Tarnished Honor

Tarnished Honor by J. Lee Coulter

Book: Tarnished Honor by J. Lee Coulter Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. Lee Coulter
Chapter I
* * *
    "I am sorry, Uncle, but I do nae choose to wed him. He is an ogre!" Fire shot from Brighde’s blue-green eyes as she stomped her foot in protest. Her father had promised her freedom over choosing her spouse before he had died, she was not about to give it up. Angus Fraser had no power to change her father’s will, as much as he would like to. “Ye will just have to explain to Stephen that it is my choice and I, respectfully, decline.”
    With a stern stare he began to lecture her on the pract i calities of the match. He needed her away before she di s covered that he had spent her entire dowry and was in dire want of more funds.
    “Be reasonable, Brighde. Ye are approaching ten and eight years. Well past the age to wed. Soon, n ae man will consider ye for a bride. As for Stephen…he is a perfectly suitable match for ye. He is young enough, mid-thirties I believe , and hale. And he is nae a poor man. Ye could do worse.”
    “Nay! My father promised—”
    “Malcolm is nae here! He died five summers back! If he k enned the way of things now, he would rescind his promise to ye! Of that, ye can be certain.” He snarled as his hands clenched.
    Her eyes widened in alarm. Angus had never spoken so harshly to her before …and what circumstances have changed to make him so desperate for her to wed? She was speechless as her mind raced to dire conclusions. Mayhap there was a clan war about to erupt and they would need the alliance. She shook her head…nay, that was nae possible. She kenned their neighbors and they were all fast friends. Try as she might, Brighde could not find a plausible reason for his upset.
    “I am regretful , Uncle, but he just will nae do.”
    Angus sighed in resign ation . It appeared that he will need to approach this from another angle. His glance na r rowed shrewdly. If she was nae willing to wed , then, there were other ways to accomplish the deed. He smiled at her as his mind plotted. “Very well, but he will nae be pleased. I will leave ye for now, Brighde. I expect ye to sup with us though. Tis the least ye can do to soften the blow.”
    “Aye, I will join ye this eve.” She ambled back to her unfinished tapestry, and picking up her needle as she a p proached, dismissed the discussion from her mind. As far as she was concerned, it was settled.
    After departing the solar, he snorted. The haughty little wench was going to receive her comeuppance very soon. He would make certain of that. He whistled as he strolled away .
    * * *
    The travel weary entourage grew silent as they neared the small village outside of Urq u hart Castle. The people they witnessed working the fields were ravaged with po v erty. Their sunken eyes showed hopelessness as they scratched out the meager harvest. Children that should have been laughing and playing stood silently in rags by the wayside, observing the procession of highland warr iors passing by.
    Robbie Grant scrunched his nose at the stench emana t ing from the muddy road they followed through the village. He glanced about him, search ing for the source of the odor, knowing it well. It was the smell of death. He had been subjected to it many times in the past year s while they were in the king’s service. Finally, their time was done and they could resume their lives. He glanced at his laird.
    Connall Canmore, the Blacksword of Halkirk, Earl of Caithness, sat ramrod straight in the saddle. Anyone would think that he did not see the destitute people they passed among , his emerald eyes star ing straight ahead. There was not a single twitch of his nostrils as the foul smell was i n haled. But if he were not wearing his gauntlets, they would see his knuckles whitening as he gripped the reins tightly in anger . If not for his helm , they might notice the spasm of his strong jaw as he grit his teeth. The shameful condition of Laird Fraser’s clan did not pass by him unnoticed.
    “Connall?” Robbie inquired of him as they came to the point where the

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