Highlander’s Cursed Heiress – Extended Epilogue

Emma ran her hands ran over the thick leather binding with reverence. The brittle pages beneath her fingertips brought her back in time. Seeing her great-grandmother’s handwriting connected her with a world of romance and adventure in a way that was personal—that made her feel as if it were her story within the pages. She read by the candlelight for at least the hundredth times, the words that inspired her with more dreams than a whole library of books and scrolls and letters.

Errol made me this diary to keep a record for our bairns, so they might know us and our story for all that we are. It’s beautiful. I cannot imagine how much time he spent working on it. That’s how he is, though. That’s how he’s always been. He’d do anything to make me smile, and I him.

We’ve carved quite the life out here on Skye. One I would have never imagined before him. It’s a simple life, but one I am grateful for every day. I’m watching him now from the porch. He’s teaching Lyla how to milk the goats. She’s crying, and it melts my heart to see how gentle he is with her. She’ll be five years in spring. How she’s grown this last year. I can hear her now fussing up a storm, and I hope she reads this one day and remembers how scared she was of hurting her goat friends by milking them.
It’s been three years since I’ve visited my childhood home. With my uncle passed now, there’s no reason to make the trip, not with four bairns in tow.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s Fiona’s home now. There’s nothing left for me there ‘cept bad memories. Maybe one of my bairns will change that—make it their own and bless its halls with the laughter and joy it deserves.

It brings me comfort knowing it’s still there—though I doubt we’ll visit again. I worry about the cold and Errol. Already his hands seem to tense up. I can tell the weather by his bones these days. It makes me grateful for each morning as I watch our youth fade.


The young woman slammed the book closed and blew out the candle. She could hear the screeching cry of the hinges as her door pushed open, and a draft from the rest of the house washed over the room. She could smell the wick of her freshly snuffed candle smoking.

“I ken yer still awake.”

Emma sighed and rolled over, “What do ye want?”

“Can I sleep with you? I’m scared.”

Emma looked at her little sister. Her hair was a mess from tossing and turning. Emma gave out a vanquished sigh and opened the sheets to invite her in. The small girl clambered eagerly into the warmth and embrace of her older sister, snuggling close. The wind howled, shaking the roof with its mighty gusts. Emma rolled over and re-lit her candle.

“Pa’s not home.” The little girl looked up with saucer eyes, “Ye can read as much as ye’d like.”
Emma smiled and wrapped her arm around her young sister, “Ye ken, someday, I’m goin’ tae go here,” she patted the leather journal with love and affection.

“What happened to them?”

“They grew old together.” Emma opened the book at random, not even reading the pages, just admiring the neat scrawl of penmanship and replaying its many stories in her mind, “They loved each other more than anyone else in the whole world, Charlotte. When she got sick, she couldn’t leave her bed for three weeks, an’ he brought her wildflowers every day to make her smile.”
Charlotte let out a heavy sigh, “How romantic.”

“Aye,” Emma felt her heart rate rise as she thought about some of the steamier bits unfit for her child sister. The kisses and sweet nothings whispered between true loves, “Someday, I want what they have. Can ye imagine? Wondering and adventuring over the countryside with yer perfect match.

Listen to this,” Emma flipped through the pages quickly until she found the spot, and then read out loud, “Never were there two people who love each other more than Errol and I. Each day I fear to wake and find it all a dream. When I muster the courage to open my eyes, I turn to him and seeing him lying there, I no longer fear death. My body aches from time and weather and circumstance, but my heart—oh, how he keeps my heart young. This, these moments, is heaven. I know God because I see him every day. My heart knows peace and serenity, renewed with each laugh, with each breath,” and then Emma silenced and read the last bit to herself with each loving touch. A prickling sensation ran over her arms and neck as such insinuations awakened her imagination to the love that only a husband and wife could know.

“Lovely,” Charlotte yawned. “Someday, I want tae be a lady.”

“It doesn’t work like that. Don’t be silly.” Emma closed the book.

“Grandmama was—why can’t I?” Charlotte scowled in defense.

“Ye better get to sleep now. Pa’ll ream us both if he finds out I let ye stay up all night.”

“Why can’t I be a lady?” The little girl demanded.

“’Cause Gale’s uncle couldn’t take away the estate—that was hers—but he were so mad at them out smartin’ him like that, he stripped the inheritance from her title.”

“What a mean man,” Charlotte fumed, “We should both be ladies.” Emma heard the little girl’s stomach growl and felt a deep pang in her heart.

“Emma, I’m hungry.”

“I ken.” She pushed the brown curls from the child’s face and planted a kiss on the pale forehead, “Me too.”

“What if Pa doesn’t come back this time?” She asked.

Emma could hear the sincere worry in her sister’s voice. She bit her tongue for a moment. Her knee-jerk response was to tell her how great that would be as she recalled the last time they saw their father. Emma held these thoughts in, knowing Charlotte was still filled with the desire and naivety to crave their father’s presence and hope for better times—like the ones they used to have before their mother died.

“He’ll be back soon,” she said, hoping to ease the young girl’s mind. “He always comes back.”

“I ken,” Charlotte sat up and looked her sister hard in the eyes, “But what if he doesn’t? What then, Emma?”
Emma looked at the book in her hand. “I suppose we’ll go on an adventure then,” she said.

“To the fairy pools?”


“Ye think we’ll find husbands there?”

Emma let out a sigh and leaned back against the headboard, “Wouldn’t that be nice.”
It was easy for Emma to escape into the fantasies the journal provided. She and Charlotte seemed to only know pain and hardship over their last years. She imagined what it might be like to flee with Charlotte—away from it all and into a land imagined full of magic and romance in the North.

Emma opened the book and read randomly from its pages.

“Lyla is sixteen this year.”

“Grandma?” Charlotte asked.

“Mhm, now shush if ye want me to keep reading.”

“Lyla is sixteen this year. She looks just like I did except with her father’s dimples and eyes. She’s sweet on a boy from the village. Errol can’t stand him.

