"What are ye doing?" A little voice asked behind her and Angel nearly jumped out of her skin. She turned around guiltily and shook her head.
"Nothing." She said but the little cherub didn't look like she believed her. Sylvia walked to her side and poked her head around the corner to try and see what Angel had been looking at. Damian had introduced Sylvia and Maggie to her that morning at breakfast and ever since Sylvia had kept finding her whenever she was in the middle of something. She wasn't sure if Damian had put her up to it or if the little girl actually had just taken a shining to her, but it was most inconvenient. Sylvia was adorable and under different circumstances she would be delighted to play with such a cute child, but trying to find a way to escape with a little one in tow was impossible. Even if an opening presented itself, she'd never be able to take it if she had Sylvia following her.
"Is that Uncle Damian o'er there?" She asked pointing across the courtyard. Angel sighed and looked around the corner again.
"Yes it is. He's training right now, so we shouldn't disturb him. Why don't you run along to the kitchen and see if they'll give you a treat?"
Her eyes widened and she clapped her hands. "Do ye think they would?"
"A cute little girl like you? How could they refuse?" She smiled and patted the girls head. Sylvia smiled and grabbed Angel's hand.
"Come. We'll share. We can have a picnic!"
"Oh but-" It was the perfect time to escape. Angel had been observing the courtyard most of the afternoon. She saw the servants leave in groups to go about their day and then come back. They kept the same pattern. Out then in again, then back out again. Damian was preoccupied with his training and she hadn't seen his brother anywhere all morning. If she joined that group of servants about to leave the yard, she could slip out undetected. Not enough of the staff knew what she looked like yet, so now was her chance.
"Please Angel. Mama is playing with Uncle Caelan and ye said no' to bother Uncle Damian. I doona want to play all by meself." Sylvia looked so sad at the prospect and squeezed Angel's hand. Angel's heart melted. She understood better than anyone what being alone felt like. She looked at the portal again and watched as the giggling servant girls headed for it. She sighed and looked down a Sylvia.
"Alright, let's see if the kitchen will prepare us a picnic."
Angel squeezed Sylvia's hand and smiled. "Truly." As much as she longed to leave this place, she could not just abandon this child. She knew what it felt like to crave attention of the people around her. And although Sylvia was certainly not starved for affection, her mother and family doted on her like a little princess, the sad, heartbroken look she'd had on her face a moment ago prevented Angel from denying her anything. She could not be the one to make any child feel the way she had growing up. She stood up and pointed off toward the kitchen.
"I'm sure they'll prepare us a lunch if we tell them we wish to have a picnic in the yard."
"Can we get a big blanket to sit on?" Sylvia asked excitedly.
"Of course, no picnic is complete without a blanket."
Angel and Sylvia walked hand and hand to the kitchen until they reached the door. Then Sylvia dropped her hand and ran inside the doors to tug on one of the woman's skirts.
"Egg-scuse-me Miss, we wanna have a picnic please." Sylvia told the woman. The woman wiped her hands on her apron and smiled down at the excited child.
"A picnic? How exciting. So I suppose ye'll be needing," she leaned over to one of the bottom cabinets and pulled out a blanket. "one o' these, Aye?"
"Aye!" Sylvia said excitedly and grabbed the blanket that she put into her waiting arms.
"I'll get yer basket filled to the brim with goodies. Yer truly Lady Maggie's child. Ye are jest so cute. I remember when yer mama was yer age."
"Nay!" Sylvia said and the woman nodded.
"Tis the truth. Ye look jest as she did."
"It seems that every one in the family all have strong resemblances to one another." Angel noted and the woman seemed to just notice she was there. She looked up and smiled.
"Aye, ye speak the truth. Are ye going on the picnic with her then?"
"Yes, if it's not too much trouble."
The woman waved away her concern and began adding some fruit to the basket. "No' trouble mistress. How are ye liking the place? Are ye adjusting well?"
