A remarkable woman whose rare gift teaches a gruff Scottish warrior how to listen with his heart.
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but considered “touched” to outsiders. Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Eveline taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world view her as daft, content to stay with her family. But when an arranged marriage with a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, she accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful she can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled he awakens her deepest passions.
Graeme is intrigued by his new bride, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation, whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.
Eveline felt the earth tremble below her and she automatically picked up her head, wondering who had gone riding on the hill where she was sprawled. She saw Brodie astride his horse, his head turning to survey the terrain. When his gaze fell on her, she saw the instant relief in his eyes.
He slid from his horse, dropped the reins to allow the horse to graze, and strode in her direction. As he grew near, she could see what it was he said.
“ . . . everywhere for you, Eveline. You had me—us—worried. Mother is distraught for thinking you ran away in fear.”
She frowned, because where she may have once done something so selfish and cowardly, it was not something she’d ever do again. She might be terrified of her impending marriage, but she would face her future head-on and not give her family any hint of her inner turmoil. She owed them that much.
Brodie reached for her hand to pull her to her feet and then to her surprise he hugged her fiercely, holding her against his chest for the longest time.
She allowed it, enjoying the show of affection. It wasn’t that Brodie wasn’t affectionate with her. Of all her relatives, he was the most demonstrative. He also treated her less like a half person than the rest. To him she was his baby sister and that was all.
But this felt different. Almost as if it were he who needed comforting and not her. She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him back with all her strength. Which, considering she couldn’t even circle his muscled girth and make her hands touch on the other side, wasn’t much.
She knew he was talking to her because she could feel the vibrations rumbling from his chest, but she didn’t want to give up the hug to push away so she could see what it was he said.
When he finally pulled away, he took her hand and started to tug her toward the keep. She stopped and frowned, then looked back at his horse.
“I’ll send someone back for it. I’d thought to have to go much farther to find you. You know I wouldn’t make you ride with me.”
For a moment, her gaze left her brother once more to find the horse who was grazing contentedly a few feet away. She didn’t hate horses. They’d once been something she loved more than anything else. She hated that when she got close, when she could smell them, could feel their power, that she broke into a cold sweat and terror gripped her.
She hadn’t ridden since her accident. She missed it. Missed the freedom of riding across open land, hair flying behind her, not a care in the world. Now the mere idea of being astride something so strong paralyzed her. She weighed nothing in comparison. It was so easy for a horse to unseat her.
Brodie tugged again, and this time he led her away more forcefully. She had a thousand questions she wanted to put to her brother, but she had no idea how to formulate them. No way to make him understand that she craved information.
What was the Montgomery chieftain like? Was he grotesque? Was he menacing?
She halted again, withdrew her hand from Brodie’s, then touched his arm and tilted her head toward the keep. Then she lifted her eyebrows in clear question.
Brodie pursed his lips and blew air out, his cheeks puffing slightly. He glanced away, ran a hand through his hair and then finally directed his gaze back to her. There was deep sorrow in his eyes. Worry. Love. Concern.
“Graeme Montgomery is here. He wants to meet you. He doesn’t want to stay any longer than necessary and the earl of Dunbar will grant that request because he fears what will happen if the Montgomerys and Armstrongs are forced to remain in each others’ presence for too long.”
She put a finger to his lips and then shook her head in a negative motion. Then she smiled because she wanted him not to look so sad. If there was ever a time she wished she had the courage to try to speak it was now. She opened her mouth, willing to try, not even knowing what would come out, but before she could issue those guttural sounds that she hoped formed words, her brother turned sharply and then held up a fist in the air.
He bellowed something she couldn’t discern, but felt the vibration from his body. When she looked in the direction he was staring, she saw that Aiden was in the distance motioning them toward the keep.
Brodie put a hand to the middle of her back and nudged her forward. She was sure he spoke, but she was too focused on the keep as they drew near to try to discern what it was he said. It was at these times that she knew others thought her daft because she simply didn’t respond, didn’t react. He could be saying anything at all and she’d never know.
When they approached Aiden, he was frowning, and she knew a reprimand was forthcoming so she purposely didn’t look at him, because if she didn’t see what he was saying then it didn’t really happen.
Perfectly logical in her mind.
Not that Aiden was ever mean. He was just less patient than Brodie. And he worried for her. If he had his way, she’d stay in the keep and never wander far. She’d never forget that it was he who’d found her in the ravine and that he’d feared the worst. That she had died.
She walked into the keep, flanked by her brothers, and she had to admit, it bolstered her courage because being between them, she knew she’d never come to harm.
As soon as she entered the hall, she came to an abrupt halt, her gaze automatically finding the man who commanded the most authority. It was obvious—at least to her—who the chieftain of the Montgomery clan was.
Power clung to him. It was an almost visible aura surrounding him.
She swallowed nervously and her palms grew damp. He was big. Really big. Taller than even her brothers. He was broad-shouldered with an equally broad chest, more narrow at the waist, and his legs were solid masses of muscle, as big around as she was. Maybe her first impression was a wee bit exaggerated, but he looked like a mountain to her.