It makes me laugh to think about it. The only reason Errol doesn’t like him is that he dotes on Lyla so. He follows her around almost everywhere. Right now, Errol’s out there testing the poor boy. I’ve been watching him work that bairn into the ground, trying to drive the young lad away. I already know Errol’s going to cave. That young man is meeting Errol’s every demand, burdening it, and struggling his hardest to gain Errol’s approval. I give it two months before he changes his mind and realizes Lyla is lucky to find someone so devoted. She’s giddy and bright. I see her watching them, eager and nervous Errol will say no. It’s taken all my power to keep her in my sight. I’m not a fool. I know what will happen if those two are alone together. It makes me blush to think of when Errol and I were young. It seems like it was just yesterday. My, how the time flies. I feel old watching Lyla. Errol decided he’s done fishing and fine by me. Last year I could hardly breathe when he was out. He’s not as young as he thinks he is. Our boys are old enough to do the work themselves. Although he hasn’t said anything, I know he’s taking the transition hard. I see the way he stares out at the ocean….”

Emma could hear Charlotte snoring on her chest fast asleep. She held the book open, but her eyes turned up to the ceiling beams. She thought about what Charlotte said. A part of her wished their Pa wouldn’t return this time. It was frightening to think of what could happen if it were just the two of them, but at least Emma would have one less mouth to feed. Unlike Charlotte, she’d given up hope on their father ever returning to the man he used to be. It angered her to know Charlotte went to sleep hungry each night while he managed to scavenge up enough money to get drunk at the taverns.

If ever she had the chance, Emma decided then they would set off for the Highlands. They did not belong where they were, Scots stranded amongst the English. Emma let out a heavy sigh and traipsed her fingers over her forehead as she thought. She was grateful her mother taught her how to read despite her father’s wishes. Reading about Errol always sparked Emma’s thirst for someone that supportive in her life. He encouraged Gale’s intelligence and thirst for adventure instead of seeing it as something intimidating and to be snuffed out.

Someday she would meet someone who admired her mind instead of punished it. Someday she would be able to run amongst the glens and mountains, free from the burdens of modern civilization. It was difficult to believe she even made it to the turn of the century. Part of her believed she would have died before seeing the year 1600. Now, all she hoped for was not seeing 1601 from under the same roof.

Emma played with the chestnut curls tangling over Charlotte’s head. It frightened her to think of traveling with Charlotte—if anything happened to her, she would die. But she knew this place was nowhere for Charlotte to grow up. The air was polluted with peat smoke. Charlotte drew in a breath, and Emma could hear it rattle in her chest. She knew the little girl’s breathing would only get worse within the city. She needed fresh air.
Scotland. Emma closed her eyes. What a dream. And that night, Emma and Charlotte both dreamed of Romance and gypsies and wild mountains filled with tall Highland warriors. They dreamed of love and the smell of the ocean—of keeping all that they worked for. They dreamed of feeling safe and loved and laughing in the land of their maternal ancestors. Not the cold drafts, nor aching bellies, or screaming wind could rock them from the pleasant hopes of a future in the Highlands.


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A Highlander Marked by Fate – Extended Epilogue

Kirklinton, Twenty Years Later

 There was a huge splash, and Margaret let out a shriek, as Rory plunged into the woodland pool from above, spraying her with water, as she sat at the edge by the waterfall.

“Rory, you are like the children, even they are old enough now not to leap into the pool in such a way,” she said, laughing, as he emerged, his hair streaked down around his ears, dripping wet as he climbed out onto the bank.

He shook himself, spraying her with water and causing her to shriek and run from the side of the pool as he chased her.

“Then ye must jump in too, Margaret. Tis’ a hot day, come now, ye need to cool off,” he cried, as she ran from his embrace.

“I have no desire to get any wetter than I already am,” she cried, but it was too late, and now he had her in his arms, carrying her back to the water’s edge.

“I shall dae it, I shall dae it,” he cried, holding her over the water, as she let out a scream.

“And I shall never speak to you again, you awful brute,” she cried, as he pulled her back and brought her into his embrace.

“Would I dae such a thing?” he asked, and she laughed.

“Not if you valued your life, you would not,” she said, and he kissed her.

“Another day, perhaps,” he said, smiling as he set her down carefully on the ground.

“How nice to be alone,” she said, laying back in the sun and smiling up at him.

“Just as we used to. Dae ye remember the walks we would take out here after we were married, the days we would spend here by the pool,” he said, and she nodded.

“Without care or worry to our name,” she replied, and he nodded.

“And we are still blessed with few worries to this day,” he said, coming to lie down in the sun next to her.

“Oh, you are still wet, Rory, I hope the sun will dry you before we walk back to Kirklinton,” she said, and rolled over and kissed him again.

“Well, now that ye are wet, why nae join me for a swim,” he said, looking at her mischievously.

“No, besides, we had best get home. Otherwise, Evie and Hamish shall be at Kirklinton before us,” Margaret said, rising to her feet and stretching out in the sun.

It was the height of summer, the sun casting dappled shadows through the canopy of trees above and the birds singing all around. Together, Margaret and Rory walked hand in hand through the forest, speaking of old times and remembering the past.

“I wonder what tales we shall hear from the children,” Rory said, and Margaret laughed.

“They are hardly children, Bryce and Hanna are grown up and are almost of age. They are growin’ up fast,” Margaret replied, as they came to a fork in the forest path.

“Perhaps we shall gather some mushrooms to take back with us. There was a dampness in the air last night, and now this heat from the sun. There are bound to be mushrooms aplenty beneath the shade,” Rory said, pointing along the path.

“Well, we must be quick, the sun is well past its midpoint, and we still have an hour or so to walk back to Kirklinton,” Margaret said.

“We shall look over here, come now and … oh,” Rory said, as they entered a little clearing, only to find a little old woman, bent double and picking mushrooms from beneath a tree.

She looked up as they approached and nodded to them.

“The Laird honors us with his presence, God bless ye, sir,” she said, bowing to him.

“Good woman, ye daenae need to bow to me. How did ye know I was the Laird, have I met with ye before?” he asked, and the old woman smiled.

