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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(35)

By:Selena Kitt

"The wulver mountain'll run wit' blood," she choked. "Ye think ye can'na  be compelled, ye think y're invincible, that ye'd ne'er hurt the ones  ye love-but I swear t'ye, if'n we do'na act now, e'ery woman and bairn  here'll fall under yer own swords."         



"Kirstin, please." Laina's voice shook as she looked down at the baby in  her arms and then at her sister. "Ye've been traveling long, ye're  wounded, mayhaps feverish-"

"No." She shook her head, realizing her arguments were falling on deaf  ears. They couldn't believe it, couldn't imagine it. Darrow's doubt was  feeding all of them, she could feel it, and they were all going to  perish because they thought their mountain den was safe harbor.

The problem was, the danger would come from within, not without. Every  wulver warrior would take up a sword and hack his family to bits before  mounting a war horse and riding out of the mountain to fulfil Lord  Eldred's demands.

Then, she realized-there was only one wulver she had to convince.

She turned to Raife, her mouth trembling. It was hard to talk through  her own, choked sobs. Kirstin sank to her knees before him, taking his  big hand in both of her small ones.

"Righ," she whispered, kissing the brown, scarred knuckles, tasting the  salt of her own tears. "Please. Think of yer mate. Think of Sibyl."

She turned her tear-streaked face up to his, seeing the love in his  eyes, not just for his mate, but for all of them. His pack. His family.  She said the only other thing she could think of that might motivate him  to action.

"Think of yer unborn child," she pleaded. "Do'ye nuh wanna see 'im grow into a man?"

Raife stared at her, unblinking, but she saw the confusion pass over his  face, saw the realization dawn slowly in his eyes as he shifted his  gaze to his wife. Murmurs went through the wulver crowd gathered around  them, and Kirstin understood what she'd just done.

"Me... what?" Raife asked, his lips barely moving.

"Ye didn't tell 'im yet?" Kirstin bit her lip, glancing at her banrighinn.

Sibyl sighed, giving Kirstin a dark look and shaking her red head.

"Yer wit child?" Raife grabbed his mate's shoulders, turning her fully to him.

"Aye," Sibyl admitted with a small smile.

The wulvers around them cheered. It was a brief moment of celebration in what had been a dark morning.

"How long've ye known?" Raife murmured into her hair, pulling her into his arms.

Kirstin stood, smiling through her tears as she watched them together.  She would never have this moment with the man she loved, and that cut  through her, sharper than the half-moon blade could have ever pierced  her heart.

"Since before we left MacFalon land. But I didn't want to tell you then,  you were so mad at me," Sibyl confessed, laughing when Raife pulled her  into his arms, right off her feet.

"If ye'd told me, I would'na been mad anymore!" he exclaimed.

"But I wouldn't have known that it was me you really wanted, then, would I?"

"Och." Raife rolled his eyes. "I should spank ye right here and now."

"Can we postpone the spankings until we get to Castle MacFalon?" Kirstin asked, looking between her righ and banrighinn.

"Aye." Raife had Sibyl pulled so close to him, he was nearly crushing  her. Not that she seemed to mind. "Ye win, Kirstin. We'll go."

Murmurs went through the crowd, some doubt. Darrow groaned and smacked  his forehead. But he relented. Raife had made a decision, and they would  follow him.

"I'm sure Donal would be happy t'schedule a public floggin' fer me and  another fer Sibyl if ye wanted one," Kirstin said happily, grinning at  him. "I do'na really care, as long as we're all away from 'ere when that  witch and 'er consort show up."

"Aye," Raife agreed, speaking now to the whole pack. "Take only what ye  can carry. We'll go on horseback. We'll take the horses through the  mountain-it's faster-women paired up wit' men. Strap your bairns and wee  ones to yer back or yer belly. We leave in one hour."

* * *

They were the last to leave the den.

