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“I said, remove yer gown.”
Mayhap it would be best to humor him just now. She’d show him that she would obey him. Slowly untying the laces at her bust, she shrugged the sheer fabric off her shoulders. Conall stood motionless, staring as the gown slid to the floor with a soft hiss. Seeing the hunger in his gaze, she moved toward him.
“Conall, please let me explain.”
“I dinna wish to hear yer lies.” His voice was hoarse.
“I havena lied to ye.” She took another step toward him. He hadn’t moved, but his eyes continued to travel her body as she approached. “Ye are my life-mate, Conall. I knew it the first time ye touched me.”
“Aye. The Gods choose a mate for every faerie. ’Tis fate. Ye are mine.” She was gradually coming closer and closer to him. A few more steps and she would be able to touch him.
“Just how do ye know this? Why should I believe ye?” His words were tight and clipped. He wanted her. She could feel it.
“A faerie always knows when she has met her life-mate. ’Tis instinct.” Standing before him now, she reached for the ties on his tunic. Conall stood very still until she had released both sides. Then he pulled the tunic over his head. He said nothing as he carelessly tossed the tunic in a nearby chair. Aisling reached for the laces on his shirt.
Grabbing her hand before she touched him, he squeezed just enough to make his grip ncomfortable for her. “Ye willna cast yer spells on me, woman. Is that clear?”
Yanking her hand free of his grip, she took a step back. His hateful attitude was testing her patience. “I havena cast any spells. Ye are as mad as yer father was if ye believe otherwise.”
As quick as lightning, his hand shot out, capturing a mass of her hair and painfully wrenching her head back. He towered above her as he held his face close to hers. “Ye willna speak
ill of me father.” He was growling every word, anger spitting from his gaze.
Tears filled her eyes. Whether from pain or frustration she wasn’t certain. “Conall,” she managed.
“Nay, I willna listen further.” Lowering his head he claimed her mouth in a punishing, bruising kiss. Holding her still with his hurtful grip on her hair, he pulled her against him and cruelly forced her to open her mouth.
This was not the tender kiss Aisling wanted. Nay, it was not even the demand for surrender he had issued in the forest. This kiss tasted of anger and betrayal. When he suddenly released her, she staggered back, tears freely falling, her hand covering her battered lips.
“Lie on the bed.”
Aisling eased her hold on Isibeal. The need to confess what she had learned today was overwhelming. “Mama, there is somethin’ ye should know. Conall is an ό Briain. His family is the one Breandan has been feuding with all these years.”
Isibeal sighed. “Aye, I know. Mayhap ye can end the feud.”
“Ye knew? How? Why did ye not tell me?”
“I didna wish to worry ye. I knew that Breandan and yer father afore him had been feuding with the Lord of Kilronan. I suppose now that ye know of the feud, ye should know the whole truth.” Isibeal swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “I am the faerie Conall blames for causing the feud, dearling.”
Aisling sucked in a startled breath. She couldn’t believe it. “Ye are…I dinna understand. Ye didna cast a spell on his father, did ye?”
“Nay, dearling, of course not. But Conall’s father—his name was Aengus—offered for I knew Aengus wasna my life-mate, and I told him that I couldna marry him. He wouldna cease his efforts to woo me. I tried and tried to make him understand, but I failed. When I married yer father, Aengus was verra angry. That’s when the feud began. But I give ye my word, dearling. I ne’er cast any spells on the man. Ye know I wouldna do that.”
“Aye,” Aisling nodded. “I know it, but will Conall believe it?” Realization struck her. “He doesna know that I am a Riagain. How shall I tell him that I’m the sister of his enemy?”
Isibeal lips thinned. “I think ye will find a way after ye are married. Win his
trust. Show him that ye are loyal. Give him yer love, dearling. Then it willna matter whose sister or daughter ye are.”
Aisling considered her mother’s words. “Mayhap ye are right, Mama. I dinna wish to keep secrets from him, but he is already distrustful of faeries. Once I have proven my loyalty I shall tell him. And until then, I shall pray to Danu for time enough to gain his faith afore he discovers who my family is.”
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She took several steps until she stood before him and looked up at him. Her perfect little chin lifted defiantly. “I may be a faerie, Conall, but I am not a wicked person. I willna let ye accuse me of wicked deeds like casting spells on unsuspecting humans.”
He lowered his head so that his face was but a breath away. Desire grew as he stared into her eyes. Softly, he teased her. “Ye willna let me? What will ye do to stop me, beauty?”
She smiled at him then—a smile that could brighten a room and make a man beg to see it again. “I wonder… Mayhap I could make grass grow from yer ears.”
Throwing his head back, he laughed heartily.
Conall’s laughter filled her with hope. No longer did he seem to distrust her. Mayhap the task of surmounting his prejudice would not be as difficult as she first
believed. Slowly his laughter subsided to a soft chuckle and he again lowered his face to hers.
His uncommon sea-green gaze was twinkling with mirth. “Ah, lass, I quiver in fear of yer talents. Have mercy, I beg ye.” He raised his to hand push a lock of hair behind her ear. “What must I do to put meself in yer good graces?”
Her heart skipped a beat at the slight touch. “Do?”
“Aye, name yer forfeit, Aisling, fey vision of Arigna Forest.” His voice was a tender caress she felt to her bones.
“A kiss,” she replied without pause, without thought.
His lips curved in a sly smile. “Have ye e’er been kissed afore, sweetling?”
“Nay. Will ye be my first, Conall?” His lips were so close now, she could feel their warmth. His breath mingling with her own, her pulse leapt in anticipation.
“Aye.” His lips brushed hers in a feather-soft touch. Without thinking, she raised her hands against his chest. Her palms slid against a firm wall of muscle, her
fingers tangling in his shirt.
His arms encircled her, pulling her to him, his lips claiming hers in a searing blaze, igniting a firestorm between them. Liquid heat pulsed in her veins and her head was swimming as she melted into him. Then suddenly she felt the tip of his tongue tease the corner of her mouth. A soft moan escaped her, and her lips parted of their own accord.