Glynis nodded. “Does she have any other symptoms to speak of?”
“I . . . that is to say, she awakened feeling very sick and did in fact throw up. Her stomach is queasy most of the morning. Yet when she isn’t feeling queasy, she’s feeling quite fit.”
“I’ll have to ask a few personal questions before I give you my opinion, m’lady,” Glynis told her mistress in a low whisper.
“I’ll answer them if I know the answers.” Johanna replied.
“Has your friend missed her monthly?”
Johanna nodded. “She’s missed two months now but that isn’t unusual, for she isn’t at all consistent.”
Glynis was trying not to smile. “Would you happen to know if her br**sts are feeling tender?”
Johanna almost checked to see before she gave her answer. She caught herself in time. “Perhaps just a little, but not overly much.”
“Is she newly married?”
Johanna thought that was an odd question to ask. She nodded. “Do you think the strain of the new marriage would cause such symptoms? I don’t believe so, Glynis, for the woman was married before.”
“Did she have children with the first—”
Johanna didn’t let her finish her question. “She’s barren,” she interrupted.
“Perhaps by one man she was,” Glynis remarked.
Johanna didn’t know what to make of that remark. Then Glynis turned her attention with yet another question. “Are you. . . I mean to ask, is she sleeping more than usual?”
“Yes, she is,” Johanna cried out. She was amazed by the clever questions Glynis was asking now. “You’ve heard of this sickness before, haven’t you?”
“ ’Tis the truth I have,” Glynis answered.
“Will she die?”
“Nay, m’lady. She won’t die.”
“Then what should she do?”
Johanna was close to tears now. Glynis hurried to assure her. Her smile was wide when she gave her answer.
“She should tell her husband she’s carrying his child.”
It was a blessing Glynis was such a strong, strapping woman. She proved to be quick on her feet, too. She caught her mistress before she hit her head on the stone wall.
The joyful news had sent Lady Johanna into a dead faint. She awakened a few minutes later in Glynis’s bed. The first words out of her mouth were given in a shout.
Glynis patted her hand. “By one man you were, but not by our laird. You’ve got all the symptoms, m’lady. You’re carrying, all right.”
Johanna shook her head. Her mind couldn’t accept such a possibility. “Women are barren, not men.”
Glynis snorted. “So men say,” she muttered. “You and I have had out differences, m’lady, but I’d like to think we’ve come to an understanding. I count you as a friend, especially on the days you’re wearing our fine Maclaurin plaid,” she added with a grin.
“I’m happy to have you for a friend, Glynis,” Johanna replied, wondering why in heaven’s name the woman would bring up that topic now.
Glynis was quick to explain her reasons. “Friends hold each other’s confidences,” she said. “And so I would ask you if your first husband ever took any other woman to his bed. I’m not trying to shame you, m’lady, only sort out the truth.”
Johanna sat up before. “Yes, he did take other women to his bed,” she admitted. “And not just a few. He seemed determined to bed as many as he could. He liked to flaunt his women in front of me. I didn’t mind, though,” she added in a rush when she caught Glynis’s pitying look. “I didn’t like my husband. He was an evil man.”
“But what I’m really asking, m’lady, is if you’d be knowing if there were any illegitimate bairns as a result of his dalliances?”
“No, there weren’t any babies born,” Johanna answered. “Raulf told me the women used a potion to keep from getting pregnant. He thought I used one, too, and would go into a rage each month because he was sure I was deliberately foiling his attempts to have a child.”
“There are such potions around,” Glynis replied. “You’re certainly carrying now, m’lady, so we can conclude you aren’t barren after all. I’m going to keep silent about this joyful news. It’s up to you to pick your time and tell your husband. Our laird will be very pleased.”
Johanna left the cottage a few minutes later. Glynis followed her to the stone wall. Johanna suddenly turned around.
“My husband won’t allow me to work in the fields,” she announced.
“No, of course not,” Glynis replied. “You’re our mistress. You shouldn’t be doing common work.”
