Devil of the Highlands Chapter Twelve

"Yer plan is working like a charm."

Evelinde smiled at that gleeful greeting from Biddy as she entered the kitchen and paused to peer toward where Fergus and another man were carrying in large cloth bags of vegetables that were to be prepared for the evening meal.

"Good," she said with a pleased sigh. It was her first success at Donnachaidh, but Evelinde sincerely hoped not her last.

"In fact, I've more help than I can use at times," Biddy added wryly, her lips curving into a smile when Fergus grinned around the pasty in his mouth as he passed.

Evelinde peered after the man curiously. It wasn't the first time she'd seen him smile, but she'd come to realize he only seemed to do it around Biddy. The rest of the time he was as grim-faced as Cullen normally was.

Dragging her attention back to what Biddy had said, Evelinde suggested, "If you've more help than you need, then only make the pasties every other day. Or perhaps only when you think you'll need the help."

"Aye. I'll do that," Biddy decided, and shook her head. "I should have thought to use bribery years ago. 'Twould have eased our burden mightily these years." She peered at Evelinde solemnly. "Yer a clever, lass."

Evelinde flushed at the compliment. " 'Tisn't bribery. 'Tis a bit of sweet to tempt them is all."

Biddy chuckled at her discomfort, and said, " 'Tis bribery, and it works, and no one is hurt by it, so…" She shrugged, then asked, "Were ye lookin' to break yer fast? I've made a fresh batch of pasties."

"Aye, but I'll settle for an apple if we have any," Evelinde said, not wishing to take any of the valuable bargaining chits thus forcing the woman to make more.

"Ye'll take a pasty and enjoy it," Biddy responded at once, shuffling off to get her one. She collected a mug of mead and the originally requested apple for her, too, and returned. "Now take them out and settle yerself at the table while ye eat. Ye've been busy all week and need to look after yerself."

Evelinde murmured her thanks and left the kitchen with her treasure, feeling a little guilty anyway. She hadn't truly been busy this last week since her near fall down the stairs. She had simply taken on her duties as castellan.

Her gaze slid over the great hall as she crossed to the table, and a sense of pride slid through Evelinde as she took in the changes wrought. The barren walls had been freshly whitewashed and now sported her beloved tapestries, the chairs by the fire bore the cushions she and her mother had embroidered, and the floor was covered with fresh rushes. It looked much brighter and welcoming, she thought, and only wished her husband had troubled himself to notice, but he had been terribly distracted of late.

Evelinde snorted at her own thoughts. Her husband had been much more than distracted lately, he had—

"Is that one of Biddy's pasties?"

Distracted from her depressing thoughts, Evelinde glanced at Gillie with surprise as she found him suddenly at her side, escorting her to the table. He and Rory seemed always to be underfoot over the past week, she'd noticed, and was beginning to find it a bit wearying.

"Aye," Evelinde said as she settled at the table, then suggested, "Why do you not go see if Biddy needs anything done? She may give you a pasty if you assist her."

The man glanced longingly toward the kitchen, then shook his head and settled on the bench beside her. "Nay. I am not hungry. I shall just sit and keep you company."

Evelinde managed not to grimace as she concentrated on tearing her pasty in half. Where before it had been hard to find a man anywhere near the keep during the day while the women worked, now there seemed always to be at least two there. Fergus was forever finding some excuse or other to visit the kitchens, though, Evelinde was used to that. He had done that from the start, and she suspected the man had feelings for Biddy. However, Cullen had also taken to popping into the keep several times a day, which would have been nice had he been there to see her, but he never said a word to her. And then there were Rory and Gillie. Now that they'd returned from escorting the wagon, the two men appeared always to be in the great hall, and they were not just passing through, but always underfoot. Evelinde wouldn't have minded so much except that they seemed always to be nearby, staring at her. She had no idea why they did but wished they wouldn't; it was making her daft.

Deciding she might as well take advantage of his presence, she asked, "Gillie, were you here when Darach died?"

"Aye, but I was only four. I doona even remember the man," he said, his eyes longing as he watched her take a bite of pasty.

