Highlander’s Dark Temptation – (Extended Epilogue)

 

2 Years Later

“Bea,” Erskine adopted a warning tone, but still, the bairn looked back at him with defiance in her blue eyes. So like Laura in many ways, now the baby was growing a little, could sit straight and move about with more ease, she was already showing her knack for mischief. “Bea…daenae do that,” Erskine warned again as he walked toward her across the room, but Bea smiled, her chubby face lighting up, clearly knowing she was doing something wrong from his tone but reveling in it anyway. “Bea.”

She dropped the ham that had been clutched in her fingers onto the floor.

“Ha, what am I goin’ to do with ye, eh little one?” Erskine laughed as he dropped down at his bairn’s side on the rug. She was sat in the drawing-room of the castle, eating some ham they had given to her, yet she seemed to prefer the idea of making more of a mess than eating it. He bundled up the ham pieces she had deposited and placed them on a table nearby before sitting back down beside her. “If ye are already mischievous, what are ye goin’ to be like when ye are a little older, eh?”

He reached for his child and began to tickle her under her arms. She giggled, utterly delighted, her puffed-up cheeks turning pink as he swept her into his arms and held her in his lap, embracing her close.

Since Bea had been born, Erskine had found himself changing. Whereas before, the most important things in his life were Laura, his father, and his clan, now Bea was at the top of the list with them, and repeatedly he found himself making excuses to be with her. Not that he minded. He kissed her on the top of her head as she settled down from her laughter.

Not yet ready to stand, Bea was proving a handful already, and he loved that about her.

“Ye’re takin’ after yer maither already, arenae ye?” he murmured to her.

If yer maither is bold enough to dress up as a boy and travel from England to Scotland, I wonder what mischief ye will get up to when ye’re older? I’ll be gray before me time worryin’ after ye!

“Is she causing you trouble again?”

At the familiar voice, Erskine looked up to see Laura standing in the doorway. Erskine smiled as soon as his eyes found her. In the last two years, she had blossomed even more than when he had first met her. Now, she was leaning on the doorframe, wearing a pale cream dress cinched at the waist with long sleeves and a deep square neckline. Her hair was much longer these days, and today she wore it free about her shoulders.

“Nae as much as ye do,” Erskine teased just as Laura stepped away from the door and walked toward him across the room.

Erskine felt the love he had known now for the last two years swell as she came closer. It was always the same. Whenever she was near, he was desperate to have her in his arms. As she reached him, she plopped down on her knees and spoke animatedly to their daughter.

“Don’t you listen to him, Bea. Always be as mischievous as you like, and we will love you all the same.”

“Ye ken I will,” Erskine laughed, “it’s just takin’ after ye so much, I am just picturin’ the trouble she’ll get into when she’s older.”

“What kind of trouble?” Laura looked up to him with innocence.

“Have ye forgotten me chasin’ after ye across the south road tryin’ to get ye out of Lord Moore’s hands?”

“Ah, well, we will never promise Bea’s hand to such a man.”

“True, I wouldnae do that. But how about sneakin’ into me entourage dressed as a boy?” Erskine tickled Bea again, making her squirm and laugh on his lap.

“Give Bea enough freedom, and she won’t feel the need to run as I did,” Laura held his gaze with honesty in her blue eyes.

“I ken, love,” he smiled and lifted a hand to her. He gently took her chin and brought her toward him. She leaned toward him until their lips met in a gentle kiss. “I give ye me word,” he said as she sat back again, her smile so great that her cheeks had to ache, “Bea will have all the freedom she wants.”

“Thank you,” she said, just as Bea let out a little wail. “Oh, dear! Is someone gettin’ upset they daenae have enough attention?” she laughed and took Bea out of his arms, holding the child above her head and pulling faces at her until the bairn laughed again.

Seeing his wife and his daughter together, Erskine felt everything was complete.

Life is as it should be.

“How were Tam and Lennox?” he asked, pleased to see Laura had returned from her visit to them.

“Well, they have some news,” she smiled as she settled Bea in her arms. Suddenly sleepy, Bea rested her head on her mother’s shoulder, the smattering of dark auburn hair that was across her forehead flattened with the actions.

“Is it good news or bad news?” Erskine asked carefully.

