Title: An Echo in the Glen
Author: Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple
Genre: Historical Romance
Everything is finally right in Gavin’s world. He’s betrothed to his love, the bold and fair Jenny, hoping to wed come summer.
Until a ghost from Gavin’s past comes back to haunt him. Will Jenny and Gavin’s love be torn apart by this intruder in their lives? Delay after delay, but now Gavin MacLeod and Jenny prepare to wed. Her dress is nearly finished, and Gavin has established himself as Laird MacLeod’s second in command to provide for his new bride. Their love is a golden circle that surrounds them. Until the stunningly beautiful Ellen Fraser returns as a widow, and her interest in Gavin has not waned in the time they’ve been apart. She pursues Gavin with a vengeance, sending Jenny into a confusing whirlwind of heart-wrenching emotion. Suddenly she doubts her relationship with Gavin, yet Gavin prides himself on his fealty. Can Jenny trust Gavin’s vow that he loves only her? While Gavin swears to Jenny that Ellen means nothing to him, Ellen’s behavior exposes something quite different. Finally, Gavin manages to have Ellen sent away, but before she leaves, Ellen reveals a ruinous secret, one that will destroy Gavin and Jenny’s newfound happiness and devastate Jenny forever. Though Gavin continues to proclaim his love and innocence, Ellen’s diabolical behavior threatens the peace in clan MacLeod and any hope of joy for Gavin and Jenny. Is Ellen telling the truth about Jenny’s husband? Only Gavin and Ellen know the truth, and Ellen’s accusation jeopardizes everything Gavin has fought so hard for.
A late, temperate spring ushered in the start of a warm summer — warmer than usual. Meg had finally recouped after several months of weakness and was back to running the manse. Though it had rained the past several days, the wet weather was fortunate for Jenny, as they used the time to sew clothes, mend tunics and kirtles, and finally enjoy time with wee baby Caitir, who was busy growing fat under the care of Meg and her grandmother Elspeth. Though Meg still had her slow days, baby, mother, and grandmother fairly glowed.
Now talk turned to Jenny and her upcoming nuptials. The season of Lent meant she and Gavin had to wait until after Easter, and then the entire clan had been focused on Mayday celebrations as Meg finished recuperating. Now that these events had concluded, and Meg had returned to full health, Jenny and Meg hoped that Jenny’s wedding would be celebrated that summer. That was, if the English threat didn’t travel this far north, nor did a call to arms come from King Robert the Bruce himself.
The kitchens steamed and sweat dripped from their brows as Fiona and the kitchen maids prepared for a large meal. Most MacLeods labored outside, taking advantage of the sudden bright day, and their appetites would be ravenous come the evening meal.
Gavin toiled near the barn in the bailey, stacking scratchy peat and dried grass for the summer. Women and men scrambled to hang peat on the drying racks whilst the weather was warm, while other men worked to secure the already dry peat against any oncoming damp weather. The stacks would make fine insulation for the beasts and the more they could gather and dry when the clime was agreeable, the more they would have in the fall and winter. On dry days, the MacLeod men worked like men possessed, clambering to amass as much as dried peat bricks as possible before it rained again. And in the northern Highlands, the weather might change in an instant, ruining their hard work.
Though the sun barely peeked from behind the clouds, the day hearkened a blistering summer to come. Like most of the MacLeod men slaving in the yard, Gavin had stripped down to naught but his braies, the weather too warm for even a light woolen plaid. Sweat glistened on his golden chest and dripped down the sculpted muscles of his back.
The view of so many MacLeod warriors bare chested was a welcome sight to the lassies who sauntered across from the keep to their chores, some even going out of their way to enjoy the view of such hardy, well-built men. They giggled and winked and lingered.
And if the men flexed their defined muscles in appreciation, the more the better.
Riders from the east approached as the sun started its afternoon descent, casting purple shadows on the world and bringing with it a gentle breeze and an appreciated nip to the air. The air also brought with it a nervous energy that disrupted the domestic scene. Despite the call for Highland hospitality, strange riders were not always as welcome as one might think.
Gavin noticed several other men had paused in their work, and as the dust and grit settled into his hair, he pulled himself up to his full height to observe the riders as they approached.
They didn’t look familiar, not from this distance, but one of the riders — ‘twas something uncanny about him.
Then a tendril of hair slipped past the hood in the billowing wind, and Gavin’s breathing stopped. He gritted his teeth at the sight, and his blood threatened to explode from his body to paint the yard in swaths of crimson.
The same crimson as that hair blowing in the wind.
An ill wind that blew in an even more foul event.
These weren’t just riders. And one of the riders wasn’t a man.
Gavin only knew one woman with hair the color of the blood she’d shed, tainting the tears she’d caused, filling the heart she broke. The vile witch that had teased him and strung him along, then crushed his heart to wed into a higher station. The woman who had vowed to never see Gavin again – an echo of his tormented past returning. He cursed under his breath.
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Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a professor of writing and an author. She started reading when she was 3 years old, writing when she was 4, and published her first poem at age 16. She has written articles and essays on a variety of topics, including several texts on writing for middle and high school students. She is also working on a novel inspired by actual events. She lives in California with her family of seven.
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