Illicit Union_Sanctuary, page 32
“Yer sister said as much when she married. She insisted on Church of England vows. But will you, Margaret? Will you consider it binding?” He took up her hands squeezing them tight.
She kissed his hands, “I just said, I am already bound to you. We are one flesh.”
“Not as often as I want.” Teased Gillie, “But we’ll be sending The McBain’s spy down the road tomorrow.”
“Why would that matter? I intend to proclaim our marriage tonight if you are willing, my darling.” Just like that she stood reaching down to him, “Here’s the test, Laird MacGillivray are you ready to roll the dice?”
Upon his feet, Gillie vowed, “Nae, I’ll leave naught to chance. We’ll have an English wedding as soon as I can arrange one. Come spring we’ll ride across the border and . . . ” She patted her belly buried beneath layers of clothes. “Well maybe summer.”
He hesitated thinking of how her honesty gave him fair warning and so appended, “Are ye ready to take on nae just me, but a grouchy auld man accustomed to having his way, and this herd of beggars as dependent upon me as I am upon them?”
“Yes, already I feel an affection for Malcolm, in time I think he’ll warm to me.”
“Ach he already has, as have the clan.” Eagerly he pulled her along, “Wait until ye see for yerself my clan’s . . . our clan’s joy at our marriage.”
Fearing she might change her mind, he plowed through clusters of drunken men with Margaret in tow, scattering women and children from their path. He hopped up on the dais, and reached back to haul her up. Her arm wrapped behind his back and her hand clung to his waist. His arm rested across her back to mold their bodies together.
“Here now, ye two.” Bellowed Allie, “The McBains clearly bade you to keep yer hands off his sister-in-law.”
Devilishly Gillie reminded, “The McBain asked I swear to keep Lady Margaret safe and to nae bring disgrace upon her. I went beyond his request pledging to conduct myself with discretion and respect as well. Well, I am here to fulfill my promise.”
He turned to Margaret taking her hands in his, “Margaret Chilliam, I love ye. Moreover, I must keep the promise made to my liege laird and bring nae ill repute or disgrace upon ye. Most important, I must follow my heart, so I hereby proclaim ye my wife. I give over to ye all I am and all I have, withholding nothing. I hereby reserve my body and my fortune for your use and yours alone until death do us part.”
Allie barbed, “What fortune?”
Gillie pressed on nonetheless, “I pledge my oath of honor, in God’s eyes, in the eyes of this company, and in my depths of my heart ever more.”
He nodded at her, and she pointed to herself, so he said, “Ye must pledge yerself as ye will.”
“I, Margaret Janice Chilliam do take Ferquhar Mochridhe MacGillivray as my lawful wedded husband. Withholding nothing from him, I grant unto him all my worldly possession and the exclusive dominion over my body. I do solemnly pledge my love and loyalty for whole of my life.” She turned to face the witnesses, “I pledge my oath of honor, in God’s eyes, in the eyes of this company, and in the depths of my heart ever more.”
A collective howl arose building and building until the pipers rose above the clamor and the drums. The dancing, whooping, exceeded their earlier entrance. Many simply hugged one another turning about in joyous circles as did Gillie and Margaret.
Margaret was not surprised when a movement built to see their laird and lady dance. The bridal dance must be a tradition here as in England. Gillie deflected their demands saying, “I’m nae taking her out there in the midst of yer wild antics. She carries a babe within.”
One of pipers came forward and offered, “I can play a lute . . . a bit. Perhaps a more stately dance would better suit Lady . . . our Lady MacGillivray.”
Margaret suggested, “Perhaps a nice Pavane?”
“Aye, I know one, but ye must forgive if I cannae play as well as ye.”
“You’ll do fine.” Assured Margaret nudging Ferquhar to the edge of the platform. Taking the hint, he stepped down and reached up to steady her descent.
Touching but three fingers each, they struck a pose waiting for the music. The volunteer musician wisely keep the tempo slow and his notes careful. She curtsied as if at Whitehall and Ferquhar bowed left arm extended behind him with his fingers dangling in an elegant dangle. The other arm swept gracefully as he bowed low before reconnecting their three finger touch. The warmth of those fingertips diffused through her hand to her arm and to her heart. Lifting his hand so she must follow to maintain their minimal contact he lead her around in a slow rotation.
