"I must thank you, my lady."
Amicia's blood quickened at the softness beneath his simply spoken words. "But I did not find anything."
"Whether you did or not scarce matters." He walked a few steps away, stood looking at the stable door. "'Tis that you cared to come looking that I'm thanking you for."
Amicia blinked. Magnus MacKinnon was thanking her.
She wanted so much more.
But any emotion was better than indifference.
Digging her fingers deeper into the smooth silk of the saddle cloth, she looked at him, staring oh so hard at his bonnie young face, willing him to look her way.
She wanted to give him her favor.
The fine length of jewel-studded silk her father had given her, claiming the precious cloth held all the colors of the sun.
She wanted him to have it as a token of appreciation for helping her when she'd hurt her ankle at a similar gathering of the clans a year before.
A token, too, of her affection, for she'd given him her heart that same afternoon. But telling him so could wait, or would have to.
She couldn't say anything if he wouldn't look at her.
Biting her lip, she lifted her arm and waved the silk above her head. Fine and light, it snapped and rippled in the wind and she was sure he'd notice.
Tears began blurring her vision, but she kept her arm in the air, holding up her favor until her shoulder burned and her arms and fingers began to tingle.
And still he didn't look.
So she kept brandishing her shimmering gold prize, praying he would see and come for it - for if he did, especially as a much-loved games champion, even her da wouldn't be able to keep her from presenting it to him.
To do so would be a breach of Highland etiquette.
So she hoped and waved and stared his way, silently calling his name as loudly as her heart would let her.
But he stood turned half away from her and so hemmed in by clamoring, clutching maidens, her hopes of catching his eye grew slimmer by the moment.
Crying inside, she drank in his golden beauty, branding him onto her memory so she could relive at will, each precious moment of looking at him. Each dimpled smile he flashed, every bonnie twinkle in his laughing blue eyes. Even if his smiles and laughter weren't meant for her.
In her dreams, she claimed them.
Saw again, her young Caledonian god, standing so proud in the sunshine of a fine Hebridean day, the wind tossing his gleaming bronze mane, his handsome face, shining.
His refusal to accept her favor as sad as the way her beautiful silk banner turned old and scratchy in her hands, its cool smoothness forever gone, the seed pearls and gemstones adorning its edges now only irritating bumps of itchiness on a tattered and smelly saddle cloth.
The saddle cloth!
Jerking, Amicia flung it from her, her heart still splitting with her memories. She swiped a hand across her cheeks, not surprised to find them wet as she peered about the stable, once again looking for Magnus.
Once more having to note that he'd gone.
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