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A bit more from my National Novel Writing effort, “Of Sword And Sea”. (Yes–lunatic that I am, I am doing it again–fifty thousand words in a month) Not all wedding nights begin with unbridled passion. Those that include laughter may be good indicator of a union that will last–

Image by C London

Food and new friendship a plenty— breads, roast beef, potatoes and wine; the noise of the gathering still rang in her ears as she made her way into the cottage. Night falling and guests dispersing to their homes, Malcolm and Lis were offered privacy by a very gallant Ian and compliant Rhys. The two brothers were to sleep under the stars and see to the horses and supplies for tomorrow’s journey.

While Malcolm lingered saying goodbye to guests, she excused herself to take the weight off tired feet.

Tomorrow would no doubt bring grand adventure, but tonight the earth could stand still. Lis sat at the table, stiff and tired in her borrowed finery. An elbow resting on the wood, she looked to the window, milky grey light of dusk powdering the room. A twelve hour candle burnt on the mantle with a bottle of wine so placed. A loaf of bread, some cheese and two glasses, thoughtfully set at the table. A bouquet of flowers in a whiskey glass decorated the scene, a bowl of apples rounding out the simple offerings. Beth or her elves must have been at work whilst they celebrated.

Lis sighed, dropping her hands to her lap, knotting fingers together. There was a faint whoosh as the heavy door of the cottage swung open, then shut. Malcolm leaned against the door, the smile at his face fading as he turned his gaze upon Lisbet. Why suddenly did a frisson of shyness jumble in her stomach? She had know this man for as long as she could remember.

It was he who broke the silence. “You dinna have to worry, Lis. I will be gentle wi’ ye.”

A small percussive chuckle escaped her, in spite of herself. “I dinna think you would be anything but.” She eyed him speculatively. “Though I appreciate the reassurance.”

“You havena been with any other,” his voice was low almost apologetic. It was obvious he was trying to make his pronouncement clearly a statement and not a question.
“Would it matter so verra much if I had?”

Malcolm’s brows flew up, his breath catching as rough skin on silk.
Lis laughed again. “I’m sorry. I could not resist.” She wiped the mirth from her face. Patting the chair next to her, she cleared her throat. “Ah, would you like to sit down?”

“Aye.” He walked across the room, moving like a lion. Instead of sitting beside her, he took the chair opposite hers. Tentatively, he slid his hands across the wood, taking hers between his own. They were large and warm.

“I’m sorry,” he said, a line appearing between his brows.

“For what? You just provided me the most amazing wedding day any woman could ever—”

“No, not for any of today. Today was pairfect.” The flickering of the candle played across his features. His gaze penetrated hers with an intensity that scared her.

“What is it?” She leaned toward him.

“We canna have a proper honeymoon. We must leave at tomorrow’s sunset.”

Breath she had not realized she was holding escaped and she dropped her head. “Jaysus, Malcolm. I thought you were goin’ to tell me somethin’ really awful.”

He released her hands, reassembling his into fists on the table in front of him. “Look ye, lass. We have nearly a week’s journey to get home and once there, we may not be able to live as husband and wife.” His brows peaked, mouth drawing into a hard line. “I dunna want to disappoint you.”

Lis rose from her chair and walked to the fireside. Grabbing the bottle of wine, she brought it to the table and drew a chair next to him. She poured it, handing him one glass as she resumed her seat.

Lis raised her glass. “To you, Mister Macleod.” She felt a lump rise to her throat at the thought of his caring response. He did not want to disappoint her?

His blue eyes peered above the rim of his glass earnest in their intensity. They drank, he raising his glass again to her. “Mrs. Macleod.” He nodded, draining the remainder of his wine.

Lis responded, “Whether we live under the same roof or you are miles away, we are one, dearest Malcolm.” Her mouth lifted into a faint smile. “We always have been.”

“Too true.” Pouring another glass, he topped hers and they sipped in silence for a time. Tilting her glass she drained the content. Stomach warmed by the effect, she hiccuped.

“Sorry.” Lis sent a hand to her mouth, a rush of embarrassment flushing her face.

Malcolm’s mouth took up the humor that lurked in his eyes, twitching into a reluctant smile as he watched. “From the time you were a wee lass you have always been able to make me laugh.”

“I’m not sure I take that as a compliment, sir.” Another hiccup rocked her body in a short jolt. She rose and went to the water pitcher, pouring a careless glass, a dappling of drops darkening the wood. Bending over at the waist she lowered her head to her thighs and pressed the rim of the glass to her lips. She drew in a lungful of air, pinched her nose and took three long slow gulps.

Malcolm broke into laughter, the kind not even good intent could hold back. By the time she straightened, he was standing, arms outreaching as though he thought she might collapse after such antic.

She held up a finger warning him to wait and swallowed the last of the liquid in her mouth. A gasp of expelled air and she looked to him as though his presence would insure her technique to work.

“What in the bloody…” Taking the two steps to her, he laced an arm around her waist and drew her close. “Are you all right?”

“Of course,” she sent a palm to his chest. Her eyes watered and she snorted in relief. Other hand at her chest, she struggled to even her breathing. “There.”

“There? Where?”

‘   Tis quelled.”

His face melted from concern to mirth. “You mean that was all to rid yourself of hiccups?”

Sending an incredulous scowl she pushed him away. “Of course. I hate them.”

“Pardon me.” Malcolm sent a hand to his stomach. “I’ve never seen such tomfoolery.”

“Hey, it works.” She set her feet a bit further apart and stared at him solemnly. After a long minute she said, “See?”

Hands on his hips he nodded. “I dunna kin who or what taught you, but aye, they have ceased.”

Lis slid back to her place and took up the wine glass. Malcolm stood above her, shaking his head dubiously. “What have I led myself into?” He sent a hand to the table and dropped back into his chair.

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