Chapter Thirty Eight
Lies and Truths
It wasn’t hard to tell that the boys had had a few drams of whiskey when they came to stand at the table. They had spent the entire afternoon locked away in the solar. Their combined breaths reeked of the alcohol that could have felled a crowd. Not to mention Sloane not only gave his wife a sloppy kiss on the cheek but grabbed her arse in the process. Ula punched him in the arm nearly spilling the gravy before she had a chance to put it down on the table. She did though have a slight upturn of her lips.
Conall seeing the play of his brother moved closer to me.
I gave him a stern look one not to be messed with. “Sit.” I demanded to his chuckle as his butt thumped down to the seat of the chair beside me. He squeezed my knee with his hand a grin on his face the size of a mountain.
When Bridey made no move to put food on her plate Dougall did it for her, slopping some of it on the table, he was undeniably inebriated. Helpful little mite.
“So, ye gave all the gold tae wee lass Fiora and young Mario?” Sloane drawled at Conall.
“Aye we did and three mighty fine horses.”
“Could ye no have brought at least one back with ye. I reckon they would have been a good breed from what ye say?” Sloane continued filling his plate, slightly wavering as he did so.
Before Conall could answer Ula spoke. “And just what would you do with a horse Sloane Sutherland. It’s not as if we have any room for one?”
“Aye but love.” He propped his elbows on the table looking at his wife as if he hadn’t seen her for the past year. “He would have been a good breed an maybe I might have wanted ‘hiccup’ tae think about starting off with a stud of ma own.”
“In your dreams Sloane, you are not in 1735 now and how would you get them past registrations?” Ula raised her brow at Sloane, but it wasn’t hard to tell she was holding back a smile. No doubt more to his inebriated state than the discussion at hand.
Sloane guffawed at his wife and then she released her beautiful smile.
“You bampot.” She grinned.
Sloane winked at her. “Aye that’s why ye love, ‘hiccup’ love me.”
Ula shook her head. “Too self assured, that’s your problem you big lug, and your drunk. Horse stud, what next?”
I had so missed the banter between these too, it felt like I was truly home. I caught Conall watching me, still with a huge grin on his face. I smiled to myself.
“Bridey.” Dougall spoke. “Would ye like to take a walk after ye dinner, that is?”
“Dougall the girl is tired, when she has finished her dinner she will be headed straight for bed, alone.” Ula snapped at him putting extra emphasis on the word alone. The girl said nothing taking tiny bites of her food.
“I just thought that she might like a wee bit of fresh air and to talk.” He blew a kiss at my aunt before giving me a quick wink.
OK so Dougall is not such a Casanova as I originally thought, something else is going on here. He had had a few to drink but he seemed more in control than Sloane and possibly Conall. I wondered if Dougall is as suspicious as I am, I know aunt had her own apprehensions by the constant glances, shakes of her head and eye rolls she was giving me while we prepared dinner. Still the girl was tired, it wasn’t hard to notice she looked drained.
Bridey’s small voice rose from the table as she set her fork down. “Where would I be sleeping, if’n ye don mind me asking?”
“I thought we would put you in the spare room at the top of the stairs. I think you will find it is a comfortable room.” Ula said handing Sloane a plate of bread rolls.
The girl nodded then added. “Ye all sleep in this here house then?”
Ula looked surprised by her question. “Well no. Sloane and I sleep upstairs, and Dougall has the other spare room. Conall and Morgan have their own house down the yard a bit, the one Andrew brought you to when you first arrived.”
The girl nodded again. “Oh, I see.” Then she turned to me. “Would ye might greatly if’n I come and sleep in yer house. I can sleep on the floor, if ye no have a bed.”
Well that took me by surprise. Looking at aunt I wasn’t sure what to say to that, she was as startled as I was. I didn’t miss the scowl crossing Conall’s face, that sobered him up quick.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to sleep in a nice comfortable bed? We don’t have a spare room and our sofa is...a little small?”
“No thank ye, yer...sofa would be fine, I’ve slept on worse.” Bridey said not looking up from her plate.
Conall caught my eyes with a frown, no that was an understatement, he looked mortified. He wasn’t happy seeing as he had just gotten me back up to sharing my time or having to be quiet in the bedroom.
Aunt gave me a lift of a brow over the top of the girls head. I had to agree with Ula’s unspoken words, something was decidedly untoward here.
I hesitated. “Well I suppose if you feel you need to stay in our house you could stay on the sofa.” I kept my eyes down knowing full well that Conal would have a scowl on his face, confirmed by his gasp of my knee.
