He seared her lips with a soulful kiss.
She stumbled backward.
He caught her at the elbows, heart still soaring with gaiety.
“God’s teeth, son. Take it to your chambers,” Ian bellowed. “You had us all worried.” Ian stood surrounded by faces, all saying the same thing.
Can I tell him? Tara asked bouncing with excitement.
Be my guest.
“Sorry, ‘Grandpa’, we got carried away.” Tara put her head down in mock shame. “We won’t do it again.”
“As well you should be. Such displays are…
‘Grandpa’?” Ian stopped speaking, his voice lowered with suppressed happiness.
Tara looked up through strands of hair, which had fallen, in front of her eyes, obviously trying hard to keep a straight face. She failed miserably.
Duncan applauded her efforts.
“Grandpa?” Ian asked with a robust laugh.
Tara did the happy dance again.
Ian swooped her in the air as Duncan had done a moment ago. His beaming grin twinkled in his eyes. By the time Fin had his turn, Tara looked green.
Duncan, Ian and Fin apologized at the same time.
When Lora led Tara to the kitchens for food, Duncan accepted the knocks of congratulations on his back.
A new life to celebrate, Duncan pondered. ’ tis exactly what we needed. Worries can wait for another day.
Because the family wanted to talk of the new arrival until all hours of the morning, it was late when Tara and Duncan finally made their way to their chambers. Duncan helped her out of her gown. He pulled loose the strings binding the gown together, while she held her long vibrant hair back.
It was a husbandly chore he enjoyed fully.
“Are you truly happy?” Tara asked.
Her question surprised him. How could she not know how pleased he was? He caught her reflection in the mirror, and gathered her against him. His hand trailed down her side and settled on her flat stomach. “I couldn’t love you any more than I do right now.”
Duncan remembered the vision he had placed in her head right before he had made love to her the first time. Looking at her now was as if the vision was a premonition to their future.
“Are you sure it isn’t because of the vows we took in California?”
His brows narrowed. He caught his breath.
“The handfasting?” Tara turned to stare him in the face. “You haven’t forgotten have you?”
“Nay but…” How does she know…
She read his thoughts, almost before they formed. “You don’t really think I don’t know what happened back there, do you?”
“Ah,” He searched deeper to see if she was angry or hurt. It was the only secret he kept. He feared what she was going to say. He swallowed and waited, but neither fear nor anger emerged.
“Even if Myra hadn’t told me, I would have figured it out. We started…” Talking to each other like this the instant our vows were spoken. You had to think I’d know.
Myra told you?
“Yes, the day of our wedding. I told her the vows we took in California, and she explained what they were.” Her breath hitched. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I couldn’t have told you then, you wouldn’t have believed me.”
“What about later? When we came here?”
“There were so many things for you to take in at first. I didn’t think it was wise to give you more.”
“What about after we were engaged?”
He rolled his head back. “I didn’t want to lose you. When you ran off that first day you scared me.”
“I could never leave you.” She put her arms around him, placed her head on his chest. “When I think of how Grainna must have planned my demise, our demise, it sickens me. You didn’t have to bind with me. You could have let me say my vows and left.”
“That was never an option.” He held her tighter and shot her a look. “You have flooded my mind every moment from the minute I sat on you.”
She chuckled at the memory, then turned toward the mirror and watched as his hands slid down her hips. “A baby, Duncan. We’re going to have a child.”
He enjoyed the slim curve of her hip. “Do you think our child would mind sharing you tonight?”
His hands circled in front of her turning from love to passion.
“I think our child has little to say at this moment.”
He lifted her and carried her to the bed.
Rumors began circulating throughout the Keep and leaked to the village. Talk of Myra having some deathly illness grew. Some rumored she’d ran off with one of the men who had visited at the wedding.
Excitement over the announcement of Tara’s pregnancy halted some of the gossip surrounding Myra. However, the MacCoinnich’s thought it best to give some explanation to Myra’s disappearance. It wasn’t known how long she would be gone, and keeping up the ruse of her nonexistent presence was taxing on everyone.
One afternoon, Ian stood in the courtyard with Fin to set up their newest scam.
“She’s unreasonable. Every suitor she denies!”
“Calm down, father. Myra is willful and knows what she wants.”
“Blah.” He tossed his hands in the air. “She does not know what is good for her. Perhaps the convent will give her the solitude and time to regard my request for her to marry.”
“Are ye certain?” Fin’s voice carried to the men standing guard in the towers.
“Aye, tomorrow Duncan will escort her before the c**k crows. She can return when she’s more reasonable.” Ian turned on his heel and left.
“Poor Myra.” Fin announced to the growing crowd.
Mumbles of agreement ran amongst the men.
Tara hated seeing Duncan leave, even if only for a few days. I’ll miss you. She held him fast.
“I’ll be back in less than a week, my love. Stay close to the Keep.”
“I will.” She leaned close and whispered, “I’ll think of all kinds of wicked ways to show you how much I missed you.” And your body.
His eyes clouded with passion, a low groan merged from his lips. Witch! Now I’m sure not to sleep.
“Good.” With a final kiss, Tara watched as Duncan rode away with Lora, posing as Myra hidden beneath a long cape.
Gregor kept watch in the early hours of the morning. The rain let up in the night, a relief for him and the men who patrolled. He considered himself a faithful servant to Laird Ian and his family, and never thought to question why the men were placed on alert.