“Are you ready to return to bed, lass?” Enrick asked Colleen, offering her a hand up from Grant’s bathroom floor. Grant was still securing his towel around his waist or he would have aided her.
What else could go wrong tonight?
“I don’t think your whisky agreed with me,” she said in barely a whisper. “And the room is spinning out of control.” She took another gander at Grant’s towel, and he couldn’t help but be a wee bit amused.
She took Enrick’s hand and stood, then rinsed her face in the sink and dried it with a towel as he held on to her elbow to keep her from falling.
Grant let out his breath. “Go to the kitchen and get her something to settle her stomach, will you, Enrick? I’ll take it from here.”
With his arm around her waist to keep her steady, Grant returned Colleen to the lady’s room, which, by all rights, should be hers. Her husband—or for wolves, mate—should be in the room Grant now slept in. But she couldn’t stay in the room adjoining his while she remained here, or it could signify that they were attached. Nor would he give up his bed to sleep elsewhere, which would also cause conjecture on his people’s part—making them think he was no longer in charge. A night, no problem. But months, a year? He couldn’t allow it.
Even if she felt that it was her right to stay in this room, he didn’t believe she’d want to cause speculation any more than he would. He was glad that Lachlan, at least, had departed for the evening.
Enrick brought her something to settle her stomach, and after she drank half of it, she covered herself back up with the covers, not looking at Grant or his brother.
She closed her eyes and didn’t say anything. Neither did Grant.
Enrick glanced at his brother’s state of undress, and Grant took a deep breath. “I’ve got it. Go to bed. See you in the morning.”
Enrick looked back at Sleeping Beauty, smirked, then left the room and shut the chamber door.
Grant closed her bed curtains to keep the warmth in and returned to the shower to rinse the soap off hastily, in the event she returned to steal his cold water with another flush of the toilet. He toweled off, then finally climbed into bed. He’d barely shut the bed curtains when he heard a woman’s footsteps as she ran past his bed to his bathroom.
He listened, heard her lose more of her supper, the toilet flush, and the water in the sink run. Then she hurried past his bed and into the lady’s chamber. The mattress creaked a little in the next room, then blissful silence. He truly felt bad for how she was holding up. But he couldn’t do much more for her now.
He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but he couldn’t with worrying about the lass.
Then he heard something different—her soft footfalls headed toward her chamber door. What the devil?
Her door opened into the hallway, and he heard something else. Toenails clicking on the floor as they headed out of the lady’s chamber. Wolf toenails. He groaned and threw his covers aside, naked, then headed into her room. Her skirt, blouse, peach panties, and matching lace bra lay scattered on the floor. She was gone.
He hurried out of her room and down the hallway to catch her. She was racing down the stairs to the first floor.
Hell and damnation. All he needed was a tipsy American she-wolf getting herself in trouble. He headed in the direction she’d gone, then heard the wolf door squeak open and shut in the kitchen. He called on the urge to shift in a hurry, not sure how he would convince her to return to the keep. His body welcomed the change, his muscles warming, stretching, his human form turning into the wolf.
He shoved through the wolf door and listened.
Despite being drunk, she moved fast, her nails clicking on the stone walkway leading through the gardens.
Tracking her scent, he sprinted through the cool, misty herb garden and then down the stone path to the sitting garden. She wasn’t there. He circled around, sniffing for her scent. Then he stared at the gate that led to the rose garden and the seawall. Either she’d come and gone this way before he reached the outdoor sitting room, or she’d jumped over the wrought-iron gate that led to the rose garden. He didn’t think she could have moved fast enough to get here and leave again, racing down the garden path before he arrived.
He leaped over the gate, clipping it with his back paws. He smelled her delightful she-wolf scent in the rose garden and followed it until he reached the four-foot-high seawall. He glanced to the left and then to the right of the moss-covered gray stones. He didn’t see her. She wouldn’t have risked her neck going over the seawall. Then again, she wasn’t sober. The place was unfamiliar and the smells provocative enough to entice a visiting wolf to check them out.
He jumped on top of the slick wall and looked down. Below on the jagged, slippery wet rocks, he saw the she-wolf loping along the path he and his brothers used when they were old enough to risk it and young enough to chance it before they knew better.
He was angry at himself for giving her the whisky and putting her in harm’s way. He howled for her to stop, hating that his clansmen would hear him and worry that there was trouble. There was—in the form of one sexy she-wolf.
She paused, turned, and slipped. His heart in his throat, he watched in horror as she fell. He raced after her. Though wolves’ paw pads could keep better footing on ice than humans’, he still slipped on the wet moss in his haste to reach her.
She stood scarce inches above the rocks where the waves were breaking when she managed to stop her fall. On her belly, she panted and didn’t seem to notice when he came up behind her. They were much too close to the breakers. He had to get her back up to the path before a wave crashed farther up the rocks and swept her away. And him with her.
