As the other members of his clan set up camp, Algernon watched Scarlet, sitting under an oak tree, with watchful eyes. She looked like a child sitting there, yet her eyes made her look older, more like her two and twenty years. Just thinking of how it felt to hold her in his arms brought a shiver to his spine. She fascinated him but he did not know why.
“Algernon?” one of the clansmen awakened him from his trance.
“Aye? What is it?”
“The evening meal is being prepared. Is the lady going to join us?”
“Prepare it as ye normally would and ask the lady if she would care to join our company. If she is hungry enough, she will dine with us.”
As supper was being prepared, Scarlet watched the clansmen as they busied themselves with their work. She was amazed at how fascinated she was at seeing them all at work- like a child satisfying her curiosity.
“Me lady, “ a clansman said, breaking her stare, “would ye care to join us for the evening meal?”
“Nay! I am not hungry!”
“Suit yerself, me lady.” The clansman walked away, leaving Scarlet by the tree in awe. Algernon saw her spitefulness towards the clansman and walked over to where she sat.
“Yer not hungry, me lady?”
“Not hungry for their kind of food!”
“Perhaps ye would care to join me for supper then. If the likeness of me men does not suit you, then perhaps the likeness of me would be more preferable.”
Scarlet considered this before she answered. “I will join you, if I must, but do not expect me to eat. I told you before I was not hungry!” He helped her to her feet and looked deep into her emerald eyes.
“Yer eyes sparkle in the moonlight, me lady.”
“Yer tongue may say sweet things but to me ears ‘tis just devil’s words!”
“Yer words are spiteful but there be a sweeter side to you I have yet to find.” His smile revealed to Scarlet what she could expect from such a clansman.
“And never will!” she shouted, storming off towards the tent.
Algernon watched her as she walked, with her head held high, towards his tent. Reds were always believed to be sly, coy foxes at any time. Perhaps she was just toying with him. He followed her into his tent and sat down beside her, taking his food tray into his lap. Neither one spoke a word to each other during the time Algernon ate. It was not until after he finished his meal that he spoke first.
“Ye watch me eat and yet you do not speak.”
“I do not wish to speak to someone so cold as you!” she spat.
“Come now, have ye ne’er met a man wishing to hear yer voice?” he asked with a smile.
Scarlet said nothing but stared at Algernon and wondered whether this clansman had anything sweet to say to her or whether there was not a kind bone in his body. She could not help but wonder where he had heard such things. Never in her entire life had she heard a man challenge her the way he did.
“You are silent, me lady. Have ye found no words to fight me with?” he taunted.
“I do not wish to fight you, me laird.”
“Are unable to fight that is!”
“I do not wish to fight!” She jumped up, ready to sprint for the opening of the tent.
Algernon grabbed her arm and pulled her down to a sitting position. Her eyes gleamed with fury as she stared him down. He could do naught but stare back into her eyes, wishing to know more of what she thought behind those eyes.
“Ye dare to leave!” he bellowed.
“I leave when I feel fit to leave!”
“Suit yerself, me lady. But do not come crying to me when the fire is snuffed out and you begin to freeze during the night!”
Scarlet considered his words and crossed her arms over her chest. How could she argue when she knew he was right. She was trapped and there was no way she could escape. Algernon caught her by surprise by reaching his hand up unexpectedly to touch the amulet Scarlet had around her neck.
“Where did you get this charm?” he asked, turning it over in his hand.
“’Twas given to me on me twentieth birthday by me mother,” she said, snatching it back. “She said ‘twas given to her when she came of age, and her mother the same.”
“I’ve ne’er seen such a gem before in me life! Emeralds are one of the hardest gemstones to come by, especially when they are surrounded by the purest of gold.”
“Yer fascinated with gemstones, me laird?”
“Only when they are attached to a woman of surpassing beauty such as yerself.” He did not even realize what he had said until after her eyes met his in an awkward stare. “You are beautiful, me lady.”
He pulled her chin towards his before she could protest and kissed her gently upon the lips. Ne’er in her life had Scarlet ever felt a man’s lips upon hers the way she felt them now. This man, who had ne’er seen her before this day, kissed her with such gentleness and care, making it even harder for her to resist temptation. But resist she did, pushing him away with a force that sent Algernon flying backwards. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, which still tingled from the kiss, and got up.
“Where do you think yer going, me lady?”
“Away from you!”
“Me men have not seen the sight of a Scottish wench for many a day. They could ravage you like a hungry pack of wolves if ye leave. I promise you no harm will beget you if ye decide to remain here for the night.”
“Are ye asking me to stay?”
“All I ask is to consider what I’ve said to you. I doubt ye would get such an offer from the likes of them,” he said, pointing with his head towards the entrance of the tent.
Scarlet considered this and sat back down again. She refused to look at his face but she could tell he was watching her. He was indeed watching her, almost studying her. What he said was true. He would naught lay one hand upon her that night.
“What be yer name, me lady?” he asked, breaking the silence.
“What is it to you?!” she spat.
“I was trying to make conversation, me lady. I would not push yer luck at the moment! “’Twould appear that I have the upper hand about now!”
“Me name be Scarlet,” she said at last, out of pure defeat.
“The name’s Algernon,” he said cheerfully. “Yer silent, me dear,” he mused.
“I have nothing more to say to you!” Scarlet said, turning away from his glare.
“Suit yerself, me lady-- I mean, Scarlet. Pleasant dreams.” Algernon turned around and laid on his side, his back towards her.
“What-- what are you doing?” she stuttered.
“Going to sleep, which I suggest ye do also. ‘Tis going to be a long ride to the mountains.”
“Why are we going to the mountains?” she asked, quite confused.
“’Tis where me homeland of Locera is. ‘Twould be the clan’s destination,” he said, turning around to face her.
“And where do I fit into yer little plan?”
“I find out where you belong as soon as we return to Locera.”
Algernon rolled over onto his side, leaving Scarlet staring at nothing. She needed to get out of there, wanted to get away from there. But if she left Algernon’s side, his men would do to her what feared most from any man. If she stayed, there was no telling what Algernon would do.