As she bent to set the lamb on its feet, a dog’s bark startled her. Still crouching, Chelle spun around and faced a grizzled black and white collie, standing a few feet away with its teeth bared and hackles raised. Luckily, the dog’s owner stood close by. Heart in her throat, Chelle released the lamb and slowly raised her gaze from a pair of heavy boots to eyes the color of a stormy sea.
The dog returned to his master’s side at the curt command. Chelle stood, blushing under the man’s cool stare.
He’d be at least six feet tall, perhaps taller, bulky and solid. He reminded her of Charlie Bascomb at home, broad in the shoulders, thick in the legs and torso, but the resemblance stopped there. Charlie was quiet and easy-going, always wearing a smile, but there was nothing approachable about this man with his lowering brows, grim mouth and rust-colored hair. His resemblance to Leah told Chelle who he must be.
“Hello. I’m Rochelle McShannon. Are you Martin Rainnie?”
The collie stood braced beside his master, the fur still standing up on the back of his neck. Mr. Rainnie looked no more welcoming. He spoke to Chelle as curtly as he had to his dog. “Aye. What are you doing out here?”
It seemed Jean had done the man a favor by saying little about him. Chelle lifted her chin and showed him her bleeding hand. “That’s obvious enough, isn’t it? That lamb’s fleece was caught in this bush. I freed it.”
Mr. Rainnie looked her up and down with those cold gray-green eyes, then softened his tone and made an effort to curb his broad Yorkshire. Likely he’d recalled that his daughter was living with her family.
“So you’re Jack’s niece. I didn’t know you’d arrived yet.”
“We arrived yesterday.” Chelle fished a clean handkerchief from her skirt pocket and wrapped it around her scratched hand while she fumbled for something to say. “I’ve been out for a walk to the top of the hill. The view is lovely.”
Mr. Rainnie’s mouth twisted in a sardonic grin as he stepped closer. “Aye, but it’s not very sustaining. Not much but sheep will grow up here.”
Chelle took in his well-worn clothes and large, work-roughened hands. Martin Rainnie’s face showed the effects of wind and weather, but she thought the lines around his mouth and eyes revealed bitterness. With the breeze plucking at the sleeves of his faded canvas jacket, he seemed as much a part of the landscape as the sheep and the moorland grass, and just as rugged.
“The village down there, is that Carston? Dad mentioned it.”
“Aye, that’s Carston.”
“I thought as much. I was on my way home when I decided to follow this trail and heard the lamb.”
Mr. Rainnie shrugged and stuck his hands in his pockets. “You could have spared yourself the trouble. This is my flock, and I check on ‘em every day. You’d better get home and take care of those scratches.” With that, he strode past her toward the sheep, his dog at his heels.
Chelle watched him go, his shoulders high, his broad back stiff with annoyance. Because I rescued one of his silly sheep? She turned on her heel and started back toward the village, muttering under her breath. “I’m sorry for your daughter, Mr. Rainnie. As for me, the next time I find one of your animals in trouble, I’ll be leaving it alone.”