"Minuet" by Maryalice...click here to e-mail her
  Part Four

Once again, Leigh dreamed of the man and the boy.

The young monk was frowning at the man. "I do not think that you realize what you ask, Doctor." The monk's English was heavily accented, but flawless otherwise. "We cannot go into the fortress. It has been more years than we can remember that anyone has visited the ruins -- it is forbidden."

The man smiled his most charming smile. "Of course not, Brother Petar. I understand that. I only wish to borrow the tablet that Brother Tome' spoke to me about. I believe that it is the key to finding the mace of King Marko."

The monk looked down at the boy who sat on the floor engrossed, writing in a small leather book. He looked once more at the man and asked "Why do you seek it, my son? Some things are not meant to be found ... so says the legend. Even the soldiers quartered here during the war avoided the ruins."

The man protested earnestly, "I do not seek to profane your legend, Father. But I only seek to uncover history. And to present it for all the world to share. That is why I have traveled here. What danger is there in that fortress?"

The monk shook his head slowly, sadly, once again looking at the boy. As the monk spoke softly, the man felt a chill creep up his spine. It is told that the ruins are protected by a g'avol -- one that is unholy, a demon. I do not know for sure. Gospod neka vi pomogne (May God protect you both)."

Leigh's eyes flew open and she lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She could still feel the gooseflesh on her arms. That dream felt so real ... like I was there. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, and she was only napping, she was exhausted -- having just spent a long session with Alex.

The last few weeks had been more difficult than Leigh would have ever imagined possible. Alex and Derek had both been working with her -- teaching her about the different aspects of psychic gifts and how they were used and abused. They explained how many great historical figures had shown evidence of psychic ability: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, and Carl Jung -- to name a few. Leigh had spent hours and hours with the two of them, closeted in the library.

Although Leigh was often discouraged, she had made great progress. The three of them had discussed the five major classifications of the psychic senses (clairvoyance, clairaudience, empathy, clairsentience, and intuition) and had learned that Leigh had evidence of all of them in varying degrees. Like Alex and Derek, she had a strong sense of clairvoyant vision (seeing things not physically present) as well as clairsentience (the ability to know things by physically touching an object).

For Derek and Alex, teaching Leigh to control her gifts had been like trying to teach someone how to walk or breathe or sleep -- it was something they had done their entire lives. Instinct. It had been Leigh's empathy that had caused her to nearly be institutionalized, but she was gradually learning to keep others "out of her head", as she put it. Derek could be a harsh taskmaster. He had been pushing Leigh as hard as he dared -- and this had caused their sessions to dissolve into an argument more than once.

Finally, though, Derek was starting to let up on her a bit. Nick had taken her to the shooting range a few times, and had even taken her for a ride on his bike after she begged him for some fresh air. She and Philip had discovered a mutual love of racquetball, and played whenever he could get away from his duties at the church. Aunt Lydia had been to the island twice to visit, and Leigh had even taken over Katherine's piano lessons from Derek.

But for now, she just lay there -- trying to make sense of what she had just seen in her dream. Alex says that clairvoyant people often have very vivid dreams, so maybe I'm just making too much of this. She closed her eyes again, but opened them again at the sound of a woman's voice.

"Hello, Leigh."

Leigh sat up quickly, heart pounding.

There was a woman sitting in the chair just a few feet away from the bed. The woman appeared to be about fifty years old, and was wearing a simple green dress. Her hair, which lay in a single, loose braid down her back, was dark brown shot slightly with gray. The woman's eyes, also dark brown, were warm and moist. She looked very sad. In her hand, she held a small, beaten leather book.

The woman reached toward Leigh and lay the book on the bed.

Leigh picked up the book gingerly -- it felt real. "Of course it's real" the woman said. "Go ahead, open it."

Opening the book, Leigh looked at the first page. It was dated 1954 -- the date had been printed at the top of the page. On the inside of the front cover was the inscription, written in a bold masculine hand: To Garrett from Father -- for the first of our many adventures together.

Pasted below the inscription was an old black and white photograph. In the photograph, Leigh could see the man and the boy from her dream. The man stood, smiling, with his arm protectively around a young woman holding a baby. A younger child, a pretty little girl with solemn dark eyes, stood next to the little boy holding his hand.

