Today's Reading

Allissaid barely got her sewing out of the way before her younger sister Cairstane suddenly dropped into her lap to hug her excitedly. As usual, they hadn't even heard the girl approach. But Cairstane was sneaky like that. She'd probably followed Annis to her and lurked about behind them to listen to her question.

Now, the fifteen-year-old hugged Allissaid happily and crowed, "Aye, ye'll run MacFarlane until father can arrange yer marriage, and Annis and Arabella's too. Then once the three o' ye are off and married, I'll be runnin' the keep and Cristane, Islay and I'll each have our own bedchamber instead of havin' to share one!"

Allissaid pushed her sister's clinging arms away with exasperation. "Nice to ken ye're so eager to see us go. But I'd no' get too excited if I was you. Ye ken me marrying is no' likely to happen anytime soon. Nor Annis and Arabella either. Da has been putting off me betrothed fer years now, and he sent Annis's betrothed away just two months ago. He's no' likely to—"

"He's sent messengers out to all three men to come take ye three away to be their wives," Cairstane interrupted her to announce.

"What?" Allissaid asked with shock.

"Aye, what?" Annis echoed, her eyes wide.

Cairstane nodded. "'Tis true. I heard him talking about it to our cousins Aulay and Alick. He sent the messengers last night just ere the wedding. Since Graham is so close, he expects your betrothed to arrive this afternoon, Allissaid," she said and then turned to Annis to add, "but he thinks the MacLaren and the MacLean should be no' more than a day or two behind if they travel quickly as he requested."

Allissaid stared at Cairstane blankly, her mind having trouble absorbing this news. Alban Graham, her betrothed since she was a wee child, had been trying to claim her to wife for more than three years, but her father had always refused to allow the wedding until he saw Claray married. It was something her father had continued to insist on even after their mother, Lady MacFarlane, had died four years ago. But since Claray's betrothed was, as far as they'd known, dead, and her father hadn't seemed to be trying to arrange another, Allissaid had begun to think there might be something wrong with Alban Graham, and her father was trying to back out of the contract. She'd worried that, like Claray, she might never marry. Only that didn't appear to be the case. It seemed she would be marrying him after all. And quite soon too.

"Are ye sure?" Annis asked, looking more concerned than excited at this news. Something Allissaid completely understood. It wasn't that she didn't want to marry and start having children of her own and a home to run, but this was all so sudden and—it was quite taking her breath away. She didn't know how to think or feel and was sure Annis must be feeling much the same way.

"Aye," Cairstane assured them. "I told ye. I heard them talking about it. Aulay was saying as how he thought it a good idea to get the three o' ye married and away. 'Twould hamper the MacNaughton further, and might save everyone without the need to wage war against the 'bastard MacNaughton.'"

"Well," Annis frowned, her gaze dropping to the floor as expression after expression flickered across her face, and then she muttered, "It would ha'e been nice did he bother to tell us this news."

"Aye," Allissaid agreed on a sigh, and then stood abruptly, nearly dumping her younger sister on the floor. Fortunately, Cairstane had always been as quick on her feet as she was quiet and managed to save herself from landing in the rushes.

"Where are ye going?" Annis asked, standing as well. 

"To pack," Allissaid said grimly, heading for the stairs.

Much to her relief, Annis didn't follow and neither did Cairstane. Instead, she heard the murmur of their voices as she started up the steps. No doubt they were discussing what Cairstane had heard, but she didn't want to have to talk about any of it. She needed time alone to think. Everything was happening so swiftly. First Claray was married and gone which had been more than a shock. Allissaid and her older sister had been close, and she knew Claray had yearned to have a husband, a home and children of her own as all girls expected to do. She also knew Claray had resigned herself to never gaining any of that after all these years of their parents not arranging another betrothal for her, and that it had troubled her terribly. So Allissaid was happy that her older sister was now married with her own home and the chance to have children. But that didn't change the fact that she would miss her terribly. And now she herself was to marry? When? Would it happen as soon as Alban arrived? Another rushed wedding like Claray's had been? Or would they—

"Oh, m'lady, thank goodness!"

Allissaid pulled herself from her thoughts, and forced a smile for the maid rushing toward her. Smile fading as she noted the anxiety clear on the girl's face, Allissaid asked with concern, "What is it, Moire?"

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