Angel fidgeted guiltily, everyone she'd spoken too was very nice to her and they were trying to be welcoming. She felt ungrateful for trying to leave, but she hadn't really asked for any of this. It's not that she disliked this place. It was actually quite beautiful. The land was extensive, well, what she'd seen from her window seemed enormous, and the grounds were kept nicely. There were gardens and fields and a forest all surrounding them.
"It's a very beautiful place. Thank you."
Another woman who had been silent during their conversation looked up from the stove. "Is Lady Maggie joining yer picnic?"
"Mama is busy. Me and Angel are having a picnic." Sylvia said and held the blanket out for Angel to see. "See? She gave us a blanket!"
"I see. Do you want to hold it? Or shall I take it?"
"I can do it!"
"So, 'tis jest the two of ye? Does the Laird ken?" The younger woman asked suspiciously. Angel blinked and shook her head.
"The Laird? Who is that?"
The woman looked at Angel with such distain that Angel actually took a step back. What had she done to warrant such a look? "So ye are newly wed to our laird and yet ye doona even ken his title? Ye fight with him and sneak out with our Lady's daughter without a word to anyone?"
That explained it then. Laird must be what they called Damian. This woman must have been around when she and Damian had been arguing this morning over breakfast. He'd been adamant that she stay inside the keep for the day and rest from their journey and she had been just as adamant that she wanted to stretch her legs. He obviously didn't trust her on her own, but that hadn't really mattered since Sylvia had been attached to her hip almost since breakfast.
The older woman who had given Sylvia the blanket slammed the cabinet shut and shook a gnarled finger at the younger girl. "Agnes, I no' have any trouble from ye today. Aye? And ye can stop calling him the Laird. His Da isna dead yet, nor has he relinquished his title."
"Twas only saying-"
"I ken what ye were saying and I'll nay have it. Why doona ye get outside and fetch some eggs so we can get supper going?"
The girl, Agnes, looked shocked. "I doona retrieve eggs-"
"Ye do today. Now get." The old woman waved her away and Agnes scowled at Angel before she turned on her heel and stormed out the door.
"Insolent girl," She muttered before she turned back to Angel. "Doona worry yerself lass, Agnes is a lot of bluster, but she's mostly harmless."
"Thank you…" Angel realized she didn't know the older woman's name. The woman smiled and bowed her head.
"Wynne, Mistress." She offered and continued packing their lunch.
"Well thank you Wynne. For defending me."
"Is the picnic almost ready? I want to go!" Sylvia asked hopping from one foot to the other. She'd grown bored of the grownups talking.
"Aye lassie, aye." Wynne closed the basket and handed it to Angel.
"Doona listen to Agnes, and doona let it get to ye. She's simply jealous that the young lord finally took a wife, so she'll nay be able to shamelessly flirt with him any longer."
Angel took the basket and felt Sylvia pull on her skirts but before she left, she had one more question. "What is a Laird?"
"He's the one in charge of this keep. He's Damian's Da and has no intention o' stepping down from his position until he is firmly in the ground. One day Damian will inherit the title, but no' fer a good while god willing. Now off with ye. Have that picnic and enjoy the afternoon."
Wynne shooed them from the kitchen, so Angel took Sylvia's hand and headed out the back door. The sun was glowing brightly and she had to shield her eyes from the glare. It really was a gorgeous day to be outside. Sylvia ran ahead of her and pointed to a shady place just outside the fence. She looked around and no one seemed to be paying them much attention. She supposed it wouldn't make a difference if they went out to the field or stayed in the courtyard. And in the field they'd be less likely to be underfoot of the men training.
"Hey! Wait for me!" Angel suddenly yelled when she turned around and Sylvia had taken off across the yard and out the fence. Angel picked up her skirt and chased the little terror. How she managed to run that fast carrying a big blanket like that Angel would never figure out.
