Unforgiven

Mary Ellen

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DISCLAIMER : Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. Richie Ryan used to belong to them. He belongs to his fans now. Fiona MacDonald belongs to me. All characters are free to return to their original owners, but they refuse to go, so I guess I'm stuck with them for now. Please do not repost this story without asking me first. Direct all comments to me.

Some of the events mentioned in this story are detailed in Wanted and Crescendo.

Absolutely no permission is granted to use this story in whole or in part in another piece of writing.

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Huddled in the corner of the bedroom, Fiona MacDonald's hands shook so badly she could barely hold the receiver. She made so many mistakes dialing Connor's cell phone number it seemed she had been trying to call him for days. She knew he was in a business meeting and would prefer not to be disturbed, but she needed him. He had to come to her.

A noise in the hallway made Fiona jump. The phone slipped from her hands and landed on the floor with a dull thud. Fiona held her breath until the noise in the hallway faded away. Taking a deep breath, Fiona picked up the phone and tried to call Connor again. Annoyed at herself for making yet another mistake, she started over. Finally, she managed to get the number correct and heard the phone ring on the other end followed by Connor's familiar voice.

"Connor MacLeod."

Fiona took a deep breath. It was Connor's voice in her ear. She wished he were really that close. She wanted the warmth and protection of his arms. Fiona swallowed hard to keep control of herself. She had to speak to him before he hung up.

"Connor . . . "

Fiona took a deep breath. Just saying his name had been an enormous effort. She wasn't sure she had the strength to continue.

"Fiona? What's wrong?"

The concern in his voice was clear. She rarely interrupted him when he was involved in business, so he had to realize her call was important. He must know she was serious. All the things she wanted to say to him crowded her mind until she was unable to think clearly. She struggled to concentrate on the man she had just managed to contact.

"Connor, come home . . . please . . . it's urgent."

Although she could still hear Connor asking her questions, Fiona was unable to control her emotions any longer. She put the receiver down and pushed herself as far into the corner as she could. Then, she wept.

****

Duncan MacLeod was doing some minor repairs on the recently remodeled barge when he sensed another Immortal. Amanda should be back from her brief shopping expedition. He grinned. Amanda had been unexpectedly waiting for him when he arrived in Paris with Richie after visiting Scotland with Connor and Fiona. Unfortunately, the enjoyable reunion was about to end. They had to leave for the airport shortly or she would miss her flight to the States. She had promised to return to Paris once her business in New York was complete, but Amanda had a way of forgetting promises like that.

There was a chance it was Richie. Claiming he felt he was intruding on Duncan and Amanda, the younger man had taken off on a tour of the countryside a few weeks earlier. Duncan still wondered if Richie really felt he was intruding or he left to be alone to think about the odd events in Scotland. Duncan was still trying to resolve his own feelings about Fiona's claim she had seen and spoken to her parents when the Immortals visited the site where her village once stood. He took great satisfaction that through his kinsman's efforts the MacLeods had regained control of the area for the MacDonalds in the person of Fiona. Fiona had insisted that her entire Clan had been present and that her parents had disappeared with them shortly after she received the deed from the MacLeods. Duncan wasn't certain he believed her story, but perhaps Fiona's return and her ownership of the land had put the victims of the massacre to rest . . . if only in Fiona's mind.

Duncan frowned. Of course, it could be someone looking to challenge the Highlander. Hearing footsteps on the deck, it was clear that there was more than one Immortal outside. He retrieved his katana and waited tensely for the other Immortals to come down the stairs.

Duncan was relieved to see Fiona MacDonald followed closely by Connor MacLeod. Connor had promised to bring Fiona to Paris to visit Duncan as a surprise for the Immortal woman. Duncan's relief was short lived. Fiona looked unhappy, almost frightened. Connor seemed more vigilant than usual. It was hardly the reaction Duncan expected for an impromptu reunion of the trio. Duncan instantly dismissed the notion that the pair had been fighting. The two rarely had a major disagreement and would separate instead of continuing to argue.

When Duncan greeted them, Connor muttered hello before starting to investigate his new surroundings. The younger Highlander watched his kinsman prowl around the room until Fiona distracted him by coming over and kissing him. He felt her tense as another Immortal approached the barge. Instinctively, he put his arm around her shoulders. She relaxed slightly when Amanda called out from the deck before coming inside.

Amanda wasn't pleased by what she saw. Fiona MacDonald standing much too close to Duncan bothered Amanda more than Connor brandishing his katana in her direction. Amanda reached out to touch the elder Highlander as she walked past. Lowering his sword, he stepped back to avoid contact with her hand. Blithely ignoring the older MacLeod's reaction, she wrapped her arms around and kissed his younger kinsman. She was satisfied when Fiona retreated to where Connor MacLeod stood. The other woman was perfectly welcome to the elder Highlander as far as Amanda was concerned. Duncan was another matter entirely.

"Just passing through?" Amanda asked tartly.

"No, Fiona's going to stay with Duncan."

Amanda could tell from the younger MacLeod's reaction that this was the first he had heard of the plan. It puzzled Amanda that Fiona looked unhappy at the prospect. She would have thought the other woman would be pleased to divide her time between the MacLeods.

"What's going on, Connor?" Duncan asked. He couldn't imagine why Connor wanted to abandon Fiona on his doorstep. It was completely unlike his kinsman.

Fiona turned her back on the others. Connor spoke to her gently before answering his kinsman.

"Romero Carsini."

Duncan frowned remembering the Immortal man who had abducted Fiona over 300 years earlier.

****

Nearly two weeks after Fiona MacDonald was supposed to arrive at the house Connor owned in London, Duncan still had not heard from her. It was unlike her to fail to meet him and he was apprehensive. Connor shared his kinsman's uneasiness. Although the Highlanders had searched for Fiona, they were unable to locate her. Convinced she had been killed, Duncan wanted to mourn her openly, but Connor refused to listen to the notion that she had been challenged and beheaded. The elder Highlander had shouted him down, insisting that Fiona was an excellent fighter and would not be easily defeated. Duncan fervently hoped his kinsman was correct, but he was losing hope of ever seeing his long-time friend and lover again.

His thoughts were interrupted when he sensed another Immortal. Duncan moved cautiously towards the front of the house holding his sword in fighting position. Frantic pounding accompanied a plea to open the door. Relieved to hear Fiona's voice, Duncan dropped his sword and pulled the door open. Crying and disheveled, Fiona ran into his arms. In all the time he had known her, she had never appeared this frightened. When he questioned her, her answers were unintelligible. Holding Fiona close, Duncan tried to comfort her in an attempt to discover what had happened to her, but Fiona continued to cry and beg him to do something. Confused by her rambling account of recent events, Duncan tried to reassure the woman in his arms. Her words made no sense. Although he had no idea what she wanted, it was obvious she needed to be reassured and comforted.

Duncan became alert when he sensed another Immortal. The sensation seemed to increase Fiona's already enormous alarm. Instinctively, Duncan tightened his hold on her as a male Immortal stormed up to where they stood.

"Give her back to me. She is mine. I will take care of her."

Through his anger, Duncan could barely hear Fiona whimpering with terror. A Chieftain's daughter was no one's possession. Not even he would dare think of her as his property and he was a Chieftain's son who had nearly wedded her more than once. When the unidentified Immortal reached for Fiona, Duncan punched him. The two quickly became involved in a fistfight. When Connor joined the fight, the Highlanders easily defeated the other man and tossed him, unconscious, into the road.

Since that time, Carsini held a warped fascination with the Immortal woman and a serious grudge against the MacLeods. Although he had continued to pursue Fiona, the MacLeods shielded her from him. It was part of the animosity between the men. The rest was Carsini's financial ruin. Taking it as an omen, the elder MacLeod had refused to participate in a deal because Fiona didn't like the name of the ship. Carsini smugly insisted on taking Connor's share of the venture. As a result, the man had lost everything when the ship in question sank. After Carsini had left London, the Immortal woman was able to relax and enjoy being with the Highlanders.

****

Duncan was drawn back to the present by the sound of Connor's voice. Whispering to Fiona, the elder MacLeod wrapped his arms around the frightened Immortal woman. Duncan sighed. Judging by the fear her body language indicated it was as if the events he remembered were happening again.

"I haven't heard anything about Carsini in at least a century. I thought he was long dead."

Connor shook his head. Romero Carsini was alive. He'd been stalking Fiona. Before the man got close enough to realize that she was with the elder MacLeod, Connor wanted to hide her somewhere so he could hunt Carsini. All he needed was a firm plan and a safe place for Fiona.

Duncan frowned in thought. If he could persuade Fiona to stay on Holy Ground, he would join his kinsman in the pursuit of Carsini. Once again, Duncan wished Darius were still alive. The Immortal holy man would be able to persuade Fiona to stay with him on Holy Ground while Duncan and Connor tracked down Romero Carsini. Darius would certainly know how to comfort and protect Fiona. The MacLeods knew what needed to be done to Carsini.

"Is this guy dangerous?"

Duncan turned toward Amanda. He had nearly forgotten her in his concern for Fiona. Wide-eyed, Amanda watched the other Immortals. MacLeod was suddenly glad she had accepted the offer to appraise jewelry in New York. He wasn't certain she would go now that she knew Fiona would be staying with him. He didn't trust Carsini around any woman. He'd heard rumors about the deaths of Carsini's mortal wives. None of the deaths appeared natural, but nothing could be proven against the husband they left behind.

"Very. You should go, Amanda. He doesn't know about us."

Amanda was torn between a quick retreat and standing her ground against the other Immortal woman. The last thing she wanted to do was yield her position with Duncan MacLeod. When they sensed another Immortal, Connor MacLeod placed himself between Fiona and the entrance to the barge while Duncan started towards the pair with his katana at the ready. Amanda withdrew slightly. Carsini must be bad news. She never saw Fiona MacDonald act like a scared rabbit before. The woman was usually irritatingly confident. The MacLeods were as wary as the MacDonald woman was frightened.

Richie Ryan's greeting died on his lips when he felt the blade of Connor MacLeod's katana against his throat. Richie thought he might freeze to death in the cold intensity of the elder man's eyes.

"Whatever it is I promise not to do it again."

Laughing, the elder MacLeod removed the threat of his blade. He put his arm amiably around the younger man's shoulders, thinking that Richie's presence would likely keep Fiona with Duncan.

When Fiona kissed Richie in greeting, he half expected Connor to hit him. Instead, the older man seemed to approve. As Fiona wiped her lipstick from his face, Richie got that strange feeling of family he sometimes had when he was with Mac and Fiona. It was only the second time he experienced it around Connor MacLeod. Although he had gotten to know the man in recent times, the elder MacLeod usually instilled something closer to fear than family in Richie. He wondered if it had anything to do with Fiona always referring to the men in this room as her Clan.

The younger man's return gave Duncan an idea. He glanced briefly at Amanda. She seemed fascinated by the trio across the room. If she were willing, his plan just might work.

"Richie, take Amanda and Fiona and go to Holy Ground."

Richie was surprised by Mac's suggestion. Fiona's expression changed instantly. She appeared distressed. Richie thought she might burst into tears at any moment. Across the room, Amanda smirked at Richie. He could imagine the tricks she would use to manipulate her way around him. He speculated about being alone with both Immortal women. He kept picturing himself in more trouble than usual. The image disappeared when Connor chuckled.

"If they won't listen to us, Duncan, what makes you think they'll listen to the boy?"

The Highlanders laughed. Amanda tried to look insulted, but she seemed amused. Fiona's expression barely changed. Richie frowned. She was usually the first to laugh at a joke even if he was the object of it. Puzzled by Fiona's lack of reaction, Richie wondered why Mac wanted both women on Holy Ground. He got the feeling this wasn't the time to ask. Something was obviously very wrong.

Taking his arm from around Richie's shoulders, the elder MacLeod handed him a set of car keys and instructed him to get Fiona's things from the car. Richie didn't have to ask which car. He had admired the flashy Lamborghini before boarding the barge. When Richie returned with Fiona's bags, the two Highlanders were involved in a hushed conversation. Fiona was still standing where Richie last saw her. He thought she looked lost. Richie asked her where she wanted him to put her bags, but he got no answer. She was watching Connor MacLeod intently.

The elder MacLeod came over and pulled Fiona close to him. Richie watched him give Fiona one of the most intense kisses the younger man had ever seen. Mac grabbed his arm and pulled him away.

"Give them a little privacy, Richie."

They crossed the room to where Amanda stood. She was staring at the couple. Duncan glared at her. She turned around, but not so far that she couldn't see the pair of Immortals across the room. When the younger MacLeod frowned at her, she blew him a kiss.

"I want to go with you, Connor."

At the sound of Fiona's voice, the others looked in her direction. Glowering at her, Connor shook Fiona by the shoulders. Richie started towards them, but Mac stopped him. The younger MacLeod could see that this was the continuation of an old argument. He knew Connor wouldn't hurt Fiona. The shaking was gentle, intended only to get Fiona's attention. This was a battle of wills between two well-matched opponents. He thought Connor would win this round, but he'd seen his kinsman lose to the Chieftain's daughter on more than one occasion. They were always interesting to watch.

