They must have made quite a sight, standing side by side in their Black Watch kilts with their scarlet jackets and tall black feathered bonnets. Conall was proud to stand with the 93rd and he’d be proud to die with them too. Someone jostled his arm and he looked over to see that Munro had taken up position next to him.
Unbidden, the thought of Mrs. Scott, a widow back in camp, came upon him. She was sweet, small, patient and practical. Her blonde hair had looked like wheat shining in the sun as she’d stood there and waved the men off. Conall had wanted her from the moment he met her. He’d quietly courted her, but to no avail. She’d not marry him. She’d offered him her bed and he’d refused out of respect for her, not wanting to treat her so shabbily. Now he was wishing he’d taken her up on her offer. He could certainly have courted her from between her legs as easily as not.
Conall heard Sir Colin give the order for the first volley and the men in the front line fired at the oncoming cavalry. Nary a shot hit a mark. They were too far away. The second volley rang out and Conall noticed the Russians seemed to swerve and there was some confusion among them. They were firing steadily at the Highlanders, most shots missing their mark as well. All of a sudden Conall was shoved forward as Munro shouted at him, and as he was going down he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder. It dropped him to his knees.
A third volley was fired at the Russian flank and the cavalry made a sharp turn to their left and thundered back down the valley, away from the 93rd. Conall fell to his side, his arm a burning pain that made him gasp. There was shouting and smoke still lingered, obscuring his view of the men around him. Several came close to stomping on him. And then Munro was there, kneeling beside him and lifting him up into his arms.
“Be careful, man,” Conall gasped. “I’ve been hit in the arm.”
“Thank God,” Munro said fervently. He peered into Conall’s eyes and down at his arm and then back into his eyes. “I thought I’d lost you.”
Conall couldn’t look away from Munro’s dark eyes. For once they weren’t cold and blank, but filled with emotion, wild and hot and more intense than ever before. There were things there that Conall’s mind, clouded by pain and exhilaration from the battle, couldn’t decipher. For one brief, mad moment he thought Munro was going to kiss him, and he leaned up toward him, wanting it. Then Munro jerked away from him and Conall came to his senses.
“It’s just a flesh wound,” he told Munro, his voice shaky.
Dougie came running over and fell to his knees beside them and began tearing at Conall’s jacket.
“Ow!” Conall howled. “What are you doing, you big looby? I’ve just been shot, for God’s sake.”
“Douglas.” Captain Iain Roberts, Douglas’s best friend, came over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Dougie, the boy’s fine. He’s fine.” He squeezed Dougie’s shoulder and shook him and Dougie sat back, gulping in air as he looked around, dazed.
“Ham is down,” Brodie came over and said cheerfully, referring to their other brother, Hamish. “It’ll be the hospital at Scutari for both of you.”
“What’s wrong with Ham?” Dougie demanded.
“You’ll soon find out,” Brodie said with a laugh. “He’ll never live it down.” He squatted beside Conall. “You’ve got to learn to duck faster, man. Those Russians can’t hit the side of a barn, but you make an easy target for sure.”
“Munro saved me,” Conall said, looking up at the man whose face was blank once again, his thoughts and feelings locked away. But Conall knew what he’d seen, and he wouldn’t forget it. “He pushed me down.”
“We all owe you,” Dougie told Munro solemnly. “Fletchers pay their debts.”
Munro slid Conall off his lap and stood. He kept hold of Conall’s good arm and helped him up. “I tripped and shoved him down,” he said without meeting Conall’s eyes. “No heroics here.”
The next day Conall left for Scutari, dazed, confused and happy to be alive. He was already missing Mrs. Scott. But it was Munro’s eyes, full of anguish and wild emotion that haunted him as he was carried away.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish