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The Clan MacLaren #6

Homecoming


by Nancy Pennick

Homecoming by Nancy Pennick

Homecoming is the sixth book of this captivating historical romance series, The Clan MacLaren.

The MacLaren family leaves their home in the American colonies to travel back to Glenhaven in Scotland. Secrets will be exposed, and intrigue is right around the corner. Accompanied by his two sisters, wife and children, Ross MacLaren has no idea what to expect when they reach his homeland. Yet, one thing always remains constant. Juliet and Ross’ love for each other.

 

 

 


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Release Date: October 20, 2020
Genre: Historical Romance

~ Pink Satin Romance ~


Excerpt

 

Chapter One

 

September 1728

On the Merchant Ship, The Pembroke

Sailing from America to Crail, Scotland

 

“What are ye doing in the hallway? Get back in the cabin, Lizbeth, and stay there. Dinna come out unless I say ye can!” Ross growled.

“But, Da...”

“Dinna challenge me, lass.” Ross’ eyes flicked to his wife. She looked mortified yet stayed silent.

“It is early morning,” Lizbeth cried. “Craig Sexton is an old man and sleeps late. He will not see me.”

Juliet took her daughter’s hand. “We must do as Da says, my sweet dove. He is concerned for your safety.”

“Is it why he growls like a bear?” Lizbeth shot Ross a disparaging look.

Ross crouched in front of the beautiful girl with cornflower blue eyes and golden copper curls that many women envied. “Yer mum is right. I am worried, ’tis all. And ye are also right, daughter.” He made an animal noise. “I am a bear.”

Lizbeth threw her arms around Ross’ neck. “I am sorry, Da. It is hard to stay inside when it is so lovely outdoors. I hear footsteps and voices and long to be part of the festivities.”

“I said once we left Boston, we’d let ye have more freedom, lass, but have changed my mind. If we can step inside the room, I will tell ye why.”

Ross closed the cabin door behind him and motioned to the table set between the two beds. Under each bed were the necessary chamber pots and room for their trunks. A porthole gave them light during the day, and a lantern set on the cabinet was used at night.

Sunlight spilled into the room through the round window, creating a ring of light on the floor. Ross glanced around the room, wondering how he’d feel cooped up in this cramped space for the journey. ’Tis better than a goat pen. He shook his head, recalling his last crossing from Scotland to America. Ross had been accused of murder, and since his brother-in-law Aaron Redding had been captain, he was relegated to the goat herder’s quarters at the bow of the ship instead of the brig. Best not to tell Lizbeth of those times. I was acquitted of the charges and ’tis a secret amongst a few who really committed the act.

“Ye can come up top, Lizbeth,” Ross said in a soft voice. “Only when we say ye can and someone is with ye. I rescued ye from Sexton Estates, and no one must ken ye are here. We must stay vigilant.”

“Yes, Da.” Lizbeth hung her head. “I disobeyed. Will I get a whipping?”

“What?” Juliet’s hand flew to her chest. “Never, my child.”

“Norris Buchanan said if I misbehaved, I’d get a whipping. He had a real whip hanging over a nail by the backdoor.” Tears filled Lizbeth’s eyes at the memory. “He hit the servants and anyone who displeased him. Even as his daughter, I feared the whip.”

“Oh, my.” Juliet locked eyes with Ross.

“I do not care if he is my real father, I hate him!” Lizbeth stuck out her lower lip and stomped one foot. “His breath smelled of whisky and garlic, and he was always scratching something. He must have had bugs.” She wrinkled her nose.

Ross stifled a laugh. “He could have. Think of him every time ye wish to escape the room, my sweet. If Craig Sexton sees ye, he may send word to his son when we land. Jasper would then inform Norris of yer whereabouts. Ye only lived with Norris Buchanan a few days yet learned much about him. All I can say, is yer mother and I did right by ye. When Mary asked yer mother to take ye away from Sexton Estates and raise ye as her own, she made the right choice.”

“I am forever grateful.” Lizbeth let out a breath. “What if my mother lived? If she had not died in childbirth? Would she have let Norris whip me?”