"I want your word that you will stay with Duncan."

Now that Carsini had found Fiona again, Connor didn't think he'd give up very easily. Although Fiona was much more experienced and less likely to be drawn in by Carsini's flattery and generosity, Connor didn't want the man to get the opportunity to abduct her again. He worried that Carsini might hide Fiona so well the MacLeods would be unable to rescue her. She certainly wouldn't be allowed to escape a second time. He wanted her to promise to stay with Duncan before her fear galvanized into anger and she decided to pursue the man on her own. If Fiona tried to fight Carsini, she might be killed. At the very least, she'd become his prisoner again.

"Your word, Fiona."

Fiona refused to look at the elder MacLeod. She had tried repeatedly to persuade him to leave Europe and return to her house on Holy Ground where they could forget about Carsini. The suggestion had angered him. He wanted to take the man's head and finish this for good.

Fiona sighed. If Connor was going after Carsini, she wanted to be with him. The man's obsession was with her, not Connor MacLeod. If Connor wouldn't let her challenge the man, she could at least act as his second.

"I want to go with you, Connor."

Connor shook her again. She knew he wanted her to look at him, but she turned her head when someone touched her hand. It was Richie.

"You okay, Fiona?"

She could see the effort Richie was putting into controlling himself. He never really trusted Connor. She hoped Connor wouldn't be offended by Richie's question. The implication was unpleasant. All she had to say was that Connor was frightening or hurting her and Richie would challenge him. That wasn't the case, of course. Connor MacLeod would never hurt her. Although she found him forbidding when she first met him, she hadn't been frightened of the elder MacLeod since she became Immortal. She squeezed Richie's hand. The younger man smiled slightly.

"Your word, Fiona."

Fiona looked into Connor's intense eyes. She usually treated him as Chieftain and he had spoken in the tone of a Chieftain. He knew she couldn't deny him. She nodded.

"Say it."

"Aye, Connor, I will stay with Duncan."

Without looking, Connor reached out and grabbed Richie by the front of his shirt. He pulled Richie to him until the younger man's face was only inches from his own. Fiona pressed herself closer to Connor. She didn't know what he was about to do, but the men couldn't fight with her in the way.

"Take care of her."

Richie nodded. Although his motivation wasn't entirely clear to Richie, the elder MacLeod usually said that to him before leaving Fiona. Fiona had once warned him never to abandon Mac. Richie took her advice, but found that she was the one he couldn't abandon.

Fiona realized the two men were so close to her that she could easily kiss either of them, so she kissed Richie. The younger man blushed immediately. His color deepened as he watched her kiss Connor. Both men grinned afterward. Connor pushed Richie away, but the younger man didn't go far. Fiona was still holding his hand.

"I'll come back for you."

The elder MacLeod kissed her forehead before disappearing up the stairs. Fiona stood staring at the stairway as if she expected him to return momentarily.

Mac was suddenly next to Richie. Firmly instructing Richie to stay with Fiona, he told the younger man he was taking Amanda to the airport. Connor planned to stay close to the barge until his kinsman returned. Richie nodded, although the thought of Connor MacLeod lurking nearby did nothing to reassure him.

After Mac and Amanda left, Richie turned his attention back to Fiona. She was still watching the stairway. He tried to make her laugh, but received no reaction. He'd seen her after being parted from the MacLeods before. She always seemed forlorn. This was different. It was as if she were someone else.

He was surprised to see tears streaming down her face. Still holding her hand, Richie gently guided her to the couch. Fiona sat down obediently, but wouldn't let go of his hand. Sitting down next to her, he tried to make her laugh again without any success.

Richie frowned. He had no idea what had happened. He returned to Mac's barge to be greeted with the blade of Connor MacLeod's katana. Both MacLeods seemed edgy. Even Amanda appeared uneasy. Richie had seen Fiona frightened before, but now she seemed terrified.

"What's going on, Fiona? Are you in danger?"

Fiona began speaking so quietly Richie had listen carefully to hear her. She spoke of being abducted and held captive in a windowless room. Although she said it had happened just before her 100th birthday, she sounded as if she had just escaped from a man she called Romero Carsini. As she continued her story, he understood why.

A few days earlier, Connor had a business meeting. Fiona had gone shopping and was on her way to join him. Feeling the presence of another Immortal, she thought Connor and his business associates might have been passing. Mrs. Connor MacLeod was usually required to put in an appearance. She would gladly help Connor entertain his mortal companions. When she turned, she saw Carsini making his way towards her through the crowd. She fled. She was able to hail a taxi quickly and return to Connor's London home.

She had called Connor and asked him to come home to her as soon as possible. When she told Connor about Carsini, he insisted she stay with Duncan instead of continuing their travel plans.

"You think he's after you?"

Fiona shuddered. Richie assumed she was thinking about that windowless room she kept talking about. He'd been abducted himself and knew what it was like first hand. He tried to imagine being in a room where the door had been camouflaged. Just thinking about it made him uncomfortable. It was like being in a box.

****

When Duncan returned from the airport after seeing Amanda off, his kinsman was waiting for him on the overpass that overlooked the place where the barge was moored. Recognizing the elder man's completely humorless expression, Duncan took a deep breath. Focused solely on the Immortal seeking Fiona, Connor was in full warrior mode and was unlikely to relax until his quarry was dead. Connor gestured to him as he drove by. Duncan nodded in understanding and maneuvered into a parking place just as it was being vacated. There was no reason for the occupants of Duncan's barge to sense or overhear them. It would only alarm Fiona. From this vantage point, they could see any activity around the barge and be ready to help Richie protect Fiona if necessary.

Connor stood on the overpass looking down into the Seine. Duncan joined him. The two men stood silently a few moments. When Connor glanced at Duncan, the intensity in the elder man's eyes made Duncan glad he wasn't the object of Connor's wrath. Connor looked down at the river again.

"He was here."

Duncan frowned. It wasn't a good sign if Carsini had found Fiona so soon.

"Are you sure?"

Connor shrugged. He had vaguely sensed another Immortal. As far as he was concerned, it could only be Carsini. Connor cursed liberally to release his frustration over Carsini's actions. He wanted this over with as quickly as possible because he wanted Fiona overcome the terror currently gripping her. Considering her reactions and her resistance to any suggestion of sleep, her nightmares had been the worst she'd ever had.

"I didn't see him, but one of us was here."

Duncan frowned. It could have been Methos or any number of other Immortals who meant Fiona no harm. Connor was overreacting because of Fiona's fear. He hoped the elder man wouldn't be tempted to issue a reckless challenge. He shook his head. Connor was never reckless. He was as cool and calculating as an Immortal hunter, but he never hunted unless provoked. Carsini had made a huge mistake by renewing his pursuit of Fiona. When infuriated, Connor MacLeod was relentless.

"You're going after him."

Nodding, Connor turned his attention back to the Seine. He wouldn't rest until the other Immortal was no longer a threat to Fiona. If he failed, it would be left to Duncan to extract revenge.

"It may be up to you."

Duncan sighed. In Connor's eyes, he was responsible for Fiona's safety as long as she was with him. If Connor failed or Carsini managed to elude the elder MacLeod, Duncan would have to try to protect the Immortal woman. It didn't matter that Fiona was capable of taking care of herself more often than not. Carsini was a special circumstance. It was a matter of trust. It was a matter of Clan.

"She called me after she saw him. I found her . . ." Connor paused and shook his head at the memory. "She was crying and cowering in a corner of the bedroom. I thought I was never going to convince her that it was really me."

The image made Duncan frown. He remembered her doing nearly the same thing after escaping Carsini. When the MacLeods had reentered the house after driving Carsini away, they had found Fiona cowering in a corner. Although Connor was sitting on the floor next to her and Duncan had called to her, they had received no response. The elder man had gently turned her face to his and began singing softly. Duncan had recognized the song as a lullaby from the Highlands. Fiona had suddenly seemed to become aware of where she was.

She barely ate or slept despite constant reassurance from the Highlanders. At the time, Connor had warned him to be gentle with her. The comment made the younger Highlander angry. He knew how to treat a Chieftain's daughter. Connor had backhanded him hard. She had been through something neither man understood. It would be centuries before anyone discussed psychology or brainwashing, but Carsini was already a master of both.

The night she arrived at Connor's home, Fiona woke from a terrible nightmare with a piercing scream. She was shaking and wouldn't stop crying in spite of all of Duncan's attempts to comfort her. Her scream brought Connor to the room brandishing his sword. He dropped it immediately and sat down next to Fiona. While Duncan held her tightly, Connor had spoken softly to her, promising her that the Highlanders would protect her. She had begged him to stay insisting it would be like Clan life. Fiona had appeared comforted when the elder MacLeod agreed. Duncan resented his kinsman's presence at the time, but Fiona seemed relaxed only when both men were with her.

Duncan MacLeod smiled as his thoughts returned to the present. With Richie's help, he would return the favor for Connor. He would try to keep the Highland woman calm and occupied while Connor contended with Carsini. It might be fun to see Paris with her again. They'd had a wonderful time on previous visits together. She usually enjoyed a visit to the Louvre. They could hold hands while they looked at the masterpieces and discussed the artists they knew whose works hung in the museum. If he could shield her from the Immortal who was pursuing her, perhaps they could relive happier times.

"Just me and Fiona in Paris. Could be like old times," Duncan said with a grin.

"I kept my distance for 90 years, Duncan. Why can't you accept it?"

Duncan frowned. Fiona's relationship with his kinsman was the furthest thing from his mind. He'd nearly come to grips with it. Fiona somehow managed to make his kinsman as happy as she made him.

"I wasn't talking about that, Connor."

Connor frowned. He had misinterpreted his kinsman's remark. He had to keep himself under control or the results could be deadly for him. He wanted to help Fiona, not add to her grief and fear. He stared at his kinsman's barge. Convinced that was the safest place for Fiona was in Duncan's care, Connor decided to pursue the course of action he had been planning since the technology became available. He thought it would give him the edge they needed to thwart any plans Carsini may have in mind.

"I have something to do, Duncan. Take care of her."

****

After finishing his conversation with Connor, Duncan got back into his car and drove the short distance to the barge. When he came down the stairs from the deck, Richie was prepared for a challenge. Although the younger man immediately put up his sword, MacLeod could tell by Richie's fierce expression that Fiona had told him about her experience with Carsini. He questioned Richie, wondering what the Immortal woman had told the younger man. She was rarely willing to talk about the events or discuss any details.

Curled into a ball, Fiona was asleep on Duncan's bed. MacLeod nodded approvingly. Connor had told him that Fiona had barely slept or ate since seeing Carsini again. Connor worried that she might be pushed beyond her physical and mental endurance.

Fiona moaned softly sending a cold shiver down Duncan's spine. He recognized the sound. He had heard it often after her escape from Carsini. Duncan crossed the room and sat on the bed next to Fiona. He spoke gently to her, reassuring her that she was safe and that he was with her. He mentioned Richie's presence as well. He'd watched Connor do something similar after her escape. It usually calmed her. It worked now, too. She gradually stretched out on the bed. She moaned once more before settling into a more restful sleep.

MacLeod turned back to the younger Immortal across the room. He no longer considered Richie Ryan his student. The two men had settled into a comfortable friendship. Richie had matured considerably and didn't run to the Highlander with problem after problem. They saw each other regularly. MacLeod was glad the younger man had returned unexpectedly from his travels. Duncan moved away from Fiona so he could talk to Richie without disturbing her.

Richie frowned when Mac said Connor sensed another Immortal. The sensation had been vague and the other Immortal never appeared, but the elder MacLeod was convinced it was Carsini. Troubled that he hadn't sensed the other of their kind, Richie agreed readily to help his mentor protect the Immortal woman. Duncan never had any doubt that Richie would do anything he could to help Fiona.

"Stay where she can see you, Richie. Talk to her if she becomes restless."

"But, Mac, she's asleep."

MacLeod looked at Richie impatiently. He explained again what he wanted the younger man to do. Richie glanced in Fiona's direction. Duncan frowned. Richie still seemed uncertain.

"I'm going to make something to eat. I want you to be where she can see you if she wakes up."

Richie nodded. It made sense that Fiona might be frightened if she woke up alone. He grabbed a chair and sat down next to the bed. After a few minutes, he felt silly watching someone sleep. Fiona's face contorted slightly. She made a couple of odd noises.

"Talk to her, Richie."

Richie watched Fiona's expression change again. She moved restlessly. Her hands slowly formed into loose fists. Richie thought she was awake, but she was still sleeping. Mac again instructed the younger man to say something to her.

"Fiona, it's Richie. You're on the barge with me and Mac."

The result amazed Richie. Fiona became quiet. Her face relaxed. Her hands uncurled. Richie wondered if she had been dreaming of the windowless room she had told him about. Just the thought of such a place bothered him and from Fiona's story, she had spent nearly two weeks there.

"Richie, dinner's almost ready. Go get some wine. Tell them to put it on my account."

