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Book 3 in the Celtic Steel Series
Shiant Islands, Scotland
She was beautiful when she was angry, and she was more than beautiful today. Aisling McTavish had broken every single piece of fine pottery and glassware her nimble hands could grasp. As it stood, the finery hutch was bare, as was the large oak dining table. The walls were nearly blank as well and all of the servants had escaped a safe distance away, hiding behind the brocade curtains which veiled the dining area from the kitchens.
Not one given to dramatics, Flynn simply sat down on the bench, hands in hair, elbows on knees – and sighed. “Aisling, I know this is no’ what ye wished for, my luv…” he started.
“Oh no ye don’t!” she screeched. “Ye don’t get to pretend ye didn’t know this was a’ coming, Flynn Montgomery!” Long blonde hair whipped through the air and slapped him in the face. She turned to exit the room but stopped abruptly. Flynn heard the tell-tale sound of Aisling’s leather slippers scooting backwards into the dining hall and he looked up just in time to catch his father’s pale green eyes.
Farrell Montgomery held even less patience for female theatrics than his son. Farrell was indeed a giant of a man who was typically short on patience. Brawny and gruff, he had an attractive charming quality that vanished the second he opened his tight pinched mouth.
“Why Farrell, ‘tis so nice to see ye on such a bonny day as this,” started Aisling toward her future father-in-law.
“Aisling, what is all this fuss about? What has happened to my dear wife’s, God rest her soul, play pretty plates and pottery?” His growl escalated as he surveyed the destruction in the dining hall. Clinching Aisling about her shoulders, he lifted her off the ground nearly two feet and she hung limply like a rag doll before him, a dangled mess of blonde hair and blue eyes.
“Da!” shouted Flynn. “Da – ye must put her down, this instance.” Grabbing Aisling by the hand, Flynn led her to a nearby stool and reprimanded her with his eyes before turning to his father.
“Da – I was just explaining the situation to Aisling, and she is not taking the news verra well,” said Flynn, resting his hands on his hips as he looked up to his father. Nearly four inches more than six feet tall, there weren’t many people that Flynn Montgomery had to look up to. Except for Farrell, who had a good two inches on his eldest and only son.
“Aye – what of the situation?” asked Farrell.
“I’ll tell ye!” shouted Aisling standing up in feigned courage, sticking her nose in the air. “When Flynn and I were handfasted last Beltane; it was with the understanding that we would reside here, on the island after our wedding.”
“And what of it?” growled Farrell.
“Well – yer son here has been telling me that we are to move to Ireland, and I am no’ going!”
“Is that so?” asked Farrell nonchalantly.
“Why – yes it is,” she responded calmly.
“I see,” he replied grabbing a flask from his belt and taking a long swig of sour Scottish whiskey. “And pray tell how do you intend to repay the bride price we have given yer family?”
Aisling’s face grew red and she broke out in a cold sweat. “What do you mean a bride price? There was no bride price given for me!” she screamed.
“Aye – there was,” interrupted Flynn. “A considerable one at that,” he said as he shook his head.
“As I see it,” Farrell broke in, “Ye would owe us a great deal of coin should the marriage fall through. T’would be most unfortunate, indeed.”
Aisling balled her hands into fists and clenched her teeth. “I was bought like a common whore?” she shouted towards Flynn.
“More like a common horse,” Farrell replied between chuckles. “Aisling my dear, we paid a fair bride price for ye, and ye know that my son Flynn is more than suited for ye. He is, after all, a nobleman’s son,” he smirked.
“A nobleman’s son – my lily white arse,” she retorted.
“Ye see,” said Farrell pointing to his son. “The MacTavish’s were more than well compensated for their troubles. They’ve only dealt with this little minx for going on – what now – how old are ye Aisling?” he paused. “Oh that’s right, going on nigh to twenty-two summers I ‘spose now. Some might say yer a spinster dear. Much too old for Flynn, with him being nearly thirty summers, but we couldn’t talk him out of it; although his mother and I sure tried.”
Aisling flung the last tray from the dining table and it struck Farrell solidly in the chest – leaving a heap of dried fruit and bread in its wake. Positioning himself between his betrothed and his father, Flynn grasped them both by the shoulders and grew oddly quiet.
“Aisling, ye accepted me proposal of marriage. This business about the business of marriage contracts does no’ matter, it’s not between us – it’s between our families. I am leaving on the Sarysin on the morrow. I’ve a commission to fulfill. I am to be the new chieftan of the O’Malley clan forces. It’s an honorable and prestigious position – I should think you would be happy to be a lady about the manor.”
Aisling’s eyes grew wide and the anticipation of wealth and status washed across her face. She never was good at holding her ideas, Flynn thought to himself. Farrell snorted and Aisling blushed.
He continued, “I’m leaving at first light. It will be nearly a fortnight before I reach me cousin’s clan as we are stopping at two ports with merchandise. I’ll give you two fortnights to join me there. Da can get you on a galley going that way without any stops. If you don’t arrive in two fortnights the marriage is off. Do you ken what I’m saying?” he asked her.
She nodded as tears welled in her eyes.
“Da – if she doesna’ make it to the galley in time tomorrow, ye can speak with her family about either making arrangements to get her there or getting yer coin back for the bride price. At any rate, I’ll expect word to arrive by the time I get there.”
“I want more,” the elder Montgomery grumbled.
“Ye want more than the bride price?” Aisling asked. “For what – yer troubles in dealing with the likes of me?” she asked, shrugging her shoulders and highlighting her barely five foot frame.
“I want more – to repay the fancy trinkets and dining wares ye broke that belonged to my Ellen,” he replied, pain washing over his face.
“I’ll replace those, Da,” Flynn said as he loosened his grip on the two.
Turning to Aisling, Farrell commanded, “I expect ye to clean this mess up and ye’ll spend the afternoon washing in the kitchens.”
“And, ye’ll do it to,” Flynn added, looking down at his fiancé, the love of his life, the woman he feared he would never see again.