Authors: Bride of a Scottish Warrior
He took the missive from Grace’s hand and began reading it again, this time more slowly. The lines in his brow deepened as he concentrated on every word. “Henceforth I shall be known as . . .” Ewan paused and repeated the full name in his head.
“Ewan MacEwan,” Grace interjected with a groan.
“Aye.” Grace wiped at the tears on her cheeks, then took a deep breath. “He might have chosen Fitz instead. Fitzgilroy. That has a fine ring to it.”
“Nay, it sounds too English.”
“MacGilroy?” Grace offered.
“Nay, the Gilroys would not be pleased to have that name given to me or any others, as the king very well knows.” Ewan felt the corners of his mouth curl into a smile. “I am proud that King Robert has seen fit to bestow this honor upon me. And every time I am called by my new name, I shall be reminded of my king’s wicked sense of humor.”
Grace sniffled. “Then ye are not angry with me?”
“Nay. I’m humbled by yer thoughtfulness and elated at the outcome. I never thought to lead a clan that bears my name, and thanks to ye, it has happened. Now, dry yer tears, lass. There’s no need to be so emotional over such a happy matter.”
She slipped her arm around his waist and leaned against him. “I cannae help it. I’ve heard that it is a common occurrence fer a woman in my condition to be bursting into tears fer no good reason,” she said softly.
It took but a moment for her words to sink in to Ewan’s brain. Startled, his eyes widened as his heart began to pick up speed.
“What are ye telling me, Grace? Does this mean that ye are . . .” Ewan swallowed hard.
“Carrying yer babe?” She gave him a watery smile. “Aye.”
“Clever lass.” Ewan leaned down and nuzzled her cheek. “Ye run my household, deal with my cantankerous mother, share my burdens, offer me sound advice, warm my bed, love me far more than I deserve, and now this joyous news. I am the luckiest man on earth, fer ye are, without question, the best wife in all the land.”
“Aye, I most certainly am,” Grace agreed, turning her head to receive his kiss. “And ye had best never forget it!”
Eight years later
Grace snuggled against Ewan’s chest, her head burrowed in the cup of his shoulder, his arm holding her body close to his. A shout, followed by a loud whisper and a chorus of giggles, broke through her slumber, pulling her away from her blissful rest. Blearily, she lifted her head and cracked open one eye.
Dim light filtered through the narrow window, letting her know the morning had barely started. The noise came again, a wee bit louder.
“Yer children are awake,” she said, cuddling into her husband’s warmth, searching for that elusive sleepy, delicious feeling. But the whispers grew louder still and Grace knew it would only be a matter of time before their bedchamber door was pushed open. “Bid them enter, Ewan. Best to see what mischief they are planning before it gets out of hand.”
“Hmm?” Ewan flung his hand across his brow. “Did ye say something, wife?”
“We are under attack,” she stated, feeling not a qualm of guilt for her words.
Ewan sprung from the bed and reached for his sword. Fully prepared for that reaction, Grace stayed his hand. Then she knelt on the edge of the bed, curved her arm around his shoulder, kissed his ear, and whispered, “’Tis yer bairns who storm our chamber door, good sir. I beg ye to let them in before they do any damage to themselves. Or the keep.”
Ewan swore and reached for his trews. “The dawn has barely broken. What in the bloody hell are they doing up so early?”
Grace smiled and searched among the rumpled sheets for her nightgown, finding it bunched beneath the covers at the foot of the bed. “How can ye have possibly forgotten that Brian and Aileen are due to arrive today? ’Tis all that Cameron and Kyle can talk about. They even taught our young Alec to say Uncle Brian. At least I think that’s what the lad is trying to say.”
Ewan rubbed his face briskly with his palms, then raked a hand through his hair. “I told ye it was a mistake to let the bairns know of the visit and once again I am proved right.”
Grace shrugged into her nightgown, then laughed and pressed her cheek against his. “’Twas yer mother who told them and that was only because she couldnae contain her delight at Brian’s agreement to foster James with us.”
“It is a proud moment fer us to have the honor of training yer nephew. He could easily have been sent to a more powerful or prestigious clan.”
“My brother is wise enough to realize James will learn everything he needs to know, and more, from ye.”
Ewan bowed his head. “Yer faith in me is humbling, Grace.”
“I love ye, Ewan. I believe in ye. And I always shall.”
She twisted forward, intending to bestow a warm, passionate kiss upon him, but a loud thud at the chamber door, followed by a high-pitched wail, interrupted her plan. Ewan heaved a heavy sigh. Barefooted, he walked across the chamber and opened the door.
The howling instantly stopped as the three children tumbled into the room. Spying their mother on the bed, they ran to her. Opening both arms wide, Grace embraced the trio. She could feel her throat closing up, her heart nearly bursting with love. It felt like a miracle every time she held one of her sons close. Mother to three healthy, mischievous lads. She could scarcely believe it.
