Hamish was determined to put Annis from his mind and concentrate on the events. He did not see her in the crowds, but she filled his thoughts. A man had brought her here. His loins squirmed, knowing she had followed him.
He directed the rush of vigour into his wrestling and succeeded in winning every match. He stood over his final opponent, arms raised to acknowledge the cheers, and spotted Annis. She was staring intently at someone behind him, her attention not on him at all. He turned to see who she was looking at and came face-to-face with Malcolm, who was watching Hamish’s victory with a bullish expression.
She was here for Malcolm.
Hamish lowered his hands as jealousy washed over him and made his way silently from the arena.
The most eagerly anticipated event was a race down one side of the loch with a swim across the bay and back up the other bank back to the castle gates. Men pushed forwards but Hamish held back. The gateway was narrow and there was no point being crushed. Annis elbowed her way behind Malcolm. Hamish’s throat tightened with bitterness, but he comforted himself that if she could run in Malcolm’s wake she might not get crushed.
The sun beat down and most men—Hamish included—had stripped to the leine, some to the braies. Annis wore her brat wrapped tightly and the cap pulled down low so that only an increasingly red face was visible. She must be near passing out with the heat.
Hamish couldn’t believe she intended to run and swim in her disguise, for a wet leine would cling to her body displaying every curve. He was consumed with the urge to discover their shape and almost missed Douglas and Fiona MacNeish stepping forward on the raised platform.
Fiona raised a scarf. With dispassionate eyes she surveyed the men who hoped to win her. The passion that had been heating Hamish’s blood at the thought of Annis now froze. He had no interest in marrying Fiona. When she dropped the scarf he ran without enthusiasm, wondering whether pleasing his father was worth a half-life with a bride he didn’t care for.
Annis’ slightness gave her an unexpected advantage, and for a while she was ahead of Hamish, giving him a good view of her long, shapely legs to the knee. They both drew level with Malcolm—whose stocky frame was built for strength not speed—at the same time.
“Ye’d go faster if ye stripped off a layer or two,” Hamish grunted to Annis as he passed them both.
Annis grimaced and closed the gap between her and Malcolm. She called something to him. Hamish didn’t hear what, but Malcolm frowned in confusion. Hamish looked back as Malcolm pushed past Annis where the track narrowed. His elbow caught her hard in the chest, and with a cry of pain she fell to the ground.
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