They did more than that, they tried to help him up. In the end they were more trouble than help, and he shrugged them both off with a growl. But somehow, he got back in the saddle. And somehow, his two kinsmen managed to get him home, though he had very little memory of that long, grueling ride and the stops on the way that saw his wound tended to before Nessa got her hands on it. She did get her hands on it though, and on him, and it was a frustrating three weeks before he was able to insist that she leave him be and have her pay attention to that command.
Yet when had he had time to do any courting? Nessa lived in his household, as did a great many others of his clan. She was five years younger than his twenty-six, had a devil of a temper, and had pretty much taken over his household when his father died and his stepmother absconded with every tangible bit of the MacGregor wealth aside from the land, forcing him into the unwanted life of a reaver. It had been more than two hundred years since his family had actively taken to the roads late of a night, and even back then it had been more to bedevil other clans than to fill the coffers.
The MacGregor wealth had come down through the years from royal gifts, a few shrewd endeavors, and one lucky gambler, but there had been a sizeable amount to pay for repairs to the old castle and for the innumerable weddings that cropped up yearly, and to make sure no one ever went without whatever was needful. And the one investment that had continued to supply them with ready cash each year had gone sour. It put Lachlan in a foul mood whenever he thought of what his stepmother had cost the clan.
She had simply been there, part of the landscape, with an occasional smile, but rarely more than that, since she was simply too flighty to be bothered with children, was always concerned only with herself and, of course, his father. Never would anyone have guessed that she was a thief, but that she was.
They searched for her for more than a year, but no trace was ever found. It was as if the theft and flight had been well planned, right down to the last detail. But that would speak even worse for her character, and enough had been said to paint a black picture as it was. Yet he refused to steal more, as he was afraid someone else might actually be harmed financially by what he took, even if they were only Sassenach. He was living with that burden himself, could just barely manage to feed those he was responsible for. As it was, marriages were being postponed, and some clan members who had lived all their lives in the castle or on MacGregor land were moving out of the Highlands altogether.
It had been ingrained in him what his responsibilities were, but an abrupt loss of wealth had never been taken into consideration. At twenty-three he had been unprepared for the burden. He was already in debt to the few wealthy distant relatives that he had. And everything of value that the castle had possessed had long since been sold. It was a sorry state of affairs, which was why, while Lachlan was still recuperating from his wound, he called for a discussion on the subject with his two closest cohorts in crime, Gilleonan and Ranald.
Gilleonan was a second cousin and a few years older than Lachlan. Ranald was a third cousin and a year younger. Neither lived in the castle. Only once did we bring home a purse fat enough tae make a difference for a short time. Lachlan had to agree with that. Mine Till Midnight The Hathaways 1. My Fair Concubine Tang Dynasty 3.
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