Taking Richie's seat near Fiona, Mac gave him a few more instructions. As Duncan watched Richie leave the barge, he heard Fiona moan softly. Duncan turned his attention to the woman who had been his friend since childhood. He had no idea what dreams made her moan that way. She rarely spoke about the dreams and when she did, she gave the vaguest account she possibly could. He knew they were somehow related to her captivity by Carsini. He'd never known her to be plagued by nightmares before the experience. As far as he knew, the dreams were still infrequent and usually triggered by being reminded of Carsini. Actually seeing the man would definitely explain the return of the disturbing dreams. Moving restlessly, she moaned again. The eerie sound always made him uneasy.

"Fiona, it's Duncan. You're on my barge in Paris."

When Fiona's eyes fluttered open and focused on him, Duncan smiled at her. Her expression was sleepy and confused. She sat up and looked around uncertainly. Knowing her nightmares sometimes disoriented her, Duncan wondered if she was trying to remember where she was or if she was looking for Richie and Connor.

"That bastard," she said suddenly. "Why am I so afraid of him? I should have hunted him down and killed him centuries ago."

Hoping to calm her and convince her to rest a while longer, Duncan sat next to her on the bed and tried to put his arm around her, but Fiona pulled away from him. Getting off the bed, she began pacing quickly around the barge, complaining bitterly about fleeing instead of challenging Carsini. When Duncan stepped into her path, she glared at him impatiently. Duncan recognized the warrior in her immediately. He had to try to calm her before she decided she wanted to pursue the Immortal who had recently disrupted her life again.

"This isn't getting you anywhere and it's wearing a hole in my floor," he said as cheerfully as he could and grinned.

Duncan knew it wasn't the funniest joke, but he thought it would get either a giggle or a groan out of Fiona. Instead, she continued to glare at him. Duncan sighed. This was probably the reaction Connor was trying to avoid by making her promise to stay with him. The Highland woman was preparing herself for a fight.

"If you don't want to go back to bed, why don't you sit on the couch with me?"

She shrugged. Thinking she might need to be reassured, Duncan pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead. She had responded to physical affection after her escape from Carsini. He hoped it would help her now as well. Taking her hand, he led her to the couch and sat down with her. She looked around the barge again.

"I'm frightened, Duncan."

MacLeod wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. Almost everything she had said and done since arriving at the barge had spoken of her fear. Hugging her again, he kissed her temple.

"You're safe here, Fiona."

She looked at him with large, troubled eyes. Shaking her head, she reached up and touched his face gently. When she spoke again, her accent betrayed her heightened emotions.

"I am nae frightened for myself, Duncan. I'm frightened for you and Connor . . . and Richie. I do nae want harm to come to you because of me."

Duncan kissed her mouth very gently. It was just like her to worry about them when she was the one in the greatest danger. He wondered if worrying about the men kept her from being paralyzed with fear for herself.

"Connor can take care of himself, Fiona. You know that. You've trained with Richie. You know he's good with a sword."

Fiona nodded. She knew very well what kind of warrior Connor MacLeod was, but that didn't stop her from worrying about him. She also knew Richie was a capable fighter.

Duncan could tell she wasn't convinced. He understood her concern for two men she had known for centuries. The three Highlanders had survived many adventures together. Duncan smiled. He knew she held a great affection for Richie. It was obvious in the way she treated the younger Immortal.

"C'mon, Fiona. You know Connor doesn't take unnecessary chances. He won't do anything rash and I'll make sure Richie stays with us."

Fiona shrugged. She didn't think there was anything Duncan could say that would keep her from worrying about the men. When her stomach growled, she sniffed the air. Somewhere, someone was cooking something. The aroma was appealing.

"What's that smell?"

Duncan looked around. The only thing he could smell was the meal he left simmering on the stove.

"I'm making us something to eat. Is that what you smell?"

Fiona grinned up at him. He could see the impish glimmer in her eyes. Considering her emotional state, he hadn't expected to see that expression so soon.

"You can cook?"

Duncan laughed. She knew he could cook. He'd made meals for them many times. She had taught him some dishes early in their Immortality. It hadn't taken him long to learn that being able to prepare food was as much a part of being able to survive as wielding a sword.

Fiona yawned. She hadn't been sleeping well and being in Duncan's arms was reassuring. His words were reassuring as well. Although he was right about Connor, she was still concerned about the men she knew were willing to protect her at any cost. After Duncan kissed her forehead again, she rested her head on his chest. Although she was comfortable with Duncan, she wished Connor was nearby. She wanted the elder MacLeod safe and within her sight. Maybe Duncan could help her convince Connor to leave Europe and take refuge on Holy Ground. Duncan and Richie were welcome to join them. She would enjoy being hostess to the three men.

When Duncan mentioned events from their shared childhood, Fiona giggled. Perhaps Connor had been right to want her to stay with Duncan instead of trying to flee before Carsini found her again. She felt secure with her childhood friend. She had trusted him for as long as she could remember. Yawning again, she snuggled closer to him. His voice was soothing and the memories he evoked were pleasant. She could almost forgive Connor for leaving her behind. Her eyes closed sleepily despite her efforts to keep them open.

Duncan could feel Fiona relaxing in his arms. Her responses became less and less frequent until she fell asleep. Moving carefully to avoid disturbing her, Duncan grabbed the hilt of his katana. He would feel better if his sword were closer to him. Letting the weapon rest against his leg, he glanced down at Fiona. She was sleeping with a slight smile on her lips. He hoped her dreams would remain pleasant until Carsini was nothing more than a memory. Kissing the top of her head, Duncan wondered if she would sleep until Richie returned. Even a few minutes sleep would be better than having her awake and angry.

****

Richie took the brief walk to the wine store. The owner, who knew both men well, greeted him and readily went to retrieve the wine that Mac had requested. After obtaining the three bottles of wine, Richie chatted amiably with the owner before heading back towards the barge. Along the way, he wandered into a bakery and bought some crusty French bread. It was one of his favorites and he knew Mac enjoyed it as well. Thinking about all the times he had eaten Fiona's homemade bread, Richie continued on his way back to the other Immortals wondering if she would be in the mood to make some any time soon. He doubted she would, given the way she had been acting. Richie smiled slightly. Whoever was trying to get to Fiona would have to get past three Immortal men first. He was certain that thought would calm Fiona down.

Richie stopped when he sensed another Immortal. He didn't think Fiona would want to leave the barge or that Mac would leave her alone. Unless he was followed from the barge, Carsini should have no idea who he was. As he glanced around, Richie felt himself being pulled into an alley and pinned to the wall with an expert body slam. Richie's mind reeled with the different ways he could defend himself and get away from this other Immortal. Richie's thoughts slowed down slightly when he found himself staring into the fierce eyes of Connor MacLeod. Because the elder Highlander had once accused him of killing Fiona, Richie was frightened by the intensity he saw until the older man smiled at him suddenly.

"Hello, Richie. Nice to see you again."

"Connor, don't you ever just shake hands?"

Laughing, Connor MacLeod released Richie. Snatching the bag from Richie's arms, the elder MacLeod inspected the contents, muttering his approval of his kinsman's taste in wine and the loaf of bread.

"I need your help, Richie," Connor said, still examining the contents of the bag.

Richie winced. It was never a good sign when Connor MacLeod asked for his help. The last time Connor enlisted his assistance, Richie had been required to shoot and kill a mortal who was threatening Fiona. Connor returned the bag to Richie.

"I want you to help me find Carsini."

Richie shook his head. He'd rather stay on the barge and try to distract Fiona. Considering how upset she had seemed he thought his ability to make her laugh might be important at the moment.

"Why me? Why not Mac?"

Connor sighed. He'd been too clever for his own good.

"I made Fiona promise to stay with Duncan. If I ask him to come with me -- "

"She'll want to go, too," Richie said, completing the elder man's thought. He could picture it clearly. Fiona would be only too happy to use the promise against the other man.

Connor nodded. He was glad Richie understood. After Carsini's reappearance, the only one Connor could think of leaving Fiona with had been Duncan. She trusted the younger Highlander more than enough to stay with him. Connor trusted his kinsman to protect her with his own life.

"How's Fiona?"

"She was asleep when I left."

Connor smiled slightly. She desperately needed sleep and Duncan would certainly watch over her. He wondered if his kinsman had spoken softly to the Highland woman to tame her nightmares as he had been forced to do many times since she had seen Carsini again. He clapped Richie on the back.

"I'll go back to the barge with you, Richie. I have something to discuss with Fiona and we have to tell them you're leaving with me."

****

Duncan sat on the couch with Fiona curled up against him. When Fiona had awaken from her nap, she had started talking about Carsini. It was clear she was becoming angry about being frightened by the man. After convincing her to sit next to him on the couch, Duncan gently reassured her until he got her to relax. He was pleased when she teased him and giggled playfully. Although she was currently dozing with her head on his chest, she stirred when they sensed another Immortal. Duncan reached for the katana leaning against his leg. He stopped when he heard Richie's voice. He was surprised to see Connor follow Richie down the stairs.

"Oh, are we interrupting?"

Duncan grinned. The amusement was clear in his kinsman's voice. Fiona lifted her head sleepily.

"Connor?"

"Aye, lass, I've come to take Richie."

Fiona sat up suddenly. Duncan rolled his eyes. He could tell just by the shape of her mouth that she was absolutely furious. Duncan watched Richie put the bottles of wine on the table along with a loaf of bread. The younger man had no idea what was about to erupt around him.

"No, Connor. If you're going after Carsini, you're taking me. Where is he?"

Ignoring the Highland woman, Connor looked in the pots simmering on the stove before tasting the contents and nodding approvingly. Joining Richie at the table, Connor examined the bottles of wine and selected one to open.

When Fiona started to get up, Duncan pulled her back down. She glared at him angrily. He shook his head.

"You can't go with Connor. You promised to stay with me."

Fiona crossed her arms across her chest angrily. It was just like the MacLeods to trick her into such a promise. Connor had been so insistent that she give her word because he knew she wouldn't break it. She never broke her promises to the Highland men. In return, they kept their promises to her. It was part of the honor of their Clans. She was stuck staying with Duncan while Connor took Richie to confront the man she wanted to defeat.

She watched Connor pour two glasses of wine. He came across the room and presented one to her. Fiona wanted to throw it in his face, but she knew Duncan had excellent taste in wine. It would be a shame to waste it. She sipped the fragrant liquid. As she expected, it was wonderful. It was nearly enough to make her forget how angry she was.

"Richie, bring me a glass of water, please. I want to throw it in Connor's face."

Duncan struggled not to laugh. Connor had the oddest expression on his face while watching Richie standing at the sink. Duncan could see that Richie was still processing Fiona's last statement. He almost wished the younger man would give Fiona the water she had requested. The ensuing events would be extremely entertaining. He could easily picture Connor with water dripping down his face. The image made it even harder to control his laughter.

Looking from Connor to Fiona, Richie started shaking his head. He could see Mac was on the verge of laughing, but he wasn't really certain what the joke was. He didn't think Connor's reaction to being doused with a glass of water would be particularly favorable and it seemed unlikely that the elder Highlander would take it out on Fiona.

"Uh, I don't think so, Fiona."

Duncan could no longer keep from laughing. Fiona looked at him ruefully. It only made him laugh harder. Connor slipped onto the couch on the other side of Fiona. When she turned towards him, he pulled her into a kiss.

Richie watched the three Immortals sitting on the couch. Connor and Fiona were kissing, but Fiona's hand was resting on Mac's thigh. It looked really weird and Richie wondered about the trio's relationship. They'd told him repeatedly that they had lived together from time to time over the centuries. Looking at them now, he wondered how they defined together.

Evidently, Mac wasn't completely comfortable sitting next to the kissing couple. He gently removed Fiona's hand from his leg and got up from the couch. Richie was relieved. He didn't like the images of the other Immortals that had formed in his mind.

"I think I'll put the food on the table."

There was no response from Fiona and Connor to Duncan's statement. They were still kissing. When he saw Richie looking at him, Duncan shrugged. Grinning sheepishly, he crossed the room and began moving the food from the stove to the table. While Richie finished setting the table, Duncan poured two more glasses of wine. He handed one to Richie before turning his attention back to the couple on his couch. He rolled his eyes. They were still kissing.

"Come on, you two."

Connor pulled back from Fiona. He touched her face gently.

"Hungry, lass?"

"Aye. I still want to go with you, Connor."

Connor shook his head. He couldn't honor that request. He wanted her as far from danger as he could possibly get her. He toyed with he idea of telling Duncan to leave Paris with her, but he knew if he did that, her earlier display of anger would look like mild annoyance and he was likely to have the meal Duncan had prepared thrown at him. Offering his arm to the Highland woman, he escorted her to the table. Connor frowned as she slid into the seat next to Richie. He had intended to sit next to the man who would help him defeat Romero Carsini while she sat next to the man who would be responsible for her safety. He sat next to his kinsman instead. Duncan refilled Connor's wineglass.

"When do you leave?"

"As soon as we eat."

Duncan saw the anger return to Fiona's face instantly. Richie must have noticed it as well because he immediately whispered something to her. Giggling, she whispered something in response. When he replied, she looked at the two Highlanders and laughed.

