"My father was like that with my mother," she murmured. She remembered them sitting by the fire of an evening, each working on some task, comfortable in each other's presence.
"Both Cameron and Fraser are hard warriors, experienced men who rule well." Duff scratched the back of his head. "They've also been with their lady wives for longer than we've been alive. It made me think 'twould take until the babe ye carry was grown afore I'd know the same."
She looked up when he fell silent.
"Kiera, we dinna have that kind of love with ye," he murmured.
An arrow of pain pierced her heart. She flinched.
"Nay, but we will!"
Duff strode forward and knelt before her. She stared at the wet drops falling in her lap. He took her hands in his, first tossing her stocking aside.
"I love ye, Kiera MacKenzie. I even love that look ye had in yer eye as ye judged the weight of yer boot afore heaving it at my twin."
Her lip curled up, thinking of his look of shock.
"And I ken that ye would have hit him if ye wished."
"My mother said a wife is allowed to throw things at her laird husband, but not hit him." She sniffed back her tears and straightened her spine. "I have good aim."
"Aye, ye do." Malcolm cleared his throat from the frog that had caught in it. "Laird MacKenzie told me of yer mother doing the same. 'Twas after something hit the closed door of yer chamber right where my head would have been, the first time we met."
She pinned his rough chuckle with her glare.
"And what of you, Laird Kinrowan? Does Duff speak only for himself? For I kenned I loved him afore he left my sheiling. Afore I was forced to accept his twin as my husband!"
"We kenned naught of yer father's plan," replied Malcolm. "I was watching in the hall the night ye returned from yer sheiling. I looked for the woman I was told ye were. Bitter, scowling, angry at the world, and wearing ugly clothes that suited yer mood." His face eased. "I saw a smiling beauty in a green dress walk with Colin and cursed his luck in finding such a stunning, tall, bride. But I put it aside and decided I would treat my own wife as if she were beautiful, inside and out. That mayhaps in time she would believe it herself."
He was right in that she'd not believed herself beautiful. Not in her heart, nor in her skin. She was a different person here at Kinrowan. It had started when she first met Duff. He'd not known who she was, or her past.
"When I heard ye'd been taken I felt like I'd died," continued Malcolm, his voice hoa.r.s.e. "The world stopped, and my eyes went dark. I put my fear aside and acted the laird, doing what was needed for the clan."
He shut his eyes, hands in tight fists at his sides.
"All night as I paced,
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