Cali McKinnon's

Fae Chronicles

Challenges Met

1. An Abundance of Curiosity

It was turning out to be a beautiful mild spring.  Jennifer was truly enjoying the ride to Ardmuir.  She and Cainnech were taking Connell to visit with his grandparents, Arianna and Ghildor, for two days prior to the Beltane festival.  During the journey Jennifer kept thinking of the new house they would be moving to after their friend, Duncan, returned from his travels.  She was busily planning to turn the house into a home--her first home.  It was still difficult for her to believe that Cainnech had managed to build such a beautiful place in such a short time and while having so many other duties, yet he seemed to feel it was perfectly natural that he worked so diligently to provide for her and Connell.

Arianna and Ghildor were elated to see them.  Since the weather was so beautiful, Connell, now nearing four months old, was taken for numerous outings around the croft.  Ghildor and Cainnech worked together on several projects Ghildor had planned to do before the arrival of summer.  They even found the time for swordplay in the mornings, and to play a game or two of chess in the evenings.  On the last day of the visit Cainnech and Ghildor took care of Connell while Jennifer and Arianna went trekking for herbs and medicinal plants. 

Late that afternoon, after helping put the plant gatherings out to dry, Jennifer went to find Cainnech.  She thought he would be at the stream that he missed so much since they had been living at Duncan’s castle, and she was right.  But she was wrong about one thing; it wasn’t the stream he missed so much as the huge stone nearby where he loved to dry in the sun after his swim.  As she expected, he was there drying in the buff as was his custom, and he appeared to be sound asleep in the process.  Approaching quietly, she sat down on the stone beside him. 

“I see you have na forgotten where to find me on these nice warm days,” he said drowsily, though not stirring so much as to even open his eyes.  “Will you be enjoying the stream today, lass?”

Jennifer eyed the frigid looking stream and shivered.  She had only ever been able to swim in it during the warmest weather.  “No, I’m afraid it’s a bit too chilly for me yet,” she admitted, turning to admire the perfection of Cainnech’s well muscled body and noticing that he was speaking to her with his eyes closed.  He reminded her of some great cat napping in the warmth of the sun.

“That is regrettable, but I understand.  You can na risk becoming ill now with Connell depending on you as he does,” he said languorously before taking her hand and kissing it lightly.  “You know, this is the same stream that runs by our place.  I think I will try to move some of these huge flat stones and have them brought along to that curve at the side the stream not far from the house.  It would be a good spot to sun after bathing.”

“Yes, but stones like these must be difficult to move so very far.”  She was thinking that it would be a lot of work, if it was even possible, without the huge earth moving equipment of her time.  Of course with a bulldozer or two it might be a quick afternoon’s work.

“Aye, but I think there are some stones already there on the property that might make do.  It would be a good training exercise for some of the horses that are being trained for carriage duty, if done carefully.  They are verra strong you know.  I will just have to take care that it is an old enough team not to cause young bones injury.  If they can na do it, maybe George will loan me that team of great workhorses he has for a day in return for some work I might do for him.”

Jennifer didn’t comment.  She realized he’d already given it some thought and if he’d made up his mind the stones were as good as moved already.  Cainnech was more determined and more resourceful than anyone she had ever known.  She moved on to another topic.  “You haven’t said anything about our new home to Arianna and Ghildor.  I was just wondering if there is a reason.”

“Aye, reasons enough.  It just had not occurred to me, first of all.  I guess I have felt for sometime that Ghildor already knows, and Arianna has known for a while that I have the land there and planned to build on it eventually.”

“So, if I talk to them about it, it’s okay?”

He rolled over and set up so he could look directly at her.  She tried to keep her eyes focused on his rather than letting them roam over his gorgeous bare chest and shoulders or, more distracting yet: lower. 

“Lass, I was na aware that you thought it might be some secret--that perhaps I intended not to tell them.  The only secret was that I did na want you to know about the place until the house was finished.  I wanted to surprise you with your own place to live now, since you have given up your other home in order to stay here with me and Connell.” 

Jennifer smiled at that.  She was aware that Cainnech thought she had come from someplace in England, which she had, only he had no idea she’d been transferred to his time in the twelfth century from her time in the twentieth century.  “Well, I thought it perhaps not a secret, but a surprise of some sort, so I didn’t want to spoil any plans you might have.”

“Nay, ‘tis neither.  I have been working at it so long, it is not something I think to converse about.  Why dinna you ask them to plan a visit as soon as Duncan returns and we move there?”  He was watching her intently, wondering at her subdued attitude of recent, and hoping that having a home here would not make her long for the home she had given up elsewhere.