Connor watched them impatiently, but did not interrupt. There was something he wanted to discuss with the Highland woman. He could see Richie had been right about being able to distract Fiona. He wished he could leave Fiona in Richie's care and take Duncan with him, but he knew Fiona much too well to think that was possible.

"You're tired, Connor. Stay the night."

Connor looked across the table at Fiona. The concern he heard in her voice was clear in her expression. He knew she was right. They were both exhausted. If he didn't get a good night's rest soon, he'd start to feel every one of the centuries he'd lived. Besides, he thought Fiona would be more willing to listen to and agree to the rest of his plan if he agreed to her suggestion. When he turned to his kinsman, Duncan shrugged.

"It's fine with me. You and Richie can stay if you want."

"Stay?" Richie asked, looking around the barge. Space was at a premium making privacy nearly impossible.

"We'll manage," Mac said quietly.

Richie nodded. Fiona would probably be much more secure with all of them present. It would only be one night. He grinned. Fiona had put up with him for longer periods of time. She had once cared for him after he had been drugged and left for dead. He still didn't remember much about the incident, but he did remember Fiona helping him patiently without making him feel stupid or helpless until he could take care of himself again. She'd even persuaded Connor to train with him. He hoped his presence and his participation with Connor in hunting down Carsini would repay some small part of the debt he felt he owed the Immortal woman. She'd always been kind to him when there was no reason for her to even acknowledge his existence. He couldn't say that about many people.

****

Knowing Fiona shouldn't sleep alone and that Connor would insist on being near her even if it meant sleeping on the floor, Duncan offered his bed to the other Immortals. While Richie was doing his best with the armchair and the coffee table, he could make himself comfortable on the sofa. They might as well both be comfortable in his bed. He watched Fiona frown as Connor whispered softly to her trying to coax her into joining him in getting some rest. Duncan couldn't imagine why Fiona would be reluctant. It was her suggestion that Connor stay the night. Holding her hand, the elder Highlander led her towards the bed. She stopped suddenly and turned back towards Duncan and Richie.

"You, too, Duncan."

Duncan shook his head. The bed would be crowded with the three Highlanders in it and there was enough room for the two men on sofas and chairs. It won't be the first night he slept in less than comfortable circumstances and he couldn't think of anything more uncomfortable than the situation Fiona was suggesting.

"Please."

Duncan sighed deeply. He recognized the pleading tone in her voice. After her escape from Carsini, she had begged Connor to sleep in the bedroom she shared with Duncan. The elder Highlander had slept on the floor where she could see him. It was the only thing that seemed to calm her at the time.

Connor had gotten Fiona to follow him to the bed, but she was glancing back at Duncan while Connor rummaged through her luggage. Suggesting that she change her clothes, Connor offered her pajamas he had removed from the suitcase. Still watching Duncan, Fiona took them absentmindedly. Connor pushed her towards the bathroom telling her to change in there. She moved reluctantly in the direction Connor wanted her to go.

Duncan squeezed the pillow he was about to put on the couch he had been making up for himself. He didn't have a choice. Fiona obviously needed him more than he needed to sleep on the sofa and he refused to force her to beg him. The trio had shared a bed on previous occasions in order to stay warm. Fiona's safety and comfort were even better reasons.

"You sleep here, Rich," Duncan said, tossing the pillow at the younger man.

As soon as Duncan finished speaking, Fiona disappeared into the bathroom. Once she closed the door, the elder Highlander quickly stripped off his clothes and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. Duncan followed his kinsman's example. Richie didn't understand their actions. Fiona had seen all of them in various states of undress, especially the MacLeods. Shrugging, Richie shed his jeans and sneakers before covering himself with the blanket Mac had left on the sofa.

By the time Fiona emerged from the bathroom, both MacLeods were wearing t-shirts and sweatpants and seemed ready to go to bed. Although the pajamas would be much more comfortable, she would have preferred to sleep fully clothed. She wanted to be ready to escape at any moment, but Connor had selected modest pajamas for her to wear. Connor had bought them for her because the pattern of sheep jumping over fences made her laugh and he thought them appropriate for a former shepherdess. Fiona smiled slightly. Richie was peeking at her over the back of the couch. His eyes seemed terribly serious with concern. She was distracted when a strong arm slipped gently around her waist. It was Connor.

"Come, lass, we must sleep."

There had been times during their existence when the trio had to share the same bed simply to keep warm. She remembered being cold and hungry then. She had given the men the larger part of the food they had available. In return, Connor and Duncan had insisted that she sleep between them where she would be warmest.

Currently, her stomach was full from the delicious meal Duncan had prepared and she was sleepy from the wine they had consumed. The MacLeods seemed to be constantly refilling her glass during dinner. In addition to the wine they had with their meal, she had finished an entire bottle of wine with Connor. Duncan and Richie seemed to drink much less. Fiona assumed they wanted to stay more alert while the other Immortals slept.

Almost in unison, the two men told her to sleep in the middle. Fiona nodded. She knew they wanted her to sleep between them tonight in order to protect her. She got into bed and waited for the Highland men to join her. Perhaps in this setting both she and Connor would get some rest. She knew the elder Highlander had been staying awake to watch over her. He had always been awake to comfort her after every nightmare. His strength and calm had helped her separate dreams from reality. She didn't know what she would have done without him.

She watched the MacLeods placed their katanas within easy reach from the bed. Connor leaned her Claymore against the wall next to his sword. She assumed Richie's sword was on the floor where he could pick it up readily. Knowing there were weapons within reach was reassuring.

After Connor got into bed next to her, she waited for Duncan to join them. He grinned at her as he did. Fiona sighed. It was comfort enough to be with the Highland men. She knew she would be well protected even if they couldn't keep the nightmares at bay. Fiona frowned. If Carsini were to invade the barge, Richie would be the first Immortal to face him. That seemed terribly unfair in some way.

"Richie?"

At the sound of Fiona's voice, Richie sat up. He'd been listening to the hushed voices from the other end of the room and couldn't imagine what Fiona might want. He also couldn't imagine refusing her request -- unless she wanted to throw water in Connor's face.

"Yeah, Fiona?"

"Are you okay?"

Richie smiled. Despite her fear, she was worried about him. Very few people seemed to worry about him when it mattered. Fiona was one of them.

"I'm fine. Night, Fiona."

Richie settled down again. Mac's couch wasn't the most comfortable place to sleep, but if there was danger, he wanted to be near Fiona. He didn't like seeing the normally cheerful woman acting frightened and angry. Mac had told him she'd been having trouble sleeping. He'd seen a sample of it earlier while she napped in Mac's bed. He wondered if being surrounded by friends would really help her. He could hear whispering from the other end of the barge again and assumed Mac and Connor were trying to calm her down and get her to sleep. Hoping that the men would succeed, Richie closed his eyes and wished he could do more.

Fiona lay quietly staring into the darkness. She liked feeling the two men so close to her. Long ago, they had surrounded her this way when Carsini confronted them in the marketplace. She had felt protected then, too.

When Connor squeeze her shoulder gently, she turned her head towards him. The old sign of affection between them was always welcome.

"Do you need a lullaby, lass?"

Although Fiona shook her head, Connor moved closer to her and slipped his arm around her.

Fiona relaxed slightly. He had held her this way countless times. She was comfortable in his embrace. She smiled when he started singing a Highland lullaby softly in her ear. On more than one occasion, she had been awed by the success and grateful for the generosity of the elder MacLeod. Many times he'd clothed and fed her without hesitation when she had nowhere else to turn. It had been no different when she had been abducted centuries earlier.

Despite being reminded of events after she had escaped Carsini, the thoughts didn't trouble her.

At that time, she was not yet Connor's lover and had slept in Duncan's reassuring embrace, but Connor had indulged her by leaving his bed to sleep on the floor in Duncan's bedroom. The gentleness of both Highland men towards her after her arrival at Connor's home and their fierce protectiveness had helped her cope with the aftermath of her captivity at Carsini's hands. They were still willing to offer their support and protection.

Fiona yawned. Connor was still singing softly to her. In the darkness, she could see Duncan's strong profile. She wondered how difficult seeing her with Connor was for the younger MacLeod. Although she knew Duncan's jealousy was unwarranted, she had to admit she felt a twinge whenever she saw him with Amanda. She hoped he wasn't hurt and angry because she insisted that he share the bed with them. When Duncan had offered them his bed, Fiona couldn't imagine sleeping in it without him. Having him nearby always made her feel better.

When she reached out and touched Duncan, he turned, smiled at her and briefly joined Connor in his song. Fiona's giggle was interrupted by another yawn. She closed her eyes tiredly hoping that being surrounded by her Clan would keep the nightmares away for one night. She slipped into sleep with Connor's voice in her ear and Duncan's hand in hers.

****

Alone in the dark, Fiona was frightened. Because she was somehow tied up, she couldn't move and began to panic when she sensed another Immortal. She'd much rather lose her head in a fight than while trussed up like an animal ready to be slaughtered. She was about to scream when she felt a finger placed gently to her lips and heard Duncan telling her softly that he was there and she needed to be quiet.

Duncan was beginning to doze off when he heard the familiar moan escape Fiona. She was in the throes of another Carsini inspired nightmare. If he didn't speak to her, the nightmare was likely to escalate. Connor had warned him that she had been plagued by frequent nightmares since seeing Carsini and the intensity seemed to be increasing.

"Fiona, it's Duncan. You're safe with me and Connor."

The moaning stopped immediately. Still sleeping, Fiona turned towards him and flung one arm across his chest. Her head rested on his shoulder. Kissing her forehead gently, Duncan reassured her again as he put his arm around her. Despite his original misgivings, he was glad he had consented to sleep next to her. Her need for the Highlanders was great. It would have been wrong to deny her whatever small comfort he could offer her when she was obviously in such great need.

"Is she asleep?" Connor asked as softly as he could.

Duncan looked across the bed at his kinsman and nodded. Seeming content and relaxed, Connor rolled over, leaving Duncan with the sleeping Fiona in his arms. She appeared to be sleeping peacefully. He hoped she would continue to sleep well during her stay with him. He wondered if her calm expression was an indication that her nightmare was over.

It was still dark, but Duncan had freed her from her bonds. He was holding her close while he kissed her and whispered to her reassuringly. Connor and Richie had to be nearby. Duncan had mentioned his kinsman and she had already heard the sound of Connor's voice. She was safe with her Clan.

****

Voices woke Duncan the next morning. Richie and Fiona were in the barge's small kitchen area involved in a quiet conversation. When Duncan got up to join them, Fiona smiled at him. He kissed her quickly before she poured a cup of tea for him. She seemed more relaxed than when she had arrived the previous day. Perhaps she had slept well between the two men after all. As far as he knew, she only had one nightmare the entire night and he had been able to calm her without waking her.

"These are cute," Duncan said, touching her pajamas. The sheep pattern seemed frivolous and appropriate at the same time.

Fiona giggled.

"Connor bought them for me. He said a shepherdess should wear them."

"Check out the slippers," Richie said with laughter in his voice.

Duncan looked down. Fiona was wearing fuzzy white slippers decorated to look like sheep. Around their necks, the sheep had tiny bells that jingled with each step the Immortal woman took.

Following Duncan's gaze, Fiona looked down at the whimsical slippers Connor had insisted on buying for her to wear with the sheep patterned pajamas despite all her efforts to discourage him. In fact, he seemed to become more determined to buy them for her the more she objected. She alternated between feeling silly and enjoying the pure pointlessness of them.

"He was on a roll," she said with a shrug.

"Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Duncan turned around. Connor was sitting up in bed and smiling broadly. The elder man bleated again. Fiona rolled her eyes at him.

"Stop that, Connor!"

Duncan smiled at the tone in Fiona's voice. As a boy and young man living with his Clan, he'd heard many Highland women use that tone to correct children and command the attention of Highland men. Fiona was likely the only one Connor would tolerate the treatment from. Duncan knew better than to contradict her when she spoke that way, but some moments were too good to miss.

Instead of stopping, Connor continued his imitation of a sheep. Although Duncan could see Fiona was annoyed with his kinsman, there was also a hint of amusement in her eyes. While she was distracted by the noises Connor was making, Duncan moved behind her and quickly wrapped his arms around her. She struggled without really trying to escape.

"Duncan, let me go! And Connor, stop that!"

Grinning at his kinsman, Duncan leaned down until his mouth was near Fiona's ear. Taking a deep breath, he joined his kinsman in the flock. Fiona shook her head.

"Both of you stop it!"

When she stamped her foot to emphasize her displeasure with the sounds the men were making, the tiny bell on her slipper jingled undermining her attempt at authority. Between bleats, Duncan and Connor laughed at her frustration with them and the jingling slippers she wore. She was struggling slightly harder in Duncan's embrace making the bells on her slippers jingle louder. Duncan could tell her displeasure was laced with amusement. She wouldn't hesitate to elbow him hard if she really wanted him to let go of her. She was enjoying the joke as much as the men.

"Baaaaa!"

Startled, Fiona stopped struggling to stare at Richie. She heard Duncan laughing softly in her ear. When the Highlanders bleated again, Richie joined the chorus. Fiona giggled. The men looked and sounded immensely silly bleating like sheep. Connor hurried across the barge and sat next to Richie. The men bleated again.