Leigh looked up from the book, lips forming a question, but the woman was gone. The chair was empty, but she could feel a slight chill in the air. Nervously returning her attention to the book, Leigh flipped through the pages.

Documented carefully, in a childish hand, were the exact events that Leigh had seen in her dream -- right up to the discussion that the man had with the monk. The passages were more detailed than her dreams, of course. The boy wrote of traveling to the far-off country of Macedonia with his father, and of how his mother had been against the idea of his going. His father had convinced her to let him take the boy on the search for King Marko's fabled mace. The book told of flying into Skopje and traveling to the monastery on horseback. There were many blank pages that followed.

Calm down, woman, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Leigh took a deep breath and concentrated on slowing her racing heart. She jumped when she heard a knock at the door.

"Leigh, is everything all right?" Derek spoke softly through the closed door.

Unsure what to do, Leigh shoved the journal under her pillow and swung her legs over the side of the bed. I wonder what he wants me to do now! If he mentions the word "lesson" again I swear I'm gonna deck him. Brushing her hair back nervously with her hand she answered, "Come in, Derek."

Derek entered the room and glanced around. He had always loved this room, and he had come here many times as a child to visit his grandmother. But now he stood awkwardly by the door. It was the first time that he had been in this room since the night he and Philip had brought Leigh from her Aunt's house -- and he had so gently laid her on the bed. Suddenly, he was acutely aware of how she had felt in his arms that night

"I thought ... that something might be the matter." He nervously rubbed his hands together.

Leigh rubbed her eyes. "You felt that? I'm sorry -- it was a bad dream." Why is he acting so strangely?

"If you don't mind, there's something I need your help with downstairs." As she started to protest, he held up his hands and gave her a little smile. "No, no, I promise, no more studies!"

"Well, thank heaven for that, Derek. The way you've been pushing me, sometimes I think you're trying to make me hate you," Leigh replied, sighing.

Derek's smile faded and he crossed the room and sat down in the chair by the bed. "You don't really mean that, do you, Leigh? I just want what's best for you." He leaned back, frowned slightly, and ran his hand through his hair. "I guess I've been a little rough on you, haven't I?"

Leigh nodded. "An arrogant bastard is more like it." She crossed her arms and looked at him.

Derek raised a brow. "Oh? Well, I guess I deserved that. How about if we call a truce, hmm? Come on, there really is something downstairs I want you to see." He stood, and held out his hand.

Downstairs, Alex was poring over an object that had been sent to the Luna Foundation from an organization in Oklahoma. There was a Native American dig in progress at the mounds in Spiro. The archaeologists there had found evidence indicating that there was another major tomb somewhere in the mounds, but they had been unable to locate it.

The archaeologists had sent a gorget, a kind of necklace worn by ancient Americans to sometimes signify rank. They were asking for any information revealing what the rank of the necklace's owner might be in hopes that it would give them some clue as to the tomb's location. The gorget had been found in a grave in one of the smallest mounds.

Alex had run the necklace through the Legacy computer, but hadn't found anything. But then, she really didn't think that the computer would turn up any new information -- the gorget was just too plain. There were some markings on it that they suspected might be an indication of royal status, but nothing conclusive.

Once in the lab, Leigh looked curiously at the necklace while Alex related all the information they had. Derek picked up the necklace and gently handed it to Leigh. Cradling it in her cupped hands, Leigh lifted the gorget up to her face and placed it against her cheek. She closed her eyes and concentrated the way she had learned -- looking within, finding herself, and then reaching out. And she promptly collapsed.

Alex realized a split second before Derek what was happening -- she saw Leigh's eyes roll up in her head as her knees buckled. She cried out "Derek!" as she started around the table. Luckily Derek was still standing right next to Leigh, and managed to catch her as she was falling. Alex grasped her hand. "My God, Derek, she's cold as ice."

Derek, his mouth in a grim line, told Alex "Get a blanket." He lifted Leigh, still clutching the necklace, into his arms and strode from the room toward the den.

