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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(4)

By:Selena Kitt





"Sirs." She curtsied for them, too, seeing Donal still watching her out  of the corner of her eye. She wasn't looking at him anymore, but she was  very aware of his presence. It seemed to fill the whole forest.



Lord Eldred chuckled at that. "As lord of the royal hunt, neither I, nor  my men, are knights. The royal huntsmen are required to get their hands  dirty doing work knights would likely feel unfit for them."         

     



 



Kirstin gave a nod, acknowledging that, wondering just what kind of  dirty work the man in front of her and his captains had been up to in  the forest before they came along, but she didn't say anything.



"I am quite accustomed to living in the wild," Lord Eldred assured her,  his dark eyes glittering, even in the dim light of the forest. "As I  know you are, m'dear."



"She's a wild one, I'll give him that," one of the  captains-Geoffrey-said softly to the other. She didn't think Donal heard  it, but she did-and so did Eldred Lothienne. He gave them both a  warning look, but his eyes raked over her when he turned back again.



"Would you like to come back to our camp for the night, m'lady?" The  other captain, William, dared to ask. "Mayhaps the outdoors, sleeping  out under the stars, would be more to your liking than the creature  comforts of Castle MacFalon?"



She opened her mouth to say something, but Donal beat her to it.



"Nay, the lass's coming wit' me." Donal took a step nearer to her,  frowning at the men on horseback. "She's anxious t'meet up wit' the rest  of 'er pack."



"You have wulvers at the castle still, then?" Lord Eldred asked.



"Aye." Donal gave a short nod. "One of 'em was wounded."



"Darrow." Kirstin spoke his name, feeling her heart breaking at the  thought of one of her pack-the brother of their pack leader, no  less-helpless and in need of tending.



"We've four wulvers stayin' at Castle MacFalon," Donal informed the  Englishman. "Raife's their pack leader. Darrow, the wounded wulver, is  his brother. The other two are their mates."



"Mates." Geoffrey snickered at that, but the look Lord Eldred gave him  made him cover his mouth with a hand and straighten his posture.



"They've all been given welcome refuge wit' us 'til Darrow's healed,"  Donal said, glancing at Kirstin as he spoke. Then he turned to Lord  Eldred. "I'm sure you'll be interested t'meet them at t'castle  tomorrow-when ye officially ‘arrive'?"



"Indeed." The Englishman nodded, reaching out and shaking Donal's  outstretched hand. "We'll continue with our reconnaissance until then,  and see you after sunrise tomorrow. If we find any more traps, we'll  disarm them."



"Thank ye. I'll make official welcome t'ye tomorrow as laird of Clan  MacFalon," Donal replied, squeezing the man's gloved hand with his big,  bare ones. Kirsten couldn't help noticing how rough and calloused they  were. Donal MacFalon was clearly not afraid of hard work. "But I hafta  say, I'm grateful we've had a chance t'meet informally, man t'man."



"Indeed."



"I jus' find all that infernal pageantry hides more than it reveals 'bout men, d'ye ken?"



"I do ‘ken'. We shall see you in the morning, MacFalon." The older man  dropped him a wink, grinning, and turned to go. They had no horses and  she wondered where they were.



That made Kirsten wonder where Donal's horse was-and how they were going  to get back to Castle MacFalon without it. When she turned back to  look, Eldred and his men had already melted into the woods.



"Something's amiss wit' that man..." she whispered to herself, rubbing her bare arms. She'd broken out in gooseflesh.



"Lord Eldred?" Donal asked, looking in the direction the men had ridden off in.



"Aye..." She nodded, meeting his concerned gaze.



"He acted honorably." Donal frowned, tilting his head at her. "Less stuffy than I expected of a king's lord."



"Mayhaps." She swallowed, knowing she couldn't tell him about the  warning signals that had gone off inside her upon meeting Lord Eldred  Lothienne-Donal wasn't a wulver, he couldn't understand.



"He's 'ere t'make sure we keep t'wolf pact," Donal explained, kicking at  the shredded net still lying on the ground that had ensnared her. "To  see that all such traps are dismantled and disposed of. 'Tis a noble  purpose, ye ken?"



