Ian dozed fitfully in the wooden chair. Sleeping in the bed where Keely's scent played havoc with his desire--where he might seduce her--was not an option. He jerked awake, his eyes opening then closing, listening to the sounds surrounding him. A hint of danger lurked everywhere as an unknown threat stalked him.
Keely moved around the room, searching through her stock of healing herbs; sorting, rearranging, then carefully labeling and placing them on the shelf again.
Her plan not to travel disturbed him. In her home, she would be vulnerable to all sorts of vultures, yet on the road, her risks were even greater. She might very well find herself at the mercy of thieves, soldiers of fortune, wild animals. She would be at great risk without a protector.
While his sleep had been fitful, the dreams had been vivid. His sleeping visions brought to light all kinds of information. He just didn't know if the places and people he saw were real or imaginary. He could have conjured all kinds of images to replace all he'd forgotten. The black-haired woman, the tall sturdy man, the castle as well as the rugged windswept terrain, all evoked strong emotions, yet he did not recall what they meant to him.
"You are awake?" Her voice floating across the room seemed to fill every nook with sweet femininity. She was grace and beauty, peace and calm, yet she set an inferno in his blood he could not quench.
"How did you know?" he queried, pushing back on the seat, then stretching his legs and back muscles. The need to smile at this woman and fill her with comfort filled his senses. She was giving to a fault, so much so that she'd taken him into her home.
The need to protect her was an overpowering need. Yet he knew he had been sent to this place in the lowlands for a reason. He was duty bound to see his mission through. A mission he could not remember--one that tormented every waking hour.
He stood slowly before walking toward the woman who seemed to know him better than he knew himself.
She laughed; the sound was soft and comforting, healing. "I kenned you were awake because you quit snoring."
"No magical powers then?" He stood close to her, caught her scent, her spirit, her giving nature and her soul-deep courage. She was a woman made for the Highlands. He wanted to wrap her within his arms and pull her close, never let her go. Yet above all other feelings, his desperation to know himself filled him soul deep.
Who was he? Did he live within the castle of his dreams with a black-haired woman? Nay, his heart cried out.
Her hesitation told him more than her words of denial. "I possess no mystical or unheard of powers."
"You lie." He spoke softly but earnestly. "You have bewitched me, enchanted the very air I breathe."
"Perhaps I have not always told the truth. Perhaps you have bewitched me," she countered. The sad wistfulness in her words touched him deeply.
"I would know the truth."
Her lashes fluttered closed. Her hands came together in front of her. She inhaled roughly then turned to face him, her chin tilted determinedly. "I would that I had no powers of any sort. Sometimes I feel they are a curse. What I see in my dreams comes too late to help, too late to give warning." She paused. "You must not tell anyone what you know."
"I know nothing. Nor do I understand what it is you speak of."
Puzzled, she watched him, reached out to touch the line of his jaw with one finger. "Then..." she paused thoughtfully, "why did you confront me?"
He shrugged. "'Twas a feeling I have. Something coming from deep inside. You know things; understand that which you should not." He walked to the table where the bag of runes had been set, then picked them up. He opened the bag and let each one slide through the opening to land with a rattle upon the table.
She stiffened, reaching for the runes, wishing she could grab them away. "I would
ask you to forget what you just said--or that you saw these."
"I cannot. Nor will I put to the back of my mind all you have done for me." He picked up one of the runes and studied the stone thoughtfully before setting it back upon the table. "What is it you see in these?"
"You must forget. And you must not ask questions about things you will never understand." Her voice was urgent, filled with a quiet desperation he'd never heard from her before. "You could betray me to my greatest enemies."
"Enemies? One as caring and nurturing as you should not have enemies," he said, instantly curious. His focus changed from the runes to her words. Enemies indeed. He would not let her run from her enemies. He would fight them all, stand by her side. Yet something in those thoughts sent a frigid chill down his spine. Loyalty, the King, duty bound and in James' service, he knew he had promised something to someone. Suddenly his head pounded. Absently he rubbed his temples, easing the pain but not the strange sensation that he was about to remember something he would regret.