"Please, miss, can't we be your flock?" Duncan asked between bleats.

Certain his comment would amuse her, Duncan expected Fiona to relax into him and laugh. Instead, he heard her sniffle. When he loosened his hold on her, she spun around quickly and muffled her sobs by burying her face in his t-shirt.

"Fiona?"

Her only response was to wrap her arms around him. Duncan frowned as he tightened his embrace, pulling her closer. He knew she was on edge, but didn't expect a sudden flood of tears. It wasn't her style. Duncan watched his concerned kinsman approach them. The men exchanged a confused look over Fiona's head.

"We were only joking, lass. We meant no harm."

When Duncan felt Fiona take a number of deep breaths in an attempt to bring her emotions under control, he rubbed her back with one hand in an attempt to comfort her. Lifting her head from his chest, she looked up at him before turning to Connor.

"You're my Clan and I'm putting you in danger."

Shaking his head, Connor brushed her hair back from her face and wiped tears from her cheeks. He kissed her forehead.

Duncan started to loosen his hold on her thinking she might want to go to the arms of his kinsman. He was surprised when she hugged him tightly. He could see tears brimming in her eyes when she looked up at him. Perhaps she needed a gentle reminder of the meaning of Clan.

"A Clan stands together when there's trouble, Fiona," Duncan said softly.

Richie got up slowly from his chair. He wanted to help the MacLeods reassure Fiona, but didn't want to intrude. The Highland Immortals seemed to be a closed society sometimes. He moved closer to the trio and waited until Fiona looked at him to speak.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be, Fiona. My bike's outside. I could be miles from here by now."

Fiona looked at the men surrounding her. Duncan had his arms around her. When she met Connor's eyes, he squeezed her shoulder with an affection that had survived centuries. Richie's solemn expression belied his quick smile. He seemed to have the determination of a Highland warrior. She couldn't stop them from going after Carsini and she couldn't break her word to Connor.

Connor frowned. Fiona's emotional outburst was probably the worst thing that could have happened. He wanted her as calm and happy as possible under the circumstances. He wanted to start his pursuit of Carsini before Fiona managed to convince him to take her far from this situation. All he needed Duncan to do was keep Fiona safe and distracted while he tracked Carsini down with Richie's help. Connor was certain his kinsman could find many ways to entertain her in Paris.

Connor sighed. He had wanted to propose something to the Highland woman that he was certain she wouldn't like, but he couldn't ask her to try to draw out Carsini in her present emotional state. He wasn't certain she would be capable of listening to any explanation if she didn't calm down. There was another use for the items in his possession as long as she didn't misinterpret his motives.

"Richie, go to the bakery and get some croissants."

"Sure, Mac."

Richie reached for his jacket. He knew exactly what Mac wanted. From the time he had first come to Paris with Mac and Tessa, morning croissants had been a part of their regular routine. Tessa had patiently taken him to the shops and taught him enough French to make simple purchases. He had refined her basic lessons when he majored in languages in college and felt comfortable in Paris. Richie headed towards the stairs, but stopped when he heard Fiona object.

"Don't let him go alone, Duncan!"

Richie turned and smiled at her. She was worrying about him again. Part of him wanted to tell Fiona that he was capable of taking care of himself and she should leave him alone, but another part of him craved the attention she paid to him. He was beginning to take her claims of kinship seriously and didn't want to do or say anything that would jeopardize it.

"I'll be fine, Fiona. It's not far."

Richie disappeared up the stairs. Duncan could see Fiona was pouting and worried. She rarely pouted long. Worrying was another matter. He took the opportunity to kiss her briefly. As he expected, she laughed and pushed him away playfully.

Connor watched Duncan coax Fiona into helping him prepare breakfast for them. Her slippers jingled softly as she followed him. When she giggled at something his kinsman said, Connor smiled. She hadn't laughed very much since seeing Carsini. It was a welcome sound. She appeared to enjoy puttering around his kinsman's kitchen. She laughed out loud. It was good for her to be with Duncan. He hated to disturb her now that her mood had improved, but the more he thought about it the more he wanted to implement part of his plan.

"We need to talk, lass."

Duncan frowned at Connor. Fiona had just gotten herself under control. He hoped Connor wasn't going to upset her more.

"Can't it wait until after breakfast, Connor?" Duncan asked as Richie came down the stairs.

Connor nodded. The fellowship of Richie and Duncan might help Fiona control her reaction to his plan. A relaxed meal could only further soothe her.

Her slippers jingling, Fiona followed Duncan to the table. After she sat down, the younger MacLeod made a fuss over her pretending to be a waiter and speaking with a terrible French accent. She was giggling when Connor and Richie joined them with the rest of the food.

When Duncan attempted to move around the table to sit next to Connor, Fiona stopped him with a hand placed gently on his arm. She didn't have to speak. He could see the entreaty in her eyes. If she wanted him to sit next to her, he would oblige her. At a time when minor things appeared to upset her, it was best to accommodate her whenever possible. She moved her chair closer to his after he sat next to her.

Connor took the chair opposite the Immortal woman. There was something appropriate about Fiona wanting Duncan next to her. He had been the one to offer comfort to her earlier and he would be the one she would have to rely upon for protection. Connor could see the companionship the pair had shared since childhood. He smiled slightly. From what they had told him, they had been friends from infancy.

Connor nodded at Richie as the younger man took the remaining seat. It was equally appropriate that the young Immortal sit next to him. They would be leaving shortly to track down the man who made all these plans necessary. He hoped Richie's impetuousness would make up for what the younger man lacked in experience.

Richie glanced at Fiona as he sat down. She seemed much calmer than when he left. He wondered why she wanted to sit next to Mac when Connor was the one who was leaving soon. He thought she would want to spend as much time as possible with Connor.

When they were finished eating, Connor withdrew a box from his pocket. He opened it before putting it on the table in front of Fiona.

"I want you to wear this, lass."

Fiona looked at the watch Connor had placed on the table in front of her. Although she liked it a great deal and gifts from the elder MacLeod were not uncommon, she had no idea why he would buy her jewelry at a time like this. She hoped he didn't intend it to be a farewell gift in case he didn't return from his encounter with Carsini.

"I don't need a watch, Connor."

Shaking his head, Connor pushed something across the table to his kinsman. Fiona looked at the object Connor had placed on the table in front of Duncan. She had no idea what it was. Seated next to her, Duncan was frowning at what Connor had just given him. Fiona didn't like his expression.

"Duncan?"

Duncan ignored Fiona. He was more concerned with why Connor was giving him a receiver for a tracking device. Connor produced an identical receiver and placed it on the table in front of himself. Duncan frowned. Each MacLeod had a receiver. He didn't like what Connor might have in mind. He wouldn't allow Fiona to act as bait no matter how much Connor insisted. He was afraid she was too fragile emotionally to cope with willingly putting herself at the mercy of a man she feared.

"What are you doing, Connor?"

"Protecting Fiona."

Fiona giggled, imagining the watch turning itself into some sort of impressive weapon like something from a James Bond movie. Fiona laughed out loud envisioning herself wearing outrageous clothing and wielding her watch as a sword.

"With a watch?" she asked giggling as she wondered if Amanda had left behind any of her tackier outfits.

She became quiet when Connor took the watch from the box and solemnly put it on her wrist. He hadn't been joking. There was more to the watch than she knew about even though it looked so ordinary.

"What is it?"

Hearing the fear in her voice, Duncan put his arm around her. She looked at him uncertainly. He didn't want Connor to put her under additional stress and add to the damage already done centuries earlier by Carsini.

"It's a tracking device, Fiona." Duncan held the object Connor had given him where she could see it. "This is the receiver."

Fiona fingered the pretty watch Connor had just put around her wrist. How could something so delicate and attractive be a tracking device? Under different circumstances, she would have simply accepted the gift and thanked him with a kiss. She wasn't certain how to react at the moment.

"It's nothing to be afraid of, lass. It means no danger to you."

Fiona looked into Connor's intense eyes. She could always see the emotion beneath the intensity. There was something reassuring in his expression. He took her hand between both of his. His voice was calm and gentle when he spoke to her. This was the man who had befriended her centuries earlier and continued to treat her as a Highland princess. She trusted him as much as she trusted Duncan.

"You can't be held prisoner wearing that, lass. Duncan and I could still find you."

Fiona inhaled sharply. Three centuries ago, Carsini had locked her in a windowless room. Although the two men had searched for her, they had been unable to locate her. If a devices such as these had been available, Connor and Duncan would have found and freed her quickly. She would have been spared a great deal of grief and trauma.

Tears welled up in her eyes. When Duncan pulled her closer, she shook her head. Her tears were not from fear but from relief. She swallowed hard. There were no words for what Connor was attempting to do for her.

"Thank you, Connor."

Connor smiled at Fiona. She understood his intent without a detailed explanation. The tracking device was merely insurance intended to prevent Carsini from keeping the Highland woman from them any longer than necessary should he succeed in abducting her again.

"Why a watch?" Richie asked.

"It's ordinary. Most people wear one. It will mostly go unnoticed."

Richie nodded. Connor's reasoning made sense. The elder MacLeod clapped him on the back.

"Come, lad. Time for us to go."

Telling Richie to gather a few things, Connor went to take a shower. Because he had no idea when he would find Carsini, Connor assumed it might be a while before he had the luxury of a hot shower again. He wondered if the younger man would be able to adjust to the hardships of hunting another Immortal. Turning on the water, Connor considered what his kinsman had told him about Richie. It seemed Richie had learned to survive on the streets as a pre-Immortal by resorting to petty crime. The experience wasn't the same as living on the Highlands without modern conveniences, but those skills might come in handy against Carsini.

Fiona and Duncan moved to the couch while the two men prepared to leave. Although Duncan tried to engage her in conversation, Fiona remained relatively quiet. Duncan knew she was worried about the other men. There was nothing he could say to reassure her. He couldn't even reassure himself.

Connor emerged from the shower. As he dressed, he watched Fiona approach Richie. She embraced the younger man. Connor smiled. He could see Richie blushing slightly.

"Be careful, Richie."

Richie grinned when Fiona stroked his hair. Fiona was worried about him, but she never lectured him. Lectures seemed to be Mac's specialty. On the other hand, Connor seemed to listen and act more than the others. He'd always felt honored when the older man offered to train with him. It was like learning from a master. Fiona kissed him gently on both cheeks disrupting his thought that training with his teacher's teacher was a kind of heritage. She was part of that heritage. Richie wondered what it would be like if he could meet Hamish and Ruth, Fiona's teachers, and Ramirez, Connor's teacher. Somehow they would complete the Clan Fiona had built for herself.

Fiona moved away from Richie and walked towards the elder MacLeod slowly. Connor stopped his preparations and waited for her. Putting her arms around him, she kissed him.

"Keep your head, Connor MacLeod."

Connor smiled. She'd used that phrase on other occasions just before being separated from him. To him, it spoke of her respect and affection for him. Hoping the hunt for Carsini wouldn't keep him from her for very long, he returned her kiss. After Carsini was dead, Connor would take her wherever she desired. Perhaps Duncan and Richie could accompany them.

Duncan sighed. He'd seen Highland women perform this ritual countless times. Fiona was saying good-bye to the men of her Clan before sending them into battle. Often the farewells were said as both genders prepared to defend the Clan against its enemies. He remembered only too well the grief that followed when some members of the Clan didn't return. He hoped he wouldn't have to console Fiona. He wanted to see Connor and Richie again himself.

Connor led Richie towards the stairs. He wanted to leave before Fiona lost the courage she had gathered to say good-bye to them. Before exiting onto the deck, Connor allowed himself to look back at her once. Watching the men on the stairs, his kinsman was standing close to the Immortal woman. Connor approved. Fiona would need to rely on Duncan and Duncan was willing to take on the responsibility. He nodded to Fiona and was rewarded with the slightest of smiles. Resisting the urge to run back and kiss her, Connor focused himself on his quest for Romero Carsini, climbed the remaining stairs and stepped onto the deck of the barge.

****

Richie walked with Connor along the deck of the barge, wondering if the elder MacLeod would allow him to drive the Lamborghini. He'd have to find just the right moment to suggest it or it was unlikely the other man would agree. Mac was rarely willing to allow him to drive any of his vehicles. He could easily imagine himself behind the wheel of the racy car. He'd enjoyed his brief ownership of a red Ferrari.

Richie followed Connor down a narrow side street. The elder man must not have been able to find a parking space close to the barge. The sleek sports car was nowhere to be seen.

Connor stopped near a dilapidated van and pulled a set of keys from his pocket. Richie frowned.

"Where's the car, Connor?"

"Right here," Connor replied, opening the van door and throwing his possessions inside. "Get in."

"This?!"

Connor chuckled. The young Immortal had much to learn.

"It's less conspicuous, wouldn't you say?"

Richie nodded. The Lamborghini would attract lots of attention. No one would give this van a second look. Richie wondered how long it would be before Connor would need his expertise with cars to repair the van. Richie wasn't even certain the vehicle would start. It occurred to him that the other man may have wanted his company for his knowledge of cars, not his ability with a sword.