In rhythm with the Pavane, they flowed together. Their bodies very nearly but not quite touched. Margaret’s nipples arose trying to bridge the minute gap between her breasts and his chest, and reached all the more as he glided farther and farther. The dance proceeded through gestured kisses; lips tantalizing close. His cheek hovered so close she could feel his body heat. Was it possibly warmer with each near collision? The erotic incline of his stances beckoned her to lean into his elusive body. Through all, Margaret followed his fingers, hers tingling at the point of connection. His yearning gaze kept her transfixed and aching to rush into his arms. Would the piper turned amateur lutist ever reach the end of this unhurried Pavane?
The song ended, just when Margaret felt the stirring of damp passion. The song ended, with Ferquhar recreating his courtly bow and she sinking down with heaving bosoms before him. The song ended, and Margaret launched herself from the floor straight into her bridegroom’s embrace. The song ended with a kiss which made slick Margaret’s thighs and raised his flesh which she could discern through the coarse wool of his kilt, her underskirt, multiple wool petticoats, and her linen one.
Her hand passed over the protrusion briefly. He flinched and she jumped guiltily away realizing the entire clan silently watched – minus most children who had been tucked in bed somewhere. Blushing, Gillie solicited, “What? We’re married now. We dinnae have to leave off.”
Jock called out, “Ye might should. I believe shagging in public is illegal and definitely against church doctrine.”
Allie dismissed, “Nae it isn’t. Yer wife just tells ye it is, so she dinnae have let ye try it.”
The spell broke, the piper – with his pipes once again – summoned the other musicians. They tested tunes seeking those they all had in common. Although he guided her back to her seat, Ferquhar murmured - his breath caressing her ear. “Starting now I am working on getting us up the hill, up the stairs, and into OUR bed.” His lips nibbled until his tongue flickered tracing the folds. Drawing away he commanded aloud, “Stay and rest . . . eat a bit, I ken ye dinnae do justice to yer beef earlier. I’ll be back presently”
And he was, several times, looking increasingly exasperated. Well-wishers delayed his attempts to check on the change of the guards. Kinsmen diverted his progress time and again with well wishes and long winded toasts. The women he had tagged for cleanup were nowhere to be found. Of course Alexander dogged his every step with dire warnings of the wrath of The McBain or unwanted advice on how to conduct his wedding night.
Poor Ferquhar looking haggard and desperate stomped up and upon the dais, with Alexander no more than a half step behind. To compound matters, the moment Ferquhar sat to speak to her, an elderly man hobbled over saying, “Laird MacGillivray, my laird. I believe I should drink to yer health and wish ye and yer lovely bride health, wealth, and happiness.”
Waving away the man, Ferquhar rattled off, “Thank ye, thank ye, Connell. I glad ye were here at his time. I hoped ye enjoyed yerself.” His standard response.
Connell, however, was not to be lightly dismissed, He poured whiskey into every glass sitting there before them, which is to say two shot each for Margaret, Allie, and Ferquhar. Alexander seized both of his, urging, “Well let’s hear it, Connell.”
“Gillie Lad, I am one of few here who remember when yer father married Moiri. I can remember their wedding dance . .
Margaret’s bridegroom was trying to muster up appreciation, but weary indulgence was the best he could do. The story – slow paced and mostly in Gaelic – presented no interest to Margaret. She used it to enjoy the building desperation in Ferquhar’s eyes.
At the end, when the old man faltered, MacGillivray jumped in, “Och, it’s grand to have family about me on a day like today . . .”
“Here now,” Chided Connell, “We’ve yet to toss back our toast. To ye, The MacGillivray of the MacGillivray the best chieftain in the Highlands.” He turned to Margaret and grinned, “And he found a bride worthy of bearing his children. Her beauty, her talent . . .”
Gillie interrupted, “Aye, I’ve a wonderful bride which I dying to get alone, can we just drink now?”
