Cree entered the Great Hall with angry strides and stopped abruptly when the lone woman in the room turned away from the table, she had been bent over, to face him. Her beauty startled him for a moment, though he showed no signs of it. Dark ringlets fell around her lovely, unmarred face and neck from the mass of curls pinned atop her head and her large blue eyes glared at him as she tossed her chin up defiantly. She took a stance as if prepared for battle, though she could not keep her shoulders from slumping. She showed strength as well as exhaustion.
Cree was about to speak when she stepped aside to reveal a sleeping child on the top of the table. His light brown hair had threads of gold running through it, resembling Cree’s hair coloring, but his features bore no signs of Cree. Even with smudges on his face, he was a handsome child and looked well fed, not like his mother who was far too thin.
“He is your son. I named him Aidan. He is two years now.”
“So you say,” Cree said, approaching her slowly.
“I speak the truth.”
“Again so you say, but what reason do I have to believe you?” He stopped a few feet from her. “Why wait two years to claim him as mine?”
The woman stared at him a moment as if at a loss for words, then rushed to say, “He needs his father.”
“And so you chose me?”
“Like you chose me that night,” she said, forcing her shoulders back and her head up.
“And what night was that?” He folded his arms across his broad chest and settled his dark eyes that could intimidate the bravest of souls on her.
The woman took a step back. “It was a cold winter’s night and you sought shelter from the unfavorable weather at my family’s croft near Loch Rannoch. You asked me to warm your bed and I obliged.”
He had sought shelter from farmers now and again, though he had provided them with much needed items in exchange for their generosity. There was just one problem with her story.
“Never would I have been so disrespectful as to proposition a daughter of a farmer who granted me shelter.”
Her face flushed red. “It was I who sought your bed.”
Her response troubled him, for that had happened on rare occasions Mostly, when he had been celibate far too long from far too many battles. He would spend a whole night appeasing his hunger only to poke the woman once again before leaving the next morning. But had she been one of the very few women?
Another question begged to be asked. “How can you be so sure the lad is mine?”
“I knew no other man before you or after you,” she said with great pride.
“So you say, but again it is only your word I have.”
Her chin went up a notch. “It is all I have left. My da was killed by a band of mercenaries a few days after you left. I was not there at the time or I would have suffered at their hands before meeting the same fate. I went to live with my sister, but her husband took ill and she could barely feed their family on what little they had. I knew it was time for me to seek you out and ask that you be a father to your son.”
“It is a good story you weave,” Cree said.
Before he could say more, the woman said, “It is the truth,” —she pointed to her sleeping son— “and he is proof of what I say.”
“He could be anyone’s son,” Cree argued his thoughts turning to Dawn and how she would feel when she heard of this.
“But he is not anyone’s son. He is your son.” She shook her head. “I cannot believe you do not remember me. You were so kind to me that night. I shall never forget how loved you made me feel.”
“I have been with many women and believe me when I say that if I bedded a woman as beautiful as you I would have remembered it.”
Her eyes turned wide, but not at his words, her glance had settled on something behind him and he knew who she was looking at. His heart clenched in his chest.
Cree turned and faced his wife.
Highlander’s True Love a Cree & Dawn Short Story coming in February!
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