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Surrender to the Highlander

By:Lynsay Sands

Surrender to the Highlander - Lynsay Sands

Niels stared at his brother-in-law blankly for one moment and then exploded, “Are ye daft? We’re no’ going anywhere near Drummond. We’re traveling to McKay in the north. Drummond is south.”

“Aye,” Geordie agreed next to him, scowling at their sister’s husband for good measure. “We only stopped here to drop off Rory and see our sister.”

“I ken,” Greer growled, his eyes shifting from the four Buchanan brothers sitting at his table to the upper landing, as if expecting his wife to appear at any moment.

Niels followed his glance, but there was nothing to see. The landing was empty. He looked back to his brother-in-law in time to see his mouth firming with determination as he turned his attention back to them.

“I ken it would add to yer journey, and I’d no’ ask, but Saidh is really worried about her friend Edith Drummond. In the last letter she had from her four weeks ago, Edith was feeling poorly, and she’s no’ heard from her since. Saidh’s had no’ response to her last three messages and is concerned.”

“Then send a damned messenger,” Niels snapped impatiently. “Good Lord, man. Drummond is almost as far south as Buchanan and then it’s another day’s ride east. We’d ha’e to ride all the way back there, and then return here just to continue on with our original journey.”

“It would add at least a week to our travels,” Geordie put in, scowling.

“More,” Alick commented with a grimace. “We have to ride slow with the cart.” Shaking his head, he said, “Niels is right. Ye’d do better to send a messenger.”

“Did you no’ hear me just say that Edith has no’ responded to the last three messages we sent?” Greer growled with frustration. “Me last messenger could no’ even get inside Drummond bailey. He was made to leave the message at the gate. He returned with no news at all. Saidh is bound and determined to ride to Drummond herself and see that Edith is all right.”

“So?” Niels asked with bewilderment. “Saidh has traveled before and will again. What—?”

“She is with child,” Greer roared as if they had forgotten that little fact.

“Aye, with child, no’ dead,” Niels said with disgust. “Good Lord, she has five more months before the babe is due. Surely ye’re no’ trying to wrap her in swaddling and keep her from doing anything jest because she—Good Christ!” he ended with dismay as Saidh appeared at the top of the landing and started down the stairs. His dear—usually lithe—sister looked like she’d swallowed a calf . . . or two. Good God, her belly was so swollen and rounded out she could be carrying three calves in there, he thought with dismay. She looked so ungainly he feared she would overbalance and roll down the stairs like a ball.

Apparently, he was not the only one with that concern, for Greer MacDonnell was even now leaping to his feet to rush to his wife’s side. They all watched in silent amazement as he hurried up the stairs, scooped her up into his arms and carried her down the rest of the way.

“I told ye to ha’e yer maid fetch me when ye were ready to come below,” Greer was saying with exasperation as he approached the table.

“I am with child, no’ cripple, husband,” Saidh grumbled with irritation. “I am perfectly capable o’ walking without help.”

“Mayhap, but I can no’ bear to watch it,” Greer growled, setting her in the chair next to his with a care not presently notable in his voice. “Every time ye start down I fear ye’ll just tip forward and roll down like a—” Greer’s words died on an apologetic grimace as he noted Saidh’s stiff expression. “I jest worry,” he ended lamely and then offered a conciliatory smile and said, “I’ll let Cook ken ye’re below and ready to break yer fast.”

“Thank ye, husband,” Saidh murmured, smiling when he bent to press a kiss to her forehead before moving off. She watched him cross the great hall for the kitchens, her face soft with affection and appreciation, both of which were definitely absent when she turned back to her brothers. Her gaze slid over their gaping expressions and then she gave a little huff of disgust and snapped, “Well? Are ye no’ pleased to see me?”

Niels raised his eyebrows at the grumpy question and let his eyes drift to settle on her overlarge stomach. “Aye. We are all just surprised that there is so much to see.”

“Ye look ready to burst,” Alick said with awe. “I thought ye were only four months along?”

“I am,” she muttered unhappily, one hand rising to rub across her protruding belly. “I think I may be carrying two bairns.”

