The Deceived Highland Bride – Extended Epilogue
Two months later…
As Laird Grant, the last two months had been blissful for him. He was wedded to the woman of his dreams, and his close friends were now soldiers in his castle. Julia and Seamus were thriving, and he made a point of visiting them often. And in turn, they had free rein to visit him whenever they wished. After the wedding, Cameron had surprised them by transferring ownership of the tavern to them. They were overjoyed, although sorry to see him go. He took pains to always have guards posted at the tavern for their safety as well as that of the patrons.
In the past few weeks, however, something had been off with Ella, and Cam was puzzled. They’d promised one another no secrets, but it seemed she was keeping one and was in fact avoiding him to hide whatever it was. He didn’t want to press her, since he fretted about losing her, but it bothered him more than he wanted to admit. He was working in his study when Blair found him to announce the arrival of his father-in-law.
“Och, good,” Cameron said, standing up, glad to be done with the study for the time being. Inside work often chafed him when he could be outside. At least in the tavern, he’d been able to move about, purchasing goods, seeing to the grounds, and talking to patrons. But now that he was often in the study, he found it gave him a crick in the neck. But his father had made things rather difficult. Laird Grant, like Laird MacPherson, had been so consumed by vengeance that he’d turned a blind eye to his tenants, farms, and his own clan, whose protection he was responsible for. Cameron had been astounded to discover that his father had failed to collect tax, and his affairs were in disarray.
“What’s wrong?” Blair queried as Cameron walked first out the door.
“What dae ye mean?” He began to itch at the question.
He knew he’d been acting irritable with his men because of the change in Ella. There was also the stress of dealing with his father’s unruly management of his men, but it was Ella that was bothered him most of all. He’d thought they were in love, that he made her happy now that she was her own woman, and far from the castle that had been a prison for so long. But he feared that something had happened to make her avoid him, although for the life of him he didn’t know what it could be.
“Ye have been sullen lately. What is chafin’ ye? Have the men been givin’ ye trouble? Just say the names, and I will take care of it like we took care of those rapin’ bastards.”
“Nae, nae, it is naething like that.” He paused in the hallway and fixed Blair with a serious look. “Have ye noticed that Ella has been actin’ differently of late? Like she’s quiet, often up in her chamber alone, and avoidin’ me it seems. I’ve been wrackin’ me brain over it and cannae figure why. I fear she doesnae care for me anymore.”
“Well, ye have been gone a lot on business,” Blair suggested. “Maybe it just seems like ye havenae seen her a lot because of that.”
“Nae,” Cameron shook his head. “I dinnae think so.”
“Why nae ask her?” Blair asked with a smirk. “Ye are man and wife now.”
“Och, I’ve turned that over in me head many a time. I could dae that, but I want tae tread carefully. With women, ye just cannae go bargin’ in demandin’ answers. Especially nae tae a woman who has been imprisoned most of her life by a worried faither, and lied tae for quite some time.”
“Aye, true enough,” Blair agreed, grimacing.
Blair had witnessed a few of Ella and Cameron’s fights over the last two months. They had gotten heated at times, and he knew Ella wanted to demonstrate that she could make her own decisions, that she knew her own mind. It was all part of marriage, and they’d always reconciled in a pleasurable manner. But this was different. She’d always been fiery, but never distant.
“Well, I suppose I must ask her, once her faither and sister are gone after his birthday celebration,” he conceded as they strode to the hallway.
Ella was already there greeting Graeme and Ada. Cameron thought he saw Blair tense at the sight of Ada, but he remained where he was, hands behind his back, like a proper man-at-arms. He and Ella would have to work on that after the celebration.
He wrapped his arm around Ella after shaking their hands. Ella tensed beneath his touch.
What is goin’ on? I’m simply flummoxed.
“Ye are most welcome,” Cameron said cheerfully. “And a happy birthday tae ye, Laird.”
“Och, thank ye. I’m getting too old for that now,” he said, chuckling.
Over the past two months, a transformation had taken over the man, and he was far happier than he’d ever been. Even his relationship with Ada had changed dramatically.