Evelinde swallowed the food in her mouth along with a lump of disappointment, but asked, "Then you would have been fourteen when Liam died?"

"Aye. But I was visiting me mother's family at the time," he said distractedly, then licked his lips as he watched her take another bite. "I'm bound that's a tasty bit."

She ignored the question, and asked impatiently, "Well, surely you were here when Maggie died?"

Gillie started to nod, then shook his head. "Nay. I was out hunting with Rory."

Evelinde clucked with exasperation that, yet again, she would not find any answers. Everyone she had asked thus far had either been elsewhere at the time or evaded her questions. Shaking her head, Evelinde decided she might as well continue with her duties as castellan and stood as she popped the last of the pasty into her mouth.

"Where are you going?" Gillie asked, immediately on his feet.

She raised her eyebrows at the question but swallowed the last of the sweet, and admitted, "I thought to go take a look at the solar and see how much work it needs doing to make it habitable again."

"Oh." Gillie hesitated, his gaze sliding from her to the door to the kitchens. "Well perhaps I will nip into the kitchen then and just see if I cannot beg a pasty from Biddy."

Evelinde raised her eyebrows but merely headed for the stairs. She glanced back twice as she mounted the steps to the second floor, both times finding Gillie still standing by the table watching. She was actually to the door of the solar before she heard the squeak of the kitchen door opening and paused. Evelinde waited a heartbeat, then retraced her steps, a relieved sigh slipping from her lips when she saw that the great hall was empty. Gillie had obviously gone into the kitchens.

She immediately picked up her skirts and rushed back downstairs. If she was quick, she might slip out before he returned, Evelinde thought hopefully, casting anxious glances toward the kitchen door as she rushed across the great hall. She wouldn't have dared try to leave while Gillie or anyone else was around, for fear they'd report her to Cullen. He'd surely be upset to know she was leaving the keep. It was against his express orders. Her husband had made it plain she was to stay within. Evelinde had no idea why he insisted on it, perhaps he feared her visiting the paddock again, but she was growing heartily sick of being inside all the time. Surely a quick nip down to the stables to visit Lady wouldn't hurt. At least, it wouldn't if she wasn't caught, Evelinde thought wryly as she slipped through the double doors and out onto the steps.

The bailey was nearly empty at that hour, the men all busy with her husband practicing at battle. Evelinde managed to make it all the way to the stables without running across anyone she feared might carry tales to Cullen of her being out and about.

Slipping into the cool, dim stables, she peered about, relieved to find it empty as well. Relaxing a little then, Evelinde retrieved the apple from her pocket and made her way to her mare's stall.

Lady was happy to see her. It just made Evelinde feel guilty for the time that had lapsed since their last ride. No doubt the mare was as bored as she was, she thought unhappily, and considered taking her out for a quick ride.

"Does yer husband ken ye be out here?"

Evelinde jumped guiltily and turned to face Mac as he moved up the aisle toward her, leading a dappled mount.

"I just wished to look in on Lady," Evelinde said, watching him lead the horse into a nearby stall and set about unsaddling him.

"Last I heard ye werena to leave the keep."

Evelinde made a face as she moved out of Lady's stall and walked over to lean against the door of the one he worked in. "Who told you that?"

"Yer husband," he said dryly.

"Oh," she muttered with a little sigh. "Well, I am tired of sitting in the keep. I have been stuck inside for more than a week."

Evelinde didn't need the look Mac turned her way to know how petulant she sounded at that moment. But all he said as he set the saddle aside was, "I'm sure ye can find enough that needs doing inside to fill your time."

"Aye," Evelinde admitted. "But 'tis nice to get out, too."

"How did ye slip yer guards?" Mac asked, taking a brush to the horse. Spotting her confusion, he said, "Gillie and Rory. Cullen set the two lads to watch ye."

"What?" she asked indignantly. "I do not need watching."

"Oh, aye. Ye'd never get yerself into trouble." Mac snorted, then asked meaningfully, "How are yer bruises from yer last accident, yer fall down the stairs?"