“Oh, my goodness, no,” Juliet said and took Lizbeth’s hand. “She was a good woman and would have protected you. I wish she could see you now, nine years later.”

“Almost ten,” Lizbeth corrected. “I will have my birthday this month.”

“Very true.” Juliet touched the child’s cheek. “We will try to celebrate the best we can. Will you stay in the cabin while I speak with your father? I will return as soon as I can.”

“Is my cousin Aaron’s book still here? I planned to read Gulliver’s Travels once more.”

“Yes, I put it on the cabinet. I will find something sweet for you up top, Lizbeth. Your Auntie Glynis bought out the general store before we left.”

“Another reason I hate it down here,” Lizbeth huffed. “I cannot visit her or my cousins when I wish.”

Juliet glanced around the room. “Where is my bonnet?”

Ross spotted it on the floor by the corner of the bed. “Here.” He bent to pick it up and brushed against his wife. The closeness made him want to throw her on the bed and have his way with her, but not with Lizbeth in the room. ’Twill be a long journey if I canna. He chuckled as he placed the hat over Juliet’s chestnut hair.

“Whatever are you smiling about, Ross MacLaren?” Juliet took him by the arm, then said under her breath, “Some fresh air may help me.”

“I heard you,” Lizbeth called as her parents left the cabin. “And tell my brothers to visit me!”

Ross helped Juliet up the steps and onto the deck. He took her in his arms and inhaled her vanilla scent. “I miss ye, Juliet. Having the wee one in the cabin is hard. Last trip we snuck away…”

Juliet laughed and pushed his chest. “Oh, Ross! Is that why you were smiling? I am sure Glynis will help when the need arises.”

“The need always arises, wife, when I am around ye.”

“Then perhaps we should find her,” Juliet gave him a wry smile.

“If she agrees to help, I will not turn her down,” Ross said with a laugh. “But our daughter’s safety comes first.”

“It is the reason I asked to come up top.” Juliet grimaced. “How much do we share with Lizbeth? Do we tell her Norris Buchanan is the slave master at Sexton Estates? She knows he is an indentured servant, bound to Jasper Sexton for another five years, yet he tells her he holds a special job there.”

If we can believe the man. And he may have more time to serve,” Ross growled. “Our daughter saw the evil in him and only lived in his house four days.” He looked at his wife to find the peace he sought. Ever since they boarded the Pembroke two weeks ago, he’d been on high alert, waiting for something to happen. Just as it had so many years before.

Ross’ mind went to another time on the same ship. Over ten years ago, during their crossing from Scotland to the American colonies, Juliet had met Mary Buchanan. She traveled with her husband Norris, son Ewan, and sister Nell to New Jersey. Ross was to wed Mary before Juliet entered his life. He was unaware she and her family were on the same ship. Juliet spoke of her friend, May, the name Norris Buchanan had given her. Ross was happy she’d made a friend for the long crossing.

Once the couples came together, Norris couldn’t contain his anger and jealousy each time he saw Ross. He accused Ross of being the father of Norris and May’s son, Ewan. Ross could never convince him otherwise. Norris drank heavily during his time on the Pembroke. No one could contain him and his wrath. He even threw his sister-in-law’s stillborn baby over the side of the ship. When they arrived in Perth Amboy, Ross hoped things would change. The MacLarens would go their way, and Norris would take his family to Jasper Sexton’s estate.

Yet Norris continued to make Ross and Juliet’s life hell until the day Mary gave birth to Lizbeth. The woman had sensed she would not live and knew if she birthed a girl, Norris would not treat her well. Mary begged Norris to let Juliet raise the child. Good thing she did. The bloody bastard would have treated Lizbeth like a servant.

Ross had a soft spot for Mary MacDonald Buchanan and accepted her child as his own. It was the least he could do after what they’d been through. Being the chieftain’s eldest son, he’d inherit Glenhaven one day. His father and the chieftain of the MacDonald tribe had come to an agreement during the annual Beltane festival. Marriage between their children would unite and solidify their clans. Yet his father broke the contract when a better offer came his way from King George of England.

