Over the past year, I've received many letters and questions from readers about the characters from When a Scot Ties the Knot -- Maddie, Logan, Aunt Thea, and all of Logan's men. It seems that many wanted to know that they all ended happily, and I did, too. So I wrote this bonus epilogue as a way to peek in on them a few years later. It got a bit long, so I decided to split it into three parts. This is the first, and the second and third will be sent on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. If you miss one, don't worry - they'll be archived on my website!
I hope you enjoy spending a bit more time at Lannair Castle. I wish you and yours the very happiest of holidays and a brilliant start to 2017!
When A(nother) Scot Ties the Knot – A Bonus Epilogue
“You little thief. Get back here, you.”
Logan chased the giggling ruffian down the spiraling stairs of Lannair Castle and into the great hall, where a dozen people were making ready for the wedding that would take place that evening. Connor barreled straight for the groom himself.
“Not so fast, wee Master Connor.” Rabbie plucked the boy off his feet and looked to Logan. “What’s he done now?”
Logan made a ‘steady’ gesture. “Easy. Dinna jostle him.”
He approached his little hellion of a son with hands up, speaking in a low, soothing voice. “Now Connor, you know how much those beasties mean to your mum. She won’t take well to losing one. Spit it out now.”
The boy squirmed and shook his head, lips sealed shut.
Rabbie lowered his voice. “I’m glad to see you, Captain. I’ve been wanting to speak to you. About the wedding.”
“There’s not much later to be had,” Rabbie said. “I’ve been thinking. Pondering. About whether this is the right thing for me. For us, I mean.”
Logan cursed under his breath. He didn’t have time for Rabbie’s cold feet.
Spittle trickled down Connor’s chin.
That was it. Logan was going in.
He reached out, catching the lad by the chin and wriggling one finger between his wee jaws. He could feel it in there, perched on that plump drooling tongue. If he could just pry his mouth open a bit more, one sweep of his finger would do the trick.
“There we are,” he crooned, pressing at the hinge of the lad’s jaws. “Open up. That’s the way.”
“This is marriage,” Rabbie went on. “I dinna know that I’m ready.”
“Not now, Rabbie.”
“I mean, I love her. But those vows… they’re for a lifetime. What if I’m making a mistake?”
Logan growled. “Look around you. The trimming’s been hung. Maddie’s readied the house for guests, and the women have worked for days on the feast. I’m still your captain, and if I have to, I’ll order you to marry her.”
“It doesna work that way. A man has to make his own— Ahh!”
Connor bit down on Logan’s finger—hard.
And then had the temerity to giggle.
Logan took the boy from Rabbie’s grasp, caught him by the ankles, and turned him heels-up. “Spit it out.” He gave the boy a shake. “Spit it out now, or your mother is like to kill me.”
“What in heaven’s name is going on?”
Perfect. Maddie entered the hall just in time to see him holding their son by the ankles. Connor wriggled like a trout on the line. And then…
“I asked you to mind him for a hour or two,” Maddie said. “It hasn’t been twenty minutes. What’s happened?”
Logan turned the boy right-side up. “Your son ate a bug.”
“Your son ate a bug, I think you mean.” She took the squirming boy from his arms. “Which bug?”
“One of those beetles. The specimens that arrived from Hampshire.”
“Oh, no. I haven’t finished sketching them yet, let alone coloring the plates.”
“I tried to get it back.” Logan rubbed the back of his neck. “Look at the bright side. He’ll be happy with earwigs and grasshoppers for Christmas presents.”
Maddie gave a sigh, and the sound tugged at his heart. Between working and mothering and preparing for Rabbie’s wedding, her candle was lit at three ends. She’d been looking weary of late, and now he’d let her down.
“He’s cutting teeth again,” she said. “He’ll put anything in his mouth.”
She plucked a bit of wedding shortbread from a nearby table and handed it to the boy. Connor set on it like a dog gnawing a bone.
