Maggie walked around, doling out near equal shares to each man,
saving two extra shares for Archie and Craig who were not yet returned.
She took her spot next to Duncan and the laird sat on her other side in the
next moment. Stretching her hands out to the low burning blaze, she
glanced around. They were all so quiet, munching on the gift of the berries,
most gazes occupied by the mesmerizing lure of the fire—save for Hew,
who was watching her from the other side of Duncan. Reflexively, Maggie
smiled at him. He nodded and smiled back with some stiffness before
removing his gaze from her.
And while she by no means considered herself an extrovert, rarely
having found herself in larger gatherings, she thought the air about them
was both dull and depressed. Perhaps they were accustomed to it, the
silence; perhaps it was only awkward to her because she was the outsider,
was unused to keeping company with all men. But was it normal that they
only sat and stared and made no conversation? Not even the twins, who had seemed to her so jovial and garrulous earlier, made any attempt at chatter.
The one she thought was Daimh—she hadn’t truly determined any
significant difference in them; if they changed seats, she would not know—had fallen back on his pallet, one knee bent, the other leg thrown over it, hisfoot swinging.
Another minute went by. Maggie listened. Yet even the fire made no
Turning toward Hew, she found his gaze upon her once again. She
liked the lad, guessed him about an age with her, and thought there were
possibly many a lass at home who were charmed by his easy good looks,
pitch black hair and intense blue eyes, his face as of yet unbothered by so
much facial hair. Mayhap with persons he was more familiar with, he would behave with less…intensity.
“Have you a big family, Hew,” she wondered, “awaiting your return?”
He shook his head before he spoke. “Only me and my mam, lass,” he
said, moving forward on his pallet, so that less of Duncan blocked his view.
“Da’ was gone at Stirling Bridge and my brother at Falkirk.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” she said genuinely. “Thankfully, you still
have your mam.”
“Aye,” said Daimh, from his prone position, “but ever’one’s had
Donal guffawed at this and Duncan shook his head, though he said
nothing. Maggie watched Hew’s telling cheeks pinken once again.
Maggie frowned and turned toward the laird at her other side. He
shook his head as well, giving her a look which she interpreted to mean,
leave it, it’s just what they do.