“There is nay mistakin’ ye for the Laird and this yer fair and beautiful wife. May there be much blessin’ for ye to come in this life and the next,” she said.

“We had hoped to gather mushrooms to take back to Kirklinton, but ye need them more than we,” Rory said, nodding to her and smiling.

“There are plenty of mushrooms for us all, sir. The forests are yers, and ye have kept the peace here these many years past. The earth can spare mushrooms for us both, here take a few of mine,” she said, offering the ones she had picked.

“Good woman, nay, ye are too kind,” Rory said, but the old woman insisted, thrusting them into Margaret’s hands and fixing her with a smile.

“Aye, and ye have been the blessin’ that he sought, that which he knew nae,” she said, as though talking to herself.

“What dae ye mean?” Rory asked, but the old woman only smiled and tutted to herself.

“Only the words of an old woman who has seen much of life, sir. But I know that now yer life will be blessed, I am certain of that,” she said, and she waved them off, as she made her way from the forest clearing, waving to them as she went and beginning to sing.

“What a curious creature,” Margaret said, looking down at the mushrooms and back at Rory, who shrugged his shoulders.

“The woodlands are full of such strange people,” he replied, taking her by the hand as they walked together out onto the moorlands.

The afternoon sun had turned the heathers a rich and beautiful golden purple, the moorlands stretching out in front towards rolling hills in the north. Margaret breathed in the fresh scent of the breeze, which seemed sweet and invigorating after the closeness of the forest.

Together, they walked towards Kirklinton, eager to return and see Evie and Hamish. The sun was at its afternoon point, and tonight there would be a feast to celebrate their reunion, for it had been a month since last they had seen one another.

As they approached the turning to Lochrutton, they paused by the graves of Isla and Fraser, now buried together after Isla’s death some ten years previously. Margaret stopped and picked a posy of flowers from the wayside; the two of them entered the graveyard, laying the flowers and pausing for a moment to pay their respects.

“I often wonder what my father would make of these long years of peace,” Rory said, sighing and looking out across the moorlands.

“He would be proud of his son for all that ye have done to make that peace work,” Margaret said, slipping her arm through Rory’s.

“He would be astonished to think that the Musgraves have given us nay trouble in all these years,” Rory replied, shaking his head.

They set off along the track towards Kirklinton, the castle appearing particularly beautiful in the late afternoon sun with the banner of the Elliotts fluttering above.

“On days like this, I almost like the old place, though I should still prefer to reside in Armstrong castle,” Rory said, as they came to the gates.

“And you would be miserable there, for you would never receive a single visitor or hear anything from anyone,” Margaret said, smiling at Rory, who laughed.

“Aye, perhaps ye are right,” he said, as they came into the courtyard.

It seemed that their guests had beaten them, their horses just being stabled. A moment later, there came a call from the steps of the keep, and Evie and Hamish hurried down to greet them.

“We thought we were late in arrivin’, but it seems our hosts lingered in the forest,” Evie said, embracing Margaret and Rory in turn.

“Someone wanted me to swim with him,” Margaret said, shaking her head.

“Ah, well, we called in on Caitlin too, she is well,” Evie said, and Margaret smiled.

“She is always a good friend to us, we see her often with Hector as they drive their sheep upon the moorlands,” Rory said, as the four of them made their way inside.

“Tis’ good to be back at Kirklinton. I may nae have called it home these many years past, but it shall always be so,” Evie said, as they entered the great hall, with its long tables and the Elliott coat of arms hanging proudly upon the wall.

“The scene of much happiness and heartache, that is what I always say,” Rory said, settling himself down by the hearth.

Margaret sat next to him, and Evie and Hamish sat opposite.

“What of Grant and Ailsa, will we see them while we are here?” Evie asked, and Margaret smiled.

“Elsa is away visitin’ with Owen at Lanercost, she loves to see her uncle, or so she says,” Margaret replied, shaking her head.

“And Grant?” Hamish asked.

“Away down in Lochrutton today, though he shall be back by nightfall. Tis’ strange how they call upon him when someone is sick, he is just like our father,” Rory said, and Evie smiled.

“Those healin’ hands,” she said, and the others nodded.

“And what of your children? Though they can hardly be called children any longer, just like our own. How quickly they grow up. It is twenty years this month that we were married,” Margaret said, glancing at Rory, who smiled.

“Bryce is headstrong like his father, Hanna is a gentle creature, shy and timid. She spends most of her time upon the moorlands, it would dae her good to see her cousins, she and Elsa have always got on,” Evie said, and Margaret nodded.

“But enough of the youngsters, for now, we should drink a toast to these past twenty years,” Hamish said, and Evie nodded.

“Aye, a toast to the Laird of the Elliotts and to his wife, a true Elliott if ever there was one,” she said, as Rory called to the servants for whiskey to be brought.

“I have not felt like an English woman in many a year, I have not set foot below the border in twenty years, though my accent continues to betray me,” Margaret said, as glasses were handed around.

“An honorary Scot but a true Elliott,” Evie said, raising her glass.

“Then let the toast be to peace and prosperity, to thanksgiving and to good health and long life,” Hamish said.

“And for ye and yer clan too, Hamish,” Rory said, raising his glass.

“Two names and yet one true family and friendship. For twenty years, we have enjoyed that peace, and may it last another twenty years, for so long as we have breath, we shall make it so,” Hamish replied, and they clinked their glasses together and drank.

“And let us toast the happiness of marriage too,” Evie said, smiling at Margaret.

“And the strength of us women for putting up with these two for so long,” Margaret said, laughing as she turned to Rory and smiled.

“I shall remember that lass, and I shall remember to be less merciful the next time ye beg me nae to throw ye in the pool,” he said, and leaning forward he kissed her, as they toasted the happiness of marriage and the hope of a future yet to come.


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If you want to know what lies ahead in our story, you may want to get the sequel…

Owen Elliott’s attempt to save Charlotte from danger results in despair and anguish. But when their paths cross again years later, neither knows who is standing in front of them. And yet love always comes unexpectedly and takes refuge in their hearts, ignoring that one should never fall for the enemy… At least if you don’t want to have your heart broken once again.