“Time for a lie-down, darling.” She headed for the stairs, little beetle-thief in arms.
Logan would have to come up with something verra creative to earn his way back in his wife’s good graces.
But first, he had to deal with a reluctant groom. He was ready to take Rabbie by the ballocks and give them a sharp twist. Logan might have cost his wife a beetle and a much-needed rest, but this wedding would on as planned.
He turned and looked about the hall.
Rabbie was gone.
Visiting Callum was a mistake. Rabbie should have known it would be.
“You’re thinking on it too much,” Callum said. “She loves you. You love her. It’s simple.”
Aye. It was simple for Callum. The man was made to commit—to the army, to a laird, to a wife, to a family.
After they’d settled at Lannair, the captain had named Callum his land steward. The man’s toes had sunk roots straight into the boggy soil. Before long, he’d set eyes on a pretty young widow. He’d taken Leana as his wife, her young son as his own, and now they had twins in the cradle, as well.
“You canna be having doubts.” Callum balanced a pudgy bairn in one arm—that arm being his one good arm, since the war. “The day you first saw Sorcha, you told us all you were going to marry the lass.”
“Aye, but that was because I knew she’d never have me.” Rabbie sat at Callum’s kitchen table and let his head fall into his hands. His brain was spinning. “You know how I am. I vowed to never settle down. Went chasing after every lass in the county. Never dreamed a woman like that could be caught. Not by the likes of me.”
Sorcha Graham was the daughter of an Inverness printer. Beautiful. Lively. Quick as lightning. She could do far better than Rabbie MacInnes, a foot soldier with no family and precious little to his name.
“What if we wed, and then she—”
The twin Callum wasn’t holding—Angus, Agnes…Rabbie could never tell them part—began to wail from the cradle.
“Hold a moment,” Callum said. “She’s soiled her clout, most likely.”
He handed the infant in his arm to Rabbie, then went crooning an old Gaelic melody as he plucked the other from the cradle. He gave the babe a sniff. “Aye! Soiled it right well, she did.”
God’s blood. Only Callum could sound enthused about wiping a bairn’s arse.
Rabbie held wee Angus awkwardly as Callum went about tending his daughter. “I’m just not certain I can do this.”
“Any of it. Home, wife, children.”
“You’re doing well with your first lesson.” He looked over at Angus. “I think he likes ye, Rab.”
The bairn dropped the wooden spoon he’d been gnawing, turned to look up at Rabbie—and burst into a piercing wail.
“See?” Rabbie said.
Callum laughed. “Ye’ll learn.”
“I never learn. My own mother said so, and the woman was never wrong.”
Well, that wasn’t quite true, Rabbie admitted to himself. His mother had been wrong about one thing. She’d taken a worthless lout to husband, and the choice had cost her dear. His father had been a drunkard, and not the jovial sort. Quick to raise his hand in anger and slow to come home with his wages. Nothing had given them such relief as the day he never came back at all, and Rabbie wasn’t ashamed to admit it.
It was all good and well for Callum for say this was easy to learn. He took to family life like a trout took to a stream. But the talent for being a decent husband and father… it didn’t run in Rabbie’s blood.
“There now.” Callum returned Agnes to the cradle, rinsed his hand, and came to admire the still-screaming Angus where he sat on Rabbie’s knee. “He’s got strong lungs, hasn’t he?”
That was one way of putting it. Rabbie gratefully gave Angus back. The babe knew his father. He quieted at once.
“There’s lamb stew in the pot,” Callum said. “Leana made it this morning before she went up to the castle. A proper meal and a pint of ale will settle you.”
Rabbie shook his head. He hadn’t eaten since yestermorn. At the mention of food, his innards twisted in a knot.
He rose to his feet. “I thank you for the offer, mo charaid. But I canna stay. There’s someone else I’m needing to see.”