"I didn't fall down the stairs," Evelinde said with an impatient cluck, then added, "At least not far. I caught the railing and saved myself. My arm was sore for a few days, but that is all. Besides, that was not my fault. I tripped over something… Not that anyone believes me. Everyone appears to think I am just clumsy," she added bitterly.

"Yer husband believes ye," Mac announced.

"He does?" Evelinde asked eagerly.

"Aye. 'Tis why he has guards on ye. Because he thinks someone put something there for ye to trip on, then took it away while everyone was fussing over ye."

Evelinde's eyes widened at the suggestion, and despite having wondered about that herself this last week, asked, "Why would anyone do something like that?"

Mac shrugged, not even looking away from the horse he was tending. "Why would anyone kill his first wife? Or his father? Or his uncle? Cullen's trying to find out."

Evelinde peered at the old man more closely. "He has been talking to you."


A growl of exasperation slipped from her lips. "I wish he would talk more to me. I am his wife."

"Truth to tell, I doona think he talks much to anyone," Mac commented. "He gives his men orders and such, but—" He shrugged.

Evelinde peered at the man. She already knew from Biddy that he was right, but was more interested in the stable master's willingness to talk to Cullen. Mac understood people as well as he did horses. He said 'twas why he preferred the animals; he didn't think much of people in general. She and Mildrede were the only people he'd bothered with at d'Aumesbery, but now it seemed he'd included Cullen in that small circle.

Evelinde found it reassuring to know he thought Cullen deserving of his time, it said he thought well of her husband. But she was also jealous that her husband would talk to Mac and yet did not speak to her.

"He doesna ken who to trust here," Mac volunteered. "I am an outsider and have not been involved in the matters presently plaguing him. He values yer opinion in trusting me and so came to me to talk after yer fall down the stairs."

Evelinde's eyebrows rose. Cullen valued her opinion in trusting Mac? That was encouraging. At least she thought it might be. "Why does he trust no one here? Is it because of the deaths and rumors?"

"Aye. He doesna ken what is what. He thought the deaths of his father and uncle were accidents, but when little Maggie died in the same spot as his father, he suspected foul play. He isna sure if all three were murder, or just hers. And then there are the rumors. He had too many say to his face that they knew he had nothing to do with the deaths, only later to overhear them tell another that 'Aye, he was behind it for certain.'" Mac shrugged. "He has not known who to trust and has been forced to keep his own counsel."

Evelinde bit her lip at this news. It seemed a horrible way to live, surrounded by people who thought you a killer but said one thing to your face while saying another behind your back. And they were his own people. Even worse, as laird, he was the one responsible for their well-being and safety. It said much for him that he did not shirk that duty or use his position to avenge himself for their shabby treatment.

"I still do not understand why he will talk to you and yet does not see fit to talk to me," she said now, pushing those thoughts away. "I was not here then either."

"Some men do not speak much," he said, turning back to his horse. "Yer husband has been forced to be one of those men since the trouble here. But he does talk, and if he isna talking to ye, then 'tis probably because he fears revealing something he is not ready fer ye to ken."

Evelinde was puzzling over what that could be when he added, "But he follows ye everywhere with his eyes, and constantly finds excuses to go into the keep during the day to be near ye, and his worry over ye and anger about these accidents is excessive, at least the anger is. It suggests deep feelings."

She was silent for a moment. The week since her near fall down the stairs had been rather trying for Evelinde. She'd found herself with a husband who had suddenly turned cold and angry. He had not touched her since the incident and had been short and easily provoked. Between that and the fact that he never spoke a word to her, she'd thought he was angry with her for what she feared he saw as her clumsiness. Learning that he was not angry at her but angry about the possibility that she'd been attacked was rather reassuring, Evelinde thought, then realized what Mac had said.

"He thinks that other incidents besides the one on the stairs may have been attacks?" She had come to that conclusion herself, but was almost afraid to hope her husband might agree. It meant he might not see her as a completely clumsy fool.