His medium brown hair was unruly. It hung to just below the base of his neck and curled at the ends, flipping this way and that. It was obvious he hadn’t a care when he had it shorn. Unlike his brothers—or at least she assumed the two men with him were his brothers—he wore his hair shorter.
One of the men with him was beautiful. It seemed odd to describe a man with such a feminine term—and there was nothing remotely feminine about him. But he hadn’t a single flaw that Eveline could see. His hair was as dark as a raven’s wing and his eyes were a vivid blue. It was a certainty that Eveline had never seen his equal when it came to fairness of face. It was hard to look away from him.
The man who stood on Graeme’s other side was nearly as large as his two brothers, and he had a lot of similarities to the really handsome brother. In fact, of the three, Graeme was probably the least blessed with a face that women would fawn over or that poets and bards would compose lyrics about, but still she was drawn over and over to Graeme’s features. The lines of his face. The strength in his deceptively casual pose.
Nay, he wasn’t beautiful like his brothers, but there was something even more arresting about his appearance. Something that intrigued her and drew her to look at him again and again.
To the unguarded eye he seemed relaxed, but to her he seemed tense and ready to strike at a moment’s notice
And then the most amazing thing happened. As she stood there gaping, nearly hidden behind her brothers, an odd vibration echoed through her ears.
It was faint—so faint that she thought perhaps she’d imagined it. But no, there it was again. A deep timbre—a voice! Low-pitched like some of the other rare sounds she was able to hear, though until now she’d never been certain that they were real. She’d thought they were only memories of sounds she’d heard before her world had gone silent.
She pushed around her brothers so she could more squarely see the room and she searched for the source of that sound. That beautiful sound.
As soon as she made her presence known, the others looked her way, and it was then she saw that Graeme’s lips were moving. It was him she was hearing!
Uncaring of how forward or discourteous she might appear, she rushed forward, eager to be closer, wanting more of this delicious sensation in her ears.
But his lips stopped moving the moment she halted in front of him. They turned down into a frown as he stared back at her, almost as if he found her lacking.
Color suffused her cheeks and she lowered her gaze, suddenly shamed. Of course he’d find her lacking. He would have heard the stories and here she came boldly rushing forward, not even refreshed or appropriately dressed to greet her prospective husband. He must think her extremely disrespectful.
She took a step back, her hands shaking at her sides, and then she chanced another glance up at him, hoping that he would speak again, even if it was to voice his displeasure. She craved that sensation in her ears, something to break the endless, suffocating silence she lived in.
Graeme stared down at the tiny slip of a lass in front of him, taking in her heightened color and the sudden shame that had crept into her eyes.
Christ’s bones, but the lass was beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. He hadn’t imagined—how could he have?—that his intended bride would be such a bonnie lass.
She was tiny, almost fragile in appearance. He could likely break her bones with a simple squeeze. Her hair was like a wash of sunshine, only a little paler. Honey blond with the bluest eyes he’d ever seen on a woman. They reminded him a lot of Bowen’s eyes, eyes he’d inherited from their mother. And they were fringed by dark lashes, long, making her eyes seem even larger against her small face.
He’d expected a . . . child. Perhaps even someone who resembled a child. This was no girl barely on the cusp of womanhood. She was a woman full grown with gently curved hips and a bosom that, although not overly large, was well beyond the initial budding of a girl in her youth.
He had to remind himself that she wasn’t . . . normal. Or at least she was not as a normal woman should be. He still wasn’t sure the extent or even the nature of her condition. There was much he needed to know.
He hated the bleakness in her expression. There was something in it that did funny things to his chest. Was she worried that he would deny her? That he would reject her in front of her family and his?
No matter his distaste for the union and the circumstances forced upon him by his king, the idea of hurting such a sweet-looking lass made him ill. Whatever was wrong with her was not of her making, and she was an innocent pawn in a calculated move by the crown.
“I assume you must be Eveline,” he said in a gentle voice.
Her chin notched upward, and to his surprise, she smiled back at him, her eyes lighting up—her entire face lighting up—so much so that it made him catch his breath and stare back in awe at her beauty.
“I am Graeme Montgomery. I am to be your husband.”
She sobered a bit at that last, so it was evident she had basic understanding of the situation. Her brow wrinkled up and then she cocked her head to the side as she studied him with those startling blue eyes.
He found himself fidgeting under her regard, which made him scowl. Her eyes widened as she took a hasty step back toward her father.
Hell, he hadn’t meant to frighten her. He glanced over to the earl of Dunbar, allowing his displeasure to show. The earl, however, looked amused, another thing that Graeme didn’t find pleasing.
Then, to Graeme’s utter shock, Eveline stepped forward and slipped her small hand into his much larger, much rougher one and curled her fingers trustingly around his.
When he turned from the earl to stare back at her, she smiled, flashing straight, white teeth.
Laird Armstrong’s groan could be heard throughout the hall. Robina Armstrong put a hand to her mouth and Eveline’s brothers just looked really, really angry.
Whatever reservations the Armstrongs had about the marriage, it was evident that their daughter had no such misgivings.
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