In the months leading up to the next festival where Ross and Mary would wed, the king had sent a proposal to Donnach MacLaren. He offered Juliet Kingston, daughter of an English duke, as a bride to Donnach’s eldest son, hoping to ensure peace between the countries. Donnach, a crafty man, agreed to the arrangement, never planning to keep his word. In his eyes, Juliet would become a useful tool, if ever needed. Ross shook his head at the memory.

“What is it, my darling?” Juliet ran her hand along his clean-shaven cheek. “You seem lost in thought.” Her sapphire eyes held concern, making it hard for him to answer.

“Now that we return to Scotland, I am plagued by old memories.”

“Oh.” Juliet hung her head. “Of John Alder and me.”

“No.” Ross shook his head. “I remembered how Da treated ye, lass. I dinna want it to happen again. He gave ye to that bloody English bastard John Alder to save Glenhaven. I ken he had good reason, but I canna forgive him for it. Ever.” He gritted his teeth, deciding to leave out the rest of his memories.

“Ross, you must. Besides, it happened years ago.” Juliet slipped her arm through his.

“At times, dear wife, it seems like yesterday.” Ross kissed her soft cheek. “I will protect ye with my life. ’Tis my promise to ye.”

“I know you will, Ross.” Juliet squeezed his upper arm. “Let us walk and enjoy the sea breeze. I do not have long. I promised Lizbeth I’d return with a treat.” They walked up to the starboard railing and watched the rolling waves.

“Poor thing,” Ross said, nudging his wife. “Another has come down with the sea sickness.”

* * *

Juliet looked to her right and saw a young woman retching over the side of the ship. With the sun in her eyes, it made it hard to see. When she finally focused, she caught sight of long red braid hanging down the woman’s back. “Ross!” She gasped. “It is your sister Heather.”

They rushed along the railing until they reached her. “Heather!” Juliet called.

Heather held out her hand as if to say, “stay back,” threw up one more time, and collapsed onto the deck. Ross hurried to her side and crouched down in front of her.

“Sister, please let me help ye up. Are ye sick?”

“No.” Heather shook her head. “I never felt this way when we came to America the first time. I am afraid I am...” She looked up at Juliet.

“Pregnant?” Juliet whispered, trying not to show her concern. Heather may be unable to return to Perth Amboy in the spring as planned.

“I am going to have a bairn, and Jamie doesna ken!” Heather wailed.

Juliet turned to her husband. “Ross, let us take her to the captain’s quarters. We can speak in private there.”

* * *

Glynis sat on the edge of the captain’s bed, gazing at the ocean. She’d admonished her son, Noah Redding, for giving her the captain’s quarters which rightly belonged to him. He insisted Aaron needed his big brother and took a cabin nearby.

“Ya deserve it, Mum,” he had told her. “My father would have had my hide if I did not give it to ya,” he’d said with a chuckle.

“Ah, Aaron Redding,” Glynis whispered. “Love of my life. Ready to take me anywhere my heart desired.” She smoothed the quilt with her hand. “Here is where I wanted ye most, my handsome captain.” Throwing her body onto the mattress, Glynis clutched the blanket in her hand, willing herself not to cry. “There is no reason to shed tears. I have been lucky and found love again.”

Broden Gregor had saved her life, brought her back from the brink of despair when she thought Aaron had perished at sea thirteen years ago. A hurricane had swept the Pembroke out to sea, and everyone convinced her Aaron had died. She’d then settled into a life with her sister, Heather, and brother-in-law, Jamie, in the town of Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Brodie’s family held a prominent place in the community. His father, Jock Gregor, a magistrate and business owner, helped many Scots who’d come to America. For some, their only hope was to become indentured servants. He gave them short contracts and a place to start their new lives. Brodie had followed in his father’s footsteps yet found he could not ask for servitude. He only requested a year of free labor for room and board. Brodie was a man of the land, a hunter and fisherman, reminding Glynis of the men from her childhood in Scotland. She’d had the best of both worlds: Aaron and adventure, Brodie and his love of the land. She had a deep love for her husband Brodie, one so different from the sparks she felt every time she laid eyes on Aaron. If he hadn’t plunged into the sea ten years ago and drowned for real, she’d still live on the Pembroke with him, Noah and their son, Aaron.

