Her smile was forced; anyone could see that.
Well, maybe not anyone. But anyone who knew her well, of course. But the O'Flaherty just smiled in response, believing her decisive words, that unconvincing upturn of her lips that Tiernan hardly considered a smile and desired so much to shake off her face.
But no, he insistently calmed himself. You leave her alone. She's not yours anymore. she chose him. She chose him and left you.
He turned away from the scene, biting back the bitter pain that gnawed at his heart. His broken, crushed, dying heart she had so carelessly tossed away.
No, another voice nagged at him. Not careless. She knew exactly what she was doing, and she chose to do it anyway. Somehow that hurt even more, knowing that this pain she caused him was inflicted intentionally.
She didn't want to hurt him, Tiernan knew that. Grania wanted to help Ireland, the clan her father; everyone except herself. A problem in Tiernan's eyes, an admirable trait in others'.
Not that it truly mattered, if truths were coming to light. Grace would do as she pleased, just as she always had, ignoring even the opinions of those she held so dear.
Where do I go from here? Should he slink off somewhere else, anywhere else, where it wasn't so O'Malley, so painful, so...Grania? Did he stay close, biding his time, lurking in the shadows like a patient parasite, waiting for the moment she tired of her O'Flaherty husband and desired Tiernan once more? Should he find another woman, an eye for an eye, retaliate in the same manner he had been hurt?
No. He shook his head angrily, walking away from the gathering. He was Irish, for God's sake. He would be strong, a true Irishman, unlike the swine she was to marry. The wounds would heal, make him stronger in the end, make him all the better to be by her side. He would find it in himself to stay beside her through it all, no matter how hard it wrenched his heart from his chest to do so.
Freezing at the sound of her voice, Tiernan schooled his expression in an attempt to hide his internal turmoil, realizing with a twinge of annoyance that he would fool her no more that she had him. He turned to face her, breath kept tightly inside.
Grania hesitated a moment. "Tiernan, I-"
"Congratulations on your engagement, Grace," he cut in quickly, stopping whatever meaningless comfort she was attempting to bestow on him.
She didn't respond, nodding a little. Thinking for just a moment, she said, "It would mean a lot to me if you would be there." Grania paused. "But if you...do not wish to...I understand." She glanced over her shoulder once, squeezed his hand quickly, gave him a weak smile (this one was real, at least), and hurried off.
There was a bitter taste in his mouth as he watched her retreating figure. But the taste of the words in his head were fiery, defiant, strong.
I'll be there, he thought as he turned away once more. A deep breath steadied him, an angry punch at a nearby tree calmed him and gifted him with a new, controllable, tolerable pain to focus on, making his internal mantra all the clearer.
I'll be there.