Annis woke feeling sick and barely made it to the privies before her stomach emptied. She huddled in the corner of the courtyard as the breeze sent cool fingers over her bare neck and vowed not to let whisky pass her lips ever again.
The previous night raced through her mind, and she felt a glow of triumph that Hamish had not succeeded in getting any information out of her. Her purpose and true nature remained a secret.
She scrubbed her hair—and as much body as she dared expose—at the communal troughs and arranged her brat, then walked into the keep to eat, deciding she could stomach plain oats and some milk.
“You’re looking hearty today,” said Hamish’s voice in her ear. “Awake before me and you’ve even shaved. You’ll put the rest of us to shame.”
Annis put her hand to her jaw. Of course Hamish would not suspect why it was hairless. “A man should take pride in his appearance.”
“Very true.” Hamish straightened the neck of his leine and ran his hand through his hair, causing it to flop forwards. He shook it back and gave Annis a grin that made her toes curl with desire.
“We didnae finish talking last night.” Hamish filled his bowl with oats and gave Annis a penetrating look. “You were going to tell me which man you’re looking for and why.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Annis replied. She laughed at his expression of exaggerated disappointment.
“Maybe we’ll drink together again tonight?” he suggested.
Annis smiled. “There’s no point. You’d have to give me a lot more to drink to loosen my tongue, and after that much I’d be unable to speak.”
“Maybe I’ll just do it for your company.”
They held each other’s gaze, and Annis tried not to picture Hamish loosening her tongue. She had come dangerously close to kissing him the night before and ruining her disguise. And what was left of her reputation, as if such a thing mattered any longer, because she was almost certain that if she kissed him, she’d want to do much more.
“My oats are getting cold,” Hamish said. “Let’s eat.”
Annis followed him to a long table, more at ease in his company now she knew that she had not been discovered. He was clearly popular, calling and returning greetings with good humour across the room and muttering gossip beneath his breath to her. She was enjoying his company so much she barely registered who Hamish sat alongside until she found herself opposite Malcolm McCrieff.
She couldn’t confront him in front of Hamish and sat silently as the two men talked, struck again by their animosity. Perhaps she should tell Hamish the truth. He had been consistently kind to her and might take pity on her situation.
Hamish left after promising to beat Malcolm in every event. Annis found herself hoping he would. She remained seated until Malcolm glared at her.
“What d’ye want?”
She swallowed and looked into his eyes. “Don’t you know me, my lord?”
He curled a lip.
“I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
Malcolm strode away, leaving Annis holding back tears of anger.
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