“She has something to tell you. Do you no’, lass?” Maddock said, prodding her closer to Brochan.
Fenella looked miserable as she twisted the skirt of her dress in her hands. “Iona isnae comin’.”
Brochan’s eyebrows lifted to his hairline. “What do you mean she isnae comin’? We were to be wed a half hour past.”
Fenella cast a glance around before moving closer. She leaned in until her lips brushed his ear, making him grow even warmer. Her voice was soft as she whispered in his ear, the soft puff of her breath wreaking havoc on him.
“She isnae comin’,” Fenella whispered. “She’s run off with a businessman from Glasgow.”
Brochan leaned back and looked down at her, thinking the lass surely must be jesting. Where in the hell would Iona have met a man from Glasgow? It wasn’t like she travelled any further than the neighboring town. And if she’d run off with him, did that mean she’d been seeing him secretly this entire time?
“I know she didnae want to hurt you, Brochan, but she said she fell in love and didnae know how to break things off with you. She’s held it all in until this morning. She left an hour ago.”
“If you’ve known for an hour, lass, why didnae you come and tell me before I stood down here waiting like a bampot? I’ve been made a fool by the entire town, and it could have been avoided if you’d spoken up sooner. People will be laughing about this for ages.”
Her cheeks flushed. “I didnae mean any harm, Brochan. I was scared to tell you, truth be told. I didnae want to be the bearer of bad tidings on your wedding day, or what was supposed to be your wedding day. I know Iona didnae mean any harm, but she had to follow her heart. You can understand that, right? I mean, you’d do the same if your roles were reversed?”
Not hardly. If he were to claim the woman he’d always wanted, he’d have to take Fenella as his wife, and that was never going to happen. Just because taking a younger bride had worked out well for Alasdair, his alpha, it didn’t mean it would work out well for Brochan too. But Christ! He loved the lass more than his next breath and always had. He’d run off more of her boyfriends than he could count, always threatening to rip them to shreds if they darkened her door again. He might not be able to claim her for himself, but that didn’t mean he wanted someone else to have her.
His gaze took in the hungry onlookers, each of them hanging on their every word. Bunch of vultures. They would gossip over this moment for days. Weeks. Hell, possibly months or longer. If Iona were present, he’d wring her neck for putting him in his position. Blowing out a breath, he calmed himself before his beast could rise to the surface. The last thing he needed was to shift in the middle of the church, especially after Fergus’ lapse in judgment not too long ago.
“It’s no’ your fault, Fenella. This is between Iona and me, and she was just too chicken shit to come forward and talk to me herself. You donae need to fret over it. What’s done is done. It’s no’ like you can bring her back, and even if you could, I wouldnae marry her now for all the money in the world. She’s made her bed, let her lie in it.”
Fenella nodded and reached for him, but he held himself stiff and refused to succumb to her charms. If he took her in his arms, it would all be over. With his current state of mind, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold back. He wouldn’t mean to do it, but he’d claim her for certain. There were worse things, he supposed, than living the rest of his life with the woman he loved, but he didn’t want to condemn her to a life of secrecy. She deserved a man who didn’t have to hide his true nature, and children who wouldn’t turn into tigers. If she married him, her life would be one big lie.
That had been fine for Iona, except that she hadn’t known what he was. He’d thought to tell her after the ceremony but before he claimed her. Not that it was a sound plan because so much could have gone wrong, but it was a moot point now. Iona would never learn his secret; he’d never claim her; and now that she was gone, he no longer had a reason to be around Fenella. That was both a blessing and a curse. He’d no longer have to hide how he felt about the young lass, but at the same time, being around her was like feeling the sun on your face. He’d miss that.
“You should go home, lass,” he told her. “I’ll let everyone know there willnae be a wedding today, or any day.”
“Are you sure you donae want me to stay?” she asked uncertainly. “Most of these people are my friends and family. They might take the news better from me.”
“I’ll be fine, lass.”
She nodded and hesitantly walked back up the aisle. When she was out of sight, Brochan heaved a sigh and faced the gathered men, women, and children who were waiting for a wedding that would never take place. God give him strength, because all he wanted to do right now was go get shit faced somewhere until the humiliation was over. No one left Brochan Kinley! Well, until now. He felt the sting of Iona’s rejection, even if he had been doubting their suitability just moments before she’d stood him up. It was the way she’d done it that rankled. If she’d come to him before now, let him know she was having doubts, that she’d met someone else, then he’d have happily walked away and left her to her life. But no, she had to jilt him at the altar. Bitch.
“You’re probably wonderin’ about the delay in the wedding,” Brochan said in a loud voice. “Well, there isnae going to be a wedding. It seems the bride has found herself another groom. Unfortunately, she forgot to tell the rest of us.”
From Coastal Escape Publishing