A Highlander Bound by Oath

Temptation in the Highlands – Extended Epilogue

Julia and Calum walked together by the shore of the Sound, Julia’s arm in Calum’s. Uncle Andrew was gone now, and both Julia and Calum had settled into a comfortable life together, free from his poisonous presence.

Julia sighed with contentment and caught Calum’s eye. “I have never been happier, Calum. I hope you know that.”

Calum smiled. “Aye, lass, that I do, but I’m still glad tae hear it from ye now and again. Are ye sad that Charlotte will be leaving us soon?”

Julia nodded. “Yes, I will miss her terribly. She has been like a balm to help me heal from all those years under Uncle Andrew’s thumb. But I am glad she won’t be far. Of course, we must soon go to London for the trial.”

They had received word from the lawyers that their presence would be required in a few weeks. Calum said, “Aye, but we willnae be in London long, Julia. I think ‘twill be a quick and easy trial. There are many witnesses against yer Uncle, I am sure.”

Julia sighed. “Yes, you’re right. I just hate to leave Charlotte alone. She has been to Scotland before, but now it will be for a much longer time, and there will be hardly any other women at the barracks. Unless there is another General coming with his wife.”

Calum winked. “I’m sure Angus will take care of the lass. He’s had his hands full with her already.”

Julia turned to him, a smile on her face. “Yes, what is going on? I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it, and she avoids the subject as well. He’s always telling her what to do or fighting against her ideas. It seems that stoic Angus is back. It’s quite entertaining. But, I thought they’d get on well, and they’re always arguing. Or Charlotte’s yelling at him, and he looks solemn and grim.”

Calum laughed. “Angus has said naught tae me except tae complain about her strong-headedness. He feels ‘tis his duty or something tae watch over her as a guest of yorn. But there is more than meets the eye. Of that, I am sure. I’ve not seen my brother get so angry about anything for years. I think she’s getting tae him.”

Julia put her arms about Calum’s neck and placed a kiss on his cheek. “I hope so. How lovely would it be if they were tae fall in love?”

Calum said, “I doubt that, but we shall see. I think other matters are on my mind at the moment if we could forget my brother and Charlotte.” He leaned down to kiss her, but Julia pulled away and pointed away towards the hill.

“Look! Angus and Charlotte on the hill together.” She laughed, “It appears she is once again giving him a piece of her mind.”

Calum sighed with disappointment at the interruption of his amorous thoughts. But he couldn’t help but chuckle at the verbal beating Angus was getting. “That cousin of yorn has quite the tongue.”

Julia smiled. “That she does. And I admire her for it. Keeps a man on his toes.”  She looked at Calum with a lifted eyebrow.

“I have done naught. Dinnae turn her acid tongue ontae me!”

Julia laughed and kissed Calum once again, feeling like life could not get any better.


Charlotte Andrews was frustrated. She was used to getting her way, her father was like putty in her hands, and now someone kept fighting against her with his superior air and grim attitude: Angus MacLean. Ever since she had struggled to keep Uncle Andrew from the brink of death, he had fought her every suggestion and defied her instruction.

He was a man who did not like to be bossed around, but if she was the smarter one in certain areas, like medicine, then why would he not oblige? She was still frustrated about the time when Angus and Calum went without her to Fort William, not allowing her to take part in the plan to save Julia from harm.

It had been my idea, and they did it without me. Men, always thinking that they are better than women in every area. Who needs them? 

Even though it had been explained that it was for the sake of her safety, she still couldn’t help be angry. But what annoyed her, even more, was the way that Angus looked at her whenever they were all together. He was stiff, stoic, and grim in his body language, but he always watched her, and his eyes told a different story.

It made Charlotte frustrated that she found him so handsome, the most handsome man she had ever met, and she had met quite a few at the balls in London. Most men were usually falling over themselves to speak to her.

But why should she even care about what he thought? It wasn’t as if she was going to marry him. Charlotte Andrews, a well-known lady in the high society of London, marry a Highlander? Albeit a ruggedly handsome, magnificently well-formed one?

She had stayed on the Isle of Mull to assist in Uncle Andrew’s health and would soon be returning to her father, who had just been transferred to Fort William to be General there. He helped in John Campbell’s case, and at her urging, and his conscience, he freed the man, wrote a judgment letter for General Whiteman, and packed Andrew away to London for his trial.

She wanted to savor every last minute of her time at Duart Castle before she had to go and live at the barracks. She hated to leave Julia just as they’d been so gloriously reunited, but it would be unseemly if she continued to stay there. She enjoyed the freshness of the beautiful isle, and the walk allowed her time to breathe and think all by herself, without someone getting in the way.

She decided to climb the nearby hills to get a better view of the water. “Bloody skirts,” she yelled to the air as she struggled to climb freely, attempting to avoid tripping. The wind was no help either, as the higher she climbed, the stronger it blew so that she felt like she was almost falling backward.

She took another step as she crested the hill, and cried out, “Oh!” as a giant gust of wind pushed her backward, and she began to fall. But then, strong hands grabbed her around the waist and held her steady.

“Ye all right, lass?” she heard over the gust of wind. The voice was all too familiar, and she looked down to see the workworn hands holding her waist tightly. The feeling gave her too much pleasure, and she hurriedly pushed them away and turned to face her rescuer.

“I am very well; thank you. I would have been just fine. ‘Tis simply the wind. I am perfectly able to climb a hill by myself. What are you doing here? Come to instruct me in the ways of climbing?”

Angus was looking up at her angry expression, red curls swirling about her face, their strands whipping across her pink lips.

Charlotte tried to stay angry and show it, but it was growing harder to do so, with Angus’ beautiful light brown eyes looking through her. She lifted her chin slightly, and Angus responded.

“‘Tis a fool’s errand tae climb in such a gale. Ye might fall tae yer death, lass.”

