Redemption - Book 2 of the Katana Series
Born of the blood of the Celts, chosen by the Gods—widow, Connor MacDonald seeks a new life, a new beginning.
She is owed a boon by the Gods. What will they offer her in Redemption for her past great sacrifice?
At dusk, the sun made its slow descent across the sky. Connor showered and changed into a pair of blue denim jeans. Before she pulled on the white cotton shirt with three quarter sleeves, she caressed the tribal tattoos on each of her upper arms. The God Killer—Yokami Sukani’s sword and the Sword of War vibrated their welcome from their resting places under the ink. Images of the Samurai and his wife, Tomoe Gazen flooded her mind.
As she buttoned her shirt, she murmured, “I miss you guys, but I so don't miss the God crap.” A sense of hope for the future settled on her.
With the leather tab between her index finger and her thumb, she pulled on brown leather boots with three-inch heels and stood up. She nodded to her reflection in the mirror—good enough. The last thing I need is for the McVeys to think I'm not up to the job! A bloody man—Jesus!" After she unwound her long braid, she brushed the wall of hair straight then pulled the thick hank away from her face and wound it into a tight severe bun. She scooped up the keys from her dressing table and headed for the front door. She took a quick look around as she spoke aloud. ‘Well…I guess it’s now or never.”
As she walked up the stairs to the porch of the main house, she raised her hand to knock. Loud, raised voices came from inside the house. Her fist stopped in mid-air. Douglas’s voice boomed above everyone else. “…woman... Christ’s sake… Doona know… dressage school… booked... cancel… Holy God... mess… I ... Ewan! …hell…should have… Jesus God!”
Her chin dropped to her chest as she shook her head. As she stood, the setting sun, warmed her back. “Oh great, just bloody great!” After two minutes, she squared her shoulders and pounded on the door with her fist. The shouting stopped almost immediately. Mrs O’Donough swung the door open—her cheery red cheeks flushed above her wide smile. “Oh lass, come on in. Tea will be on the table, verra soon.” She took a step back and ushered Connor into the house.
In the dining room, the scrape of chairs screeched across the floor as the five men seated, rose to their feet. Tension thrummed in the room. Her heart clenched when seated next to Ewan, was a girl with shiny blonde hair. Connor guessed she was about ten or twelve years old. Next to her, balanced on a fat blue velvet pillow was an equally blonde boy who was perhaps a little older than her nephew Ethan; maybe he was three or four. Panic rose in her chest. Oh Shit! Kids! I am so not ready to deal with kids! The renewed pain of losing James, fanned her rising agitation.
Mrs O’Donough pulled a chair out at the far end of the table opposite Douglas. “Sit yourself here, I’ll be gettin’ the meal if anyone needs anythin’.”
Douglas glowered as he looked over the rim of his glass. “Care for a drink lass?”
Heart pounding, she tried to smile. “Tea, please.”
“Tea! Jesus! Cat’s piss! We drink whiskey at Glen Rowan before the evenin’ meal.”
“Good to know Mr McVey, but tea will do me, just fine.” A spike of irritation flared as he scrutinised her. The silence in the room was claustrophobic.
He sipped from his glass, while he continued to gaze across the table at her. No one else in the room spoke.
Five minutes later, the housekeeper breezed back into the dining room with a tray, laden with cups and a teapot. “Tea it is lass. I’ll take one with ye meself, while the vegetables finish off.” Connor almost smiled, imagining the woman with her ear plastered to the wall in the kitchen, eavesdropping on every word.
She set the tray down on the table with a clatter. Connor looked up at her and quirked an eyebrow in thanks. Mrs O’Donough smiled back as she poured two cups, handed her one then settled back onto her chair.
As the hot strong tea sang on her taste buds, Connor closed her eyes. “Mmm, thank you. Tea they say, is good for what ails you. Well most things…” The familiar bite of grief snapped at her. Hidden beneath her shirt, a solid gold ingot, her engagement ring and wedder dangled from the chain around her neck. The weight of the gold, a constant reminder of the past.
The older woman’s numerous chins wobbled when she nodded her head. “I doona think ye have met the bairns yet, have ye?” She tipped her cup toward the little girl sitting on the opposite side of the table. “Tessa?”
The girl looked over to Connor and smiled “My name is Theresa Mary Margaret McVey, but you can call me Tessa, and this” she turned and pointed to the little boy next to her, “is my brother Andrew Angus Michael McVey. But you can call him Andrew.”
“Hi. I'm Connor.”
“I know.” Tessa leaned forward, eyes bright. “My da” she inclined her head toward Ewan sitting next to her “and my uncles said that you were a bloody woman and that you are as sexy as hell!”
The men at the table shuffled and fidgeted in their seats. Ewan groaned and blushed as he stared at Tessa.
“Well you did! Don’t say you didn’t, because you did. Sexy as hell that's what you said” she stared back at him.
