DG'S DAILY LINES

These excerpts are from the upcoming ninth book "Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone", the OUTLANDER series of novels, which focus on Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser.   


Diana Gabaldon has been posting passages of this new novel on her website, www.dianagabaldon.com, as well as on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

*Note: these excerpts may contain spoilers from the 1st eight books.  If you havena read the books, or if ye dinna want to know what's going to happen until the 9th book is published, dinna read them!





Excerpt "Migraine"

DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #Book9 #NoItsNotDone #PutThePossibilityOutOfYourMind#AllInGoodTime #migraine

“Lie down,” I said firmly, and pointed to my lap.
“Nay, I’ll be f—"
“I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said. “I said, lie down.”
“I’ve work to—“
“You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said. “Lie. Down.”
He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue. He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly. He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.

I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait. I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair. It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.
“Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me. He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ‘til his head rested heavy in my lap. I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw. Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp. He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.

“Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs. “Here?”

“Aye…but…” He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye. “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”

“Mmm.” I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull. I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin. “Well, then.”
I took my hands away and he let his breath out.

“It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.

“It does hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.
“I know.” I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air. “I’ll make it better.”

He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples. I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath. I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished. For now, though…
“Do you remember,” I said, my voice low and quiet. “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning? And how his mother came and combed your hair?”

“Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “She said…she would comb the snakes from my hair.” Another hesitation. “She…did.”

Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it. How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart. Guilt, distress…and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.

There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there. I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little. I put my other hand on his shoulder.

“Shh. Breathe.”
His breath came with a small moan, but he did. I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch. He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.

“Let me do that for you,” I said softly. The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment. With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.

“I…no, I dinna want…” But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin. Over and over, very slowly.

I didn’t say anything for quite some time. He breathed. The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.

“Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window. “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me. Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better. But say it.”

His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh. After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.

“Sassenach?” he said softly.
“Mm?”
“I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”

He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.





Excerpt "Backwoods etiquette" 

#DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #Book9 #BackwoodsEtiquette #noitsnotfinished #nowherenear #butitsgoingfine #dontworry

My breath steamed white in the dimness of the smoke-shed. No fire had been lit in here for over a month, and the air smelt of bitter ash and the tang of old blood.

“How much do you think this thing weighs?” Brianna put both hands on the shoulder of the enormous black and white hog lying on the crude table by the back wall and leaned her own weight experimentally against it. The shoulder moved slightly—rigor had long since passed, despite the cold weather—but the hog itself didn’t budge an inch.

“At a guess, it originally weighed somewhat more than your father. Maybe three hundred pounds on the hoof?” Jamie had bled and gralloched the hog when he killed it; that had probably lightened his load by a hundred pounds or so, but it was still a lot of meat. A pleasant thought for the winter’s food, but a daunting prospect at the moment.

I unrolled the pocketed cloth in which I kept my larger surgical tools; this was no job for an ordinary kitchen knife.

“What do you think about the intestines?” I asked. “Usable, do you think?”

She wrinkled her nose, considering. Jamie hadn’t been able to carry much beyond the carcass itself—and in fact had dragged that—but had thoughtfully salvaged twenty or thirty pounds of intestine. He’d roughly stripped the contents, but two days in a canvas pack hadn’t improved the condition of the uncleaned entrails, not savory to start with. I’d looked at them dubiously, but put them to soak overnight in a tub of salt water, on the off chance that the tissue hadn’t broken down too far to prevent their use as sausage casing.

“I don’t know, Mama,” Bree said reluctantly. “I think they’re pretty far gone. But we might save some of it.”

“If we can’t, we can’t.” I pulled out the largest of my amputation saws and checked the teeth. “We can make square sausage, after all.” Cased sausage was much easier to preserve; once properly smoked, they’d last indefinitely. Sausage patties were fine, but took more careful handling, and had to be packed into wooden casks or boxes in layers of lard for keeping…we hadn’t any casks, but--

“Lard!” I exclaimed, looking up. “Bloody hell--I’d forgotten all about that. We don’t have a kettle, bar the kitchen cauldron, and we can’t use that.” Rendering lard took several days, and the kitchen cauldron supplied at least half our cooked food, to say nothing of hot water.

“Can we borrow one?” Bree glanced toward the door, where a flicker of movement showed. “Jem, is that you?”

“No, it’s me, auntie.” Germain stuck his head in, sniffing cautiously. “Mandy wanted to visit Rachel’s _petit bonbon_, and _Grand-pere _ said she could go if Jem or me would take her. We threw bones and he lost.”

“Oh. Fine, then. Will you go up to the kitchen and fetch the bag of salt from Grannie’s surgery?”

“There isn’t any,” I said, grasping the pig by one ear and setting the saw in the crease of the neck. “There wasn’t much, and we used all but a handful soaking the intestines. We’ll need to borrow that, too.”

I dragged the saw through the first cut, and was pleased to find that while the fascia between skin and muscle had begun to give way—the skin slipped a little with rough handling—the underlying flesh was still firm.

“I tell you what, Bree,” I said, bearing down on the saw as I felt the teeth bite between the neck bones, “it’s going to take a bit of time before I’ve got this skinned and jointed. Why don’t you call round and see which lady might lend us her rendering kettle for a couple of days, and a half-pound of salt to be going on with?”

“Right,” Bree said, seizing the opportunity with obvious relief. “What should I offer her? One of the hams?”

“Oh, no, auntie,” said Germain, quite shocked. “That’s much too much for the lend of a kettle! And ye shouldna offer anyway,” he added, small fair brows drawing together in a frown. “Ye dinna bargain a favor. She’ll ken ye’ll give her what’s right.”

She gave him a look, half questioning, half amused, then glanced at me. I nodded.

“I see I’ve been gone too long,” she said lightly, and giving Germain a pat on the head, vanished on her errand







Excerpt "Flashback"

#DailyLines   #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #Book9   #itscomingalongnicelythankyou   #Illtellyouwhenitsdone   #butitllbeawhileyet   #Flashback

 “Here.”  Buck had reached into his pocket and come out with a grimy wad of paper, which he shoved unceremoniously into Roger’s hand.

 He knew what it was—and wondered for an instant how he knew.  Was it only the circumstances, or could he actually…feel something?

 It was a sapphire, a raw one.  A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail.  He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.

 “Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not,” Buck said, nodding at it.

 “I  think not.  I hope not.  I wish I could say I can’t take it.”  Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him.  “Thank you, _a charaidh_.  Where did ye find it?”

 “Ach…”  Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand.  “Just saw it and picked it up, ken?”

 “Holy Lord,” Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid.   And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones…he’d declined, thank God.  But—

 “You didn’t,” he said to Buck.  “Tell me ye didn’t.”

 “Ye keep saying that,” Buck said, frowning at him.  “I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies.  A poor example for the bairns, aye?”

 He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success.   Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.

 “Me, a poor example?  And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!”

 “And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?”

 “I—“  His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard.  The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass.  “No.  I’m not.  But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them.  To risk your bloody neck for us!”  _That’s my job_, he wanted to say, but didn’t.

 “May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.”  Buck gave him a direct stare.  “Ye need it, aye?  Take it, then.”  Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth.  “With my blessing.”

 On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist.  She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.

 “Look, Daddy!” she called.  “Hula hoop!”

 Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern.   Roger shook his head slightly—_don’t say anything_—and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.

 “What’s a hula hoop, then?” Buck asked quietly, behind him.

 “Just a toy.”  His own heart had jumped into his throat when she said it; he swallowed now, just like Jem, and felt it settle.  “It’s nay bother; she’s wee, and a stranger.  No one would trouble about what she calls things.”

 “Not _that_ thing, no.”  Buck watched Mandy for a moment; she’d got the thing whirling round her neck, but only for an instant before it dropped down her body to the ground.   She hopped out of the hoop and skipped over to see what the boys were doing.   “There’s maybe other things she might say, though.  Eh?”

 “Aye.   But she’s wee,” Roger repeated firmly.  “No one pays much heed to what a maid of her age might say.  Bairns make things up, and they chatter all the time.”

 “Aye, I’d noticed that.”  Buck’s voice held a wry amusement.  Roger saw that Buck’s eyes were still fixed on Mandy, with an intensity Roger recognized.  It was the look of someone trying to hold on to a moment, a place, a person they expected to lose.

 Roger touched Buck’s arm, lightly.

 “Will ye not come with us, then?” he asked.  “We can find another stone.  We can wait.”

 Buck’s breath steamed briefly and he turned away.

 “No,” he said firmly.  “I wouldna make it.”

 “Ye don’t know that!”  Roger grabbed his arm this time, making him stop, making him meet his eyes.  They were the same deep green as his own—the same as the woman’s.   Buck’s mother, his own ancestress.  How many of the generations between Buck and himself had those eyes? He wondered.  Who were they?

 “Do I want to die to find out?” Buck snapped, and pulled loose.




Excerpt "Denys Randall"

#DailyLines  #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE   #BookNine   #notthisyear  #maybe2018   #dontholdyourbreath  #readSEVENStonesinthemeantime

 “Randall, did ye say?”   Jamie lowered his arm, slowly as he might do facing a coiled snake, eyes fixed on it in case of the slightest movement.

 “I did, sir.” The young man had frozen where he stood, hand on the table.   Now he moved, straightening slowly, as slowly as Jamie’s own movement.  “Captain Denys Randall, of His Majesty’s 14th Foot.  And you are?”

 Jamie’s eyes flicked toward me, questioning.   I nodded, feeling jerky as a puppet whose strings have frayed.

 “Your…mother,” I said, and stopped to clear my throat.  “Her name is Mary?  Or—or was?”

 The tension in his face lessened just a little.

 “It is, madam.  My mother’s name is Mary Hawkins Randall Isaacs.  She lives in Sussex.”

 “Oh,” I said, and felt a sudden expansion in my chest.  “Oh…_Mary_.”  Tears stung my eyes, but I blinked them back.  This wasn’t the time for auld lang syne.

 “I was a good friend of your mother’s…once,” I told him.  “My name is Claire Fraser.   This is my husband, Colonel James Fraser.”  I put a hand on Jamie’s forearm, and he reluctantly sheathed his sword.

 “Aye,” he said, mildly.  “I kent your father.”





Excerpt "Amaranthus"

“The boy needs help,” Hal observed.

“True,” John said, and sighed. “But he’s a man, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Actually, I had, but I wasn’t sure you had—you being his father, I mean. One tends not to see that about one’s sons.”

“Or one’s daughters, I suppose,” John said, not taking any pains to remove the edges of the remark. He wasn’t in a mood to consider Hal’s feelings.

Hal made a grimace that ended as a pained half-smile. “Did I tell you that Hunter writes to me, once or twice a month?”

“No.” John was mildly startled by this. “He’s a Continental army captain, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is—though against his will. They don’t believe in rank. Friends, I mean.”

This was said very casually, and John gave his brother a look, which Hal avoided by picking up a sheaf of orders and flicking through it.

“And his purpose in writing to you is…?” He couldn’t think Denzell Hunter had any hopes of appealing to Hal’s better nature.

“To inform me that Dottie is well.” Hal laid down the papers and gave John back the look. “Nothing more. That’s all he says—‘Dorothea is in good health, though somewhat tired.’ Or ‘Your daughter is well, Yours in Christ, Denzell Hunter.”

There was a silence, during which the shouts of a drill sergeant echoed like the distant calls of some large bird of hysterical temperament.

“Why do you suppose he does it?” John asked finally. “Religious conviction on his part, persuasion by Dottie—does she ever write, herself, by the way?—or an attempt at reconciliation by the water-dropping-on-stone method?”

“She’s written once.” Hal’s face softened a little at the thought. “Though she didn’t say a great deal more than he has. As for Hunter…I honestly don’t think he has unscrupulous designs upon my fortune, or anything of that kind.”

“I shouldn’t think so,” John said dryly. He hadn’t known many Friends personally, but the whole experience of Dottie’s wedding had convinced him that they tended to mean what they said about avoiding the vanities of the world. As for Denzell Hunter, beyond his own brief observations of the man—all favorable—his bona fides were vouched for by three of the few people in the world whom John trusted: Dottie, Claire, and Jamie Fraser.

Thought of Jamie Fraser necessarily recalled his attention to William.

“You’re right about his needing help,” he said, trusting in his brother’s ability always to know what he was talking about. “How, though? He understands the nature of his dilemma as well as we do—possibly better, as it’s his. And knowing his nature as well as I do, I’m sure that any attempt to convince him that his responsibility lies in taking up the duties of his title would be worse than futile.”

“Well,” Hal said thoughtfully, “any attempt by _us_, yes.”

John raised a brow.

“Who else did you have in mind? Dottie? He might listen to her, but she wouldn’t try to persuade him to go back to England. Under her pernicious influence—and Denzell’s—he’d probably end up as King of America.”

“Hmph. No, though you’re on the right track,” Hal said. “I was rather thinking of my daughter-in-law.”

“Amaranthus?” John was surprised, but couldn’t help smiling at thought of that very frank young woman. “Well, she’s certainly a Loyalist, and thus presumably disposed toward tradition…”

“She’s also disposed toward William,” Hal said bluntly. “Has he ever spoken to you about her?”






Excerpt "Hunting by night"


#DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIamGONE #HappyNewYear !
#huntingbynight

That thought was too much. William stood up and dropped his blanket, dozens of small white moths rising startled from the grass and flitting inquisitively round his face. He ignored these, pulled on his boots and strode off.

He didn’t care where he was going. His limbs felt as though he’d been headed up in a barrel all night, cramped and tingling with a fierce need to move. The smoking fires glowed and flickered under the big oak, and the savory smell of the meat made his stomach growl. One of the Indians was asleep beside the fire, rolled in a blanket; he couldn’t tell which.

Turning his back on the fire, he headed toward the fields that lay behind the house. Mount Josiah had boasted only a score of acres in tobacco when he had known it years before; was the land even cultivated now?

Rather to his surprise, it was. The stalks had been harvested, but the ground was littered with shed leaves and fragments; the sap-thick smell of uncured tobacco lay like incense on the night. The scent soothed him, and he made his way slowly across the field, toward the black shape of the tobacco barn. Was it still in use?

It was. Called a barn for courtesy’s sake, it was little more than a large shed, but the back of it was a large, airy space where the stalks were hung for stripping—there were only a few there now, dangling from the rafters, barely visible against the faint starlight that leaked through the wide-set boards. His entrance caused the dried, stacked leaves on the broad curing platform at one side to stir and rustle, as though the shed took notice of him. It was an odd fancy, but not disturbing—he nodded to the dark, half-conscious of welcome.

He bumped into something that shied away with a hollow sound—an empty barrel. Feeling about, he counted more than a score, some filled, some waiting. Some old, a few new ones, judging by the smell of new wood that added its tang to the shed’s perfume.

Someone was working the plantation—and it wasn’t Manoke. The Indian enjoyed smoking tobacco now and then, but William had never seen him take any part in the raising or harvesting of the crop. Neither did he reek of it. It wasn’t possible to touch green tobacco without a black, sticky sort of tar adhering to your hands, and the smell in a ripe tobacco field was enough to make a grown man’s head swim.

When he had lived here with Lord John—the name caused a faint twinge, but he ignored it—his father had hired laborers from the adjoining property upriver, a large place called Bobwhite, who could easily tend Mt. Josiah’s modest crop in addition to Bobwhite’s huge output. Perhaps the same arrangement was still in place?

The thought that the plantation was still working, even in this ghostly fashion, heartened him a little; he’d thought the place quite abandoned when he saw the ruined house. Curious, he felt his way out of the tobacco barn and turned west, trampling through the shattered remnants of tobacco stalk, toward the higher fields that were used for less valuable crops. Yes, these too had been planted and harvested; by the pale light of a rising half-moon, he saw corn, stooked and standing in rows like small, ragged men. He circled the corn and came down along the river fields—they’d tried to grow rice one year, but it hadn’t answered, he didn’t remember why…a long stretch of fallow ground, thick with weeds and drying grass, and then he turned away from the river and found himself walking over crackling dry stems with a strong, familiar smell….what…oh, flax. Of course.

He smiled at the memory of being allowed to help thresh the flax; they’d put the bundles of dried stems in rough cloth bags and laid them on the tiny brick landing, and then he and Papa and Manoke and Jim and Peter---yes, Jim and Peter, that was right, the two black servants--had jumped up and down on them, trod to and fro, and ended by dancing a riotous quadrille atop the filthy, foot-marked bags. Quite a lot of beer had been drunk; he could taste the mingled fumes of yeast and alcohol on the back of his tongue, and a hint of flax-seed oil that always made him think of paintings.

A dark figure loomed suddenly out of the dark before him, and he yelped and threw himself to one side, scrabbling hastily up onto all fours, groping wildly for a stick, a rock, a—

“_Tabernac_, is that you, _Gillaume_? I mean…”

“It’s me,” William said shortly, dropping the handful of gravel and leaves he’d grabbed. He panted for a moment, hands on his knees, before adding, “I thought you were a bear.”

It was said in all seriousness, but Cinnamon made a small snort of amusement.

“If there was a bear within ten miles, it would already have joined us for supper,” he said. “I thought I heard something more sly, though, like a cat, so I came to see.” He cleared his throat then, and seemed to recede a little into the night. “I’m sorry,” he said more formally. “I didn’t mean to…” a vague hand waved, “…to disturb you.”

“You’re not,” William said, still short, but not unfriendly. None of this was Cinnamon’s fault—and he’d liked the man very much, when they’d spent that winter hunting and trapping. Padding slow-footed miles over the snow on the unwieldy basket-woven shoes that kept them from sinking through its crust.

He shivered a little at the memory, though the night wasn’t very cold. Snot streaming and freezing to the hair on his face, the air like knives and needles in his lungs. And the fire at night, the sounds of burning wood, dripping water, dripping blood from the kill, his own blood surging hot and stinging back into fingers and toes, the long white trance of a day in the forest broken by the shock of hot food. And then their talk.

“You’re not,” he repeated, more firmly. “A cat, you say? Big?”

His eyes were well enough suited to the dark by now that he made out Cinnamon’s nod easily. William looked back over his shoulder, casting his mind hastily over his path; had he half-heard anything, smelled anything…? Nothing moved but the willows and alders by the river, leaves rustling in a light breeze. He felt rather than saw Cinnamon move to the side, lifting his chin to sniff the air. They both froze in the same moment.

From the direction of the house. An acrid pong so faint you might not notice, unless a friendly breeze shoved it right up your nose. William nodded to Cinnamon. Cat.

He glanced then at the tree, where Manoke was still lying in the fire’s glow, wrapped in a trade blanket with wide red and yellow stripes. Cinnamon’s hand closed on his forearm and he felt the Indian’s shake of the head. He nodded again and patted Cinnamon’s hip—was he armed? A breath of self-disgust—no. Neither was William, and he shared his friend’s sentiment; what could he have been thinking of, walking in open ground after dark without so much as a case-knife!