“There you go again, telling me what to do, and enjoying it tremendously, no doubt. There is no end to your admonishments.” She threw up her hands and nearly fell again, but Angus’s hand was there once more to catch her. She looked up and thought she saw a flicker of mirth in his eyes, but it went away just as quickly.

She huffed and began to walk down the hill, Angus following after. “I was only trying tae help the cousin of my sister-in-law from breaking her bloody neck,” he said once they reached the bottom, the noise of the strong wind softening.

Charlotte looked forward. “Your interventions are unnecessary, Mr. MacLean. I do not need any bloody assistance. I’m certain it bothers you very much to put yourself out in this way.”

“Does yer cousin know ye swear like an angry Highlander fighting a boar?”

Charlotte tried not to smile at such a line. She wouldn’t let him see that she thought him funny.  “Yes, she knows very well. I care nothing about what society thinks of me. I shall do as I please.”

Angus walked faster and moved around so that he could face her. Seeing him in her way, Charlotte put her hands on her hips and stopped. He was so tall that she had to crane her neck to look into his eyes when standing on flat ground.

Angus continued, his jaw clenched. “Aye, I know ye will do as ye like. Ye often do. But dinnae get yerself killed in the process, or Lady MacLean will have my head.” He then turned his back to her and walked towards the castle.

Charlotte yelled back. “Are you no longer my protector then? Good riddance!”

She watched his back for a moment and then turned the opposite way. “Infuriating man! How dare he? No English gentleman would speak to a lady in such a way!”

Good thing she was leaving soon so that she could escape Angus MacLean as quickly as possible.



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Phantom of the Highlands – Extended Epilogue


Three Years Later…

Fin was off his horse before it even stopped running. He ran across the bailey, his boots thundering hard across the wooden bridge that connected the yard to the keep proper. He dashed into the entry hall and stopped, looking around. At one end of the building was a large hearth, the fire blazing inside of it, cutting the chill in the air.

A young man who served as Col’s squire approached him, his face ashen, his expression grave. He stopped, and Fin was sure he could see tears standing in the boy’s eyes.

“What has happened?” Fin asked.

“The… the Lady has been poisoned,” the young man said.

Fin’s eyes widened, and his belly churned. He had gotten word while out hunting that something had happened, and he needed to return to Westmarch Hall immediately. He had ridden with all haste to get back to the keep, fear and anxiety fueling his flight.

“And Baron Lennox?” Fin asked.

“Is fine,” he said. “He is with Lady Gillian now.”

“Take me.”

The page turned and led Fin down a corridor, their footsteps thumping hard on the stone. They turned into a passage that ended at the door to Col’s bedchamber. The page gave him a slight bow and peeled off, leaving Fin on his own. He headed for the door but was intercepted by a voice echoing off the walls behind him.

“Captain Begbie, please wait.”

Fin turned and found Col’s physician, an older man of wide girth named Dougal, approaching him. He waited for the physician to catch up to him. The older man stopped, his face flushed, his breath quickened.

“What happened?” Fin asked.

“Somebody slipped some poison intae the Lady’s wine,” Dougal said. “But we ken it was meant for the Baron.”

“Is she alright?”

Dougal nodded. “She will be,” he replied. “Thank God she didnae ingest much. Right now, she just needs some rest.”

“Thank God,” Fin said, a wave of relief washing through him. “I need tae see Col, and I need tae see him now.”

“He’s with the Lady right now, and she shouldnae be disturbed,” Dougal said. “I’ll tell him to find ye.”

Fin grumbled under his breath. As the Captain of Col’s personal guard, it would fall to him to find the poisoner. Which meant he needed to gather as many pertinent details as quickly as he could. For all they knew, the poisoner was on horseback and galloping away from Westmarch as they stood there dickering. Every moment they lost could be another mile the poisoner got further away.

“Tell him tae find me now, Dougal,” Fin ordered. “I need tae see him right away.”

“Aye, Captain Begbie.”

As the physician hustled for the door, Fin watched him go for a moment, disbelief over this turn of events washing through him. With a low growl, he turned and walked away down the corridor, his heavy footfalls echoing all around him. He found a pair of soldiers on duty and ordered them to stand watch outside Gillian’s door. Nobody in and nobody out, save for the physician.

Feeling helpless and powerless, Fin stalked the halls of the keep. After their reunion and reconciliation, Gillian’s father had a castle built for them on the border of the Western March – halfway between York and his home village. Col had told him it was meant as a symbolic gesture, a blending of their two people.

And shortly after they had moved in, Col had appointed him to head up his personal guard. At first, Fin had thought it was a joke. But Col assured him it was not. He’d told Fin that he believed in him and trusted him with not just his life, but the lives of his family as well. It had meant the world to Fin, and he liked to think that he had grown into his position. His men were loyal and would follow him to the gates of Hell if he asked. And Fin knew that every one of them would lay down their life to protect Col and his family.

Fin also knew there were some in the Highlands that resented Col for his alliance with the English, and saw Westmarch Hall as a symbol of betrayal. They saw it as a selling out of the Scottish people in favor of Col’s personal enrichment and argued their alliance came at the cost of their freedom. It wasn’t true as far as Fin was concerned. He was as sensitive to the Scottish independence as anybody, but Col made sure his people were well taken care of, and his people never went without. And yet, his alliance and bond with the Duke angered them.

Fin should have gone to check on the children. He’d been so worried about Gillian that he had not stopped to think. Col and Gillian had two children – James the firstborn, and their daughter Freya, who was two years old. But Fin knew they would be with Jane as they often were. Given the circumstances, it was probably the best and safest place for them. Jane cared for them like they were her own, and in Fin’s state, he would probably just scare them anyway.

Fin found his way up to the ramparts on the outer curtain wall of the castle. It was where he went when he needed to think and clear his head. The night was darker than pitch, and the torches flickered, casting eerie shadows that writhed upon the stone parapets. The clouds overhead were thick and dark, and a drizzle had started to fall over the land. It suited Fin’s mood perfectly.

