She nodded. "Good journey to you, then." And with that she tried to leave.
"We aren't finished yet."
"What more do you want from me?"
"More? I haven't asked anything of you yet… have I?"
She shook her head.
"Come closer, Bridgid."
"I'm fine where I am."
"Come closer," he commanded, and there was a thread of steel in his voice now.
She wasn't going to miss his bossiness, she decided as she walked forward. She stopped directly in front of him. "Is this satisfactory?"
"Closer," he ordered.
She moved to stand between his outstretched legs. "Is this close enough for you?"
"For the moment."
He was obviously enjoying her discomfort, and she was thoroughly confused. Ramsey seemed to be toying with her, and that didn't make any sense at all. He couldn't possibly know what agony it was for her to be so close to him and not touch him. God, how she wished she didn't love him. It was misery. Just thinking about watching him leave made her want to weep, but she vowed she'd die before he saw one tear.
"Uncle Morgan said you wanted to tell me something. What is it?"
"Uncle Morgan? When did he become a relative?"
Her chin came up a notch. "I've become very close to him."
He rolled his eyes. "You aren't staying here. That's what I wanted to tell you."
"I've made up my mind to stay."
"Then unmake it. You're going home with me."
Bridgid was suddenly so angry with him for being such a stupid, obstinate man, her temper exploded.
"No, I'm not going back. I'm staying right here. Uncle Morgan said that I could. I like England, Laird. Yes, I do. You and all the other soldiers blatantly lied to me. You made England sound like purgatory, but I found out the truth. The land is as beautiful as ours, and the people are just like us. I'll admit they're a little difficult to understand because of the way they speak, but I'm getting used to it. Do you know how many Englishmen helped Gillian and me on our journey here? Hundreds," she exaggerated. "Families who could ill-afford to share insisted that we take their food and their blankets. They even offered us their beds. They looked out for us, and we were strangers to them. All those stories were just lies. I like this country, and I like Gillian's uncle. He's kind and sweet."
The last of her tirade made him laugh. "You think Morgan's kind and sweet?"
"Yes," she insisted. "And he likes me too."
"But you're a Sinclair."
"There's nothing for me there."
"What about the man you told me you loved?"
She took a step back, but Ramsey grabbed her and pulled her close to him. She tried to look everywhere but at him so she could concentrate.
"I don't love him anymore," she declared.
"What the hell do you mean you don't love him anymore? Are your feelings so shallow, then, Bridgid?"
"No," she answered. "I loved him for the longest time, since I was a little girl, but now I realize he's completely unsuitable."
Ramsey didn't like hearing that. "What exactly is unsuitable about him?"
"Everything," she cried out. "He's obstinate and arrogant and very stupid. Yes, he is. He's a womanizer too, and the man I marry will be faithful to me. I'm not going to waste my time on him any longer. Besides, he can have any woman he wants. They throw themselves at his feet," she added with a nod. "And he's completely unaware of me."
"Ah, Bridgid, he's very aware of you."
"The man doesn't even care that I exist."
Ramsey smiled. "Of course he cares."
She pushed his hands away, but Ramsey caught her about her waist and began to slowly pull her up against him.
"What are you doing?"
"What I've wanted to do for a long time."
She couldn't move, couldn't think. She was lost in his dark eyes, and as he slowly lowered his head toward hers, she whispered, "Are you going to throttle me, then?"
He was laughing when he kissed her. Lord, she had the softest, sweetest lips, and he felt such incredible joy and peace holding her in his arms. His mouth opened over hers, taking absolute possession. His tongue swept inside to lazily mate with hers, and he was taking his time savoring her taste, believing he was in full control, until she began to kiss him back.
She shook him to the core. Ramsey had never experienced anything like it. His arrogance and his control vanished, and he was shaking with desire. It happened so swiftly, he had trouble catching his breath. His mouth slanted over hers again and again and passion ignited. He couldn't get close enough to her to satisfy him.
