Amelia sat up in bed, “And what happened to the two men on the ground?”
Marianne looked up at William. “Well, we had to help them if we could. It seemed too cruel to leave them out in the field all alone.”
William grumbled and crossed his arms. “It seemed tae cruel tae ye, but not tae me.”
Marianne shrugged. “We had to do something! We laid them into the carriage and drove them to the next inn, with their horses trailing behind.” She gave William a scolding look. “‘Twas never my intention to murder them, of course.”
“Dinnae ye remember they were there tae murder me?” William had raised his voice, but it was in jest.
“Ah, yes, and what quiet we would have had around here if they had done so,” Marianne smirked at him.
“Och, lass, ye’ll be the death of me tae be sure.” But despite being exasperated, he grasped onto her hand as they stood by Amelia’s bed.
Amelia, despite her fatigue, was looking well, now that Marianne and William had returned, and all was good in the world again.
“So, when is the wedding?” Amelia asked, her eyes bright with happiness and eagerness.
“Well, we thought you would like to wait until the baby is born, so you can appear in person.”
“Nonsense!” Amelia threw off the covers. We shall have it as soon as possible. Ring the bell for me, Marianne. If possible, we will have it today! We have the minister, and there is everyone here whom you both love!” Marianne passed Amelia her dressing robe, and Amelia looked between the two of them. “If that is agreeable to you both, of course.”
William laughed, “‘Tis most agreeable, lass, but dinnae let Jamie blame me for ye getting out of bed.”
“Oh, do not worry about him. He knows I have been longing for this day for an age!” She smiled and stood. I will prepare everything. We need to find you a gown, Marianne. Simply go to your rooms, and I will let you know when everything is ready!”
“Are you certain you do not wish my help?”
“Not at all! You have been through a rather unpleasant adventure. Let this be my gift to you, my friend!” She kissed Marianne on the cheek and shooed the two of them out the door.
Once the door closed behind them, William looked down at Marianne and began stroking her back with his fingertip. Marianne shivered. “Since we’ve got the time, why dinnae we have our first lesson?”
“Oh? What did you have in mind?” she asked, her eyes flashing with desire.
“I was thinking about something…physical. Something pleasurable. Something that I’ve been waiting about 11 days for.” He grinned.
Marianne walked with her hands on her hips as they neared William’s bedroom. “Whatever could that be, I wonder?” And she ran on ahead towards the door, shrieking as William chased her. Marianne reached the door first, her back to it, and William grabbed her waist. She opened the door, and they went inside, not taking their eyes off of each other. William bent to kiss her, and she pushed him away laughing. She stood before him by the fireplace and unbuttoned her dress, first the bodice, and then the skirt, stepping out of it as William sat on the bed. “Since when did ye become such a temptress, lass? Ye know just what tae do tae make a man rigid.”
She stood before him in only her corset and shift, “Well, I’ll need your help with the last part.”
He stood, bowing obsequiously. “I would be happy tae assist, for such a delectable Sassenach.”
Marianne giggled and kept smiling as William worked her laces loose. Sometimes he paused and laid a warm kiss on her neck as he worked his fingers down her back. She whispered, “I look forward to my first lesson.”
“First of many,” he replied huskily, before placing another kiss on her jawline.
Soon her corset was loosened, and it fell to the ground. She removed her shift, and it fluttered lightly to the floor, laying in silken folds. She stood before him, no fear in her eyes, and stared at his face full of wonder. His voice was quiet with awe. “I will never tire of looking at ye, lass. Come.”
He led her to the bed, and she laid down. He removed his clothes quickly, and Marianne chuckled at his speed.
“Ye cannae blame a man for his hurried disrobement in such conditions.”
He laid next to her, and she reached out to touch a hand to his rigid member, which stood tall as he lay back on the sheets. “I’ve never done this before; is this the lesson you had in mind?” William had trouble speaking as she moved her hand slowly up and down the smooth flesh. “Nay, Marianne, it seems ye know exactly what tae do and need no instruction,” he added between quickened breaths.
She leaned forward and placed her lips at the top of the shaft before taking it further into her mouth. William groaned, and Marianne felt confident she was on the right track. “Lass, wait.” She paused, confused.
“‘Tis nothing wrong with yer performance,” he chuckled, “but I want tae give ye pleasure tae. Come, sit astride me.”