Derek lay her on the sofa, speaking softly to her and rubbing her hands to warm them as Alex searched the downstairs for a blanket. Leigh's eyes fluttered open, and she gave Derek a rather dazed smile. Reaching up, she traced the line of his jaw with her finger and then let her hand slip behind his head to draw him down to her. Her kiss caught him by surprise and he was hesitant at first, but her lips were soft and yielding -- and insistent.

It was just a small kiss, but Alex immediately saw the possibilities as she stood in the open doorway. She backed up into the hall, announcing "Found one, Derek" as she came back through the door with the afghan from her bed.

Leigh sat up immediately and gratefully accepted the blanket, pulling it up around her shoulders, smiling broadly. "That was the most amazing thing! Incredible!"

Alex smiled as she sat on the sofa next to her. "I'm glad you think so. What did you see?" She stole a glance at Derek, who looked as though he wanted desperately to be in another room at that moment.

"It wasn't just seeing -- I was there. Really. Remember the grave where they found that gorget? It belongs to an old woman. Her name was Aya and her son was once the leader of the people there. When he was assassinated, she insisted on being sacrificed and buried near him."

Alex said "How Sad! She must have loved him very much."

Leigh nodded eagerly, "She did! But she had lived a long and full life and she wanted to travel with him to the spirit world. Her grave may rest in one of the smallest mounds at the site, but she was the guardian for her son's tomb. Tell the archaeologists to search beneath her grave -- that's where they'll find what they're looking for."

Having finally regained his composure, Derek took the gorget from Leigh's hand and stood -- his face expressionless. He patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, "I'll make arrangements to send this back to Spiro. I know the people there will be grateful for your help. Take care of her, Alex."

The two women watched as he left the room. Leigh looked helplessly at Alex. "Did I do something wrong?"

Alex shook her head. "No, not unless you consider getting past those 'walls' of his to be wrong. Derek is a very complicated man. There are things in his past that make it very difficult to open up himself -- even to his closest friends. I think that you caught him by surprise a just now."

Leigh realized that Alex had seen her kiss Derek, and she blushed. "I'm not sure how that happened. Please don't say anything to him -- apparently he's embarrassed enough about it already."

"I won't say anything," Alex promised, smiling. "It's kind of nice to see him flustered for a change! He needs to loosen up a bit, don't you think?"

Leigh rolled her eyes and then nodded. "What is it with him, anyway? You know, I really don't know anything about him. About any of you."

"Well, Derek has carried the burden of the Legacy since he was very young, and it's a responsibility he takes very seriously. His father was very tough on him growing up -- trying to prepare him for that role." Alex shook her head ruefully. "And although Derek loved his father very much, I'm afraid that Winston's parenting skills left a lot to be desired."

"And his father now?"

"He's been dead now for many years. Derek doesn't really ever talk about it. Don't underestimate the effect you have on him, Leigh," Alex said quietly. "He's been hurt deeply in the past, and I think he needs someone to help him realize that he doesn't always have to be the strong one. I suspect that may be the reason you're here."

Part Five

Alex was sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea -- mulling over the events of the past weeks. Things had been in a kind of lull at the Legacy House for a while, and Rachel had even decided to take Katherine to visit her grandparents for a few days. But now the action was beginning to pick up again. With help from Leigh, she had been working on a project for the city's historical commission. They had preliminary reports of a child upstate who was a stigmatic, and a new site had been found in Canada. Sensing that it might yield something valuable, Derek was in the midst of putting together a team to travel there and investigate.

Leigh's session with the Native American gorget had really helped to bolster her feelings of self-confidence, and she felt as though she had finally made some kind of contribution to the Legacy instead of always being the recipient of its generosity. Leigh was beginning to feel a little more comfortable with all of them -- especially Derek.

Alex firmly believed that the two of them had some sort of connection -- some kind of unfinished business to be resolved between the two of them. She had been encouraged to see them spending a little more time together where they weren't working. Leigh was starting to establish herself as more than a temporary member of the Legacy.

Alex's musings were interrupted by a distant crashing sound, followed giggles in the direction of the kitchen. Smiling she got up to investigate.