“But he still has enough breath and strength tae scold me,” Ada said, grinning.
Her eyes moved to Blair. “Good tae see ye, Blair,” she said, nodding, her cheeks coloring a bit.
“And ye, Lady Ada,” he returned with a hint of a smile. “And ye, Laird MacPherson.”
“Aye, well, I suppose we should take ye tae the main hall for a meal. Yer celebration is this evenin’.”
“Very good, very good,” the laird said, and Ella scampered out of his grasp and rushed after her sister, linking arms with her as they led the way to the hall.
“Dae ye see what I mean?” Cameron asked Blair as they followed behind. He shook his head. “Strange, that.”
“She is excited tae see her sister, nae doubt, but yer right. Them together is a force tae be reckoned with,” Blair clapped Cameron’s back. “I wish ye luck, lad.”
“Och, thanks. What good are ye?” Cameron said, striding ahead of him into the hall, wondering if he’d could focus on his father-in-law when Ella would hardly look at him.
After the meal, Ella squirreled Ada away into her private parlor. She shut the door, sighed, and leaned against it.
“I am so glad tae see ye, sister. It has been far too long. I cannae believe ye didnae visit before now!”
She sank into a chair while Ada smiled at her benignly. “I ken. Ye look well, Ella. Beautiful and lovely and happy.”
“Thank ye. Ye too.”
It was true. Ada did look very well, blooming even; far happier to be here than Ella would have expected.
“Yer happiness doesnae have anythin’ tae dae with seein’ a certain man-at-arms again, does it?” Ella teased, fishing for information.
“Nae!” Ada said, paling, picking up the bottle of wine that had been left for the two of them. “What nonsense. Now, ye must tell me all about yer life, and what it is like tae be married tae a man.”
Ella laughed, leaving the subject for now. She accepted some wine from Ada and leaned back in her chair. “I dae have a secret, and I have been unable tae figure out how tae tell Cameron.”
“What is it?” Ada asked, leaning forward. “I have been starved of gossip of late. Even if faither and I go many places together, and I am nae as locked up as before, it is often with dull people we spend our company.”
Ella wanted to laugh, but she was too worried. She put a hand to her stomach, and Ada’s eyes went there instantly.
“Ye are with child!” Ada shrieked, jumping up to lean over Ella and embrace her.
Shocked, Ella nodded. “Aye, I am. How did ye…”
“I am smarter than ye think, sister,” Ada said. “What other secret could ye have? It is nae as if ye nae longer love yer husband or wish tae leave.”
“Nae, but I am terrified tae tell Cam.”
“Why?” Ada frowned. “He will be happy, nae?”
“Aye, but takin’ over after his faither has brought him naething but struggle. His faither was a madman, and he left everythin’ tae ruin. He has been so busy and heavy laden. I dinnae wish tae burden him further.”
“It will be nae burden, Ella, ye must tell him,” Ada said kindly. “Cam is nae like faither or any man we have kent. He is kind and gentle, and he loves ye. One has only tae look in his eyes tae ken that.”
Ella nodded. She knew she was being mad, but she still worried. “I will tell him, then,” she said with a nervous nod, and they both jumped at the sharp knock at the door.
Ella went to answer it, and she saw Cameron and Blair on the other side. “Cam? Are ye all right?”
“Aye,” he said, his brow furrowed. “Can I speak tae ye, my love?”
“Of course.” Her heart fluttered nervously. She’d been acting strangely around him for weeks now, and there was nae way he hadnae noticed.
“I will take me leave,” Ada said quickly, darting into the hall next to Blair. “We can speak later.”
“But—” Ella began, but Cameron didn’t let her finish as he stepped into the room and shut the door.
“Ella, is somethin’ wrong? I couldnae wait tae ask ye any longer, for I am goin’ mad. Did I dae somethin’? Are ye angry with me? Dae ye nae love me anymore? I thought we were so happy, and now…” He began to pace, and Ella’s heart softened, her fears subsiding.
She reached for him and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. “It is nae that, Cam, me dearest love. Ye are wonderful. I am sorry I made ye feel that way.”