A quarter-hour after leaving Callum’s cottage, Rabbie sat in another kitchen—this one belonging to Munro, the field surgeon who’d come with them to settle near Loch Lannair.
“I’m telling you, I’m ill,” Rabbie said. My brain’s gone to porridge, and my stomach’s paining me. I dinna think I can walk down the aisle.”
Munro sighed. “Give us a look, then.”
He poked Rabbie in the stomach, peered into his eyes and ears, and stuck a flat stick down his throat. Rabbie gagged.
A grim look came over the grizzled surgeon’s face.
“Well, what is it?” Rabbie’s gut twisted again. “Am I dying?”
“Maybe. But only because I’m likely to kill you.” He closed his doctoring bag. “Coming to my house and bothering me when you’re healthy as a bloody ox.”
“Healthy as a— No, no. Munro, I swear it. I’ve never felt so poorly in my life. I canna eat. I canna sleep.” Rabbie stuck out a hand. “Look, do you see that? I’ve got the shakes. Do you reckon it’s typhus? Or maybe quinsy.”
“I reckon its nerves, on account of you getting married tonight.”
Rabbie shook his head. “I dinna think I should take my vows. What if it’s catching, and Sorcha should fall ill? I canna take the risk, not until we find the remedy.”
“Oh, I have the remedy you’re needing,” Munro said. He pulled a crockery jug off a high shelf and uncorked it. “First, take a pull on this.”
Rabbie gave it a wary sniff. “It’s just whisky.”
“Aye. That’s your cure. A good draught of whisky. And if that doesn’t take, I’ll follow it with swift kick to the arse.” He took the whisky back. “Now leave.”
“You’re failing to understand, Munro. I dinna think I’m able to—”
“Rabbie.” The surgeon grasped him by the shoulders and spoke in a low, threatening growl. “I’ve a guest. Get out.”
Rabbie looked around the kitchen and peered into the small sitting room. There was no guest that he could see.
“Oh, Munro. Don’t be so unsympathetic.”
The voice came from the cottage’s single bedchamber. And it was a familiar one. English. Well-bred. Female.
Rabbie frowned. Nay. Surely that couldna be…
An older woman emerged from the bedchamber clad in one of Munro’s linen shirts—and nothing else.
Maddie MacKenzie’s Aunt Thea?
After sending a breezy greeting in Rabbie’s direction, she went to fill the kettle. “I have a new tonic in my trunk up at the castle. I’ll fetch it for you later.”
“Don’t you dare,” Munro scolded her. “You and your tonics. Leave the doctoring to someone who knows what he’s about.”
She ignored the grizzled surgeon, instead placing the kettle on its hook and swinging it over the fire. "I do sympathize, Rabbie. I’ll admit, I never saw the allure in marriage myself. I’m too fond of my freedom.”
Munro looked at Rabbie and lifted a hoary eyebrow. “Listen to the woman. She’s using me for my body.”
If she was, the surgeon didn’t appear unhappy about it. To the contrary. Rabbie thought he looked rather proud.
“Pish,” she said. “We’re friends. Friends who enjoy one another’s company from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. We’re too old to trouble with propriety.”
“Too old?” Munro made a gruff noise. “Give it a quarter-hour, woman. I’ll show ye how old and decrepit I am.”
“The kettle’s on. You’ve five minutes before it boils. Ten, at most.” She sauntered back into the bedchamber, humming a siren’s tune.
“Challenge accepted,” Munro muttered.
Rabbie shot to his feet. “What do you know. I’m feeling improved.”
“You’re only anxious.” Munro clapped him on the shoulder, steering him toward the door. “That’s natural. If you want my advice—dinna think on the pressures of marriage. Fix your mind on the pleasures of the wedding night.”
“Get out, lad.”
Munro shoved Rabbie through the door, then shut and barred it.
And that was the extent of his medical opinion.
Coming this Wednesday... Part Two, with appearances from grouchy, silent Fyfe and Grant, the man with a strong heart and an imperfect memory.