If Lennox was going out into the city after his mama, she would accompany him.
Mary watched Lennox scramble to his feet without trying to assist him. She thought that if he could do so on his own and then stand, he would be able to negotiate the paths and alleys between here and his quarry in the Old Town. He pulled himself upright and took a few shaky steps.
“I cannot think your presence will be beneficial, my love,” Lennox said fixing his beloved gaze on her. “As you see, I am a little shaky and will need to devote much energy to my own safety without I have to have a special care for you.”
“I will accompany you, sir,” Mary said with greater force than she was accustomed to use even when in good health. This, she thought was no moment to simper and plead or whinge either. “I know now where I saw mama-in-law head off the main street into the Grassmarket. Even in the dark, my sense of smell will take me there.”
She watched Lennox raise his brows at this unwonted display of assertiveness, but his answer surprised her.
“Sense of smell, my love? Surely my mama’s rose brier will not override the pot pourri of the Old town?”
“Be sensible, Lennox. I was walking near a tannery and an hostelry. As the man’s arm came around me, I smelled your mama’s soap. The door beside me was labelled Rintoul,” Mary said , and quickly realised she’d give away her advantage.
“He is the man,” Lennox growled as he took his pistols from Malcolm. “Very well, we waste time arguing. Red Will, can Duff be left?”
The stable-man muttered something in his mix of Gaelic and Scots that Mary found incomprehensible, but Lennox was satisfied and with that they set out into the dark toun.
Donal was standing guard on the threshold, but at a nod from Red Will, he pulled the great door of the house closed behind them and fell in with the party. Mary struggled to keep up. The men were intent on their quarry and paid her little heed. Once in a while, Donal paused to allow her to catch up, but then set off again behind the others. She was grateful for the flare he carried as it was often the only thing showing her where the others were.
Soon enough the Grassmarket sank below them beneath the great castle on its rock. Mary breathed deeply and moved forward beside her lord. He would need to know she was there when they found his mama. His mama – who appeared to have stolen Mary’s jewels to pay her money-lender. Was it not bad enough for families whose men gambled away fortunes? What was it going to be like for them when it became known, as it surely would, that Lady Grizel had done such a thing?
Rintoul’s door came into view and the rank smells of leather and stables, fires and rubbish hit them hard. Mary reached out and grabbed Lennox’s sleeve. She was little prepared for this sortie. Weak from lack of food and illness, she knew the coming confrontation with the woman she had called mother would drain her reserves.
“There’s movement ower yonder,” Donal hissed. Red Will scrambled ahead and within seconds, they heard a low moan of pain.
“Guid man,” Lennox said, “He’s got one of them.”
Guid, indeed, Mary thought, but which one of them?
BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.