She ran out the fence only earning a few strange looks for her trouble. She could see Sylvia run ahead of her but she was getting further away. She had passed the spot she originally pointed to. Angel ran as fast as she could, but didn't catch her in time. The blanket began slipping from Sylvia's grasp and the little girl tripped on it and went flying across the grass. Angel's heart was in her throat, what if she was seriously hurt? She finally caught up with her and immediately dropped to her knees and began untangling Sylvia from the blanket.
"Are you hurt? Sylvia?" Angel asked unable to keep the panic from her voice. But when she finally got the blanket off her head she heard giggling.
"That was fun!" Sylvia declared and Angel let out the breath she had been holding. She was alright.
"That was certainly not fun! Do not run away from me like that again. You scared me to death."
Sylvia squirmed in the blanket. "Are ye mad at me?"
Angel shook her head, took a deep breath and forced herself to smile. "No, I'm not mad. You just gave me a fright is all. I was worried something would happen to you."
"I'm sorry." Sylvia said but it came out more like "sowry".
"It's alright. I think here is a very nice spot for a picnic, don't you think?" Angel asked but Sylvia shook her head. She pointed to a few feet in front of them where a big tree sat nice to a lake. Angel hadn't even noticed they were there. She'd been so focused on catching Sylvia she hadn't even taken in her surroundings.
"There Angel. Please." She asked hopefully and Angel nodded.
"Alright, it does seem to be perfect." Angel untangled Sylvia from the blanket and placed her on her feet. "I'll take care of this, so you can go ahead, but make sure you stay where I can see you."
"Aye!" Sylvia said excitedly and took off for the lake. Angel watched her go and felt a tingle run through her. Soon it would be her child she would have picnics with. Her child who would make her worry when they vanished from sight. Angel bent down and gathered the blanket in her arms and grabbed the picnic basket back up again.
"I doona believe this!"
The yell made Angel stiffed for a moment before she remembered that she wasn't doing anything wrong. She continued toward the lake and pretended like she hadn't heard him.
There was no ignoring that. Damian was positively furious; she could hear it in his voice. She turned around and squeaked when she came face to face with Damian. He grabbed her upper arms to keep her from retreating and crowded her.
"I kenned I shouldna have listened to me sister. 'She'll be fine' she said. The moment I turn me back ye try and run again. How far did ye really expect to get in the middle of the day? And ye were nay stealthy. I saw ye run out the gate. I doona miss anything."
Angel looked over her shoulder and smirked. "You did miss one thing. Did you happen to see why I was running?"
"Ye were trying to escape. Again."
"Actually, I was chasing your niece."
"Me niece?" Damian asked and Angel gestured behind her. Sylvia apparently saw them because she started waving.
"Uncle Damian! Did ye come to join our picnic?"
Damian looked stunned. He blinked a couple times like he couldn't believe his eyes before he turned his gaze back to Angel. "So ye werna trying to escape?"
The hands on her shoulders slid down to her wrists and rubbed gently. "Ye were truly no' trying to escape?"
"I came out her to have a picnic with Sylvia."
"I'm sorry I doubted ye." Damian said dipping his head to kiss her palm. Angel swallowed the lump in her throat but was saved having to respond when Sylvia came in between them to tug on Damian's kilt.
"Uncle join us!" Sylvia invited happily.
"Oh sweet, I'm sure Uncle Damian has to go back to work." She said hopefully, really a whole afternoon in his company? Could she handle that? Could they be together without fighting, or giving in to these strange feelings?
"I can take off fer a bit. Me men ken how to train without me."
Sylvia gestured back to the lake and tugged again. "I wanna swim!"
Damian bent down and cupped the child's face smiling. "Do ye ken how to swim? Did yer Da teach ye?"
"Nay. He says I'm still too little." She said kicking her feet.
"Nonsense. Yer nay too young to learn. But perhaps I should leave the teaching to yer Da. I'd no' wanna miss me daughters first swim. Tell ye what, how about we have lunch and then we can swim together in the shallow water?"