A chorus of derisive commands to drink and drink plenty rang out. Ferquhar tossed the dram of whiskey over his shoulder and said, “Aw, I’m on to ye now. Yer trying to get me so limber legged I can nae find my cock.”
Aghast he turned to her blushing, “See I’ve had enough, and then some. I’m sorry, Lady Mine.”
With a sly wink at Margaret, Connell teased, “Keep practicing yer apologies, ye’ll be using them regular now ye are wed.”
Again the rancorous laughter exploded. Ferquhar leaped down and plowed through the drunken masses, “Jock? Jock where are ye?”
From the corner of her eye Margaret noted Jock ducking down behind the dais and crawling into the shadows. Oh, they were tormenting Ferquhar on purpose. Sly winks, lop-sided grins, and droll expressions blossomed behind his back.
Surprisingly, Alexander had remained downing the second shot supplied by Connell. “Nae too bad, Connell. I’ll have to sharpen up or ye will steal all my business. And I can nae afford the competition.” With a sigh, he concluded, “nae after tonight.”
Sliding the first of her shots to Allie, Margaret contradicted, “Why I thought wandering in here on the verge of a gathering profited you rather well.”
“Aye until ye and Ferquhar, the Love-struck Laird, turned it into a wedding.”
“What difference does that make?” Asked Margaret casually applying liver pate to a chunk of bread.
“I can nae charge my childhood friend for whiskey on his wedding day. Now those three kegs will have to be a gift.”
Margaret suggested, “You can still collect from Jock and Stratton . . .”
“Nae, it was drank here tonight.” He shrugged, “Oh well, I do wish ye both the best.”
Facetiously she said, “Why thank you, Alexander McBain, for a thoughtful and heartfelt wedding present.”
“My pleasure, and someday ye will thank me for seeing to it this wedding took place in a timely manner – before Laird McBain can hear back from either Whitehall or Ammavale.” He winked. “Or perhaps ye will blame me for turning the pressure up to compel ye into disastrous alliance. Either way I did my best by Ferquhar . . . and ye too I hope.”
The serious side of Alexander would not be seen again that night. When Farquhar finally stumbled upon Jock, and Searlaid miraculously appear, they could at last scale the heights to the laird’s house. Or they could have if Alexander was not there circling them, begging and pleading for Margaret to run off with him.
“Why ever would you think I would do such a thing? And on my wedding day?” Scolded Margaret.
Ferquhar maneuvered them around Alexander barking, “Ye heard her, get away, ye red-arsed hairy ape.”
“Aw but ye see, ye were meant for me. As Lady McBain’s sister ye were supposed to marry the Tanist of Clan McBain. I came here to claim my bride.”
“The Tanist?” Croaked out Malcolm suddenly alert, “Is Iagan here?”
“Iagan is way too auld to be the Tanist of the McBains. Allie McBain, as Lyall’s cousin, must be the Tanist until wee William comes of age. Go back to sleep Malcolm.” Ferquhar pointed at a man signaling for him to take Malcolm in hand.
“Now ye ken what I mean, the sister in law of the laird marries the Tanist, so the two sisters can keep each other company.” Alexander appropriated her arm leading her away from a distracted Ferquhar and dragged her further up the hill slope, shouting out, “Let’s get serious about it tonight.”
With an oomp and thud, Alexander was gone – rolling down to where the wedding guests waited to restrain him. Ferquhar suggested he carry her up the mountain in his arms. Margaret vetoed the idea; nevertheless, her feet touched earth only one of every three steps as her husband whisked her up the hill. Down below a furor of threats and counter threats showed the drunkard was still determined to razz the newlyweds even unto the bedroom door.
The MacGillivrays bought them enough time to reach the porch. With no warning Ferquhar grabbed her up, kicked the door open, and strode within before setting her down again.
“I’d try the stairs, but I’m afraid I might drop ye in the narrow twist for the landing.”
“Are you saying am too broad, husband?” Goaded Margaret.
He exclaimed, “Oh nae, nae but her skirts are. Nae more teasing. I’m teased out. I’m ready for . . . a taste of marital bliss. After you, Lady MacGillivray.”
At the twist in the ascent, Margaret turned about to illustrate the ample space. He laughed, “Go on with ye. Smile while ye can.”
