Read A Slip In Time Online

Authors: Kathleen Kirkwood

Tags: #romance historical paranormal time travel scotland victorian medieval

A Slip In Time (28 page)

“She hae done more than tha’. She hae
left the castle for guid.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Dinna be. I am grateful.”

Julia’s heart lifted at those words.
He wasn’t interested in the woman after all.

“I was worried fierce for
ye,
mo cáran.”

He held her gaze, waiting for an
explanation, but Julia believed it served no purpose to tell him
of Lord Eaton’s attack. Roger Dunnington would have to be dealt
with in her own time.

She lowered her gaze so Rae could not
read her eyes and see she told him only a partial truth.

“I was waiting on the steps for you to
come and quite foolishly fell asleep. When time shifted, I became
trapped. All the doors on the keep’s west side have been sealed off
in the future. There was no way to escape. Even the portal to the
bedchamber has been blocked for centuries.”

“And so ye were caught in the
stairwell all the day and half the night?”

Julia lifted her hand to smooth the
frown from his brow. “I was all right, truly, my love.”

“But I wasna there tae free ye. And
there ye stayed, cold and defenseless. Wha’ if time hadna shifted
atall?”

“But it did, and I only fell asleep in
the first place because the time slips themselves are so
draining.”

Suspicion perched in his eyes.

“And because I, er, had a rather
strenuous morning.”

Rae expelled a
breat
h when she would offer no more
. “It
plagues
my soul
tha’ I canna protect ye as I wish. If Time were ours, I would take
ye tae wife and watch o’er ye every hour o’ the day.”

Julia’s heart dilated. “You would
marry me?”

“Aye, and make ye mine in every way,
if ye’d hae me.”

In every way.
His words shimmered through her, bringing a smile
to her lips and a sudden heat to her core.

“That I would,” she said
softly. “Have you, that is. And be yours in every
way
.

She started
to rise, her breasts skimming upward, along his chest. Instantly,
she stilled, breathless at the sensation that wrought.

Julia made no effort to
move, nor did he as their
eyes
locked and held. Her heart pounded solidly as Time hung
suspended,
and she lost herself in the intimacy of his
gaze.

But Time was a fickle ally, fleeting and
inconstant — leastwise for them.

Julia wished to weep and laugh all at
once. Rae would marry her honorably,
but
forces would deny them even the hope of sharing a future. She
wished to rail against the Universe. Would that she could harness
Time altogether and hold it to her will.

Julia
lifted
a hand to
Rae’s jaw as a tear slid down
her cheek.

“If Tomorrow is denied us, cannot Now
be ours?” she whispered.

“Ah,
mo cáran,
ye dinna know wha’ ye
ask.” Rae
thumbed
away her
tear. “Time will part us, surely, and I’ll no’ ruin ye for
another.”

“There will be no other,”
she
said
firmly, closing her
heart to that possibility. He started to argue her words, but she
placed her fingers to his lips.

“One night, soon perhaps, Time will
cease to shift. But this night, here, now, I would pledge you my
love and give myself to you. For if I am destined to lose you, then
at least once I would be yours, and know you as mine. Love me, Rae,
before Time robs me from your arms and separates us
forever.”

Rae gazed on Julia for
what seemed an eternity, searching for the truth past their
momentary passion
.
The blue
of his eyes darkened, and she thought to see a fissure appear in
his resolve, some decision made. He reached for her
hand and threaded his fingers through hers.

“Handfast with me,
mo cáran
, by the custom o’ the Highlands and the
law o’ Holy Church, let us speak the words.”

“The words?”

“Sacred words, vows tae bind us as we clasp
hands.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, his lips hovering above
hers. “I, Rae Mackinnon, take ye, Julia Hargrove, tae m’ betrothed
wife and thereto plight thee my troth.”

Her heart turned over, love rippling through
her. “And I, Julia Hargrove, take you, Rae Mackinnon as my
betrothed husband and pledge you my troth.”

“As the law of Haly Kirk
schawis—” Rae slipped into his Scots tongue.

“As the law of Haly . . . er, Holy . .
. Kirk, I mean, Church, schawis . . .
Schawis
?”

“Fair enough,
mo cáran
.” He flashed a smile.

At that, their mouths met in a hungry,
burning kiss, their passions too long denied. Julia wrapped her
arms about him, moving against him, and as he shifted, she felt the
undeniable proof of his desire.

Rae withdrew from her mouth to rain
kisses over her face and neck, showering them downward over her
breasts.
Julia melted beneath his seduction, relishing
the sensations he wrought as he pleasured her thoroughly. She
explored the contours of his muscled shoulders and back, desire
racing through her as he continued his sweet torture.

Again he moved downward, trailing a path of
fire over her stomach and abdomen, skimming hot kisses over her
hips and thighs. Shifting upward, Rae cherished her anew, ravishing
her senses with his lips and tongue. She prayed he’d never
cease.

As if hearing her thoughts, he reclaimed her
mouth with an elaborate kiss. Julia rose to keep pace with him,
their tongues dancing and mating in a joyous celebration of their
love.

At last he broke the kiss, drawing a breath
as he rolled her beneath him.

“D’ye trust me, love?”

“Yes,” she said breathlessly, wondering at
his question.

“‘
Twill hurt this once, but only this
once as I make ye mine.”

“I am yours already, Rae.” She brushed her
lips against his, her pulses pounding. “For now and all time.”

“For now and all time then.” Love shone in
his eyes as he drew her legs around him.

Coupling her mouth with his, he carried her
into a deep kiss then caught her cry as, in one swift movement, he
joined with her. He stilled then, allowing her a moment to recover.
When she gave him her smile, he showed her how to move with him,
gently guiding her hips. She matched his rhythm easily, a fire
kindling anew deep within her.