He jerked his head toward the house, and Cinnamon nodded




Excerpt "Dream of Battle"

#DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIamGONE #BookNine #notyet #notforalongtime #gowatchS2DVDs #dreamofbattle

I was having the delightful sort of dream where you realize that you’re asleep and are enjoying it extremely. I was warm, bonelessly relaxed, and my mind was an exquisite blank. I was just beginning to sink down through this cloudy layer of bliss to the deeper realms of unconsciousness when a violent movement of the mattress under me jerked me into instant alertness.

By reflex, I rolled onto my side and reached for Jamie. I hadn’t reached the stage of conscious thought yet, but my synapses had already drawn their own conclusions. He was still in bed, so we weren’t under attack and the house wasn’t afire. I heard nothing but his rapid breathing; the children were all right and no one had broken in. Ergo…it was his own dream that had wakened him.

This thought penetrated into the conscious part of my mind just as my hand touched his shoulder. He drew back, but not with the violent recoil he usually showed if I touched him too suddenly after a bad dream. He was awake, then; he knew it was me. _Thank God for that_, I thought, and drew a deep breath of my own.

“Jamie?” I said softly. My eyes were dark-adapted already; I could see him, half-curled beside me, tense, facing me.

“Dinna touch me, Sassenach,” he said, just as softly. “Not yet. Let it pass.” He’d gone to bed in a nightshirt; the room was still chilly. But he was naked now. When had he taken it off? And why?

He didn’t move, but his body seemed to flow, the faint glow of the smoored fire shifting on his skin as he relaxed, hair by hair, his breathing slowing.

I relaxed a little, too, in response, though I still watched him warily. It wasn’t a Wentworth dream—he wasn’t sweating; I could almost literally smell fear and blood on him when he woke from those. They came rarely—but were terrible when they did come.

Battlefield? Perhaps; I hoped so. Some of those were worse than others, but he usually came back from a dream of battle fairly quickly, and would let me cradle him in my arms and gentle him back toward sleep. I longed to do it now.

An ember cracked on the hearth behind me, and the tiny spurt of sparks lit his face for an instant, surprising me. He looked…peaceful, his eyes dark-wide and fixed on something he could still see.

“What is it?” I whispered, after a few moments. “What do you see, Jamie?”

He shook his head slowly, eyes still fixed. Very slowly, though, the focus came back into them, and he saw me. He sighed once, deeply, and his shoulders went loose. He reached for me and I all but lunged into his arms, holding him tight.

“It’s all right, Sassenach,” he said into my hair. “I’m not… It’s all right.”

His voice sounded odd, almost puzzled. But he meant it; he was all right. He rubbed my back gently, between the shoulder blades and I gulped a little. He was very warm, despite the chill, and the clinical part of my mind checked him quickly—no shivering, no flinching…his breathing was quite normal and so was his heart-rate, easily perceptible against my breast.

“Do you…_can_ you tell me about it?” I said, after a bit. Sometimes he could, and it seemed to help. More often, he couldn’t, and would just shake until the dream let go its grip on his mind and let him turn away.

“I don’t know,” he said, the note of surprise still in his voice. “I mean—it was Culloden, but…it was different.”

“How?” I asked warily. I knew from what he’d told me that he remembered only bits and pieces of the battle, single vivid images. I’d never encouraged him to try to remember more, but I _had_ noticed that such dreams came more frequently, the closer we came to any looming conflict. “Did you see Murtagh?”

“Aye, I did.” The tone of surprise in his voice deepened, and his hand stilled on my back. “He was with me, by me. But I could see his face; it shone like the sun.”

This description of his late godfather was more than peculiar; Murtagh had been one of the more dour specimens of Scottish manhood ever produced in the Highlands.

“He was…happy?” I ventured doubtfully. I couldn’t imagine anyone who’d set foot on Culloden moor that day had cracked so much as a smile—likely not even the Duke of Cumberland.

“Oh, more than happy, Sassenach—filled wi’ joy.” He let go of me then, and glanced down into my face. “We all were.”
“All of you—who else was there?” My concern for him had mostly subsided now, replaced by curiosity.

“I dinna ken, quite…there was Alex Kincaid, and Ronnie…

“Ronnie MacNab?” I blurted, astonished.

“Aye,” he said, scarcely noticing my interruption. His brows were drawn inward in concentration, and there was still something of an odd radiance about his own face. “My father was there, too, and my grand-sire—“ He laughed aloud at that, surprised afresh. “I canna imagine why _he’d_ be there—but there he was, plain as day, standing by the field, glowering at the goings-on, but lit up like a turnip on Samhain, nonetheless.

I didn’t want to point out to him that everyone he’d mentioned so far was dead. Many of them hadn’t even been on the field that day—Alex Kincaid had died at Prestonpans, and Ronnie MacNab… I glanced involuntarily at the fire, glowing on the new black slate of the hearthstone. But Jamie was still looking into the depths of his dream.

“Ken, when ye fight, mostly it’s just hard work. Ye get tired. Your sword’s so heavy ye think ye canna lift it one more time—but ye do, of course.” He stretched, flexing his left arm and turning it, watching the play of light over the sun-bleached hairs and deep-cut muscle. “It’s hot—or it’s freezing—and either way, ye just want to go be somewhere else. Ye’re scairt or ye’re too busy to be scairt until it’s over, and then ye shake because of what ye’ve just been doing….” He shook his head hard at this, dislodging the thoughts.

“Not this time. “




Excerpt "Those we love"

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Jamie squatted down by Jenny, reached out a finger and gently touched the softly bumpy little beads; it was made of Scotch pearls, like the necklace he’d given Claire. “Where did Mam get it, d’ye know? I never thought to ask, when I was wee.”

“Well, ye wouldn’t, would ye? When ye’re wee, mam and da are just man and da, and everything’s just what it’s always been.” She gathered the beads up into the palm of her hand, shoogling them into a little pile. “I do ken where this came from, though; Da told me, when he gave it to me. D’ye think that doe’s comin’ in heat?” She squinted suddenly at one of the nanny-goats, who had raised her head and let out a long, piercing bleat. Jamie gave the animal an eye.

“Aye, maybe. She’s waggling her tail. But it’s maybe just she smells the buck-deer in yonder grove.” He lifted his chin at the grove of sugar maples, gone half-scarlet already, though none of the leaves had fallen. “It’s early for rut, but if I can smell him, so can she.”

His sister lifted her face to the light breeze and breathed in deep. “Aye? I dinna smell anything, but I’ll take your word. Da always said ye had a nose like a truffle pig.”

He snorted.

“Aye, right. So what did Da say to you, then? About Mam’s rosary.”

“Aye, well. He was jealous, he said. She wouldna ever say who’d sent her the necklace, ken.”

“Oh, aye—do _you_ know?”

She shook her head, looking interested. “You do?”

“I do. A man named Marcus MacRannoch—one of her suitors from Leoch, and a gallant man; he’d bought them for her, hoping to wed her, but she saw Da and was awa’ with him before MacRannoch could speak to her. He said—well, Claire said he said,” he corrected, “that he’d thought of them so often round her bonny neck, he couldna think of them anywhere else, and so sent them to her for a wedding present.”

Jenny rounded her lips in interest.

“Oo, so that’s the way of it. Well, Da kent it was another man, and as I say, he said he was jealous—they hadna been marrit long, and he maybe wasna quite sure she thought she’d made a good bargain, takin’ up wi’ him. So he sold a good field—to Geordie MacCallum, aye?—and gave the money to Murtagh, to go and buy a wee bawbee for Mam. He meant to give it her when the babe was born—Willie, aye?” She lifted the crucifix and kissed it gently, in blessing of their brother.

“God only kens where Murtagh got this—“ she poured the rosary from one hand to the other, with a slithering sound. “But the words on the medal are French.”

“Murtagh?” Jamie glanced at the beads, and furrowed his brow a bit. “But Da must ha’ kent how he felt about her—about Mam.”

Jenny nodded, rubbing a thumb over the crucifix and the beautifully sculpted, tortured body of Christ. The yaffle called, faint and distant, beyond the maple grove.

“He could see I thought the same thing—why would he send Murtagh on such an errand? But he said he hadna meant to, only he’d told Murtagh what was in his mind, and Murtagh asked to go. Da said he didna want to let him, but he couldna very well go off himself and leave Mam about to burst with Willie and not even a solid roof over her head yet—he’d laid the cornerstones and started the chimneys, but nay more. And—“ She lifted one shoulder. “He loved Murtagh, too—more than his ain brother.”

“God, I miss the old bugger,” Jamie said impulsively. Jenny glanced at him and smiled ruefully.

“So do I. I wonder sometimes if he’s with them now—mam and da.”

That notion startled Jamie—he’d never thought of it—and he laughed, shaking his head. “Well, if he is, I suppose he’s happy.”

“I hope that’s the way of it,” Jenny said, growing serious. “I always wished he could ha’ been buried with them—wi’ the family--at Lallybroch.”

Jamie nodded, his throat suddenly tight. Murtagh lay with the fallen of Culloden, burnt and buried in some anonymous pit on that silent moor, his bones mingled with the others. No cairn for those who loved him to come and leave a stone to say so.

Jenny laid a hand on his arm, warm through the cloth of his sleeve.

“Dinna mind it, _a brathair_,” she said softly. “He had a good death, and you with him at the end.”

“How would you know it was a good death?” Emotion made him speak more roughly than he meant, but she only blinked once, and then her face settled again.

“Ye told me, idiot,” she said dryly. “Several times. D’ye not recall that?”

He stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending.

“I told ye? How? I dinna ken what happened.”

Now it was her turn to be surprised.

“Ye’ve forgotten? “ She frowned at him. “Aye, well…it’s true ye were off your heid wi’ fever for a good ten days when they brought ye home. Ian and I took it in turn to sit with ye—as much to stop the doctor takin’ your leg off as anything else. Ye can thank Ian ye’ve still got that one,” she added, nodding sharply at his left leg. “He sent the doctor away; said he kent well ye’d rather be dead.” Her eyes filled abruptly with tears, and she turned away.

He caught her by the shoulder and felt her bones, fine and light as a kestrel’s under the cloth of her shawl.

“Jenny,” he said softly. “Ian didna want to be dead. Believe me. I did, aye…but not him.”

“No, he did at first,” she said, and swallowed . “But ye wouldna let him, he said—and he wouldna let you, either.” She wiped her face with the back of her hand, roughly. He took hold of it, and kissed it, her fingers cold in his hand.

“Ye dinna think ye had anything to do with it?” he asked, rising to his feet and smiling down at her. “For either of us?”

“Hmph,” she said, but she looked modestly pleased.

The goats had moved away a little, brown backs smooth amid the tussocked grass. One of them had a bell; he could hear the small clank! of it as she moved. The yaffles had moved off as well—he caught the flash of scarlet as one flew low across the field and disappeared into the black mouth of the trail.

He let a moment go by, two, and then shifted his weight and made a small menacing noise in the back of his throat.

“Aye, aye,” Jenny said, rolling her eyes at him. “Of course I’ll tell ye. I had to fettle my mind, first, ken?” She rearranged her skirts and settled herself more firmly. “Aye, then—this is the way of it. As ye told it to me, at least





Excerpt "It will be alright"

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“Bear? Oh, is that what ye’re up to. Claire wondered.” She loosed the eager goats and they dived headfirst into the thick grass like ducks in a millpond.

“Did she, then. “ He kept his voice casual.

“She didna say so,” his sister said frankly. “But she saw your gun was gone , while we were makin’ breakfast, and she stopped dead, only for an instant.”

His heart squeezed a little. He hadn’t wanted to waken Claire when he left in the dark, but he should have told her last night that he meant to see if he could get upon the trail of the bear Jo Beardsley had seen. There’d been little time for hunting while they worked to get a roof raised before winter—they needed the meat and grease badly. Brianna’s foot was better, but wouldn’t stand days on the trail—besides, they had only a few quilts and one woolen trade blanket he’d got from a Moravian trader. A good bear-rug would be a comfort to Claire in the deep cold nights; she felt the cold more now than the last time they’d spent a winter on the Ridge.

“She’s all right,” his sister said, and he felt her interested gaze on his own face. “She only wondered, ken.”

He nodded, wordless. It might be a wee while yet, before Claire could wake to find him gone out with a gun, and think nothing of it.

He took a breath, and saw it wisp out white, vanishing instantly, though the new sun was already warm on his shoulders.

“Aye, and what are ye doing up here, yourself? It’s a far piece to walk for forage.” One of the goats had come up for air and was nosing the hanging end of his leather belt in an interested manner. He tucked it up out of reach and kneed the goat gently away.

“I’m fattening them to stand the winter,” she said, nodding at the nosy nanny. “Maybe breed them, if they’re ready. They like the grass better than the forage in the woods, and it’s easier to keep an eye on them.”

“Ye ken well enough Jem and Germain and Fanny would mind them for ye. Is wee Oggy drivin’ ye mad?” The baby was teething, and had vigorous lungs. You could hear him at the Big House when the wind was right. “Or are ye drivin’ Rachel mad yourself?”

“I like goats,” she said, ignoring his question and shoving aside a pair of questing lips nibbling after the fringe of her shawl. “[Shoo, goat. - Gaelic] Sheep are good-hearted things, when they’re not tryin’ to knock ye over, but they’re no bright. A goat has a mind of its own.”

“Aye, and so do you. Ian always said ye liked the goats because they’re just as stubborn as you are.”

She gave him a long, level look.

“Pot,” she said succinctly.

“Kettle,” he replied, flicking a plucked grass-stem toward her nose. She grabbed it out of his hand and fed it to the goat.

“Mphm,” she said. “Well, if ye must know, I come up here to think, now and then,” she said . “And pray.”

“Oh, aye?” he said, but she pressed her lips together for a moment and then turned to look across the meadow, shading her eyes against the slant of the morning sun.

_Well enough_, he thought. _She’ll say whatever it is when she’s ready_.

“There’s a bear up here, is there?” she asked, turning back to him. “Shall I take the goats back down?”

“Not likely. Jo Beardsley saw it a few days ago, here in the meadow, but there’s no fresh sign.”

Jenny thought that over for a moment, then sat down on a lichened rock, spreading her skirts out neatly. The goats had gone back to their grazing, and she raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes.

“Only a fool would hunt a bear alone,” she said, her eyes still closed. “Claire told me that last week.”

“Did she?” he said dryly. “Did she tell ye the last time I killed a bear, I did it alone, with my dirk? And she hit me in the heid wi’ a fish whilst I was doin’ it?”

She opened her eyes and gave him a look.

“She didna say a fool canna be lucky,” she pointed out. “And if you didna have the luck o’ the devil himself, ye’d have been dead six times over by now.”

“Six?” He frowned, disturbed, and her brow lifted in surprise.

“I wasna really counting,” she said. “It was only a guess. What is it, _a graidh_?”

That casual “_O, lov_e,” caught him unexpectedly in a tender place, and he coughed to hide it.

“Nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Only, when I was young in Paris, a fortune-teller told me I’d die nine times before my death. D’ye think I should count the fever after Laoghaire shot me?”

She shook her head definitely.

“Nay, ye wouldna have died even had Claire not come back wi’ her wee stabbers. Ye would have got up and gone after her within a day or two.”

He smiled.

“I might’ve.




Excerpt "And a few Mohawks"

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Eats Turtles swallowed the last of his turkey hash and gave a loud belch of appreciation in Rachel’s direction, then handed her his plate, saying, “More,” before resuming the story he had been telling between bites. Fortunately, it was mostly in Mohawk, as the parts that had been in English appeared to deal with one of his cousins who had suffered a very comical partial disembowelment following an encounter with an enraged moose.

Rachel took the plate and refilled it, staring very hard at the back of Eats Turtles’ head and envisioning the light of Christ glowing within him. Owing to an orphaned and penurious childhood, she had had considerable practice in such discernment, and was able to smile pleasantly at Turtles as she placed the newly-filled plate at his feet, not to interrupt his gesticulations.

On the good side, she reflected, glancing into the cradle, the men’s conversation had lulled Oggy into a stupor. With a glance that caught Ian’s eye, and a nod toward the cradle, she went out to enjoy a mother’s rarest pleasure: ten minutes alone in the privy.

Emerging relaxed in body and mind, she was disinclined to go back into the cabin. She thought briefly of walking down to the Big House to visit Brianna and Claire—but Jenny had gone down herself when it became apparent that the Mohawks would spend the night at the Murrays’ cabin. Rachel was very fond of her mother-in-law, but then, she adored Oggy and loved Ian madly—and she really didn’t want the company of any of them just now.

The evening was cold, but not bitter, and she had a thick woolen shawl. A gibbous moon was rising amid a field of glorious stars, and the peace of Heaven seemed to breathe from the autumn forest, pungent with conifers and the softer scent of dying leaves. She made her way carefully up the path that led to the well, paused for a drink of cold water, and then went on, coming out a quarter-hour later on the edge of a rocky outcrop that gave a view of endless mountains and valleys, by day. By night, it was like sitting on the edge of eternity.

Peace seeped into her soul with the chill of the night, and she sought it, welcomed it. But there was still an unquiet part of her mind, and a burning in her heart, at odds with the vast quiet that surrounded her.

Ian would never lie to her. He’d said so, and she believed him. But she wasn’t fool enough to think that meant he told her everything she might want to know. And she very much wanted to know more about Wakyo’tenensnohnsa, the Mohawk woman Ian had called Emily…and loved.

So now she was perhaps alive, perhaps not. If she did live…what might be her circumstances?

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder how old Emily might be, and what she looked like. Ian hadn’t ever said; she hadn’t ever asked. It hadn’t seemed important, but now…

Well. When she found him alone, she would ask, that’s all. And with determination, she turned her face to the moon and her heart to her inner light and prepared to wait.

[end section]

It was maybe an hour later when the darkness near her moved and Ian was suddenly there beside her, a warm spot in the night.

“Is Oggy awake?” she asked, drawing her shawl around her.

“Nay, lass, he’s sleeping like a stone.”

“And thy friends?”

“Much the same. I gave them a bit of Uncle Jamie’s whisky.”

“How very hospitable of thee, Ian.”

“That wasna exactly my intention, but I suppose I should take credit for it, if it makes ye think more highly of me.”

He brushed the hair behind her ear, bent his head and kissed the side of her neck, making his intention clear. She hesitated for the briefest instant, but then ran her hand up under his shirt and gave herself over, lying back on her shawl beneath the star-strewn sky.

_Let it be just us, once more_, she thought. _If he thinks of her, let him not do it now_.