“You intend to give me no reason to smile on my wedding night?” Gasped Margaret walking backwards up step by step.
“Nay, but when ye see yer fine sheets . . .”
“What happened to them?”
“Alexander McBain, rough-housing, aggravating bastard. I saw blood splattered on them from our tussle last night.” He smiled up at her drawing his lips nearer, “Even worse, I could think of nae way to keep them from his farting nasty arse.” He pouted, “We never got to rumple them up, and now they are already soiled.”
Exaggerating her alarm, Margaret demanded, “What did you two do last night?”
“Woman! I warned ye about these jests. I’ve been jabbed sore with barbs for the past four hours.”
Margaret turned to face the door, and steeled herself to face the damaged done by two grown men acting like children. She flung wide the door to an altered chamber.
Chapter Twenty Five
To Gillie, the room seemed a part of another world. All about flames danced on candles of all descriptions: thick pillars and tall tapers, aromatic bee’s wax and odorous tallow of the poorest sort of candles. On the dresser, the window seals, the mantel, Moiri’s chest, and on plates on the floor as well as in free standing sconces some five feet tall, they lit the room ablaze.
Their multiple flames reflected hundreds of times in diamond framed panes of glistening glass. Beyond those transparent portals the moon shone down on the continuing party in the valley. Gillie knew this display had to encompass every candle from every household in the valley. He peered down at the bonfire and realized it was the only light in sight other than the nearly full moon, and of course the galaxy of candles within their wedding chamber.
Looking back, he found Margaret staring transfixed at the bed. Clean linens and extra pillows graced its expanse. Someone had tucked dried heather across the head board. He pushed on one of the pillows and shared, “Heather. The pillows are fresh stuffed with heather. It had to take a week’s supply of kindling for Guddick Burn.”
“Look it’s everywhere.” Margaret pointed to beribboned dried bouquets blooming in vases and boxes, in bundles hung from the ceiling. “Hmmm, it smells wonderful. This is all so beautiful.”
“Ye want to talk about beautiful?” He examined her face close up, “Ye were beautiful coming down the mountain in this magnificent get up. One look, and I began to credence Allie’s claims, ye were meant for a better man.” He stiffened his hold on her body, “So if ye are, I can only strive to be that man.”
“Worthy? Oh Ferquhar, you are so handsome tonight. I will always remember this insolent cock’s feather, the tilt of your tam, the swagger of your kilt.”
“Dinnae ye forget the braw shirt my wife gave
They kissed, and his hands wandered tugging on laces, fumbling with drawstrings, until he despaired, “How will we ever get ye out of this garb, lovely though it be.”
With the flat of her hand, she pushed him back, “Let us instead take the easy road. Let’s get you out of your garb, lovely though it be.”
He tossed his tam on the bed, and flopped down to take off Allie’s boots. Conscious she was watching, he began peeling off the multiple layers of socks required to make a fit of Allie’s shoes. When the last pair joined the others, he wriggled his toes, “Ye may nae believe me but my feet were too hot most of the night. Did ye stay warm?”
“Wait I’ll show you.” She hiked up her skirts in the back where he could not see. She tampered and twisted something until she stepped way to reveal a pile of undershirts. “I too was pretty warm.”
“Good lord, how did ye walk with all that dangling about ye?”
She ignored his question instead prompting, “Next”
Malcolm’s coat, neatly folded, lay beside his tam on the bed. “What will ye shed next?”
“Oh I was thinking, next should be your belt since it holds your breachan up.” Her hand closed on his shoulder pulling him up and off the bed. Immediately both hands unraveled his belt yanking it from his waist. When his kilt failed to drop, she encouraged it, but she had forgotten his broach, so he was only partially exposed. He assisted releasing the pin with a flourish and a shake to stand before her clad only in his silk shirt. He expected her to untangle the neck cloth, the lace being fragile, but no. Instead, her hands slid over his body exploring the contours of his muscle from his shoulder, down his backbone, to this buttocks well covered by the overly long shirt. With no attempt to lift the shirt tail, she kneaded his buttocks stroking and rubbing the silk against his quivering skin.