THT | 6

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"There you are!" Blaine hissed the second Saeran walked into the kitchen. She paused, looking at her sister uneasily.

"I didn't take too long, did I?" she asked, adjusting her cap. In truth, she'd taken much less time than she would have preferred. Half-way through her bath, she'd felt the oddest sensation of eyes gazing upon her, and though she hadn't seen anyone who would have been watching, the thought had spurred her into getting out of the creek.

The cool water had done it's job. Her aching muscles were soothed and it was easier to walk on her leg. She'd nearly cried when she saw how red and angry it looked, but she had held back the tears. No one would have to see it, and it would heal on it's own. The trews had created a barrier between the hoof and her body, so no skin had torn, meaning there wasn't a chance of infection, thank The Lord. It would only create more problems with Blaine if she suddenly took ill.

"Yes," Blaine snapped, "you did! The laird has arrived and you were not here to greet him. Because of the embarrassment you caused, I could not make myself face him."

Saeran grimaced. "I'm sorry, Blaine. I didn't plan on taking so long, I swear it. I was kicked by a horse today--"

"I don't care about that!" her sister said incredulously. "I care that my own darling, little sister wasn't here to support me in my time of need! How would you feel if we switched places and I was not there for you, eh?"

Saeran stared at her sister, silent.

"Exactly. Now that I see you've cleaned yourself up, accompany me to the dining hall. We will have to make up for your lapse in responsibility--once again--and greet the laird. Do not act so selfish in the future," her sister chastised, waving a finger behind her as she bustled her way out of the kitchen. Saeran followed at a slower place, feeling like she'd just been slapped in the face.

She'd gotten hurt, and her sister hadn't cared. The horse could have killed her had she been but a space forward. Luckily, it had only clipped her thigh, but the fact that her sister didn't care...

Her throat tightened.

No, she chided herself. My sister is under a lot of pressure. She is justified in feeling that way, and I shouldn't complain. She's taking a huge sacrifice to keep us together.

Still, it didn't stop the hurt from assailing her as they came into the great hall. So unprepared for her sister's abrupt stop, she almost ran into her.

"What has happened to my hall?" a thunderous voice shouted. Saeran flinched.

She expected Blaine to simper, but she strode forward with a confidence that was purely Blaine. Her sister's thick body swayed with her movements, and fearful for her life, Saeran followed after her.

"Laird Shaw!" Blaine greeted warmly. "I'm so glad to see you have returned." Saeran peered in front of her sister--or tried to. Men were filing into the hall, all wearing equal expressions of disgust.

"What happened to my hall?" the dark voice demanded again, this time his voice deadly soft. It was so chilling that she shivered.

"I would like to introduce myself, Blaine Sinclair," she said, curseying, only giving Saeran a fleeting glance at The Lion, "and my dear younger brother, Saeran Sinclair."

"I demand an answer, Blaine Sinclair. What happened to my hall?" he roared. Saeran grabbed her sister by the arm, reacting purely on instinct, and pulled her behind her back.

There was a silence deathly enough to make Saeran pale. She didn't want to look at the barbarian who was going to marry her sister, but respect commanded it, so she lifted terrified eyes to his--

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