The reluctant Lady Moray, young Abigail Glenn, is no longer a captive at Castle Moray, but neither her troubles nor her doubt are left behind. The attack on Lord Moray and a private meeting with Lady Stewart leads to more uncertainty, and more than one occupant of the castle desperately wishes for her to stay. That other occupant has less earthly dealings in mind, and though Lord Moray’s strong arms bring her comfort she wonders if he can provide her with safety against someone who is not among the living.
It was a fine wintry day that found me in my chambers. A warm fire crackled in the large hearth, and Mrs. Greer had just left my company to go about her other duties. I sat on the left side of my bed and sighed. The latest newest had been most depressing. It had been three days since the attack, and though there were no fresh attempts there were also no new answers.
McKenna had disappeared from the house since the attack, and he had sent no word on the identity of the attacker. To make matters worse, Lady Stewart still remained with us at the castle.
I looked down at my hands that lay palms-up in my lap and sighed again. “Is it wise for me to remain?” I whispered to myself.
I lifted my eyes and stared at the new window that graced my bedroom. The attacker had made his first entrance through that window, and the second through a window in Moray’s room. Both times I had been present.
The indecision gnawed away at my thoughts, and I was little helped by the many hours of solitude of which I had in abundance. My fingers ached to sew, or at least be useful, and my legs yearned to walk the mud-covered streets of London.
I started when something hit the new window. A patch of white snow was slapped onto the pane until most of the ball fell backwards to the ground below. I clutched my chest and flew to the glass. Below my window stood two small figures with their heads turned up at the glass. A smile slipped onto my lips as I swung open one half of the window and leaned out.
“Good afternoon!” I called to them.
“Good afternoon!” Heather replied.
“Can you come down and play?” Adam shouted.
I rested my arms on the sill and tilted my head to one side. “That would depend on what you want to play,” I returned.
“Snow fight!” he told me.
“Is that like snowball fight?” I guessed.
“Aye! That!” he confirmed. “Will you play?”
“Oh please say yes!” Heather pleaded.
“Very well, but wait a moment. I must get dressed,” I told them.
I pulled back into the room and firmly shut the window. My neglected cloak was snatched from its place on a back of a chair and I rushed downstairs. At the bottom I was met with a most disagreeable sight. McKenna strode into the entrance hall from the parlor. He was still suited in his traveling cloak and his boots were muddy as though from a long ride. The man smiled and bowed to me.
“Good afternoon, my lady,” he greeted me.
I stiffly returned the compliment. “Good afternoon,” I replied.
“Have you no other greeting for your just-returned uncle?” he wondered.
I stiffened and clenched the cloak tightly in my hands. “No, I do not,” I retorted.
He took a step closer to me and offered me his hand. “Perhaps that is to be expected when I have been away during so much of your visit. I have been told that I have neglected my niece by my laird, and though I have little time while I remain here, I wondered if you wouldn’t like to join me for a carriage ride,” he offered.
“Even if I were your niece, I would enjoy no such thing with you,” I snapped.
I spun away from him and hurried down the corridor on the left of the stairs. My cloak billowed behind me as I flung it over my shoulders and rushed out into the freedom of the wintry afternoon. A few flakes floated from the sky and landed on my bare head.
I clenched my hands at my sides and stomped my foot in the deep snow. “The audacity of that man!” I snapped. “He treats this as some sort of jest!”
“Miss McKenna! Miss McKenna!” was the interruption to my brooding thoughts.
I turned to my right and saw the smiling children run at me. Their arms were open, and they crashed into me so hard we all nearly toppled into a large snowdrift beside the doors. They looked up at me with bright smiles and ruddy cheeks.
“What took you?” Adam scolded me.
Heather glared at her brother. “She was very fast,” she argued.
He scowled at her. “She was not.”
“Yes, she was.”
“She was not.”
“We will say I was as quick as I could be all things considering,” I interrupted. “And please, call me Abby.”
“Abby’s a pretty name. I bet your mother gave it to you,” Heather commented.
I smiled and nodded. “Yes, she did.”
Adam snorted into my cloak. “You speak funny.”
“It’s because I’m from London,” I explained.
Their eyes grew wide and they glanced at one another.
“London? Is it really as big as they say?” Heather asked me.
“That would depend on how big they say it is,” I pointed out.
“Is it bigger than the castle?” Adam wondered.
I laughed. “Much bigger.”
“What about the castle and the fields?” he persisted.
“It’s so big that it would swallow the fields, the forests, the house, and more than you can see,” I told them.
The pair looked at each other with their mouths agape.
“And do pretty ladies drive around all day in their carriages?” Heather wondered.
“I wouldn’t know,” I replied.
Adam frowned and grabbed my hand. He gave it a big tug towards the north end of the courtyard. “Who cares about ladies. Let’s have fun.”
