The Douglas Trilogy II: The Witch Blade
Maggie Douglas had a new and full life. The lonely years of her life at Whitehall Priory were a fading a memory. Betrothed to the handsome, eldest son of a Highland Laird, she should be happy—was. Kenneth Sutton was a memory, a bittersweet memory, but nothing more. She'd found a new love. Everything was as it should be...until Kenneth returned to Scotland.
Length: Full Novel
Word Count: 94,773
Genre: Historical Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, October 2012
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Maggie took the sure footed palfrey to gallop. In a blur of gray horse and green Douglas tartan they raced over the rolling glen and up a steep hill side, breaking through a row of pines. She pulled the mare to a halt in a thick bramble of brush and rowan trees.
“Good on you, Willow!” She dismounted, brought an apple from her pocket and gave a perfect curtsey as she held it out to the animal. “You have yet to let me down and that is more than can be said for some humans who I care not to think on any more!” In the blink of an eye, Maggie saw the warhorse and the angry man chasing her, move up the hill, crash through the trees and vanish into the forest. She made her way back down the hill, wandered to a large rock in the heather glen, sat and waited. It was a full five minutes before she heard the sound the warhorse moving in behind her. She looked over her shoulder and smiled.
“Sir Fraser, you are a disappointment as a guard.”
Hugh Fraser jumped to the ground and took an impressive stance, with his feet spread and his hands on his hips. “I suspect, Mistress Douglas that as a wee lass you were not spanked nearly enough.”
He was a wondrous sight, this Fraser Highlander; huge, muscled and more than a little irked. His face was nearly as red as his long, windblown hair.
“Spanked! They could not catch me.”
“Then mebbe I will give your bottom a slap or two.”
“Come now, Sir Fraser! It was not so bad. I was merely playing with you. Have you in the mountains no sense of fun?”
“Aye we do. Howbeit, I am the unlucky man charged with keeping you in one solid piece, at least until the day you wed my nephew and then, thank the Lord, it is up to him!”
“Fiddles!” Maggie spread her arms in a wide embrace. “Look, there is Dalkeith Castle, the greatest of all Douglas fortifications, in all her glory spread out a fore us and no more than a hundred yards away. Kade told me that it is unlikely bandits of any kind would be stupid enough to venture this close.”
“Kade Douglas is still wet behind the ears and you are as well if you believe that it is safe for any female to be off on her own in these harsh days. Would you prefer, Mistress Douglas that I tell Aaron his bride to be is a wild woman?”
Maggie pushed the brazen red curls off her face and again smiled at the Knight, her large eyes catching the sun and sparkling like emeralds. “It is beautiful day with the sky so clear and the sun so warm. So very soon we will long for these days as the winter winds howl on us. What I would prefer, Sir Hugh is for you to cease your anger and sit by me here in the heather. Howbeit, if you would prefer to do a little good spanking on my bottom, I will let you do so and I will take my punishment as a proud Scottish woman!”
Hugh threw back his head and laughed. “And my nephew is so well pleased with your look.” He sat, leaned his back against the rock and crossed his boots. “Poor sod, he does not know what he is in for.”
“Is that what Aaron told you, that he liked my look?”
“Aye and grinning like the cat, he was too. It is only natural for a man to long for a wife who pleases him with her beauty.”
“Aye, I guess it must be.”
“Just betwixt you and me and the Lord above, Mistress Douglas Aaron did say he found you to be a rare beauty.” The Knight gave her a quick wink. “And I agreed with him.”
“Well, thank you. I am pleased with the look of Aaron. He is very handsome. One hears on the giants from the mountains; all hairy, rude and unwashed but you are not like that in the slightest.”
Hugh laughed again. It was a hearty laugh, deep and rolled across the glen. “Och, lass, we can be all those things and more but does a wise man come for his bride being all rude and stinking? True be it, it is not always easy to get a Highlander into a wash tub.”
Maggie sat silent and thoughtful for a moment. “What sort of man is Aaron Fraser?”
“What sort of man is Aaron Fraser? Ask him yourself or wait and see.”
“That is hardly fair, is it? I have yet to agree to marry him and must know what to expect if I do marry Aaron. You are his uncle and I do not think that there is much difference in your ages. You must know him well and I know naught but his look and name.”
“You and he have spoken.”
“Not but a few words. For a Highlander who will one day be Laird of a mighty Clan he does seem shy.”
“Shy! Do not say that to Aaron or he may show you his true side. He is putting out his best side to woe you….Margaret.”
“It is Maggie, Hugh. Won’t you tell me a little about Aaron? How can it hurt?” High nodded his large head. “He’s a fair man. If he is your friend you are lucky, if he is your enemy, your days are numbered. Howbeit, Aaron knows his God and keeps his peace with Him. He is not a heavy drinker and does not gamble. He is the best archer on Fraser land. He was a fair bit of a rake with the ladies when he was a younger man but that changed when he first married.” Hugh gave Maggie a knowing look. “I suspect he will treat you as he did Iona and she was a happy wife.”
“Wife?” The green eyes popped. “Aaron was wed before?”
“Aye. Iona. She was a Campbell and pretty as a daisy. She died seven summers back, leaving Aaron with two young daughters.”
“Bairns! I am to be a mam so soon. Goodness! What are their names?”
“Irene, who will soon be six summers and Jean, is four summers. They are sweet, wee angels. Does that trouble you?”
“No. I love children and plan on having at least four. How did Lady Iona die?”
“Iona died while birthing Jean.” He leaned over and gave her hand a fatherly pat. “I know that you and Aaron do not love yet but give it time. True love never happens in first sight.”
Maggie cast her look beyond Dalkeith Castle towards the southern horizon and thought of another man; a man very different from the dark haired Highlander she was to wed. She saw thick, curly hair as light as corn silk and eyes as blue as the sky above. She saw the wide smile and the dimples that he hated and she loved. You are wrong there, Hugh Fraser, true and lasting love can happen in an instant! Standing at the window of the solar she shared with Kade, watching Hugh and Maggie sitting in the glen, Fiona sighed. Kade took a place beside her and followed her gaze.
“Maggie and Aaron?”
“No. That is Hugh Fraser. Maggie wanted a ride and he went along as an unwanted escort.”
Kade slid his arm around her waist. “Why the fish face?”
“Oh Kade, you men! Must you always be so blind? Maggie does not love Aaron.”
“So you have said and often, Fiona. Give it time.”
“Ha!” He smiled.
“Och, it does make me worry when you ‘Ha!’ at me. In the letters from your brother, does he ever mention Maggie?”
“No and that more than anything else gives me hope. Kenneth loves her and she loves him.”
“Mebbe so but he wed another. Leave it be. God will have things as He wants.” He kissed her quickly and left the solar for a long afternoon with his men in the lists.
“Leave it be? You know me better than that, Kade Douglas!” She mumbled...after her husband was out of sight and hearing.