He was shocked, but he didn’t move away from her. She cleared her throat.
“There is some news I must share, and I was only nervous because I didnae want tae burden ye.”
“What is it?” he asked, eyes wide. and she took his hand and placed it gently on her belly. “It is early yet, but I wanted tae tell ye that I am with child. Our child. A wee bairn.”
Cam blinked for a few moments, and she was afraid he would react with fear, but then his face broke into a wide smile.
“Truly?” he asked, excited as a young boy.
“Aye,” she nodded, the weight of her secret slipping off her shoulders.
“What a blessin’!” he cried, lifting her up and spinning her about until they were both laughing. “Ella, I am sorry ye were afraid tae tell me! After ye marryin’ me, this is the best news there could ever be!” he kissed her soundly, and cupped her face in his hands, beaming.
“I ken ye have so much tae dae, and I didnae want tae add ta eyer worries, but I confess, I am happy that ye are happy.”
“Of course, I am happy, love. And thank God ye are nae leavin’ me.”
“Never,” she said and stroked his cheek. “I promise I willnae hide secrets ever again.”
“Good.” He leaned down and took her mouth again, and with a sigh of relief, she kissed him back, pulling him close.
“Ella,” he said huskily. “Are ye nae too fragile tae…”
“Nae,” she said, desperate now for him.
“Thank God. It has been too long since we touched. I didnae want tae press ye.”
“Press me now,” she said breathlessly, and he quickly lifted her skirts and picked her up, her legs wrapping around his waist.
There was no divan in her sitting room, and she was far too ready to wait until they found another suitable place to go, but the wall was handy and ready for use. He was right; he’d not touched her in recent weeks other than a kiss here and there. It had been tense and awkward, and now, their unfulfilled lust took over. She lifted her skirts even higher while Cam pulled himself out of his kilt.
They were both more than ready, and he quickly pushed inside her until she let out a moan of relief and desire. Cam whispered sweet words of love in her ear as he thrust into her, slow at first and then faster. Ella’s legs wrapped tightly around him, and he angled her hips to reach deeper inside her. Her fingers pressed into his flesh, and she threw her head back, moaning loudly as she came fervently, her body trembling around him.
When it was over, he pressed a kiss onto her neck. “I love ye, Ella.”
“And I ye. I never wish for ye tae doubt it again.”
Their interlude was swiftly interrupted by a shrill scream of fear, and Cam pulled out of her quickly, gently placing her on the ground while they both adjusted themselves.
“Dear God, could it be Ada?” Ella worried, and together they rushed from the room to the main hall.
Just then, the doors to the main hall burst open, and Blair entered with Ada in his arms.
“Dear God, what happened?” Ella said, rushing to her sister’s side.
“Och, naething. If he had hadnae scared me, I would never have fallen out of that tree.”
Ella looked at Blair, who was grim. “She had climbed the tall tree at the back of the castle, and I came up tae warn her that the branch was weak, and she fell, screamin’ all the way. Luckily, I caught her.”
“I would have been fine if ye werenae always so fretful,” Ada said angrily, and he set her down in a chair, sparing her not a glance.
“Are ye well, lass?” her father said while Ada nodded.
“Naething is broken. I am very well. I only wanted a better view of the sea. I dinnae see why me every move should be monitored,” Ada glared at Blair.
Ella’s fear now subsided, she looked at Cameron, and in turn they both burst out laughing. Her suspicions confirmed, Ella knew then that if Ada simply stayed away from windows, castle walls, and trees, then Blair—steadfast and true—had a clear and speedy path to wedded bliss with her dear, bold, and fearless sister.
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If you want to know what lies ahead in our story, you may want to get the sequel…
Blair MacDougall, Ada MacPherson’s guard, is hopelessly drawn to her, but his darkness can never stain her pure heart. And just as he’s about to leave his post as her protector, hoping to save her, destiny intervenes, binding them together yet again. But Ada’s betrothal to another and the darkness that threatens to destroy them becomes overwhelming, for time is rapidly slipping away, and soon he’ll have to choose between love or death.