Ewan approached the bed, then made the mistake of sitting upon it. The boys immediately jumped on him. Ewan let out a roar, eliciting squeals of excitement. The boys attacked from all sides, climbing on his back, pulling on his shoulders, pushing against his chest.
“Help me, Grace,” Ewan yelled, as he carefully flipped Kyle over his head and then pulled Cameron off his shoulder.
For a moment she watched him with their children, reveling in the sight. Ewan was relaxed and smiling—happy. Seeing him thusly brought her own happiness to greater heights.
“’Tis exactly what ye deserve,” Grace replied, poking her husband in the ribs. “Eight years married and three sons. Now, if ye had the good sense to give me a daughter, she would no doubt be rushing to yer defense right now.”
“What do ye say, lads?” Ewan asked, as he rolled onto his back. “Would ye like to have a wee sister of yer very own?”
“Aye! And another brother,” Cameron replied.
“Nay, three brothers,” Kyle shouted, not to be outdone by his older sibling.
“Did ye hear that, wife? We’ve a great deal of work to be done to achieve that goal.”
“Four more bairns,” Grace declared with exaggerated outrage, wincing in sympathy as Cameron launched himself into Ewan’s lap, barely missing landing on the area necessary for producing those children. “There won’t be a stone left standing in the keep if we have that many children.”
“Our lads are merely energetic,” Ewan insisted. He caught Kyle in midair as the lad tried to catapult himself off the bed. “And high-spirited.”
“Aye, and full of the devil,” Grace smirked. “Just like their father.”
“Och, so this is where ye’ve all gotten to, ye little scamps,” Lady Moira declared as she strode through the half-open door. “I’ve got two servants scouring the keep looking fer ye.”
“Guess what? We’re going to have a baby sister,” Cameron announced eagerly.
“And three more brothers,” Kyle added.
Lady Moira raised her brow hopefully. Blushing, Grace lowered her chin and shook her head. “I’m not increasing.”
“Yet,” Ewan added with a roguish grin.
“A sister and three brothers.” Lady Moira’s mouth twisted into an ironic grin. “Well now, I can assure ye that willnae happen if ye allow this unruly bunch to crowd into yer chamber at all hours of the day and night.”
The lads, in response to a sharp gesture from their grandmother, scrambled down from the bed. Grace sighed with envy. Lady Moira was able to control the boys better than either she or Ewan. It wasn’t as though she indulged them—nay, Lady Moira was strict and demanding. Yet the boys adored her and were always eager to please their grandmother and do her bidding.
It was an insight her mother-in-law had yet to share with her, but Grace remained hopeful she would one day learn that secret. Her relationship with Ewan’s mother had tempered and strengthened over the years, especially since the arrival of the children. There were still occasions when the two women clashed opinions, but they had learned that a cordial compromise was far more pleasant than open warfare.
“I’m hungry,” Cameron announced, sidling up to his father.
“’Tis far too early to be pestering the servants fer a meal,” Lady Moira replied. “Especially when they are all busy preparing fer yer uncle Brian’s visit.”
“My tummy is growling,” Kyle insisted. “Can ye hear it?”
“There is some bread and cheese—”
“I have a basket of dried fruit—”
Grace and Ewan spoke at the same time, yet one stern look from Lady Moira left them both silent. She tilted her head at a regal angle and observed them all for a long moment before speaking.
“Make some space on that table, Cameron,” she directed. “Kyle, help yer brother, Alec, onto the chair. And all three of ye must wash yer hands thoroughly before eating. I’ll carry over the basin of water, while yer father fetches the food.”
“Could ye not bring the lads into the hall and feed them there, Mother?” Ewan asked.
“Nay. I’ll not be leaving ye alone in a cozy bedchamber with yer lovely wife when ye’ve got that gleam in yer eye,” Lady Moira declared primly. “Grace has too much to do this morning making certain that all is ready fer her brother’s visit. Ye’ll have to wait until nightfall to start working on that granddaughter fer me.”
Ewan rolled his eyes, yet wisely decided not to argue with his mother. He scooped Alec out of his chair, sat down, then placed the boy on his lap. After making certain each of the boys had a portion of food, Ewan began munching on a crusty piece of bread.
Grace smiled as she looked around the crowded, noisy table, her gaze lingering on Ewan. Her heart softened. How had she gotten so lucky? She had expected to live the remainder of her life inside the walls of a convent in a quiet, contemplative environment.
Instead, she had been thrust inside the center of a firestorm of chaos. A husband and bairns, a home of her own, a place where she loved and was loved in return. Somehow it had all been magically bestowed upon her, a blessing she had never even dared to dream.
Aye, dreams truly were magical. But life, well, life was far better, especially when the dreams you never dared to imagine came true.
ZEBRA BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Copyright © 2014 by Adrienne Basso
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Zebra and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
First Electronic Edition: July 2014