A tear tracked down her cheek as he settled her feet on the ground. His throat constricted as he remembered all those he had lost over the years and his hands shook as he examined her for injury. “Are ya hurt, lass?”
Without waiting for an answer, he pulled her close, folding her into his arms like a treasure he'd always coveted. She fit him, neither too tall, nor too small, with her head nestled under his chin. Her scent filled his lungs again, bringing to mind sweet summer mornings filled with promise, with joyful laughter. The sense of familiarity struck anew. His arms tightened, held her protectively. Possessively.
That thought frightened him but he couldn’t force himself to release her. In neither of his roles as the Bard or the Reiver Lord could he possibly claim a woman as his own. The Reiver was an outlaw, a mythic figure used to set free the lassies taken as Bride Bounty. The Bard was a spy hiding behind a false façade of joviality and incompetence. Worse, the Bard was Cuini’s whore and that fact alone made him...unclean. Not fit for human women.
The lass opened her fisted hands, pressed them flat to his chest. The heat from them spread, vibrated over him in shimmering notes. Unbidden, his roger stirred and he was grateful for the solid bulk of his sporran. Trying to ignore the fact his body temperature was rising by tens, he stroked the curve of her spine. “Ye’re fine. Ye’re safe, lass. Dinna weep.”
She pushed away from him, swiping a dirty hand across her damp cheek. “My cottage should be right up there. That or I’ve lost my mind.”
“Nae. You’re just a wee bit upset, a wee bit confused.” So was he. His reaction to the woman was beyond anything he’d ever experienced. His gaze traveled from her bonnie blue eyes to her finely shaped nose to her pale rose lips. He wanted to kiss those lips, to feel their silken texture, to taste her. A gull swooped amid the offshore thermals. Its lonely cry pealed over the sea and echoed in Devyn’s heart. He took a reluctant step away from the lass and surveyed the bluff, the rocky beach. What was she doing here, a woman alone? “Will you tell me your name, lassie?”
The look she gave him spoke volumes as to her opinion of his intelligence. “Did someone hit you on the head?”
He refrained, barely, from volleying that question back at her. Patiently, he asked, “Were you attacked, lass? Do you ken how you came to be here?”
With a scathing look, she turned away in disgust. “Of course, I ken how I came to be here. I walked.”
“Aye, and before that? Where were you then?” Where was her family? Where were her kinsmen who should be protecting her from the Qui’arel, from the blethering dragons? From men like him whose
rose in tribute to her beauty? rogers
“Right. Up. There.” She stabbed a finger at the bluff. “In the cottage that’s no longer there.”
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