“That will be great.  I’m dying to brag to someone about it, to show someone,” she said as she smiled and leaned closer to kiss him lightly.  The eagerness in her voice and the glow of pride and happiness in her eyes reassured him that his hard work had been worth the effort.  The sun was dropping lower on the horizon and it would be dusk and chilly before long, so he restrained his urge for more than the long embrace and lingering kiss he gave her before rising to dress and walk with her back to Arianna’s house.

When they returned, Jennifer began telling Arianna and Ghildor about the new home Cainnech had presented her with on the journey to visit them.  Arianna was surprised and anxious to see the place.  Her only comment to Cainnech was that she had long wondered what he did with all the time he was away.  Ghildor just smiled knowingly and continued playing with his grandson, Connell.  Jennifer realized that Cainnech was right in what he’d said, that Ghildor had probably known all along.

“You knew, didn’t you, Ghildor?” Jennifer confronted him as they went to put Connell to bed.

“Not exactly, though I suspected.  I know Cainnech well enough to know that he would not want to bring you back to stay here once Duncan returns, and that although Duncan will most likely invite you to remain at the castle, that wouldn’t sit well with Cainnech either.  He is too much like Arianna in his desire to be independent.  He sees you and Connell as his responsibility now and he will take care to see that you have any and all things you need, and that you are safe.

“Ghildor, I didn’t get the chance to thank you for the stern talk you gave me about my ‘baby blues’ mood and how it was disrupting my marriage.  I want you to know now that I appreciate it.  I often think of you as the dad I don’t have, and sometimes I even feel like you are one of my best friends, one I can confide in.  It means a lot to me, and I hope it doesn’t put you on the spot too much.”

“Jennifer,” he said, turning and embracing her as a daughter, enveloping her in a feeling of total serenity and security.  “You are special to me, too.  I see you as the daughter I will never have.  You have given me a precious grandson, and you have made my son happy beyond description.  Please, don’t thank me for the little I have done for you,” he said as he released her and chucked her gently under the chin.  “Now, let’s go spend a happy evening together as a family before you, Connell, and Cainnech have to return to Duncan’s.  I can barely wait to come and visit with you, to see your new home.  I know Arianna is looking forward to the visit, too.”

“Well, I would like a week or two to decorate and make it more comfortable, but yes, I want you and Arianna to visit soon.  I’d like to have sort of a house warming.”

“Just name the date and we’ll be there.”

 

Jennifer, Connell, and Cainnech returned to Duncan’s castle to await his return from his long journey to Rome.  For about a year they had been living at the castle, caring for it and the vast estate in his absence.  He had no family or heirs, but he had been Cainnech’s mentor and friend for years and had named Cainnech as his heir before the journey.  Then he left Cainnech in charge of the estate and made his journey without a qualm that all would be well cared for.  They weren’t sure of the exact day Duncan would arrive back, but they knew it should be within a week or two.  It had been nice to have the luxury of the castle and its staff while Duncan was away, but Jennifer was anxious to have her own place at last.

Cainnech went back to his usually hectic work schedule leaving for a day or two at a time to conduct business and then working on the books and business related to running the castle when he wasn’t away.  Jennifer started preparing things to move into the first new home she had ever had.  She got Duncan’s seamstress, Anna, to help make some curtains, pillows, and things that make a house into a home.  From nearby villages, she acquired some baskets, candles, and basics they would need for the kitchen.  Cainnech had provided the beautiful home, but it had been virtually empty when she saw it.  There were just the major pieces of furniture he had acquired or made, as far as she could remember from the brief two-day visit.

 

Duncan finally returned the next week.  He was brimming with stories about his journey to Rome.  He and Cainnech were talking in the study when Jennifer walked in with Connell.  Duncan did a double take, since no one had yet told him that they had son.  Connell looked a lot like Cainnech but had eyes the color of Jennifer’s, a deep emerald green. 

Cainnech walked over to Jennifer and eased Connell gently from her arms.  He kissed her on the cheek and took her hand as he walked to where Duncan sat, and proudly introduced him to Connell. 

“Well at least one of us has an heir to pass the castle along to,” Duncan joked.  “Connell, you say?  That means strong, like a wolf, and the lad sure looks to be.  And look at those hands--they will be perfect for dueling,” he observed. 

Jennifer watched silently as Cainnech beamed with pride and replied, “Aye, many who have seen him have said the same.”

“May I hold him a while?  Will the lad fear being held by a stranger?” 

“Certainly you may hold him, that is, if he has been fed, otherwise, you will be giving him right back to Jennifer in no time, I assure you.  Not only is he strong like a wolf, but he is as willful, fearless, and usually as hungry.”

After a while, still tinkering with Connell’s hands, Duncan said quietly, “I hope to have a child of my own someday soon.”