He nudged her to get to her feet. She snarled at him. He didn’t back off. He needed to get her up to the seawall and over it. Then he had to return her to the lady’s chamber, pronto.
“Grant, do you need our help?” Enrick called out, nearly out of breath and sounding more than concerned.
Grant looked up to see at least ten of his men peering over the wall. He shook his head. At least he didn’t think he needed their aid.
He was glad they had come to help him, should he need it, though he wished no one had seen any of this. He nosed her side to get her to climb the rocks to the path. He couldn’t carry her in his human form. Much too slippery. They’d manage the climb better in their wolf forms.
She suddenly leaped on top of the rock farther away from the breakers. Then her legs gave out, and she was sprawled on the mossy boulders. He clambered up the rocks and nudged her again. At first, he thought she was injured. Then he realized she was still very inebriated.
Being down here made it even more dangerous for her in her current condition. And he was afraid once she was on her feet, she’d turn and head into danger again, not realizing how treacherous it could be. He continued to nudge her, getting her to stand and then move back up the path. She couldn’t seem to walk a straight line over the rough-edged rocks, and she swayed a bit on her feet.
“Is she still drunk?” Lachlan called out.
Obviously, Grant wanted to say to his brother in a growly tone of voice.
Grant had wanted to keep her safe until she was over being sick, but he hadn’t expected her to do anything dangerous like this. Which made him even gladder that he’d kept her in the adjoining room so he could watch over her.
When they finally reached the seawall, she just stared at it. Enrick and Lachlan climbed over it and hoisted her up to another couple of men who eased her down on the other side.
As soon as the she-wolf stood in the bailey, Grant joined her. By the time he reached her, she was sprawled out on the stone pavers, eyes closed, sleeping.
“I guess she’s not going anywhere unless we take her there,” Enrick said, a smile in his words as he lifted her off the ground. “Lead the way.”
Grant grunted and loped back to his chamber. When he reached it, he shifted and heard his brother laying Colleen on the bed in the lady’s chamber.
“Be sure to bolt the door in her room,” Grant said. He heard the bolt slide closed and then Enrick joined Grant in his bedchamber.
“She’s more of a challenge than we thought she’d be. Thank God you caught her before she took a dangerous dunking in the sea,” Enrick said.
“Yeah, that’s why I wanted her door bolted. If she opens it, I’ll hear it. I’ll do the same in here.”
“All right. See you in the morning,” Enrick said, and Grant noticed the small smirk his brother wore.
“Hopefully, she’ll be feeling all right by then,” Grant said, then closed the door after his brother’s departure and bolted it. At the very least, if she tried to leave the chamber, she’d have to shift first to unbar the door. He hoped she’d sleep the rest of the night instead.
Now that he wasn’t leaping over seawalls and trying to secure her safety, he looked at her one last time. She was a pretty wolf with a reddish-brown mask. The lower half of her face was white all the way down her throat, and the white above her dark brown eyes emphasized them. With that and red fur in a strip down her nose, she looked just lovely. Her coloring reminded him of her grandmother’s, except that Neda’s had been grayer.
Satisfied Colleen wasn’t going anywhere, he returned to bed. This time he succumbed to a deep, bone-settling sleep.
Until a hand fell against his bare chest, giving him a near heart attack. He jumped back on the mattress, about to grab his sword, when he saw that the intruder was Colleen, snuggled under his blankets and sleeping in his bed! And naked.
“What are you doing in my bed?” Grant roared.
“Closer…to the…bathroom,” she said, her voice hushed with sleep, and yet she seemed to have enough awareness to know her own mind and that she would have her way in this, or else.
He absolutely refused to move into the lady’s chamber. He couldn’t, not if he wished to keep face with his men. They wouldn’t barge in on him, but the cleaning staff would smell his scent on the lady’s sheets. Then again, now they would smell the lady’s scent on his sheets.
He could not allow the woman to sleep in his bed! Yet what choice did he have? If she needed to reach the bathroom quickly, he had to admit that she should be closer to it.
Which meant he could not be here.
He quickly got out of bed as she turned to watch him, her eyes half-lidded. Aye, he was naked again. Despite her inebriated state, or maybe because of it, she seemed to enjoy looking him over. And that had the added disagreeable effect of arousing him when he shouldn’t be feeling that way in the least. He grabbed his kilt, the quickest thing within reach, and belted it around his waist, then left his chamber.
Hell and damnation. First day of the lass’s arrival and what happens? He’s rescuing her in the middle of the night for all to see. And now this. She was naked, sleeping in his bed, and he was off to look for a place to rest for the remainder of the night.
He definitely had to rethink the eating arrangements. The lass would get no whisky for the rest of her stay here. She could drink anything she liked as long as it was not alcoholic in nature. And after this night, he would sleep in his own bed while she slept on the lower floor in the White Room.