Their lips merged as they strove as one, and
Julia felt as though she were climbing to some unseen
precipice.

Rae’s breathing came heavier and
regular, as did hers. Then his rhythm increased, carrying her with
him on a tide of sensations and a burgeoning need she did not
understand. Higher and higher she climbed then gasped as she
spiraled upward over the top, erupting in a shuddering, pounding,
convulsive release.

Rae joined her, shouting his pleasure. Their
cries mingled as they reached the heavens in a fierce explosion and
together became one in the timeless sea of stars.

 

 

Chapter 16

 

“Ee-ee-ee-ee! She’s here! Someone,
come quickly, I’ve found her!”

Betty’s cries startled Julia awake.
She dragged open her lids in time to see the maid fly from the
room, summoning the entire castle.

The entire castle!

Julia looked to the empty space beside her,
then to the bed hangings, drawn open and blue. Time had slipped,
Rae was gone, and she . . . she was stark naked beneath the
covers!

Julia hauled herself upright in bed,
her body complaining with every movement as she made a quick search
for her gown and underclothes. They lay nowhere in sight. A sinking
feeling told her the clothes remained back in time with Rae. Bad
enough she was stranded, nude in bed, with Dunraven’s population
about to descend, but drat, she’d lost another corset!

Julia eyed the armoire, debating whether she
had time to make a dash to it and snatch something to wear. She
began to tow back the covers to make a spring, when pain darted
through her muscles.

Ah, but she was sore everywhere
imaginable. Sore in the deep muscles of her arms and legs from her
struggles with Lord Eaton. Sore and tender in more intimate places
from making love with Rae. And drained in addition, both from her
night of passion and from traveling through time itself. For all
that, she felt, at some level, invigorated — tired, smarting in
diverse places, yes, but also vitally alive.

A sudden dread seized her.
What if the
others could simply gaze on her and
tell she’d lain with a man, that she was no
longer an innocent? And here she was, delivered through time, naked
to her bed, testament to her amorous ventures of the
night.

Julia slid deep beneath the covers as
Betty’s voice grew near again, mingled with those of others. With a
groan, she pleaded with Heaven that Lord Eaton would not be among
them.

Betty arrived with Mrs. McGinty,
followed by Angus McNab and Young Tom. Lord Muir arrived moments
later along with Messrs Armistead, Thornsbury, and Sir Henry. The
servants stood aside as Lord Muir hastened directly to Julia’s
side.

“Oh, my dear, you took years off my
life. Thank God you are all right. We’ve been racked with distress.
Tom saw you enter the keep, but then none could find
you.”

Julia read the anxious concern in Lord
Muir’s eyes and presumed he’d guessed the truth of her dilemma,
that she’d been trapped in the stairwell. Young Tom, she noticed,
hung back by the chamber door and would not meet her eyes. She
wondered if he’d seen more of her return to the castle than he’d
revealed to the others. She drew her gaze back to Lord
Muir.

“I am sorry to have caused you all
such worry, though it warms me to know I was missed.”

She smiled at the dear man, aware that a few
brows lifted in the room. The thought of Roger Dunnington came
disturbingly to mind. What lies might he have spread about her?

“I went out again for a long walk and
became lost. I only found my way back a few hours ago.” At least,
Julia guessed it was that long since she had stepped back across
time.

Lord Muir’s eyes remained steady upon
her, and she saw now a troubled look touching their depths. Julia’s
pulse leapt as she realized for the first time that last night,
when she and Rae made love, never once did she consider whether
anyone else was present in the room.

Had the marquis and the other men watched,
taken notes of her activities? The thought mortified her. Yet the
look in his eyes seemed in no way censuring or accusing. What
then?

Lord Muir smiled down at her. “You
need your rest for now, Julia. Later, when you regain your
strength, perhaps you would take tea with us in the
library.”

Regain your
strength.
He knew, Julia thought, her
spirits tumbling.

As the room cleared of
visitors Angus McNab sent her a most curious look, and Mrs.
McGinty, unreadable as ever, seemed even more remote than usual,
if
that were
possible.

Betty closed the door after the
others, then hurried back to attend Julia. If she harbored any
doubts of Julia or what might have transpired within and without
Dunraven’s walls, she revealed nothing and was only
solicitous.

“You poor lamb. ‘Twas sore bitter out
last night, the wind whipping and howling. A body could die in
these mountains, fall asleep and never wake. Best we get some of
Cook’s broth into you and then I’ll draw you a long, hot
bath.”

Several hours later, revived by
Betty’s ministrations, Julia joined Lord Muir and the other three
men in the library. After Mrs. McGinty delivered tea and withdrew,
Julia provided them with an amended version of the previous time
slip — how it had occurred early, and how she’d become entrapped in
the stairwell, waiting for Rae.

“His talisman must have slipped from
my grasp when I fell asleep, which was most fortunate.”

Lord Muir nodded. “Indeed. And you say
Rae Mackinnon found you during the subsequent shift?”

The question surprised Julia. Were
these men absent from her chamber during the time slip, or had they
simply been unable to see her and Rae for some reason?

“Yes, he found me just outside his
chamber, unconscious he said. Rae, er, the laird, was quite
concerned for my wellbeing and cared for me personally.” She felt
herself flush. Now why had she said that? “Of course, he was the
only one who could. Care for me. In his own time, that is. No one
else could see me, or warm me like . . . he, er, could.”

Julia clamped her mouth
shut. Lord, but she was making matters worse by the second. Next,
she’d be confessing to a torrid night of lovemaking with Rae
Mackinnon. She certainly didn’t want
that
known or recorded in the
chronicles of the Third Laird of Dunraven Castle! Julia diverted
her thoughts to another matter, that of convincing these men to
suspend future meetings in her bedchamber.

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