In the kitchen, Leigh had been trying to get a watering can from the shelf above the refrigerator. Just then, Derek walked in with his empty coffee cup. Seeing her struggle to get the can from the upper shelf, he moved to help her. "Here, let me get that for you, Leigh."

"No, I've just ... about ... got ... it ..." Her fingers could just barely touch the can, and it was inching forward.

As he reached up, the can reached the edge of the shelf and up-ended, spilling the contents onto the two of them. Momentarily stunned, they stared stupidly at each other, then both burst out laughing.

"I guess we're lucky it's only water" Derek said, pushing his wet hair out of his eyes.

"Oh, Derek, I'm sorry! I didn't know it was full! Let me get something to clean this up." Leigh started for the dishcloth on the counter, only to have her feet begin to slip out from under her.

Derek could see what was about to happen, and reached to steady her -- forgetting, of course, that his feet were wet too -- and they both went down onto the wet floor. This caused Leigh to start giggling again. Derek struggled to his feet and reached down to help her stand. She made it, but in doing so, once again pulled him off balance. On his way down, he grabbed her about the waist, and for the second time they both hit the floor.

Derek's arms were still about her waist, and his head was resting (rather comfortably) on her stomach. He raised his head to look at her, smiled, and said, "I think that we're going to have to just stay here until this water dries." Leigh raised a brow and said seriously, "That could be a while." She shrugged her shoulders and said solemnly "Well, at least we're in the kitchen, so we won't starve to death."

Unseen by the two, Alex observed all this without comment -- once again a witness to Derek and Leigh's emotional waltz. No, not a waltz -- something more formal. A minuet. And I'll bet that neither one of them is aware of it.

That night Leigh crawled into bed, removing the beaten green journal from her bedside table so that she could study it. She had done this each night since she had received it from the mysterious woman, but she still had no explanation for where it came from or its meaning. Strangely enough, while the photograph was no longer inside the front cover, a few more written pages had appeared in the book since its arrival -- short entries describing events related to the man and the boy described in the earlier pages.

Although she frequently had vivid dreams, some of them unpleasant, she had not dreamed again of the events in the journal.

I ought to just give this to Derek and let him and the others try and figure out what it all means. But she knew that she wouldn't do that -- it just wasn't the right time yet. There was an intimacy involved that she wasn't sure she wanted to share. She replaced the book in its drawer, and turned off the light. And she began, finally, to dream once again about the man and the boy.

The American man led the way down the dark corridor, carrying a smoking torch high above his head to make the most of the limited light it provided. The two Gypsy men, Dragan and Ramiz, and the boy followed closely behind him. The tunnel unexpectedly opened up into a large room. The roof had long since begun to crumble, and sunlight was shining through the stones in large beams.

The man stood in the center of the room, slowly turning as he scanned the walls for the mark. Ah, there it is! Right where that tablet said it would be. "Where are we going to dig, Father?" the boy asked excitedly.

The man placed the torch in a crevice in the wall, and began examining the stones near the mark, feeling carefully with his fingers to see if any of them were loose. "We're not going to dig, son. What we're looking for is in this wall." He smiled at the boy. "I'm glad Brother Tome' shared that tablet with us. It would've taken forever to find this without it!"

"Ramiz, hand me that mallet. Did you bring the pickax? No? Well, go get it then! We're going to need it." The man began to swing the mallet at the wall, knocking the stones as hard as he could.

As the hole in the wall became larger, it was obvious that there was something hidden inside. The man abandoned the mallet, and began wresting the stones loose with his hands. At last the object was completely uncovered.

The mace was beautiful -- untouched since the 14th century. It was made of iron, silver, and gold and weighed nearly a hundred pounds. It had belonged to the Serbian prince Marko Kraljevic.

The man grinned at the boy and the Gypsy. "I knew it. I knew it wasn't at Prilep!" He hugged the boy close to him. "Think, Garrett, what an addition to our collection this will make!" He reached his hand out to grasp the handle of the weapon.

What the man didn't notice was that the Gypsy man, Dragan, was backing away toward the south wall, his hands making the sign of the cross. "G'avol (demon)!" he breathed.

