Richie heard a car pull up behind him as he took off his helmet and
stepped off of his motorcycle. It was Joe, and Richie waited so they
could go in together.
"Hey Joe," he said as the Watcher stepped out of his car. "How's it
"Can't complain. How 'bout yourself?"
"Well, the research is going well, but..." Richie looked sheepish.
"You miss Altea," Joe observed. Richie nodded. "She's only been down
in Marseilles for what, a week?"
"Yeah, well..." Richie blushed and looked away.
Joe laughed and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Better plan
something special for when she gets back, then."
Richie's smile flashed. "Already in the works." They started toward
the barge. "Is Methos coming with us?"
"No, he said he already had plans."
"Ohh, some kind of hot date, huh?"
"He wouldn't say," Joe said with a grin. As they stepped aboard,
Richie tensed automatically.
"Well, at least we know Mac's here," Joe said wryly.
Joe banged on the door a couple of times, then opened it and stepped
through. And stopped so abruptly that Richie, close on his heels,
plowed into him, nearly overbalancing him. Richie reached out to
steady the Watcher, and then peered in to see what had startled him.
The room was lit solely by candles, and rose petals were strewn
artistically about. There was a small table set for two, and soft
music flowed from the stereo speakers. And Duncan was just turning to
face them, dressed in a tuxedo, face beaming. The smile faded. "Oh,
it's you," he said, obviously disappointed.
"Nice to see you too, Mac," Richie said with a chuckle. "I thought we
were going out. I mean, it's nice of you to go to all this effort,"
he teased, walking forward, "but where's Joe gonna sit?"
Duncan did not smile. "Look, uh, something's come up."
"Obviously," Joe said with a grin.
"You two go on without me," Duncan said, trying to maneuver them back
toward the door. "In fact, it's on me. Only fair since I'm canceling
on you. Just tell Michel to put it on my tab."
Neither moved. Richie looked at Joe and said, "You know, he must want
us out of here pretty bad if he's willing to foot the bill." Joe
nodded. "So who is she?"
"She?" Duncan repeated.
"The woman," Richie said.
Just then Joe saw both Immortals tense, and he and Richie turned
toward the door expectantly.
The door opened slowly. A tall, stunningly beautiful woman with long
thick honey-gold hair stepped through the door. She was dressed in a
long silk evening gown the color of new leaves, which clung and
draped in all the right places, and was fastened over one shoulder,
leaving the other bare. Her blue eyes swept across Richie and Joe
without seeming to notice them, and locked on Duncan standing at the
foot of the short flight of stairs. She moved toward him, seeming to
flow with liquid grace rather than walk. When she reached Duncan, she
produced a single long-stemmed rose which she held out to him.
"Happy Valentine's Day, darling." Her voice recalled warm summer
nights, dark chocolate and crushed velvet.
FLASHBACK: VALENTINE'S DAY 1648, EUROPE
Duncan MacLeod was walking beside his horse along a path through the
forest. He had been riding hard all day and was giving his horse a
rest. He'd spent the night before in a small village where he'd met
his kinsman Connor to exchange news. And to have Connor trounce him
again. He suspected that Connor had just wanted to check up on him...
sometimes he was a bit of a mother hen.
It didn't look like he was going to reach the next village by
nightfall, and Duncan was scanning the area looking for a place to
make his camp, when suddenly he felt the presence of another
Immortal, and turned around to see a horse and rider coming around
the last bend. The hooded and cloaked traveler pulled up sharply.
The figure dismounted in one fluid motion, drew a sword, and moved
toward him slowly.
Duncan drew his sword and took a defensive, but not threatening
stance. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
The figure threw the hood back, and to Duncan's amazement, it was a
beautiful woman with the eyes of a dove and hair the color of sweet
honey. Duncan's sword lowered a fraction as he spoke the bit of verse
which sprang into his mind unbidden.
"My lady's presence makes the roses red, Because to see her lips they
blush for shame."