And so it was that she didn’t ask what Emily looked like, until the Mohawks finally left, three days later




Excerpt "Every dawn is a new day"

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It was warm and cozy under the heap of quilts and furs—even more warm and cozy by contrast with the icy touch of the morning on my face. I drew a long, clean breath of the new air, hoping that it didn’t smell of snow. We’d been lucky—very lucky—so far; it had rained only twice since we’d left home, and we were very nearly out of the mountains.

If today kept fine, nothing broke on the wagon, neither of the mules cracked a hoof or developed colic, the two horses refrained from biting pieces out of each other (and us) and nobody of an unfriendly nature took an interest in us, we might make it into the upper reaches of the Piedmont by nightfall.

I didn’t smell snow. I smelled smoke, with an alluring tinge of boiling coffee. I smiled, not yet opening my eyes. Jamie was up, then—of course he was; he always woke half an hour before sunup, unless sick or injured, and while I didn’t smell the light of dawn, I could see the faint glow of it through my closed eyelids. Fanny stirred beside me, cuddled close and butted her head into my upper arm. On my other side, Germain lay sprawled on his back, snoring like a small buzz-saw.

Coffee or not, I didn’t want to get up, but knew I had to. Beyond hunger and the need to pee, I could feel Jamie’s urgency. We had to make as much distance as we could before nightfall; the weather became more of a threat with each day, and even if we escaped the mountain passes before the snow came, slogging through knee-deep mud in the Piedmont wasn’t my idea of fun.

“Wake up, Sassenach,” said a low Scottish voice, and an instant later, large icy hands slid under the furs and grabbed both my feet in a grip of iron. I shrieked, and so did both children, exploding out of the covers like a covey of quail.

“What-what-what…” Fanny was crouched at the back of the canvas shelter, big-eyed as a marmoset, her hair in a tangle.

“[ French bad word ],” Germain muttered balefully under his breath. “What’s this? The end of the world?”

“No, it’s morning,” Jamie said patiently. He was squatting at the mouth of our shelter, fully clad in hunting shirt, breeks and plaid, and the scents of smoke and coffee drifted alluringly past him.

“Much the same sort of thing,” Germain grumbled and made to crawl back under the covers.

“Get up, ye wee sluggard.” Jamie seized him by the ankle and pulled. “Look to the ant and be wise, aye?”

“Ants?” Fanny had sat down and was combing her hair with her fingers. “Are ants wise?” She sounded bewildered, but not discomposed. Unlike Germain—and me, for that matter—she normally woke in full possession of her faculties.

“It’s a wee bit from the Bible, Frances,” Jamie said, letting go of Germain, who was now halfway out of the tent, though still supine. He smiled at her, ruddy and cheerful in the rising light. “I’ll buy ye one of your own, in Wilmington




 Excerpt "War will mark you"

Excerpt veterans day DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIHaveGONE #BookNine #ForVeteransDay


“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them._

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier.” Then, abruptly, “Claire and Brianna say the war is coming to the south. I canna shield them, should it come close.” He nodded toward the distant sparks, and it was clear to Roger that by “them,” he meant his tenants—his people. He didn’t pause for a reply, but re-settled the creel on his shoulder and started down.

The trail narrowed. Roger’s shoulder brushed Jamie’s, close, and he fell back a step, following his father-in-law. The moon was late in rising tonight, and sliver-thin. It was dark and the air had a bite in it now.

“I’ll help you protect them,” he said to Jamie’s back. His voice was gruff.

“I ken that,” Jamie said, softly. There was a short pause, as though Jamie was waiting for him to speak further, and he realized that he should.

“With my body,” Roger said quietly, into the night. “And with my soul, if that should be necessary.”

He saw Jamie in brief silhouette, saw him draw breath deep and his shoulders relax as he let it out. They walked more briskly now; the trail was dark, and they strayed now and then, the brush catching at their bare legs.
At the edge of their own clearing, Jamie paused to let Roger come up with him, and laid a hand on his arm.

“The things that happen in a war—the things that ye do…they mark ye,” he said at last, quietly. “I dinna think bein’ a priest will spare you, is what I’m sayin’, and I’m sorry for it.”

_They’ve marked you. And I’m sorry for it_. But he said nothing; only touched Jamie’s hand lightly where it lay upon his arm. Then Jamie took his hand away and they walked home together, silent




Excerpt "Happy Halloween"

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“Mama’s been busy,” Brianna said, automatically turning the potatoes on one shelf as she selected a dozen to take. “I suppose you have, too,” she added, smiling at Fanny. “You helped gather all of this, I’m sure.”

Fanny looked down modestly, but glowed a little.

“I dug up the turnips and some of the potatoes,” she said. “There were a lot growing in that place they call Old Garden. Under the weeds.”

“Old Garden,” Bree repeated. “Yes, I suppose so.” A shiver that had nothing to do with the chill of the root cellar rose up her neck and contracted her scalp. Her mother had written in a letter, with a brevity that made her words strike like rubber bullets, about Malva Christie’s death in the garden. And the death of her unborn child. Under the weeds, indeed.

She glanced sidelong at Fanny, who was twisting an onion off its braid, but the girl showed no emotion about the garden; probably no one had told her—_yet_, Bree thought—about what had happened there, and why the garden had been abandoned to the weeds.

“Should we take more potatoes?” Fanny asked, dropping two fat yellow onions into the basket. “And maybe apples, for fritters? If it doesn’t stop raining, those men will stay the night. And we haven’t any eggs for breakfast.”

“Good thought,” Bree said, quite impressed at Fanny’s housewifely forethought. The remark turned her mind, though, to the mysterious visitors.

“What you said to Da—about one of the men being an officer. How did you know that?” _And how did Da know you would know something like that_? she added silently.

Fanny looked at her for a long moment, her face quite expressionless. Then she seemed quite suddenly to have made up her mind about something, for she nodded, as though to herself.

“I’ve seen them,” she said simply. “Lots of times. At the brothel.”

“At the—“ Brianna nearly dropped the pawpaw she’d picked off the upper shelf.

“Brothel,” Fanny repeated, the word clipped short. Bree had turned to look at her; she was pale, but her eyes were steady under her cap. “In Philadelphia.”

“I see.” Brianna hoped her own voice and eyes were as steady as Fanny’s, and tried to speak calmly, in spite of the inner, appalled voice saying, _Jesus Lord, she’s only eleven_! “Did…um…Da—is that where he found you?”

Fanny’s eyes welled quite suddenly with tears, and she turned hurriedly away, fumbling with a shelf of apples.

“No,” she said in a muffled voice. “My—my sister…she…we…we wan away togevver.”

“Your sister,” Bree said carefully. “Where—“

“She’th dead.”

“Oh, Fanny!” She’d dropped the pawpaw, but it didn’t matter. She grabbed Fanny and held her tight, as though she could somehow smother the dreadful sorrow that oozed between them, squeeze it out of existence. Fanny was shaking, silently. “Oh, Fanny,” she said again, softly, and rubbed the girl’s back as she would have done for Jem or Mandy, feeling the delicate bones beneath her fingers.

It didn’t last long. After a moment, Fanny got hold of herself—Bree could feel it happen, a stopping, a drawing in of the flesh—and stepped back, out of Bree’s embrace.

“It’s all right,” she said, blinking fast to keep more tears from coming. “It’s all right. She’s—she’s safe now.” She drew a deep breath and straightened her back. “After—after it happened, William gave me to Mr. Fraser. Oh!” A thought stuck her and she looked uncertainly at Bree. “Do you—know about William?”

For a moment, Bree’s mind was completely blank. _William_? But suddenly the penny dropped, and she looked at Fanny, startled.

“William. You mean…Mr. Fraser’s…Da’s…son?” Saying the word brought him to life; the tall young man, cat-eyed and long-nosed, dark where she was fair, speaking to her on the quay in Wilmington.

“Yes,” Fanny said, still a little wary. “I think—does that mean he’s your brother?”

“Half-brother, yes.” Brianna felt dazed, and bent to pick up the fallen fruit. “You said he _gave_ you to Da?”

“Yes.” Fanny took another breath, and bent to pick up the last apple. Standing, she looked Bree straight in the eye. “Do you mind?”

“No,” Bree said, softly, and touched Fanny’s tender cheek. “Oh, Fanny, no. Not at all.”




Excerpt "Happy Birthday Claire"

Finished segment of an otherwise written daily line.
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[Here we find Jamie and Claire, sitting beside a dying bonfire. The MacKenzies have just arrived, and after a celebratory dinner, have gone down the hill to spend the night at a cabin—Jamie and Claire elect to stay and see the fire out, then sleep on a quilt under the stars. They talk for a while about what’s happened and the wonder of having their family back. But in the way of long-married people, the conversation now and then doubles back on itself, in recollection…]


“…the night we made Faith.”

I lifted my head in surprise.
“You _know_ when she was conceived? _I_ don’t know that.”

He ran his hand slowly down my back, fingers pausing to rub circles in the small of it. If I’d been a cat, I would have waved my tail gently under his nose.

“Aye, well, I suppose I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought it was the night I came to your bed at the Abbey.”

For a moment, I groped among my memories. That time at the Abbey of Ste. Anne, when he’d come so close to a self-chosen death, was one I seldom revisited. It was a terrifying time of fear and confusion, despair and desperation. And yet when I did look back, I found a handful of vivid images, standing out like the illuminated letters on a page of ancient Latin.

Father Anselm’s face, pale in candlelight, his eyes warm with compassion and then the growing glow of wonder as he heard my confession. The abbot’s hands, touching Jamie’s forehead, eyes, lips and palms, delicate as a hummingbird’s touch, anointing his dying nephew with the holy chrism of Extreme Unction. The quiet of the darkened chapel where I had prayed for his life, and heard my prayer answered.

And among these moments was the night when I woke from sleep to find him standing . a pale wraith by my bed, naked and freezing, so weak he could barely walk, but filled once more with life and a stubborn determination that would never leave him.

“You remember her, then?” My hand rested lightly on my stomach, recalling. He’d never seen her, or felt her as more than random kicks and pushes from inside me.

He kissed my forehead briefly, then looked at me.

“Ye ken I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I just wanted you to tell me more.”

“Oh, I mean to.” He settled himself on one elbow and gathered me in so I could share his plaid.

“Do you remember that, too?” I asked, pulling down the fold of cloth he’d draped over me. “Sharing your plaid with me, the night we met?”

“To keep ye from freezing? Aye.” He kissed the back of my neck. “It was me freezing, at the Abbey. I’d worn myself out tryin’ to walk, and ye wouldna let me eat anything, so I was starving to death, and—“

“Oh, you _know_ that’s not true! You—“


“Would I lie to ye, Sassenach?

“Yes, you bloody would,” I said, “You do it all the time. But never mind that now. You were freezing and starving, and suddenly decided that instead of asking Brother Roger for a blanket or a bowl of something hot, you should stagger naked down a dark stone corridor and get in bed with me.”

“Some things are more important than food, Sassenach.” His hand settled firmly on my arse. “And finding out whether I could ever bed ye again was more important than anything else just then. I reckoned if I couldn’t, I’d just walk on out into the snow and not come back.”

“Naturally, it didn’t occur to you to wait for a few more weeks and recover your strength.”

“Well, I was fairly sure I could walk that far leaning on the walls, and I’d be doin’ the rest lying down, so why wait?” The hand on my arse was idly stroking it now. “Ye do recall the occasion.”

“It was like making love to a block of ice.” It had been. It had also wrung my heart with tenderness, and filled me with a hope I’d thought I’d never know again. “Besides, you thawed out after a bit.”

Only a bit, at first. I’d just cradled him against me, trying as hard as possible to generate body heat. I’d pulled off my shift, urgent to get as much skin contact as possible. I remembered the hard, sharp curve of his hipbone, the knobs of his spine and the ridged fresh scars over them.

“You weren’t much more than skin and bones.”

I turned, drew him down beside me now and pulled him close, wanting the reassurance of his present warmth against the chill of memory. He _was_ warm. And alive. Very much alive.

“Ye put your leg over me to keep me from falling out the bed, I remember that.” He rubbed my leg slowly, and I could hear the smile in his voice, though his face was dark with the fire behind him, sparking in his hair.

“It was a small bed.” It had been—a narrow monastic cot, scarcely large enough for one normal-sized person. And even starved as he was, he’d occupied a lot of space.

“I wanted to roll ye onto your back, Sassenach, but I was afraid I’d pitch us both out onto the floor, and…well, I wasna sure I could hold myself up.”

He’d been shaking with cold and weakness. But now, I realized, probably with fear as well. I took the hand resting on my hip and raised it to my mouth, kissing his knuckles. His fingers were cold from the evening air and tightened on the warmth of mine.

“You managed,” I said softly, and rolled onto my back, bringing him with me.

“Only just,” he murmured, finding his way through the layers of quilt, plaid, shirt and shift. He let out a long breath, and so did I. “Oh, Jesus, Sassenach.”

He moved, just a little.

“What it felt like,” he whispered. “Then. To think I’d never have ye again, and then…”

He _had_ managed, and it _was_ just barely.

“I thought—I’d do it if it was the last thing I ever did…”

“It almost bloody was,” I whispered back, and took hold of his bottom, firm and round. “I really did think you’d died, for a moment, until you started to move.”

“Thought I was going to,” he said, with the breath of a laugh. “Oh, God, Claire…” He stopped for a moment, lowered himself and pressed his forehead against mine. He’d done it that night, too, cold-skinned and fierce with desperation, and I’d felt I was breathing my own life into him then, his mouth so soft and open, smelling faintly of the ale mixed with egg that was all he could keep down.

“I wanted…” he whispered. “I wanted you. Had to have ye. But once I was inside ye, I wanted….”

He sighed then, deep, and moved deeper.

“I thought I’d die of it, then and there. And I wanted to. Wanted to go—while I was inside ye.” His voice had changed, still soft but somehow distant, detached--and I knew he’d moved away from the present moment, gone back to the cold stone dark and the panic, the fear and overwhelming need.

“I wanted to spill myself into ye and let that be the last I ever knew, but then I started, and I kent it wasna meant to be that way—but that I would keep myself inside ye forever. That I was givin’ ye a child.”

He’d come back in the speaking, back into the now and into me. I held him tight, big and solid and strong in my arms, and shaking, helpless as he gave himself up. I felt warm tears well up and slide down cold into my hair.

After a time, he stirred and rolled off onto his side. A big hand still rested light on my belly.

“I did manage, aye?” he said, and smiled a little, firelight soft on his face.

“You did,” I said, and pulling the plaid back over us, I lay with him, content in the light of dying flame and eternal stars.




Excerpt "Happy Thanksgiving" 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all our Canadian Friends!!

#DailyLines
#GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #HappyCanadianThanksgiving !


There was a stone under my right buttock, but I didn’t want to move. The tiny heartbeat under my fingers was soft and stubborn, the fleeting jolts life and the space between, infinity, my connection to the endless night sky and the rising flame.

“Move your arse a bit, Sassenach,” said a voice in my ear. “I need to scratch my nose and ye’re sitting on my hand.” Jamie twitched his fingers under me, and I moved by reflex, turning my head toward him as I shifted and resettled, keeping my hold on Mandy, bonelessly asleep in my arms.

He smiled at me over Jem’s tousled head, flexed his now-free hand, and scratched his nose. It must be well past midnight, but the fire was still high, and the light sparked off the stubble of his beard and glowed as softly in his eyes as in his grandson’s red hair and the shadowed folds of the worn plaid he’d wrapped about them both.

On the other side of the fire, Brianna laughed, in the quiet way people laugh in the middle of the night with sleeping children near.

She laid her head on Roger’s shoulder, her eyes half-closed. She looked completely exhausted, her hair unwashed and tangled, the firelight showing deep hollows in her face…but happy.

“What is it ye find funny, a nighean?” Jamie asked, shifting Jem into a more comfortable position. Jem was fighting as hard as he could to stay awake, but was losing the fight. He gaped enormously and shook his head, blinking like a dazed owl.

“Wha’s funny?” he repeated, but the last word trailed off, leaving him with his mouth half-open and a glassy stare.

His mother giggled, a lovely girlish sound, and I felt Jamie’s smile.

“I just asked Daddy if he remembered a Gathering we came to, years ago. The clans were all called at a big bonfire and I handed Daddy a burning branch and told him to go down to the fire and say the MacKenzies were there.”

“Oh.” Jem blinked once, then twice, looked at the fire blazing in front of us, and a slight frown formed between his small red brows. “Where are we now?”

“Home,” Roger said firmly, and his eyes met mine, then passed to Jamie. “For good.”

Jamie let out the same breath I’d been holding since the afternoon, when the MacKenzies had appeared suddenly in the clearing below, and we had flown down the hill to meet them. There had been one moment of joyous, wordless explosion as we all flung ourselves at each other, and then the explosion had widened, as Amy Higgins came out of her house, summoned by the noise, to be followed by Bobby, then Aidan—who had whooped at sight of Jem and tackled him, knocking him flat—Orrie and little Rob.

Jo Beardsley had been in the woods nearby, heard the racket and come to see…and within what seemed like moments, the clearing was alive with people. Six households were within reach of the news before sundown; the rest would undoubtedly hear of it tomorrow.

The instant outpouring of Highland hospitality had been wonderful; women and girls had run back to their cabins and fetched whatever they had baking or boiling for supper, the men had gathered wood and—at Jamie’s behest—lugged it up to the crest where the outline of the New House stood, and we had welcomed home our family in style, surrounded by friends.

Hundreds of questions had been asked of the travelers: where had they come from? How was the journey? What had they seen? No one had asked if they were happy to be back; that was taken for granted by everyone.



Excerpt  "Healing touch finished segment" 

These daily lines are wonderful. From @writer_dg FB
#DailyLines #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE #BookNine #asmalldistraction #forNewZealand

[In which, Claire has been examining Roger’s throat, and discussing Dr. MacEwan’s treatment.]

I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.

“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside.
This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to _HELL_!”

Different segment 

#DailyLines #BookNine #ForClairesBirthday #HealingTouch #NoRealSpoilers #NoItIsntDoneYet #GoReadTheOC2 #Oct27

Roger raised his chin and I reached up carefully, fitting my fingers about his neck, just under his jaw. He’d just shaved; his skin was cool and slightly damp and I caught a whiff of the shaving soap Brianna made for him, scented with juniper berries. I was moved by the sense of ceremony in that small gesture--and moved much more by the hope in his eyes that he tried to hide.

“You know—“ I said hesitantly, and felt his Adam’s apple bob below my hand.

“I know,” he said gruffly. “No expectations. If something happens…well, it does. If not, I’m no worse off.”