Sylvia squealed in delight and clapped her hands. Damian stood up and smirked at Angel. She could tell that he knew she didn't want his company. But he'd used Sylvia's excitement to make sure he was staying. There was no way to get rid of him now without hurting Sylvia's feelings. Angel rolled her eyes and headed toward the tree. She put the basket down and started to shake out the blanket.
She finally got it all straight and slipped her shoes off before she took a seat under the tree. She leaned her back against the tree and sighed in pleasure. It felt nice to relax outside; it had been so long since she had been outside for a picnic. Sylvia looked at Angel's shoes before she kicked hers off to and crawled into Angel's lap. Damian began to sit down when Sylvia held up her little hands, making him freeze half bent.
"Wait! Shoes!" She said and Angel covered a giggle. She'd taken her shoes off because they were pinching her toes; she hadn't meant to make everyone else take their shoes off. Damian laughed while he slipped his boots off, then sat down across from them on the blanket. He reached over and started ruffling through the basket before he pulled out a pastry.
"Oooh, looks like Wynne packed us a feast." He commented before she shoved the treat into his mouth.
"Damian, don't you think we should have some meat and cheese first? Before we have dessert?" She said pointing to Sylvia discreetly.
"Tis a picnic, rules are different. Besides, I'm her Uncle. I'm supposed to spoil her." He said handing her a pastry. Sylvia took it gladly and took a big bite, grinning with the food in her mouth.
Angel looked at Sylvia smile and couldn't help but grin. "Alright, but just one. Then we have to have a real lunch."
They each had one pastry, then true to her rule; Damian started giving them fruit and meat to eat. Angel was able to eat quite a bit more than she was used to. She didn't know if that meant that her stomach illness was going away or if she was having a good day, but she was grateful. She'd forgotten how good some food tasted. While they ate they talked about all sorts of things, mostly Sylvia's father, and unicorns, but Angel was really enjoying herself. She and Damian were actually getting along and hadn't quarreled once.
Sylvia finished chewing her last bite and tilted her head to look at Angel. "Angel, are ye married to me Uncle Damian?"
Angel's eyes widened as she tried to think of what to say. She didn't know how to answer that. Damian didn't seem to have the same problem. He answered for her.
"Yes she is."
Sylvia dropped her head back down to look at Damian. "So are we related too?"
Damian smiled widely and looked up into Angel's face. "Why yes sweet, Angel is your Aunt."
"Yes, Auntie Angel." He grinned and she could have killed him. He was enjoying this much more than he should be.
"Can we go swimming now?" Sylvia asked but Damian laid down on his side with his head in his palm.
"Ach, I'm old child. Why doona ye play fer a few moments while I finish digesting, then we can swim together."
Sylvia nodded and ran off into the field and started doing tumbles. Angel watched for a few seconds before she turned to Damian. "Why would you tell her that? How is she going to feel next time she comes to visit and I'm not around?"
"She has to call ye something, and as far as my keep is concerned we're married. So ye would be her Auntie." He said closing his eyes like he was going to take a nap. Angel nudged him with her foot.
"This will be easier down the road. Me sister and Sylvia are staying fer a few months, so when the bairn starts to grow, Sylvia is bound to notice. Did ye want to be the one to explain that ye doona have to be married to have a bairn?"
Angel supposed he was right. She didn't want to have that talk with Sylvia, and this would just make it easier for her to understand. A mommy and a daddy made a baby. She placed one hand on her stomach.
"Alright, but you know I'm only going along with this for Sylvia's sake. I told you already that this is Steven's baby."
Damian acknowledged her confession with all the response he though she deserved, a grunt; he didn't even open his eyes. Angel took the time to look at him. He looked so much different in his own element. He'd stopped wearing britches and had changed into a kilt like the rest of the men in his clan. When she had asked, he'd explained that while he was in London he'd worn the britches to fit in, so he could work silently.
