“McDonald,” she whispered. “I used to be, but no more. Now I just call myself Keeley.”

“McDonald?” Mairin echoed. “Oh dear. I wonder, does Ewan know he’s stolen the healer from the clan Alaric was to be laird over?”

Keeley’s head snapped up. “Laird? But the McDonalds have a laird.” She should know. The bastard was directly responsible for her banishment. If something had happened to the worm, shouldn’t she know? Was she forever doomed to live on the outside of her family? Never welcomed to their hearth and into their fold?

Tears burned her lids and she’d be damned before she’d let a single one fall. The lot of them could rot, Gregor McDonald included. Especially Gregor McDonald.

“ ’Tis a long story,” Mairin said with a sigh. “Alaric’s marriage to Rionna McDonald has been arranged. He was traveling to McDonald keep to make it official and formally ask for Rionna’s hand. Laird McDonald has no male heir and he wants the man Rionna marries to take the mantle of leadership.”

Married to Rionna. Her childhood friend. Her only friend. But she, like everyone else, had turned their back on Keeley. It shouldn’t still hurt her, but it did. Keeley had dearly loved her cousin and friend. She still occupied a special place in Keeley’s heart, and she missed her sorely.

She glanced over at her sleeping warrior. Her warrior. Nay. He belonged to Rionna. How fitting that a man she’d allowed herself to spin girlish fantasies about was forbidden to her. If any of the McDonalds knew that Keeley had given sanctuary to Alaric, the accusations would abound once more.

“Did I say something wrong?” Mairin asked softly.

Keeley shook her head. “So he is to be married to Rionna.”

“Aye. Come spring. ’Tis a fact I hate the idea of Alaric leaving our lands, but ’tis a good opportunity for him to have something of his own. A clan to lead. Lands to own. Children to pass on his legacy to.”

It was silly, the sadness that crept into her chest. She had naught but ridiculous fantasies of a strong, fit warrior riding into her life and sweeping her away.

“I better tell Ewan what he has done,” Mairin said in a worried voice. “He must set this to rights.”

“Nay!” Keeley said as she shot to her feet. “I am not claimed by the McDonald clan. Truly. No one will miss me. ’Tis true I have healing skills and I am sought out regularly by some of the McDonald clan, but I don’t live within their walls. I am free to go where I please.”

Mairin regarded her with open curiosity. “If you have such a gift, they would be fools not to keep you. Why do you no longer call yourself McDonald?”

“ ’Twas not my choice,” Keeley said in a low voice. “I didn’t turn my back on my clan. They turned their back on me.”

They were interrupted when Maddie swept back into the room bearing a trencher of food. She set it on the small table a mere foot from where Keeley stood.

“There now, eat up, lass. You must keep your strength up as well if you are to tend to Alaric through the night.”

As hungry as she’d been, Keeley found she no longer had an appetite after learning of Alaric’s impending marriage. Still, she forced herself to eat and found that the fragrant stew and fresh-baked bread was the best meal she’d had in longer than she could remember.

“I’ll go summon Ewan and Caelen,” Mairin said. “Come, Maddie. Leave Keeley to her meal. She has an arduous task ahead of her.”

The two women traipsed out the door, leaving Keeley alone with Alaric. Keeley’s gaze traveled over the lean, hard lines of the sleeping warrior.

“Why couldn’t you have belonged to another?” she whispered. “Rionna is the sister of my heart, no matter that she betrayed me. It shouldn’t hurt me that you are betrothed, but I find the disappointment almost too keen to bear. I know you not, but you have fast found a place in my heart.”

Alaric stirred and opened his eyes, the green startling her with its brilliance. For a long moment he stared as if he had no understanding of who she was or where he was.

Then his lips moved and he whispered, so soft she almost didn’t hear. “Angel. My angel.”


It seemed that Keeley had no sooner laid her head on her pillow than a knock sounded loudly at her door. She opened her eyes and blinked to try and orient herself.

It had to be near to dawn. She’d spent two hours meticulously cleaning and restitching Alaric’s wound with the aid of his two brothers. She’d been bleary-eyed and near unconscious by the time she’d stumbled to her chamber.

She was tempted to pull the pillow over her head and ignore the summons at the door, but before she could do anything, it burst open.

She yanked the covers to her chin despite the fact she was fully clothed and stared in irritation at her intruder—or intruders, she should amend.

Ewan and Caelen McCabe stood in her doorway and they didn’t look any happier to be there than she was at their presence.

“Alaric is calling for his angel,” Caelen said in disgust.

Keeley blinked and then let her gaze rest on Ewan. “You know as well as I that I’ll be the demon in the next breath.”

Ewan sighed. “He is in a state of supreme agitation. I’m worried he’ll rip his stitches and the wound will bleed again. We must keep him quiet and allow him rest. The only way I see to do that is if … you’re with him.”

Keeley’s mouth dropped open. “What you’re suggesting isn’t proper at all. You may have abducted me without care, but I refuse to allow my reputation to become more tarnished than it already is. The last thing I need is your clan to think me a woman without morals.”

Ewan held up a placating hand. “My clan will say nothing. No one will know. I’ll make sure no one but myself or my wife is allowed inside Alaric’s chamber—or yours for that matter. I would not ask if it wasn’t important, Keeley. Right now I’ll do whatever it takes to calm my brother and ease his distress.”

Keeley propped herself up on one elbow and rubbed a weary hand over her face. “What I need is sleep. I haven’t slept since Alaric came to my cottage wounded. If I go to his chamber, can you make sure I am undisturbed?”

She knew annoyance was reflected in her tone, and at the moment, she just didn’t care. She’d do whatever it took for these people to leave her alone.