I nodded, and felt gently about. I’d done that before, after his injury, tending the swelling and the rope-burn, now a ragged white scar. The tracheotomy I’d performed to save his life had left a smaller scar in the hollow of his throat, a slight depression about an inch long. I passed my thumb over that, feeling the healthy rings of cartilage above and below. The lightness of the touch made him shiver suddenly, tiny goosebumps stippling his neck, and he gave the breath of a laugh.

“Goose walking on my grave,” he said.

“Stamping about on your throat, more like,” I said, smiling. “Tell me again what Dr. MacEwan said.”

I hadn’t taken my hand away, and felt the lurch of his Adam’s apple as he cleared his throat hard.

“He prodded my throat—much as you’re doing,” he added, smiling back. “And he asked me if I knew what a hyoid bone was. He said—“ Roger’s hand rose involuntarily toward his throat, but stopped a few inches from touching it, “—that mine was an inch or so higher than usual, and that if it had been in the normal place, I’d be dead.”

“Really,” I said, interested. I put a thumb just under his jaw and said, “Swallow, please.”

He did, and I touched my own neck and swallowed, still touching his.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “It’s a small sample size, and granted, there may be differences attributable to gender—but he may well be right. Perhaps you’re a Neanderthal.”

“A what?” He stared at me.

“Just a joke,” I assured him. “But it’s true that one of the differences between the Neanderthals and modern humans is the hyoid. Most scientists think they hadn’t one at all, and therefore couldn’t speak, but my Uncle Lamb said--you rather need one for coherent speech” I added, seeing his blank look. “It anchors the tongue.”

“How extremely fascinating,” Roger said politely.

I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.

“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside. This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to HELL!”

Roger leapt to his feet and thrust aside the makeshift gauze screen that covered the window.

“Amanda!” he bellowed. “Come in here right now!” Over his shoulder, I saw Amanda, face contorted with rage, trying to grab her doll, Esmeralda, which Germain was dangling by one arm, just above her head, dancing to keep away from Amanda’s concerted attempts to kick him.

Startled, Germain looked up, and Amanda connected full-force with his shin. She was wearing the stout half-boots Jamie had bought for her from the cobbler in Salem, and the crack of impact was clearly audible, though instantly superceded by Germain’s cry of pain. Jemmy, looking appalled, grabbed Esmeralda, thrust her into Amanda’s arms, and with a guilty glance over his shoulder, ran for the woods, followed by a hobbling Germain.

“Jeremiah!” Roger roared. “Stop right there!” Jem froze as though hit by a death-ray; Germain didn’t, and vanished with a wild rustling into the shrubbery.

I’d been watching the boys, but a faint choking noise made me glance sharply at Roger. He’d gone pale, and was clutching his throat with both hands. I seized his arm.

“Are you all right?”

“I…don’t know.” He spoke in a rasping whisper, but gave me the shadow of a pained smile. “Think I—might have sprained something.”

“Daddy?” said a small voice from the doorway. Amanda sniffled dramatically, wiping tears and snot all over her face. “Is you mad at me, Daddy?”

Roger took an immense breath, coughed, and went over, squatting down to take her in his arms.

“No, sweetheart,” he said softly—but in a fairly normal voice, and something clenched inside me began to relax. “I’m not mad. You mustn’t tell people they’re going to hell, though. Come here, let’s wash your face.” He stood up, holding her, and turned toward my mixing table, where there was a basin and ewer.

“I’ll do it,” I said, reaching out for Mandy. “Maybe you want to go and…er…talk to Jem?”

“Mmphm,” he said, and handed her across. A natural snuggler, Mandy at once clung affectionately to my neck and wrapped her legs around my middle.

“Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?” she asked. “Dose bad boys got her dirty!”

I listened with half an ear to Mandy’s mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before—it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were—but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.

“Wassat, Grannie?” Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

“What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash.” I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion…no fever, though…perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

“No, _dat_.” Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. “Issa letter!” She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. “Letter J!” she announced triumphantly. “J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy,” she added, frowning.

“Er…” I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter “J.” The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart—years of heartbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

“It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie,” I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.

“Mandy,” I said, on impulse. “What color is my hair?”

“_When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power_.” An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.

Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, “Brindle.”

“What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?”

“Grand-da. He said it’s what color Charlie is.” Charlie was a rather stylish pig belonging to the Beardsley household.

“Hmm,” I said. “Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry.”




Excerpt "Blue Wine"

DailyLines #BookNine #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #NoItIsntFinished #MaybeNextYear #WeWillSee #BlueWine

It was what her mother called a “blue wine” day. One where air and sky were one thing together and every breath intoxication. Brown leaves crackled with each step, the scent of them sharp as that of the pine needles higher up. They were climbing the mountain, guns in hand, and Brianna Fraser MacKenzie was one with the day.

Her father held back a hemlock branch for her and she ducked past to join him.

“[Gaelic for “sweet grass”],” he said, gesturing to the wide meadow that spread before them. “Recall any of the Gaidhlìg, do ye, lass?”

“You said something about the grass,” she said, scrabbling hastily through her mental closets. “But I don’t know [sweet].”

“Sweet Grass. It’s what we call this wee meadow. Good pasture, but too great a climb for most of the stock, and ye dinna want to leave them here for days untended, because o’ painters and bears.”

The whole of the meadow rippled, the ripened heads of millions of grass-stems in movement catching morning sun. Here and there, late butterflies cruised and at the far side of the grass, there was a sudden crash as some large ungulate vanished into the brush, leaving branches swaying in its wake.

“A certain amount of competition as well, I see,” she said, nodding toward the place where the animal had disappeared. She lifted an eyebrow, wanting to ask whether they should not pursue it, but assuming that her father had some good reason why not, since he made no move.

“Aye, some,” he said, and turned to the right, moving along the edge of the trees that rimmed the meadow. “But deer dinna feed the same way cattle or sheep do, at least not if the pasture’s good. That was an old buck,” he added off-handedly over his shoulder. “We dinna want to kill those in autumn, save for need; the meat’s not good so close to rut, and game’s not scarce.”

She raised both brows, but followed without comment. He turned his head and smiled at her.

“Where there’s one, there are likely more, this time o’ year. The does begin to gather into wee herds. It’s no quite rut yet, but the bucks are thinkin’ on it. He kens well enough where they are.” He nodded in the direction of the vanished deer. “We’ll follow him.”

She suppressed a smile, recalling some of her mother’s uncensored opinions on men and the functions of testosterone. He saw it, though, and gave her a half-rueful look of amusement, knowing what she was thinking, and the fact that he did sent a small sweet pang through her heart.

“Aye, well, your mother’s right about men,” he said with a shrug. “Keep it in mind, a nighean,” he added, more seriously. He turned then, lifting his face into the breeze. “They’re upwind of us, we won’t get near, save we climb up and come down on them from the far side.”

She nodded, and checked the priming on her gun. She was carrying the family fowling piece, while her father had his good rifle. She wouldn’t fire on any small game, though, while there was a chance of spooking deer nearby. She had so loved to hunt with him, before, and never thought such a day would come again.

It was a steep climb, and she found herself puffing, sweat starting to purl behind her ears in spite of the cool day. Her father climbed, as ever, like a mountain goat, without the slightest appearance of strain, but—to her chagrin—noticed her struggling and beckoned her aside, onto a small ledge.

“We’re in nay hurry, a nighean,” he said, smiling at her. “There’s water here.” He reached out, with an obvious tentativeness, and touched her flushed cheek, quickly taking back his hand.

“Sorry, lass,” he said, and smiled. “I’m no used yet to the notion that ye’re real.”

“I know what you mean,” she said softly, and swallowing, reached out and touched his face, warm and clean-shaven, slanted eyes deep blue as hers.

“Och,” he said under his breath, and gently brought her into his arms. She hugged him tight and they stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.




Excerpt "What's in the bag"


#DailyLines #BookNine #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #nowherenearfinished #goreadPhilRickmanwhileyouwait #WhatsInTheBag ?

We’d eaten supper on our new front stoop, there being no table or benches for the kitchen as yet, but for the sake of ceremony, I had made molasses cookie dough early in the day and set it aside. Everyone trooped inside and unrolled their miscellaneous bedding—Jamie and I did have a bed, but the MacKenzies would all be sleeping on pallets before the fire—and sat down to watch with keen anticipation as I dropped the cookies onto my girdle and slid the cool black iron circle into the glowing warmth of the Dutch oven.

“How long, how long, how long, Grannie?” Mandy was behind me, standing on tiptoes to see. I turned and lifted her up, so she could see the girdle and cookies in the glowing shadows of the brick cubbyhole built into the wall of the huge hearth. The fire we had lighted at dawn had been fed all day, and the brick surround was radiating heat—and would, all night.

“See how the dough is in balls? And you can feel how hot it is—don’t _ever_ put your hand in the oven—but the heat will make those balls flatten out and then turn brown, and when they do, the cookies will be done. It takes about ten minutes,” I added, setting her down. “It’s a new oven, though, so I’ll have to keep checking.”

“Goody, goody, goody, goody!” She hopped up and down with delight, then threw herself into Brianna’s arms. “Mama! Read me a story ‘til da cookies are done?”

Bree’s eyebrows lifted and she glanced at Roger, who smiled and shrugged.

“Why not?” he said, and went to rootle through the pile of miscellaneous belongings stacked against the kitchen wall.

“Ye brought a book for the bairns? That’s braw,” Jamie said to Bree. “Where did ye get it?”

“Do they actually make books now for children Mandy’s age?” I asked, looking down at her. Bree had said she could read a bit already, but I’d never seen anything in an 18th century printshop that looked like it would be comprehensible—let alone appealing—to a three-year-old.

“Well, more or less,” Roger said, pulling Bree’s big canvas bag out of the pile. “That is, there were—are, I mean--a few books that are _intended_ for children. Though the only titles that come to mind at the moment are _Hymns for the Amusement of Children, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes_, and _Descriptions of Three Hundred Animals_.”

“What sorts of animals?” Jamie asked, looking interested.

“No idea,” Roger confessed. “I’ve not seen any of those books; just read the titles on a list in a scholarly journal.”

“Did you ever print any books for children, in Edinburgh?” I asked Jamie, who shook his head. “Well, what did you read when you were in school?”

“As a bairn? The Bible,” he said, as though this should be self-evident. “And the almanac. After we learnt the ABC, I mean. Later we did a bit of Latin.”

“I want _my_ book,” Mandy said firmly. “Gimme, Daddy. Please?” she added, seeing her mother’s mouth open. Bree shut her mouth and smiled, and Roger peered into the sack, then withdrew!


Excerpt "Conversations by a dying fire"


#DailyLines #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #BookNine #noitsnotoutyet #noIdontknowhen #sometimeafterIfinishwritingitprobably #TakingChances #ConversationsByADyingFire

We were silent for a time, and Roger’s head nodded; I thought he was nearly asleep, and was gathering my legs under me to rise and collect everyone for bed, when he lifted his head again.

“One thing…”

“Yes?”

“Have you met a man—ever—named William Buccleigh MacKenzie? Or maybe Buck MacKenzie?”

“No,” I said slowly. “Though the name sounds familiar. Who is he?”

Roger rubbed a hand over his face, and slowly down his throat, to the white scar left by a rope.

“Well…he’s the man who got me hanged, to begin with. But he’s also my five-times great-grandfather. Neither one of us knew that at the time,” he said, almost apologetically.

“I see,” I said, though I didn’t, quite. “And so….?”

“He’s Geillis Duncan’s son by Dougal MacKenzie,” Roger said quietly.

“Jesus H… Oh, I beg your pardon. Are you still a minister?”

He smiled at that, though the marks of exhaustion carved runnels in his face.

“I don’t think it wears off,” he said. “But if ye were about to say ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,’ I wouldn’t mind it. Appropriate to the situation, ye might say.”

And in a few words, he told me the strange story of the witch’s child, and how Buck MacKenzie had ended in Scotland in 1980, only to travel back with Roger, in an effort to find Jem.

“There’s a great deal more to it than that,” he assured me. “But the end of it—for now—is that we left him in Scotland. In 1739. With…erm….”

“With _Geillis_?” My voice rose involuntarily and Mandy twitched and made small cranky noises. I patted her hastily and shifted her to a more comfortable position. “Did _you_ meet her?”

“Yes. Erm…interesting woman.” There was a mug on the ground beside him, still half full of beer; I could smell the yeast and bitter hops from where I sat. He picked it up and seemed to be debating whether to drink it or pour it over his head, but in the event, took a gulp and set it down.

“I—we—wanted him to come with us. Of course there was the risk, but we’d managed to find enough gemstones, I thought we could make it, all together. And…his wife is here.” He waved vaguely toward the distant forest. “In America, I mean. Now.”

“I…dimly recall that, from your genealogy.” Though experience had taught me the limits of belief in anything recorded on paper.

Roger nodded, drank more beer, and cleared his throat, hard. His voice was hoarse and cracking from tiredness.

“I take it you forgave him for—“ I gestured briefly at my own throat. I could see the shadow of the small scar I’d left on his when I did an emergency tracheotomy with a pen knife and the amber mouthpiece of a pipe.

“I loved him,” he said simply. A faint smile showed through the black stubble and the veil of tiredness. “How often do you get the chance to love someone who gave ye their blood, their life, and them never knowing who ye might be, or even if ye’d exist at all?”

“Well, you do take chances when you have children,” I said, and laid a hand gently on Jem’s head. It was warm, the hair unwashed but soft under my fingers. He and Mandy smelled like puppies, a sweet, thick animal scent, rich with innocence.

“Yes,” Roger said softly. “You do.”


Excerpt "A hunting we will go!"


‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone‬ ‪#‎Noitsnotfinished‬ ‪#‎Notforalongtimeyet‬ ‪#‎GoreadtheMethadoneList‬ ‪#‎BreeAndIan‬ ‪#‎AHuntingWeWillGo‬

As they rose higher and the timber opened out, the breeze rose and freshened, and Ian halted, beckoning her with a small movement of his fingers.
“D’ye hear them?” he breathed in her ear.
She did, and the hairs rippled pleasantly down her backbone. Small, harsh yelps, almost like a barking dog. And farther off, a sort of intermittent purr, something between a large cat and a small motor.
“Best take off your stockings and rub your legs wi’ dirt,” Ian whispered, motioning toward her woolen stockings. “Your hands and face as well.”
She nodded, set the gun against a tree, and scratched dry leaves away from a patch of soil, moist enough to rub on her skin. Ian, his own skin nearly the color of his buckskins, needed no such camouflage. He moved silently away while she was anointing her hands and face, and when she looked up, she couldn’t see him for a moment.
Then there was a series of sounds like a rusty door hinge swinging to and fro, and suddenly she saw him, standing stock still behind a [tree] some fifty feet away.
The forest seemed to go dead for an instant, the soft scratchings and leaf-murmurs ceasing. Then there was an angry gobble and she turned her head as slowly as she could, to see a tom turkey poke his pale blue head out of the grass and look sharp from side to side, wattles bright red and swinging, looking for the challenger.
She cut her eyes at Ian, his hands cupped at his mouth, but he didn’t move or make a sound. She held her breath and looked back at the turkey, who emitted another loud gobble—this one echoed by another tom at a distance. The turkey she was watching glanced back toward that sound, lifted his head and yelped, listened for a moment, and then ducked back into the grass. She glanced at Ian; he caught her movement and shook his head, very slightly.
They waited for the space of sixteen slow breaths—she counted—and then Ian gobbled again. The tom popped out of the grass and strode across a patch of open, leaf-packed ground, blood in his eye, breast feathers puffed and tail fanned out to a fare-thee-well. He paused for a moment to allow the woods to admire his magnificence, then commenced strutting slowly to and fro, uttering harsh, aggressive cries.
Moving only her eyeballs, she glanced back and forth between the strutting tom and Ian, who timed his movements to those of the strutting turkey, sliding the bow from his shoulder, freezing, bringing an arrow to hand, freezing, and finally nocking the arrow as the bird made its final turn.
Or what should have been its final turn. Ian bent his bow and in the same movement, released his arrow and uttered a startled, all-too-human yelp as a large, dark object dropped from the tree above him. He jerked back and the turkey barely missed landing on his head. She could see it now, a hen, feathers fluffed in fright, running with neck outstretched across the open ground toward the equally startled tom, who had deflated in shock.
By reflex, she seized her shotgun, brought it to bear and fired. She missed, and both turkeys disappeared into a patch of ferns, making noises that sounded like a small hammer striking a wood block.
The echoes died away and the leaves of the trees settled back into their murmur. She looked at her cousin, who glanced at his bow, then across the open ground to where his arrow was sticking absurdly out from between two rocks. He looked at her, and she burst into laughter


Excerpt "Gone a hunting" 


#DailyLines #BookNine #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #Noitisntdoneyet #Nowherenear #GobingewatchSeasonTwo #BriannaAndIan #GoneAHunting

“Oh, aye,” Ian said, and smiled, but his eyes were intent on her hands. “How long since ye’ve fired a gun, cousin?”

“Not that long,” she said tersely. She hadn’t expected it to come back. “Maybe six, seven months.”

“What were ye hunting then?” He asked, head on one side.

She glanced at him, made the decision and pushing the ramrod carefully home, turned to face him.

“A gang of men who were hiding in my house, waiting to kill me and take my kids,” she said.

Both his feathery brows went up.

“Did ye get them?” His tone was so interested that she laughed, in spite of the memories. He might have been asking if she’d caught a large fish.

“No, alas. I shot out the tire on their truck, and one of the windows in my own house. I didn’t get them. But then,” she added, with affected casualness, “they didn’t get me or the kids, either.”

He nodded, accepting what she’d said with a rapidity that would have astonished her—had it been any other man.

“That would be why ye’re here, aye?” He glanced around, quite unconsciously, as though scanning the forest for possible enemies, and she wondered quite suddenly what it would be like to live with Ian, never knowing whether you were talking to the Scot or the Mohawk—and now she was _really_ curious about Rachel.

“Mostly, yes,” she answered, a little tersely. He picked up her tone and glanced sharply at her, but nodded again.

“Will ye go back, then, to kill them?” This was said seriously, and it was with an effort that she tamped down the rage that seared through her when she thought of Rob Cameron and his bloody accomplices. It wasn’t fear or flashback that had made her hands shake now; it was the memory of the overwhelming intent to kill that had possessed her when she touched the trigger.

“I wish,” she said shortly. She flapped a hand, pushing it all away. “I’ll tell it to you later; we only came last night.” As though reminded of the long, hard push upward through the mountain passes, she yawned suddenly, hugely.

Ian laughed, and she shook her head, blinking.

“Do I remember Da saying you have a baby?” she asked, firmly changing the subject.

The huge grin came back.

“I have,” he said, his face shining with such joy that she smiled, too. “I’ve got a wee son. He hasna got his real name yet, but we call him Oggy. For Oglethorpe,” he explained, seeing her smile widen at the name. “We were in Savannah when he started to show. I canna wait for ye to see him!”

