Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 88

They were holding something. At Mac's bellow, they unrolled and held up a banner that read: "Will You Marry Me?-Again."
Isabella burst into tears. She turned around to find Mac next to her on one knee, something clutched in his hand.
"The first time I had no engagement ring," he was saying. "I made you wear one of my rings, remember? It was so big you had to hold it on." Mac opened his hand, which contained a thin gold ring encrusted with sapphires and one large diamond. "Marry me, Isabella Mackenzie. Make me the happiest man in the world."
"Yes," Isabella whispered, and then she turned and shouted it out of the window. "Yes!"
The crowd below cheered. Daniel whooped and punched the air, and Cam was laughing as he dropped the banner, drew out his flask of whiskey, and toasted them.
Mac got to his feet and crushed Isabella against him. "Thank you, my love."
"I love you," Isabella said, her heart in every word.
He nuzzled her. "Now, about that baby we were trying to conceive."
Isabella went hot with excitement. She'd kept the secret for a week now, wanting to make certain Mac was fully healed before she sprang the news on him. "I don't think it will be necessary to try any longer."
Mac jerked back, a frown on his face. "I don't under-" He stopped, not smiling, not angry, just still. "What exactly do you mean?"
"I mean what you suppose I mean."
The tears that flooded Mac's eyes were echoed by her own. "Oh, God." Mac clasped her face between his hands and pressed a hard kiss to her lips.
He released her, turned back to the window, and shouted out of it, "I'm going to be a father!"
Daniel started dancing around, using the banner like a matador's cape. Bertram Clark cupped his hands around his mouth. "Quick work, old man!"
Mac slammed down the window. He pointedly snapped the curtains across it, shutting off the view, though Isabella could still hear the happy sounds of the brass band.
Mac scooped her to him in strong, strong arms. "I love you, Isabella Mackenzie. You are my life."
She simply looked at him, beyond words.
They never made it to the bedroom. The paint-smeared gown and Mac's kilt came off, and he slipped the ring onto her finger as he kissed her on their way down to the floor.
Lord Roland F. Mackenzie and his wife announce the birth of a daughter, Eileen Louisa Mackenzie, in the small hours of the twenty-second of July, Anno Domini Eighteen Eighty-Two.
Mac slathered paint on the canvas, ignoring the screams echoing around him. His entire being was transfixed by the green and black shadows of the valley that stretched all the way to the loch in the distance .
Nearby, his wife, younger brother and sister-in-law, nephews, and two children fished, watched fishing, or ran about screaming. At least, Aimee ran about. Ian's little boy and Mac's little girl were old enough only to lie in their baskets waving their fists. All three were screaming, however.
Ian was in the painting, standing in a stream in a kilt and loose shirt, his fishing pole steady. Beth and Isabella were the picture's foreground, two ladies sitting on a picnic blanket, heads together. The two babies' baskets lay next to them. Daniel headed after Aimee, making her squeal in delight as he chased her. Dogs milled about, all five of them, loping from the ladies to Ian to Daniel and Aimee to Mac, and then starting all over again.
Mac painted with vigor, trying to capture the exact moment of shadow before the ever-changing Scottish sky turned the picture into something new. At last he gave a sigh of satisfaction, threw down the brush, and stretched his arms.
"Gracious, it's about time you finished," his lovely red-haired wife said. She'd left off her mourning black for her father about the same time their baby had been safely delivered. Today Isabella wore a gown the color of the summer sky, while Beth sat next to her in bright pink. Two flowers on a Scottish meadow. "I'm famished."
"We waited for luncheon for you," Beth said. She started setting out plates and cups that the cook at Kilmorgan had tucked into a very large picnic basket. "Ian, time for lunch!" she called.
Ian kept on fishing without turning around.
"I'll fetch him," Mac said. He swept up his daughter, Eileen Louisa, and gave her a sound kiss. The little girl stopped screaming and blinked at him.
Mac tucked Eileen into the crook of his arm and waded out to Ian. The stream was shallow here, burbling over rocks and forming deep pools where fish liked to hide.
"The ladies want their lunch," Mac said to him.
Ian didn't turn. His attention was fixed on the swirling water, watching the pattern the eddies made.
Ian pulled his attention away from the water and focused on Mac. Exactly on Mac, looking into Mac's eyes. Ian had become much better at that in the last year.
"The ladies want their lunch," Ian repeated in the exact tone Mac had used. "Good. I'm hungry. You took a long time painting."
Mac shrugged. "I wanted to get it right."
Ian hauled in his line. He gazed a moment at Eileen before reaching out and carefully chucking her under the chin. He'd been learning how to do that too. Eileen kicked her feet and let out a burble of approval.
"You and Isabella have been happy?" Ian asked Mac as they started back.

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