Highlander’s Immoral Deal – Maddie MacKenna

Please tell me ye understand, Ragnall,” Albert, the gray-haired councilman said as he leaned over the wooden table. “I still think this is all a daff. Me Faither died, what was his belongs to me.” Ragnall glared at the old man defiantly. “Aye. The council isnae sayin’ ye cannae have it. We just—” Albert glanced over his shoulder at the other men circling the table. Ragnall paused to look each one in the eye. Their judgmental glares didn’t go unnoticed. Just by the way the five of them cocked their heads and pursed their lips, Ragnall knew what they must think of him. Yes, maybe five years ago, Ragnall would have taken his inheritance and squandered it. That was his life then, when no responsibility rested on his shoulders. But those times were gone, just as his father was gone. Clearing his throat, Ragnall leaned back in his wooden chair and pressed his hands together. Pulling in a deep breath he waited for Albert to continue.

“We want to be certain the Clan will survive. By securing an heir, our minds will ease.” “But before the pitter patter of little feet echo the halls, one must be married,” Ragnall said. He could taste the bitterness in his words. Never in all his life had he thought of marriage. If he had it his way, he’d be free of the lot of them and their rules. Albert pushed the parchment toward Ragnall and pointed to the words Ragnall’s father put down. There, in the elegant scripture before him, Ragnall read for himself his father’s last wishes. “So, a wife?” Ragnall said as his lip twitched. “That is what it will take for me to gain the inheritance that is rightfully mine? And what if I decline?” Albert, along with the other councilmen shook their heads and turned to one another.

Ragnall waited for their answer but already knew in his heart what they would say. “Yer Faither requested this, it is here. We cannae in good faith hand over yer Faither’s estate and his title to ye until ye wed. We willnae be moved on this.” “Just say what ye mean,” Ragnall said. “Ye donnae trust me.” Albert glanced to the other councilmen and shook his head. “Yer Faither spoke of yer… habits.” “Aye, was I a rogue, absolutely. But those days are behind me now.

I want to do what is right by this Clan, me Faither’s Clan.” “Ye mean well,” Rodger, a husky man sitting at the far end of the table said. His voice boomed against the walls of the library. Not even the books seemed to quench his baritone voice. “But we will nae go against yer Faither’s wishes. We swore our allegiance to him. And if what ye say is true, we’ll be swearin’ it to ye too. But we request ye prove to us ye’ve settled. Takin’ a wife is the best way to do that. Am I right, Lads?” Rodger asked as the room filled with laughter.

Ragnall watched Rodger’s stomach jiggle as the man laughed whole-heartedly. It was a sound Ragnall hadn’t heard in some time. But he knew in the depths of his being they were right. A wife did have a way of settling a man and without one, Ragnall understood his father’s title, lands, and money weren’t going to be his. “Then it is settled,” Ragnall said pushing away from the table. The scraping of the chair against the stone floor bounced off the walls. He found himself delighted by the cringes of the elderly councilmen at the sound. “Are ye to marry then?” Albert asked as Ragnall stood. “I willnae give answer this day,” Ragnall answered as he walked out of the library. The moment the doors closed he dropped his shoulders and looked up to the vaulted ceiling.

The large beams of wood holding the roof up seemed sturdy and secure, but within the depths of his being, he wished the beams would come tumbling down on the lot of them. “If only they ken,” Ragnall said through clenched teeth. “Ken what?” The sing-song voice caused Ragnall’s head to whip about. Leaning against the wall, he saw the tall, thin, brown-haired beauty, Penelope Virhorn. She twirled a strand of her hair between her fingers as she smiled at him. “Nothin’,” Ragnall said. “Doesnae seem like nothin’,” she said pushing off the wall and moving toward him. Her skirt fluttered at her ankles as she walked. “Those old dobbers think they can rule me life is all,” Ragnall said glancing at the library door as the group exited the room. “Since when have ye let anyone rule over ye?” Penelope said with an arched brow.

Her lips curled at the corners as she batted her eyes. The sunlight poured through the window and caused her eyes to shimmer like gems. Ragnall had to blink and turn his head so as not to be lured into her trap. Ragnall knew Penelope since they were children frolicking in the evergreen fields of the Highlands. He had shown her how to ride a horse against her father’s wishes. But he knew her inside and out. She had always looked up to him and the older she grew the more her infatuation with him grew. “What is it they want ye to do?” she asked. Her hand rested on Ragnall’s forearm and he knew she wanted him to look at her. “Marry,” he hissed.

“Is that all?” “Isnae that enough?” he said finally pulling his eyes off the councilmen gathered in the great hall. “Doesnae sound so bad if ye ask me,” she said. Ragnall couldn’t help but roll his eyes. He knew that would be her answer. The glee that radiated from her face sent a chill coursing down his spine. He had seen that same look on other girls before. All with the same high hopes of becoming his wife. But Ragnall preferred the harsh embrace of the open moors, wild and untamed, to that of the confinements of a household. “I dinnae ask ye for yer opinion,” he said through clenched teeth. “What’s so wrong of wanting marriage?” “Doesnae suit me,” he said shaking his head.

“And how would ye ken? Have ye ever been? “ “Ye ken I havenae and wouldnae wish it on anyone if it could be helped.” “Aye,” she said nodding, “but that is what they’re askin’ ye, isnae it?” “And there lies the problem,” he said shortly. Ragnall rolled his shoulders back and shook his head. “I willnae be havin’ any of it.” With his lips twitching, he turned and walked away from Penelope. His footsteps echoed as he pushed past the councilmen and out into the open courtyard. The fresh crisp air soothed the fire boiling within him as he looked around at the tall cypress trees flowing in the breeze. He could remember when his father planted them in the courtyard and dropped his head. Why did ye have to leave this in such a state? “Ragnall,” Penelope’s voice drifted through the open doors. She stood with her hair drifting in the wind.

Ragnall exhaled and shook his head. “Saddle me horse,” Ragnall said as a servant passed by him. The young man nodded and bolted toward the stables. “Do ye want some company?” Penelope said walking toward him. “Nay,” Ragnall stated curtly as he noticed a black stallion being led out of the stables. The horse looked as angry and frustrated as he felt. The instant the horse was next to him, Ragnall mounted the steed and slipped his feet into the stirrups. He settled into the saddle and jerked the reins. The servant jumped back as the horse reared up on his hind legs. “Donnae leave like this,” Penelope begged.

“There was a time we spoke of everything.” “Aye, we were younger then.” “So why nae allow me to help now as I’ve done before?” Shaking his head, Ragnall refused to answer as he drove his heel into the horse’s flank. He took off as the horse galloped through the courtyard in haste. Although he had no place in mind he wanted to go, he knew he didn’t want to stay there a moment longer. With each mile that passed under the horse’s strides, he prayed he could leave his past behind him. He knew deep within that the councilmen had every right to withhold his title and inheritance. After all, he had been a rogue for so long it was hard for even him to believe he could turn over a new leaf. I willnae allow me Faither’s estate to rest with those daffs. If a wife is what will quell their wagging tongues, then a wife I shall get.

And all that belongs to me.

.

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