“Neither can I,” she said, though the connection between Savannah and the name Oglethorpe escaped her. “Should we—“

The sound of a distant noise cut her short and Ian was on his feet instantly, looking.

“Was that Da?” she asked.

“I think so.” Ian gave her a hand and hauled her to her feet, snatching up his bow almost in the same motion. “Come!”

She grabbed the newly-loaded gun and ran, careless of brush, stones, tree-branches, creeks, or anything else. Ian slithered through the wood like a fast-moving snake; she bulled her way through behind him, breaking branches and dashing her sleeve across her face to clear her eyes.

Twice Ian came to a sudden halt, grasping her arm as she hurtled toward him. Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.

The first time, after what seemed like agonized minutes, they caught a sort of squalling noise above the wind, tailing off into grunts.

“Pig?” she asked, between gulps of air. It was autumn; there would be herds of wild hogs in the forest, rooting through the chestnut mast. Some of them were big, and very dangerous.

Ian shook his head.

“Bear,” he managed, and seizing her hand, pulled her into a run.


Revised older daily line, book 9 with new title announced: Excerpt "Tell The Bees That I Am Gone"


#DailyLines #BookNine #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #Yesthatsthetitle #WhyWeFight #HappyFourthOfJuly

“And do Presbyterians have martyrs?” Jamie asked dubiously. “I mean—ye havena got saints, do ye?”

“Why this sudden interest in Presbyterian doctrine?” Roger said, taking care to make the question a light one. “Thinking of converting?”

He heard a brief grunt of amusement.

“I am not. It’s only that I’ve been thinking of late.”

“Ye want to watch that sort of thing,” Roger said, leaning down to unsnag a briar that had grabbed the knee of his breeks. “All right in moderation, I mean, but too much of it will give you the indigestion—mental _and_ physical.”

“Ye’re no wrong there,” Jamie said dryly. “Tell me a way to make it stop that doesna require excessive drink. I need the whisky to sell.”

A faint hooting, as of a distant troop of gibbons, floated through the gathering dusk.

“Well, a close proximity to bairns will certainly do it,” Roger said, smiling at the sound. “When Jem learned to talk, Bree used to tell me she couldn’t manage two consecutive thoughts unless she stuffed something into his mouth. It was a wonder he didn’t burst from over-feeding.”

“Aye, that’s so,” Jamie said, his own tone lightening. “Your wee maid’s clishmaclaver would take a man’s mind off his own hanging.”

That particular image startled Roger, though Jamie’s words had been off-hand.

“Is that the direction of your recent thoughts, then?” he asked, after a brief pause.

After a longer one, Jamie replied, “Aye, some of them.”

_Ah. Hence the question about martyrs_… He didn’t say anything, but lengthened his stride a little, coming even with Jamie. He didn’t say anything, though; plainly his father-in-law wasn’t done talking.

“I dinna ken,” Jamie said finally, obviously taking care with his words, “if I could bring myself to die for an idea. No that it isn’t a fine thing,” he added hurriedly. “But…I asked Brianna whether any o’ those men—the ones who thought of the notions and the words ye’d need to make them real—whether any of them actually did the fighting.”

“I don’t think they did,” Roger said dubiously. “Will, I mean. Unless you count George Washington, and I don’t believe he does so much talking.”

“He talks to his troops, believe me,” Jamie said, a wry humor in his voice. “But maybe not to the King, or the newspapers.”

“No. Mind,” Roger added in fairness, pushing aside a pine branch, thick with a pungent sap that left his palm sticky, “John Adams, Ben Franklin, Tom Paine, all the thinkers and talkers—they’re risking their necks as much as you—as we--are.”

“Aye.” The ground was rising steeply now, and nothing more was said as they climbed, feeling their way over the broken ground of a gravel-fall.

“I’m thinking that maybe I canna die—or lead men to their own deaths—only for the notion of freedom. Not now.”

“Not now?” Roger echoed, surprised. “You could have—earlier?”

“Aye. When you and the lass and your weans were…there.” Roger caught the brief movement of a hand, flung out toward the distant future. “The idea would be there for ye. Because what I did here then would be—it would _matter_, aye? To all of you—and I can fight for you.” His voice grew softer. “It’s what I’m made to do, aye?”

“I understand,” Roger said quietly. “But ye’ve always known that, haven’t you?”

Jamie made a sound in his throat, half-surprised.

“Dinna ken when I knew it,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Maybe at Leoch, when I found I could get the other lads into mischief—and did. Perhaps I should be confessing that?”

Roger brushed that aside.

“It will matter to Jem and Mandy—and to those of our blood who come after them,” he said. _Provided Jem and Mandy survive to have children of their own_, he added mentally, and felt a cold qualm in the pit of this stomach at the thought.

“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.


“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them_.

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier



Excerpt "Some things never change"


#DailyLines #BookNINE #ImWorkingOnIt #AllInGoodTime #JamieAndClaire #SomeThingsNeverChange


“…the night we made Faith.”

I lifted my head in surprise.

“You _know_ when she was conceived? _I_ don’t know that.”

He ran his hand slowly down my back, fingers pausing to rub circles in the small of it. If I’d been a cat, I would have waved my tail gently under his nose.

“Aye, well, I suppose I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought it was the night I came to your bed at the Abbey.”

For a moment, I groped among my memories. That time at the Abbey of Ste. Anne, when he’d come so close to self-chosen death, was one I seldom revisited. It was a terrifying time of fear and confusion, despair and desperation. And yet when I did look back, I found a handful of vivid images, standing out like the illuminated letters on a page of ancient Latin.

Father Anselm’s face, pale in candlelight, his eyes warm with compassion and then the growing glow of wonder as he heard my confession. The abbot’s hands, touching Jamie’s forehead, eyes, lips and palms, delicate as a hummingbird’s touch, anointing his dying nephew with the holy chrism of Extreme Unction. The quiet of the darkened chapel where I had prayed for his life, and heard my prayer answered.

And among these moments was the night when I woke from sleep to find him standing, a pale wraith by my bed, naked and freezing, so weak he could barely walk, but filled once more with life and a stubborn determination that would never again leave him.

“You remember her, then?” My hand rested lightly on my stomach, recalling. He’d never seen her, or felt her as more than random kicks and pushes from inside me.

He kissed my forehead briefly, then looked at me.

“Ye ken I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I just wanted you to tell me more.”

“Oh, I mean to.” He settled himself on one elbow and gathered me in so I could share his plaid.

“Do you remember that, too?” I asked, pulling down the fold of cloth he’d draped over me. “Sharing your plaid with me, the night we met?”

“To keep ye from freezing? Aye.” He kissed the back of my neck. “It was me freezing, at the Abbey. I’d worn myself out tryin’ to walk, and ye wouldna let me eat anything, so I was starving to death, and—“

“Oh, you _know_ that’s not true! You—“

“Would I lie to ye, Sassenach?

“Yes, you bloody would,” I said, “You do it all the time. But never mind that now. You were freezing and starving, and suddenly decided that instead of asking Brother Roger for a blanket or a bowl of something hot, you should stagger naked down a dark stone corridor and get in bed with me.”

“Some things are more important than food, Sassenach.” His hand settled firmly on my arse. “And finding out whether I could ever bed ye again was more important than anything else just then. I reckoned if I couldn’t, I’d just walk on out into the snow and not come back.”

“Naturally, it didn’t occur to you to wait for a few more weeks and recover your strength.”

“Well, I was fairly sure I could walk that far leaning on the walls, and I’d be doin’ the rest lying down, so why wait?”



Excerpt "Nobility Problems" 

Facebook Hashtags: #DailyLines, #BookNine, #HalAndWilliam, #WhenYouCantQuitYourJob, #NobilityProblems

"Miss England?" Hal asked abruptly.

"Sometimes," William answered honestly. "But I don’t think about it much," he added, with less honesty.

"I do." His uncle s face looked relaxed, almost wistful in the fading light. "But you haven’t a wife there, or children. No establishment of your own, yet."

"No."

The sounds of the camp were still audible, but muted by the rhythm of the surf at their feet, the passage of the silent clouds above their heads.

The trouble with silence was that it allowed the thoughts in his head to take on a tiresome insistence, like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. Cinnamon’s company, disturbing as it occasionally was, had allowed him to escape them when he needed to.
"How does one go about renouncing a title?"

He hadn’t actually been intending to ask that just yet, and was surprised to hear the words emerge from his mouth. Uncle Hal, by contrast, didn’t seem surprised at all.

"You can’t."

William glared down at his uncle, who was still looking imperturbably out to sea, the wind pulling strands of his dark hair from his queue.

"What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?"

Uncle Hal looked at him with an affectionate impatience.

"I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done."

"But you—" William stopped, baffled.

"No, I didn’t," his uncle said dryly. "If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I could do is stop using the title of "Duke," and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that," he added off-handedly.

"Really?" William asked cynically. "Who did you maim?"

He actually had supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

"Oh… several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life."

"Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?"

"Yes," his uncle said briefly. "But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg."

"Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?"

"Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise… but that’s beside the point." Hal caught himself and shook his head to clear it. Evening was coming on, and the offshore breeze was brisk. He wrapped his cloak about his body and nodded toward the town.

"Let’s go. The tide’s coming in and I’m dining with Sir Henry in half an hour."



Excerpt  "Roger"

For those of our number who have paid for our freedom with their bodies, their lives, and their souls.

#DailyLines #BookNine #MemorialDay2016

“No. Mind,” Roger added in fairness, pushing aside a pine branch, thick with a pungent sap that left his palm sticky, “John Adams, Ben Franklin, all the thinkers and talkers—they’re risking their necks as much as you—as we--are.”

“Aye.” The ground was rising steeply now, and nothing more was said as they climbed, feeling their way over the broken ground of a gravel-fall.

“I’m thinking that maybe I canna die—or lead men to their own deaths—only for the notion of freedom. Not now.”

“Not now?” Roger echoed, surprised. “You could have—earlier?”

“Aye. When you and the lass and your weans were…there.” Roger caught the brief movement of a hand, flung out toward the distant future. “Because what I did here then would be—it would _matter_, aye? To all of you—and I can fight for you.” His voice grew softer. “It’s what I’m made to do, aye?”

“I understand,” Roger said quietly. “But ye’ve always known that, haven’t you?”

Jamie made a sound in his throat, half-surprised.

“Dinna ken when I knew it,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Maybe at Leoch, when I found I could get the other lads into mischief—and did. Perhaps I should be confessing that?”

Roger brushed that aside.

“It will matter to Jem and Mandy—and to those of our blood who come after them,” he said. _Provided Jem and Mandy survive to have children of their ow_n, he added mentally, and felt a cold qualm in the pit of this stomach at the thought.

“How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?” Roger asked abruptly.

“Eight,” Jamie replied without hesitation. “In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it.”

Jamie stopped quite suddenly, and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

“Look,” Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

“It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?” Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. “It’s them, as well. All of them.” His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

_All of them._

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

“_Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel_.” The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

“Aye,” he said. “Sheep would be easier.” Then, abruptly, “Claire and Brianna say the war is coming to the south. I canna shield them, should it come close.” He nodded toward the distant sparks, and it was clear to Roger that by “them,” he meant his tenants—his people. He didn’t pause for a reply, but re-settled the creel on his shoulder and started down.

The trail narrowed. Roger’s shoulder brushed Jamie’s, close, and he fell back a step, following his father-in-law. The moon was late in rising tonight, and sliver-thin. It was dark and the air had a bite in it now.

“I’ll help you protect them,” he said to Jamie’s back. His voice was gruff.

“I ken that,” Jamie said, softly. There was a short pause, as though Jamie was waiting for him to speak further, and he realized that he should.

“With my body,” Roger said quietly, into the night. “And with my soul, if that should be necessary.”

He saw Jamie in brief silhouette, saw him draw breath deep and his shoulders relax as he let it out. They walked more briskly now; the trail was dark, and they strayed now and then, the brush catching at their bare legs.

At the edge of their own clearing, Jamie paused to let Roger come up with him, and laid a hand on his arm.

“The things that happen in a war—the things that ye do…they mark ye,” he said at last, quietly. “I dinna think bein’ a priest will spare you, is what I’m sayin’, and I’m sorry for it.”

_They’ve marked you. And I’m sorry for it_. But he said nothing; only touched Jamie’s hand lightly where it lay upon his arm. Then Jamie took his hand away and they walked home together a silent.



Excerpt  continue of A Stubborn Mind

#DailyLines #BookNINE #Noitsnotoutyet #Itllbeawhile #inthemeantime #HappyBirthdayJamie !

I sat still, watching him.

“I suppose it was foolish,” I said at last. “To think that reassurances and promises would be enough. I imagine we don’t know the half of what she saw, being raised in a brothel like a—a prize calf.”


"And one knowing it was bound for slaughter?” he put in quietly. “Aye.”

We lapsed into a strained silence, both thinking of Fanny. After a few moments, Jamie’s hands resumed their work, slowly, and a few moments later, he glanced at me.

“How many times did ye tell me Jack Randall was dead, Sassenach? How many times did I tell myself that?” The wood shavings fell in small, fragrant curls around his feet. “Some ghosts dinna leave ye easily—and ye ken fine that it’s her sister who’s haunting wee Frances.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said unhappily. It wasn’t quite a shiver that I felt at mention of Jane—but a cold sadness that seemed to sink through my skin. “But surely there’s something we can do to help?”

“I expect there is.” He set the cleaned stick of wood aside, and bent to sweep the shavings onto a sheet of paper. “Were we in reach of a priest, I should have a Mass said for the repose of her sister’s soul, to start with. If I can find one in Wilmington, we’ll do that. But otherwise…I’ll speak to Roger Mac about it.” His mouth twisted wryly.

“I daresay Presbyterians dinna believe in exorcism, or prayers for the dead, either. But he’s a canny man, and he kens the heart; he may call it something else, but he’ll know what I mean—and he can speak wi’ Frances, and pray for her, I’m sure.”

The thought of involving Roger gave me a slight sense of comfort, but my attention was caught by the word “Wilmington.”

“Do you mean to take Frances to Wilmington, then?”

“I hadna thought of it before, but now I’m thinking we must. If she’s thoughts like that in her head, I wouldna leave her here without us. X kent better than to do it but there are lads on the Ridge—decent lads,” he added, with an attempt at fairness, “I dinna mean to say otherwise—but ones who dinna ken what bides wi’ Frances. And one of them..."

“The flesh is weak? Yes, I see what you mean.”

He shook the wood shavings into the fire, where they caught at once, curling into brightness and sending up a clean, sweet smoke. I came to stand behind him, watching them burn, and put my hands on his shoulders, warm and solid under my fingers. He leaned his head back against me and sighed, closing his eyes as he relaxed in the warmth. I bent my head and kissed the whorl of the cowlick on his crown.

“Mmphm,” he said, and reached up a hand to take mine. “Ken, it works the other way, too.”

“What does?”

“The stubbornness of a mind that willna let go.” He squeezed my hand and looked up at me. “While we were parted, how many times did ye tell yourself I was dead, Sassenach?” he asked softly. “How often did ye try to forget me?”

I stood motionless, hand curled round his, until I thought I could speak.

“Every day,” I whispered. “And never.”


Excerpt 23 "JamieAndBrianna"

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“Did your Mam ever tell ye of the dream I had? Soon after ye…went away.” He couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder, to be sure no one was in earshot.

“No.” She was looking at him with deep interest, a small line between her brows, and he couldn’t help smiling at her. “Was it a funny dream?” she asked.

“Och, no. I was only smiling because ye looked so much like Claire, there. When she’s trying to puzzle out what’s the matter with someone, I mean.”

She didn’t laugh, but the transitory dimple that sometimes appeared in her right cheek flashed for an instant.

“Nobody ever says I look like Mama,” she said. “They carry on all the time about how much like _you_ I look.”

“Oh, ye look like your mother often,” he assured her. “It’s just that it’s no a matter of hair or eyes or how tall ye are. It’s the look on your face when ye touch Jem or Mandy—or when ye’re talkin’ with Roger Mac in the evening on the porch, and the light of the moon in your eyes.”

His own voice had gown soft and husky, and he looked down at the ground, the plastering of layer upon layer of dead leaves, like dying stars beneath his boots.

“Ye look like your mother in love, is all I mean. Exactly like her.”



Excerpt "House building"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎HouseBuilding‬ ‪#‎NoItsNotDone‬‪#‎IllTellYouWhenItIs‬ ‪#‎YoullGetSeasonTwoFirst‬ ‪#‎ThatShouldKeepYouBusy

At least we _had_ a roof. The sheet of canvas overhead rippled like the skin of a horse with flies, then rose suddenly, swelling with wind, and before I could say a word, it ripped free of the wooden framing and flapped off like an ungainly gray vulture. An iron tack dropped at my feet, landing with a tiny _ping_!
“[ Gaelic ] !” Jamie said, glaring up at the empty space where the tarpaulin had been.
“Misbegotten spawn of a…what on earth is [ Gaelic ]?” I said. I’d heard [Misbegotten spawn] often enough to recognize that much, but the rest of the curse was novel.
“A mangy hide,” he said succinctly. “And a skunk. _Ifrinn_!” He turned on his heel, and suddenly punched the door jamb. I flinched. He hissed through his teeth and clutched his knuckles with his other hand, but didn’t say anything further.
“I’ll…um…go and fetch it, shall I?” I said, looking up through the empty space where the tarpaulin had been. The sky was dark with bulbous clouds, filled with imminent menace, and the storm wind was swirling round the half-built room, restlessly picking up small items and dropping them.
“I’ll get it,” he said tersely, and vanished through the open door-frame, sticking his head back in for an instant to say, “Chickens?” before vanishing again.

#DailyLines #BookNine #ComingStorm #noitsnotdone #noitdoesnthaveatitleyet #notheresnocoveryet #JustBreathe #ItllBeFine

At least we _had_ a roof. Of sorts. Or so I’d thought. The sheet of canvas overhead rippled like the skin of a horse with flies, then rose suddenly, swelling with wind, and before I could say a word, it ripped free of the rafters, rose further, and flapped off like an ungainly gray vulture. A small shower of iron tacks pinged off the floorboards at my feet.

“[ Gaelic ] !” Jamie said in Gaelic, glaring up at the empty space where the tarpaulin had been.
“Misbegotten spawn of a…what on earth is a [ Gaelic ]? Let alone a [Gaeli]?” I said, bending to pick up the tack. I’d heard “Misbegotten spawn” often enough to recognize that much, but the rest of the curse was novel.

“A maggot-eaten hide,” he said succinctly. “And a skunk. _Ifrinn_!”
“They haven’t got skunks in Scotland. There isn’t a Gaelic word for them, is there?”
“There is now.”

