Her entire body was trembling. Each step she took wasn't exactly straight – though from the wine or the fear, she did not know – which made her sway as she walked. She wanted to run and hide after what had just happened before the King and Queen…before the other clans! Oh no…she heard large, fast footsteps coming behind her.

"Mind explaining what that was about, Lady?" Magnus asked as he turned the corner with her, his tone neutral and, in that sense, alarming. Evey didn't know if he was upset with her or not. And yet how could he not be?

"It was nothing, my Lord," she shifted back to their titles as he did; was that a sign of his displeasure or just because people were nearby? "Please, leave me to my room so I may wait for this wine's effects to leave me." She needed to stop drinking, she thought. Still, she kept walking, occasionally using her hand against the wall to guide her.

Just as she reached the hall that was her room, Magnus took a couple big steps and ended up in front of her. Evey nearly bounced off of him when she walked into him, looking up with a gleam of uncertainty in her eyes. His own gaze was stern, neutral still, but made her tremble before him.

Why? Why was she so frightened of him? Of what he'd say or think or do?

"A wife's to show support to her husband, not beat him to the ground in front of all the other clans on the first time. How's he to gain any respect from that?" Macintosh stared down at her, keeping his back straight. Her trembling didn't go unnoticed, which was why he kept his volume down, nor did her struggle to meet his eyes.

Evey couldn't decide what was better: her feet or his eyes. Preferably her own feet were less judging, less dangerous at this moment. One wrong word of an explanation and she may very well damn Vailean and his little mistress-to-be. And yet how else would she be able to justify her temper and her sudden taking down of Vailean?

"Please step aside, Lord Macintosh." Her head was down and her tone just as subdued.

The wild hair of his moved almost majestically as he shook his head. "I do not believe you can hold your wine, Lady Elward."

She quickly latched onto that excuse. "No, m'lord, I cannot. Please let me leave."

"But that doesn't explain the underlying frustrations you have with my son." As if he had had it planned out what to say when she took the bait. When she said nothing, he urged, "Tell me."

Evey wills herself to get upset, to get angry, outraged even. But she can't. She can't just stomp her foot and screech like a commoner before storming off – though the last bit sounds so attractive. Instead, she struggles. "My lord, please…it won't happen again. I simply will stay away from wine from now on. Just, please, let me…let me go to my room."

For a second, it looked like Magnus' mask would crack. But that second passes and he merely waits still, silent as stone. She finally gains some feeling back in her leg and steps to the side, intending to go around him. But as soon as she took a step, he sidestepped as well. She ended up almost pressed against him, his body heat radiating onto her. Evey shudders and looks away.

"Even if I have to keep you awake through the hangover," he said cooly, "I will not budge until you tell me the truth." A beat. "It'd be dangerous to the clan if this issue goes unchecked, Evey."

The girl's green eyes rose to meet his although she struggled to see past the film of tears. He was right. Gods, he was right and she hated it. "His…" she struggled to collect the right words, for her body fought against her mind as much as it could. "…he…Magnus, your son does not love me."

Magnus stared at her for a moment with, what she thought at least, disgust. "Vailean is a fine lad, he just doesn't know how to express his affections. That's what this courtin' period is for. To act as you have for…"

"No, Magnus, that isn't it!" Evey spoke with such fierceness that it startled even her. Her teeth had gritted, the words sliding through to be heard. "That isn't it! He doesn't love me because he isn't affectionate or vain or whatever it may be! I have seen him hold great adoration, but not to me! I have seen him stroke a cheek as gentle as a lamb and I have seen how the blinders around his eyes drop when he sees another, when his world encompasses more than just him!" She couldn't stop, the film of tears falling down her cheeks and the words spewing from her mouth. "He loves Annis, not I!"

And then a heavy silence lay on their shoulders. Evey felt suffocated the moment she finished that declaration, quite aware of what it all meant. And it terrified her, for she had just sold 'true love' out, all because she couldn't have it. "Please," she croaked out, defeated and self-loathing, "let me leave to my room now."

"How did you come to find out about this…Annis?" Magnus ignored her, yet again, and asked in a slow, calculating tone.