"Aye. He suspects the bull being loosed in the paddock was deliberate, too," Mac said. "Hamish has managed that barn for many years. Not once in that time has anyone but he let Angus out… until the day ye were in the paddock. And then there is the arrow while ye were in the tree in the woods. The laird suspects someone was following ye through the woods, and the arrow was shot at ye while ye were climbing."

Evelinde sagged against the stall door. "Why has he said none of this to me?"

"More importantly, why would anyone want ye dead," Mac said dryly. "Cullen and I have tried to sort that out. But 'tis most difficult. The problem is that if someone is trying to kill ye, 'tis probably tangled up in the other deaths, but 'tis hard to sort out who would have committed all three murders because we cannot find a common motive. If the uncle's death was murder, the most likely culprit would have been Cullen's father, Liam. He was the only one to gain from it. He became laird," Mac pointed out.

Evelinde's eyes widened at the suggestion.

"But, then, if Liam's death was murder, and 'twas the same murderer, then Cullen is the most likely suspect since the death of both men saw him become laird."

She stiffened then, but Mac was already continuing, "But it isna him."

The conviction in his voice made Evelinde curious. "How can you be sure?"

"Cullen's spoken of his father to me, and I can hear the affection and respect in his voice. He'd no have killed his father to gain a title. But, even if he hadn't felt so about Liam, he wouldna," Mac said solemnly, then admitted, "I listened to his men speak on the way here, and have watched him since arriving and—" Mac turned to her, letting her see his very serious and certain expression as he said, "The boy is one of the most honorable men I've ever met."

Evelinde nodded slowly, she had already begun to see that herself and to appreciate his thoughtful and kind ways… despite his frustrating silences.

Mac turned back to the horse, before adding, "It takes a strong man no to take advantage of his position to punish those who have wronged him, but Cullen has done nothing to gain retribution for the rumors and whispers. And then there is how he has treated you."

He paused again to glance at her. "Cullen recognized what Edda was right away, ye ken. Despite having traveled and camped out for five days to reach d'Aumesbery—he didna take the opportunity to rest there a day or two ere returning. He headed straight out with ye, riding night and day so ye'd no have to endure her abuse a minute more than ye had to."

Evelinde's eyes widened incredulously. "That is why we left right after the wedding?"


"I wish he had told me so," she said with frustration. Truly, it was such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do. The man had ridden himself to near exhaustion just to prevent her having to bear any more insults from her stepmother, and she hadn't even known.

"He isna the sort to flaunt his good actions," Mac said with a shrug. "The point is, I am sure Cullen isna the one behind his father's death. So, while he is the only one we can tell gained anything from it, someone else must have gained something, too." He was silent for a moment, then added, "Without Maggie's death, I would consider Tavis a likely suspect. He may have hoped to gain the title of laird for which he had been passed over."

"But he was just a boy when Darach died," Evelinde protested.

"Aye, but that one may truly have been an accident," he pointed out. "If it was, Tavis may harbor a secret bitterness that he did not become the laird on Darach's death, the title going to Liam, then on to Cullen when Liam died."

Evelinde's eyebrows rose slightly. She hadn't considered this.

"However," Mac went on. "Did Tavis want the title, it should have been Cullen killed, not little Maggie, and as far as we can tell, no one at all gained from her death." He shook his head. "Hers is the one that really suggests the other two werena accidents e'en though hers is inexplicable. And then there are these attacks on you. No one would gain from yer death either."

Evelinde bit her lip and then admitted, "Biddy thinks little Maggie was killed because she was asking questions about the other deaths. She thought little Maggie was trying to gain Cullen's love by clearing his name."

Mac stopped working and turned to glance at her in surprise. "Was she now?"

"Aye," she said, then shifted uncomfortably under the sudden narrowing of his eyes.

"Ye wouldna be doing the same, would ye, lass?"

Evelinde avoided his gaze. "Doing the same what?"

"Ye've been asking about the deaths," he accused with certainty in his voice.

"I have," she admitted reluctantly. "Not that I've learned anything."