I hadn’t built enough of a relationship with this girl for her to want to spend time in my company or to feel safer in our house than uncle and aunts house. We had only known the girl for less than a day, and yet she wanted to sleep in our house on a sofa than take a perfectly comfortable bed in the spare room.
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Was our sofa though an exercize in keeping an enemy closer? Nothing about the girl felt right, not her story, not her attitude or her dress.
While I ate I kept an eye on Bridey. She kept her head down and only took small bites of her food, making sure not to meet anyone’s eyes. I thnk this situation calls for a little test of my own to see what her reactions might be.
“Aunt, what do you think Aoife will do next?” I asked keeping my eyes firmly locked on Bridey. At the mention of Aoife’s name Bridey took a small gasp, yep that was what I thought, she knows the demon or at the very least heard of her.
“I have no idea.” Aunt said a frown creasing her brow I caught in my peripheral. Her eyes went from me to Bridey slowly understanding the nuance of my question.
“Morgan I think we need to be careful, there’s no telling what that evil demon is up to, but you know there is only one person that can take her down.” She said giving me a wink. “With a little help from your family of course.”
“I no think it is a good time to be discussing...” Sloane was saying until he caught Ula’s brusque look. “Right then, Conall, Dougall would ye come out the back to help me with something?”
“Now braithar, can it no wait? I’ve no finished my dinner.” Conall whined to Sloane’s abrupt head nod towards the back door. “Aye, I’m coming.” Conall sighed as he rose and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. He grabbed Dougall’s shirt lifting him out the seat as Dougall was about to put his laden fork in his mouth.
“Fuck braithar, give a man some warning will ye.” Dougall spluttered his fork dropping to the table.
When the three of them disappeared out the back door Ula turned to Bridey. “Lass do you know who Aoife is?”
Bridey didn’t look up but continued to keep her eyes on her plate. “Nay.” She answered to a quirk of Ula’s eyebrow.
Bridey was lying the gasp she had made when Aoife’s name was mentioned was enough to tell me she knew exactly who she was. Something else came to the front of my mind that I had missed before. If the girl was a servant she would have addressed Ula with respect seeing as she was a guest in my aunts house. She should have used terms such as a ‘nay ma’am’, not simply a nay.
“Bridey look at me.” Ula said in her ‘no nonesence’ voice.
Bridey looked up, so did I, aunts tone could command an army.
“I think you do know Aoife, I want to know what you know about her?”
“I...I don really ken, I...I don remember.” The answer almost too low to hear.
“Who’s house were you a servant in?” Aunt continued the questioning.
“Erm...well, that would be the Stewarts.” Bridey dropped her eyes again.
“Ok, you do remember that you travelled through time to get here? Conall has a travel pendant so I will just go and call him and have him go back to 1735, to this house of Stewart and confirm you are actually a servant there. Shall I?”
Bridey lifted her head glaring at Ula. “You don need to do that, I’ve already told you who I worked fer and what I do there.” Gone was the attitude of the terrified young woman, now replaced with someone with more fire.
“Bridey I am the mistress of this house. How should you address me?” Ah, aunt had caught onto that as well, blessed saints.
Bridey’s face looked to be thinking about the question.
“Well.” She said licking her lips, a sign that she was trying to hide something. “I suppose I should be calling ye me ladyship.”
Ula burst out in a guffaw of laughter that had me smiling, I loved the way she laughed. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. I was not in such an amused state, the ticks of this girl in what didn’t feel right were mounting by the minute.
The three misfits came into the room chuckling. Conall stopped when he saw my look of concern.
“Bridey here thinks aunt Ula should be called her ladyship.” Their faces turned from amused to shock.
Sloane leaned over putting his hands on the table. “Lass who did ye work fer?”
Ula answered for the girl. “That would be the Stewarts in the low lands.”
Sloanes brow dropped down into a frown. “Lass did ye work fer Alexander Stewart?”
The girl nodded but with hesitation, obvious to everyone in the room that she was unsure of how to respond to Sloane’s question.
“Only an English servant would be calling my wife her ladyship and it would no be used even in the low lands of Scotland.”
Bridey dropped her head and began to cry. Here we go again with the frightened performance, but I’m not convinced by her behaviour. This is all an act.
“Oh, now ye made the lass cry.” Dougall said to the rest of us telling him to shut up at the same time.
Ula crossed her arms. “Right now you had best tell us the truth and no more of your lies.” Yep aunt had reached the end of the line too.