“I’ll no’ let it end this way, lass.”
With a startled gasp, Katla wheeled about to see her ‘Lord of Winter’ loom up out of the mist, his dark hair blowing in the wind, his expression fierce. He reminded her of the Highlanders of yore, the bold warriors of the Bruce’s day. The fearsome ones who swooped down from the hills, yelling their war slogans and swinging their swords, as they cut a proud swath across the Highlands, making themselves legends.
A shame the man before her wasn’t worthy of such fame.
She looked at him now, striving to see past his powerful appeal to the scoundrel within. She also silently cursed herself because she failed, miserably.
She did manage to lift her chin. “Something that never started requires no end.”
“Magic neither begins nor ends.” He came closer, reached to touch her cheek. “It simply is.”
Katla frowned, stepping back. “So you are now a wizard as well as a false god?”
“I am a man.” He dropped to one knee and spoke to her dog, calming him. “A man besotted with you,” he said, glancing up at her as he rubbed Glaum’s ears. “I am nae spellcaster and ne’er claimed to be. But I’ll no’ deny the wonder of Odin’s Flame. The night was enchanted, blessed with the greatest magic.”
“So it was – lust!”
“There was that, aye.” He stood, dusted his hands. “I’ll no’ deny that. I wanted you so badly I can still taste the desire on the back of my throat. It has ne’er left me, ne’er diminished. In all this time, lass, I couldnae forget you.”
“Then try harder.”
“I shall.” He had the nerve to smile. “But no’ to forget you. I wish to win your heart.”
(A wee glimpse at the hero and heroine's first meeting.)
"I must ask you to leave." There, she'd said what she must.
Go before my heart yearns for you as fiercely as my woman's body already does.
Dear heavens, he smelled of sandalwood, clean wool, leather, cold air and man, and the heady blend was fuzzing her wits, making her vulnerable. Worse, he had a way of looking at her that made her feel as if he'd actually touched her, and in intimate, sensual ways!
Mairi's pulse quickened, a tingling, long-forgotten warmth pooling low by her thighs.
No virgin, she'd once loved well and had never denied herself passion. She recognized the danger of this man, with his alluring scent and potent virility. His tall, well-muscled body, surely hard as iron. His strong, beautiful hands that reminded her of the pleasures a skilled lover's questing fingers could give a woman.
Joys she hadn't known in so long.
"See here, I can do nothing for you," she started again, sure she was glowering. "Nor can you sleep here." She indicated the rock-sided glen, the boulder-strewn ground. "Even if I wished you to stay, there isn't enough bracken to make the thinnest pallet."
His gaze locked with hers, and something in his expression told her she was losing. "My dog and I can sleep on the ground." He spoke as if everything was settled. "We have done so most nights of our journey. I need no more than my plaid, and Troll is well-furred enough to no' feel the rocks beneath him."
"Very well." Mairi nodded, sure resistance was futile. "But you'll leave on the morrow."
"If you say you cannae help me, aye."
"I'm telling you that now."
"It is said you have brought back the breath of life to the coldest of the damned." His words pierced her heart, making her soul ache. "Your fame is on every bard's tongue, the wonders you have wrought, the miracles-"
"The tales are untrue." Mairi tucked her hair behind an ear, kept her chin raised. "No one can bring the dead back to life."
"Yet you have done so."
He stepped closer and gripped her arm, his touch sending ripples of awareness through her. "I wouldn't be here if my request wasn't dire, my lady. All I ask is that you restore-"
"I regret you've lost someone." She did, especially that she couldn't do what he wanted.
She knew the pain of heartache.
So before she could think better of it, she lifted her hand to his face and touched his cheek, slid her fingers along his beard. "I do wish I could help you, but all I can offer is my sympathy."
"You misunderstand." He caught her hand, lacing their fingers, squeezing tight. Determination burned in his eyes. "The dead I want you to revive is a man who hasn't truly died. He stands before you."