In Bed with a Highland Traitor – Extended Epilogue
Five years later
“It’s hard tae believe that it was seven years ago that yer father and brother were killed,” Edmund’s mother said as she stared in front of them.
Edmund stood at the gravesite of his beloved family. His mother and wife stood next to him.
“Aye, it looks well. The flowers have grown just as I hoped they would. Father would be happy about the way his gravesite looks, up on a hill with a soft breeze blowing. It is a beautiful summer’s eve.”
“Aye,” Doreen agreed, leaning against his shoulder. Edmund kissed the top of her head, thanking God once again that he had brought Doreen Rose into his life. He couldn’t imagine a day without her, and the last five years as heads of the MacVarish Clan had been bliss itself.
“Well, shall we go inside and enjoy the feast in their memory? The whole clan will be coming tae celebrate, and Murdoch has been busy helping tae prepare,” Edmund smiled.
Two years before, Murdoch had become his new father-in-law. While it was a surprise in many ways, Edmund was happy that his mother had found happiness again. And he’d realized that there was always something about how Murdoch looked at his mother. Now that he thought about it, he was surprised that he’d never noticed it. He was happy to have a whole family again.
“The poor old man. We shall go tae help him, will we nae, Doreen?” They turned to go, and Edward wrapped his arm about his wife.
“I would be happy tae, but he seemed insistent to handle things. I think he wants tae pay homage tae yer family in this way. Each year I try tae offer me assistance, but he turns me away, telling me that I must enjoy meself.” Doreen shook her head, laughing, and his mother smiled.
“I think you’re right, lass. It is so very kind of him, but he does put himself under so much pressure tae pay that homage. I think he still feels guilty that he wasnae there that day. He wishes that he could have suffered as the other men had suffered.”
“Nae, nae,” Edmund replied, walking back down the long, winding, dirt path to the Castle. “I wish he wouldnae feel so. I have tried tae talk about it with him many times. He did what he needed tae do, staying at the castle, protecting it, and protecting the young soldiers who were far too inexperienced tae fight in full battle.”
Doreen grew quiet, and he knew that she was thinking about how her family and Lord Johnson had played a role in all this. “Peace is now ours, and it is time tae put all guilt behind us,” he whispered, and she nodded.
“Aye, true enough,” his mother said. “Ye are kind tae say so.” She squeezed his arm.
“I am a blessed mother tae have such a son, and I hope that ye two will have children who are just as wonderful.”
MacVarish Castle was in the distance, and when Edmund looked up at it, he took a breath. Even though he’d now been laird for five years in body, it still felt like yesterday when he’d returned from prison with his few men who’d survived, and he’d planned his revenge. He could never get enough of looking at his home and feeling the pride that came with it. This was his land to rule and his people to help. Doreen was now a part of that, and together they had begun to make a new life without any darkness surrounding them.
Things were in a slight frenzy back in the castle as servants moved through the rooms and the hall, setting up tables, restocking hearths, sweeping dusty corners, and putting flowers in vases. The scent of meat and bread in the air came from the kitchens below.
The three of them stood in the doorway to the hall, looking out over the activity. “It will be wonderful, as it is each year,” he said to his mother.
She thanked him and left to find Murdoch, who was now doubt busy instructing servants to do things just as he wanted them done.
Doreen put his hand around his waist. “I hope me father will arrive in time. He must have had some trouble for him tae be this late.” She frowned.
“Nae, I think he doesnae want tae intrude. He came this late last year. What of Oliver and Fiona? I forgot tae ask ye. Will they be joining us?”
“Aye, but nae tonight. It wasnae possible for them tae leave so early. But they will travel soon tae feast with us in a day or so.” She took his hand and squeezed it, looking up into his eyes.
His eyes moved over her familiar and bonny face. It had been five years, and yet she looked the same to him as when he first laid eyes on her through the window at Rose Castle. She was still beautiful, fierce and full of a fire that was never quenched.
