My Highland Mate

Page 49

Rorycursed,stunnedat his grandmother’s pronouncement. Despite his position as alpha, she was stepping up to challenge him rather than accepting his choice of mate. His lips twisted because he understood the way his grandmother worked. She would’ve considered the angles and expected him to come to heel.
He’d always seen situations from her point of view before. That’d be what she was anticipating. Not for the first time this week, he wished he’d thrown around his weight and forced his grandmother to follow his instructions.
But that was a moot point.
He hadn’t because he loved the woman, and she’d taught him how to lead. The one thing he’d done in opposition to her wishes was training those who wanted to learn a woodworking trade. She’d conceded this hobby of his had brought funds to the pack, allowed them to make improvements at the castle, so they’d continued with furniture making.
He glanced at Anita and discovered her watching him. A sliver of fear flashed over her before her expression shuttered. Rory nodded at Hugh.
“I’d appreciate knowing the truth. Anita has told me bits and pieces, but I don’t remember anything. Hell, I should remember my mate. My grandmother and I have treated Anita and her family shamefully, yet the entire event is like a black hole. To move on, Anita and I need to confront the problem.”
Rory sat beside Anita.
“Should we stay?” Edwina asked, indicating Suzie and herself.
“Stay,” Rory said. “You’re Anita’s friends. I trust you.” The truth, he realized. He trusted Anita and her Middlemarch friends. Their loyalty to each other impressed him since it was a quality his pack lacked. He kicked himself for not seeing this earlier. His chest ached, and he felt torn. He couldn’t lose Anita—not after he’d found her again. No matter what Hugh told him, he didn’t intend to walk away. His wolf whined, the reaction unusual but understandable.
Castle Henderson was their home, their place of safety and happiness.
Hugh cleared his throat and spoke, jolting Rory from his tumultuous thoughts.
“Everything Anita told you is true,” Hugh said. “Or at least from the snippets I’ve gathered, the things she mentioned to you are fact. During a family dinner, she stalked into the Great Hall and told everyone present you and she were mates.”
Rory frowned, trying to recall the moment. He’d been there. He’d spoken to Anita, yet this vital occasion was a yawning black chasm. “What did I say?”
“You appeared as shocked as everyone else. You sat in your chair and stared at Anita.” Hugh shook his head. “She was such a tiny thing. She focused entirely on you, and her eyes glowed a golden brown. It was your feline, I think. Elizabeth towered over her and glared down at Anita. Back then, those important to the pack sat on a raised dais. Anyway, Elizabeth blasted you with her power since she was the alpha. She snarled that Anita was mistaken, and Rory was not your mate. You were a deluded child with mental problems and not worthy of wiping Rory’s shoes.”
“Ah, yes,” Anita murmured. “I’d forgotten that part.”
Her careful voice hid none of her hurt and disillusionment, still present all these years later. The moment had been traumatic and life-changing for her and her family.
“Go on,” Rory said to Hugh.
“Your grandmother instructed two of her security team to escort Anita home and to make certain you stayed there. She told Anita she’d be there later in the afternoon to speak to her parents.”
Anita gave an audible swallow. “What happened after I left? I thought Rory was lying or playing me, but it’s obvious he truly doesn’t know what happened.”
“I’m getting to that,” Hugh said. “After the men escorted you from the Great Hall, Elizabeth turned to you, Rory. She demanded to know if you had encouraged the girl. From what I witnessed, you seldom saw Anita. Your paths didn’t cross because Rory is older, but you informed your grandmother you liked her. Then you accused Elizabeth of rudeness, told her she was mean, and Anita wasn’t to blame. Everyone witnessed your anger. You informed your grandmother you’d make things right, and you stood, intent on following Anita. That was when your grandmother lost the plot. She picked up a heavy serving plate, and when you walked past her, she struck you over the head. You toppled like a mighty oak and hit your head on the wooden table when you fell.
“Everyone stared, shocked by her actions. She stalked off, leaving you lying on the floor. You were out cold and unresponsive, with a pool of blood around your head. I called the medic, and we took you to your chamber. Everyone thought you’d die. You were unconscious for eight days, and when you stirred, you had no memory of the events. Elizabeth had made sure Anita left the castle and promised dire consequences to the family should they return. She also made certain everyone at the meal remained silent. She put about the story someone attacked you and surrounded you with bodyguards. Elizabeth scared everyone, and given the lack of compassion she’d shown Anita’s family and also Rory, each of us understood our lives and those of our families were in danger should we speak a word of the truth.”
“Remember when I fell off my horse and took a knock to the head? Grandmother had my horse destroyed.” The knot in Rory’s throat refused to leave while devastation twisted everything together. “I begged her not to, but she told me once a horse stepped out of line, it set a pattern of behavior.”
“Aye,” Hugh said, his voice grim. “That horse was the gentlest soul, but your grandmother didn’t care. I think she feared another knock might bring back your memory. She wished her plot to succeed, and her relationship with you returned to normal. She allowed her hatred of the Highland felines who decimated her close family to rule her actions.”
“Why did she hire Anita’s parents if she hated felines so much?” Edwina asked.
“Elizabeth’s late husband, Roland, hired them. Both Ross and Blair were excellent at their jobs and kept to themselves. They kept their heads down and didn’t cause problems, so Elizabeth had no reason to single them out.”
“Until I inserted myself into the pack,” Anita said in a pained voice.
“Aye,” Hugh agreed.
“Why are you telling me this now?” Rory asked.
“You and Anita could be happy together, and it’s time to right the wrong.”