Highlander’s Burnt Sky Extended Epilogue

A Historical Scottish Romance Novel

Extended Epilogue

Four Years Later...

Soaked to the skin, her wet clothes sticking to the fuller curves of her figure, her hair dripping water down into her eyes until there was nothing but blur before her, Maggie heaved her shovel into the sodden earth and flung a fresh load up onto the man-made bank ahead.

“Come on, Lads!” she shouted, wearing an amused grin. “I’m near to birthin’ this bairn in me belly, and I’m still shovelin’ faster than the lot of ye!”

Laughter rippled good naturedly up the channel of earth that the villagers of Bormir were hastily digging to try and divert the flood that threatened to wash away their homes and hearths. It was a dire occasion, that was true, but Maggie had a way of cheering the spirits of her people, no matter what was happening.

“Aye, and ye shouldnae be doin’ it!” Alastair grumbled at her side. He had done his best to try and keep her in the safety and warmth of the Castle, but she had refused. And gone were the days when she did as he asked, just to appease him.

Maggie flicked her hand at her husband, splashing his already dripping face with a spray of cold water. “Och, I’m nae an invalid, Love. There are a few months until I’ll be confined to me bed, and I intend to make the most of that freedom. Even if it’s just by diggin’ alongside these fine folk.”

A cheer went up from the villagers, and Maggie beamed with happiness. Indeed, the sound stirred a smile onto Alastair’s lips as he paused in his digging to gaze at his wife.

“Are ye sure ye’re nae part ox,” he teased. “Ye’ve the strength of one.”

Maggie feigned outrage. “I’ll have ye ken that me thighs are thick as tree trunks and me belly is monstrous because of ye and yer wicked ways, husband of mine. If I look part ox, it’s only because ye couldnae keep yer hands off me.”

The villagers cackled at the easy, humorous banter between their Laird and Lady. After six years, they had grown accustomed to the unusual manner in which they spoke to one another, always jesting and laughing and teasing. Maggie supposed some of them must be envious, for it was not often a husband and wife loved one another just as much as they had during their courtship.

“How could I?” He leaned down and kissed her fiercely on the lips, pulling her into him with one slick, muddied arm. Although, she could not quite push flush against him, considering the monumental swell of the unborn child between them.

Maggie responded in kind, ignoring the cheering whistles of Bormir’s residents. Her arms slipped about her beloved, catching a mischievous squeeze of his honed buttocks, as she sank into the sensual undulation of their mouths. She had vowed to never tire of this and, thus far, she had not. In truth, she knew she was just as much to blame for her presently pregnant state as he was.

“Do ye think we’ll get aught done with all and sundry gawpin’ at the pair of ye?” An amused voice broke them out of their private moment.

Maggie turned and raised a sultry eyebrow at Fletcher, who was digging away to her left. “Aye, ‘cause we’ve nae all had to gape at ye and Dana pawin’ at one another in the alleyways of the Castle?” She chuckled, flashing an apologetic look to Dana herself, who was sitting up on the bank, beneath the shelter of a wooden hut. She stirred a steaming pot of stew, which would be served to the ravenous workers in due course.

“Och, he’s been worse since we wed! I swear, there’s sorcery in gettin’ married. Ye’d think it’d make a lad want ye less, but nay—he cannae get enough of me!” Dana winked at her husband, who offered a contented grin in return.

After serving his “sentence” at the farm, Fletcher had been allowed to return to the Castle some three years ago. Alastair had invited him to retake his position as man-at-arms, but Fletcher had politely declined, explaining that he wanted to remain at the Higgins farm. He had only returned to make an honest woman out of Dana.

A joyous wedding had followed, though the pair had yet to be blessed with any children.

The same could not be said for Alastair and Maggie, for they had their sweet Ambrose, who had been joined by a daughter, Kayleigh, within eight months of their return from France. The twins, Jesper and Cormac, had come along two years later and, now, Maggie was carrying what she hoped would be her last. She adored her children more than life itself, but she was done with the strain of pregnancy.

As if summoned, Callen and Summer darted across the churned-up ground, coming from the sanctuary of the village inn, and ducked into Dana’s wooden hut. Callen was leading Kayleigh and Ambrose by their small, perfect hands, while Summer had the twins on each hip. The poor boys were fast asleep, unperturbed by the driving rain.

“I told ye to keep them inside!” Maggie lamented, for though she only had four children of her own, it often felt like she had six. Callen and Summer split their seasons between the Castle and the farm, looking to Dana, Isobel, and Maggie as their surrogate mothers. Thrice the love to raise decent, kind individuals, though Callen and Summer had not lost their mischievous streak entirely.

Callen shrugged. “Ambrose wanted to help. See, I got him a spoon.”

Sure enough, the five-year-old boy was now crouched low to the ground, picking at the sodden mud with a large wooden spoon. Maggie had to laugh, for it was a charmingly futile sight. Moreover, as Kayleigh copied whatever her older brother did, she was now sitting in the mud, scooping up handfuls of wet earth.