Although it wasn't obvious right away, the light of the torch had been getting brighter and brighter since they had uncovered the mace. When the man touched the weapon, the torch exploded, sending sparks and cinders flying out in all directions. A shadowy shape was forming out of the smoke from the smoldering torch. A growing shape with a vaguely human form -- a head, two arms, and a body, rising up toward the ceiling.

The man grabbed the boy, shielding him from the shower of cinders. He watched in horror as the entity growled and made a broad gesturing motion with both arms. Energy blasted out from the form, sending all three of them flying across the room and smashing into the wall. The man struggled to sit up, covering his ears as he tried to block the roaring noise. He looked about wildly for his son.

The demon was even larger now. It made another motion with its arms and the ground began to shake violently beneath them. Large stones from the ruined ceiling began crashing to the ground. The man dragged himself toward his son's still form, crying out as the blocks continued to rain down upon them. He had barely reached the boy when the thing began dragging the child toward it. The man braced his leg against a column for leverage in the gruesome tug-of-war -- screaming, for his leg was already broken.

The shape let go of the child abruptly and snarled. In the doorway was Ramix, and with him was Brother Petar, brandishing a crucifix and chanting loudly. The monk continued to advance toward the demon, ignoring the chunks of stone that were still falling. The entity shrank back against the wall, gave one final howl, and disappeared in an explosion of light and sound.

The ground ceased its shaking, and the man crawled beside the broken body of the child. Crying, he cradled him in his arms as he tried to wipe the blood from the child's face, searching for any sign of life. His keening shook the fortress walls even as he lost consciousness.

Leigh could hear the screams as if she were there with the man. What she didn't realize was that the screams she was hearing were coming from her own throat.

Derek, asleep in his room, instantly awoke at the sound of her screaming. He knew that Leigh suffered from nightmares sometimes, but this was different. He reached to turn on a light and headed for the door that adjoined his room to hers, not bothering to put on his shirt. Thankful that his grandparents had once had adjoining bedrooms, he threw open the door to see her thrashing about, obviously still dreaming.

Unwilling to awaken her suddenly, but afraid she might injure herself, Derek took her into his arms, speaking softly. He held her as firmly as he could, but she was in a state of terror. Though she lashed out, Derek didn't let go.

Gradually, Leigh's screams dissolved into sobbing and she lay shaking in Derek's arms. Nick burst through the door, gun drawn and alert, but relaxed at Derek's gesture to lower the weapon. Philip and Alex each arrived a heartbeat later. Silently, Derek shook his head at them, and motioned for them to leave. They withdrew from the room, and Philip softly closed the door.

Derek continued to hold her, stroking her hair and speaking quietly. He shifted his position on the bed so that they would be a little more comfortable -- with his back against the headboard and Leigh cradled against his chest, his arm protectively around her.

After a few moments of silence, he said softly, "Better now?" Leigh raised her head and nodded, and he took the corner of the sheet and wiped her wet cheeks. "Do you want me to go?" She shook her head, snuggled up closer to him and once again laid her head on his chest.

The next morning, Derek awoke to find the sun shining in his eyes. For a moment, he was confused. Wait, the sun doesn't come through my window from that direction. Oh ... He was still in Leigh's bed. She was lying asleep beside him, in the crook of his arm -- her arm resting on his chest. He lightly touched her cheek. "Leigh? Time to wake up, Lady."

Leigh opened her eyes, staring vacantly off into space. As her mind became clearer, she remembered the events of the night before. She made no effort to move, and said simply "Good morning, Derek."

"How do you feel?"

"Tired. Upset. A little embarrassed."

Derek shook his head. "Don't be embarrassed. Do you want to talk about it?"

Leigh sat up, drawing the sheet up around her. Eyes downcast, she shook her head.

"That's all right -- for now." Derek climbed out of the bed. Leigh winced when she saw the welts that her fingernails had left on his bare chest. He took her chin in his hand and lifted her head so that he could see her eyes. "Everything's going to be all right."

Leigh wasn't so sure. She brooded all day about what had happened, and finally sought out Philip. He was working on his computer doing research when she found him. Dressed in worn jeans and a T-shirt, he looked like anything but a priest.

"Um, Philip?" She said tentatively. "Can I talk to you?"