He got in at Connor's repeated command. The elder man had amassed a number of items in the back of the van including a small mattress and some rope.

"What's all that?"

Glancing back, the elder man shrugged. To Richie's surprise, the van started the first time Connor turned the key. The motor purred smoothly. He wondered if the van's outer appearance had nothing to do with what was under the hood.

"We might be living in here for a while, Richie. I got some things we'll need."

Richie frowned. Somehow this wasn't what he imagined, but he'd been headhunting before and knew there was nothing elegant about it. The elder MacLeod had survived centuries. Maybe this was another sort of lesson from the older man.

****

"Why don't you get dressed, Fiona?"

Fiona shrugged. Now that Connor and Richie were gone, she had no desire to do anything. She felt Duncan come up behind her and place his hands gently on her shoulders. He slid his hands down her arms and around her body, pulling her close to him in a hug. Fiona relaxed slightly. His touch was familiar and comforting. He kissed her cheek gently.

"They'll be okay, Fiona. Why don't you get dressed and we'll see some of Paris."

Fiona shook her head.

"I've seen Paris."

Duncan didn't like the tired tone in her voice. She couldn't lose hope and interest in her life. She had to be prepared to defend herself if necessary.

"I . . . I was thinking of visiting Tessa's grave. Will you come with me?"

Fiona heard the catch in Duncan's voice when he said the mortal woman's name. Time had barely eased his yearning for her. She knew all too well that some mortals were very hard to forget. She couldn't let him visit the grave alone. She must pay her respects to the mortal woman he had loved. They had formed a friendship that had slowed when Richie became part of the couple's life, but ended only with the mortal woman's death. If Tessa had lived, Fiona was convinced she would have met Richie long before he became Duncan's student and before she was forced to turn to Duncan for help.

****

"So, where is he?" Richie asked. They had only driven a short distance when Connor pulled into another parking spot. Richie wondered whether the other Immortal was living in one of the buildings nearby or if they were waiting for someone to deliver information to them.

Connor looked at Richie thoughtfully. He hadn't been totally truthful with the boy. It was about time for Richie to know Connor's plan. They might not have another opportunity to talk.

"I don't know, Richie. We're going to follow Duncan and Fiona. Carsini will find us."

"You're using Fiona as bait?!"

Connor heard the outrage in Richie's voice. He had considered asking Fiona to ask as bait, but it was extremely dangerous and he wasn't certain Fiona would be able to withstand the stress in her current mental state. She was much better off in Duncan's protective company. Understanding the younger man's reaction, Connor was pleased by his desire to protect Fiona. He'd liked Richie ever since the young man had hidden in the trunk of the car when Connor went to meet Slan. The more time he spent with the young Immortal, the more his first impression was reinforced.

"No, Richie. Carsini is certainly looking for her and her safety is my first concern. If he's finds her, we'll find him."

Richie nodded. The plan made sense. Connor was setting a trap for the Immortal he wanted while Mac made certain Fiona was safe. If things went very wrong, Richie could try to warn Mac and Fiona before trying to intercept Carsini. Richie watched Connor place two tracking devices on the floor between the seats.

"Two?"

Connor chuckled as he picked up one of the devices.

"This one tracks Fiona. The other one tracks Duncan."

Richie laughed thinking of how his mentor would react when he found out that Connor was tracking him. He didn't think Mac would be amused.

"You tagged Mac?"

Putting the device down, Connor nodded.

"If they're together, everything's fine. If they separate, it means trouble."

Listening to Connor, Richie was beginning to wonder how much of what he admired about Mac had come from the man sitting behind the steering wheel.

"What if one of them has to go to the bathroom?"

Rejecting the various obscene and suggestive answers he could give Richie, Connor settled for giving the younger man an impatient look.

****

Fiona watched Duncan standing by the grave of Tessa Noel. After all the time that had passed, his grief was still obvious. Tessa had been wonderful for Duncan. Fiona knew that the first time she had seen the couple together. Once Tessa understood Fiona wouldn't try to come between the couple, the women had become friends. Fiona had been greatly saddened when Connor told her the lovely mortal had been killed. Without seeing him, she knew Duncan was devastated by the events. It was compounded by Richie becoming Immortal in the same incident. Duncan couldn't mourn Tessa and teach Richie properly at the same time. Considering Richie's success in The Game, Duncan had done his best as a teacher. She wondered if there had been a serious emotional toll as a result. There seemed to be an endless aura of sadness around Duncan. She still wished he had come to stay with her on Holy Ground with his new student. It would have been a place both of them could heal and adjust. She could have helped train Richie when Duncan needed time for himself.

Hoping to give him some comfort, she moved closer to Duncan and took his hand. He looked at her with a slight smile on his face, but she wished there were something she could do or say that would remove the sadness she could see in his eyes. Letting go of her hand, Duncan put his arm around her shoulders.

"Thanks for coming with me, Fiona."

Fiona wrapped her arms around her oldest friend's waist. It was comfort enough to be close together. She could nearly forget the fact that Romero Carsini even existed.

"I'm glad you asked me. I wouldn't have considered not visiting my friend's grave."

Duncan nodded. The two women didn't see each other often, but there were letters and phone calls to fill the gaps. For a few years, Tessa had more contact with Fiona than he had, but she always shared the latest news of events in Fiona's life. It had been a comfortable arrangement. He was glad he still had one of them to turn to, although he honestly wished he could have them both in his life. Duncan took one last look at the gravestone. Holy Ground was a safe place, but he couldn't keep Fiona in the cemetery indefinitely. Public places would be best.

When he turned to go, Fiona dropped one arm from his waist, but kept the other wrapped firmly around his back. It felt natural and right to him, so he kept his arm around her shoulders. They walked away in silence.

"Would you prefer lunch or a visit to the Louvre?" he asked as they returned to the car.

Duncan couldn't resist smiling when he saw the Fiona's impish smile. He knew if he had visited Tessa's grave alone, he would have been depressed the rest of the day. Fiona's company and his desire to protect her kept him from falling into the huge empty space Tessa's death had left in his life.

"You mean I have to choose?"

Duncan laughed.

"All right. Which would you like to do first?"

Fiona tilted her head in thought a moment.

"Lunch," she replied as he opened the car door for her.

Duncan opened his car door and got into the driver's seat. He smiled at her.

"That little bistro near the Louvre?"

Fiona smiled in return. She knew exactly which bistro Duncan meant. The same family had owned it for nearly a century. It had been so long since they had eaten there that Fiona was certain no one would remember them.

****

"Damn!" Duncan exclaimed, throwing his napkin down on the table.

Fiona turned to see what had upset Duncan and disrupted their pleasant meal. She frowned. A tow truck had stopped near Duncan's car and the driver seemed to be about to remove Duncan's vehicle. Duncan got up and ran towards his car.

Fiona turned her attention back to her meal. The food was everything she remembered. The current owner was obviously the little boy who had once played in the bistro while his parents and grandparents took care of customers. Eating here again brought back pleasant memories of being in Paris with Duncan. She sensed another Immortal. Duncan must have solved his parking problem.

"Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine."

Fiona froze. It wasn't Duncan who answered her. It was Carsini. Fiona took a deep breath to calm herself. They were in public. Duncan was only a short distance away. There was nothing to fear. She only wished Connor and Richie were with her.

"Come, my dear. I've waited for this moment since we were last together."

"I will go nowhere with you," Fiona replied as calmly as she could.

She caught a glimpse of something shiny. Carsini held the object where she could see it. He had a gun. Being shot hurt tremendously and she would likely die from the wound, but they were in public. He couldn't possibly intend to shoot her with so many witnesses.

"Come with me now or I will start shooting these mortals. I will kill as many of them as I can before I shoot you and take you with me. It's up to you, Fiona."

Carsini frowned at Fiona's hesitation. He didn't like making threats and he had no desire to hurt the mortals or Fiona, but he had to find a way to break the hold the MacLeods had over the Immortal woman. They'd obviously been manipulating her for centuries. It was the only explanation for her desire to leave his luxurious home to return to their company. Now that he had her back, he would be able to give her the life she deserved as his companion. She wouldn't have to be in fear of the MacLeods anymore.

Fiona got up from her seat slowly. At the first possible opening, she would run towards Duncan. She didn't believe Carsini would hurt anyone else, if she got away. When she tried to move around him, he blocked her path and jabbed her with the gun he held before walking her away from where Duncan was talking to the tow truck operator. Fiona wanted to ask for help, but she was suddenly back in the London marketplace where she had fled through a crowd to escape Carsini. Surrounded by strangers, she felt unable to trust anyone. Any or all of the people around her could be in league with Carsini. Even if they wanted to help her, Carsini still had a gun he seemed willing to use.

Reassured that the tow truck driver wasn't intending to remove his car, Duncan walked back towards the bistro. When he looked up, Fiona wasn't at the table they had been sharing. He glanced around quickly and saw her walking away with another man. Even if he hadn't recognized Carsini, he would have been able to tell by Fiona's body language that something was terribly wrong. He started to run after them, but had to dive out of the way of an oncoming van. He was stunned to see Connor behind the wheel with Richie in the passenger seat. His kinsman leaned out the window.

"He has an estate outside Paris. That's probably where he'll take her. Follow the signal. We'll meet you there."

Connor sped off in pursuit of Carsini and Fiona while Duncan ran back to his car. Getting in, he switched on the tracking device. The signal was strong. Carsini hadn't gotten far with Fiona.

****

Fiona tried to escape Carsini as soon as they were far enough away from the other bistro patrons, but he was well prepared for that. As they struggled, she felt the pinch of a hypodermic needle in her arm. She got a single glimpse of the Paris sky before he slammed the trunk closed.

Frowning, Carsini got into his car. He wanted Fiona to ride proudly next to him, but she was obviously under the influence of the MacLeods or she wouldn't have resisted him so. He had expected her to be reluctant to leave the company of Duncan MacLeod, so he had been forced to resort to threats to separate her from the men. Once she saw his home outside Paris, she would understand that he was the only man for her. This home was superior to the one he had once maintained in London. He was certain she would be impressed and would finally understand that she belonged with him.

Carsini turned on the radio. He had an idea. He would tie her up while she was unconscious and leave her unattended for a while once they reached his home. If Duncan MacLeod was following them, he would probably try to take her back. Once he found her, he would be in Carsini's trap. Fiona would be the perfect bait.

****

Still groggy from the drug Carsini had given her Fiona woke up in a dim room. She frowned. The windows were heavily draped making the light in the room murky, but at least this room had windows. In the gloom, she could nearly feel the hunger, loneliness and despair she experienced in the windowless room. The last thing she remembered was being locked in the trunk of Carsini's car. Now she was tied up on a bed or couch of some kind. The last time Carsini had abducted her, she had escaped by climbing out a window. Evidently, he was trying to ensure that she would be unable to repeat the feat.

She wondered how long it would be before Carsini imprisoned her in the dark in an attempt to break her spirit and mold her to his own desires. With tears filling her eyes, Fiona looked around. Between the dim lighting and her tears, she couldn't see much, but the furniture appeared to be covered with dust sheets as if the owner had closed up the house and gone away for an extended period.

Fiona sighed. She could feel the watch Connor had given to her still on her wrist. If Connor's plan worked, they were already following the signal to her location. Somehow, it didn't matter if they found her or not. She felt helpless and hopeless. Being abducted again was like being defeated. Fiona frowned with the thought that the watch could have been broken in the struggle with Carsini. It was possible that the men wouldn't be able to find and rescue her. She might spend the rest of her Immortality with a man who filled her with fear and revulsion. If that were the case, she would be forced to do whatever was necessary to goad Carsini into taking her head.

She sensed another Immortal, but couldn't turn around to see who was approaching her because of her restraints. If it was Carsini, she wondered what he intended to do. She was tied up and helpless. She had to try to endure anything he might do to her until the others came to help her. She braced herself when a hand slipped over her mouth.

"Fiona, it's me. Duncan," Duncan whispered to her softly even though he knew Carsini had probably already sensed his arrival. "I've brought your sword."

Fiona's tears changed from devastation to elation. Her Clan had come to help her. After untying her, Duncan helped her up and gave her the Claymore she had left in his car when they stopped for lunch. She wrapped her arms around him to reassure herself that it was really him. He kissed her forehead.

"Where are Connor and Richie?"

"They'll be here, Fiona."

Fiona wanted to question Duncan further, but they sensed the approach of another Immortal. Fiona hoped it was the men she had just asked about. That hope was extinguished when no one called out or made himself known to them.

"Stay here," Duncan said sternly.

Fiona nodded. She was frightened. The other Immortal they sensed had to be Carsini. She desperately wanted climb out one of the windows and run as far from this place as she could get, but it would be foolish to separate herself from Duncan now. She didn't think she could bear to face Carsini alone.

Duncan stepped forward cautiously, prepared to be challenged at any moment. He frowned when there was no response to his movements even though he could still sense the other Immortal. He glanced back at Fiona. She was clearly frightened. He hated seeing her that way. He wanted to run back to her and hold her close to him before leading her outside to wait for the others, but this had to end here and now. Taking a deep breath, Duncan focused on his unseen opponent.