“Two men, so different. Yet, I love ye both.” Glynis grasped on to a pillow, hugging it to her chest. “Och, ye smell like Noah.” She tossed it aside.

Glynis sat up, straightened her skirt, and recalled how Aaron took pride in all he did. He’d taken Noah as his ward when the boy’s mother died and treated him as his own. Once they married, Glynis considered Noah her son too. “Three sons.” She shook her head at the thought. The last ten years seem like a dream. I married Brodie, and then Aaron was born soon after the wedding. Two years later, I had Rory. Now here I am back where I started. On the Pembroke.

A pounding on the door shook Glynis from her daydreams. “Glynis!” Ross shouted. “Are ye in there?”

Glynis rushed to open the door, exposing Ross holding Heather in his arms and Juliet peeking over his shoulder. “Och! Come in. Put her on the bed.”

Juliet followed behind them, giving Glynis a wide-eyed look. “You are not going to believe this,” she said under her breath.

“What is wrong, sister?” Glynis asked, sitting next to Heather on the bed. “Ye look pale instead of healthy from the sun and sea.”

“Ye would be, too, after ye finished retching over the side of the ship.” Heather frowned at her, then looked to Juliet and nodded.

“Heather has discovered she is pregnant. She did not know before leaving port,” Juliet said.

“Jamie doesna ken?” Glynis took Heather’s hand, realizing the repercussions of the pregnancy.

“No,” Heather answered, tears in her eyes. “I willna sail home in the spring, shall I?”

“When do ye think the bairn will come, lass?” Ross asked.

“April?” Heather lifted a shoulder. “The wee one couldna make the journey, could he?” She looked at Glynis with hope in her eyes.

“Newly born? I dinna ken. Many women have given birth aboard a ship. If the bairn is strong, he will survive.”

Heather burst into tears and sobbed in Glynis’ arms. She held on tightly to her sister, not knowing how to comfort her.

“Mum?” Noah’s voice came from the open doorway, causing Glynis to look his way.

His black tricorn hat sat artfully on his head, mostly covering his hair, but a few light brown curls stuck out here and there. He wore the blue captain’s coat, black neck scarf, white leggings, and black boots with dignity. When dressed in uniform, Noah seemed older than his twenty-three years. Lean yet muscular, he’d turned into a strong and handsome man. For a second, he reminded her of Aaron. She smiled as she remembered Aaron saying the boy would grow into his long nose. It had caught Aaron’s attention when he first met three-year-old Noah, and he’d said the size made him appear older than his years.

“Och, lad, come in and close the door,” Glynis said.

Noah removed his hat to expose his curly hair. His hazel eyes had become greener over the years and he stared at her with a piercing look, waiting for an answer.

“’Tis nothing bad. In fact, ’tis good news.” Glynis forced a smile. “Heather is expecting.”

“Expecting what, Mum?” Noah wrinkled his brow.

“Ye are not dimwitted, are ye, lad?” Glynis scowled. “Think. She is going to have a bairn in the spring.”

“Oh! Congratulations, Aunt Heather.” Noah seemed puzzled. “I heard crying. It is the reason I came. Is it not good news?”

“Aye, ’tis good news.” Heather sniffed. “I didna ken when I came on the ship, ’tis all. Jamie doesna ken and...” She turned her head away from the group standing around her. “Can I return to my home this spring?”

Glynis rose and nodded for Ross to join her in the hallway. She gently closed the door behind them and said, “Heather thinks of Gregor’s Cove as home. I admit, in a way, I do too. She was sixteen when she left Scotland to make a life in the colonies. Her adult years have been spent making a life there.”

“If she thinks of it as home, then we will help her, and ye, get back to Gregor’s Cove.”

“Will ye stay in the Highlands, Ross? Ye dinna plan to return to the colonies in the spring?”

“No, we will not go back,” Ross said with a shake of the head. “I canna risk Lizbeth’s safety. If we must, we will live in Glenhaven for the rest of our lives.”

 

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