Saga of a Highland Avenger – Extended Epilogue
Four years later
Lorna was shaking her head, hunched forward, hands over her waist, trying to catch her breath. “He’s got a big ol’ mind o’ his own,” she said.
“Hmm, interesting,” said Arran beside her; his eyes laughing. “One could say he reminds me o’ a certain ferocious woman that I know.”
Lorna arched her eyebrows to the sky. “Don’t you dare,” she warned.
Arran threw up his hands in feigned innocence. “Merely an observation,” he protested.
Lorna glared at him. “I’ve no idea who that might be,” she insisted.
“Oh, I’ll give ye a clue alright.” He leaned into her and he looped his arm around her waist; pulling her against him. He dropped his mouth to her ear. “I married her,” he said.
Lorna shivered in response to her husband’s touch. They had been married for nearly four years. One would think that time would have dulled her desire or that it would have faded completely, but time had had the opposite effect on her. Her husband could still make her swoon, melt her body, and make her legs tremble for him with a single touch. She wished she could lean into him, bury her head in the crook of his neck, open her mouth to him and let him kiss her senseless.
But there were far more urgent matters to attend.
Chief of which was the taming of the ferocious little boy running ahead of them; tugging on the fabrics that danced over the tops of the nearby stalls, snatching up gloves dangling from stands, grasping for anything and everything, like a fiery bundle of chaos.
Before the shop owners even got the chance to marvel at his boisterousness or shake their heads and laugh at the little boy’s speed and agility – he had run on to the next interest, picking up fruits from baskets and loaves from tables, squealing and giggling heartily all the while.
Lorna untangled from her embrace with her husband. She was shaking her head. Bruce was a delightful handful but he was a handful alright.
“He’s back at it again,” she said. Arran followed her gaze to the little boy bouncing down the street. Shaking his head at her, he laughed, at her. He was enjoying this.
“Nae less than we’re used tae.”
“He’s making trouble.”
“He’s getting tae know his future subjects,” Arran teased.
“He’s snatching up their apples and toys!”
“Out o’ love,” Arran drawled; trying and failing to contain his amusement. His face was ablaze with laughter. “This is love.”
“Easy tae say when it’s nae ye running after him,” she said. “I suppose we ought tae be grateful that the vendors take it in their stride. I dinnae think I’d have the ability tae be as patient as them.”
Arran’s eyes were shining bright with humor but his tone was reassuring. “Oh, yer people love him,” he said to Lorna. He was right, of course.
Each time they had journeyed to the markets in her father’s domain, Bruce had made a spectacle; stopping to speak to anyone who cared to listen to a little boy’s rambling, to watch him skidding down the street clothed in the finest garments a little laird could dream of — and the journeys had been beyond counting.
The vendors and shopkeepers cooed and doted upon him and if he did not stop by their stalls to snatch up something, they almost looked disappointed. Some of them even had their baskets ready and waiting for him, and said, “Anything that pleases yer eye, my laird?” and, “Have at it, my laird!” when he stopped by.
“Yes! This one!” Bruce would say; picking up a miniature horse or an apple or a potato, or a sword cut from wood, and the merchants would exchange amused glances before shaking their heads and laughing.
Lorna rolled her eyes and sighed. “Off I go, yet again,” she said. Her voice revealed her exhaustion but she could not deny a small part of her enjoyed these little journeys through her home.
Arran lifted his hand in playful cheer. “I believe in ye,” he said. She made a face at him, then gathered her gown and ran after Bruce.
She raced after her son, steadying and catching her breath as she reached him. She looped her arms around him, gathering him to her side. He had found his way to the front of a silverware shop and had been smacking a silver spoon against the merchant’s steel table; as if testing its fortitude and strength.
“Forgive us, kind sir” said Lorna as she pulled her son away.
The merchant failed to hide his disappointment as Bruce put his spoon away, albeit reluctantly. “Please, dinnae apologize,” he said, laughing. “Always an honor tae have the young laird visit our streets and judge our goods,” he joked.
Lorna shook her head and laughed. “Certainly one way tae put it,” she said to the merchant then turned to her son. “Let’s go, Bruce. Come on. Up ahead.”
Bruce was already shaking his head, the strong-minded little animal. “Nae, Mama. Nae, I want the spoon.”
“Well, ye cannae have it. I mean it, Bruce.”
“Sure he can,” said the old merchant. He caught himself and then added in a more reverent tone, “That is if ye dinnae mind, my lady.”
Lorna sighed. Oh, well. He had picked many “souvenirs”, as they liked to call them, from all the other stands in their time, and the vendors been more than happy to relinquish their goods. What was one more silver spoon to add to his collection?
The merchant lifted the spoon from his table and handed it to Bruce, who snatched it like a precious little thing, and was already running ahead before Lorna could get her words out. “Bruce! Say thank ye!”