Heather grasped my other hand and together we raced to the middle of the yard. I helped them build up tall, wide snow forts on either side of the field and we stacked large piles of snowballs in both forts. Heather tugged me towards her fort.
“You get to be on my side,” she told me.
Adam jumped forward and grabbed my other arm. “Why do you get her?” he snapped at his sister.
“Because she’s a girl,” she reminded him.
“She’s not a girl, she’s a lady,” a voice spoke up.
We whipped our heads towards the house and saw that Lord Moray approached us. He had a sly smile on his face as he came to stand a few feet from we three.
“Lord Moray!” the children cried out. They abandoned me and rushed to grab his hands.
“You’ll be on my side, won’t you?” Adam pleaded.
“Mother said you were hurt. Are you better now?” Heather asked him.
“I’m well enough to keep my promise and enjoy a snowball fight,” he assured them. He lifted his eyes to me and his smile widened. “That is, if the lady won’t object.”
I smirked and folded my arms across my chest. “Only if the lord doesn’t mind losing,” I quipped.
Adam looked between us and tilted his head to one side. “Are you two married? You sound like Mother and Father when Father has done something wrong,” he told us.
I blushed and shook my head. “Of course not!”
The lord chuckled. “No, but the idea does have a pleasant ring to it.”
I turned to him and put my hands on my hips. “It does not!” I protested.
Heather tugged on my sleeve. “Please may we play snow fight?” she pleaded.
“If you get Abby then I get the laird!” Adam insisted.
“That sounds fair enough,” Moray agreed.
I scowled at him. “That hardly sounds fair when you are stronger than all three of us put together.”
“Then shall I fight all three of you?” he suggested.
“No! I don’t want to be on a girl’s side!” Adam yelled.
“And I don’t want to be on a stupid boy’s side!” Heather agreed.
We were tugged apart to our respective forts and readied ourselves with handfuls of snowballs. Moray stood above the top of their fort and bowed his head to us.
“As we are gentlemen, we will give-” Splat. A well-aimed snowball from myself collided with his forehead.
Heather and I laughed as the laird wiped the snow from his face. A sly smile graced his lips as he bowed again.
“This means war, my ladies,” he called.
Thus began a barrage of snowballs that littered the area between the fields. Many of those from the children fell short or flew too far, but Moray and I were more experienced soldiers. We hit our marks more often than not, though I could never land another in his face. Our stocks were quickly depleted, and Adam tumbled over the front of his fort.
“Charge!” he yelled.
Moray followed Adam over the wall, and Heather did likewise. The children collided and wrestled on the snow-ball littered ground. My opponent was more than equal to me in strength, so I decided to try his speed. I stood and flew from the walls in the opposite direction of the forts. There came a crunch of feet behind me and in a moment arms wrapped themselves around me. I was lifted off the ground and swung in a full circle. Moray turned me in his arms so we faced each other and I was against his chest. My feet dangled a half foot off the ground, and I pressed my hands against him.
“A forfeit for the loser,” he teased.
He caught my lips in a passionate kiss that incited a fresh warmth in me. I grasped his coat and groaned as lust grew inside me.
“Yuck!” came a disapproving voice.
We broke apart and turned to see the children staring at us. They both knelt in the snow, and Adam’s tongue hung out.
“That’s disgusting,” he commented.
Heather put her hands on her hips in a shorter mimic of my earlier gesture and glared at him. “It’s romantic,” she argued.
He stuck his face in hers. “Disgusting.”
“That’s enough arguing,” the lord spoke up as he set me down.
The pair broke apart and hung their heads. Adam scowled at his sister and stuck his tongue at her. She returned the favor and Moray chuckled. I, too, had a smile on my face until I heard a noise come up behind me. I stiffened and swung around, half-expecting to find another attacker. Swain trudged up to us, and the lord turned at his coming and raised an eyebrow.
“What is it?” Moray questioned him.
Swain bowed to his lord. “My laird, Laird Stewart has come and demands his lady return with him at once to their home. She refuses, and there is a great row between them in the grand hall.”
Moray pursed his lips. “I see. If you would all excuse me.”
He trudged past us and Swain followed him into the house.
“Ah. Why’d they have to do that?” Adam whined.
“Adults are so strange,” Heather agreed.
“Perhaps I will retire, as well,” I told the children.
“What? Why?” Adam asked me.
Heather came to me and grasped the cuff of my sleeve. She looked up into my face and her eyes were filled with tears. “Don’t you like us anymore?”
I smiled and knelt down to lay my hands on her shoulders. “I promise we can play tomorrow. Would that be all right?”
Her face brightened and she wagged her head. “Aye!”
I stood and looked over to Adam. “All right. Then you call me with your snowball and I’ll come running,” I promised.
He grinned and nodded. “Sure thing!”
“Then until tomorrow,” I told them.