Chapter 18

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My knees go weak. I reach for the table for balance. "W-why is he coming here?"

"He's been chosen to accompany Clan Chattan, by vote, of course, to Inverness. He's accepted. He will be here within the week to meet with us before we head off."

I swallow with difficulty. "Oh."

"The bastard accepted knowing you'd be here! Knowing there was no way for me to forbid him!"

"Calm down, Lachlan. Just sit down. I'll... get you a drink."

He deposits himself in the chair I was in, uttering explicits in Gaelic. I grab the case of brandy, staring into the embers of the flames. Just the thought of seeing him again- my heart is wild as a stallion. My mind is rational, however, knowing that I've secured a safe future with a man- who treats me right- a good amount of the time... What is wrong with me? I can't believe I even thought that.

"You have nothing to be worried about," I hear myself utter softly. 

Turning with the glass in hand, I walk over and set it onto the table, staring down at him. His gaze is fierce on my face, intimidating but I don't back down.

"Ye love the man. I'm just supposed to forget that once he's under my roof?"

"I loved the man, Lachlan. You're my husband and I'm faithful to you."

His eyes flicker in surprise, his mouth hung open just slightly. "Are ye telling me the truth? Or just what I want to hear?"

"The truth," I whisper, meaning it. I am faithful to him. "I'm telling you the truth."

He stands slowly, smiling in disbelief. "Ye love me?"

I shift away from him, swallowing as he takes my face beneath his hands.

"Yes," I answer quickly, lying.

He smiles, wide, kissing me deeply. "You have- no idea how happy you've just made me, Gillian."

"We're in this- together," I whisper, staring over his shoulder as he pulls me close. The vase of thistles thrive on top of the window sill, behind it is the view of the willow tree.

...

"He's here!" Ann gasps loudly, shutting the door to the bedroom. I turn from the window, tucking my hair behind my ear.

"Who?"

"MacCallan Mackenzie! He just arrived! He went into the hall! Come- we must get you ready. We need to make you look-"

"Normal, Ann," I say sternly, frowning. "I need to look normal. This is not the same situation as before."

"Is it not? You're seeing the man, I know ye have missed for years, today and you're telling me ye can just act normal?"

"I must act normal... Lachlan will lose his mind if I don't."

She shakes her head. "...Well, let's get ye dressed then."

My eyes flicker to my jewelry box as she combs through my hair.

"Your hair has grown so much since ye first arrived here. It's already past your hipbones!" she exclaims, chuckling to herself. Not listening to her, I lift the box, finding the dried thistle flattened against the table.

"What is that? Is that a thistle?"

I nod, touching it lightly. "Yes... Callan gave it to me, the first night we met in secret."

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