Marianne raised an eyebrow. “Like a horse?”
“Aye, like a horse.” She followed his instructions, and he held onto her waist. “Lead me in, lass.” Marianne guided him into her as he pushed her down onto his hardness. She gasped with the feeling of him filling her.
“How does that feel?” He asked and continued to guide her as she moved up and down.
Marianne whispered as tingles of pleasure covered her body, “Blissful.”
She stared down at William, who stared back, and they were silent as she rode him, both of their pleasures rising with each thrust. They came together, and Marianne shuddered as she fell forward onto him, crying out with ecstasy.
She lay atop him for a time, and he spoke softly, “Ye are more beautiful each time I bring ye tae yer pleasure. Lucky for me, I get tae marry ye today.”
Marianne grinned as she pulled away and laid next to him. “So, our lives will be full of lessons like that?” And she trailed a finger along his hard chest.
William wrapped an arm around her. “Aye, love. We can have as many lessons as ye like.”
* * *
A few hours later, William stood nervously in the church, adjusting the coat he had found in an old trunk. It was the nicest one he owned, and he had never had any reason to wear it before today. Troy stood next to him, smiling with encouragement. In the audience were a beaming Ruth, Margrete, John, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, Henrietta Parker, Fiona, Mr. Johnson, and Jamie and Amelia. He surveyed the crowd, smiling at each one. These were all the people he loved in one room. Well, he didn’t love Mr. Johnson, but he was eternally grateful to him for making the trip with Marianne’s mother’s ring. He held the ring tightly in his hands, a secret gift for Marianne. It gave him strength.
While he was looking down, the door at the end of the church opened. Jonathon Parker and Marianne stood there, ready to enter. Lord Parker had kindly agreed to walk Marianne down the aisle since Lord Browne was not here and would never have approved the match.
William’s eyes were caught by the beauty of his bride. She wore an emerald dress, which matched her eyes perfectly. His eyes moistened with tears at the sight of a tartan sash hanging across her shoulder in the Fraser colors. He glanced at Amelia and nodded to her in gratitude. Amelia beamed. Marianne and Lord Parker walked slowly down the aisle, the bride carrying a bouquet of flowers freshly picked by Ruth and Margrete. It seemed an age before she reached the altar, but her eyes never left William. He watched her glide towards him, and he never remembered a time when he was happier.
Mairi was nothing but a blurry image from the past. Nothing mattered now, except this moment, and the future he would have with the woman who had stolen his heart. She was everything he could have ever wished for, and he knew he did not deserve her. But she had chosen him, and that made all the difference.
Finally, Marianne arrived, and she handed her flowers to a sitting Amelia before reaching out to hold William’s hand. The groom smiled, gripping her hand tightly.
Troy began the vows, but Marianne and William hardly heard him, as their minds were full of one another. It came time for the rings, and Marianne slipped William’s slowly onto his finger. Once William held out the ring for Marianne and began to place it on her finger, Marianne covered her mouth. “My mother’s ring,” she whispered with awe. “Aye, Margrete told me where it was, and we sent word right away to Mr. Johnson.” He kissed the finger where he had placed the ring. Tears began to stream down Marianne’s face.
After the pronouncement of their marriage, Troy, began, “You may kiss the bri-” but William pulled Marianne close before the minister could finish the phrase, and she leaned into his tender kiss.
The audience laughed, clapped, and cheered as William held Marianne’s face in his hands. “You are my heroine, Marianne Browne. Let me spend the rest of my life being yer hero.”
She sighed, “Ridiculous man. You are a rogue and a devilish blaigeard, but you have been my hero from the first moment we met.”
As Ruth watched Marianne and William wed, it was difficult for her eyes not to be drawn to the minister behind them. She had never met a minister so young or so handsome; his shoulders nearly burst from his coat, and his jawline was strong and stark, even hidden under a slight beard.
She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something about him that drew her. He seemed an exotic figure, having come from some faraway land to stand before her eyes.
But then Marianne and William kissed, embracing each other tightly, and Ruth sighed with happiness for her sister. Finally, she was free. They were both free to do as they liked. What an odd feeling it was. She clapped her hands as the new couple walked back down the aisle. They would go back to the castle for a large celebration with the whole clan.
