He inhaled the fresh, earthy fragrance of impending rain. The crack of thunder sounded as
droplets began to patter the ground in beat with his boots. He swam through the mugginess, each step determined, each step a liberation from the vapors of the vision. He made for the gardens, steadying his thoughts. Something didn’t feel right.
A commotion drew him to the rows farthest from the keep. Ewan waved frantically toward him. Ewan then crouched by a body, prostrate in the carved garden row.
Domhnall dashed to the scene. Others congregated.
A lass in a simple gown.
He jerked his head at the sight of her hands bound loosely with twine, and a sack over her head. “Sir Montgomerie! Thank the Lord. I came when I heard her scream and—” Ewan’s cheeks were splotched with red, his eyes wide and confused as he blinked away the rain dripping down the furrows in his forehead.
Domhnall dropped to the ground beside her and ripped the linen sack from her head. His stomach clenched. “Rose! Wake, lass. My God, Rose!”
“Sir, should I lift her?” Ewan knelt, ready for action.
What the hell?
Domhnall’s cowardice to touch people—to help people—shuddered through him with humiliation. Did they all think him an ignorant lout? Did they truly think he held himself higher than them because of his rank? No more. Let the visions take his soul.
He loosened the twine around her wrists and gathered her into his lap, lifting her up from the muddy ground. He was tired of being idle and looking like a haughty nobleman. Or worse, a dastard who could not face the devil. No more feeding fears.
“Sir, should I fetch a soldier, or watchman—” Ewan sputtered at Domhnall’s action. “I can help.”
“Get the healer. Send him to my bedchamber.” He wasn’t going to drag the poor lass to the servants’ quarters and cause a stir with the celebratory preparations. Cawley would lose his wits if Domhnall brought this extra quandary anywhere remotely close to the kitchen or hall.
“Aye, sir.” Ewan rose.
“No. No, wait. My mother. Get her, please. Send her, with some linens.”
A puzzled frown crinkled Ewan’s brow. “Sir?”
He released an impatient, heavy sigh.
Ewan bowed. “Aye.” He ran toward the keep.
Domhnall swiped tangled wet hair from Rosalie’s forehead. A large, red welt formed on the side of her face, along her cheek. Her skin was chilled. Yet…she felt divine. Smooth, vibrant, and ever silky. Energy prickled his fingertips. The wind rustled in an eddy. To hell with you, Wind. Release your wrath. I don’t care.
He felt for a pulse in her neck. Good.
He’d forgotten what others felt like. Her hands upon his last night had been the stepping-stone. A trickle of need coursed within him. It begged for more. He took a fingertip and gently touched her lips, hovered to assess breathing. He wanted to help her. Protect her. Be with her.
Sensation puddled within his soul like a spicy brewed cider ale on midwinter’s eve. He’d been cold for so long, fearing fire. Fearing touch. Heat melted his resolve.