"Enough, Carsini. You must accept a fair challenge."

A series of gunshots rang out. Bleeding, Duncan collapsed to the floor, his katana slipping from his hand and skittering across the floor.

"Duncan!"

Fiona started towards the fallen Highlander, but he gestured to her to stay back. Tears rolled down Fiona's face as she watched Duncan die from his wounds. It didn't comfort her to know that he would be back eventually. She was alone with Carsini who had still not made himself visible. Although there was no sign of them, Fiona found herself hoping fervently that Richie and Connor would suddenly burst through the door.

Smiling at Fiona, Romero Carsini stepped out of the shadows and approached Duncan. Fiona felt repulsion. Carsini's smile seemed cruel and she knew he would readily lock her in the windowless room until she agreed to his every whim. She gasped when he placed the blade of his sword against Duncan's neck.

"Come with me, Fiona, and I won't kill him. Resist and he dies now."

Fiona frowned. If she didn't do as he said, he'd kill Duncan and very possibly chase her down and take her with him against her will as he had centuries earlier. Fiona felt her anger building. He had terrorized her when she was still naive and innocent despite having reached the century mark. He still expected her to obey him without question.

As she started towards him slowly, his smile broadened. Fiona was reminded of every phantom she had been cautioned against as a child. Unfortunately, she wasn't faced with an imaginary opponent. Romero Carsini was flesh and blood like her and like the man he had just shot and temporarily killed. Fiona made certain to keep some distance between herself and Carsini while appearing to comply with his demand. She wanted to draw Carsini away from Duncan without being within his reach. When they were away from the fallen Highlander, Fiona drew her Claymore.

"What are you doing, Fiona?" Carsini asked.

"Issuing a challenge. Fight me."

Carsini laughed.

"Don't be so silly. Come. My car is outside. Let's go elsewhere before this one comes back."

"If I were being silly, I wouldn't do this," Fiona said slashing at Carsini with her sword.

Although he jumped away, she was still able to inflict an impressive wound on Carsini. Carsini stared at the wound in confusion. He had expected this woman to accompany him like the others. He rarely had to accept a challenge from any woman. When she came at him again, Carsini raised his sword. He should have simply shot her when he shot MacLeod, but he didn't expect her to be so resistant. Fending off her next attack, he decided to inflict a mortal wound on her and take her dead body with him. He didn't want her Quickening just yet. When she revived, she would be miles from the MacLeods. Once he had her alone again, he would work with her until she was ready to begin the life he had envisioned for her centuries earlier.

By the time Connor and Richie followed the signal to Fiona's location, the battle between Carsini and Fiona was reaching its climax. Connor had to stop Richie from interfering. Although Fiona was bloody and appeared exhausted by the fight, Connor could see that she was the superior fighter. He never knew her to toy with an opponent, but she was defeating Carsini bit by bit. He could see Duncan watching the fight from across the room. His clothes damaged and bloodstained, the younger MacLeod appeared horrified by what he the way Fiona was fighting Carsini. She wasn't merely seeking to defeat an opponent. She was taking revenge on him.

Knocking her opponent's sword from his hand, Fiona brought Carsini to his knees.

"This is for the women you took from the ones who loved them," Fiona said, swinging her sword towards Carsini's neck.

Knocked to the ground by the force of the strong Quickening that followed, Fiona shrieked in pain. Although Richie was fighting to get to her, Connor pushed the young Immortal to the wall and held him there. It would be a very bad idea for anyone to touch Fiona during such a violent Quickening. The results could be unpredictable. When the last of the lightning faded, Fiona was still moaning.

Releasing Richie, Connor turned his attention to Duncan. Once Fiona got control of herself, he would console and comfort her. After a strong Quickening, she might need a few moments to reorient herself. Duncan winced when Connor helped him up. The gunshot wounds had healed, but the areas were still tender.

Puzzled that Connor seemed to be ignoring Fiona, Richie crossed the room to her. When he reached down to help her up, she grabbed a sword and swung it at him. Richie was able to get out of the way easily despite nearly tripping on a sword. He frowned when he realized she had her opponent's sword in her hand. Her Claymore was the sword he had almost fallen over.

"Whoa! Take it easy, Fiona. It's me. Richie."

"Out of my way, boy!" she replied, brandishing the sword at him as she got up.

He tried to grab her, but the Claymore got under his feet again. When she slipped from his grasp, she raced towards the MacLeods. Quickly picking up her Claymore, Richie ran after her. The other men were unaware of her approach. She seemed to be heading straight towards Connor intending to do great physical harm to the elder man. Uncomfortable with the thought that he had to warn them, Richie threw the Claymore down to get their attention first.

"Connor! Look out!"

Hearing a clatter followed by a shout, Connor spun around to see Fiona approaching him quickly holding Carsini's sword in fighting position and a murderous expression on her face.

"You're a dead man!"

Stunned, Connor watched her approach until Richie came running across the room. She must have heard him because she turned toward Richie just as he tackled her. When they hit the ground, the sword slipped from her grasp and spun across the floor. Screaming, she struggled against Richie. Connor raced towards them perplexed by their actions. Richie must have misinterpreted Fiona's intent. She had to be confused by the fight and Quickening. Connor knelt next to them and touched Fiona's shoulder hoping to get her attention.

"Calm yourself, lass."

Still trying to free herself from Richie, Fiona looked at him. Connor was horrified. It was Fiona's face, but her eyes no longer reflected the Highlands of his birth. Hate and anger had replaced the warmth and affection he usually found there. They were the eyes of a stranger.

Closing his eyes, Connor hit her as hard as he could. He felt her go limp immediately. Connor opened his eyes unwillingly. The sight of blood running from her nose and mouth sickened him. Turning his head, he rubbed his hand. Previously, he had only treated a woman that way during battle and even then with great reluctance. He turned back towards Fiona with the thought that this could be the most important battle she would ever fight.

Connor forced himself to look at Fiona again. He touched her face gently. He wanted to apologize and explain to her, but he wasn't certain if he had killed her or she was merely unconscious. He wanted to take it all back and comply with her original desire to return to her house on Holy Ground. This situation would have been avoided and he would still see his homeland in her eyes.

Connor was bombarded by questions from Duncan and Richie. They became quiet as soon as he looked up at them. It wasn't often anyone saw the elder Highlander with tears streaming down his cheeks.

Richie took a step backwards. The only other time he had seen Connor cry had been when the elder MacLeod arrived at Fiona's after a traumatic experience. Whatever was wrong must be really bad.

"Connor, what -- ?"

"Carisni's got her, Duncan. If we can't help her overcome his Quickening, one of us has to kill her."

Connor watched Richie back away from them. The young Immortal was also crying. Connor looked up at Duncan. Although he was clearly upset, his kinsman was frowning.

"We can't kill her, Connor. It's not right."

"Duncan! If we leave her like this, he wins and she lives by preying on others as he did! Is that what you want for her?"

Connor could see his kinsman was resisting the idea of Fiona being under the influence of a Dark Quickening. Connor swallowed hard. The idea sickened him, but he had looked into her eyes and it was the only explanation for the change he saw there. He brushed her cheek. He would take her head, if necessary. He didn't think Duncan would have the heart. Afterwards, he would retreat to her house on Holy Ground until he thought she had forgiven him . . . and he was able to forgive himself.

"What can we do, Connor?"

Connor looked up. The question had come from Richie. The young Immortal was moving slowly back towards them, wiping his face with his hands. Connor shook his head. He had no idea what they could do to help her.

"What about where you were cured, Mac?"

Duncan shook his head. He wasn't certain he could find the place again and there wasn't time to locate Methos to enlist his help. He saw the curious look on his kinsman's face. At some point, he'd have to explain to the elder man. It wasn't something he was looking forward to. Richie's statement put a huge knot in Duncan's stomach. He remembered the shameful things he had done while under the influence of the Dark Quickening. He couldn't imagine Fiona living with that sort of guilt.

"Maybe you're wrong, Connor."

Connor slung her limp body over his shoulder and stood up. He shook his head.

"I'm not wrong. Richie, get their swords. We have to get to Holy Ground before she's back."

"Saint Joseph's?" Duncan asked.

Connor nodded. He couldn't think of a better place to take Fiona than the church where the Immortal holy man Darius had once lived. Connor had great respect and friendship for Darius who had protected Fiona once. Perhaps taking her back to the church would help her fight Carsini. He tossed the keys to the van to his kinsman.

"You drive, Duncan."

Duncan opened the van so Connor could get inside with Fiona. He waited until the older man had put Fiona down before closing the side door. He opened the passenger's door and then walked around the van to get into the driver's seat. Richie climbed into the passenger seat.

"Richie, get the small box from the glove compartment and then come back here and help me."

Connor took the box Richie handed him. It contained the crystal jewelry Richie had given the Immortal woman for her birthday. In their rush to leave London, Fiona had put the jewelry in Connor's luggage and he had forgotten to return it to her at the barge. He felt compelled to put the jewelry on her. He smoothed Fiona's hair back from her face. The jewelry still seemed to twinkle when she wore it, although Connor didn't think it appeared as bright. Connor shook his head. It had to be a trick of the light. Grabbing the rope he had included in the supplies he had bought, Connor turned his attention to Richie.

"Help me tie her up, Richie."

"What?!"

Connor frowned. He didn't like the idea any more than Richie.

"We don't know when she'll be back or what she'll do. It's for everyone's protection."

Richie made a face. Tying Fiona up was nearly as distasteful as the thought of killing her. Connor admonished him to make certain she was tied up securely. Richie sighed. He'd just tackled Fiona to stop her from killing Connor MacLeod. Joe Dawson had done something similar when he shot Mac to help Richie keep his head. Connor was right. Under the influence of a Dark Quickening, Fiona might be truly dangerous. Tying her up was for everyone's protection.

****

When they reached the church, the men stayed in the shadows until they came to the little-used entrance the MacLeods had used to visit the Immortal holy man who had once lived there. Carrying Fiona over his shoulder, Connor tried the door. It was locked.

"Richie, pick the lock so we can get in."

Richie shook his head. He'd done some questionable things in his life. Breaking into a church wasn't one of them.

"It's a church, Connor! I'm not picking a lock on anything, least of all a church!"

With his free hand, Connor grabbed Richie by the front of his shirt and pushed him against the wall. Richie squirmed, but couldn't get free. The elder Highland was strong enough to restrain him despite holding Fiona.

"Richie, we have to get inside. Even the police in Paris will find three men carrying an unconscious woman a bit suspicious."

Richie shrugged.

"I don't have a pick."

Connor's gaze seemed to intensify.

"Improvise."

Richie tried to think of some way to open the door without the correct tools. It was clear the elder Highlander wasn't going to accept any answer other than the one he wanted, but breaking into a church made Richie extremely uncomfortable.

"Are you two coming?"

Richie and Connor turned to look at Duncan. The younger MacLeod was holding the door open for them.

"Darius gave me a key. Now maybe you should get inside before someone sees us."

Connor passed inside quickly carrying Fiona into the chapel. Richie followed him and waited while Mac closed and locked the door behind them.

Duncan sighed deeply as he locked the door. He hoped this would help Fiona. It troubled him that she was taking so long to recover from Connor's blow. Maybe the older man was right and one of them would have to kill her in order to save her. Being without her permanently didn't seem like much of a solution.

When they entered the chapel, Connor had already placed Fiona on the floor. He had folded his duster into a pillow to place under her head. After loosening her bonds, he sat in a chair and stared down at the Immortal woman. The jewelry seemed to be glowing brighter in the softly light of the chapel. He sighed. It had to be his imagination.

"Now what do we do?" Richie asked, taking a seat behind the elder MacLeod.

"Pray," Connor replied.

****

Uncertain what had happened, Fiona cowered in the dark. She vaguely remembered fighting with Carsini and then suddenly he was there, so close she couldn't fend him off. He had overpowered her somehow. She heard him threaten Connor before something powerful silenced Carsini. Fiona struggled to free herself, but she couldn't figure out what prevented her from moving. It was hardly worth getting loose. She couldn't see anything. Although she thought she might be lying on something cold, she wasn't completely sure. Carsini must have drugged her and left her in a windowless room again.

A single candle burned dimly in the darkness. Fiona remained silent, worried about who might be holding the candle. She feared Carsini more than she ever had. If he had killed Richie and the MacLeods, she no longer wanted to live. She refused to spend her days as the companion of such a man.

"Why are you so filled with hate when you are surrounded by love, daughter?"

Fiona squinted into the dark. Her mother's face materialized behind the single candle.

"Mother?" Fiona whispered afraid of attracting Carsini's attention and endangering the other woman.

"These men care about you, Fiona. Why do you allow another's hate to interfere with that?"

Fiona shook her head. She didn't understand what her mother was talking about. She wanted to tell her mother to free her from whatever held her and help her escape, but another candle came into view followed by another familiar voice.

"The man you fear will find his own punishment, Fiona. You needn't fear him any more."

"Darius?"