Ruth’s eyes followed the minister as he followed the crowd leaving the church. It was an odd feeling to be free. She wasn’t sure what she was to do first. Break every rule her father ever placed upon them? No, that didn’t sound quite right, although it was tempting. Perhaps she could try out a few things and see how they struck her?
* * *
A few short weeks later, the small group of Kinnaird castle inhabitants wandered the main hall. Amelia could be heard upstairs, yelling with pain. Jamie was pacing in front of the fire, back and forth, Prince Charlie following him and barking with each outcry from Amelia.
“Bloody hell, this is pure torture,” Jamie grumbled as he moved, his balled fists hanging at his sides. “How can a man endure it?”
Marianne walked up to him and placed a hand on his arm. She smiled, “Remember, Jamie, she is enduring far worse upstairs. All will be well!”
Jamie nodded and continued his pacing rhythm, his brows furrowed in anger and concern.
William came up behind Marianne and placed his hands on her shoulders. He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Soon, ye shall be an aunt tae the child about tae be born.”
She turned smiling, and William kept her in his arms. She looked up into his face. “Aye, and you shall become an uncle. What fitting roles for us.”
William began twirling a strand of her auburn hair with his finger. “Might we also fill the roles of parents one day?”
Marianne nodded. “I shall certainly enjoy the process.” She winked at her new husband and placed her cheek on his chest. She sighed with contentment. It had only been a few weeks, but it had been wedded bliss. William and Marianne and Ruth had moved into William’s nearby home after the wedding, but they had returned to the castle to help the family with the birth.
Marianne had become the true mistress of the Fraser house and had brought many things out from the dusty trunks and shadowy corners to be once again proudly displayed. Instead of an empty, ghostly place, the Fraser homestead became warm and cheery, with portraits and ornaments lining the walls. William, Marianne, and Ruth were very happy there together. Ruth could remember many a time when Marianne would chide William good-naturedly for hiding away his family memories.
“William, why is this in an old trunk? No wonder the house felt so ghostly to you, with naught on its walls!” William would apologize profusely in his roguish manner before kissing Marianne into silence. Ruth had to excuse herself from the room on more than one occasion.
One night, William finally relinquished the hold Mairi had over him and placed her image in the flames of his hearth, the past and its fears gone in a moment. Marianne placed her hand on his arm. “Are you well?” William grinned and grabbed Marianne by the waist, before staring deeply into her eyes. “I am more than well, lass. I am the happiest man tae ever have lived, I reckon.” At that, Marianne had breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that William had finally let go of the woman that had tried to ruin him with her betrayal.
Ruth had heard their conversation as she stopped in the hallway before entering the main room. She smiled and placed a hand on her heart. Her sister had truly found a love that was safe, warm and free. She hoped, too, for her own love one day, and her mind briefly flashed to the dashing Troy Ferguson, whom she had been keeping her eye on since she moved to Scotland.
In their time together, since leaving Lord Browne’s household, Ruth had come to love William as a true brother, and she thanked Heaven every day for the good fortune of her sister to have married such a kind and humorous man.
But now, they were awaiting the birth of the first Kinnaird child. Fiona and Henrietta were upstairs assisting the midwife with the delivery, while Marianne was asked to stay with Jamie and attempt to calm him. Lord Parker and Troy Ferguson made up the other members of the group.
Suddenly, the cries of Amelia stopped, and they heard footsteps in the corridor. A maid arrived hurriedly, “Come, quick! The babe has been born! A fine son!”
Jamie’s eyes went wide, and he dashed up the corridor in front of the maid to Amelia’s room. The rest of them followed behind. Marianne could barely contain her excitement, but she knew she must allow the father to enter the room first.
Jamie burst in like a bull, desperate to see his wife in good health and his new child. Amelia smiled wearily from the bed, and Jamie ran to her and knelt beside her. “Are ye well, lass?” He kissed her hands. “I was so worried about ye. Hearing yer screams from the main hall was like a knife tae me very heart.” He touched her cheek with his fingertips.
Amelia chuckled, “All is well, dear husband. Do not worry about me. Do you not wish to see your new son?” She turned her eyes toward Fiona, who held onto the new babe who was crying. Jamie turned as well, and his eyes moistened at the sight.
Fiona handed the baby to Jamie, and he took him gingerly into his hands. “Congratulations, my son. You will be a wonderful father, just like yours was to you.” And she kissed him on the cheek. Jamie smiled down at his son, swinging him softly in his arms.
