Rushing into the hut and out of the torrential downpour, Christel came to a complete stop as Aiden plowed into her back. “Ryder!”
Terror for Christel ripped down Ryder’s spine, emotions so high his hands shook. “What are you doing here?”
“C-came to check on, Grizela.” Christel shook out her cloak then hung it on a peg. “Didn’t know you would be here.”
“You must have known Grizela passed on a few weeks ago.” Ryder had heard about the old lady as well as Christel’s visits.
“Caught.” Christel shrugged then sat down, her brows furrowed. “Ryder, I can’t stay at the MacLaren castle, not with Richy under the same roof. I just can’t. I won’t.”
“And you came along for moral support?” Blade turned to Aiden his tone fierce.
“Couldn’t let her go by herself.” Aiden slipped from her coat then placed it beside Christel’s. “I’m hungry.”
“You could have been the voice of reason.” Ryder roughed his hands through his hair then across his face. He didn’t know what to do—couldn’t send her back to a place where she was terrified. Didn’t want to bring her along for fear of reprisals when they stole the baby back. But he sensed if he took her home, she and Aiden would follow on their own. Perhaps he should be thankful he and Blade visited Owen before they left and were caught by the storm.
“I knew she’d go with me or without me.” Aiden rummaged through the pack and brought out fried chicken and scones. She opened her water bottle and drank then wiped her mouth with her sleeve. “In this case there was no such thing as a voice of reason.”
“Aiden, I swear you still don’t have an iota of common sense. You flit about as if the world is a safe place.” Blade’s gaze could have sent sparks flying Aiden’s direction.
“Well, Christel made it here from London by herself.” Aiden shot back at Blade. “She’s quite capable and so am I.”
“Stop arguing and let it be. Now that we are all here together we will continue on the trip—together—when the storm lets up. Probably tomorrow morning.” God, it would be hell to sleep in different beds. He’d touched her last night, loved her, and discovered how much he was going to miss her. Now he had to watch her sleep from a distance. Surely the devil danced around them, tempting him. “Just let it be.” This last said for himself more than anyone else.
“Thank you. I’m glad you’re not going to send us back.” Christel slipped her arm through his and smiled at him.
The expression melted his heart. He wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss her then he wanted to make love to her. But none of this was going to be possible, not tonight or any other night until they were married. Maybe they could find a small parish on the way and say their vows.