I hear footsteps approaching the door and I scootch me and Morey out of the way just as it swings open. Dugan steps inside and takes in the room. Cold, autumn air sweeps in past him, causing the fire to flap, then blaze. Orlaith plunks down on the hearth, her back close to the heat, and Dugan’s mate crosses the room to sit down beside her. She drapes her arm around the girl’s shoulders.
“Met the rest of the family, have you?” Dugan asks with a smirk, and winks at his granddaughter as she snuggles into her grandmother. Morey’s paws hold my hand down on his belly, but he stops licking to stare at his grandfather.
I smile sheepishly and nod when Dugan’s eyes return to me.
“Arm fixed, I see.” he adds.
“Yes, Sir, thank you.” Shit. I need her name. “Your mate” would just be an admission.
“I’m sorry,” I say, turning to her, “in all of the excitement, I must not have caught your name.”
She grins. “It’s ‘Tieve’.”
I nod, “Thank you,” and return to Dugan. “Yes, Tieve’s ointment was a miracle. I probably couldn’t have fixed it without her help.”
He smiles and reaches down to offer me his hand—more a command than a question. I extricate my fingers from Morey’s grasp—who snorts and rolls to stand, then runs over to bump up against Dugan’s leg—and accept his help up.
“I hope you’re hungry,” he asks, as I reach my feet.
“It’s lunch time. We hunt in the afternoon. You and your cousin will join us.”
“Oh, Sir, that’s quite an honour!”
He smiles and claps me on the back. “Good! Then it’s settled. Tieve—”
Shit. A hunt would be wonderful, I can’t believe he’s offering! But we can’t stay. We’d lose hours—at least.
Yeah. And you don’t trust Brennan to behave.
“But, Sir . . . “
“Hmmm?” he asks.
“Sir, we would be deeply honoured to join you in a hunt,” I begin again, and slow to give myself time to pick words carefully, “and I can’t express how much your offer means, Sir . . . ”
He waves his hand impatiently. “But?”
I suppress a smile at his guess. “But, Sir . . . our business with Carrigan is rather urgent . . . and it is of vital interest to my family.”
“Vital?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.
Shit. I’m saying too much.
I take a deep breath. “Sir, you and your family have been very kind, and I am deeply grateful to you for your help. Please be certain, Sir—we mean you no insult. But we have to get to Carrigan’s as soon as possible. I hope you can forgive our haste.”
He watches me closely, and I try to stay relaxed—relaxed, yet sincere. Finally, he says, “Understood, son. I wouldn’t want one of mine talking out of turn to another First, either.
I smile and nod once in thanks.
“But the next time you visit, we hunt together. Agreed?”
“Agreed. Thank you, Sir.”
He steps back and leans his head out the door.
“Keely! In here, girl!”
He gets close and rests his hands on my shoulders, then, quietly says, “Now, Tiergan, I need you do me a favour.”
“Keely’s my youngest. She’s a smart girl—strong, too. I want you to take her with you. You’ll need someone to introduce you to Torrin, anyway.”
Keely arrives—ten stone, just about full-grown, light grey over brown fur, tail high in the air—and he turns his head to her. “Go get dressed, girl. I need you to take young Tiergan here to Torrin’s.” Her tail begins to wag furiously, and she darts under the table and past the hearth into the back of the house.
He returns his attention to me.
“She’s been nagging me no-end to let her see more of the world, and you’ll be seeing a good part of it, on the way to Carrigan’s. Will you take her with you?”
“Sir?” All the way?
“Oh, leave the poor boy alone, Dugan,” Tieve adds from her spot on the hearth. “Can’t you see he already has enough t’ worry about?”
He ignores her and presses me again. “Tiergan, take her with you.” Raising his eyebrows and leaning in, he adds, “I’ll owe you one.”
Fuck. I’ve turned down his invitation already, and he’s graciously accepted my apology. I can’t very well refuse him this. But she’s probably going to be as bad as Conlan. Worse, because I won’t be able to smack her into line. And if she screws up anything with Carrigan . . . .
But he’s asked, and we can use all the friends we can get. And if he trusts her to go . . . .
“We’d be honoured, Sir, to have your daughter along.”