“Oh, good news,” Laura gestured to Bea in her hold. “This kind of news.”

“What…” Erskine hesitated. “Lennox is with child?”

“Yes,” Laura nodded, “but it’s a great secret for now apparently, so you must tell no one.”

“I am pleased to hear it,” Erskine nodded. He had seen often enough how Lennox looked at Bea and longed for her own child. As godmother, Lennox was always around to take care of Bea, but she was missing that love from her own life too. Tam would no doubt be delighted by the news too. Erskine could remember a particular conversation he and Tam had shared shortly after Bea was born, where Tam had talked of his wish to see Lennox with her own child in her arms.

A knock at the door disturbed Erskine’s peace, and he looked up to see Camden standing in the doorway. Camden was wearing a dark expression, though it cracked into a small smile when he laid eyes on Laura and Bea together.

“Camden,” Erskine called to him, “have ye come bearin’ news too?”

“That I have,” Camden nodded, his somber expression returning as he shifted between his feet.

“I am guessin’ it is bad news from the way ye are actin’….” Erskine gestured to him.

“It is nae good news,” Camden accepted quietly.

“Very well,” Erskine moved to his feet and kissed Laura on the forehead as he walked past her. In her arms, Bea’s eyes were now closed, and she was quickly on the way to the peaceful depths of sleep. As Erskine moved to Camden in the doorway, he was struggling to tear his eyes off the two women in his life he adored so much. Seeing Bea so peaceful in Laura’s hold reminded him of the night before and how he and Laura had slept in one another’s arms too.

It is the greatest peace I have ever ken.

Well, it had been peaceful until Erskine woke that morning and found Laura trying to get out of the bed, dressed only in a thin shift. It was a revealing dress indeed, showing off the slender curves of her body and the delicate curve of her neck as she let the tendrils of her hair fall over her shoulder.

Unable to stay still, he had drawn Laura back to the bed. Within minutes, their peace was lost to heat. He had made love to her with all the passion he had in him, first entering her from behind as she leaned forward on the bed, screwing up her hands in the pillows and muffling her moans of pleasure. Next, he had flipped the two of them over. With him sat up, she was straddling him, clutching to his shoulders as she rocked back and forth and sent him into the oblivion of passion.

“Erskine?” Camden’s voice brought him back to the moment.

He snapped his eyes away from the perfect image of Laura and Bea together toward Camden as he reached him in the doorway.

“If ye have come to disturb me happiness,” Erskine dropped his voice to a whisper, loathe to let Laura hear whatever bad news Camden had come to tell him, “ye can go away again just as quickly.”

“If only I could,” Camden sighed with a shake of his head. “Ye will want to ken this.”

“Oh? What?”

“Yer faither has received a letter this mornin’. It’s from Dearg,” Camden stressed the word as he handed over a piece of parchment.

Erskine said nothing at first, but he took the letter and read it quickly. Reading those words only left Erskine unsettled. Dearg had always possessed a talent for charm, and Erskine had only learned two years ago what could really lurk beneath that pretend charm he wore. The letter was full of so many apologies that Erskine found it difficult to believe it. He couldn’t help suspecting that Dearg’s apology was a lie in order to get what he wanted: to come home.

“What did me faither say about it? Does he believe it, or does he think he is lyin’?” Erskine kept his voice a whisper as he looked back over to Laura and Bea.

I willnae let me brother anywhere near them—Nae after what he tried to do to Laura.

“He’s nae sure. I think he wants to believe it,” Camden shrugged. “He mentions a meetin’ point.”

“Aye, so I see,” Erskine murmured as he folded the parchment back up. “I’m guessin’ me faither has already said he is happy to go ahead with the meetin’?”

“Aye,” Camden nodded, his expression holding the same reservations that Erskine felt. It had not missed Erskine’s notice recently that when he and his father spoke of Dearg, the Laird looked forward to having Dearg home again. He clearly hoped Dearg would be a transformed man, but for Erskine, the letter was clearly full of falseness.

I trust him now nay more than I did the day he left the clan.

“Camden, ye and Aiden go and meet him,” Erskine said quickly. “I think it’s best.”

“Must we?” Camden looked distinctly uncomfortable.

“Nae fond of the idea?” Erskine smirked. “I thought ye dinnae shy away from any challenge.”