After last night, Philip had halfway been expecting such a visit from her -- often, he was the one that the others instinctively sought when they were troubled. It had always been that way for him, even before he had become a priest. He pushed his chair back from the desk saying, "Sure. I was ready for a break anyway."

But Leigh just stood there, unsure where to begin. He could see that she was holding a green book, nervously fidgeting with it. "Tell you what, hang on a second" and Philip logged out of his computer and turned it off. He took her hand. "Come on."

He led her upstairs, to the top-most floor and through a door that led to the roof. The view was incredible, especially on a day like this where the sun was sparkling on the water. "I like to come up here sometimes to think" he explained, leaning through one of the notches in the stone wall and admiring the scenery. "It's beautiful and quiet, with only them for company" he pointed up to the stone gargoyles carved into the facade of the castle.

He brushed off a stone bench and sat down, pulling her down beside him. "Now, is it last night you want to talk about?"

Leigh handed him the journal, and quietly began the story of how she had received it. A couple of hours later, they were still talking.

Part Six


"And why not?" Leigh was getting angry.

"Because, it is my decision to make, and I'm making it the way I think is best." And because it's too dangerous. Derek was also getting angry. His decisions weren't questioned by the others very often. She's starting to sound like Nick.

Leigh had been sitting, but now she was standing - arms propped on Derek's desk. "You have no reason not to let me go with Nick and Philip. They agree with me - I asked! Why are you doing this?" Her voice was starting to rise.

Derek laced his fingers together, reclined in his chair, and regarded her silently.

"Derek! Are you even listening to me?" By this time Leigh was pacing around the room, her temper fully engaged. She continued for some several minutes -- giving Derek an ear-full the whole time. But he wasn't about to change his mind.

Outside the door to Derek's office, Nick and Philip stood trying to decide if they should leave. Nick was leaning against the wall, hands in the pockets of his jeans -- shirt untucked, as usual. "What d'ya think?"

Philip shrugged "I don' know. If I know Derek, though, I'm afraid she's going to lose this one."

Nick smirked at his friend, "Oh, I don't know about that - I'm tempted to go with the red-head!"

"I think it's still considered eavesdropping -- even if everyone in the castle can hear what's going on in there." Alex had sneaked up behind them and was standing, arms crossed, looking at them sternly. "Why don't you try and peak through the keyhole while you're at it?"

The two men looked at each other guiltily and each gave Alex a sheepish grin. "Um, we're just anxious to know if Leigh's coming with us to Canada," Philip offered hopefully.

"Oh?" Alex gave Nick a skeptical look. "Yeah, we've got a lot of plans to make, you know. One person makes a lot of difference," he responded, grinning at her.

"Come on, guys. We'll all find out soon enough." Alex moved to take each of them by the arm, but turned to stare at the door at the sound of breaking glass.

Nick shook his head ruefully, "I just wished they'd go ahead and sleep together and get it over with." A comment which caused Philip to turn with an astonished, "Nick!"

"What?! Oh, come on, don't give me that look. You guys know what I'm talking about. Think for a minute without your collar, Philip."

Before Philip could respond to that remark, Alex gave each of them a shove in the back -- sending them down the hall. "Don't you guys have some work to do? From the sounds of it, she's not going to be going with you. Now get out of here!"

Making sure that they two men had reached the other room, Alex walked the other way down the hall, pausing at the door to Derek's office. She didn't hear anything else, and she kept walking.

Leigh was standing in front of the window, hand to her mouth -- horrified at what had happened. The book, a hard-bound copy of the poetry of Catullus, was lying on the floor across the room. Scattered around it were the remains of a torchere lamp standing against the wall. She stared at the broken shards of glass on the carpet, and whispered, "Oh, Derek. I'm sorry."

Luckily for him, Derek had ducked just in time to avoid the flying book. He straightened slowly, nearly as shocked as she. Without another word, she fled from the room.

The next few days were a bit uncomfortable for everyone. Derek was helping Nick and Philip make plans for their trip -- he had made arrangements for a member of the New Orleans Legacy House to accompany the two men. Leigh pretended not to be bothered by the fact that she wasn't going, just as Derek pretended not to notice that Leigh was upset with him.

