Malcolm'S Honor (Historical, 519)
die.
    Malcolm could not stomach how he’d failed the young knight, who’d often proclaimed his eagerness to serve his king and fight beneath the Fierce One’s command. Bitterness soured Malcolm’s mouth.
    â€œI’ll need hot water. You—” Elin pointed a slim finger at one of his men “—see to it.”
    â€œDove, these are my men to command. Lulach, Hugh needs fresh water. We cannot send the traitor’s daughter for it.”
    â€œTrue.” Anger burned in resentful eyes, for Lulach, as Malcolm suspected others did, blamed Elin and her father for Hugh’s injuries. “I’ll go, but make no mistake. I’m no criminal woman’s handmaiden.”
    Malcolm watched Elin of Evenbough blanch, and saw the denial sharpen her face. She muttered something beneath her breath—and he knew he would have objected had he heard it—then she knelt gracefully at Hugh’s side.
    The poor knight’s chances were not good; Malcolmknew this even before she rolled back layers of wool and linen. A neatly stitched gash stretched from Hugh’s ribs to his groin. She bent to study it, her golden hair, with a hint of red, like a flame that caught and shimmered in the sunlight slanting through the open door. She was liquid fire, and when she tilted her face up to meet his gaze, his chest burned as if a firestorm raged there, wicked and untamed.
    â€œI see no sign of fever. Look, no redness marks the edges of the wound.” A measure of joy filled her voice. Not triumph or pride, for Malcolm knew those well enough, but gladness. And her gladness surprised him. “I predict Hugh will live.”
    â€œDo you always predict what you cannot control?”
    â€œWhat? You doubt my abilities?”
    â€œAye, I doubt all women.” The girl was too green. She’d not seen death and dying the way he had. A gray pallor clung to the wounded man’s face and took hold, growing stronger as the light shifted and deepened.
    â€œTruly, a man such as you sees naught but dying. What do you know of the living?” She turned her shoulder to him, as if he’d insulted her.
    He could not argue. For once the dove was correct.
    â€œWhere’s Alma?” Her low voice wobbled a bit.
    â€œI sent her to aid the innkeeper’s wife, who is crippled with joint pain. They are not accustomed to receiving so many men at once. ’Tis a small village, and these roads not often traveled. Only a traitor evading the king’s knights might choose this path.”
    â€œYou needn’t remind me of my plight.” Elin bowed her head, searching through the satchel she carried. Crocks clattered together, and the dull clunks and thunks chimed noisily in the somber tension of the air. “Bring me Alma.”
    â€œNay, dove. If you need assistance, I shall give it.”
    â€œYou?” Her eyes widened, and she lifted one corner ofher mouth in disbelief. Then, mayhap remembering her vow to behave, she erased that sneer from her delicate lips, pearled with early morning light. “You admit you know naught of healing.”
    â€œI can hold a trencher well enough.” He hid his chuckle behind a cough, amused at her valiant effort not to insult him. Aye, the poor girl was trying, but like an untamed horse facing the prospect of a saddle, she could not hide her unwillingness. “Besides, you are my prisoner. I’ll not leave your side, traitor’s daughter.”
    Temper flared in her eyes, glaring like sunlight on water. Her fists curled, but no anger sounded in her voice. She was like any woman, always pretending. “I will honor your offer of assistance, for you are the greatest knight in all the realm.”
    â€œNot so great.” He waited, and although he sensed them, no insults spewed from her sharp tongue. He accepted the trencher of steaming water Lulach handed him. “I’ve seen many manner of men, dove, and not one has been so

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