“It is nae that, it is just….” Camden’s eyes flicked toward Laura and Bea. “Perhaps I am ready for a different kind of challenge in me life.”

“Ah, I see,” Erskine smiled at the thought and leaned on the wall beside Camden. “Ye want to relax yer duties a little in order to find a wife of yer own?”

“Is that so bad?” Camden asked.

“I thought ye preferred a life of many women?”

“Nae anymore,” Camden shook his head. “I’m ready for a new life.”

“Then I hope the right woman comes along soon,” Erskine smiled and patted Camden’s shoulder in comfort. “Then I give ye me word, Camden. Go to this meetin’ place with Dearg, see what he offers as clemency to come back to the clan. After that, I promise ye can take a break from duties for a little while.”

“Thank ye, Erskine, I appreciate it,” Camden offered his hand, and Erskine shook it. Before releasing, though, Erskine held his grasp a little longer.

“Be careful, Camden. Me faither may be willin’ to forgive Dearg and believe he is a changed man, but I am nae so ready to believe it,” Erskine flicked his gaze back to Laura and Bea.

“Ye daenae think he would try to harm ye again? By doin’ somethin’ to them?” Camden asked, a note of panic in his voice.

“Let us hope nae. But keep yer eyes open me friend. Both for bein’ wary for Dearg and for any woman who may be yer future wife,” Erskine’s gentle jest brought a smile from Camden.

“I will. Good day, Erskine,” Camden nodded his head and left quickly out of the room.

Erskine looked back to Laura and Bea. With the bairn now sleeping peacefully, Laura was back on her feet, her beautiful smile faltering slightly as she walked toward him.

“Is something wrong, Erskine?” she asked, whispering so not to wake Bea.

“I daenae ken, Laura. I really daenae ken.”

He had to hope his gut instinct was wrong, but he really couldn’t be sure. He just passed Dearg’s letter to Laura. She adjusted her hold to grasp Bea with just one arm and opened the letter with her other hand. As she read the words, her bright blue eyes widened even more.

“He wants to come back.”

“So he does,” Erskine shifted between his feet. “There’s more to this than he portends. I’m sure of it.”

 


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  • Great story, I read the book in one day. Loved the ending, but wonder what the brother will do to to the two years of happiness Erskine and Laura have enjoyed.

  • A Really good story .
    Fantastic characters.
    Thankyou for sending this story to me. I look forward to the brothers story hopefully coming soon?

  • I loved your story! Could not put it away from the moment I started reading! Thank you Juliana! I’ll notify you when my review is posted on Amazon.de!

  • Great story and even better ending.Look forward to next instalment.Hopefully brother turns good

  • A very interesting book. The characters were engaging and well written. I look forward to reading Dearg’s story.

  • Really enjoyed Laura’s adventure. Couldn’t put it down now l can’t wait for the next book.

  • Very good start towards a new life with excitement and adventure, especially for a girl, in that era. Looking forward to more with Death’s return?

  • Great story! Read it in 1 day. Hope Dearg is not planning further treachery.
    (My copy was missing full lines of the story?)

    • Thank you my dear Ann. It remains to be seen 😉 Sorry that you experienced this, since we did not get any other reports about missing lines. 🙁

  • This story was so good was hard to put the book down . I really enjoyed it would like to read some mirr

  • Great story filled with all the ingredients to draw the reader in & keep the action building making for a five star read!

      • Has there been a follow up story about these characters, especially Dearg? Don’t leave us hanging forever please🙂

        • Hello dear Jeanne, thank you for feeling for these characters as deeply as I do. It really means the world to me. I can’t reveal much for the time being but, knowing that you care for them enough to get back to me, you might get the answer you want sooner than later. 😉😇 Until then, take care!

  • I loved this book, kept me guessing what was going to happen next. I liked all the characters in the story. The two brothers were so different. Can’t wait to read the follow up story about his bad brother. Keep up the good work because I love your stories.

  • A true mixture of action and passion. Not a cliffhanger but definitely leaves the reader anxious for the next novel.

  • I truly love this book. Was up late at night reading. Can’t wait for the next book to find out what happened.

  • Great book was hard to put down a page turner with interesting story line can’t wait to read the next book in this series. Can you give us the name of the next book?

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