Raife had to make sure every wulver was on a horse or had a traveling  companion, every last bairn strapped in. The younglings rode in front of  or behind their parents. They strapped what they could to the horses  and left the sheep in the valley. The last time they'd brought the  horses through the mountain, the wulver warriors had been riding them in  full armor. They'd thundered down the high, wide mountain tunnels, the  sound of the horses' hooves echoing off the walls, trembling the earth,  leaving their mates and young behind. That's when the wulver army had  gone to confront the MacFalons, to rescue Laina and save Sibyl.         



This time, the war horses whinnied and pawed the ground as they plodded  along, impatient to be off, weighed down not by armor but blankets and  women and children, as well as their wulver warriors. Once out of the  mountain, they rode slowly into the woods, single file. There were too  many of them to travel too fast, although Kirstin's heart raced with  urgency, her body trembling. She wanted them to be off, to ride fast and  furious to the MacFalon castle, to be safe, already.

"The den's empty." Darrow rode toward them-Raife and Sibyl, Lorien and  Kirstin-where they waited at the den entrance, Laina on his saddle in  front of him, little Garaith strapped across her front. "'Tis time  t'go."

Raife stood by his steed, holding the reins. Sibyl was already seated in  the saddle. Raife gave Darrow a nod and mounted his horse, sliding in  behind Sibyl, who had tears streaking down her freckled cheeks. Raife  tenderly kissed the top of her head, slipping an arm around her waist,  his big hand covering her belly, rubbing gently. "We'll make a new home,  lass. T'will be a'righ'."

Kirstin was the only one left on the ground. She mounted Lorien's steed,  allowing him to give her a hand up, settling in front of him. Laina had  loaned her a plaid and a pair of boots to go along with her shirt. She  felt Lorien's steadying arm go around her. The top of her head only came  to the bottom of the big man's chin.

They rode slowly, silently, out of the den for the last time. Kirstin  leaned back against Lorien, feeling sad, deflated. What if she was  wrong? What if Lord Eldred's men hadn't found the location of the den  after all? What if Darrow was right, and they were safer staying,  instead of running? She doubted herself, but she also trusted her  instincts. Something had told her she had to get home, she had to warn  them. They had to go-now. Before something horrible happened.

The tail end of the wulver riders were out ahead of them by a ways.  Kirsten glimpsed a toddler strapped to his father's big back. The little  towhead was smiling, waving at them, and Kirstin waved back, her heart  lightening. Even if she was wrong, it was better to be safe than sorry.  All of the wulver women she'd tended, all the bairns that had been born,  would be safe at Castle MacFalon before nightfall. They would all be  under Donal's protection, and she knew he would defend them, no matter  what the English king had in mind. She had no idea how many men Donal  could call in from the surrounding clans, but if it meant war... would  he go that far? She thought he would.

For her, he would.

The thought of seeing Donal again made her heart race even faster. He  would be furious with her for leaving, of course, but he'd forgive her.  Raife had forgiven Sibyl, in the end, hadn't he? She wondered if Lady  Cecilia Witcombe had arrived at Castle MacFalon yet. That thought made  her hackles rise. She'd almost forgotten the reason she'd left the  castle in the first place.

The book...

Sibyl had it, strapped to her, across her breasts, like a baby. It was  that precious, Kirstin supposed. It contained the cure to their curse,  somewhere inside of it. Mayhaps, when they were at the castle, Sibyl  could work more on a solution. Kirstin hadn't had the time to ask her  about it, in the hurry to get everyone ready to ride.

Kirstin straightened as three riders came barreling toward them, doubling back.

"'Tis jus' the scouts," Lorien assured her softly when she stiffened in the saddle. "Comin' in t'report t'Raife."

She nodded, seeing them pull up next to his horse, turning and riding  alongside him, one on either side, another slipping in behind. Raife  consulted with both wulvers, nodding at their report. Kirstin could only  see him in profile as he turned to talk to them and she tried to judge  if he looked worried, but his face was impassive.

Raife said something to the three scouts and they dropped back, letting  him ride into the lead. Kirstin relaxed. Nothing to worry about then.  She was so exhausted, she thought she might collapse and fall off the  horse, if Lorien didn't have an arm around her waist. But she couldn't  sleep. She was too tense, too wired.