Cainnech remembered that many years earlier Duncan had told him that he could have no heirs, and that was why he had named Cainnech as his heir before the trip to Rome.  He hoped for Duncan’s sake that he had been wrong, that things would change so that he could also have the family he deserved, should he find the right wife of course. 

“Aye, and although I doubt she is the only prospect, Elisabeth asks about you every time we see her.  She spoke with much happiness when she received the letters and the cameo brooch you sent.”

“I plan to see her tomorrow,” Duncan said, noticing that Connell had made himself at home and fallen asleep in his arms.  “He is a very good child, most children fret when in the hands of a stranger.”

“Cainnech keeps him under some spell, I think.  He’s always calm and happy when his father is around, and has been from the day he was born and Cainnech first held him,” Jennifer explained quietly.

“Later this evening, or in the morning before I leave to Campbell’s, I would like to go over the books and check on the state of things.  Will you have the time then, Cainnech?”

“Of course.  Perhaps after Connell’s evening meal, after Jennifer has put him to bed for the night, she can join us.”

Duncan glanced at Jennifer then looked back at Cainnech questioningly.  It was odd that Cainnech intended to include Jennifer in their discussion.  “I think perhaps I am missing something here,” he said slowly.

“Aye, it seems you have.  With all the work I had, it had come to the point that I had no time to spend with Jennifer.  Cleverly, she started spending time with me in the evenings when I worked with the books.  At first I thought it just an effort to have more time together, then I realized she was learning how the books are kept, the decisions made, and the like.  She started making notes and suggestions, and when I realized her talent at it, I turned over the daily entries and ledger keeping to her.  In the evenings, when I was home and had the time, she had summarized the daily work into an hour or so making less work for me to do.  Every fortnight I reviewed the books in detail, and I think you will see the results are remarkable.”

Duncan looked at Jennifer and said, “Well, we shall see, lovely lass.  If this is true I may try to steal you away from Cainnech yet.”  Like the notorious flirt he was rumored to be, he winked at her and shot Cainnech a sly, challenging smile.  Connell awoke, squirmed around a bit and then decided it wasn’t his mother who was holding him.  Duncan relinquished him to Jennifer who went upstairs to feed and put him to bed.  While she was gone Cainnech and Duncan went to the study to start the long process of going over the books of the last year.

After Connell was asleep, Jennifer went to bed, too.  She was weary from the long day and had forgotten that Cainnech mentioned she should join them to review the books.  Late that night, actually early the next morning, Cainnech snuggled into bed beside her, careful not to wake her, realizing she must be tired since she had gone straight to bed.  When she woke the next morning, he was still sleeping, so she checked on Connell, fed him, and went downstairs to get some breakfast for herself.

Duncan was there in the warm kitchen smiling broadly when she walked in.  “Well, that’s a bright look for such an early morning Duncan,” she said as she prepared a cup of herb tea.

“Aye, lass.  I am a happy man.”

“Oh, I forgot.  You are going to see Elisabeth today, aren’t you?”

“Aye, that, too.  But the best part is the bundle of money you and your industrious husband have made for me in my absence.”

“Really?  Isn’t that about normal for this place?  I never looked at any of the books from previous years--I just assumed that the place made money since you never seem to have any lack of it to spend.”

“Jennifer, I have made no effort other than to keep the place afloat for years.  There is more for me to spend already than a single man with no heirs could spend in two lifetimes.  If your books are accurate, and I see no reason they are not after the first review, you and Cainnech have made me a minor fortune this year, and he seems to have everything setup for a repeat of that by this time next year.”

“Well, it was all Cainnech’s doing.  All I did was put entries into the books and keep him apprised of balances, needs of the estate, and any messages received in his absence.  He seems to thrive on doing business with people from what I have seen.”

“Aye, he does have the mind for it.  However you worked it out, it is a verra profitable method of running an estate.  So, now that I am back, will you and Cainnech be staying here?  I would like you to continue helping with the books, for a fee of course.”

“No, I don’t think so.  Actually, you should talk to Cainnech about that,” she said just as Cainnech was walking into the room carrying two broadswords.

“Talk to me about what?” Cainnech asked.

“Whether you will be staying with me and allow Jennifer to help with my bookkeeping while you continue to help with the investments for a while,” Duncan said, taking note of the swords.

“Nay.  We have some plans to move to our own place and she will be helping me with the books for my business, but thank you for the generous offer.”  Cainnech passed one of the swords over to him.

“It will take some time to find a place and move, maybe until then at least,” Duncan suggested hopefully.

“That is done already.  I finished building our house on that land near Ardmuir just a fortnight ago.  You must come by for a visit soon.  Now, let us get some practice before it is too warm.  Or have you grown too soft during your journey to duel, old man?” Cainnech goaded him.