“How do ye feel about this? Celebrating yer father and brother and all the men who lost their lives year after year? I ken that ye smile and laugh and enjoy yerself, but I want ye tae be honest with me.” She turned her head to the side and waited.
It was a wonderful thing about marriage. He felt finally that he had someone with whom he could bare his soul. Even though he’d been brought up to fight and to protect his clan, Doreen had encouraged him to be more honest about his feelings.
“I am well, me love,” he said, chucking a finger under her chin. “It gets easier with each passing year, and I think it gives me the chance tae let out me grief just a little bit more. I want tae keep honoring them and keep their memory in people’s minds. I think it would be far worse tae do nothing and let people forget about them and what they meant tae our lives.”
She nodded and took his hand up to her mouth, kissing it. “Ye are a wonderful husband, ye ken?” Slowly, she took his hand and put it on her stomach. “And ye will make a wonderful father too.”
Edmund blinked at her for a few seconds, unsure if he’d heard her correctly. “Ye mean…?” he said in a low voice, afraid to get his hopes up only to have them be dashed again. There had been some trouble for Doreen to conceive, but now all his hopes were being realized.
“Aye,” she said, nodding with a bright smile.
“Thank God!” he cried, and he lifted her and spun her around, laughing as he did.
She shrieked with laughter, too, catching the attention of those in the room. He kissed her soundly on the mouth when he lowered her down , and the servants turned away. They were used to the laird and lady’s fervent displays of affection.
He cradled her face in his hands, and he saw tears in her bright, green eyes. “A child at long last. May I announce it tonight at the feast? It will be another great honor tae me father and brother.”
“Aye, ye may. I waited until I was very certain tae tell ye so that there will likely nae be another disappointment.”
He sighed with happiness and put both hands on her belly. “I love ye, Doreen.”
“And I love ye. What another exciting adventure we have ahead of us, Laird MacVarish.”
“And one I am only too happy tae take with ye, Lady MacVarish.” They giggled like children and left to go ready themselves for the feast.
Doreen felt thoughtful once she was at the feast, surrounded by the clan members.
Sometimes, she found it difficult to be the lady of a clan. She had been a laird’s daughter and Lady Johnson, but this was different somehow. Maybe because now, she was the wife of a man she truly loved and a lady of a people she truly cared for. There was more pressure, and more people were looking to her to do the best thing.
But at the same time, it was so freeing. Doreen was her own woman, and she could do as she pleased; no one restricted her. Clan MacVarish had a healer, but she also helped with the healer’s work whenever she could, and she tried to learn more and more as the years went on so that she could gain new skills.
Edmund had begun to teach her to fight after he was finally healed from the battle with Norman five years before, and she was now well-skilled with the sword and was a fine archer. It gave her the confidence and strength she’d been seeking for so long, and even though these were times of general peace, she still felt better that she would not be left feeling helpless if another battle came to their doorstep.
And then there was Edmund. He was the perfect, loving husband she’d hoped for. He was everything she could ever have asked for from above, the complete opposite of Lord Johnson. Each day was better than the last, and now she and he were soon to have a child. She felt nervous about the announcement as she sat beside Edmund at the head table at the feast. His hand was in hers, giving her comfort before he stood up and raised his glass.
The clan in their finest dress went silent. The musicians quieted, and she turned to look at her father sitting beside her. He smiled and patted her arm. He had grown far older in the past five years, more so than expected, and she was glad that he would be there to hear the announcement of the child’s arrival.
“Clan MacVarish, ye have been through difficult times, but today is a day for celebration. We are here tae celebrate the former Laird MacVarish and his son, me brother, Robert. Lift yer glasses tae them and those brave men who lost their lives that day in the battle against the English!”
“Hear, hear!” they called, lifting their glasses in the air and then drinking to honor them.