The woman halted her advance, a startled smile tugging at her lips,
and a speculative gleam in her eye. Her sword wavered a trifle as if
"'Tis not the season yet for flowers, sir." Her voice caressed his
ears and Duncan smiled.
"I was mistaken then, my lady, and I humbly beg your pardon. Your
presence so warmed the air I thought perhaps you had brought the
spring." Duncan bowed slightly to her.
She smiled then and inclined her head gracefully in acknowledgment.
"I am Kaia Doran," she said, lowering her sword.
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he returned, lowering his sword
"So you said," she laughed.
Duncan blushed. "Uh... I was about to make camp, perhaps the lady
would care to share my fire. I would welcome the company."
She looked at him for a long moment, and then nodded slowly.
Duncan rolled onto his side inside his sleeping furs and tried not
to think of the proximity of his beautiful companion across the fire
from him. They had had a very pleasant evening sharing a meal of
salted beef, bread, and wine. They'd talked mostly about recent
travels and nearby towns and villages, with a little discussion of
the progress of the wars going on all over Europe thrown in. He'd
been sorely tempted to try to move beyond conversation, but Kaia was
a real lady and he hadn't wanted to offend her.
"Duncan." A whisper from very close.
He rolled quickly onto his back and found himself staring into her
eyes, her face just inches above him.
"I just remembered that it is St. Valentine's Day today," she
"It is?" Duncan murmured, feeling a little disoriented, as if he were
falling into her eyes, although he knew himself to be lying on the
"It is," she purred. She moved ever so slowly down to brush his lips
with hers, and then pulled back. "Happy St. Valentine's Day, Duncan
Duncan, emboldened by the kiss, reached up to pull her head gently
back down, and when she did not resist, he kissed her more
thoroughly. When the kiss was over, he said in a low husky voice,
"Happy St. Valentine's Day, Kaia Doran."
She smiled. Duncan took her in his arms and rolled them both until
she was lying on her back. He moved a lock of hair away from her neck
with a gentle finger, and kissed the spot on her throat where her
pulse throbbed. Kaia gave a low laugh and he pulled back to look at
her for a moment, then bent his head to continue their celebration.
The next morning Duncan woke alone. If not for the lingering scent
of her in his makeshift bed, he might have thought she'd been a
dream. He dressed quickly and resumed his journey, his thoughts full
of her voice and her touch.
Duncan just stood there drinking in the sight of her, and the silence
spun on. Finally she asked, "We have company?" tilting her head ever
so slightly to indicate the two men watching from the entry. She
turned to face them, looking at them for the first time. Duncan still
made no move to introduce them, captivated by her presence.
"Joe Dawson," Joe said with a little chuckle. She inclined her head
slightly in acknowledgment, and turned toward Richie who came partway
down the steps to take her hand.
"Richard Redstone," he said, giving his alias, his voice deeper than
usual. "Mac here taught me everything I know."
She smiled. "Always glad to meet a student of Duncan's. Kaia Doran.
Duncan and I have a standing date on Valentine's Day every fifty
years." Her eyes held Richie's a moment longer, and then were drawn
back to Duncan. Turning away, she missed seeing Joe stiffen at her
The music from the stereo seemed to swirl about Duncan and Kaia, a
rumba. Kaia moved into the circle of Duncan's arms and they began to
dance to the slow seductive Latin beat.
Joe turned to leave, stopping to poke Richie with his cane, and,
getting his attention, motioned for him to follow. They were all the
way out to Joe's car before Richie finally seemed to come out of his
"Wow." Richie shook his head to clear it. He saw that Joe's face
showed a mixture of concern and alarm. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Joe shook his head and opened the car door. "Nothing, Rich." He got
into the car. "Can you give me a rain check on dinner? I just
remembered something I have to do," he said, shutting the door.
Without waiting for an answer, he started the car. Waving a farewell
at Richie, he drove away.
Richie stood watching in confusion for a moment, and then turned to
his bike. "Looks like it's just you and me, pal," he said swinging
his leg over and putting on his helmet. "Don't you ditch me, huh?"