“What shall we call him, Amelia?”
Amelia said, “I think James is a fine, strong name. To remember his fine grandfather, and to honor his father. What do you think?”
Jamie looked up at his wife. “Aye, ‘tis a good idea. James William Kinnaird.”
At that, William stirred behind Jamie, and Jamie turned to him. “What do ye think? Ye will be an uncle tae him, and he ought tae have the name of so good a man.”
William grinned and touched Jamie’s shoulder. “Aye, and he will learn all there is tae learn about fighting and women from me, tae be sure.” He laughed and touched the head of young James softly.
Marianne’s heart melted at the sight, but she still responded slyly, “Oh, are you such an expert then?”
Amelia held out her hands for Marianne. “Come to me, my friend!”
Marianne rushed over and kissed Amelia’s hands. “You have done well, Amelia! But you must rest now before you get back into your normal, busy routine.”
Amelia nodded. “Ah, yes, if I must.” She put her mouth close to Marianne’s ear. “You will make a cousin for my little James, won’t you?”
Marianne smiled and whispered back. “I already have.” Amelia gasped slightly, and Marianne shushed her. “Do not tell William. I want it to be a surprise.”
Amelia pulled away and winked before closing her eyes to rest.
* * *
After the excitement of the birth, Jamie, Fiona, and Henrietta brought the baby to his nursery to watch over him while Amelia slept. Ruth, William, Marianne, Troy, and Lord Parker returned to the main hall.
Luckily, after many failed attempts to speak to Troy in private these past weeks to learn more about him, Ruth finally had her chance. They were sitting next to each other by the fire, sipping wine. Marianne and William were talking quietly with Lord Parker at the long dining table.
She knew she was not too experienced with men, but men often liked her and wished to speak to her at parties and other gatherings. Ruth hoped she would use the right words with Mr. Ferguson as she built up her courage to talk to him.
She cleared her throat, “Mr. Ferguson, your accent intrigues me. It rings Scottish, but it is not the same as the other Scottish gentlemen around these parts. From whence do you hail?”
Troy looked over at Miss Browne nervously. He had noticed her watching him these many weeks, and wasn’t sure what it meant. She unnerved him with her striking looks and her confident air. Her long auburn curls were often hanging down past her shoulders, instead of being pulled up like most women wore their hair. Her features were not traditionally pretty, but they intrigued and enticed a man to look twice. Her dark brown eyes under thick lashes always sparkled and looked as if they knew something he didn’t, and her pink lips were always smiling.
He had sworn to leave the recklessness, the drinking, and the women of his former life behind, never to return to them again, but this woman recently in his sphere, made him sit up and take notice. He didn’t like it. He was a man of the cloth now, and he could not be swayed by temptations, luscious though they may be. He would have to make it appear that he had no interest in her and avoid her as much as possible.
He cleared his throat and did not look long at her face. “I was born in the Lowlands, but I have moved from place tae place. I have traveled a fair bit in my time, once I grew old enough.”
“Ah.” There was that knowing glance again. “That would explain the interesting tinge to your accent.” Her eyes brightened. “I have always been a lover of travel, although…I have never been anywhere. Where have you traveled?”
Troy’s heart flipped as her features curved into a smile. Her face was so innocent and so full of eagerness that he ached to draw her into his arms. He couldn’t help but smile in return. He found himself wanting to impress her. “Many places. I’ve been as far west as the Americas, and as far south as the southern tip of Africa.”
Ruth’s eyes widened with interest. “Oh, to be a man and to be allowed on such adventures.”
Troy surprised himself by asking her the question, “What do ye dream of, Ruth? I mean, Miss Browne?” He blushed slightly at the lack of social grace, and his surprising endeavor to ask such a personal question.
She chuckled. “Please, do call me Ruth. I assume we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”
Troy hated how that idea made him happy.
She sighed, “To be truthful, I would take the opportunity to go anywhere and do anything.”
She sounded almost dreamlike as she spoke the words, and he could tell there was a tinge of sadness about her past life. He thought of his own past, and how it had been exciting but…too much. Would this new life in Scotland be enough for him though? It didn’t seem like it would be enough for Ruth, and in that, they may be kindred spirits.
Yes, this woman was going to put a dent in his plan of living the lonely and pure minister’s life.
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