Excerpt from Lady Miracle
Scotland, 14th century
She blinked away tears of frustration and yanked a laundered sheet from the rope slung above her head. "I wish I had never come here. I am treated like a servant here," she muttered to herself, pulling another sheet off the line, folding it snatching one more. Then she shrieked.
A tall Highlander stood in front of her. Startled, she dropped the linens on the ground. "What is it you want?" she demanded.
He tipped a brow silently, and bent to retrieve the fallen sheet.
"Give me that," she said, snatching it, shaking, folding. She dropped it into the basket and looked up. "Why did you follow me? Be gone from here."
His lopsided, fleeting grin had a curious softening effect on her irritable mood. "I came for you." His voice was compelling, fluid, deep.
"You want a servant? I am not she."
"I want a healer."
She stopped. "Healer? I am not what you want. Find someone else."
"I understand you are a trained physician," he said.
"I am, but I cannot practice medicine here. Now go away."
Gray and clear, his eyes were like the silvery clouds behind him. His hair, rich brown, tangled and in need of trimming, whipped about his head and shoulders in the breeze. He gazed down at her steadily, strong and determined. Confident, too. He was clearly not going away.
"You would be a fine physician," he mused. "I want you to come with me."
"Who are you? Did my brother Gavin Faulkener send you here?"
"He did not. I am Diarmid Campbell of Dunsheen."
She gasped in recognition, recalling a battlefield near Kilglassie Castle. She had been thirteen when she had seen a young Highlander repair a wound in a man's leg. She remembered his capable hands, his concern for the man's welfare. She had admired his skill. He had called her Micheil in a tender way that she had liked.
And he had seen her lay hands on the wound and staunch the blood. He knew about her gift. Her heart lurched uneasily. No one must know that.
The slender young surgeon she recalled had matured into a handsome man with a wild, barely restrained power that was more than muscular. His steel-colored eyes, his quiet voice, were commanding, even intimidating. There were tiny creases around his eyes and mouth. Over the years he had hardened, changed. They were strangers, but that long-ago moment still bonded them.
She looked away, busied herself with the laundry. "Ah. Dunsheen."
"We met long ago," he said. "You remember."
She folded a towel. "You are a surgeon, are you not? I was very young."
"Surely you recall more than that."
Panic squeezed her chest. She had strived for years to keep her gift secret. "Diarmid Campbell, laird of Dunsheen"—she spoke haughtily to subdue her fright—"what medical service do you need? Is your wife with child? Do you have an elderly parent in need of examination? In the town there is a physician and many barber-surgeons." She was babbling. The man was a competent surgeon himself, and had no need of the guild.
"I have an ailing child," he said. "You will help her."
"A child?" She glanced at him. Much of her study involved the diseases and conditions of childhood. "Is the child fevered, or injured? Did you bring the child here?"
He folded his arms across his chest. "She is at Dunsheen. She cannot walk, though she is five years old."
She frowned. "Was it a birth injury, or was she hurt?"
"Neither. She has been seen by a physician and herb-wives. None has helped her, and none know what causes the ailment. You will look at her."
"Bring her here. I will examine her. Secretly," she added.
"I cannot bring her here. You will come with me."
"If Dunsheen is not far, I could—"
"It is in Argyll, in the western Highlands."
She stared up at him. "I cannot travel there with you!"
"You can. You will. I want her made whole again."
"No physician can guarantee a cure."
"That is not why I came here." His keen gaze held hers. "I need a miracle."
Michaelmas stared up at him. "A—what?"
"A miracle." He said the word simply. Expectantly.