Of course, Faden had made sure that had not happened with his demands that they return immediately or face consequences. Knowing he was not overstating what might happen, Adanel had acquiesced to leave, but only after Faden agreed to let her come back the next week. And so, she had returned, that week and all the ones that followed for the past year as long as the weather permitted. To Faden's bafflement, the rain almost always abated the morning of their ride.
After weeks of climbing up to the little loch only to confirm that no one or animal was around or even had been near the small water refuge, Faden had elected to stay behind under the excuse of watching after the horses. Adanel fully supported the idea. She loved her uncle and enjoyed his company, but his absence offered her the opportunity to do what she had wanted since she had first spied the loch. Stripping bare, she had dived into the snow-fed waters. Cold and bearable only in the sunlight, the icy water had become the perfect remedy to stave off the sadness that threatened to overtake her sometimes.
Adanel felt a shiver go up her spine. Now, she needed the Highlander to leave for another reason. To stay warm, she had to move or get out of the water. She was starting to shudder keeping herself still with only her shoulders above the surface. Squeezing her eyes shut, Adanel wished with all her might that God would compel the handsome McTiernay to get back on his horse and leave so she could exit the cool waters. Slowly she opened a single eyelid and sighed. The man was still just standing there, hands on his hips, looking around. There was no telling how long he would remain.
Adanel considered her options: freeze to death, continue praying, or call out. The latter was the only one that led to warmth. Unfortunately, it also led to questions of why she was there alone, probable discovery that she was not wearing a stitch of clothing, and worst of all. him learning just who she was. The last of which she could not let happen.
Another shiver ran through Adanel's body, and she placed her cheek on a spot on the massive rock that had been warmed by the sun. Lifting her head, she studied the smaller boulder next to it. Maybe she could find a way to climb up on it and somehow slip unseen to the shoreline.
She was just planning her escape when her head jerked at a very unexpected, very unwelcomed sound. Adanel listened, her heart pounding, hoping she was mistaken. A couple of seconds later, her heart stopped altogether upon hearing a splash of an arm hitting the water, followed by another and then another.
Adanel swallowed a groan. The saighdear was swimming. Swimming! Something she should be doing, not him. Adanel should have known the moment she saw the Highlander he would be trouble. All men were. Why would being incredibly good looking and a soldier make this one any different?
She was about to succumb to the urge to sneak a peek and see where he was when the sound of another splash made it unnecessary. The man was on the other side of the enormous boulder she was leaning against. And by the sound of it, he had stopped swimming.
Why? she asked herself, looking toward the heavens. Why me? Why now? Why him?
Dismissing the question, Adanel decided she first needed to get out of the freezing water. Trying to make as little noise as possible, she reached out with her foot to use a smaller, submerged rock to stand on. Shivering, she leaned back against the massive warm rock in an attempt to thaw herself, feeling both embarrassed at being openly nude with a man so close and thrilled to be nearly out of the cold water. Now, she just needed to think of a way she could leave unseen.
If she could just stay crouched down as she climbed up and over the smaller boulder that was adjacent to the shore, she might be able to avoid being discovered. Once safely on the beach, she would wait until the Highlander dipped below the surface of the water to run and snatch her clothes. Then, she could leave without him ever knowing she was there.
It was a great plan mostly because it was the only one that offered her a chance of getting her out of her predicament.
Adanel looked up to see where the sun was in the sky. She had perhaps a little over an hour before Faden decided to make the arduous trek and come get her. She could try and wait to learn if this McTiernay soldier was taking a quick dip or was here for a long, leisure swim, but if he decided to swim to this side of the boulder, she was doomed.
Adanel, feeling a little warmer now, began to look around for handholds or footholds she could use to pull herself fully up. She had just found one when once again, her body locked, frozen in shock.
"I know you are there, ruadh. I've been watching you."
* * *