Shaking her head, she pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, losing her composure quite swiftly. She couldn't reveal the how, for it would guarantee that Vailean wouldn't be allowed out to the village then. It would destroy the little foundation that was left over there. "I cannot…I won't…" she could feel herself unravel and gods only knew what else was unraveling with her.

The swishing of footsteps behind her startled the both. When Evey turned to look, she spotted a mess of red hair. She sniffed as Merida walked over, lacking the fear that Evey held towards the senior Macintosh. "There you are…er, Lord Macintosh." She did a small curtsey in response to Macintosh's deep bow. Evey followed suit, stumbling a bit at the sudden required action. "We were getting worried."

Merida's wise eyes shifted between the two, assuming the worse probably. Before she could say anything, Macintosh nodded. "I'll leave you to the Princess' hands…and I'll send for your help. Good night, ladies." He took his leave quickly, pausing only to glance back at Evey with a sharp, questioning look. A…a protective look.

Evey's heart melted just a bit and for some reason, it hurt her. It hurt to realize that his look was one of need, want to protect her. From what? Herself? No, Vailean. And her hand went to her stomach, then her mouth, to realize she had just outed Vailean. She had just placed a target upon the other happy couple.

Before Merida could speak, Evey ran into the room and found the chamber pot, vomiting freely. A moment later, she felt her hair, which had come loose from the earlier fight, be pulled back: the Princess. The Duchess spat once before sitting up, trembling so violently that her spine started to ache.

Merida led her to the mirror, letting her sit. In the background, her ladies walked in quietly and, after surveying the scene, poured some water for the duchess. As Evey sipped slowly, Marian started to brush out her hair, pausing only briefly. It took just a moment for Evey to figure out why: she had lost her pearls. Again. And she doubted she'd ever find them again.

Just like the first time so long ago, she had dropped the pearls braided through her hair and still never found out who or what happened to them.

"Are you…okay?" Merida asked carefully.

Oblivious as to the truth, unlike the ladies, the Princess wasn't sure whether to ask what had sparked it all or not. She had figured, truthfully, that Evey had gone through enough interrogation with the Lord Macintosh and didn't need her questions.

"Too much wine." Evey spoke hoarsely, wincing at her throat. "I just need to sleep. I apologize for the evening's ending, Prin-…"

"It's Merida." The wild girl reminded her, bouncing off of the trunk she had been sitting on to stand. "And don't apologize, the evenin' was great!" She clapped her hands together, regretting it when Evey flinched. Had Macintosh struck her, she wondered? "I'll uh, leave you to it then. Pleasant night, Evey."

When the door was shut and all three maids gave their mistress a questioning look, Evey only responded with a sob.

"She knows." One of Vailean's friends uttered as the three of them slipped out into a separate hallway. "She knows. I heard her say Annis' name."

"What?!" Vailean sharply turned, his eyes wide and his hair messy from…well, everything as of late. "How? Who did she say it to?"

"Your father." The friend gave a grimace. "She was cryin' and said…ya love Annis, not her."

There was silence. Only their footsteps scraping against the floor made noise. Finally Vailean spoke, "Go and hide Annis. My father might try to talk to you both…"

"And if he already knows everythin'? What then?"

Vailean thought long and hard, his head tilted down, his hand brushing against his chin. Something came to mind. "I have a plan. When I was first told about Evey…my father said we were betrothed since we were kids. But he still had me try to win the Princess…and I think he said somethin' about that being against the contract."

The two friends stopped and smiled slowly, and in the light, a bit maliciously. "You'll be sendin' a letter to ol' England then?"

"The Duchess and Duke deserve to know about the family they're lettin' their daughter marry into." Vailean grinned.

Next Chapter: Filler, then we find out the results of Vailean's "anonymous letter"…

And I've noticed it (cause it's driven me up a WALL) but I keep switching from "ing" to just "in'" in the ending of how Macintosh speaks…and I can't help it. Because sometimes I can HEAR him clear as day and others I'm like, struggling to gather that whisper. UGH. Lol.