Highland Echoes:Fated Hearts 02(10)By: Ceci Giltenan
When I left, I worked as a soldier with another clan. There, I fell in love with the laird’s daughter and she with me.
Shocked, Grace stopped reading for a moment. The laird’s daughter? Her mother hadn’t mentioned that detail either but it explained why she could read and write. Grace read on.
We knew there was little hope her father would allow the marriage. He had plans for strategic alliances that included betrothals for all of his children. Following our hearts meant escaping together, marrying in secret, and living in hiding. I was unwilling to subject my love to this without at least trying to approach her father. Still as unlikely as he was to agree, I could not risk losing her forever. She slipped from the castle and I escorted her to an abbey to wait for me while I met with her father.
I returned to the castle before anyone knew she had left. I begged her father for her hand. Not surprisingly, he refused. He saw my request as an insult, believing that ambition and greed rather than love motivated me. He banished me, vowing to kill me if he ever saw me again. If he had realized his daughter was already gone I have no doubt he would have cleaved me in two at that moment.
I suppose defying ye wasn’t bad enough, I also defied the laird I chose to serve. I left the keep, returned to the abbey, and married the woman I loved, promising to devote my life to her.
Perhaps it will ease yer heart to know that due to the risk of discovery, working as a soldier with any clan would never have been possible. Nor could I ever lend my sword-arm to an enemy of Scotland.
We chose another life but in so doing had to sever all ties. I want more than anything for ye to meet my precious wife. I love her more than life itself. I cannot imagine living without her. However, she fears her father. She fears the power he wields and believes his need for vengeance against us could endanger anyone who has knowledge of our whereabouts.
I realize now that not only have I robbed ye of a son, but of a beautiful, loving daughter by marriage, and of grandchildren. We have a lovely newborn daughter. We also had a fine son who we tragically lost to illness a few days ago. Sadly, I now fully understand how devastating it is to lose a child. If you feel a fraction of the loss I feel for my son, I will never be able to apologize for causing you such pain.
Perhaps someday, when my wife’s family no longer poses a threat, ye will be able to meet the woman who captured and holds my heart as well as the children born from our love. This is my fervent prayer. Until then, please accept this meager apology for my shameful behavior and believe that I love and respect ye more than ye can ever know.
This was certainly not what Grace expected. She looked up from the letter, her grandmother dashed at the tears coursing down her cheeks. Grace loved her father dearly. She believed him to be generous, strong, and noble. It was hard to read about these things her parents had done, which seemed so very selfish and yet were born of deep abiding love for each other. Clearly that love had pushed aside everything else and thus had caused great pain to others. Duty to one’s family, clan honor, loyalty to a liege lord, none of these things had been more important than the love they felt for each other. It was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. She couldn’t help but wonder what choice she would have made. She thought of her beloved Callum. Would she have married him if she had faced the same circumstances her parents did? She didn’t know the answer.
“I’m so sorry, Grandmother. After these many years, this seems so little.”
“Child, I thought Tristan long dead. I had given up all hope. Now I know what happened to take him from me all those years ago. I know he didn’t hold a grudge against me, and that he regretted his actions. I wish things could have been different, but to live a life filled with love is a blessing. I would have wanted nothing more for him. These are not small things.” In a brighter tone she added, “also, I now have a beautiful granddaughter and great-granddaughter to dote on. And perhaps someday I can meet the lass who won Tristan’s heart.”
Grace’s eyes filled with tears. “Nay, grandmother, I’m sorry to say she passed away from her illness in February, shortly after she told me all of this. I have no one left in the world now but Kristen and ye.”