"Aye, well, then, no harm done." She clutched her hands in front of her. "I hope ye are gentlemen."
"Aye," replied Malcolm, motioning for her to continue.
"'Tis just that I've not seen my lady so..."
"Tired? Sore? Fashed?"
"That, and more." She shuffled her feet. "I ken ye have the right as her husbands to do as ye wish, but what my lady needs is to be held. It's all a bit much for her, aye?" She bobbed again. "'Tisn't my place, but-"
"But Kinrowan is far bigger than Castle Leod, and 'twill take us all a wee bit to settle," said Malcolm. "How long have ye been with my lady wife?"
"I were but a tweeny when I came with her mother, Lady Elizabeth Stewart."
"We care for Kiera but know little of women. Speak up if it would help my lady. But dinna lie, stretch the truth, or speak of only part of it."
She looked at Malcolm and then transferred her shrewd eyes to Duff.
"Laird Kinrowan, may I show my face?" asked Duff.
Malcolm c.o.c.ked his head in question. Realizing what Duff meant, he nodded. Duff reached behind his head, undid the strap, and removed his mask. Bessie gasped. She looked from one to the other. Neither of them spoke.
"Aye," she said, "ye are right to hide and speak of scars. If aught happens ye must be laird for yer twin."
"Ye ken it." Malcolm nodded with respect.
"None will hear of it from me. Thank ye, laird, for yer trust."
"And thank ye for caring for our lady."
"She is my life. 'Tis why I rode that wagon for more days than I wish to count." She rubbed her bottom as if it was still sore. "I didna do it for ye, laird or no!"
Duff was pleased to see Malcolm share a laugh with her. He joined in with a chuckle.
"Kiera as well, though?" asked Malcolm. "The journey wasna too much for her?"
"'Twas hard, I'm sure, and 'tis partly the babe what makes her tired. But the worst is she fears Kinrowan people learning of how she was at Castle Leod."
"It may happen," replied Malcolm. "But if she shows the woman Duff met at her sheiling they will care for her and believe in the woman she will be here. I canna blame her for being bitter. She was alone. 'Twas a surprise to learn what that meant when Laird MacKenzie sent Duff from me. I canna think on being alone all yer life."
"'Tis no more. She has the both of ye now," said Bessie.
"And ye," added Duff. "Bessie, we wish ye to ken that ye can say anything to me. It is my duty and honor to make my brother's life, and that of our new clan, as best as possible. If ye ken there's sommat I could do, especially if it be for our lady, then speak up."
Malcolm took her hand in both of his. "Bessie, I wish to thank ye for all ye've done for our Lady Kiera. I am certain ye've been a good friend to her, guiding her as best ye can. I wish ye to keep doing so."
"But laird, I be but her lady's maid."
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