“I’m sorry, Margie!” Isobel appeared, one hand over her head to try and stop the rain from drenching her. “I went to check on the loaves for just a minute, and when I turned me back, the little wretches had taken off.”

Maggie waved a forgiving hand. “Och, daenae worry. At least they’ll sleep well tonight after exertin’ themselves with some diggin’.”

“They’ll catch cold!” Isobel protested, as she sifted through the hemp bag that she always wore diagonally across her chest. It held the secrets of her calling as a healer, filled with tonics and tinctures and ointments and clandestine brews that could cure just about anything.

Pulling out a large bottle and a spoon, she poured a greenish liquid into the dip of the spoon and tipped the contents into the mouths of the four little children. Once she was done, she grabbed a milk stool and placed it beside Dana, sitting down with a relieved sigh.

“That ought to stop them gettin’ sick,” she said proudly, and Maggie believed her. After learning all about healing from Bronagh, Isobel had become a famed healer in her own right. People came from all over the country to visit her at the Castle and have her tend to their ailments.

Still, Maggie wished her darling sister, now twenty years of age, would find some time to enjoy life… and maybe find herself a handsome man, who could look after her in the same way she looked after everyone else. Otherwise, she was destined to live the same kind of life that Maggie had feared.

Isobel frowned at her big sister. “I cannae believe the Laird is lettin’ ye haul earth like that, in yer state. Ye ought to be in yer bed, like I told ye, nae coverin’ yerself head to toe in mud.”

“I dinnae “let” her,” Alastair protested with a shake of his head.

At that moment, Eric came in to save him. “Ye ken what yer sister is like, Isobel. When she’s got a bee in her britches about somethin’, she disnae stop until it’s done, and she was nae goin’ to let us have all the fun.”

“I certainly was nae,” Maggie agreed proudly.

After all, she had entertained an entire entourage from Persia while she was pregnant with the twins, which had gained them vast trade in the Middle East and made Clan MacKinna wealthier than the Royal Court itself. And, she had coordinated a complicated, valuable deal with an eight-strong group of German nobles after going into labor with Kayleigh, though they had not been aware of a thing. That had been far more arduous than this, by far.

“Och, leave her be, the pair of ye,” Calista chimed in, wiping the driving rain from her face and ending up with an arc of mud across her forehead. “There are women diggin’ alongside ye who have toiled in the fields while carryin’ their bairns. Maggie is just keepin’ up a long-standin’ tradition of tough Scots lasses, who could beat any one of ye lads in endurance. I, for one, applaud her.”

Maggie beamed. “Aye, see, she kens.”

A raucous cheer went up from the women who were helping to dig the channel. Indeed, there were a few who appeared to be almost as pregnant as Maggie, and their husbands were not coddling them. Although, she had to admit she did adore Alastair’s soft side. It just showed how deeply he cared.

“We married tyrants, Brother,” Eric jested, putting his arm around Calista and kissing her cheek.

Alastair chuckled. “I wouldnae have it any other way.”

Since their return from the dead, Calista and Eric had settled back into Castle life as though they had never been away. Any outrage had long ago evaporated, and the Castle had continued to go from strength to strength, with Eric standing in as steward whenever business called Alastair elsewhere.

Indeed, Maggie cherished the sweet, formidable friendship that had bloomed between her and Calista. They were cut of the same cloth and, together, helped to run the Castle smoothly with a firm but fair hand. But more than that, it warmed Maggie’s heart to see her children playing with their cousins, Derrick and Fergus.

Out of so much loss and tragedy and awful twists of fate, a once-shattered and dispersed family had come back together, bigger and stronger than ever before.

Her father had gained a son-in-law and grandchildren, as well as the company of Dana and Fletcher, who lived at the farm and took care of him when Maggie could not. Fletcher had his sister back, a wife he was besotted with, and two nephews whom he adored with all his heart. Alastair and Eric had picked up where they had left off, slipping merrily back into the bonds of brotherhood, while Calista had her brother’s forgiveness, and a bright future devoid of fear with the man she loved, in the Castle she had fled from.

And Maggie… well, she had the whole world, right here on the lands belonging to Clan MacKinna. After envisioning nothing but a small life for herself for so many years, she could never have guessed that she would end up with the grandest life of all. A Lady, a mother, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a business genius, and beloved by the people of the Clan.

“We did all right for ourselves, did we nae?” Maggie turned to Alastair and leaned into his chest, smiling as his arms wrapped around her.

He kissed the top of her head. “Aye, Love, I’d say we did… but this is still only just the start of the happy life that awaits us.”

“Mm… I like the sound of that,” she whispered, safe in her beloved’s embrace, with the flutter of their child sparking inside her.

The End

Before you go my bonnie, here is a wonderful song to keep you company! Thank you for your support!

The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk

~ Cicero 

Thank you for buying my book.

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