She could see the conflict on his face as he stared at her and knew he was torn between giving her hell and asking her something. In the end, he asked, "Who did ye ask questions of? Was Tavis one of them?"

"Nay. He was not here at the time. I asked Biddy, and several of the other maids in the keep. I talked to Scatchy, too, and Fergus and Gillie."

Mac frowned. "And yet none of the accidents occurred until after Tavis returned from escorting yer wagon, Mildrede, and me here."

"Nay," she agreed.

"One of them could have mentioned it to Tavis," Mac said with a frown.

"You think 'tis Tavis, then?" Evelinde asked with interest.

Mac's expression was conflicted, then he admitted, "Me instincts tell me no. He seems a lighthearted sort, more interested in women than the responsibility of laird, but…" He shook his head. "If the motive is to gain the title of laird, then he is the most likely suspect besides Cullen."

"Should he not then be trying to kill Cullen?" Evelinde asked slowly.

"Aye, and mayhap he will, 'tis hard to say when we are unsure of the reason for any of the murders," Mac said slowly as he shook his head. "If all three were murdered, this killer is not just clever enough to escape discovery but almost frighteningly patient. There were ten years between the uncle and Cullen's father, then four between that and little Maggie's death."

"And now two between her death and these accidents," Evelinde muttered, then fretted, "Cullen was nearly injured when he tried to save me from the bull. He could easily have died that day. If Angus was deliberately loosed, whoever did it may have realized Cullen was nearby and would try to save me."

"That is a lot of hope on the killer's part," Mac pointed out. "Besides, he was not the target when you fell on the stairs."

"Mayhap," Evelinde said quietly, then pointed out, "but he left the room just ere me to go below that day. He may have been the target then and, with his long strides, simply missed whatever it was I later tripped over."

Mac frowned, and asked, "He wasna there when the arrow was loosed though, was he?"

"Nay, but as Cullen said that day, the arrow may have been in that tree for years. It may simply have been something else I heard," she pointed out.

"That is the trouble here," Mac said with disgust. "We are not sure what are accidents and what are not. Everything is so uncertain. We may be imagining murderers where there are none. 'Tis no wonder it has remained a mystery all this time."

"Aye." Evelinde sighed. She didn't know what to think about anything now.

"Ye never did say how ye managed to slip free of Gillie and Rory," Mac prompted, changing the subject. She suspected he was trying to prevent her worrying about things, but it wasn't going to work. She would let him change the subject, but worry about Cullen had now firmly buried itself in her thoughts.

"I said I was going to the solar, and—"

"I knew I'd find ye here."

Evelinde closed her mouth and turned guiltily to peer up the aisle as that impatient comment interrupted her. Cullen stood, glaring at her from the stable doors, exasperation on his face. When she merely peered back at him, he moved forward so that he could loom over her and glower up close.

Evelinde glowered right back. Truly, the man was a trial to her. If he spoke at all, it was only to order her about or snap and snarl like a rabid dog. How a man could behave with such consideration and thoughtfulness on the one hand but not manage to speak other than to growl was beyond her.

"I was most displeased when Gillie came to find me to say ye'd slipped his guard. I ordered ye to stay in the castle."

"Aye, and mayhap if you had told me why you wished it, I would have," she told him. "Though, it seems to me I'm hardly safer there since one of the accidents you worry over took place in the keep itself."

Cullen frowned. "That's why the men are watching ye. To keep ye safe."

"And what if one of them is the culprit?"

"Gillie and Rory were barely more than bairns when my uncle was killed," he pointed out with a dismissive wave.

"And if his death really was an accident? They were older when your father and Maggie died."

"That's why there are two watching ye. If one is the culprit, the other surely isn't, and ye be safe. Now get ye back in the keep where yer supposed to be," Cullen growled, moving past her to enter his horse's stall and begin saddling him.

Evelinde ignored the order and followed him instead. "Where are you going?"

"I am riding out to Comyn."

"By yourself?" When he merely turned and peered at her as if that was a stupid question, Evelinde asked, "Can I come?"


