“No one dared to cross us or try and take what was ours,” Fergus bit out before Liam once again took over.
“We used our skills and coins to expand our lands and make sure that our people never went a day without food. We were well respected and feared throughout the lands. As long as we minded our own business, we were left alone by our king.”
Liam looked directly at him, a sad smile curving his lips slightly as he said, “But that all changed when he learned about ye, lad.”
“What did Tristan have to do with it?” Marty asked softly as he struggled to wrap his mind around what they were telling them.
“The king wanted a killing machine, someone that he could trust to put his duties and oath above all else,” Liam explained as he looked over at Shayne.
“And that wasn’t us, lad,” Shayne said, his voice thick with regret. “We couldn’t be bought. Our loyalty belonged to our family and no amount of coin or promises of more land would change that and he knew it.”
“Ye were the youngest of eight men who were looking to start families of their own soon. No matter what we said or promised, Ma’ was afraid that ye were going to be left without any land of yer own and back then, Tadgh, that could have easily been a death sentence,” Finn explained before Liam once again took over telling the story that was supposed to somehow explain this crazy mess.
“Ye were about eight years old when Ma’ went behind our backs and gave ye to the king in exchange for his protection. He made promises that ye would be well settled when it was time for ye to start yer own family.”
“Wait a second,” Marty said, interrupting them before they could go any further, “I thought you said that he was a man by the time that you were done training.”
“Back then he was, lass,” Declean said with a shrug. “He worked as a man and trained like a man and to us that made him a man.”
Before Marty could ask any more questions, Liam continued. “Ma’ loved ye, lad, and she did what she thought was best,” he explained as if Tristan really gave a damn.
“By the time that we found out what she did, it was too late. Ye belonged to the king until yer service to him was completed.”
“How long was that?” Tristan found himself asking, having absolutely no delusions about what kind of life that would have been for a child.
“Ye were promised until ye were twenty-five,” Liam said harshly, looking pissed. “The bastard took advantage and convinced Ma to give ye what could have easily been a life sentence in his army.”
“Were you able to get him out?” Marty asked as she shifted into a more comfortable position against him, causing his injured shoulder to brush up against the couch and forcing him to ignore the black dots that danced along his vision.
“Getting him out wasn’t a choice, lass,” Shayne said softly as he gestured for Liam to continue.
“Stealing from our king would have meant that we forfeited not only our lives, but that of our mother’s and of his. We had no choice but to allow it. But, we did find a way to protect him.”
“How?” Marty demanded, not sounding pleased by this story one bit. There was no doubt in his mind that she was imagining the innocent child in her womb being forced into a f**ked up situation like that and hating every second of it. Not that she would ever have to worry about someone harming their child, because he would kill anyone that even thought about trying.
“Shayne gave his oath to the king in exchange for the right to protect Tadgh during training and battle,” Liam said, gesturing to Shayne.
“It was a right that we all wanted, but Shayne won the honor,” Quinn added solemnly.
“We would have all been there to protect ye, lad, if given the choice,” Aidan explained.
“There was no doubt that Shayne would keep ye safe, lad,” Fergus said without looking at them.
When Shayne suddenly looked away, Tristan knew that Shayne hadn’t been able to keep his promise.
“Tell me,” he said, keeping his eyes locked on Shayne.
Sighing heavily, Shayne shifted his gaze back to Tristan so that he could glare at him through angry green eyes that Tristan suddenly realized matched his own.
“Ye got us sentenced to death on the first day, ye stubborn bastard!”
Marty waited for shock, disbelief, something to hit her with that announcement, but sadly, she wasn’t surprised, not at all.
Tristan was pretty damn stubborn and seemed to enjoy pushing people’s buttons. So it really wasn’t at all surprising, at least not to her, that he would do something to piss someone off, even in another life, enough for them to want to kill him. Even her father, who loved Tristan like a son, had come close a few times to wringing Tristan’s neck. Not even a month ago, Tom and Denny had to wrestle a gun out of her father’s hands after he’d found out that they’d eloped.
Granted, Tristan had led everyone to believe that it had been all his idea. It hadn’t been, not completely. After she’d agreed to marry him, she’d decided that an engagement of any kind wasn’t going to work, not once Beth got involved. Beth would have stretched it out, made their lives a living hell and made the whole experience torture as she pulled together her version of the perfect wedding.
Instead of going through that nightmare, they snuck off first thing in the morning for coffee and a quick visit to the courthouse. Forty-five minutes later her father was being dragged away from Tristan as he swore up and down that he was going to shoot the bastard for touching his daughter. By lunchtime her father was over it and eating pizza with Tristan in their office and making plans to go fishing next month.
“It was only by the grace of God and this one,” Shayne said, gesturing to her and confusing her even more, “that we didn’t lose our goddamn heads that day!”
“Me? What did I do?” she asked, still having a hard time believing that they were actually talking about her and Tristan like this.
“Ye stopped yer father’s man from taking his head when the dumb bastard didn’t have the good sense to shut the f**k up,” Shayne bit out as he glared at Tristan.
“My father……,” Marty repeated slowly.
“Not Hank, lass,” Shayne said with a wince. “I’m sorry. This must be really confusing for ye. Maybe we should take a break.”
“No, no, I’m fine,” she rushed out, afraid that if they stopped now that she would never find out what was going on. “Please continue.”