Things had changed.
And not exactly for the better.
Arran MacCarrick stared at the chessboard with unseeing eyes. He was six hundred and forty-six years old, and today he felt every day of those years.
A great sadness weighed upon him. Not for himself, but for his friends. It warred with the restlessness that urged him to do something.
The need for battle, to work his body into a frenzy as he unleashed the powers within him from his god, Memphaea. The yearning for something to do kept him awake at night – and on edge through the day. He searched for anything – and everything – to occupy his thoughts and body. If for only a little while.
Camdyn said he needed a woman. Arran inwardly snorted. The last thing he needed was a woman to get in his way and make him fret about her mortality.
“No’ likely,” he murmured.
An unwanted memory of his sister filled his thoughts. She had been a bright, shining star in his world. A free spirit who saw only good. Her future was supposed to have been filled with love and laughter.
Instead, Deirdre had found him. Shelley, his sweet sister, had tried to help him. In return she was torn to pieces before his very eyes.
He hadn’t been a Warrior then, hadn’t had the power to stop the wyrran. But even now with that power running just beneath his skin, he knew he was better off without any hindrances.
Are you really?
He glanced up from the chessboard to see Lucan and Cara walk hand in hand up the stairs, whispered words of lovers passing between them.
Unbidden the lonely nights assaulted him. While the others laughed and talked with their women, he sat in his room alone staring at the telly without paying attention to whatever movie someone had given him to watch.
Arran might know he was better alone, but he would admit – only to himself – that he envied what the other Warriors had with their women. The smiles, the touches, the secret looks.
It was those women, formidable Druids all, who had helped shape every Warrior in the castle. The Druids were strong, independent, and fierce. Perfect matches for the immortal Highland Warriors they had claimed.
Arran and the others of MacLeod Castle had killed two of the most evil Druids who had ever walked the earth, and they lost friends in the process.
It had taken centuries to end the reign of evil. After defeating such threats, happiness should have followed.
But Fate wasn’t always so kind.
Arran remembered his partner as he looked up to find Aiden staring at him impatiently. Arran moved his knight on the chessboard as Larena burst into the great hall followed closely by her husband, Fallon MacLeod.
“Check,” Arran said as he folded his arms on the table and tried to pretend he didn’t hear Fallon and Larena as their year old argument started up again.
Aiden MacLeod snorted and drummed his fingers on the table. “Uncle Fallon and Aunt Larena are at it again,” he mumbled, his fingers alighting on top of his queen.
Arran took a deep breath and looked at Aiden, one of only two children brought into a world of magic and Druids. Aiden was the son of Marcail, a powerful Druid, and Quinn MacLeod, one of three brothers both Highlanders and Warriors.
With a nudge of his foot against Aiden’s, Arran said, “Make your move, lad.”
Aiden’s green eyes flashed confidently. “I bested you last week. I can do it again.”
“Doona get cocky,” Arran warned, though a smile had pulled up the corners of his lips. They teased Aiden as being just a lad, but he’d come into manhood just as stubborn, intelligent, and headstrong as any of the MacLeods.
“I’m tired of waiting!” Larena shouted. “It’s past time, Fallon, and you know it. We’ve sacrificed centuries! I want a family. I want to hold my own children.”
Arran could no longer ignore the couple. He found his gaze shifting to his leader and Larena. All the men at the castle, save for Aiden, were Warriors – Highlanders with primeval gods locked inside them.
They had enhanced senses, incredible speed and strength, as well as individual powers given to them by their god. Each of them deadly in their own right.
Larena was the only female Warrior in a castle full of women who were Druids. The Druids often said the stones of the castle seemed to hum with magic. It was no wonder, Arran thought, with Warriors and Druids occupying the massive structure for over seven centuries.
“Larena,” Fallon said wearily as he wiped a hand down his face.
“No,” she interrupted him, anger making her voice quiver. “Don’t try to tell me it’ll be all right, because it isn’t all right.”
Larena walked away, leaving Fallon staring after her. Arran glanced to his left to a room off to the side that had been converted into a media room. There Hayden, Galen, and Logan watched Fallon silently, waiting to see what would happen.
The people who lived at MacLeod Castle were family. They weren’t bound by blood – they were bound by fate. Arran took a deep breath and thought how each of them had walked a path that had converged at the castle.
Even during their darkest hours, the love between them, the laughter, and determination held the group together. For the past year tensions had grown. And patience was wearing thin.
All because of a spell that could bind the gods inside them once more.