“I can sew,” Johanna said. She added a nod. “Each night I sit by the hearth and either work on my tapestry or do a little embroidery. I can fashion flowers on . . . things,” she added,
“What are you getting at, m’lady? Just spit it out, why don’t you?”
“I noticed you wear saffron-colored blouses under your plaid, and I was wondering if you’d like me to sew a border of flowers around the neckline for you.”
Glynis’s eyes widened. “Why would you want. . .”
“You tend the fields all day long, Glynis, and I would like to do something to show my appreciation. If you’ll bring one of your blouses up to the hall, I’ll start work tonight.”
She was too embarrassed to wait for an answer. Johanna didn’t understand why she was suddenly feeling so shy and unsure of herself. She waved as she ran down the path leading to the courtyard.
She slowed her pace when she reached the hill. The fullness of her condition hit her again. She walked the rest of the distance home in a daze.
Auggie caught up with her in the center of the courtyard. “I’ll be coming to supper tonight,” he began. “I’m going to tell your husband. . .”
He quit his explanation that he was going to tell his laird Johanna had fainted when he saw the look on her face. “What has you smiling like you just found a pot of gold, lass?”
She shook her head. “I’ll tell you tonight,” she promised. “It’s a grand day, isn’t it, Auggie, even though the weather’s a bit unusually cold.”
“Now, lass, you’d best be knowing something about the weather here.”
Auggie wanted to tell her the truth that the weather was actually mild for early fall. Keith had told him their mistress believed the Highlands were as warm as the summer all year long. He didn’t want the soldiers laughing behind Johanna’s back over her naïveté, but his mistress went sailing right on past him, her head apparently lost in the clouds, before he could set her straight on the topic of the Highland weather. He decided he’d wait until later to tell her the truth.
Johanna sat with Alex at the table while he ate his supper. He was too young to wait for his elders. When he was finished, she sent him to the buttery to wash his face and hands.
She went over to sit by the hearth. Dumfries came loping into the hall. She gave him a firm pat of affection, then settled herself in the chair to do some sewing. Dumfries collapsed with a loud thud next to her chair and rested his head on her shoes.
Alex joined her a scant minute later. He was still wearing stew on his face. Johanna fetched a wet cloth and cleaned him properly. He wanted to sit next to her in the same chair. She scooted over to accommodate him.
“Will you want to stay here with your father and me, or will you miss your other relatives, Alex?”
“I want to stay here,” he replied. He let out a loud yawn and leaned against Johanna, watching as she threaded her needle.
“I want you to stay, too,” Johanna whispered.
“Papa says you missed me.”
“He’s right. I did miss you.”
Alex’s chest swelled up with importance. “Did you cry like a baby when you missed me?”
She smiled over his choice of words. “I most certainly did,” she lied. “Would you like me to tell you a story before you go to bed?”
Alex nodded. “Where did you learn the story? From Auggie?”
“No,” she answered. “My mother told me stories when I was a little girl; and when I grew up, I learned how to read and I ...”
“Why did you learn to read?”
Johanna’s gaze was fully directed on Alex’s upturned face, and for that reason she didn’t notice her husband had walked into the hall. He stood on the top step watching his wife and his son while he waited for one of them to acknowledge his presence.
“I learned because it was forbidden,” she answered. “I was told I was too ignorant to read, and for a time I believed that nonsense. Then I got my gumption back and decided I was just as clever as anyone else. That is when I learned how to read, Alex; and when you’re older, I’ll teach you.”
Alex was fingering her plaid while he listened to her explanation. He suddenly yawned wide enough for her to see the back of his throat. She instructed him to cover his mouth with his hand and then began a story that used to be her favorite when she was a child.
Alex was sound asleep less than a minute later. His head dropped to the side of her chest. Johanna was so content to have the little one in her arms, she closed her eyes to say a prayer of thanksgiving. She fell asleep almost as quickly as Alex had.
Gabriel didn’t know who to carry up to bed first. Calum came to his rescue. He took Alex.
“Where should I put him for the night, MacBain?” he asked in a low whisper so the little one wouldn’t wake up.