When he realized he was trying to justify tossing her on the table and making love to her then and there, he forced himself to stop. They were both panting for breath when he lifted his head.
She was having as much trouble regaining her senses as he was. She actually swayed when she took a step back. "Why did you kiss me?"
"I wanted to," he answered, his voice as smooth as velvet.
"Were you… Was it… a farewell kiss? Were you saying good-bye?"
He laughed. "No," he answered. "You're going home with me."
"I'm staying here. I'm going to marry an Englishman."
"The hell you are," he roared, and he was more stunned than she was by his burst of temper. No woman had ever been able to get that kind of reaction from him, but the thought of his Bridgid with any other man enraged him.
"You're a Sinclair, and you belong with us."
"Why do you want me to go back?"
For the first time in his life, Ramsey felt thoroughly vulnerable. It was a hell of a miserable feeling. "You want the truth, Bridgid?" he stalled.
Their gazes held while Ramsey got up the courage to tell her what was in his heart.
"You make the Sinclair land a joyful place. I cannot imagine life without you."
She shook her head. "No, you just want to marry me to some—"
He stood up and took a step toward her. "There has been a request for your hand in marriage."
"Is that why you kissed me? So you could take me home and then marry me to a man I don't love? Who is he?" she demanded, emotionally spent now and uncaring that tears were streaming down her face.
He started toward her.
"Don't you dare kiss me again," she ordered. "I can't think when you… Just don't," she stammered. "And as for the offer, I decline."
"You can't decline until you know who he is," he reasoned.
"All right. Tell me his name, and then I'll decline. You're going to praise him first though, aren't you? That's what you always do to try to get me to agree," she ended, and even she could hear the heartbreak in her voice.
"No, I'm not going to praise him. He's riddled with flaws."
She stopped trying to run away. "He is?"
He slowly nodded. "I have it on good authority that he's stupid and arrogant and obstinate, or at least he was until he realized what a fool he has been."
"But that's what I said about… you."
"I love you, Bridgid. Will you marry me?"
Brodick didn't know what the hell he was going to do. He felt as though his hands were tied behind his back because Morgan was his elder and he therefore couldn't browbeat him into ordering Gillian to go home with her husband, and he sure as certain couldn't tear the man's home apart searching for her. At the root of his frustration lurked the dark possibility that Gillian would never forgive him for breaking his word to her, but life without her at his side would be unbearable.
Ramsey might have been able to help him sway the baron—he was the diplomat, after all—but he was too busy wooing Bridgid to think about anything else. It had taken him a good hour to convince her he was sincere and determined to marry her, and after she had finally agreed to his proposal, they'd left for home. Iain hadn't stayed around to help either, as he was anxious to get back to his wife.
And that left Brodick to deal with the bad-tempered baron on his own,
Morgan was vastly amused when Brodick didn't eat any of his supper. Just as he finally made up his mind to help the poor, lovesick man, Morgan spotted Gillian coming down the stairs.
Brodick's back was to the entrance, and Morgan knew he hadn't spotted his wife.
"Son, you had to have known how stubborn Gillian was before you married her. Anyone who spends more than five minutes with the woman figures that out."
"I knew she was stubborn," Brodick agreed. "But I don't consider that a flaw."
"I think you should leave her here and go on home. You'll be better off."
Brodick was shocked by the obscene suggestion. "I don't have a home without her," he muttered. "How could you think I would leave her?"
"I would," Morgan replied cheerfully. "Tell me, why did you break your word to her?"
"I've already explained why," he snapped.
Morgan snapped back. "Explain it again."
"Because the thought of her in danger was unacceptable to me. I cannot lose her."
"Then don't ever lie to me again."
The sound of her voice made his heart feel as though it were about to burst with joy. He sighed, calm now, for his world suddenly made sense to him again. And then he turned around. "Don't you ever put me through this torment again," he ordered.
"Promise me that you will never lie to me again."
