Here’s a new excerpt from my work in progress, Sons of Alba, Book 2: Son of Redemption.  As you can see, Seumas has a long way to go.

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Muirne and Catidh thought it was funny, the way Seumas had to shift in his seat at dinner.  It wasn’t funny at all, and he glared a warning against Catidh’s sly, knowing smile and Muirne’s outright giggles.  Mamaidh watched him with satisfaction, as if she liked knowing he was well disciplined.  Dadaidh, on the other hand, was ill at ease.  Perhaps he felt badly for tawsing him.  But more likely he was worried for Seumas’ future, as he’d protested at length before taking up the switch.  
It wasn’t that Seumas tried to be bad.  He didn’t think what he’d done was that bad at all.  It never was.  Mamaidh and Dadaidh didn’t understand what it was like to be him.  They were always talking about being afraid, about worse dangers, about “the path” he was going down.  Why couldn’t they give him some credit?  He was nearly a man grown.  
So he ate in sullen silence, fending off his parents’ attempts to draw him into the warm circle of conversation.  It was so easy with Catidh and Muirne.  They never had trouble doing as Mamaidh and Dadaidh said.  They never got scolded or tawsed.  If only there’d been another son, another child with a mind like Seumas’, maybe then his parents would see that he wasn’t so bad.  Only misunderstood.  
When he was done, he pushed his plate away and rose from the table.  
“I’ve got some work to do in the smithy,” he said.  That was the only excuse they’d accept to let him go.  Dadaidh nodded.  Mamaidh opened her mouth as if to say something, then shut it again.  
“Just don’t be too late,” she said instead.
Seumas nodded and flipped a fold of his brat up over his head.  It was raining outside – a constant, grey spring drizzle that soaked through to the bones.  The weather matched the numb bleakness inside him.  
The smithy was dark, but not for long.  Seumas awakened the forge fire with the bellows, letting the slow burn of his anger leap up to white heat along with the coals.  On the work table lay the sword Dadaidh was working on.  Next to it was a pretty brooch Seumas had been making for Mamaidh.  He thought about dropping it into the forge and letting it sit there until it melted into a lump of misshapen gold.  But he’d learned from experience he’d regret it tomorrow.  
He could make something for Fionnaghal.  She’d probably like that.  But in his current mood he was likely to end up more frustrated than he started.  This wasn’t the night for intricate work.  This was a night for raw pounding and bending and twisting.  Not for beauty, but for rage.
He chose a thick rod of iron, not even certain what he planned on making of it, and thrust it into the coals.  When it began to glow yellow-white, he pulled it out and laid it on the anvil, grabbing for the hammer without thought.  With all his might he brought the hammer down, letting his anger flatten the metal with a muffled thunk.  When the yellow turned to orange, the iron was too cool.  Into the forge it went, along with the swirl of Seumas’ thoughts.
“It’s not fair.”
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
“No one understands me.”
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
“Why can’t they see I’m not a child anymore?”
He held the metal down with tongs and twisted it savagely.
“They say they love me, so why don’t I believe them?”
The iron hissed in a plume of steam as he plunged it into the water tub.  
The water quenched Seumas’ rage, turning his heart as cool and strong and dark and hard as the twisted metal in his hands.  It would pass as a fire poker, perhaps.  Nothing more.  He tossed it down, ringing, on the workbench and ran a hand over his face.  
“You’ve just smudged yourself with soot from brow to chin.”
Seumas looked up to see Fionnaghal silhouetted against the grey sky, her face eerily lit by the red glow of the forge.  
He smiled a little, in spite of himself. 
“I’m surprised they let you out.”
“I’m milking the cow.”  She smiled coyly.  
He laughed and came over to her, all his anger forgotten.
“Oh, no, you don’t!”  She ducked out of his reach.  “One fingerprint on my leine and they’ll know exactly where I’ve been.”
He snatched back his hands, contenting himself with looking at her instead.  The firelight glowed red on her white skin, her wide hazel eyes, her shiny dark curls … her full, soft mouth.  He leaned toward her, hands behind his back.
She ducked away with a giggle, shaking her head.
“I’ll not have you get in trouble on my account again.”
“That’s for me to choose, isn’t it?  Remember, you didn’t have any blame in it.  I made sure your father knew that.”  
“And you have my deepest thanks for that … but you know very well I wasn’t blameless.”  She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes.  This time she didn’t flinch away when he kissed her.  The second kiss was a little less clumsy.  
She pulled away before he was remotely finished with her, backing away with a breathless smile.  “Ist!  You are a rogue, Seumas mac Ruairi!”
He smiled at her.  If his hands weren’t black he’d show her how much of a rogue he could be.  
 “Get you gone, then,” he said coolly, though he devoured her with his eyes.  “It doesn’t take this long to milk a cow.”
She stared at him, her lips parted invitingly, then she turned and fled.  
He put the smithy to bed for the night, savouring the ghost of her lips on his, pleasantly yearning for more, and haunted by a delicate warning of regret.

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As always, please give me your honest opinion of this piece, and feel free to share your own.  🙂

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