sun broke the horizon- till the roosters crowed... for ye."

Unable to produce enough speech to answer, I stare at him until he's turned the corner and out of my line of sight. I hear the sound of sudden air escaping my lungs in a rush, the sound of my body willing me to make it through the hours- until I may see him again... tonight.

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