Leigh still hadn't shown the journal to anyone other than Philip. After revealing it to him, and the lengthy discussion that followed, she had persuaded him not to say anything to anyone else. The two of them were still unsure about its significance, but Philip was confident that it would be revealed eventually. He respected her wishes, reluctantly, and remained silent.

On the day that Philip and Nick left for Canada, Derek gave the three men last-minute instructions and they loaded the last of their gear into the helicopter. The chopper took off, and Derek shielded his eyes from the wind being swept up from the rotating blades. Turning back toward the castle, he glanced up to see a figure on the roof. Squinting to get a better look, he realized who it was.

Derek found Alex busy at her computer busily trying to get finished so that she could leave town without a guilty conscience. He picked up her notes as if to browse through them. After asking about her current project, he said casually, "So do you think I should have let her go with them?"

Alex continued to look at her monitor as she typed, "That's what Leigh thinks."

"I asked your opinion, Alex."

Alex stopped her work, met his gaze, and gave a little sigh. "Derek, what's important is the reason that you believe you wouldn't let her go. I do think you should talk to her about it." She returned her attention to her computer and resumed typing.

He found her on the roof, still sitting in one of the notches of the castle's balcony wall -- legs swung over the side. She watched him approach without saying anything.

"Do you mind if I join you?" Derek leaned easily against the wall. "You shouldn't sit there, you know. You might fall."

Leigh returned her gaze to the horizon, still silent.

Derek sighed, and tried again. "I suppose you're still angry with me."

Leigh breathed deeply. After a moment, she replied "Yes, but I'll get over it." She looked at him again. "I guess I'm just not used to getting what I want. I swear, Derek, I've never known anyone who can manage to make me as angry as you."

"Yes, I'd noticed that ..." he teased her gently, and was rewarded with a small smile.

"I'm sorry if I've been bitchy, Derek. I've ... umm, I've had a lot on my mind ... I haven't been sleeping well, and that was kind of the last straw."

"Maybe you need some time off. When was the last time you heard from you Aunt?"

"Yesterday, actually. She forwarded this to me." Leigh dug into the pocket on the back of her jeans as Derek held his breath, half-expecting her to tumble off the wall. She handed him the folded white card.

"'The Annual Charity Ball for the Clan MacAlister', hmm? Sounds like fun. Are you going?"

"Probably not. You see, my friend Byron usually attended those charity events with me." She shook her head.

"Byron? Oh, your friend that died in your accident. I'm sorry -- I've never even asked you about him? Were you close?"

Leigh smiled sadly, "Yes, we were. He was a gifted musician, and a great person besides. There wasn't anything he wouldn't try -- he was truly someone who loved life." She paused for a moment, stretching her feet out into space (and causing Derek to momentarily hold his breath). "They're going to miss him this year at the clan gathering. He fit right in with them, even though he wasn't a Scot."

Derek pondered the invitation in his hand, and had a thought. "When is this thing? Two days? I could escort you, if you'd really like to go." He smiled at her. "The Luna Foundation is always going to one charity event or another, but I don't know that I've ever been to a Scottish one."

Her eyes brightened. "That would be wonderful, Derek! I didn't want to go alone, but it's too good of a party to miss. I promise you'll enjoy yourself!" Leigh reached her hand out so that Derek could help her climb off the wall (for which he was grateful). "I've got to find something to wear!" Now standing, she reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "Oh, and I forgive you. This time ..." she said, and headed for the door.

The night of the gathering, Leigh put the finishing touches on her hair and makeup. Although Alex left that evening, she had stayed long enough to help Leigh get ready. Her red hair was curled and pinned atop her head, a style which complimented her green, backless gown.

As she was leaving, Alex had given Leigh a hug and a kiss on the cheek saying "You go and have a good time tonight, honey. You look wonderful!"

Leigh powdered her nose one final time, then grabbed her handbag and headed downstairs. At the top of the stairs, she stopped -- staring. Waiting for her at the foot of the stairway was Derek -- handsomely dressed in formal, modern Highland attire!