"Not until you promise me that you'll stop taking such foolish risks. When Proster told me you were inside with that bastard, I thought I was going to… damn it, you scared the hell out of me, Gillian, and I never want to go through that again."
"You hurt me."
"That's all you have to say? You know you hurt me? Then I'm staying here. Go home, Brodick."
"Fine," he answered. Bowing to Baron Morgan, he walked out of the hall. She waited until the doors had closed behind him and then burst into tears.
"He's leaving me," she cried as she ran to her uncle.
"You just told him to leave," he pointed out.
"He's going home without me."
"But you just told him to," he argued. "I heard you plain and clear."
"But he never does what I tell him to do. Uncle, how am I going to live without him?"
He awkwardly patted her back, trying to console her. "You'll do just fine."
"I love him so much."
"But he lied to you, remember?"
"He was only trying to be noble. He wanted to protect me."
"Then why didn't you forgive him?"
"I was going to forgive him," she sobbed. "I don't want to live without him. How could he leave me?"
"You're giving me a pounding headache, lass. Sit down and calm yourself," he suggested as he pulled a chair out and gently pushed her down. "Let me go look out the window and see if he's left yet."
"I cannot believe he would leave me," she whispered.
Morgan rolled his eyes heavenward and prayed for patience. Was his niece blind? Couldn't she see how much her husband loved her? He was too old and cranky to deal with a near hysterical woman, and he decided then that matters of the heart should be left to the young. They had more stamina.
He watched Brodick remove the saddle from his horse and toss it to one of his men. All of his soldiers had dismounted and were making themselves at home in his yard. When Brodick started back to the castle, Morgan decided to go upstairs. He'd had enough excitement for one day, and Gillian and her husband needed privacy.
"I'll be right back," he lied. "You stay where you are and wait for me," he hastily added so she wouldn't get the notion she could follow him the way she used to and drive him daft with her complaints until he gave in to whatever it was she wanted. He smiled when he realized she was more stubborn and strong-willed than he was.
Pausing at the entrance, he called out, "You know I love you, girl, don't you?"
"Yes, I know. I love you too, Uncle Morgan."
He started up the stairs then, but stopped when he heard the door open behind him. He didn't have to turn around to know who was there.
"You'll treat her well." It wasn't a question but a statement of fact.
"Yes, sir, I will."
"You don't deserve her."
"I know I don't, but I'm keeping her anyway."
"You know, son, you remind me of someone, but I can't think who it is." He shook his head in bewilderment and then suggested, "You'd best get on inside before she floods my hall with her tears. If anyone could do it, she could."
At the sound of her uncle's laughter, she glanced up and saw Brodick standing in the entrance, watching her. She stood up then and took a step toward him.
"You came back."
"I never left."
As though drawn by a magnet, they moved toward one another.
"You were angry with me. I saw it in your eyes."
"Yes, I was angry. I didn't know if I could keep you safe, and that scared the hell out of me."
He was close enough to take her into his arms, but he didn't dare touch her yet because he knew that once he started kissing her, he wouldn't stop, and he needed to mend the hurt he had caused her. Telling her what was in his heart seemed so easy to him now, and he couldn't understand why he'd been such a fool. Love didn't weaken a man; it strengthened him, made him feel invincible when he had a woman like Gillian at his side.
"I thought you went home."
"How could I go home without you? I've searched my entire life for you. I could never leave you. Home is wherever you are." His hand shook as he gently caressed the side of her face. "Don't you understand? I love you, and I want to wake up with you beside me every morning for the rest of my life. If that means I have to live in England to be with you, then that's what I'll do."
Tears of joy brimmed in her eyes. She was overwhelmed by the depth of his feelings for her and the tender, romantic way he'd told her how he felt.
She knew it was difficult for him. He hid his feelings behind his gruff exterior. She realized then she knew him better than he knew himself. It didn't matter that he'd broken out in a cold sweat or that he looked quite ill now; he'd given her what she needed. Aye, he'd said the words, and he couldn't take them back.