Gabriel didn’t have any idea. Clare was using the second chamber and so he couldn’t put his son in there.
He didn’t want Alex to sleep with the soldiers either. The boy was too young and needed to be close to his mother and father in the event he became fearful or disoriented during the night.
“Put him in my bed for now,” Gabriel instructed. “I’ll figure something out before tonight.”
He waited until Calum had carried Alex out of the hall before turning his attention back to his wife. He squatted down next to her chair and started to reach for her when she suddenly opened her eyes.
“Gabriel.” She said his name with wonder in her voice. He felt as though he’d just been caressed.
“Were you dreaming about me perchance?”
He was trying to tease her, but his voice was gruff with emotion. Damn but he loved this woman. He let out a sigh then and added a frown in a bid to get his thoughts under control.
He wanted to bed her. He knew he’d have to wait, so he decided to growl at her instead. “You should go upstairs, wife. You’re clearly exhausted. You’re doing too much work. I’ve told you time and time again to rest, but you blatantly . . .”
She reached over and brushed her fingertips down the side of his face. Needless to say, his concentration was broken. He thought it might be a deliberate ploy.
“I’m not doing too much,” she replied. “I wasn’t sleeping just now. I was dozing and thinking about something wonderful. I still can’t quite believe it, Gabriel. It doesn’t seem possible, and when I tell you my important news. . .”
She suddenly stopped and peeked around her husband to make certain they were alone. She didn’t want anyone else sharing in this special moment.
Keith and three other Maclaurin soldiers came strutting into the hall just as she realized Alex was missing.
“Do you see, you were sleeping,” Gabriel told her. “You didn’t even notice Calum took my son upstairs.”
“He’s our son,” she corrected.
He liked the sound of that. Johanna was becoming possessive, and he thought that was a good sign. In time he hoped her possessiveness would extend to him.
“Yes, he is our son,” he agreed. “Now tell me your news.”
“It will have to wait until later.”
“Tell me now.”
His eyes widened. He stood up, then hauled her to her feet. “You dare to deny me?”
She smiled. “I dare anything these days, thanks to you, husband.”
He didn’t know what she was talking about. He decided he’d wait until later to badger her into giving him a proper explanation. Now he was determined to make her tell him her news.
“I wish to know what has you worrying. You will tell me now,” he commanded.
He was sounding arrogant again. Heaven help her, she was beginning to appreciate that flaw. “I’m not worrying,” she said. “I’ll tell you my news when I’m ready, m’lord, and not a moment before. I won’t be rushed.”
“You going to tell your laird what happened down in the meadow?”
Auggie shouted his question from the entrance. Johanna turned to look at him. The old warrior bounded down the steps and started across the room. Dumfries let out a loud growl. Auggie hushed him with a quick growl back.
“Yes,” Johanna called out. “I’m going to tell him after dinner.”
“If you don’t, I’ll be telling on you come morning, lass. Just see if I don’t.”
“What in thunder. . .”
She deliberately interrupted her husband’s mutterings to call out a greeting to the priest. “Good evening, Father.” In a low whisper she said to her husband, “Do try to be patient this once. I promise you’ll be richly rewarded.”
He grunted. She couldn’t tell from his expression if he was going to be agreeable or not. “I wish to have some privacy when I tell you my important news.”
He finally nodded. Gabriel tried not to smile. He thought he’d finally figured out what it was she wanted to tell him. Lord, he felt good, and all because the daft woman had finally realized she loved her husband.
He would let her have her way, he decided. If she wanted to give him her declaration in the privacy of their bedchamber, he would accommodate her. Damn, but he wished dinner was over. He was anxious to be alone with her. He hadn’t realized until this minute how important her love was to him. Wives didn’t have to love their husbands, but this one had to love him, he decided. If he was going to be miserable, then by God so was she.
“Matters of the heart are damned confusing.” He’d muttered his opinion in a low voice.
“I beg your pardon?” she asked, not certain she’d heard what he’d said.