Ewan leaned over and scowled. “That's enough. It’s very rude to repeat adult conversations.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Tessa slow blinked once. “Well I’m not an adult and you said it in front of me and Andrew.”
Whiskey slopped onto the tablecloth when he slammed his glass down onto the table. “Tessa! Enough!”
Mrs O’Donough threw back her head and bellowed a laugh that seemed to bounce off the walls. “Oot of the mouths of babes lassie! Never a truer truth be told, than the truth itself.” She leaned over and dug a chubby elbow into Connor’s ribs.
Douglas snorted, his bushy grey brows furrowed as he glared at the housekeeper. “Her bloody name, is Connor. A lad’s name. How the hell were we to know she was a lass?”
Connor smiled when the older woman ignored Douglas’s scowl and turned to face her. “So, you're a rider then?”
Momentarily speechless, she stared at the other woman as she recovered from surprise. Seriously? I guess news of the world Championship win, hasn't made it up this far! The first embers of anger, began to glow red. "Yes, something like that, Mrs. O’Donough.”
“Now, now, there’ll be none of that Mrs. O’Donough business, lass. We're all family here. I have been hoosekeeper to this old man before these lads were even born. So ye can call me O'Dee like evra one else. These lads” she waved her arms about, “like young Tessa and Andrew here, couldna say O’Donough when they were wee bairns, so it got shortened a bit to O'Dee and ‘tis been that way ever since.”
“Well thank you O'Dee and I appreciate the tea.”
“Jesus woman!” Douglas thumped his fist on the table as he looked to the housekeeper. “Enough with the gawpin!’ These lads have already had three of me best whiskies and the bairns need food.”
“Enough yourself, old man. Your meal will be ready when it is ready and not before.”
“Hmmmmp!” he grumped.
Connor laughed out aloud.
“Somethin’ funny lass?”
“You sounded just like my da then, when you hmmmmped.”
His voice rumbled. “I doona think I made such a noise.”
“Yes you did da. You do it all the time,” smirked Aaron, who was a pea-in-a-pod younger version of his father.
Douglas glared at his son, who immediately stopped smiling. “Shut it Aaron! 'Tis is no laughing matter.”
Ignoring his son, Douglas looked at Connor. “Your father, is he a Scot?”
Smiling, she held the hot teacup between both hands. “To the bone.”
Douglas squinted at her. “Is he? What’s his name then?”
She bit her lip, to stop herself from smiling. “Angus.”
Douglas rolled the name over his tongue a couple of times. “Angus MacDonald? Angus MacDonald... Where have I heard that name before?" He looked across the table to her, eyebrows beetled. "Does he attend the Aberdeen Highland Games on the first Saturday in July? I know a good many of the Scots who come to compete.”
“Yes. Da and my brother Cameron usually come up to the New England for the Games most years.”
“Do they now?” He took a long sip of his whiskey, pursed his lips, rolled the liquid round in his mouth and swallowed. Still frowning, he stared down into his glass. “Angus MacDonald… I know that name… Where do I know that name…?” He took another mouthful, when suddenly he made a strangled, choking sound. The whiskey in his mouth spurted like a fountain into the air then rained down on the chequered tablecloth in golden droplets.
Connor pushed back her chair, went round the other side of the table and hammered him between the shoulder blades with her fist.
Spluttering, he turned round on his chair, to face her. “Angus MacDonald! Not the Angus MacDonald, the breeder of the Nimerlin Fey line of the black Friesians?”
“The one and the same.” She returned to her chair and sat down. “I see you’ve heard of him.”
Douglas turned his head and shot a disbelieving look to Ewan. “Heard of him! Jesus Christ! His horses are legendary and his dressage school…”
Leaning forward on her elbows, she intertwined her fingers in front of her. “No Mr McVey, my dressage school. My parents bequeathed the business to me. I am owner and dressage master for the Nimerlin school.”
“Well then,” a wide smile broke across his face as he picked up his glass and took a small cautious sip of the amber liquid, “perhaps this arrangement willna be such a disaster after all!”
The glossy, blue-black feathers of the raven blended into the gloom. His white eyes, ever alert, widened when the Shadow commenced its familiar dance. The black roiling mass leaned down on him. "Sentinel! What have you to report?"
"Dark One, there has been an arrival. A female—"
The Shadow reared back as if to strike. "You would dare to waste my time with trivialities? I care not who comes and goes. You know your mission! You know the opportunity that I seek." A cackling laugh erupted from her chest. "Oh the joy! I relish the moment when I can—"
The raven's beak clacked line bone on bone. "There are God threads around this female!"
Darkness surrounded the bird. "God threads you say? Be warned, do not lie to me. Your mate and chicks depend on your loyalty." Five thin projections sprang out of the Shadow just as a black glistening tongue sprang out of a gaping maw in an exaggerated display of finger licking. "Return! Find out what you can and report to me immediately! The evil tongue reappeared and circled the black cavernous mouth. "You know the price of failure."
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