He turned on his heel, and suddenly punched the door jamb. I flinched. He hissed through his teeth and flexed his hand, but didn’t say anything further.

“I’ll…um…go and fetch it, shall I?” I said, looking up through the empty space where the tarpaulin had been. The sky was dark with bulbous clouds, filled with imminent menace, and the wind of the coming storm was swirling round the half-built room, restlessly picking up small items and dropping them.

Jamie looked up, too, grimacing, and shook his head.

“I’ll get it. Ye’d best fetch the chickens, Sassenach, or they’ll be blown over Roan Mountain by nightfall.” He vanished down the ladder, landing seconds later with a distinct thud at the bottom. I followed, somewhat less nimbly.




Excerpt "An Easter Egg"

#DailyLines #BookNINE #AnEasterEgg

[In which a massive storm breaks on Fraser’s Ridge, and Claire rushes out to rescue the chickens.]

I stood gasping for a moment, wiping sweat off my face with my apron, but a premonitory spatter of raindrops against the hide covering the window sent me running for the back door, seizing a large covered basket on my way.

Fourteen Nankin hens, four Scots Dumpys and two roosters. The Nankin hens liked to roost in the low branches of the hornbeam near their coop, but the roosters could be anywhere…

Sure enough, a number of round, wind-ruffled shapes were huddled together in clumps amid the lower branches of the hornbeam. One, two, three, four, five… I counted as I snatched them out of the tree and stuffed them ruthlessly into my basket. They squawked but didn’t really resist; chickens are not bright, but I thought they might have enough sense to be thankful at being rescued from the coming storm. The air temperature had dropped a good ten degrees in the last few minutes.

Eight so far….where were the others?

“Chook-chook-chook-chook-chook!” I called, my voice scarcely audible above the wind. A faint squawk, torn away, but enough to turn my attention toward the hen-coop. Yes, two more underneath, the big red hen, huddling over her brood of tiny chicks, and one of the roosters, feathers standing out like quills and his yellow eyes quite mad—he pecked savagely at my wrist when I reached for the red hen, drawing blood.

I said a few things under my breath and seized him by the neck. I was tempted to wring it then and there, but instead stood up, jerked open the door of the coop and tossed him into it, narrowly avoiding being ripped by his spurs. I decanted the contents of the basket after him, dropped to my knees and grabbed the red hen, threw her into the coop as well, then slammed the door, fell to my knees and scrabbled madly after the chicks.

The rain was starting to fall in earnest now, no more of this playful pattering. Cold drops struck my back, hard as pebbles. How many chicks were there? I was tossing them into my apron, trying to keep count as I reached into the deep shadows under the coop. My fingers struck something hard that rolled—a stray egg. Heartened by that, I stuck it into my pocket and with a last inquiring, “chook-chook?” decided I had them all and shook the little balls of fluff into the warm dark of the reeking coop, where they dashed about like so many crazed ping-pong balls before zeroing in on their clucking mother.

I closed the door and dropped the latch, then stood breathing heavily for a moment, realizing that the reason the raindrops fell so cold and heavily was that they were in fact hailstones. Tiny white spheres were bouncing off my head and dancing on the ground, rapidly covering the scattered bits of cracked corn and chicken droppings.

I pulled the shawl over my head and searched under the [ ] bushes near the coop, then further up the path toward Malva’s Garden—the hens loved to go in there and eat the ghastly tomato hookworms off the wild vines, more power to them—but there was no sign of movement among the pokeweeds and [ ], other than the wind. The hail stopped as abruptly as it had started, and I shook melting bits of ice off my shoulders, wondering where the hell to look next.

I threw back my head and shouted, “Cock-a-doodle-dooooo!” several times, as loudly as I could; sometimes you could induce a pugnacious rooster to answer you, but not today.

I felt an increasing sense of panic. The wind was whipping my skirts around my legs and I could feel the spatter of fine drops against my cheeks; Jamie hadn’t been wrong in his predictions of what would happen to the hens—I’d lost many, over the years, to foxes and other predators, but many more to the vagaries of the weather. If they weren’t blown away, they might well freeze to death sitting in a tree overnight, their feathered carcasses thumping to the ground at dawn like cannon balls.

I ran down the path to the spring-house—no sign of chickens—then up and across to the privy; the Dumpys liked to shelter in the honeysuckle vines sometimes…

The door stood ajar—some thoughtless male had doubtless neglected to close it properly—and I pulled it open, though gingerly. I’d once opened a privy door and surprised an enormous rattlesnake, coiled on the seat. The surprise had been sufficiently mutual that I’d never again opened such a door without caution.

The caution was justified on this occasion, though the privy luckily contained neither chickens nor snakes. It did contain a startled red squirrel, who ran up the wall and clung to the rooftree, tail bushed out and chattering angrily at me.

“If you think you’re storing nuts in _here_ for the autumn,” I said, leveling a forefinger at him, “think again.”

A sudden thunder of fresh hail on the tin roof galvanized me back into action and I ran toward the barn through a small blizzard. If any of those damned hens were out in this, they’d be killed—these hailstones were the size of unripe gooseberries and almost as hard, stinging where they struck my unprotected hands and face.

The barn door was halfway open; I glimpsed Clarence the mule’s gray bulk in the gloom, and he brayed companionably at me when I stepped in, breathless with running through a hailstorm. He wasn’t in a stall; he’d evidently leapt the fence and walked sensibly into the barn when he felt the weather coming on. He was casually plucking mouthfuls of hay from the pile on the floor, despite the fact that another refugee from the storm was using the hay as well. The white sow was reclining majestically in the scattered heap, accompanied by two black-spotted daughters, each about half her size, all of them looking pleased with themselves.

I hadn’t come this close to the white sow in a couple of years, and stopped dead at sight of her, so near at hand. She was immense—I gauged her at something between five and six hundred pounds at the moment—and well-known for her irascible temperament.

“Fancy meeting _you_ here,” I said, pressing myself against the wall and trying not to make any move she might regard as threatening. Even Clarence was maintaining a respectful distance from the porcine trio. I glanced to and fro—if the chickens were in here, they could bloody well stay here--but nothing moved along the walls or scrabbled for grain on the hard-packed dirt of the floor. Possibly the pigs had eaten them.

I edged back out, carefully leaving the door half-open. If a pig that size had a mind to leave a place, it left, and the presence or absence of a door was immaterial.

The hail had turned back into rain, and it was pissing down. What now? I wrapped the shawl more tightly round my body and prepared to make a run for the house. If the remaining chickens hadn’t found shelter by now, it was likely too late.




Excerpt  "Forgiveness"

Daily lines #book9 Forgiveness Jamie kills Rapist

He took a deep breath, and his fists flexed briefly, then relaxed.
“No. Forgiveness doesna make things go away. Ye ken that as well as I do.” He turned his head to look at me, in curiosity. “Don’t ye?”

There were no more than a few inches between us, but the aching distance between our hearts reached miles. Jamie was silent for a long time. I could hear my heart, beating in my ears…
“Listen,” he said at last.
“I’m listening.” He looked sideways at me, and the ghost of a smile touched his mouth. He held out a broad, pitch-stained palm to me.

“Give me your hands while ye do it, aye?”
“Why?” But I put my hands into his without hesitation, and felt his grip close on them. His fingers were cold, and I could see the hairs on his forearm ruffled with chill where he’d rolled up his sleeves to help Fanny with the gun.

“What hurts you cleaves my heart,” he said softly. “Ye ken that, aye?”
“I do,” I said, just as softly. “And you know it’s true for me, too. But—” I swallowed, and bit my lip. “It—it seems…”
“Claire,” he interrupted, and looked at me straight. “Are ye relieved that he’s dead?”

“Well…yes,” I said unhappily. “I don’t want to feel that way, though; it doesn’t seem right. I mean—” I struggled to find some clear way to put it. “On the one hand—what he did to me wasn’t…mortal. I hated it, but it didn’t physically hurt me; he wasn’t trying to hurt me or kill me. He just…”
“Ye mean, if it had been Harley Boble ye met at Beardsley’s, ye wouldna have minded my killing him?” he interrupted, with a tinge of irony.

“I would have shot him myself, on sight.” I blew out a long, deep breath. “But that’s the other thing. There’s what he—the man—do you know his name, by the way?”
“Yes, and you’re not going to, so dinna ask me,” he said tersely.

I gave him a narrow look, and he gave it right back. I flapped my hand, dismissing it for the moment.
“The other thing,” I repeated firmly, “is that if I’d shot Boble myself—you wouldn’t have had to. I wouldn’t feel that you were…damaged by it.”

His face went blank for a moment, then his gaze sharpened again.
“Ye think it damaged me to kill him?”
I reached for his hand, and held it.

“I bloody know it did,” I said quietly. And added in a whisper, looking down at the scarred, powerful hand in mine, “what hurts you cleaves my heart, Jamie.”
His fingers curled tight over mine.




Excerpt 20 "A stubborn mind"

#DailyLines #BookNine #AStubbornMind

“But you told Frances—you _promised_ her that no one would take advantage of her. And I could have sworn she believed you!”

“Aye,” Jamie said quietly. He picked up the piece of rock maple and his knife, and began mechanically cutting slivers. “Aye, I thought so, too—hoped so, at least.”
I sat still, watching him.

“I suppose it was foolish,” I said at last. “To think that reassurances and promises would be enough. I imagine we don’t know the half of what she saw, being raised in a brothel like a—a prize calf.”
“And one knowing it was bound for slaughter?” he put in quietly. “Aye.”

We lapsed into a strained silence, both thinking of Fanny. After a few moments, Jamie’s hands resumed their work, slowly, and a few moments later, he glanced at me.

“How many times did ye tell me Jack Randall was dead, Sassenach? How many times did I tell myself that?” The wood shavings fell in small, fragrant curls around his feet. “Some ghosts dinna leave ye easily—and ye ken fine that it’s her sister who’s haunting wee Frances.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said unhappily. It wasn’t quite a shiver that I felt at mention of Jane—but a cold sadness that seemed to sink through my skin. “But surely there’s _something_ we can do to help?”

“I expect there is.” He set the cleaned stick of wood aside, and bent to sweep the shavings onto a sheet of paper. “Were we in reach of a priest, I should have a Mass said for the repose of her sister’s soul, to start with. If I can find one in Wilmington, we’ll do that. But otherwise…I’ll speak to Roger Mac about it.” His mouth twisted wryly.

“I daresay Presbyterians dinna believe in exorcism, or prayers for the dead, either. But he’s a canny man, and he kens the heart; he may call it something else, but he’ll know what I mean—and he can speak wi’ Frances, and pray for _her_, I’m sure.”

He shook the wood shavings into the fire, where they caught at once, curling into brightness and sending up a clean, sweet smoke. I came to stand behind him, watching them burn, and put my hands on his shoulders, warm and solid under my fingers. He leaned his head back against me and sighed, closing his eyes as he relaxed in the warmth. I bent my head and kissed the whorl of the cowlick on his crown.

“Mmphm,” he said, and reached up a hand to take mine. “Ken, it works the other way, too.”
“What does?”

“The stubbornness of a mind that willna let go.” He squeezed my hand and looked up at me. “While we were parted, how many times did ye tell yourself I was dead, Sassenach?” he asked softly. “How often did ye try to forget me?”
I stood motionless, hand curled round his, until I thought I could speak.

“Every day,” I whispered. “And never.”



Excerpt  "Nobility problems" part of #15

#DailyLines #BookNine #HalAndWilliam #WhenYouCantQuitYourJob
#NobilityProblems

“Miss England?” Hal asked abruptly.
“Sometimes,” William answered honestly. “But I don’t think about it much,” he added, with less honesty.
“I do.” His uncle’s face looked relaxed, almost wistful in the fading light. “But you haven’t a wife there, or children. No establishment of your own, yet.”
“No.”

The sounds of the camp were still audible, but muted by the rhythm of the surf at their feet, the passage of the silent clouds above their heads.
The trouble with silence was that it allowed the thoughts in his head to take on a tiresome insistence, like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. Cinnmon’s company, disturbing as it occasionally was, had allowed him to escape them when he needed to.
“How does one go about renouncing a title?”
He hadn’t actually been intending to ask that just yet, and was surprised to hear the words emerge from his mouth. Uncle Hal, by contrast, didn’t seem surprised at all.
“You can’t.”

William glared down at his uncle, who was still looking imperturbably out to sea, the wind pulling strands of his dark hair from his queue.
“What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?”
Uncle Hal looked at him with an affectionate impatience.

“I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done.”
“But you—“ William stopped, baffled.

“No, I didn’t,” his uncle said dryly. “If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I _could_ do is stop using the title of “Duke,” and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that,” he added off-handedly.
“Really?” William asked cynically. “Who did you maim?”

He actually _had_ supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

“Oh…several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life. “
“Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?”

“Yes,” his uncle said briefly. “But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg.”
“Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?”

“Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise…but that’s beside the point.” Hal caught himself and shook his head to clear it. Evening was coming on, and the offshore breeze was brisk. He wrapped his cloak about his body and nodded toward the town.
“Let’s go. The tide’s coming in and I’m dining with Sir Henry in half an hour.



Excerpt  "Brothers and sisters nip

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎brothersistersnip‬

“I like goats,” Jenny said, shoving aside a pair of questing lips. “[Shoo, goat.] Sheep are good-hearted things, save the ram-lambs tryin’ to knock ye over, but they’re no bright. A goat has a mind of its own.”
“Aye, and so do you. Ian always said ye liked the goats because they’re just as stubborn as you are.”
She gave him a long, level look.
“Pot,” she said succinctly.
“Kettle,” he replied, flicking his grass-stem toward her nose. She grabbed it out of his hand and fed it to the goat.



Excerpt  "And a couple of goats and maybe a bear"

Found here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDianaGabaldon/posts/883559828353521
‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎Book9‬ ‪#‎NoNotYet‬ ‪#‎ItllBeAwhile‬ 
‪#‎ImSlowYouKnow‬‪#‎JamieAndJenny‬ ‪#‎Andacoupleofgoats‬ ‪#‎andmaybeabear‬

“There’s a bear up here, is there?” Jenny asked, turning back to him. “Shall I take the goats back down?”
“It might be. Jo Beardsley saw it a few days ago, here in the meadow, but there’s no fresh sign.”
Jenny thought that over for a moment, then sat down on a lichened rock, spreading her skirts out neatly. The goats had gone back to their grazing, and she raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes.
“Only a fool would hunt a bear alone,” she said, her eyes still closed. “Claire told me that.”
“Did she?” he said dryly. “Did she tell ye the last time I killed a bear, I did it alone, with my dirk? _ And_ that she hit me in the heid wi’ a fish whilst I was doin’ it?”
She opened her eyes and gave him a look.
“She didna say a fool canna be lucky,” she pointed out. “And if you didna have the luck o’ the devil himself, ye’d have been dead six times over by now.”
“Six?” He frowned, disturbed, and her brow lifted in surprise.
“I wasna really counting,” she said. “It was only a guess. What is it, _a graidh_?”
That casual “_O, love_,” caught him unexpectedly in a tender place, and he coughed to hide it.
“Nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Only, when I was young in Paris, a fortune-teller told me I’d die nine times before my death. D’ye think I should count the fever after Laoghaire shot me?”
She shook her head definitely.
“Nay, ye wouldna have died even had Claire not come back wi’ her wee stabbers. Ye would have got up and gone after her within a day or two.”
He smiled.
“I might’ve.”
His sister made a small noise in her throat that might have been laughter or derision.
They were silent for a moment, both with heads lifted, listening to the wood. The dripping had ceased now, and you could hear a treepie close by, with a call exactly like a rusty hinge opening. Then there was a loud _quah-quah_ as a magpie called from somewhere behind him, and he saw Jenny look up over his shoulder wide-eyed.
“Just one?” he said, keeping his voice calm, but feeling a tightness between his shoulder-blades. _One for sorrow_…
She held up a hand, silencing him, and sat listening, her eyes combing the branches for a second bird. _ Two for mirth_… Her face lightened as a long, shrill _quahhhhhhh_ came from the left and he swung round to see the second magpie clinging to a swaying pine branch, a beady eye fixed on the ground. He relaxed and drew breath.
So did Jenny, and taking up the conversation where she’d left it, asked, “D’ye hold it against me, that I made ye marry Laoghaire?”
He gave her a look.
“What makes ye think ye could make me do_ anything_ I didna want to, ye wee fuss-budget?”
“What the devil is a fuss-budget?” she demanded, frowning up at him.
“A bag of nuisance, so far as I can tell,” he admitted. “Jemmy called Mandy it last week.” A sudden dimple appeared near Jenny’s mouth, but she didn’t actually laugh.
“Aye,” she said. “Ye ken what I mean.”
“I do,” he said. “And I don’t. Hold it against ye, I mean. She didna actually kill me, after all.”




Excerpt "Rising Bread"

#DailyLine #BookNine #RisingBread#Wealreadyknowshecancurdlemilk

“He’ll be all right,” Claire said, handing him a plate of scrambled eggs mixed with onions, dried apples, and sliced sausage, fried together. He took it, stomach rumbling at the smell despite his unquiet thoughts.

“And how did ye ken I was thinking of him?” he asked, raising a brow at her. She could normally tell if something troubled him, but he was reasonably sure his face hadn’t grown so transparent from long acquaintance that she could tell what it was.

“That’s his favorite breakfast,” she said, reaching across with her own fork to steal a bit of sausage. “You sighed before taking a bite, and I know you’re hungry.”

“Mmphm.” He took the bite now, savoring it. “Your cooking is getting better, Sassenach—or maybe it’s only that I’m hungry.”

She gave him a narrow look, but saw that he was jesting, and relaxed, reaching for a slice of partially charred toast. She was in fact a decent plain cook, though she couldn't make bread rise to save her life.

“They say that witches make rising bread dough fail,” he remarked.
“And cows run dry,” she replied, scraping the char off the oddly flattened toast. “Your point?”
“Only I wondered just now—can Brianna make bread?”
She stopped in the act of cutting a pat of butter, and stared at him.
“What—you think that being--” she waved the knife, dislodging the butter, “what we are—affects _yeast_?”
“How should I ken that?” He drizzled honey on his own toast and passed her the pot. “I only wondered.”


