Cat felt for him, but wasn’t surprised his prayers were in vain. More often than not, prayers of supplication went unanswered because the universe didn’t give people what they wanted, it gave them what they needed to grow. And that usually took the form of more hardship and suffering.
Shadows of her recurring dream flickered behind her eyes. Her belly, heavy with child. The crucifix hanging above the narrow bed. The yellow-eyed man draining her blood. Was it maybe more than a dream?
“Graham . . . what do you believe you did to Caitriona to invoke God’s wrath?”
He sat there for what seemed an eternity, staring at his half-empty glass. Then, just when she was sure she’d go mad, he began to speak in a choked voice. “I loved her so much. Wanted her so much. But, even so, I conducted myself like a gentleman throughout our engagement. Then, a month before the wedding, she summoned me to her father’s estate. I found her in the parlor unchaperoned. She asked me to claim her maidenhead."
The scene he described began to flicker behind her eyes. They sat together on a Chippendale bench in a parlor that seemed vaguely familiar. The ceilings were high and bordered with decorative moldings; the walls a soft shade of mossy green. A black marble fireplace graced the wall opposite, surrounded by a collage of paintings of varying sizes—portraits, for the most part, of people, dogs, and livestock. In the center of the room, over which hung an ostentatious chandelier, was a circular gaming table. A spinet stood on one side of the fireplace, shelves bursting with books and brick-a-brac on the other. The furniture, covered in velvets and tartans, was pretty but stiff.
They were alone in the room, looking as if on the set of a Jane Austen film. He wore tall riding boots, knee breeches, and an embroidered waistcoat under a deep green velvet tailcoat with large buttons, also velvet. She donned a white muslin frock with a pink ribbon tied in a bow under her bosoms. His hair was clubbed and plaited; hers, swept up in a Grecian coif with face-framing curls. He smelled vaguely of dust, horses, and manliness—a scent she found seductive. He held her hand and his eyes, the same color as his coat, searched hers.
“What is it, m’aingael. Why have you summoned me? Is anything amiss?”
“No.” She swept a hand across his jaw. “It’s just that . . . well, I want to taste the sweetness of forbidden fruit while it yet remains forbidden.”
The scene evaporated and she looked around for Graham, finding him still at the window--a silhouette framed by amber light. Sensing his anguish, she wanted to go to him, to throw her arms around him, to kiss away his pain. As she rose to do just that, he abruptly turned, meeting her gaze. Her heart wrenched at the tear running down his cheek.
“And, I did what she asked,” he continued, straining, “albeit reluctantly. And in doing so, I got her with child . . . though I didn’t know it until some months later.”
She bit her lip, heart-torn. He turned back to the window and took a moment, as if trying to get himself under control. Then, finally, he said, “When her father learned she was carrying my bairn, he disowned her . . . despite the fact that our marriage was technically legal . . .”
When his voice trailed off, she jumped in. “What? How?”
“We’d done a handfasting to become engaged. And back then, consummation of such a vow made it a binding marriage in the eyes of the law.”
“But not in the eyes of her father?”
“Nay. Because we had not been married by a priest. So, he packed her off to a convent, loudly proclaiming to the whole bloody parish that he would not have a Logan bastard in his house.”
“Oh dear,” she said, cringing. “What did you do?”
He shook his head. “What could I do? As far as the living were concerned, I was deceased. And I couldn’t very well come back from the dead, now could I? I searched for her for weeks, finally finding her with the Carmelites in Falkirk. I found lodging nearby and visited her every night—in her dreams.” His back began to tremor with stifled emotion. “And then, one terrible night I found her on the bed. Pale and lifeless. Drained of blood.” He drew a quavering breath. “The wee bairn died with her. A laddie it was. A beautiful perfect wee laddie. And so close to term he might have . . . ”
His voice drifted off and he stood there like a lonely island in the window. Heart aching, eyes brimming with tears, she went to him, slipped her arms around his waist, and set her cheek against his back.
“What happened wasn’t your fault.”
“No? Then whose was it?”
“Aye, well,” he said, his words etched with angst. “Ultimately, I suppose. But it was I who put her in his path—by going to see her when I knew better. Just as I did with Catharine. And now, again, with you.”