Fin needed to find the person responsible for poisoning Gillian. But until he could talk to Col, he felt utterly powerless. Fin was a man who did not like feeling out of control of a situation. And this was a situation he had zero control over, which left him feeling awkward and frustrated. All he could do was keep pacing the ramparts, trying to calm himself down, and gather his wits about him. He knew he was going to need all of them.

Fin stopped and looked out into the vast sea of darkness before him – the Western March. As the Captain of Col’s household guard, it had been his job, his responsibility to keep Col, Gillian, and their children safe. It was his duty to protect them and make sure nothing happened to them. And he had failed in his duty. Gillian lay in bed, possibly dying of poison, while he’d been out hunting. His failure could have cost an old friend, and his Lady, their lives.

Fin let those thoughts trail away, knowing the rabbit hole they would inevitably lead down. It was a warren of self-doubt and personal recriminations. And right now, he needed to keep a clear head. He could not afford to pity himself. He needed to find out who tried to poison Gillian. And he needed to kill that person.


He turned to see Col striding up to him. His expression was grim, and his face pinched, clouded with a whole host of dark, negative emotions. But more than anything, his cousin and oldest friend looked scared. Nothing scared Col and seeing the fear on his face, left Fin feeling rattled right down to his core.

“How is she?” Fin asked.

“Dougal says she’ll be fine,” he replied. “Says that with some rest, she’ll be right as rain soon.”

“That’s good. That’s real good,” Fin said. “Dae ye have a suspect yet?”

Col shook his head. “No. But there is no shortage of people who want me dead – Scottish and English alike.”

“Aye, that’s true.”

Col flashed him a wry grin. “Yer an arse.”

“Aye. But ye love me anyway.”

“Aye. I suppose I do,” Col said. “Now, what are we gonna dae about this?”

Fin sighed. He’d been pondering the answer to that question since he found out Gillian had fallen ill. But he was no closer to an answer now than he was then.

“I need ye tae look into this for me, Fin,” Col said.

“Of course I will,” Fin replied. “Dae ye even need tae ask?”

Col nodded. “Good. I want ye tae turn over every rock ye need tae turn over. But find the man who did this. The man who tried to murder me wife.

“Every rock. Aye,” he said. “I will nae let ye down.”

“I know ye won’t.”

Col clapped him on the shoulder and gave him a nod. He turned and walked away quickly, no doubt going back to Gillian’s bedside. Fin was left standing alone on the ramparts. His mind and heart churned wildly, and his entire body stirred with anger. That somebody came into the keep he was charged with protecting and nearly killed Gillian – tried to kill Col – filled him with a deep, abiding rage.

Fin vowed silently to himself that he would find the man responsible and would take his life. More than that, Fin knew he would enjoy it. It was merely a matter of finding the person who did this foul deed.

And when he did, they would spend the rest of their short life paying for it.


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Highlander’s Gypsy Lass – Extended Epilogue


Rosalie brushed sweat from her forehead with her dusty forearm. Blinding and hot, the sun-baked the earth from a clear, blue sky. She leaned up against the well, taking a break from her daily laundry. Her hands caressed the swell of her belly, extending out from her body. A smile crossed her face as her unborn child kicked beneath her hand.

In the distance, a great cloud of dust rose, swallowing the road and pastures on the horizon. Rosalie stood, holding her lower back to calm the pain surging through her. The hairs on her neck prickled as she watched the unknown rider storm towards her.

“Hamish! Thomasina!”

Rosalie cringed, wishing she was able to move faster than a hobble in her late-term. The twins barreled from around the corner of the cottage, followed by a massive sheepdog. Mud stained the hem of her little girl’s dress and streaked both the children’s faces. The stain was Rosalie’s least concern at the moment.

“Get in the cottage.”

“But Ma!” Hamish smacked the ground with the stick he held.

“NOW. Both of you.” She groaned, stabilizing herself on the well as light-headedness made her vision swim.

The two children jumped at their mother’s command. It was rare she raised her voice. They ran into the cottage. Hamish peeked out at her and the oncoming rider before slamming the door.

Rosalie looked around her. If the rider was a foe, there was little to defend herself. Declan wouldn’t return from bringing in the harvest until after dark. Even Evelyn was off gathering herbs in the mountainside before the weather turned for the year. She was alone.

As the rider approached, Rosalie’s fear faded into concern. Blonde hair flew out around the rider. The woman was weak, barely keeping hold of the reins of the horse. Her skirts were stained up to the knee with mud. The blond hair was tangled, small sticks, and bits of brush protruding from the tangled curls.

“Gale?” Rosalie cried. She tried to run, her feet staggering with each step and her arms cradling her precious cargo. “God’s teeth.”

As soon as Rosalie reached her, the young woman slumped in the saddle. Her horse whipped its mane and pawed at the dry earth. Rosalie took hold of the beast, trying to calm the startled, run-down creature. Sweat streaked its dusty hide.

Gale’s lips were dry, cracked, and pale with dehydration. She couldn’t hold herself up, leaning on the horse’s neck for support. Scratches from rogue branches scraped her skin and clothes.

“Rosalie…” Her blue eyes rolled open, dazed with fatigue.

Rosalie led the horse to a trough before attempting to help Gale down. Her hands reached up to help the girl. “Ye got to help me, Gale.”

Gale mustered up her strength to push herself from the saddle. Rosalie tried to catch her, but in her current state, moving alone was awkward and arduous. The woman slipped to the ground, and all Rosalie could do was slow her fall and make sure her head did not hit the earth.

“HAMISH!” The small boy opened the door, waiting for release from the cottage, “Get me water. Have Thomasina cut some bread.”

Hamish, only three minutes older than his sister, took pride in his position as an older brother. He barked an order at Thomasina, still waiting inside the home, and ran as fast as he could to fetch water for his mother and the strange woman.

Gale was still conscious. She tried to stand, teetering from exhaustion and thirst.

“Sit down,” Rosalie commanded, trying her best to brace the woman.

“I’m sorry,” Gale’s voice cracked.

“Shh, not now.”