But honestly, Angel preferred him in his kilt. It just seemed to fit him better. He was every inch a highlander. His hair fell over his face as his breaths moved the hair back and forth. It was shorter than his brothers, certainly, but it was just enough that a woman could run her fingers through it. Angel felt the blush stain her cheeks. Not that she wanted to be that woman. Not at all. She wretched her gaze away from him and started watching Sylvia play in the field. But Angel's gaze kept flitting back to Damian.
Who was she kidding? Damian was a gorgeous man. He was strong, and hansom, she'd have to be raving mad not to be tempted. Oh, and wasn't he a temptation? The way he always asked after her well being made her feel protected and the way he acted with Sylvia melted her heart.
Sylvia ran up to them and threw herself onto her snoozing Uncle, startling him awake. She put her little hands on his chest and smiled down at him. "Can we go swimming now?"
Damian looked at Angel incredibly and she just smiled. "I suppose you should take her swimming now."
Sylvia looked over at her and nodded. "Ye have to swim too Auntie!"
"Well alright, but we didn't bring a change of clothes so we can't get too wet." Angel lifted her foot and began removing her stockings. She would certainly get wet, with a child that was inevitable. But she could save a few things. When her stockings were done with she stood up and lifted her skirt to tie it in the back so she could walk into the lake without fear of her dress getting wet. Sylvia ripped her stockings off and grabbed Angel's hand and began pulling her to the lake.
Angel looked back at Damian and held her hand out to him, offering him a hand up so he could join them. His gaze started at her naked legs before he skimmed up her body to her face. She blushed and dropped her hand. Let him get up himself then.
She led Sylvia to the water and dipped her foot in cautiously. It felt wonderful. It wasn't too cold, but it wasn't that warm. She walked in and let the water surround her feet all the way up to her mid calves. Sylvia ran in beside her and started splashing. Angel laughed and bent down to splash her back. The child giggled before her eyes got wide and she pointed over Angel's shoulder. Angel didn't even hesitate, she swirled around and splashed Damian just as he was about to splash her. She caught him first and he got a face full of water. Angel laughed and covered her face as he retaliated. She was certainly soaked already. That hadn't taken very long.
Angel held up her hand and yelled, "Truce, Truce! I got water in my eye."
"Are ye alright?" Damian stopped splashing her and stood up. Angel smiled; put both hands on his chest and shoved him into the lake. He fell ungracefully onto his rear and made a big splash. Sylvia was holding her sides and giggling like a fiend.
Angel put her hands on her hips, "Serves you right for soaking my dress." She laughed but her victory was short lived. Damian jumped up out of the water and grabbed her around the waist.
"Don't do it!" Angel warned, but Damian didn't listen, he walked into the lake until he was up to his chest in water and dropped her. Angel came up gasping for breath and laughing. She was having so much fun. Sylvia jumped up and down.
"Me next! Carry me Uncle Damian! I wanna go in the big water."
Damian grinned and started walking toward his niece. "Alright, but only if ye stay in me arms. Ye canna swim so I canna let ye go. But we can go deeper together." He scooped her into his arms and walked her back out to where Angel had pushed to her feet. Damian lifted Sylvia into the air and pretended like he was going to drop her in the water, but held on as her feet submerged. Sylvia giggled and kicked her feet to splash Angel. Angel gasped before she returned fire, splashing a little, just enough to get her feet and tummy wet.
They played in the water for a while before they all tired out. Well before Angel and Damian tired out. Sylvia was still standing in the shallow waters examining the rocks she found in the sand. Angel and Damian were sitting on the grass just out of the water watching her.
"I don't remember the last time I had so much fun." Angel said and Damian nodded his agreement.
"Me too." He looked over at her and pushed a strand of hair over her shoulder. "Ye should wear it down all the time. It looks verra nice unbound."