“I’m thinking six,” Geordie said, and promptly received a hard kick from their sister for his trouble.

Niels bit back a laugh and turned to Rory, eyebrows raised. “Should she be this big a’ready?”

Rory snapped his mouth closed and stood to move to Saidh’s side. Placing a hand at her elbow, he tried to urge her to her feet. “We should retire above for a few moments.”

“Above stairs?” Saidh asked with a scowl and then shook her head and jerked her arm free of his hold. “Nay. I jest got below. Besides, I’m hungry and—”

“And I need to examine ye,” Rory countered firmly. “Ye can eat after.”

“Or,” she suggested just as firmly, “Ye could examine me after I’ve eaten.”

“Or, I could examine ye right here in front o’ everyone,” he said in a tone of good cheer that didn’t soften the threat.

Saidh’s eyes narrowed, and her hand moved to the sgian-dubh at her waist. “Try it and I’ll skewer ye where ye stand.”

“Saidh,” Rory complained with exasperation, and then heaving out a breath, tried reason. “Ye’re much larger than ye should be at this stage in the game, lass. It can be dangerous. I need to listen to yer heartbeat and see that it’s no’ under strain. I also wish to—”

“I’m fine,” she said grimly, and when he opened his mouth to argue further, added, “But I’ll make a deal with ye.”

“What’s that?” Rory asked, and Niels couldn’t help noticing his brother was suddenly wary. He would have been himself. One never knew what would come out of their sister’s mouth.

“Promise to accompany me to check on Edith and I’ll let ye examine me,” Saidh said firmly.

Rory scowled. “Saidh, ye can no’ seriously be thinking to ride a horse in yer shape. Ye—”

“Fine. Then I do no’ need examining,” Saidh waved away his diatribe and turned to face the table.

Niels lowered his head to hide his amusement as Rory cursed, but then his brother heaved out a breath. “Fine. If ye let me examine ye, I’ll see what I can do fer yer friend Edith,” he said shortly. “Now . . . will ye please let me examine ye and be sure all is well?”

Saidh relaxed and even smiled faintly, but then she grimaced and said, “Aye. But give me a minute to rest at least. ’Twas a tiring bit of business getting below.”

That last part was admitted almost shamefully, which told them that it was true. Saidh disliked showing weakness.

“I shall carry ye up,” Rory offered gently.

She blinked at the very suggestion and began to laugh, but it died quickly as Saidh looked Rory over. Eyes widening slightly, she took in their previously lithe brother and said, “Ye’ve put on weight and yer arms have muscle.”

“Aye.” Niels grinned at her comment. “He’s been working out in the practice yard with the rest o’ us ever since we got home after escorting Dougall and Murine to Carmichael.”

“Why?” she asked with surprise.

Rory grimaced and answered, “Our brothers have been working hard at convincing me that while kenning how to heal others’ injuries was good, it may be prudent to learn how to defend meself as well so that I could remain healthy enough to do so.” He smiled crookedly and added, “After all the trouble both ye and Dougall and yer mates ran into recently, it did seem they may be right.”

“Aye,” Saidh said solemnly. “They are.”

Rory nodded, and then raised an eyebrow. “Shall I carry ye up?”

Heaving a sigh, she shook her head and stood up. “I’ll walk. Ye can hold me arm though to be sure I do no’ overbalance and tumble backward down the stairs.”

Rory merely nodded and took her arm to lead her away.

Niels watched them go, his gaze narrowing with concern on Saidh’s protruding stomach.

“Surely she should no’ be that large already?” Geordie murmured with a frown.

Niels shook his head. “I’ve never seen the like this early on.”

“Aye, and ye ken what that means,” Alick said gloomily. When the other two men merely looked at him in question, he rolled his eyes and pointed out, “We’ll have to go to Drummond now. We can no’ let Saidh try to ride there in her state. Hell, she was puffing and weary just from walking down the stairs and Greer carried her most o’ the way.”

Niels blew his breath out on a sigh, but nodded. “We’ll make a detour that way on our return from McKay and—”