CHAPTER ONE – AN ENCOUNTER
September 1574, The Scottish Borders
Darkness had fallen and the temperature of the early autumn day had dropped quickly. A cold, dank mist rose from the burn they were following and shrouded the carriage, its ghostly fingers reaching in through the open windows, caressing the occupants huddled inside. Lady Abigail Griffin shivered and pulled her cloak more tightly around her. The mist had penetrated the core of her being; it was like being embraced by the dead. She was annoyed because they shouldn’t have been out on this road so late into the evening. One of their horses had slipped its shoe and it had taken the groomsman two hours to find it and re-shoe the beast. As a consequence, when she should have been safe in the relative warmth of Arkholm tower, she was quivering with the cold, and her husband refused to sit near her to warm her. He was seated opposite, deep in conversation with her father about cattle or grain or she didn’t know what. Their heads were close together and they were whispering. Clearly, they either didn’t want her to know what they were talking about, or they thought it above her head. She was forty years old, but she might as well have been sixteen the way they treated her. Not that she should expect anything less, it was the way of the world, and she should accept her place in it. Unfortunately, accepting things without questioning was not the way Abigail Griffin went about life, and that had got her into a deal of trouble in the past. She supposed that was how she had ended up married to Lord Alasdair Griffin of Arkholm, the infamous head of Clan Griffin, ruthless businessman, feared Laird, Lord of everything, including her. She had got the husband she deserved, or so her late mother had delighted in telling her. It hadn’t always been like that. This was Abigail’s second marriage, her first being to Alasdair’s older brother, Jacob, but he had died only four years into their marriage, and the younger brother had inherited his estate and all that came with it, including his widow.