"Why? Surely I am safe with you?" And you are safer not alone, too, she thought, worried that he might be a target as well.

"Wife—" Cullen paused, and shook his head, apparently at a loss.

Mac had been watching their exchange with amusement, but now said, "Ye may as well give in, lad. She's persistent is that one. Besides, 'twill do the girl some good to get out for some fresh air. She has been trapped inside for near a week now."

Cullen hesitated, then gave in with a sigh.

"All right," he said, turning back to finish saddling his mount. "But ye'll ride with me."

Evelinde didn't protest. She would have preferred riding her own mount, but wasn't risking putting up a fuss and possibly making him change his mind about allowing her to accompany him.

"Cullen and Tralin used to get up to such mischief! His mother and I would spend half our time fretting and the other half laughing at their frolics."

Evelinde returned Lady Comyn's smile, and asked curiously, "Did Tavis never play with them?"

Lady Comyn hesitated, her gaze thoughtful as she peered down at her mead. "Tavis was four years younger, and the two of them were forever leaving him behind. He tended to stay close to his mother."

"And you and Biddy didn't keep up your friendship after Cullen's mother died?"

Lady Comyn smiled sadly, then admitted, "We did at first, but…" She sighed. "It was very hard. Being together afterward was rather sad. It made us remember what we had lost. We still visited each other, but not as often. After Darach died, Biddy seemed to retreat somewhat. She spent more and more time in the kitchens." Ellie Comyn shrugged. "We drifted apart."

Evelinde was about to ask another question when the doors to the great hall opened to allow Cullen and Tralin to enter.

"'Tis time to leave," Cullen announced as he reached them.

Evelinde nodded and thanked Lady Comyn for a lovely time. She then allowed her husband to escort her out of the keep to where his horse was already awaiting them. Within moments they were passing out of the bailey and heading back to Donnachaidh.

They had ridden for quite a while when Cullen suddenly asked, "Did ye enjoy yerself?"

Evelinde twisted her head around to glance at her husband. He so rarely spoke, his asking the question was a pleasant surprise.

"Aye. Lady Comyn is lovely. We had a nice talk," she answered, and it was true. While Cullen and his friend Tralin had disappeared down to the stables to look at a new horse, Lady Comyn had shown Evelinde her gardens. They had enjoyed a pleasant walk before stopping to rest and chat over a refreshing mead. She really had enjoyed herself. Evelinde had learned some things she hadn't known ere this. It seemed that Tralin and Cullen had been friends for some time. Lady Comyn had been friends with Cullen's mother while she still lived, and the two women had visited back and forth quite frequently while the boys were young.

"Did you?" she asked in the hopes of keeping her husband talking.

"Aye. Tralin is a good friend."

Evelinde grinned and admitted, "She told me of some of your exploits when you and Tralin were children. It sounds as if the two of you got into a good deal of mischief."

A small smile tugged at Cullen's lips, but all he did was grunt.

Evelinde hesitated, then asked, "Husband, would you show me where your father went off the cliffs?"

The request seemed to startle him, and he glanced down at her sharply. "Why?"

Evelinde hesitated, then admitted, "I just thought perhaps if I saw the spot, I would get a better idea of what might have happened. No one seems to be sure if 'twas an accident, or nae, and that just adds to the confusion."

Cullen was silent for so long, it seemed obvious he was going to ignore the request. Evelinde sighed to herself and settled back against him, resigned to not having her request fulfilled. It was another twenty minutes before she realized that rather than approach the front of the castle, they were riding toward the back of it and the cliffs there.

Sitting up before him, she peered curiously around as he drew his mount to a halt on a windswept cliff behind the curtain wall at the back of the castle.

It was a narrow spot, Evelinde noted, as Cullen dismounted and lifted her down. The area that ran along between the high stone wall and the edge was only about ten feet wide, but ran on for quite some way.

Cullen caught her arm as she moved to peer over the edge, holding her back as if he feared she might tumble to her death. Evelinde was glad he did when she looked over and saw how steep it was and how far it was to the ground below. It was dizzying. The fact that a strong wind was swirling around her, rushing up the cliff wall to catch at her skirts, tugging at her gown as if to pull her over the edge did not make her feel any better.

