Karen Marie Moning
HIGHLANDS OF SCOTLAND
CASTLE BRODIE 1308
ADAM BLACK MATERIALIZED IN THE GREATHALL.
Silently, he observed the towering warrior who paced before the fire.
Circenn Brodie, laird and thane of Brodie, exuded the magnetism of a man born not merely to exist in his world, but to conquer it. Power has never been so seductive, Adam thought, except, perhaps, in me.
The object of his study turned from the fire, unruffled by Adam's silent presence.
"What do you want?" Circenn said.
Adam was not surprised by his tone. He'd learned long ago not to expect civility from this particular Highland laird. Adam Black, the deadly jester in the Fairy Queen's court, was an irritant Circenn suffered unwillingly. Kicking a chair close to the fire, Adam lounged in it backward, resting his arms over the slatted back. "Is that any way to greet me after months of absence?"
"You know I despise it when you appear without warning.
And as to your absence, I had been savoring my good fortune." Circenn turned back toward the fire.
"You would miss me if I were gone for long," Adam assured him, studying his profile. Sinful that he looks such a powerful beast, yet comports himself with such decorum, Adam thought. If Circenn Brodie was going to look like a savage Pict warrior, then by Dagda he should act like one.
"The same way I might miss a hole in my shield, a warthog in my bed, or a fire in my stables," Circenn said. "Turn around in your chair and sit like a proper person."
"Ah, but I am neither proper nor a person, so you needn't expect me to conform to your requirements. I shudder to think what you would do without all your rules for a 'normal' existence, Circenn." When Circenn stiffened, Adam grinned and extended a graceful hand to a maid who'd been lingering in the shadows at the perimeter of the Greathall. He tossed his head, casting silky dark hair over his shoulder. "Come."
The maid approached, her gaze darting between Circenn and Adam, as if uncertain which man posed the greater threat. Or which the greater lure.
"May I serve milords?" she said breathlessly.
"Nay, Gillendria," Circenn dismissed her. "Off to bed with you. It is well past the goblin's hour"-he shot a dark look at Adam-"and my guest has no needs I care to see filled."
"Aye, Gillendria," Adam purred. "There are many ways you may serve me this night. I will take pleasure in teaching you all of them. Off to your quarters while we men talk. I will join you there."
The young maid's eyes widened as she hastened to obey him.
"Leave my wenches alone," Circenn ordered.
"I don't get them pregnant." Adam flashed his most insolent grin.
"That is not my concern; it is the fact that they are all but witless once you have finished with them."
"Witless? Who was witless tonight?"
Circenn tensed but said nothing.
"Where are the hallows, Circenn?" A glint of mischief kindled in Adam's remote eyes.
Circenn turned his back fully to the fairy.
"You did protect them for us, did you not?" Adam asked. "Don't tell me you lost them?" he chided when Circenn failed to reply.
Circenn turned back to face him, legs wide, head cocked, arms folded; his usual position when quietly furious. "Why do you waste my time asking me questions when you already know the answers?"
Adam shrugged elegantly. "Because the droppers at the eaves will be unable to follow this splendid saga if we do not speak of it aloud."
"No one eavesdrops in my castle."
"I forgot," Adam purred, "no one misbehaves at Castle Brodie. Ever-spotless, ever-disciplined, perfect Castle Brodie. You bore me, Circenn. This paragon of restraint you pretend to be is a waste of the fine breeding that forged you."
"Let us have done with this conversation, shall we?"
Adam folded his arms across the back of the chair. "All right. What happened tonight? Templars were to meet you at Ballyhock. They were to entrust the hallows to your care. I heard they were ambushed."
"You heard correctly," Circenn replied evenly.
"Do you understand how important it is that the Templars be given sanctuary in Scotland, now that they've been disbanded?"
"Of course I understand," Circenn growled.
"And how imperative it is that the hallows do not fall into the wrong hands?"
Circenn waved Adam's question away with an impatient hand. "The four hallows have been secured. The moment we suspected the Templars were going to come under siege, the spear, the cauldron, the sword, and the stone were rushed back into Scotland, despite the war going on. Better they rest in a