“First of all, I find it almost impossible to believe you managed to build a house and run this place at a profit, even with the help of your lovely and talented wife.  Second, aye, I would love to visit your home after you have had time to settle in.  And third, you only hope I have become too soft, because you know I am no old man.  Come now; let me show you how a real man duels.  I am sure the best competition you have had in my absence is Sean or Ian.”  During this lengthy barrage of taunting, Duncan stood and was leading the way out to the courtyard.

Jennifer was listening to the lighthearted banter, thinking that Duncan shouldn’t count too heavily on Cainnech’s lack of practice with swords considering the skill level that Ghildor had attained in Duncan’s absence, and the number of times Ghildor and Cainnech had dueled.

After two grueling rounds of swordplay, both of which Duncan conceded, he went to clean up and start his journey to court Elisabeth.  Before he left Cainnech had told him that he and Jennifer would be leaving in just three days, and that they would be inviting him to visit once they had settled in enough to entertain visitors.

 

Their move to the new manor house and stables, that Cainnech insisted on referring to as ‘the stud,’ was uneventful and took little more than a day since there wasn’t much for them to move aside from clothing and a few personal items.  Cainnech had made arrangements with Duncan to employ one of his servants, Mary, for a while since she was such a good a nursemaid for Connell.  The seamstress, Anna, also came along for a brief visit to help with some of the sewing for the household decorating that Jennifer had planned. 

When Jennifer arrived at the house she found that there were boxes and packages setting everywhere to be opened and put away.  Apparently they had been delivered in their absence and seen to by the men Cainnech employed to oversee chores at the stud while he was away.  She found kitchen supplies, tapestries, carpets, and a number of lengths of fabrics that she was certain she could put to use at a later date. 

“How did you manage to acquire these things, Cainnech?” 

“Easily enough.  A lot of it is similar to those things you remarked on at either Duncan’s or Campbell’s estate.  The other is mostly things that just seemed to be needed to run a household.”  She marveled that he had been so perceptive of her comments when he hadn’t even appeared to be paying attention most of the time.

There was one huge wooden crate still in the center of the entrance area.  “What is this monstrous thing and to which room does it go?” she asked as she began inspecting things and deciding where they should go.

“It is for that wee room upstairs.  I will get some of the lads from the stable to assist in moving it.”

When he returned he had two helpers and it didn’t take long to get the huge box to the room.  After a lot of hammering to open the box and moving and swearing, the helpers left the room with the crate and its packing.  On his way out of the tiny room, Cainnech closed and latched the door. 

Jennifer had been busily arranging her kitchen and household articles downstairs that morning, so Cainnech set out to locate her, and then asked for her assistance in the room he intended to be a library some day.  While they walked, he let her know that it was time to get things organized to begin their maintenance on the books for the stud. 

As he had warned her when she asked to help with the bookkeeping, his own books hadn’t been kept very well in quite a while because he had been so busy with Duncan’s estate and building the house.  There were numerous slips of paper with a date, an amount, and some cryptic note indicating what had been purchased, sold, or exchanged.  There was much to organize and Jennifer saw that literally hours of work lay ahead, but she dug in and they began setting the books to right.

Later in the afternoon, Cainnech left once and returned a while later with herb tea for them.  Then, even later, Mary called Jennifer to feed Connell and help put him to bed.  By this time Jennifer was exhausted and was relaxing in a big comfortable chair, just her and Connell who had dozed off when he finished nursing. 

Cainnech came in and carefully took Connell from her to put him to bed.  He sat on the stool her feet were elevated on and gave her a gentle foot massage. 

“We should get back to the books.  In a few hours we will have them ordered pretty well,” she said with a sigh of resignation.  In truth she would prefer to stay where she was and fall asleep with Cainnech tenderly massaging her feet.

“Nay.  I think that can wait until tomorrow love, you have had a long day.  The books were just a diversion.  I had no idea you would delve into the work with such intensity today.”  He swept Jennifer up into his arms and nuzzled along her neck to deliver a few soft kisses as he carried her to their room.  Once there, he deposited her in front of the door to the small room that he had closed up earlier.  Slowly he began undressing her and kissing her gently as he tossed her clothes carelessly on the floor.

“What are you doing, Cainnech?  I’ve had a very long day today and you’re making a mess here,” she chided him gently.

“Aye.  I am aware of that,” he said in his deep mellow voice.  With that he just pushed her things out of the way with a boot as he picked her up, opened the door to the small room, and carried her inside.  She looked over her shoulder and saw candles lit, rose petals strewn all about the room, and a large bathtub in the middle of the room with rose petals floating in the steaming water. 

Jennifer couldn’t say anything at first.  She just started crying as he placed her in the tub of warm water and started washing her carefully with her favorite of Arianna’s soap mixtures.  Finally she said, “You thought of everything for our new home, didn’t you?”