"Mayhaps," she said again and sighed. "I hafta say, I'm glad I never had t'play politics. It seems dishonest."



"I s'pose it might seem that way," Donal mused. "But it's really nuh  different than posturing a'fore a battle or sword fight. Each side wants  t'win the day wit'out the death or loss of self, friends or countrymen,  ye ken?"         

     



 



"Ye make a good politician." She smiled up at him with both mouth and  eyes, and he smiled back, just as brightly. She felt a little foolish,  standing there in the middle of the woods, smiling at a strange man, but  there was no helping it. Just looking at the man made her face break  into a smile.



"S'tell me, how's me kin?" She took a step toward him, pressing a hand  to his forearm. He glanced down at where she touched him-his forearms  alone were thick as tree branches, she noted. Strong, solid. "How's  Darrow?"



"He's not getting' any worse, and likely getting' better," he soothed,  putting a big, calloused hand over hers. A slow heat filled her at his  touch, the way his voice dipped, seeming to caress her with sound alone.  "But I'm sure yer healin' hands'll be of great use t'him-and a glad  reprieve fer Sibyl and Laina. They've been splittin' nursin' duties and  are sorely taxed."



"How did ye know?" she asked him, his fingertips moving over hers, not letting go.



"That ye're a healer?" he guessed.



"Aye."



"Who else'd c'mon t'MacFalon land, seekin' their injured kin?" He  smiled. "Besides, ye've a kindness in yer eyes that belies ye-e'en when  yer a wulver."



"Aye?" She blinked up at him in surprise.



She didn't think, in her entire existence, that anyone had ever said  anything like that to her before. She'd been a healer since she could  remember, a midwife, taking care of the wulver children when the other  wulver women went into estrus and changed, but it was something that  went unacknowledged, for the most part. They all had their individual  skills and talents, and everyone understood that they would use them for  the good of the pack.



She'd never realized how much the pack took each other for granted, until that moment.



And, looking up into Donal's eyes, she didn't think she'd ever been  quite so fully seen before that moment. It made her feel far more naked  and vulnerable than she'd ever experienced, even after she'd changed  from wulver to woman with no plaid at the ready.



"There's such love and loyalty among ye wulvers." He patted her hand,  looking down at her fondly. "It's been a rare gift t'bear witness to it.  I do'na understand why men would make enemies of ye. 'Tis absurd."



"Thankfully, t'English king agrees wit' ye. 'Tis why t'wolf pact  exists," she reminded him, throwing in a bit of honesty for good  measure. "Although King Henry created it t'use t'wulver warriors fer 'is  own benefit."



"I've seen t'wulver warriors," Donal said, shaking his head. "I would'na wanna fight on t'opposite side."



"Yer a wise man." She smiled at him, glancing around, wondering again  where his horse was. Still in the clearing? She wanted to get to Castle  MacFalon, to see Darrow for herself, to talk to Laina and Sibyl, to see  her pack leader, Raife. That alone would quell her jittery insides.



"And a devoted one," Kirstin noted, remembering how she'd seen him, head  bent, at the burial cairn. "I did'na mean t'interrupt yer prayer vigil.  Is that ancestral land? Yer burial ground?"



"Aye." He nodded. "I admit, I was surprised t'see ye. But truth be told,  y'have e'ery right t'be on that spot, as well, lass-mayhaps e'en more'n  I do."



"Me?" She gave him a puzzled smile. "Why?"



"My family's burial ground's built on t'ancient den of yer kin-da wulvers," he explained.



"I did'na know that." Her eyes widened in surprise. "It's our sire and  his warriors who share and pass down wulver history. As a healer, I know  it's important t'learn and pass on ancestral knowledge of t'healing  arts. I imagine the same's true of leaders-whether they be wulvers or  men."



"Aye, 'tis true of t'good ones," he agreed. His fingers brushed hers  again, this time turning her hand over. She watched, transfixed, as he  brought it to his mouth, his lips caressing the inside of her wrist once  more, making her knees feel like jelly underneath her plaid. "Yer  pack's blessed t'have such a devoted healer in their midst."

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