“In fact, what I’d really appreciate is for everyone to leave me alone to tend to Alaric. If I have need of something, I’ll call.”

Already Keeley was dreaming of several hours of uninterrupted sleep. If she had to agree to share Alaric’s chamber in order to achieve it, then that’s what she’d do.

The corner of Ewan’s mouth twitched. “Aye, Keeley. You’ll have your sleep. I’ll make sure you are undisturbed. We won’t come to see about Alaric’s progress until the afternoon. You have my word.”

Keeley threw off the covers and slung her legs over the bed, careful to keep as much of her tattered dress covering her as possible. She struggled to her feet, smoothing her snarled hair from her face.

“Let’s get on with it then,” she grumbled.

She trudged into Alaric’s chamber to find the covers twisted in a ball at his feet. His arm was thrown over his head and sweat beaded his brow. He moved his head from side to side, mumbling unintelligible things under his breath.

Sweat gleamed on his chest and on his side as well, and she could see the stress the stitching on his wound was undergoing.

Stifling her curse, she hurried to his side, her fingers probing the stitched cut.

He stilled immediately and his eyes opened, bleary with confusion. “Angel?”

“Aye, warrior, ’tis your angel come to soothe you. Tell me now, will you rest if I remain by your side?”

“Glad you’re here,” he croaked. “Not the same when you’re gone.”

She went soft from head to toe and leaned in closer, allowing his seeking hand to touch her arm.

“I won’t leave this time, warrior. I’ll stay with you.”

His arm curled around her, pulling her until she was forced down to his side. “I’ll not let you go this time,” he vowed.

Keeley refused to look at Alaric’s brothers. She had no desire to see the irritation or condemnation in Caelen’s eyes. She’d seen enough of that to last her a lifetime. If he had a single word to say to her after dragging her from her bed, she’d belt him right across the face and damn the consequences.

Luckily she heard no sound from that quarter. Only the soft shutting of the door alerted her to the fact that she and Alaric were alone.

She snuggled into his side and smoothed her hand over his taut belly. “Sleep now, warrior. Your angel will be ever close. This I swear.”

He made a sound of contentment and his body went slack, all the fight leaving his muscles. He squeezed his arm around her until not a single part of her wasn’t touching him in some way.

He went immediately to sleep, but despite Keeley’s overwhelming fatigue, she lay awake for a long time, savoring the sensation of lying in her warrior’s arms.

When she next opened her eyes, sunlight was straining around the furs covering the window. The fire had died down in the hearth and only a few glowing embers remained. Despite the chill that she knew was probably present in the room, she was bathed in warmth. So cozy and comfortable that she didn’t move a single muscle.

Alaric’s arm was still wound tightly around her waist and she was pressed up tight to his side, her head resting in the hollow of his shoulder.

Her hand glided over his chest and finally up to rest against his cheek. To her delight, his skin was much cooler and not as dry as it had been over the past hours. Cool sweat shimmered on his forehead and she pried herself out of his arms to rise excitedly.

As she looked down at his face, she was surprised by how clear his eyes were. No haze of confusion darkened the light green orbs.

Then he smiled up at her and to her utter shock, he reached up and pulled her down on top of him.

“You’re mad!” she hissed as she struggled to move to his uninjured side. “You’re going to tear your stitches and I spent the better part of two hours setting them!”

“So my angel is real,” he murmured, not letting her wiggle out of his grasp.

“Your assessment of a demon was more accurate,” she gritted out.

He chuckled and then winced.

“See? You should be lying still, not dragging me over your body,” she said in exasperation.

“But I like you on my body,” he purred. “I like it very much. In fact, I barely feel my injury now. All I feel is your softness against my flesh. Your breasts pressed into my chest.”

Heat crept over her shoulders and up her neck over her cheeks. She refused to meet his gaze and focused instead on his shoulder.

“Do you know what would make me feel even better?” he husked out.

She chanced a peek at him to see him studying her intently, his eyes glowing in the faint light that bled through the furs.

“What?” she asked nervously.

“A kiss.”

She shook her head even as she tried to wiggle off his chest again. He caught her against him and then reached with his free hand to cup her chin.

Ignoring her protests, he raised his head and fit his lips to hers. It wasn’t clear who had the fever. Him or her. Heat seared through her body. ’Twas a wondrous sensation. Heady. Sinfully sweet.

Her head spun and she felt incredibly light, like she’d taken flight and drifted among the clouds. She let out a sigh and melted into his strong body.

His fingers splayed out over her back and he rubbed up and down. When they reached her nape, he gripped her neck and delved his fingers into her hair, pulling her down to meet the intensity of his kiss.

“Alaric,” she whispered.

“I like the sound of my name on your lips, lass. Now tell me yours so I may know the name of my angel.”

She sighed in exasperation at how quickly he turned away her objections.

“My name is Keeley.”

“Keeley,” he murmured. “Such a beautiful name. Fitting for such a beautiful lass.”

“You must let me up,” she said firmly. “Your brothers will be up any moment now. They’re most concerned about your injury. I need to look at the stitches to make sure they’re holding, and if you feel strong enough, you should eat.”

“I’d rather kiss you.”

Foregoing her gentle reproach, she balled her fist and gave him a thump on the chest. To her surprise, he laughed but relinquished his hold on her.

She scrambled off his chest and smoothed her wrinkled clothing and disheveled hair. She probably looked like she’d been dunked in the loch and then dragged behind a horse.

Her gaze kept creeping to his broad, naked chest. Not that a man’s chest was a mystery to her. Nor was the rest of the male anatomy. She’d seen more than her fair share of naked males thanks to her skill at healing. But this man took her breath away. He was … magnificent.

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