“I have tried to, lass.  There are few things I knew you would miss more than bathing, so it was a verra important thing to me that your new home had a bathing tub,” he explained, massaging her neck and shoulders gently.  Once he had seen her complete joy at finding out there was a bathtub at Duncan’s castle, he’d promised himself that she’d have one in their new home as well. 

The water sheeting over her silky skin highlighted with the gold of the candlelight had always sent a light rush of arousal through him.  Tonight was no different.  He closed his eyes and recounted the numerous times he had seen her thus and remembered the wonderful outcomes of each, of the way she was always so playful and amorous after one of her baths.

Later as he was drying her to put her to bed, she whispered softly, “Cainnech, what did I ever do to deserve you?”

“You must mean to ask what we did to deserve one another.  I have no idea, but I hope it never changes, lass,” he said, kissing her as he pulled a light cover over her.  “Now, rest and get a good night of sleep.”  He kissed her again, this time lightly on the forehead, the tip of her nose, and then lightly on her lips suppressing the temptation to join her right then, wanting her to rest after such a long, trying day.             

 

The first visitors Cainnech and Jennifer had to their new home were Ghildor and Arianna.  Arianna was amazed at the sheer size of the place--never having realized that the sale of horses could be so profitable.  Cainnech explained that a well-trained destrier could command a very high price, especially if the horse was flashy and bold so the knight could show him off at tournaments. 

“They seem to favor the solid black stallions like Conn because they show off the knight’s colors so well and look so fierce.  And, a matched pair of carriage horses, mares that can also be used for breeding, can be as profitable when sold to someone with the money and taste to have a carriage drawn in style.”

 

During the visit, Ghildor and Cainnech worked on the path Cainnech intended to build between the Arianna’s croft and the stud.  It was a distance of about a mile and curved around the steep hill that was shared by the two pieces of land. 

Arianna and Jennifer did some plant trekking so Arianna could help Jennifer identify the best locations for specific medicinal plants on the new property.  As they walked, Arianna asked whether Jennifer and Cainnech planned to attend the Lughnassadh festival later in the summer.  Jennifer responded that she wasn’t sure, that it might be Beltane before they attended the festivals again in order to give Connell time to grow up a bit before taking him where he would be exposed to so many people.  Surprisingly, Arianna agreed, recounting the stories her mentor Moira had told her of the number of children who died during the plague, and how quickly it seemed to spread among places that were crowded. 

The next visitors they had were Duncan and, amazingly enough, Elisabeth.  They came to visit about a month after Arianna and Ghildor’s visit.  Duncan announced that they were betrothed and planned to wed at the end of summer.

“Will you be having the ceremony at Lughnassadh, then?” Cainnech asked as he and Duncan were walking the horses to the stable.

“Nay, the Campbells have suggested the chapel on their estate, so it will be there.  They want a large, elaborate affair.  You and Jennifer must come.” 

Though Duncan made it sound more like a demand than an invitation, Cainnech understood that it was his eagerness speaking.  “I am sure Jennifer will be excited to attend.  It seems she has come to think of you as a brother, Duncan.”

“Well, you are the only family I have, so I am glad to know that.  And speaking of family, here is a gift to welcome you, Jennifer, and Connell to your new home.”  He handed Cainnech a fairly heavy saddlebag that he’d taken from across his horse’s withers.

Cainnech opened it and was amazed that it contained a large amount of coin.  “Duncan, this is hardly a house warming gift.  I think you have handed me the wrong saddlebag.”

“Nay, it is the correct one, and it is no more than your share of the profit you earned for me on the estate this last year.  You and Jennifer deserve it for the work you did.  There will be another installment come winter if the earnings are as good as I expect.  Now if I can just continue with what you have started, I may join the league of some of these rich merchants that I do business with--horse traders not excluded,” he said jokingly.  “Do you have a decent place to duel here, lad?” he asked, quickly changing the subject.

 

Later that summer, Cainnech and Jennifer arrived at the Campbells’ estate the evening before the wedding and banquet that was planned.  Elisabeth was happier than Jennifer had ever seen her.  She literally glowed with excitement and anticipation of the ceremony--the excitement of the event itself as well as the attention of Duncan, her family, and their guests.  During the day Jennifer stayed with her and helped in any way she could, although Jennifer was also overly anxious as she had always been about formal affairs. 

The wedding was to be a Christian one, held in a large room of the castle that the Campbells had converted into a chapel not long ago.  Jennifer had never asked, but just assumed Duncan was pagan as he had always attended the seasonal pagan festivities.  “I guess Cainnech was right,” she said, musing to herself, “the ways are changing so there must be fewer people attending the festivals each year as the conversions to Christianity grow.”