The Immortal holy man smiled gently at her. Fiona felt calmer in his presence. He had sheltered her once before when a female Immortal had tried to taunt her into leaving his monastery. Instead, Darius kept Fiona on Holy Ground and Cassie Waverly had met her death in battle with Connor. His company was always soothing. He would know how to help her and protect her mother. She knew he had been a warrior long before he became a holy man. He must know some Holy Ground where she could take refuge.

"You must fight him, Fiona."

Fiona shook her head. His advice troubled her. Even if she were free and had her Claymore, she didn't think she could defeat the man. She would remain his prisoner indefinitely.

"I can't fight him. He's too strong."

"You're nae alone, daughter."

Fiona sighed. Her mother didn't understand. There was no way Connor, Duncan or Richie could help her. They couldn't interfere. She thought Carsini might have killed them or at least driven them away. Fiona frowned. She heard sobbing. She hoped her mother hadn't finally realized the hopelessness of her situation.

Fiona glanced around. It was still very dark, but someone had loosened whatever held her. She had no sense that anyone was near her, but the sobbing was louder. Darius and her mother held up their candles, attracting her attention. In the vague light, Fiona saw a large group of women. Some of them were weeping. Others looked frightened as they tried to cower in the shadows created by the flickering light of the candles. Fiona was startled when she recognized one of the women. DeAnne had been one of Connor's mortal lovers before Fiona became the elder MacLeod's lover. After leaving Connor, DeAnne had become involved with Carsini. He was responsible for the mortal woman's death.

Fiona was distracted when her mother and Darius slowly disappeared into the darkness at the edge of the area lit by their candles. Hearing her mother ask Darius a religious question, Fiona wanted to call after them and ask them to stay, but some of the women were shouting angrily. She heard a series of thumps. The women seemed to be beating or fighting someone. Fiona moved forward to attempt to stop the fight and settle the argument. DeAnne stopped her.

"I should have listened to you. You told me the truth."

Without waiting for an answer, DeAnne rejoined the tumultuous crowd of women. When they parted to let DeAnne in, Fiona saw the person who occupied them. Some of the women were beating and spitting on Romero Carsini while others seemed too frightened to come close to him. Some of the more timid ones were shouting encouragement at the others. DeAnne looked back at her.

"Thank you for bringing him to us. Go back now. You don't belong here."

The women dragged their prize off into the darkness leaving Fiona alone. Puzzled by DeAnne's words, Fiona glanced around. Although the candles were gone, the area seemed to be lit, but it was still too dark for her to see very far. A bright flash made her close her eyes. The air was thick with something she couldn't identify. She seemed to be having problems breathing.

Gasping for air, Fiona opened her eyes cautiously. Uncertain about where she was, Fiona frowned. She was lying on a hard, cold floor with something soft under her head. Connor's face came into her view. Just as the horrible memory of Carsini's Quickening and her attempt on the elder MacLeod's life seemed to be about to crush her, she saw a smile spread slowly over Connor's face.

Connor chuckled softly. He could see the Highlands of his birth in the Immortal woman's eyes. Carsini was gone. Fiona had returned. The jewelry was glittering as brightly as he remembered from the first time she had put it on. It seemed to him that it had gotten brighter as she came back to consciousness. He wondered if the effect was merely a trick of the candle light in the chapel.

"Welcome back, lass."

Fiona sat up quickly. She was in Saint Joseph's, which might partially explain her memory of having an odd dream about Darius and her mother. Connor wrapped his arms around her and helped her up. As she sat in the chair next to his, she allowed him to embrace her tightly as proof that he hadn't been harmed. Looking into his familiar face, she couldn't control her tears.

"Oh, Connor, I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?" she sobbed.

"Wasn't you, lass. I know that."

Fiona shook her head. Connor had no reason to forgive her so easily. She would have killed him and then gone after Duncan. Looking over his shoulder, she saw Richie in the row behind them. The young Immortal's face was extremely serious. When she put her hand out, Richie took it immediately.

"Thank you for stopping me, Richie."

Richie nodded. If it hadn't been for Joe Dawson, Mac would have taken his head. Somehow, saving Fiona from killing the elder MacLeod was repaying the favor.

Fiona looked at Connor again. She wanted to tell the MacLeods about what she had seen after the Quickening, but didn't know how to explain it to them.

"There were so many women . . . so many. He was a monster."

"It's over now, Fiona."

Fiona shook her head at Duncan's words. The memories of her actions under the influence of Carsini's Quickening would haunt her for a long time to come.

****

Carrying the wine and bread Duncan had sent him to get, Richie stepped onto the deck of the barge. He could hear Fiona's laughter mixed with that of the MacLeods inside the barge. After the Dark Quickening, he didn't expect any of them to behave this way.

When he came down the stairs, he saw Fiona sitting on the couch between the MacLeods. She was wearing the sheep pajamas and slippers she claimed Connor had bought for her. Richie could hear the slippers jingling softly as she laughed at something Mac said to her.

"Ah, the wine! Good man, Richie," Connor said cheerfully.

Richie grinned at the elder man. Although he still thought Connor was dangerous, he'd seen how much the other man cared for Fiona and had a good idea exactly how much the older MacLeod was willing to risk for the Immortal woman. Maybe Connor was only dangerous to opponents. He'd certainly seemed dangerous when he mistakenly thought that Richie had killed Fiona. Richie's thoughts were interrupted when the trio laughed. Both MacLeods seemed nearly as happy as they had been while visiting Scotland. Fiona was much more herself than when she had arrived in Paris.

Duncan rose from the couch and joined Richie in the kitchen. Directing Richie to take the plate of sliced cheeses out of the refrigerator, Duncan opened two bottles of wine and poured four glasses. Richie returned to help him bring the wine and a loaf of bread to the others. The other Immortals seemed happy with the wine and selection of cheese. Frowning, Richie returned to the kitchen and rummaged through the refrigerator. Somehow wine and cheese wasn't quite what he wanted. He quickly assembled two sandwiches and returned to the others afraid of missing anything that might be said. Mac was already sitting next to Fiona again.

When Duncan resumed his seat next to Fiona, he offered her a glass of wine. Sitting on the other side of her, Connor offered her a piece of cheese from the plate Richie had delivered earlier. She giggled at their attempts to gain her attention. Connor watched Richie carry another plate over from the kitchen. The young Immortal sat down and took a huge bite of one sandwich.

"What's that, Richie?"

"Sammich," Richie said around a mouthful of his culinary creation. "Want some?"

Connor quickly grabbed a piece of sandwich and bit into it. Nodding approvingly he offered it to Fiona. When she took a bite of the sandwich he held, Connor put his arm around her and kissed her cheek gently. He was glad she seemed to be recovering from the Dark Quickening. Being forced to take her head would have been something neither MacLeod would ever forget.

"So, lass, where would you like to go now?" Connor asked.

Fiona looked around the barge.

"Here," she said simply.

Connor grinned. He had business back in London, but could handle that on the phone or by email. His main concern at the moment was the comfort of the Immortal woman next to him. He was certain she needed time to adjust to recent events not the least of which was one more thing that Carsini had done which she might find disturbing. He wouldn't mind a stay at one of the fine hotels in Paris. There were many things to do in this wonderful city. He would let her select the hotel. Richie and Duncan were welcome to join them.

"So where should I make reservations?"

"Reservations? I want to stay here."

"On the barge?" Richie asked in surprise. He expected Connor and Fiona to get into Connor's sleek Lamborghini and leave for the nearest hotel.

Fiona nodded in response. A hotel seemed too impersonal after what the trio had been through on this trip. She wanted a more casual, relaxed situation in the company of her Clan. This was Duncan's place. Everything about it spoke of him. She felt comfortable here. She sipped her wine. As far as she was concerned, sitting between the MacLeods was the only place she wanted to be. She smiled at Duncan slyly.

"Besides, I never did get to finish my lunch and Duncan still owes me a trip to the Louvre."

The younger MacLeod laughed. He would gladly take her back to the bistro and then to the Louvre. He would have to do something about the sleeping arrangements, but beyond that, the other Immortals were welcome to stay.

Connor studied the woman next to him. In the light of everything that happened, he had resisted the temptation to lecture her on leaving her sword in Duncan's car. Even if she had had it with her, Carsini would likely have taken it from her. Losing her sword to Carsini a second time might have been too big a blow to her. He wasn't certain she would have ever recovered.

Connor frowned. He had something to tell her that she might find disturbing. He would prefer to wait, but it might be best to give her this information while they were still in the company of the others. He could tell she was enjoying the company of Duncan and Richie. Their presence could help her cope.

"I've something to tell you, lass."

Fiona tilted her head at him curiously. Connor usually said that when he had bad news. She couldn't think of anything worse than recent events.

Although Connor hated to disrupt her life once more, she needed to know what he had discovered while trying to locate Carsini. It would be the final time the man would intrude on her existence. He took out the papers that had been delivered to him earlier in the day.

"Lass," he said gently, "it seems you are Carsini's heir."

The horrified expression on her face spoke louder than anything she could have said. As Connor kissed her forehead, he saw Duncan take her hand.

"He's been putting things in your name for centuries. I suppose he meant them as a gift for you."

"I do nae want them," Fiona said in a voice choked with tears. She turned away from the elder MacLeod and into the arms of the younger.

Worried that Connor was pushing Fiona beyond the limit of what she could tolerate, Duncan frowned at his kinsman over her head. He thought the elder man was going to wait to tell Fiona about the financial arrangements Carsini had made in her name.

Putting the papers on the table, Connor reached over and squeezed Fiona's shoulder gently. He had expected such a reaction to the unexpected inheritance from her abductor. She needed to think clearly about what it all might mean.

"Lass, it's a great deal of land and money. Think about it. It won't be official for a while. His death hasn't been reported yet. The will hasn't been read."

Her face buried against Duncan's chest, Fiona shook her head. She wanted nothing to do with anything that had belonged to Romero Carsini. Suddenly, she pushed herself away from Duncan and took the papers Connor had placed on the table in front of them. Looking through them, she saw that Connor was right. There was a great deal of money and property that she could get access to from Carsini's holdings. Some of it would actually be available to her immediately. She would simply need to have her lawyer file the proper paperwork. The rest would have to wait for action on the part of Carsini's lawyer. She estimated she would have the bulk of it within a year.

She thought of all the women she had seen while unconscious in Darius' church. Whether it was simply her imagination or she had had some sort of vision brought about by Carsini's Quickening, she had no doubt that many women had suffered at Carsini's hands. She doubted she would ever be able to forgive the man, but she knew how to use the money and land he had left her.

"All of this will go to help battered and abused women."

"Are you sure, lass?"

Fiona nodded. She would start with the house outside Paris where she had defeated him. It would be an excellent place to shelter women and their children. It might even be large enough to subdivide into apartments where the women could care for their children properly while the staff made certain they were safe. Fiona quickly flipped through the papers Connor had given her. She had seen other houses listed in them. All of the houses would become shelters. Any money that would come to her would be used to fund them. She would also set up programs in the shelters to educate and help relocate the women. She had to be certain they would have an alternative to returning to the men they had fled.

Watching Fiona read the papers about Carsini's estate, he knew her desire to stay on his kinsman's barge was the wisest decision she could have made. She needed those she cared about most around her to keep from falling victim to Carsini through these things he had left her.

Fiona put down the papers and looked around the barge again. It would be a long time before she would be able to forgive herself for nearly attacking and killing Connor. If Richie hadn't stopped her, she feared that she would have killed Connor and then gone after Duncan. Unprepared for such an attack from her, both men would have been easy targets. She hated Carsini more than ever. He'd hurt too many women and nearly caused her to hurt those closest to her.

Fiona moved her feet to make the bells on her slippers jingle. For some reason, she found the sound reassuring. Her mother had been right. She shouldn't be filled with hate when she was surrounded by love. She still had the Clan she had created for herself. Eventually, Carsini would be no more than a bad memory.

For now, she would sleep this night without fear of nightmares or the man who had caused them. Perhaps the men would consent to sleep with her in Duncan's bed. She smiled as Duncan filled her glass with wine again. First, there was wine to drink. It seemed Duncan had ordered enough to get them very drunk which sounded like a great deal of fun at the moment. She raised her glass. The men followed her example.

"To us."

****

Author's notes

Fiona and Richie meet for the first time in The Chieftain's Daughter.

Duncan and Richie accompany Connor and Fiona to Scotland to celebrate Fiona's birthday in My Hope is Constant in Thee. Richie gives Fiona crystal jewelry as a present.

Carsini's abduction of Fiona and his misfortune with an investment in The Brigit are detailed in Wanted.

In Likely Suspect, Connor suspects Richie of killing Fiona. Later, Richie shoots and kills a mortal to defend her.

Richie's vague memory of being drugged and left for dead is from Wounded. While Richie is recovering, Connor arrives with his own problems and trains with Richie at Fiona's suggestion.

Duncan comes under the influence of a Dark Quickening in Something Wicked (episode).

Fiona recounts being protected by Darius in Heart's Desire.

Fiona encounters DeAnne in Crescendo.

Richie drives a red Ferrari in the episode Ransom of Richard Redstone (episode).

Pre-Immortal Richie hides in Connor's car trunk in The Gathering (episode).

To Part Twelve, "Mother's Day"

To the Authors' Pages