Secret Keeper

“The first time I ran, I was but three years and lived with Ina. Our cottage was far from the MacEwen Castle. One night we saw the sky ablaze.” She turned her face away from Braeson, and looked into the boughs of the spruce tree, remembering. “Ina said, ‘Run, run! Away with ye, into the woods and only return when the dawn draws nigh’. Ina shoved my seal blanket into my hands and I ran and hid under the skin, below the boughs of a tree, much like this one. I waited. When I returned the next morn, there was Ina lying in the embers of our cottage, close to death.” She turned her head to Braeson. “Ina’s words are in my head. Run, run, away!’ Tis why, when there is danger, I run.”

The branches above them allowed for just a breath of space for Braeson to raise his head to look at her. His eyes were of the same colour as the snow in early spring. Throughout the winter, the snow collected the wonders of the highlands. By spring, it was a lovely pale gray mingling with pebbles and leaves, twigs and dirt, flowing into streams and coaxing life back to the land. Oh, how she loved to sit on the hill beyond the castle and watch the snow sparkle and shine in the spring’s warming sun. Melting, into its warmth. When Braeson rested his forehead on hers, she simply melted into him.

“Run, run to me, Bonnie. Run, run to me.” His mouth touched her lips like a soft spring breeze. A velvety caress that flittered across her lower lip and then to the top. An infusion of warmth spread out from her stomach and her heart pulsed in her ears. How could she feel so safe in this man’s embrace when he had taken her from her home? Braeson lifted his mouth and rested his forehead again on hers.

Scowling! The man was—“Scowling!” she hissed.

His eyes flashed open and he lifted his head slightly.

“You scowl! You do not like to . . .” She could not bring herself to say the word.

“Kiss you? Aye, I like it. I will try again and focus on not scowling.” His lips were on hers again, his mouth open, smothering her with heat and desire. He trailed a path of kisses along her jawline and down her neck, then lifted his face to hers again. “Do I scowl now?” he whispered.

She studied his face, staring into his eyes that seemed almost colourless in the shadows of the spruce boughs. “You are attempting to hide it but you still scowl behind your eyes.” She struggled to roll him off of her but he tightened his arms, still holding her waist.

“Cease,” he muttered. His face lowered to the crook of her neck.

Bonnie turned her head away and stared through the boughs of the spruce. Tears welled in her eyes. She had kissed a few lads over the years but she could not recall any of them scowling at her. Those kisses had been pleasant, but she could not describe Braeson’s kisses as pleasant. Nay. His kisses were delightful and beckoned her to want more of them. How could she want to kiss him more when all he did was scowl at her?

“Bonnie?” he whispered.

His breath caressed her neck and sent shivers into her breast. She felt his body tense and his breathing was laboured. She would not look at him.

“Bonnie. I scowl because I am wounded at my shoulder.”

She now turned her head to him and met that familiar gleam of amusement, as when he had challenged her at the pond and more recently with her boots. “Tis truth?”

In one motion, Braeson rolled from her, through the branches of the spruce and lay on his back peering up at the sky. He winced and touched the front of his shoulder, looking at the blood that stained his hand. He released a low groan. “Tis truth,” he echoed.

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