Jennifer had requested Anna to make her a new dress from a medium lightweight pink silk fabric that Cainnech had included among the numerous purchases he had made for their new home.  She left the design to Anna’s skill, trusting that it would be fairytale beautiful, and she had been wise to do so as the gown was lovely and perfect for the occasion. 

After she fed Connell and rocked him to sleep, she began dressing for the wedding.  Mary helped her arrange her hair and dress then went to watch Connell.  Jennifer hadn’t seen Cainnech but once since they arrived.  She expected that he would be out and about talking business with the other guests. 

She was just gathering her fan and small purse, planning to go and find out whether Elisabeth needed any further assistance, when she noticed Cainnech standing just inside the door of the room and watching her.  She had no idea how long he’d been standing there but his gaze was intent and full of admiration. 

“Oh, there you are,” she said quietly, not to wake Connell who was asleep in the adjoining room.  “I was just wondering where you were.  I’m on my way to see if Elisabeth needs any assistance.”

“It can wait for a few minutes, lass.  I am in need of your help right now,” he said solemnly. 

Jennifer looked him over and since he appeared to have no injuries, she approached and asked, “What’s wrong, has something happened?”  He held his arms out and embraced her gently so as not to wrinkle the gown.  She felt him inhale and exhale slowly and deeply as though savoring some rare aroma before he leaned down and kissed her forehead delicately. 

“Nothing is wrong, love,” he said quietly.  “When I see you so beautiful, I just have a need to hold you and savor your lovely scent--to add the sensations to the storehouse of memories I have of you,” he said, tracing a line with his fingers from her ear down her neck and softly across the exposed swell of her breasts and causing a rush of sensation through her.

“Cainnech, the wedding is starting soon; we don’t have time to do this now.  What would Duncan think if you didn’t show?  You’re to stand up with him.”

“Duncan of all people should understand,” he explained in the husky aroused voice that shot a sensation of need through her.  As the final words of the sentence tapered off, he leaned his head down and began kissing her deeply. 

As their lips parted she mumbled, “I will never understand the strange effect that my being dressed in a new silk gown has on you,” and began trying to wriggle away from him, further firing his passion rather than dampening it.

“Surely you know ’tis just anticipation of the gifts you have always bestowed on me when you had the new gowns, love.”  Again, the words became muffled into the kisses he was delivering, this time along her neck just beneath her ear.  Finally he released her except for one hand he still held solidly at the small of her back, holding her pressed close, but gently enough to not wrinkle her gown.  “Give me a few minutes to calm myself and I will walk with you.” 

Jennifer was aware he had no desire to let her go, but he was finally assenting to the sensibility of her pleadings despite his extremely evident state of arousal.  She watched him as he closed his eyes and calmed his breathing, always amazed at his self-control.  But she also knew it was merely stored away in this case, that he would have his way with her later, and it would be intense and passionate when he finally succumbed to his desire, or as she had begun to consider it--as he shared it.

The wedding ceremony seemed endless and tedious to Cainnech.  He thought the Druid version so much more appropriate--a simple ceremony where a man avows his life to a woman who makes the same vows of a lifetime to him.  Then afterward, the couple shares a quaich of mead and everyone parties.  Oh well, he thought, I have been aware all of my life that times are changing and that I have little choice but to accept the changes since they give some people a comfort to have their lives so carefully dictated--their every action condoned by others, or easily forgiven if unacceptable.

 

There was a banquet after the ceremony, and as at other banquets Jennifer noted that Cainnech seemed to know almost everyone present.  She and Cainnech danced together first, then traded off to other partners.  After Duncan had several dances with Elisabeth, he asked Jennifer to dance.

“You and my Elisabeth are the most beautiful lasses here tonight,” he flirted in his typical manner.

Jennifer recognized it for what it was and responded as a sister might to a beloved brother who was paying her a compliment.  “You flatter me, Duncan, but Elisabeth is absolutely beautiful and positively radiant--easily the most beautiful woman here.”

“Aye, and you and Cainnech are to blame for that,” he said simply.

“Us?  I don’t understand.”

“Connell.  She was totally envious that you had Connell, as was I that Cainnech had such a fine heir already.  So, we shall have a child of our own soon,” he explained, beaming and silently praising Arianna for her talents as a healer, her wisdom, and her unstinting generosity once again.  Much later, after she had helped heal his physical wounds, she helped him find his confidence and true worth again.

“Oh Duncan, I’m elated to hear the news.”  Jennifer was truly happy for them, though thinking it ironic that he had gotten a child on his fiancé out of wedlock.  It was totally against the Christian beliefs under which Duncan and Elisabeth were just married.

“Jennifer,” he interrupted her thoughts, “I am not sure when I will see her again, but when you next see Arianna, would you tell her for me that Elisabeth and I have wed, and that Elisabeth carries my child?”