"Really? My mother said men prefer it piled on top of my head. She said it looked better that way."
He continued running his fingers over her hair and smiled. "No' offense to yer mother, but it is much more attractive to see yer hair frame yer beautiful face." He leaned closer to her and Angel held her breath, was he going to kiss her? He stopped just before her reached her lips and pulled back. He held up a leaf between his fingers and smiled sheepishly before he threw it away. Angel let out the breath she'd been holding. She had really been expecting Damian to kiss her. She mentally smacked herself. She should be relieved that he hadn't kissed her.
Damian cupped her chin and looked at her, the heat in his gaze unmistakable. "Now, when ye look so disappointed how do ye expect me to hold back?"
Damian cut off her protests with his kiss. He pressed his lips to hers and stole the breath from her body. She leaned up into his touch, unable to do otherwise and put her hands on his shoulders. His bare shoulders. She gasped as she remembered that he was naked from the waist up. When they'd gotten out of the lake, he'd taken off his tunic and spread it out to dry. She felt herself blush even though she knew she shouldn't. She had seen him naked; she could handle his exposed chest. She curled her fingers around his shoulders and held on. He was solid and he kept her grounded when she felt like she might float away.
He nipped at her lips, asking for entrance and she surrendered happily. The things he made her feel were incredible. She was inexperienced and didn't know exactly what to do, but she knew that she liked following his lead.
"There ye are Sylvia. We were beginning to worry." Maggie said from behind them and Angel jumped about a foot away from Damian. She blushed at being caught and turned away from them so she could compose herself.
"I figured she was with ye. Now I feel silly fer RUSHING over here to make sure ye were alright."
Angel heard a thunk and looked in time to see Damian rub the back of his head and Maggie wipe her hand on her skirt. Had she just hit him? "I'm sorry Maggie; I should have told you I had her. I didn't mean to make you worry."
"Oh no, I don't blame you. I try to give me daughter a certain degree of SPACE, but I doona do it that well yet."
Why was she talking like that? She was putting more emphasis on certain words than others. She stopped looking at Damian and shifted her gaze to her daughter. A laugh escaped and she covered her mouth.
"So I see ye went swimming. Did ye have fun?" She asked Sylvia who nodded her head and ran into her mother's arms. Maggie didn't even hesitate and lifted the child into her embrace. That was true love, she didn't care that Sylvia was soaking wet and covered in mud and that now she would be too. She just scooped her baby into her arms without question. That was the type of mother Angel wanted to be. Maggie wiggled her fingers at Angel. "Come along. I've finally been able to track down our sister Claire so ye can be introduced."
Angel lifted herself off the ground and started toward the picnic to clean up when Maggie grabbed her hand and began pulling.
"Nay, let Damian take care of it. He could use SOME TIME by himself." Maggie exaggerated those random words again and was she glaring at Damian as they walked past?
Angel shrugged at Damian and let Maggie pull her along. Stubbornness most certainly ran in the family. Maggie was not going to let her argue. "We'll get ye both cleaned up and then have a girl's night in the library. Did ye hear that Damian? If yer no' a girl stay out." She said over her shoulder and Damian waved.
"Aye so shall I send Caelan along when I find him then?" He asked and Angel laughed. Damian looked surprised that she'd found him funny and grinned at her. Maggie saw her smiling at him and pulled her along again.
"Nay doona speak to him. He's THICK HEADED and dosna deserve yer affection." Maggie continued pulling her until they reached the gate then broke out into a huge smile. "I love teasing me brothers. They are so easy to rile. Now come, we really will have a fun night ahead of us."
Angel took one last look behind them but Damian was still back packing up their lunch. She shook her head and looked at Maggie. "I'm looking forward to it."
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. I honestly had no idea this was going to happen, so I'm with you guys on this adventure. I never know what they're going to do. Once again Thanks for reading, reviewing, favoriting and following. I really don't deserve you.