The two women took their time walking over to the stone steps in front of the cottage. Rosalie took the dipper from Hamish and lifted it to Gale’s lips. The girl sipped at first before draining the water with greedy gulps, and Rosalie handed it back to Hamish for more.

“I didn’t know where else tae turn.”

Rosalie brushed her fingers over the woman’s hair, trying to calm her. The water seemed to reawaken a manic fright within her. Gale’s eyes were wide, her body trembled. She tried to stand, but Rosalie grabbed her wrist and pulled for her to sit back down.

“I want ye tae sit fer a moment.”

Thomasina poked her head out. She was shier than her brother, trying to hide most of her body behind the door. Rosalie reached her hand out and found a hunk of loaf placed in her open palm before Thomasina disappeared back into the cottage.

“Can ye eat?”

Gale nodded, “Aye, thank ye.”

They sat in silence while Gale nibbled at the bread and recovered her strength. Rosalie wouldn’t let her speak until after she rested. Thomasina and Hamish crowded her as she tried to get Gale changed into clean clothes and into bed.

“What’s wrong with her, Mama?” Thomasina whispered.

Rosalie shook her head, “I don’t know, but she traveled a long way to get ‘ere.”

Hamish hovered over the sleeping Gale, looking at her as if she were some strange creature. Rosalie tried to pull him back. “Who is she?”

“An old friend. You two, get yer chores done an’ let her sleep, ye hear? An’ Thomasina, what did ye do tae yer gown?”

Thomasina blushed and looked down at her stained skirts. “It weren’t my fault, Ma. It’s all Hamish’s doin’. I swear tae ye.”

“I don’t care whose fault it is; get changed an’ go scrub it out ‘fore it sets in. I worked hard on that dress for ye.”

The twins sped off to work. Hamish had the evening pleasure of finding twigs and kindling around the edges of the property. Thomasina would work on her dress until her hands were raw from the cold water.

Declan returned to his home in good spirits. “Rosie! We brought in the harvest early!” He placed his cap on a small peg protruding from the interior of the door. Upon seeing Gale passed out on the twins’ modest bed, Declan stopped in his tracks.

Rosalie wiped her hands on her apron. A small plume of flour-dusted the air. She smiled at Declan. “That’s great news.”

He looked at her, confused. “Is this?” He pointed at the sleeping woman. “Is tha’…” he leaned in closer, “Gale?

Rosalie nodded, a small grin still flickering at the corners of his mouth. The smile faded when she noticed how rigid Declan’s body became. His defenses flared up, and his hand instinctively fell to his sword as he looked around.

“It’s jus’ her.”

“Are ye sure?” His brow darkened, and Rosalie knew his mind filled with fears for his family. No matter the years passed, he never could forget or forgive himself for letting Rosalie stay with the dreadful family that beat and scarred her.

Rosalie pursed her lips into a grim line and nodded. She was reasonably sure. She looked down at Gale, considering—she was fleeing from someone or something when she rode upon the settlement. Rosalie poured a cup of hot bone broth and knelt beside Gale.

Rubbing her back, she roused the young woman. “Gale, Gale,” she whispered. The young woman startled awake, kicking out and shuddering, letting out a soft cry as she looked around the room and remembered where she was, “Shh, it’s alright. Yer safe now.” Rosalie ran her hands over the distressed blonde head.

As if struck, Gale’s eyes welled up with tears and panic. She sat up. Rosalie tried to restrain her, afraid she might cause herself to faint with the sudden movement. Hamish and Thomasina were back inside, watching curiously from the corner of the room.

“What’s wrong with her, Mama?” Thomasina played with her skirts.

“She’s had a long journey, is all.”

Declan seemed less accepting of the situation. Rosalie eyed him and could see his skin turning red with marks of anger. She knew her husband well. The last thing he wanted was to harbor a fugitive that might land his family in danger.

“Drink this.”

Gale took the glass and sipped at it nervously. The warm liquid seemed to help calm her.

“Declan’s here, Gale, an’ we need tae know what’s happenin’?”

Gale crumpled over the cup and started to cry. Her bright blue eyes shone out like icy gems, contrasting against the reds and pinks of her irritated face. She tried to calm herself with deep breaths, her hands shaking as she forced down more of the broth.

“Pa is dead,” she shook her head, “an’,” she sniffed, “an’ Ma, I think she means tae kill me.” Rosalie and Declan looked at one another. Gale’s hand snapped out, grabbing Rosalie’s. Her eyes filled with desperation. “Please, I don’t know where else tae go. You mus’ help me, Rosalie. There’s no one else I know who can.”

Declan grabbed the sleeve of Rosalie’s dress in a gentle attempt to pull her into a private conversation. Rosalie shrugged him off, intent on hearing Gale through before making a decision. “Calm down, Gale. Start from the beginnin’ an’ tell us what happened.”

Gale took a deep breath. “Ma kept gettin’ worse after ye left. She’d go through these states…” Gale’s face twisted, as if pained by the memory, “…where she didn’t even recognize us. Sometimes though’ we were different people—she were different. This man came one day, said he were a doctor—that he could help her. Ma seemed to get better, but these delusions…” she gestured to the air, rolling her eyes up, “It were as if somethin’ possessed her when she’d have ‘em.” Gale struggled not to start crying again. “Her an’ this doctor were close. They got tae a point where they were inseparable. Pa was gettin’ uncomfortable with it, said he weren’t helpin’ her anymore, an’ when he finally asked the doctor tae leave, that’s when, when—” sobs wracked her body.

Rosalie rubbed her back. Declan stared at her, still standing with his hand on the hilt of his sword. Gale calmed herself enough to continue, the pitch of her voice squeaking with emotion, “The doctor said it were his heart.” Gale shook her head. “Within a week, Ma started actin’ like it were her Keep an’ talkin’ about the doctor as if they were already married. One o’ the workers made a comment abou’ how she weren’t the heir, but I was. Ma and the doctor were in an outrage, fightin’ all evening. That night, he came into my room…” Gale’s body shook as she recalled the memory. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. Her words spurted as venom pulled from a wound. “He tried tae lay with me. He tried to convince me to marry him, that it was I he loved, not my mother, an’ when I refused him, he… he…” she started crying again. When she caught her breath, she finished, “I managed tae getaway, an’ this was the only place I knew I’d be safe from ‘em.”