“But there is more,” Edmund said, a bright, joyful tone in his voice. He turned to look lovingly at Doreen. “There will be another tae join this clan in a few months, another member tae join Clan MacVarish!”
The crowd cheered, and she could hear her father’s happy shout next to her.
“Congratulations, me daughter. Ye have waited a long while for this,” he said, kissing her on the cheek.
“Thank ye, Father,” she said, smiling at him and then at Edmund’s mother, who had tears in her eyes.
“Enjoy yerselves,” Edmund said. “For ye deserve it, and there is much tae be happy for this day!”
When he sat down, the music and festivity continued. He leaned closer to Doreen. “Did I do well?” he asked.
“Quite well,” she said, touching her hand lovingly to his cheek. “Ye have made everyone so happy.”
“And ye have made me happy, as ye always do,” he answered, pulling her hand from his cheek to place a kiss on her palm.
Two hours later, Edmund and Doreen stole away to the castle’s battlements once they’d had enough of the cheer and frivolity. She wore a woolen tartan to keep out the slight chill, and Edmund walked alongside her. To replace the secret stargazing place she would miss at Rose Castle, Edmund had built them one of their own, and so now, no guards could see them as they took a little stroll in their secret spot.
He looked up. “Beautiful night,” he said.
“Aye, always a beautiful night when I am here with you.”
He pulled her close as he leaned against the balustrade. She could feel the heat in his body and knew what he wanted. Wrapping her arms about him, her tartan fell to the ground. She kissed him, and he kissed her back, their passion coming to a frenzy in mere seconds.
“I want ye, me lass,” he said in her ear as he kissed down her neck. “I have been waiting tae steal away from the party so that we could be together. But may I make love tae ye here.”
“Aye,” she said breathless, pulling him back against the taller wall and began to pull up her skirts. “Here and now.”
He grinned. “I can never get tired of this, Doreen. Ye wanting me as much as I want ye.” He paused and frowned. “I willnae hurt the baby?”
“Trust me as a healer, Edmund,” she said. “Ye will nae hurt the baby.”
He untied his trousers and hoisted her legs up around his waist, filling her in just a few moments. They had done it so often that their bodies knew each other and knew how to find where to join. She held tight to his shoulders as he began to move inside her, his hands on her buttocks as he guided himself in.
“Edmund,” she said, whispering his name like a prayer as he thrust deeply, stroking her center. “I am yers,” she said, feeling her pleasure coming faster than expected.
His mouth moved from her mouth to her jaw to her neck, unable to be satisfied with her taste. “And I am yers,” he said, quickening his pace as she tensed her thighs about his waist and came to her climax, stars behind her eyes calling out his name.
He came soon after, spilling into her. They gripped one another as their pleasure calmed, and he stared into her eyes. “I donnae ken what I would have done without ye, lass,” he said softly.
He kissed her gently on the lips and slowly let her feet drop. Her skirts fell back down around her ankles, and he held her tight. It was a good thing, for her legs still felt like jelly.
“Aye, ye wouldnae have such a hidden-away space with stars and lovemaking,” she said, moving her hands up to clasp around his neck.
“True, what a shame that would be.”
He leaned in to kiss her again, but they both heard the booted footsteps of one of the soldiers on patrol on the higher part of the battlements. It brought him back to reality. “I suppose we should return. People will want tae continue tae congratulate us.”
“Aye. It is our duty,” she said, nodding. They were about to leave when she pulled him back and kissed him. “I hope we willnae give this up, this wanting of each other so desperately we cannae wait. I ken that a child could change that.”
He laughed. “Nae child could change me wanting ye, Doreen. It will mean things are busier, but that means I will only have tae work harder tae find places tae make love tae ye. I will never stop wanting that.”
Comforted by his promise, she embraced him and said, “Nor I. I shall hold ye tae that.”
“Good. I will heartily fulfill me end of that vow.” With a smile, she tucked her arm through his, and they let their secret place to return to the feast.
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