"He had his horse with him?" Evelinde asked, easing back from the edge and trying to eradicate the image that had entered her mind of an older version of Cullen lying broken and battered on the stones below.


"Do they think he dismounted and somehow fell over the edge? Or that his horse was spooked and he was thrown from the saddle?" she asked with a frown.

Cullen shook his head. "No one kens, or at least no one I have been able to find yet. If there truly was a witness, he may be able to tell us."

"And if 'twas murder, his murderer could tell us," Evelinde said quietly.

Cullen nodded.

Sighing, Evelinde turned away. Coming here had not really helped her envision how the "accident" might have happened. There was nothing here but some sparse grass and a pile of stones; nowhere for an animal—or a man—to have leapt out from to startle Liam's mount and send him rearing. More to the point, she could see no reason for the laird to have been here in the first place.

Her curious gaze slid to the pile of stones. She'd thought it just a rocky outcropping, but suddenly noted 'twas not a natural formation. Evelinde moved toward it. "What is—?"

The question died on her lips as she suddenly thought that it might be a cairn for his father. Or his first wife.

" 'Tis Jenny. Biddy's sister," he explained.

Evelinde hesitated, then asked, "You mean she is actually buried under those stones?"

Cullen nodded.

"Why?" Evelinde stared at him with dismay.

" 'Tis where Biddy wished it," he answered simply, and when she turned a confused face his way, explained, "She killed herself and could not be buried in hallowed ground. But she liked this spot and spent a good deal of time here, so Biddy decided this should be her final resting place."

"She killed herself?" Evelinde turned her gaze back to the stone grave. "Why?"

Culled frowned. "I was only fourteen at the time, but I've since learned she was supposed to marry the Campbell."

"The Campbell?"

"Aye. He's been dead these last five years, but he was an evil bastard, cruel and heartless. They said she killed herself rather than marry him."

Evelinde nodded, but her mind was not really on the Campbell. "You were fourteen when she died? That was the year your uncle died, too, was it not?"

"Aye. She died just two weeks ere the hunting accident."

Evelinde turned to peer at the spot where the cliff fell away. It was a barren spot, lonely and cold. "Did she really like this spot?"

"Aye. She used to come here often the first time she visited."

"The time she killed herself was not the first time she was here?"

"Nay. She had been here once before that, about two months earlier," Cullen said. "She was much younger than Biddy, and that was the first time she came. She was supposed to stay for a month, but only remained three weeks. Tralin was most disappointed. He thought her the prettiest lass he'd ever seen," he confided.

Evelinde smiled at the confidence, pleased that he was actually talking to her. Eager to keep him talking, she asked, "And did you?"

"She was pretty enough," Cullen allowed with a shrug, "but I was not as enamored as he."

Evelinde was secretly pleased at these words, but simply said, "So she returned two weeks before your uncle died?"

"Aye. She arrived unexpectedly and asked to speak to Uncle Darach."

"Why your uncle?" Evelinde asked with surprise. "Why not Biddy?"

"Darach was laird," Cullen said with a shrug. "If anyone were to offer her sanctuary, he would have to be the one. He took her for a ride on his horse so she could have her say, but must have refused her sanctuary, because she was sobbing when she returned and ran up to her room and would not come out. Biddy found her the next morning. She'd hanged herself in the solar."

Evelinde's eyebrows rose. That explained why the solar was empty. She supposed Biddy had emptied the room and never set foot in it again. Every time she entered, she would have been reminded of her last sight of her younger sister.

"Come." Cullen caught her arm and urged her back to his mount.

As pleased as she was that he was finally speaking to her, Evelinde remained silent as he set her on the saddle and joined her. Her mind was taken up with thoughts of what she'd learned. Biddy's sister had died two weeks before Cullen's uncle, and had been buried in the very spot where Cullen's father and first wife had later died. It was a strange coincidence… if it was a coincidence at all.

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