Declan paced around the room, looking out of the small shutters for signs of danger. “Do ye ken if ye were followed?” Gale shook her head in negation. “Rosie, outside.”

Rosalie smiled at Gale. “Jus’ give us a moment.” She turned to her children, “Hamish, stoke the fire. Thomasina, keep our guest comfortable.”

“Yes, Mama.”

The evening was warm and sweet with blossoms in full bloom as Declan paced the front of the cottage. “I don’ like it, Rosie,” he said.

“She saved us—both o’ us, Declan.” Rosalie reached out to him.

He nodded. “I ken.” He took a deep breath, “If they seek her out, it willnae take long tae fin’ her with us.”

“We cannae jus’ turn her away!” Rosalie’s temper flared. She gestured angrily towards the house.

“That’s not what I’m sayin’.”

Rosalie tried to calm her defensive stance; her arms crossed over one another. Declan stepped towards her, cradling her face in his hand. Her posture softened. She knew he was just worried about her and the bairns. Rosalie didn’t need to worry about him doing the right thing.

“Wha’ about the Brodys? Angus would help us,” Rosalie’s saw Declan’s eyes light up as he thought, running scenarios through his head, crunching numbers and deciding which course of action might be best for him and his people.

“The chief might no’ take kindly to a refugee in his parts. Her mother has a right to her.”

“She’s an adult!” Rosalie gasped.

“Aye, but she’s no’ wed yet, an’ her mother will still have a say unless we can prove these accusations.” Declan rubbed Rosalie’s arms as he thought, “I think it best we keep all this a secret. We’ll say she’s a cousin o’ yers.”

Rosalie laughed. “No one around here’ll believe it.” Each year, the travelers stayed with them for a few weeks. The clan knew Magda and Anna. The past seemed long ago. Enoch was no longer a problem; following Alexander’s orders, he’d traveled to live with his father

“Aye, but…” Declan looked at her. His gaze was calming and reassuring. She trusted him and his input with all of her heart. “The Brody’s willnae ken that. We can trust Angus, but no one else.”

Rosalie nodded and bit her lip. She looked back towards the cottage. “My cousin,” she whispered. “It should work. An’ long term?”

Declan shook his head, “It’s no’ our problem, Rosie. I ken ye want tae help, an’ I love that about you,” he brushed her hair back and gave her a weak yet genuine smile, “but we can only help in this way this time. We’ll get her into hidin’, an’ then she’s on our own. Ye remember that family?” His fingers grazed Rosalie’s back, causing the hair on her neck to stand. “We cannot risk gettin’ our bairns involved.”

Rosalie thought for a moment before nodding. “I understand.”

Gale waited on pins and needles. She almost stood when Rosalie and Declan re-entered the cottage. Declan addressed her, “Tomorrow, I take ye west tae the clan Brody.”

“Thank ye, thank ye,” she smiled, and her eyes shone, threatening tears again.

Rosalie grinned, thinking of all the small cruel things Gale had done in the past, and wondering if this was God’s way of teaching the woman humility. “Thomasina, Hamish!” The children trained their full attention to their mother. “Meet your cousin.” A mischievous smile, brimming on laughter, crossed Rosalie’s mouth as she thought of names. “Mairi.”

Bitter?” Gale scoffed, her usual pretentious nature returning in a flash, “No, it willnae do. I,” she touched her fingers to her chest, “am not bitter.”

“Mairi is a pretty name,” Thomasina said, cocking her head to one side and eliciting a laugh from Rosalie.

That night, the family slept. Declan and Rosalie whispered to one another in the dark, dreading parting from each other even for a moment. When morning came, Declan wasted no time. They were well on their road by midday. Their journey would have passed in silence, Declan not wanting to engage with the woman more than necessary, if it were not for Gale’s constant chattering. Gale’s only words were complaints and whines about the ride, the heat, the dirt, and everything else under the sun.

By the time they reached the Brody keep, Declan was more than ready to part from her presence. He rode straight for Angus’s house and was surprised to see a man taller than himself chucking wood outside of the small cottage. Declan looked up at the warrior’s build with slight awe, feeling small in his presence.

“May I help ye?” The man let the ax fall with a thunk into the wooden block.

“I’m lookin’ fer Angus.”

“Declan?” Angus popped his head out of the cottage. His hair was thinning so that Declan could see the top of his head shining through the patches of wispy gray. “It is you! Aggie!”

Angus hobbled towards Declan, a slight limp in the leg bitten so many years before. “Look at ye,” the old warrior smiled, “Yer gettin’ old.”

“I’m gettin’ old?” Declan was amused. “Have ye seen yer head lately?”

Angus grinned, running his hand cautiously over his aging scalp. “An’ Rosalie?”

“She’s fine—with the bairns, an’ swollen with a third on the way too!”

“Congratulations.” Angus smacked Declan on the shoulder. “This is me nephew on Aggie’s side, Errol.” The old man bounced on his heels with evident pride at the size of the man. He nodded at Declan, “An’ yer friend, there?” Angus raised his brows.

“Rosalie’s cousin Mairi,” Declan did not even look at her, pushed to the limits of his patience. “Can we talk in private? I need yer help, Angus.”

Angus looked surprised. He looked between the girl and Declan before nodding and gesturing for Declan to walk with him. The two disappeared, leaving Errol and Gale alone.

Errol walked towards the young blonde woman and reached up to help her down. The moment he touched her waist, Gale shrieked at the top of her lungs. Errol started back.

“Keep yer filthy hands off me! How dare you touch me?” Her nostrils flared wide with indignation.

Errol smiled, watching Gale struggle off the horse as her foot caught, and the opposite leg swung back and forth as if trying to touch the ground so far below. “My apologies,” he laughed. “Yer right. Ye don’t need any help, d’ye?” Laughing, he picked up his ax and returned to work, leaving Gale to her own devices.


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