Excerpt "Martyrs"

#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎NOitisntfinished‬ ‪#‎WhenitisIlltellyou‬‪#‎Dontholdyourbreath‬

“And do Presbyterians have martyrs?” Jamie asked dubiously. “I mean—ye havena got saints, do ye?”
“Why this sudden interest in Presbyterian doctrine?” Roger said, taking care to make the question a light one. “Thinking of converting?”
He heard a brief grunt of amusement.
“I am not. It’s only that I’ve been thinking of late.”
“Ye want to watch that sort of thing,” Roger said, pausing to unsnag a briar that had grabbed the leg of his breeks. “All right in moderation, I mean, but too much of it will give you the indigestion—mental and physical.”
“Ye’re no wrong there,” Jamie said dryly. “Tell me a way to make it stop that doesna include excessive drink.”
A faint hooting, as of a distant troop of gibbons, floated through the gathering dusk.
“Well, a close proximity to bairns will certainly do it,” Roger said, smiling at the sound. “When Jem learned to talk, Bree used to tell me she couldn’t manage two consecutive thoughts unless she stuffed something into his mouth. It was a wonder he didn’t burst from over-feeding.”
“Aye, that’s so,” Jamie said, his own tone lightening. “Your wee maid’s clishmaclaver would take a man’s mind off his own hanging.”
That particular image startled Roger, though Jamie’s words had been off-hand.
“Is that the direction of your recent thoughts, then?” he asked, after a brief pause.
After a longer one, Jamie replied, “Aye, some of them.”
_Ah. Hence the question about martyrs_… He didn’t say anything, but lengthened his stride a little, coming even with Jamie.


Excerpt 19 "Hoola-Hoop"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎WorkingPeacefullyThisWeek‬ ‪#‎SoreFootButOK‬

It was a sapphire, a raw one. A misty, cloudy blue little thing, half the size of his little finger’s nail. He shook it free of its wrappings and it landed silently but solidly in the hollow of his hand.
“Ye said it maybe doesna matter whether it’s cut or not,” Buck said, nodding at it.
“I think not. I hope not. I wish I could say I can’t take it.” Roger closed his fingers gently on the little rock, as though it might burn him. “Thank you, a charaidh. Where did ye find it?”
“Ach…” Buck said vaguely, with a slight wave of his hand. “Just saw it and picked it up, ken?”
“Holy Lord,” Roger said, squeezing the little pebble involuntarily. Too late, he remembered the castle in Strathpeffer, him talking with the factor about Jemmy and Rob Cameron—the earl being away from home—and Buck gone, disappeared with a handsome young housemaid. And the factor offering to show him Cromartie’s collection of agates and rare stones…he’d declined, thank God. But—
“You didn’t,” he said to Buck. “Tell me ye didn’t.”
“Ye keep saying that,” Buck said, frowning at him. “I will, if ye want me to, but I shouldna think a minister ought to be encouraging folk to tell lies. A poor example for the bairns, aye?”
He nodded toward the stable-yard, where Jem was playing with a boy who had a hoop, the two of them trying to drive it with sticks over the bumpy ground, with a marked lack of success. Mandy was throwing pebbles at something in the dry grass—probably some hapless toad trying its best to hibernate against the odds.
“Me, a poor example? And you their own great-great-great-great-grandfather!”
“And should I not be lookin’ out for their welfare, then? Is that what ye’re sayin’ to me?”
“I—“ His throat closed suddenly and he cleared it, hard. The boys had left their hoop and were poking at whatever Mandy had found in the grass. “No. I’m not. But I didn’t ask ye to steal for them. To risk your bloody neck for us!” _That’s my job_, he wanted to say, but didn’t.
“May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.” Buck gave him a direct stare. “Ye need it, aye? Take it, then.” Something that wasn’t quite a smile touched the edge of his mouth. “With my blessing.”
On the far side of the yard, Mandy had picked up the hoop and put it about her solid little waist. She waggled her bottom, in a vain attempt at getting it to spin.
“Look, Daddy!” she called. “Hula hoop!”
Jem froze for a moment, then looked at Roger, his eyes big with concern. Roger shook his head slightly—_don’t say anything_—and Jem swallowed visibly and turned his back to his sister, shoulders stiff.
“What’s a hula hoop, then?” Buck asked quietly, behind him.



Excerpt 18 "A small Christmas present"

‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎ASmallChristmasPresent‬ ‪#‎AndYouThinkYOURChristmasDinnerIsALotOfWork‬ ‪#‎HappyNewYear‬

My breath steamed white in the dimness of the smoke-shed. No fire had been lit in here for over a month, and the air smelt of bitter ash and the tang of old blood.
“How much do you think this thing weighs?” Brianna put both hands on the shoulder of the enormous black and white hog lying on the crude table by the back wall and leaned her own weight experimentally against it. The shoulder moved slightly—rigor had long since passed, despite the cold weather—but the hog itself didn’t budge an inch.
“At a guess, it originally weighed somewhat more than your father. Maybe three hundred pounds on the hoof?” Jamie had bled and gralloched the hog when he killed it; that had probably lightened his load by a hundred pounds or so, but it was still a lot of meat. A pleasant thought for the winter’s food, but a daunting prospect at the moment.
I unrolled the pocketed cloth in which I kept my larger surgical tools; this was no job for an ordinary kitchen knife.
“What do you think about the intestines?” I asked. “Usable, do you think?”
She wrinkled her nose, considering. Jamie hadn’t been able to carry much beyond the carcass itself—and in fact had dragged that—but had thoughtfully salvaged twenty or thirty pounds of intestine. He’d roughly stripped the contents, but two days in a canvas pack hadn’t improved the condition of the uncleaned entrails, not savory to start with. I’d looked at them dubiously, but put them to soak overnight in a tub of salt water, on the off chance that the tissue hadn’t broken down too far to prevent their use as sausage casing.
“I don’t know, Mama,” Bree said reluctantly. “I think they’re pretty far gone. But we might save some of it.”
“If we can’t, we can’t.” I pulled out the largest of my amputation saws and checked the teeth. “We can make square sausage, after all.” Cased sausage was much easier to preserve; once properly smoked, they’d last indefinitely. Sausage patties were fine, but took more careful handling, and had to be packed into wooden casks or boxes in layers of lard for keeping…
“Lard!” I exclaimed, looking up. “Bloody hell--I’d forgotten all about that. We don’t have a kettle, bar the kitchen cauldron, and we can’t use that.” Rendering lard took a long time, and the kitchen cauldron supplied at least half our cooked food, to say nothing of hot water.
“Can we borrow one?” Bree glanced toward the door, where a flicker of movement showed. “Jem, is that you?”
“No, it’s me, auntie.” Germain stuck his head in, sniffing cautiously. “Mandy wanted to visit Rachel’s _petit bonbon_, and _Grand-pere_ said she could go if Jem or me would take her. We threw bones and he lost.”
“Oh. Fine, then. Will you go up to the kitchen and fetch the bag of salt from Grannie’s surgery?”
“There isn’t any,” I said, grasping the pig by one ear and setting the saw in the crease of the neck. “There wasn’t much, and we used all but a handful soaking the intestines. We’ll need to borrow that, too.”



Excerpt "Rachel"

The Second Sunday of Advent – On the second Sunday of Advent, we light the second purple candle, as a symbol of the hope that goes before us; a light in the darkness, a promise of the greater light to come.

[Excerpt is from Book Nine (Untitled, Unfinished, Unpublished). No, I have no idea when it’ll be done, but will let you know.]

Eats Turtles swallowed the last of his turkey hash and gave a loud belch of appreciation in Rachel’s direction, then handed her his plate, saying, “More,” before resuming the story he had been telling between bites. Fortunately, it was mostly in Mohawk, as the parts that had been in English appeared to deal with one of his cousins who had suffered a very comical partial disembowelment following an encounter with an enraged moose.

Rachel took the plate and refilled it, staring very hard at the back of Eats Turtles’ head and envisioning the light of Christ glowing within him. Owing to an orphaned and penurious childhood, she had had considerable practice in such discernment, and was able to smile pleasantly at Turtles as she placed the newly-filled plate at his feet, not to interrupt his gesticulations.

On the good side, she reflected, glancing into the cradle, the men’s conversation had lulled Oggy into a stupor. With a glance that caught Ian’s eye, and a nod toward the cradle, she went out to enjoy a mother’s rarest pleasure: ten minutes alone in the privy.

Emerging relaxed in body and mind, she was disinclined to go back into the cabin. She thought briefly of walking down to the Big House to visit Brianna and Claire—but Jenny had gone down herself when it became apparent that the Mohawks would spend the night at the Murrays’ cabin. Rachel was very fond of her mother-in-law, but then, she adored Oggy and loved Ian madly—and she really didn’t want the company of any of them just now.

The evening was cold, but not bitter, and she had a thick woolen shawl. A gibbous moon was rising amid a field of glorious stars, and the peace of Heaven seemed to breathe from the autumn forest, pungent with conifers and the softer scent of dying leaves. She made her way carefully up the path that led to the well, paused for a drink of cold water, and then went on, coming out a quarter-hour later on the edge of a rocky outcrop that gave a view of endless mountains and valleys, by day. By night, it was like sitting on the edge of eternity.

Peace seeped into her soul with the chill of the night, and she sought it, welcomed it. But there was still an unquiet part of her mind, and a burning in her heart, at odds with the vast quiet that surrounded her.

Ian would never lie to her. He’d said so, and she believed him. But she wasn’t fool enough to think that meant he told her everything she might want to know. And she very much wanted to know more about _Wakyo’tenyensnohnsa_, the Mohawk woman Ian had called Emily…and loved.

So now she was perhaps alive, perhaps not. If she did live…what might be her circumstances?

For the first time, it occurred to her to wonder how old Emily might be, and what she looked like. Ian hadn’t ever said; she hadn’t ever asked. It hadn’t seemed important, but now…

Well. When she found him alone, she would ask, that’s all. And with determination, she turned her face to the moon and her heart to her inner light and prepared to wait.




Excerpt "CoonHunt"


‪#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎BookNine‬ ‪#‎CoonHunt‬ ‪#‎NoItsNotFinished‬ ‪#‎NoDateNoTitle‬ ‪#‎AllThingsComeToThoseWhoWait‬

Before I could either gracefully accept his offer or kick him in the shin, an unearthly yodel sounded through the trees, and Bluebell shot down the hill in front of us, all four children in hot pursuit, likewise baying.
“What was that about raccoons, Sassenach?” Jamie squinted toward the distant tree under which the hound had taken up residence, her front feet on the trunk, pointing her muzzle up into the branches and letting out ear-piercing howls.
Rather to my surprise, it was a raccoon, fat, gray, immense, and extremely irascible at being roused before nightfall. It filled a jagged hollow, half-way up a lightning-struck pine, and was peering out in a belligerent way. I thought it was growling, but nothing could be heard over the wild cries of dog and children.
Jamie hushed all of them—except the dog—and eyed the coon with a hunter’s natural avidity. So, I noticed, did Jem. Germain and Fanny had drawn close together, looking up wide-eyed at the raccoon, and Mandy was wrapped tightly round my leg.
“I don’t want it to bite me!” she said, clutching my thigh. “Don’t let it bite me, Grand-da!”
“I won’t, _a nighean_. Dinna fash yourself.” Not taking his eyes off the treed raccoon, Jamie unslung the rifle from his back and reached for the shot-pouch on his belt.
“Can I do it, Grand-da? Please, can I shoot it?” Jem was itching to get his hands on the rifle, rubbing them up and down his breeches. Jamie glanced at him and smiled, but then his gaze shifted to Germain—or so I thought.
“Let Frances try, aye?” he said, and held out his hand to the startled girl. I rather expected her to recoil in horror, but after a moment’s hesitation, a glow rose in her cheeks and she stepped bravely forward.
“Show me how,” she said, sounding breathless. Her eyes flickered from gun to coon and back, as though fearing one or both would disappear.
Jamie normally carried his rifle loaded, but not always primed. He crouched on one knee and laid the gun along his thigh, handed her a half-filled cartridge and explained how to pour the powder into the pan. Jem and Germain watched jealously, occasionally butting in with know-it-all remarks like, “That’s the frizzen, Fanny,” or “You want to hold it up close to your shoulder so it won’t break your face when it goes off.” Jamie and Fanny both ignored these helpful interjections, and I towed Mandy off to a safe distance and sat down on a battered stump, putting her on my lap.
Bluebell and the raccoon had continued their vocal warfare, and the forest rang with howling and a sort of high-pitched angry squealing. Mandy had put her hands dramatically over her ears, but removed them to inquire whether I knew how to shoot a gun?
“Yes,” I said, avoiding any elaborations. I did technically know how, and had in fact discharged a firearm several times in my life. I’d found it deeply unnerving, though—the more so, after I’d been shot myself at the battle of Monmouth and understood the effects on a truly visceral level. I preferred stabbing, all things considered.
“Mam can shoot anything,” Mandy noted, frowning in disapproval at Fanny, who was now holding the wobbling weapon to her shoulder, looking simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Jamie crouched behind her, steadying the gun, his hand on hers, adjusting her grip and her sights, his voice a low rumble, barely audible under the racket.
“Go to your grannie,” he said to the boys, raising his voice. His eyes were fixed on the coon, which had fluffed itself to twice the normal size and was hurling insults at Bluebell, completely ignoring its audience. Jem and Germain reluctantly but obediently came to stand beside me, a safe distance away—or at least I hoped so. I repressed the urge to make them move farther away.
The gun went off with a sharp _bang_! that made Mandy scream. I didn’t, but it was a near thing. Bluey dropped to all fours and seized the raccoon, which had been knocked out of the tree by the shot. I couldn’t tell whether it was dead already, but she gave it a tremendous, neck-breaking shake, dropped the bloody carcass and let out a high, warbling _oo-hooo_! of triumph.
The boys scrambled forward, yelling and pounding Fanny excitedly on the back. Fanny herself was open-mouthed, stunned. Her face had gone pale, what could be seen of it behind a mottling of black powder smoke, and she kept looking from the gun in her hands to the dead raccoon, plainly unable to believe it.
“Well done, Frances.” Jamie patted her gently on the head and took the gun from her trembling hands. “Shall the lads gut and skin it for ye?”
“I…yeth. _Yes_. Please,” she added. She glanced at me, but instead of coming to sit down, walked unsteadily over to Bluey and fell to her knees in the leaves beside the dog.
“_Good_ dog,” she said, hugging the hound, who happily licked her face. I saw Jamie glance carefully at the dog as he stooped to pick up the blood-splotched carcass, but Bluey made no objection, merely woofling in her throat.



Excerpt 17 "Cousin Amaranthus"

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Amaranthus_palmeri"Hand me that, will you?" Amaranthus shifted the child expertly from one shoulder to the other and nodded toward another wadded cloth that lay on the ground near her feet. William picked it up gingerly, but it proved to be clean—for the moment.
"Hasn’t he got a nurse?" he asked, handing the cloth over.

"He did have," Amaranthus said, frowning slightly as she mopped the child’s face. "I sacked her."
"Drunkenness?" he asked, recalling what Lord John had said about the cook.

"Among other things. Drunk on occasion—too many of them—and dirty in her ways."

"Dirty as in filth, or…er…lacking fastidiousness in her relations with the opposite sex?"
She laughed, despite the subject.
"Both. Did I not already know you to be Lord John’s son, that question would have made it clear. Or, rather," she amended, gathering the banyan more closely around her, "the phrasing of it, rather than the question itself. All of the Greys—all those I’ve met so far—talk like that."

"I’m his lordship’s stepson," he replied equably. "Any resemblance of speech must therefore be a matter of exposure, rather than inheritance."

She made a small interested noise and looked at him, one fair brow raised. Her eyes were that changeable color between gray and blue, he saw. Just now, they matched the gray doves embroidered on her yellow banyan.

"That’s possible," she said. "My father says that a kind of finch learns its songs from its parents; if you take an egg from one nest and put it into another some miles away, the nestling will learn the songs of the new parents, instead of the ones who laid the egg."

Courteously repressing the desire to ask why anyone should be concerned with finches in any way, he merely nodded.
"Are you not cold, madam?" he asked. They were sitting in the sun, and the wooden bench was warm under his legs, but the breeze playing on the back of his neck was chilly, and he knew she wasn’t wearing anything but a shift under her banyan. The thought brought back a vivid recollection of his first sight of her, milky bosom on display, and he looked away, trying to think instantly of something else.

"What is your father’s profession?" he asked at random.
"He’s a naturalist—when he can afford to be," she replied. "And no, I’m not cold. It’s always much too hot in the house, and I don’t think the smoke from the hearth is good for Trevor; it makes him cough."

"Perhaps the chimney isn’t drawing properly. You said, ‘when he can afford to be.’ What does your father do when he cannot afford to pursue his… er… particular interests?"

"He’s a bookseller," she said, with a slight tone of defiance. "In [New York? New Jersey? Philadelphia?] That’s where I met Benjamin," she added, with a slight catch in her voice. "In my father’s shop." She turned her head slightly, watching to see what he made of this. Would he disapprove of the connection, knowing her now for a tradesman’s daughter? Not likely, he thought wryly. Under the circumstances.

"You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your husband, madam," he said. He wondered what she knew—had been told, rather—about Benjamin’s death, but it seemed indelicate to ask. And he’d best find out just what Papa and Uncle Hal knew about it, before he went trampling into unknown territory.

"Thank you." She looked away, her eyes lowered, but he saw her mouth—rather a nice mouth—compress in a way suggesting that her teeth were clenched.
"Bloody Continentals!" she said, with sudden violence. She lifted her head, and he saw that, far from being filled with tears, her eyes were sparking with rage. "Damn them and their nitwit philosophy! Of all the obstinate, muddle-headed, treasonous twaddle… I—" She broke off suddenly, perceiving his startlement.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," she said stiffly. "I… was overcome by my emotions."
"Very… suitable," he said awkwardly. "I mean—quite understandable, given the… um… circumstances." He glanced sideways at the house, but there was no sound of doors opening or voices raised in farewell. "Do call me William, though—we are cousins, are we not?"
She smiled fully at that. She had a lovely smile.
"So we are. You must call me Cousin Amaranthus, then—it’s a plant," she added, with the slightly resigned air of one frequently obliged to make this explanation. "Amaranthus palmeri. Of the family Amaranthaceae. Commonly known as pigweed."




Excerpt 16 "Inquiries"

#DailyLines #BookNine #NoItsNotFinished #Maybe2017 #MaybeNot #WhoKnows ? #Inquiries

William had been half-hoping that his inquiries for Lord John Grey would meet either with total ignorance, or with the news that his lordship had returned to England. No such luck, though. Sir Archibald Campbell’s clerk had been able to direct him at once to a house in Garden Street, and it was with thumping heart and a ball of lead in his stomach that he came down the steps of Campbell’s headquarters to meet Cinnamon, waiting in the street.

His anxiety was dispersed the next instant, though, as Sir Archibald himself came up the walk, two aides beside him. William’s impulse was to put his hat on, pull it over his face and scuttle past in hopes of being unrecognized. His pride, already raw, was having none of this, and instead, he marched straight down the walk, head high, and nodded regally to Sir Archibald as he passed.

“Good day to you, sir,” he said. Campbell, who had been saying something to one of the aides, looked up absently, then halted abruptly, stiffening.