She returned to the merchant, still shaking her head. “I’m so sorry. Thank ye, sir.”
He waved away her gratitude. “Please,” he said. “What greater honor than tae tell people that our good laird’s heir is my most favorite customer?” He laughed and Lorna eased up a little; laughing along.
An arm came over her waist and she turned to see that her husband had caught up to them; pulling her close and kissing her cheek.
“Evening, my laird,” said the old man; bowing a little.
“Evening, good sir. I see my son has bestowed you his patronage,” said Arran, laughing.
“The very best customer, my laird.” The man laughed too.
Arran shook his hand and poured some coins in his palm. The man looked down and gushed his gratitude. “Thank ye, my laird, thank ye, sir.”
It was Arran’s turn to dismiss his gratitude with a wave. “Please. It is the least I can do for the chaos our little Bruce wreaks in these streets.”
“Oh no, sir, we look forward tae it,” the merchant assured him; smiling as he pocketed his money.
“We encourage it,” added a female vendor selling fabric beside him and the other merchants who’d been watching and listening laughed and shook their heads.
“Tis the least we can give back tae a laird who protects and supports his people thus so,” another merchant in the crowd added, and there were murmurs of approval as they laughed and nodded.
Lorna also smiled. Perhaps she had worried for nothing after all, and Bruce’s antics were all in good humor – not that she would start encouraging Bruce but she resolved to leave him alone for the time being. The sight of him running around the flea market, grabbing toys and goods and striking up conversations with the most unlikely of people had turned out to be a blessing for the shopkeepers. They loved him because they loved his father – almost as much as she loved her husband and son.
Lorna turned from the elderly merchant but first she waved him and the rest of them goodbye. “Have a fine journey ahead, milady,” said the merchants.
“Please bring our future laird back soon,” they added as they called after her.
Lorna laughed at that. As if she could possibly hold Bruce back from having his way!
“Oh, he’ll be back,” Arran assured them; a small smile lingering on the corner of his mouth.
They continued walking, past shops filled with swirling gowns and merchants shouting out the prices of their wares. Bruce continued to grab and seize whatever was in his path, while his father continued to dip his hand into his pocket and pay each merchant for each good snatched up and stolen. They laughed and said thank you.
Lorna sighed as she watched everything. It was a happy, satisfied sigh, the only kind she’d let out since starting a family with the man she loved.
Ahead of them, a group of vendors and villagers alike were huddled around the boy as he regaled them with stories about his newest chest of toys, his grandfather’s last birthday, and his favorite uncle Douglas.
Lorna watched her son spread his arms wide, making a face and gesturing as he entertained his audience and they broke into laughter. She realized she was laughing too. “He’s a delight,” she said dreamily.
“When he’s nae being a tyrant,” said Arran as he followed her gaze.
“That we can agree on,” she said and he laughed. “Mischievous like the brither he’s named after,” he added and she smiled. Arran’s eyes were smiling too.
She enjoyed hearing his voice free of pain and anguish as he spoke of his brother. He’d let time and new love heal his broken heart. He’d made it this far and her heart swelled in her chest as she realized her husband had overcome the greatest pain of his life.
She had never loved him more. She added softly, “Strong and handsome, like ye.”
“Beautiful and stubborn, like ye,” he said.
Lorna feigned affront. “Excuse me, sir. I am the softest, meekest little maiden ye’ll ever come across, thank ye very much.”
Arran shook his head at her. “With a very strong mind o’ his own, like ye too,” he added. “His younger brothers and sisters will definitely have an example tae follow.”
“If they’re nae already a larger handful than their big brither,” said Lorna.
“Well, now there’s only one way tae find out,” he replied as he clasped his hand over the small of her back.
She shivered and while she already knew what he was going to say – she asked anyway, “And what would that be?”
“We make more bairns,” he whispered against her cheek and she laughed.
She laughed because she felt lighthearted and joyful. She laughed because it was the perfect time to tell him that she was with child.
She had yet to confirm it with the surgeon but the signs were all there, as they had been with Bruce: the early morning dizziness, the inability to keep a meal down one moment and the overwhelming urge to devour anything she could lay her eyes on the next. She could have delivered the happy news to her gorgeous husband right then, at that moment…
But she decided not to. She would wait until they were in the castle, until they were all alone in their chambers. She would lay down beside him and plant his hand on her bare belly, and she would look in his eyes and say, “I’ve got a little something for ye.”
Then, she would watch him shake with enthused laughter as he lowered his mouth and kissed her belly; kissed her all over.
For now, Lorna leaned into him as they walked side by side. He held her so tightly but tenderly too. He kissed her ear, her cheek. She turned her mouth to him and, despite all the onlookers, she let him kiss her like his kiss was the only thing that mattered in the world.
It was as pure and overwhelming as the first time he had held her and claimed her as his own.
It was as pure and overwhelming as she knew it would always be.
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