This was just too weird, and Jennifer was aware that a look of confusion must be plastered on her face, so she glanced briefly to Cainnech who was dancing nearby before looking back to Duncan to answer.  “Of course I will, if you want me to.”  He nodded and smiled--a smile of pleasure that was somehow more than a mere acknowledgement of happiness because a friend had promised to perform a small favor.  She was remembering the way he had always respected Arianna so highly and wondering again at that unusual relationship.

Later that evening, Jennifer went to Cainnech to let him know that it was time she excused herself to feed Connell and see him put to bed for the night.  “Aye, love, I will see you to the room then,” he said, turning to excuse himself from the group of gentlemen he had been speaking with.

She knew he liked to mix business with these social occasions, so she suggested, “Cainnech, I can see myself to the room.  I just didn’t want you to wonder where I had gone.  Stay and visit a while longer.”

“Nay lass, I dinna think so tonight.”  He’d already put his arm around her, tightening his hold on her waist, and was guiding her across the room toward the door.  “I will be the one who removes this lovely pink packaging from you tonight,” he whispered near her ear.

“Cainnech, I have to feed and put Connell to bed first.”

“I will be verra patient then and wait my turn.”  Though he said it in a quiet voice near her ear, she recognized the tone for what it was and a frisson of need tingled through her.

Not wanting to wrinkle the new silk gown while feeding Connell, she let Cainnech painstakingly remove it from her, piece at a time, allowing him to touch and savor her with his kisses in the process, sending waves of desire through her with each contact.  Patiently Cainnech slipped her flowing blue silk robe around her and tied it once the gown was removed.  She marveled at his self-control since she was practically panting with need after the interlude of sensual touches and kisses.

“Now, ‘tis Connell’s turn.  I will be here until you return,” he said simply despite the fact he wanted her fiercely after the intimate encounter of undressing her.  He turned as she left the small dressing room and went to lie down on their bed to wait for her, to calm himself for the second time since seeing her sensuous curves and creamy soft skin wrapped so deliciously in pink silk.

Cainnech had fallen asleep and was wakened by a slight tickling along his cheek.  He had been dreaming of Jennifer in the pink silk with her dark honey colored hair cascading down beyond her shoulders and being somewhat unruly as it often was.  He turned, and there she was, not in the blue he had last seen her in, but in pink silk again.  This time it was a shift of the delicate pink silk that clung to every curve of her lithe body. 

“Oh lass, I must be dreaming, that is an even more beautiful pink wrapping than the other,” he said in a low, barely audible voice.

“Do you like it?”  As she asked, she was turning so he could see how it hugged and outlined her trim waist and bottom.

“Aye, verra much,” he answered, rising to embrace and kiss her deeply while sliding his hands hungrily over her waist and hips.  Slowly he lifted the edge of the shift over her hip and stroked the softness of the exposed skin with the fingertips of one hand while gently stroking the silk similarly with the fingertips of the other hand--every caress and kiss effectively arousing him further.

“What are you doing now?” she managed to inquire between their eager kisses.

“Verifying what I thought while I was lying there on the bed.  I was thinking that the silk must be envious of the softness of your skin.”  He was lifting the other edge of the shift so that both hands could caress the soft skin of her hips, inhaling deeply as he had earlier in the evening, committing the wonderful sensations of scent and touch to memory.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and drew her near, running his hands along her thighs and up the edges of the shift.  Her eyes were shut as she savored his touch, and it seemed he could feel her enjoying the caresses.  It was a strange new sensation to him--touching her and feeling that she enjoyed it, feeling her desire for more.  When she felt him lifting the shift higher, she raised her arms above her head so he could remove it. 

Laying the shift aside, he just sat for a while beholding the beauty of her skin glowing in the candlelight, adorned in nothing but the remaining little triangle of pink silk held in place by mere strings and two bows.  Finally he stood and touched her, tracing softly down both sides of her body from ears, down her neck, across shoulders, along the outer edges of her full breasts, down the trim waist, hips, and thighs ending in a sigh as he removed his fingertips there. 

His whole body was touching along the length of hers now.  He was so close she could feel his hardness against her.  When she thought of that, he flexed as though he knew she thought it.

Gently, he reached up and started untying the ribbons in her hair, tossing them on the silk shift and letting her hair down, arranging the loosened locks of her hair behind her, running his fingers through the silky mass as he fanned it across her back.  He leaned down and gave her a long, lingering kiss before sitting on the edge of the bed again.  Turning her slowly, arranging the cascade of long dark honey colored hair down her back just so before pausing for so long she began to wonder if he was okay.  Again, he was committing the vision to memory, savoring each luscious curve and the soft glow of skin and hair. 