With a smile playing about her lips, Leigh descended the stairs slowly, not taking her eyes off of him. At the bottom, she circled him slowly, trying to take it all in. Derek was wearing a pleated kilt (in the red and blue McAlister tartan, of course) with black tie, tuxedo shirt, and tails. He wore a shiny leather sporran about his waist and soft leather boots. "Oh, my God, Derek" Leigh said incredulously, "I can't believe you've done this!"

Derek was feeling quite pleased with himself. "Well, I had a little help from your Aunt Lydia. I decided that your friend Byron must have been on to something, and that if he could pretend to be a Scot once a year, then so could I!" He was grinning broadly, eyes twinkling.

Leigh returned his smile, shaking her head. He should smile more often.

Derek offered her his arm. "You look wonderful. Shall we go?"

The party was splendid -- with good people, good food, good entertainment, and good Scotch whiskey in abundance. For Leigh, it had been many months since she had seen any members of her (very) extended family, and she tried to visit with as many of them as she could. Derek discovered that the two of them had some friends in common, and that many of the people there knew him through his leadership of the Luna Foundation.

Leigh was careful not to abandon Derek for very long, and it pleased him to see her handling such a large gathering of boisterous people with grace and charm. Toward the end of the evening, as the Clan Leader Douglas MacAlister was giving yet another toast, she tugged at his arm in the direction of the balcony. "I've got to get out of here and get a little fresh air," she whispered in his ear. Nodding, Derek followed her outside. Leigh stopped, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, the wind rustling her hair.

Derek stood behind her, and rubbed her bare shoulders. "You're cold." She surprised him when she turned, placed her hands against his chest and reached up to kiss him. "Yes ... cold," she murmured against his mouth. With a soft groan, he placed his arms around her waist, caressing the bare small of her back, pressing her against him. He returned her kisses hungrily. A few breathless moments later, he whispered "We should leave," as he kissed her neck. "Hmmmm, and quickly."

The door opened and others began to make their way outside. Derek took her hand and headed for the exit.

He kept hold of her hand the whole trip, except for those moments on the drive back to Angel Island where he needed them both to drive. The castle loomed in front of them just as Leigh was beginning to believe that they were never going to arrive. Damn, damn slow ferry.

Leigh's wrap was left inside the front door, Derek's dinner jacket on the stairs, and assorted bits of clothing along the way to Derek's room. Though it adjoined hers, Leigh had never been in his room. While Derek opened his drapes to let in the moonlight, she took in the room's quiet elegance and sensuous masculinity.

Derek stood behind her, rubbing her shoulders and back, kissing the back of her neck, and then turned her to face him. Cupping her face in his hands, he reclaimed her lips, gently at first, and then with urgency. He buried his fingers in her hair, shaking it loose from the pins that had held it. Feverishly, Leigh sought to remove his shirt and finally succeeded, tossing it carelessly at a chair. Her hands wandered up his back, across his shoulders, to caress his bare chest. It took no time at all to remove the remaining clothes that separated them. Derek touched his mind and soul to hers, and when they joined, it was with spirit as well as body. And it was great.

Some several hours later, Derek awoke with a small start. Leigh was asleep against his back with her arm around him, hand resting on his stomach. He could feel her breath gently against his back. The morning sun was peeking into the room.He slipped out of bed and into a robe, being very careful not to wake her. He quietly left the room, and returned carrying a tray holding a carafe of coffee, two cups, and a few other breakfasty things. He set the tray down and turned to find her sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing her eyes and looking beautifully tousled in his silk pajama top.

He moved over to her, and she wrapped her arms around his waist, nuzzling aside his robe to kiss his bare stomach. She mumbled something against his skin, and he smiled down at her. "Hmmmm?"

She looked up at him, the corner of her mouth twitching in amusement. "I said that I wondered where you went. I was going to come look for you, but I didn't want to ... um ... bump into anybody." She resumed her caresses.

He tilted his head back and closed his eyes as he ran his fingers through her hair, swaying slightly. Then, leaning down, he placed a kiss on the top of her head. "No worry about that. While I was downstairs, I told Dominic to give the staff the weekend off. They deserve a little vacation, don't you think?" He then pushed her slowly back onto the bed, where he proceeded to drive any thoughts of the servants from her mind.

Continued on the next page...

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