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Excerpt The Other Side of Dusk
(Sorcha finds Ualan has taken steps to protect a wild plant she wishes to nurture.)
Taog was a sturdy, intelligent child, and she was fond of the boy. Now, what did she think of the father? Of Ualan?
That was a bit harder. Pain flowed just beneath the surface of the man. Like a rip tide, he held powerful emotions in check. They were always lurking behind his eyes.
He was good with Taog. That day in the corrie he could have lost his temper with Taog and hurt the child for his impudence. Ualan corrected the boy without anger; she recalled the whole scene as if it happened moments before.
Were the stones around the plant a method of correcting her? With a shake of her head, Sorcha rejected that notion. They helped protect it. Ualan understood the plant was precious to her.
A surge of emotion flew through the young woman. If she interpreted all his actions correctly, Ualan cared for her. Might he be the man she would spend the rest of her life with? Did he want her or just a dalliance? The question caused Sorcha to sigh.
What did she want from Ualan? Perhaps it was too soon to know. They had not been here that long.
In two days the fight would take place. Torcuil had sent a messenger to Eilan a’ Camus. He thought it only right to let Uilleam know. The lad had been part of that village since birth.
It was not to be a fight to the death. The other one that was to take place on the same day was another matter. Diarmad had been entirely too disrespectful of Ualan.
Sorcha ran both hands over her arms. The sleeves of the leine slid upward. A shiver coursed through her. It was a dangerous situation.
If Deorsa wounded Ualan and he still chose to fight Diarmad, he could be injured; perhaps unto death. That would kill any hopes they might have of getting to know one another.
Another thing she had not considered caused a sharp intake of breath. If Diarmad disfigured or maimed Ualan, the young man could no longer be a viable candidate to replace his father.
There was nothing she could do to change the course of things. The fight would take place, and she prayed Ualan would win. Deorsa was a likely enough lad, Sorcha hoped he wasn’t injured too badly, she had no doubts about Ualan being a better fighter than the fisherman turned smith’s apprentice.
Diarmad was the one she feared. He and Ualan were of an age and size. Diarmad was from Dun Troddan and raised to fight.
As Ualan hadn’t approached her or her father, Sorcha hesitated to say anything. Leaning forward, she ran the fingers of her right hand over the stones he had placed around the plant. Ualan was a puzzle, but a well-formed one.