She felt his touch at the base of each ear again, and the gentle tracings along the length of both sides of her body.  It was so slow and intense that she felt the sensation of liquid fire that had passed through her as it had that first day he had caressed her at the stream when he first made love to her.  She didn’t want to move, so she just closed her eyes and savored each sensation, wanting more, feeding the intense feelings directly to Cainnech though she had no idea he sensed them. 

“Lass?” he asked for her attention, his voice rough with arousal.

“Yes, Cainnech,” she responded, feeling his fingertips tracing along the strings of the g-string now.

“Did you say that Connell had started eating porridge just days ago?”  As he asked, he placed his hands on her hips and gently rotated her to face him again.

 “Yes, he has grown enough that he needs more than just my milk now,” she answered with her eyes still closed, noting that he was tracing her body now from knees to ears and rising as his fingertips went along causing those lovely sensations to course through her again.

“Good.”  She heard his response, but her mind was too distracted to wonder at the odd question.  His hands had stopped moving, his fingertips just below her ears and gently cradling a cheek in each hand as he kissed her on each eyelid, her nose, and then in a tiny shower of kisses around her lips.  Standing so close to him, she could feel he was fully aroused now, and his kisses started becoming more eager, searching with tongue and nibbling more roughly. 

“It is time the lad shared then, if that is okay with you, love.”  As he murmured this, he began tracing the outline of her breast that he hadn’t touched since Connell’s birth over seven months before.

A light broke through the fog in Jennifer’s brain as she realized what he was suggesting.  “I have never objected,” she reminded him.

“Aye, I know.”  He was tracing his fingertips along her body again as he was sitting down, this time following the curve of each full breast, slowly, stopping when his fingers reached the center between them.  Carefully Cainnech cupped each breast kissing along the outsides of one, and then the other.  It felt so wonderful to have the soft delicate flesh against his warm lips.  He inhaled, savoring her fragrance--roses and milk, as he drew his tongue across the nipple, causing it to go taut in anticipation. 

Jennifer still had her eyes shut, and her body was experiencing a racing of new sensations in anticipation.  Gently, he nibbled at a nipple using just his lips and tongue, and then suckled gently until a sweet sensation of warmth flowed freely into his mouth.  The liquid was thin, but sweet, and stopped flowing freely when he removed his mouth and just lapped up the dribble that eventually tapered off.  He repeated the process at the other breast, without the sucking motion, and found that he could kiss, nibble, lave, and fondle without releasing the flow of milk so long as there was no sucking motion involved. 

All the while Jennifer just stood quietly, eyes still closed.  She realized he was merely satisfying an intense curiosity he had about the workings of her body, yet it was driving her insane with wanting him, wanting him as intensely as she had the night she had told him she was pregnant with Connell, when she had lost all inhibitions and satisfied herself with barely a thought for anything else but her own pleasure. 

Finally, he stood again and started removing his kilt and long shirt, never taking his eyes from her in the process, amazed that he could so clearly feel her desiring him.  It was as though her thoughts had become another of his senses, amplifying his own need and pleasure.  Lying back on the bed, he invited her to sit astride him as he hungrily kissed her and caressed her from shoulder to hip, occasionally kissing or nibbling carefully at her breasts. 

“Why do you want me on top?” she asked breathlessly, surprised since he rarely suggested it although he often acquiesced at her request.

“Because, I feel it will please us more tonight.  I can watch you take your enjoyment as you wish it,” he explained in his low controlled voice while loosening the bows of her pink g-string slowly before kissing her deeply in encouragement. 

His previous slow careful touching, caressing, and explorations had her more than ready to seek pleasure from him.  Submitting totally to her lead, he savored the sight of her carefree abandon until he could tolerate waiting no more and joined her, flowing along with her to a final climax of pleasure so intense she wasn’t sure whose feelings she was experiencing, his, hers, or both. 

When they had expended themselves fully, Jennifer collapsed atop him, breathing heavily and tingling all over from what seemed an entirely new experience to her.  “Cainnech, how did you do that?”  She began moving from atop him to beside him, placing her head on his shoulder and playing with the hair across his chest and along his stomach with her hand.

“Do what, love?”

“Make me feel like that, like it wasn’t my feelings, but our feelings of pleasure,” she whispered.

Cainnech realized that not only had he sensed Jennifer’s feelings, but apparently she had sensed his as well.  Since he was beginning to think more clearly again, he realized it must be one of the heretofore untapped capabilities of his unique heritage--a Sidhe fae power. 

“I dinna know for sure, love, but if it pleases you I will do my best to discover how and repeat it as often as possible.”  He captured her hand and brought it to his lips to kiss her palm as his silent reminder that he always intended to please every luscious inch of her.

* * * * *