“What the devil are you doing here?” he said, broad face darkening like a seared chop.

“My business, sir, is none of your concern,” William said politely, and made to pass.

“Coward,” Campbell said contemptuously behind him. “Coward and whore-monger. Get out of my sight before I have you arrested.”

William’s logical mind was telling him that it was Campbell’s relations with Uncle Hal that lay behind this insult and he ought not to take it personally. He must walk straight on as though he hadn’t heard.

He turned, gravel grinding under his heel, and only the fact that the expression on his face made Sir Archibald go white and leap backward allowed John Cinnamon time to take three huge strides and grab William’s arms from behind.

“[Come on, you idiot – French],” he hissed in William’s ear. “Vite!” Cinnamon outweighed William by forty pounds, and he got his way—though in fact, William didn’t fight him. He didn’t turn round, though, but backed—under Cinnamon’s compulsion—slowly toward the gate, burning eyes fixed on Campbell’s mottled countenance.

“What’s wrong with you, _gonze _?” Cinnamon inquired, once they were safely out the gate and out of sight of the clapboard mansion. The simple curiosity in his voice calmed William a little, and he wiped a hand hard down his face before replying.

“Sorry,” he said, and drew breath. “That—he—that man is responsible for the death of a—a young lady. That I knew.”

“_Merde_,” Cinnamon said, turning to glare back at the house. “Jane?”

“Wh—how—where did you get that name?” William demanded. The lead in his belly had caught fire and melted, leaving a seared hollow behind. He could still see her hands, long-fingered and white, as he’d laid them on her breast—crossed, the torn wrists neatly bound in black.

“You say it in your sleep sometimes,” Cinnamon said with an apologetic shrug.



Excerpt "Claire"

Roger raised his chin and I reached up carefully, fitting my fingers about his neck, just under his jaw. He’d just shaved; his skin was cool and slightly damp and I caught a whiff of the shaving soap Brianna made for him, scented with juniper berries. I was moved by the sense of ceremony in that small gesture--and moved much more by the hope in his eyes that he tried to hide.
“You know—“ I said hesitantly, and felt his Adam’s apple bob below my hand.

“I know,” he said gruffly. “No expectations. If something happens…well, it does. If not, I’m no worse off.”

I nodded, and felt gently about. I’d done that before, after his injury, tending the swelling and the rope-burn, now a ragged white scar. The tracheotomy I’d performed to save his life had left a smaller scar in the hollow of his throat, a slight depression about an inch long. I passed my thumb over that, feeling the healthy rings of cartilage above and below. The lightness of the touch made him shiver suddenly, tiny goosebumps stippling his neck, and he gave the breath of a laugh.
“Goose walking on my grave,” he said.
“Stamping about on your throat, more like,” I said, smiling. “Tell me again what Dr. MacEwan said.”

I hadn’t taken my hand away, and felt the lurch of his Adam’s apple as he cleared his throat hard.

“He prodded my throat—much as you’re doing,” he added, smiling back. “And he asked me if I knew what a hyoid bone was. He said—“ Roger’s hand rose involuntarily toward his throat, but stopped a few inches from touching it, “—that mine was an inch or so higher than usual, and that if it had been in the normal place, I’d be dead.”
“Really,” I said, interested. I put a thumb just under his jaw and said, “Swallow, please.”

He did, and I touched my own neck and swallowed, still touching his.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “It’s a small sample size, and granted, there may be differences attributable to gender—but he may well be right. Perhaps you’re a Neanderthal.”
“A what?” He stared at me.

“Just a joke,” I assured him. “But it’s true that one of the differences between the Neanderthals and modern humans is the hyoid. Most scientists think they hadn’t one at all, and therefore couldn’t speak, but my Uncle Lamb said--you rather need one for coherent speech” I added, seeing his blank look. “It anchors the tongue.”
“How extremely fascinating,” Roger said politely.
I cleared my own throat, and circled his neck once again.
“Right. And after saying about your hyoid—what did he do? How did he touch you?”

Roger tilted his head back slightly, and reaching up, adjusted my grip, moving my hand down an inch and gently spreading my fingers.

“About like that,” he said, and I found that my hand was now covering—or at least touching—all the major structures of his throat, from larynx to hyoid.

“And then…?” I was listening intently—not to his voice, but to the sense of his flesh. I’d had my hands on his throat dozens of times, particularly during his recovery from the hanging, but what with one thing and another, hadn’t touched it in several years. I could feel the solid muscles of his neck, firm under the skin, and I felt his pulse, strong and regular—a little fast, and I realized just how important this was to him. I felt a qualm at that; I had no idea what Hector MacEwan might have done—or what Roger might have imagined he’d done—and still less notion how to do anything myself.

“_I know what your larynx feels like, and what a normal larynx should feel like—and I try to make it feel like that_.” That’s what MacEwan had said, in response to Roger’s questions. I wondered if I knew what a normal larynx felt like.

“There was a sensation of warmth.” Roger’s eyes had closed; he was concentrating on my touch. I closed my own. The smooth bulge of his larynx lay under the heel of my hand, bobbing slightly when he swallowed. “Nothing startling. Just the feeling you get when you step into a room where a fire is burning.”

“Does my touch feel warm to you now?” It should, I thought; his skin was cool from the evaporation of shaving.

“Yes,” he said, not opening his eyes. “But it’s on the outside. It was on the inside when MacEwan…did what he did.” His dark brows drew together in concentration. “It…I felt it…here—“ Reaching up, he moved my thumb to rest just to the right of center, directly beneath the hyoid. “And…._here_.” His eyes opened in surprise, and he pressed two fingers to the flesh above his collarbone, an inch or two to the left of the suprasternal notch. “How odd; I hadn’t remembered that.”

“And he touched you there, as well?” I moved my lower fingers down and felt the quickening of my senses that often happened when I was fully engaged with a patient’s body. Roger felt it, too—his eyes flashed to mine, startled.

“What--?” he began, but before either of us could speak further, there was a high-pitched yowl outside. This was instantly followed by a confusion of young voices, more yowling, then a voice immediately identifiable as Mandy in a passion, bellowing, “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re _bad_ and I hate you! You’re bad and youse going to HELL!”

Roger leapt to his feet and thrust aside the makeshift gauze screen that covered the window.

“Amanda!” he bellowed. “Come in here right now!” Over his shoulder, I saw Amanda, face contorted with rage, trying to grab her doll, Esmeralda, which Germain was dangling by one arm, just above her head, dancing to keep away from Amanda’s concerted attempts to kick him.

Startled, Germain looked up, and Amanda connected full-force with his shin. She was wearing the stout half-boots Jamie had bought for her from the cobbler in Salem, and the crack of impact was clearly audible, though instantly superceded by Germain’s cry of pain. Jemmy, looking appalled, grabbed Esmeralda, thrust her into Amanda’s arms, and with a guilty glance over his shoulder, ran for the woods, followed by a hobbling Germain.

“Jeremiah!” Roger roared. “Stop right there!” Jem froze as though hit by a death-ray; Germain didn’t, and vanished with a wild rustling into the shrubbery.

I’d been watching the boys, but a faint choking noise made me glance sharply at Roger. He’d gone pale, and was clutching his throat with both hands. I seized his arm.
“Are you all right?”

“I…don’t know.” He spoke in a rasping whisper, but gave me the shadow of a pained smile. “Think I—might have sprained something.”
“Daddy?” said a small voice from the doorway. Amanda sniffled dramatically, wiping tears and snot all over her face. “Is you mad at me, Daddy?”

Roger took an immense breath, coughed, and went over, squatting down to take her in his arms.

“No, sweetheart,” he said softly—but in a fairly normal voice, and something clenched inside me began to relax. “I’m not mad. You mustn’t tell people they’re going to hell, though. Come here, let’s wash your face.” He stood up, holding her, and turned toward my mixing table, where there was a basin and ewer.
“I’ll do it,” I said, reaching out for Mandy. “Maybe you want to go and…er…talk to Jem?”

“Mmphm,” he said, and handed her across. A natural snuggler, Mandy at once clung affectionately to my neck and wrapped her legs around my middle.
“Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?” she asked. “Dose bad boys got her dirty!”

I listened with half an ear to Mandy’s mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before—it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were—but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.
“Wassat, Grannie?” Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

“What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash.” I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion…no fever, though…perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

“No, _dat_.” Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. “Issa letter!” She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. “Letter J!” she announced triumphantly. “J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy,” she added, frowning.

“Er…” I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter “J.” The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart—years of heartbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

“It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie,” I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.
“Mandy,” I said, on impulse. “What color is my hair?”

“_When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power_.” An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.
Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, “Brindle.”
“What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?”

“Grand-da. He said it’s what color Charlie is.” Charlie was a rather stylish pig belonging to the Beardsley household.
“Hmm,” I said. “Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry.”



Excerpt 15 "Technicalities"

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“What do you mean, I can’t? Whose business is it whether I renounce my title or not?”
Uncle Hal looked at William with an affectionate impatience.

“I’m not speaking rhetorically, blockhead. I mean it literally. You can’t renounce a peerage. There’s no means set down in law or custom for doing it, ergo, it can’t be done.”
“But you—” William stopped, baffled.

“No, I didn’t,” his uncle said dryly. “If I could have at the time, I would have, but I couldn’t, so I didn’t. The most I could do is stop using the title of “Duke,” and threaten to physically maim anyone who used it in reference or address to me. It took me several years to make it clear that I meant that,” he added off-handedly.

“Really?” William asked cynically, glancing at his uncle. “Who did you maim?”
He actually had supposed his uncle to be speaking rhetorically, and was taken aback when the once and present Duke furrowed his brow in the effort of recall.

“Oh…several scribblers—they’re like roaches, you know; crush one and the others all rush off into the shadows, but by the time you turn round, there are throngs of them back again, happily feasting on your carcass and spreading filth over your life.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you have a way with words, uncle?”

“Yes,” his uncle said briefly. “But beyond punching a few journalists, I called out George Washcourt—he’s the Marquess of Clermont now, but he wasn’t then—Herbert Villiers, Viscount Brunton, and a gentleman named Radcliffe. Oh, and a Colonel Phillips, of the 34th—cousin to Earl Wallenberg.”

“Duels, do you mean? And did you fight them all?”
“Certainly. Well—not Villiers, because he caught a chill on the liver and died before I could, but otherwise…but that’s beside the point.”



Excerpt 14 "Expedition" 

Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…

They were heading northwest. Roger had learned to steer by sun and stars, when he’d surveyed the boundary lines of Jamie’s land, years before, but it wasn’t a skill he’d needed much in Scotland. He thought they were near the edge of the land grant now; he thought he recalled this rocky outcropping. Granted, there were thousands of similar rock formations in western North Carolina, but something about this one rang a mental bell.

"It smells like grapes," Jemmy said, sniffing deep. "Smell ‘em, Dad?"

"Aye, I do." That was it; the whole hillside was a tumble of pale, huge boulders, unusual among the dark rock of the nearby ground—but more unusual for the vast tangle of wild grapevines that crawled over the boulders and climbed the sparse trees that sprouted among them. The grapes had long since ripened and gone, most of them scavenged by birds, insects, wolves, bears and anything else with a sweet tooth. Still, the faint perfume of raisins lay like a veil on the air and the bitter tang of the drying vines was sharp beneath it.

Jamie had pulled loose a length of the tough, woody vine, and was engaged in chopping it into several gnarled sticks, each about three feet long. He handed one to Jem and another to Roger, with the terse adjuration, "Snakes.


Excerpt 13 "Carpe Diem"

Carpe Diem”
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Manoke was his father’s friend; Lord John had never called him anything else. The Indian came and went as he pleased, generally without notice, though he was at Mt. Josiah more often than not. He wasn’t a servant or a hired man, but he did the cooking and washing-up when he was there, kept the chickens—yes, there were still chickens; William could hear them clucking and rustling as they settled in the trees near the house—and helped when there was game to be cleaned and butchered.

"Your hog?" William asked Cinnamon, with a brief jerk of the head toward the muffled firepit. They’d chosen to take their supper on the crumbling porch, enjoying the soft evening air, and keeping an eye on the drying meat, in case of marauding raccoons.

"Oui. Up there," Cinnamon said, waving a big hand toward the north. "Two hours walk. A few pigs in the wood there, not many."

William nodded. "Do you have a horse?" he asked. It was a fairly small hog, maybe sixty pounds, but heavy to carry for two hours"especially as Cinnamon presumably hadn’t known how far he’d have to go. He’d already told William that he’d never visited Mt. Josiah before.

Cinnamon nodded, his mouth full, and jerked his chin in the direction of the ramshackle tobacco barn. William wondered how long Manoke had been in residence; the place looked as though it had been deserted for years—and yet there were chickens…

The clucking and brief squawks of the settling birds reminded him suddenly and sharply of Rachel Hunter, and in the next breath, he found the scent of rain, wet chickens—and wet girl.

"…the one my brother calls the Great Whore of Babylon. No chicken possesses anything resembling intelligence, but that one is perverse beyond the usual."

"Perverse?" Evidently she perceived that he was contemplating the possibilities inherent in this description, and finding them entertaining, for she snorted through her nose and bent to open the blanket chest.

"The creature is sitting twenty feet up in a pine tree, in the midst of a rainstorm. Perverse." She pulled out a linen towel, and began to dry her hair with it.

The sound of the rain altered suddenly, hail rattling like tossed gravel against the shutters.

"Hmph," said Rachel, with a dark look at the window. "I expect she will be knocked senseless by the hail and devoured by the first passing fox, and serve her right." She flapped the folded towel open and began to dry her hair with it. "No great matter. I shall be pleased never to see any of those chickens again."

The scent of Rachel’s wet hair was strong in his memory, and the sight of it, dark and straggling in tails down her back, the wet making her worn shift transparent in spots, with shadows of her soft pale skin beneath.

"What? I mean—I beg your pardon?" Manoke had said something to him, and the smell of rain vanished, replaced by hickory smoke, fried cornmeal and fish.

Manoke gave him an amused look, but obligingly repeated himself.

"I said, have you come to stay? Because if so, maybe you want to fix the chimney."

William glanced over his shoulder; the vine-shrouded rubble was just visible, past the edge of the porch.

"I don’t know," he said, shrugging. Manoke nodded and went back to his conversation with Cinnamon; the two of them were speaking French. William couldn’t make the effort to listen, suddenly overcome by a tiredness that sank to the marrow of his bones.

Would he stay? He didn’t know what he’d intended by coming here; it was just the only place he could think of to go where he wouldn’t be obliged to make explanations.

He’d had some vague notion of thinking. Making sense of things, deciding what to do. Rising up and taking action then, to make things right.

"Right," he said under his breath. "Hell and death." Nothing could be made right. An overlooked fish-bone caught in his throat and he choked, coughed, choked again.

Manoke looked briefly at him, but William waved a hand and the Indian returned to his intense conversation with John Cinnamon. William got up and went, coughing, round the corner of the house to the well.

The water was sweet and cold, and with a little effort, he dislodged the bone and drank, then poured water over his head. As he sluiced the dirt from his face, he felt a gradual sense of calm come over him. Not peace, not even resignation, but a realization that if everything couldn’t be settled right now…perhaps it didn’t need to be. He wouldn’t be twenty-one until January. The estate was still administered by factors and lawyers; all those tenants and farms were still someone else’s responsibility.

He would stay, he thought, wiping a hand over his wet face. Not think. Not struggle. Just be still for a little while.

It was deep twilight now; one of his favorite times of day here. The forest settled with the dying of the light, but the air rose, shedding the burden of the day’s heat, passing cool as a spirit through the murmuring leaves, touching his own hot skin with its peace.



Excerpt 12 "Moonlight and Howling"

Moonlight and Howling”
This excerpt DOES contain spoilers from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER series. You have been warned!

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I was somewhere deeper than dreams, and came to the surface like a fish hauled out of water, thrashing and flapping.

"Whug—" I couldn’t remember where I was, who I was, or how to speak. Then the noise that had roused me came again, and every hair on my body stood on end.
"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" Words and sense came back in a rush and I flung out both hands, groping for some physical anchor.

Sheets. Mattress. Bed. I was in bed. But no Jamie, empty space beside me. I blinked like an owl, turning my head in search of him. He was standing naked at the window, bathed in moonlight. His fists were clenched and every muscle visible under his skin.

"Jamie!" He didn’t turn, or seem to hear—either my voice, or the thump and agitation of other people in the house, also roused by the howling outside. I could hear Mandy starting to wail in fear, and her parents’ voices running into each other in the rush to comfort her.

I got out of bed, and came up cautiously beside Jamie, though what I really wanted to do was dive under the covers and pull the pillow over my head. That noise… I peered past his shoulder, but bright as the moonlight was, it showed nothing in the clearing before the house that shouldn’t be there. Coming from the wood, maybe; trees and mountain were an impenetrable slab of black.

"Jamie," I said, more calmly, and wrapped a hand firmly round his forearm. "What is it, do you think? Wolves? A wolf, I mean?" I hoped there was only one of whatever was making that sound.

He started at the touch, swung round to see me and shook his head hard, trying to shake off…something.

"I—" he began, voice hoarse with sleep, and then he simply put his arms around me and drew me against him. "I thought it was a dream." I could feel him trembling a little, and held him as hard as I could. Sinister Celtic words like "ban-sidhe" and "tannasq" were fluttering round my head, whispering in my ear. Custom said that a ban-sidhe howled on the roof when someone in the house was about to die. Well…it wasn’t on the bloody roof, at least…

"Are your dreams usually that loud?" I asked, wincing at a fresh ululation. He hadn’t been out of bed long; his skin was cool, but not chilled.

"Aye. Sometimes." He gave a small, breathless laugh, and let go of me. A thunder of small feet came down the hallway, and I hastily flung myself back into his arms as the door burst open and Jem rushed in, Fanny right behind him.

"Grand-da! There’s a wolf outside! It’ll eat the piggies!"

Fanny gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth, eyes round with horror. Not at thought of the piglets’ imminent demise, but at the realization that Jamie was naked. I was shielding as much of him from view as I could with my nightgown, but there wasn’t a great deal of nightgown and there was a great deal of Jamie.

"Go back to bed, sweetheart," I said, as calmly as possible. "If it’s a wolf, Mr. Fraser will deal with it."

"Moran taing, Sassenach," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. Thanks a lot. "Jem, throw me my plaid, aye?"
Jem, to whom a naked grandfather was a routine sight, fetched the plaid from its hook by the door.
"Can I come and help kill the wolf?" he asked hopefully. "I could shoot it. I’m better than Da, he says so!"

"It’s no a wolf," Jamie said briefly, swathing his loins in faded tartan. "The two of ye go and tell Mandy it’s all right, before she brings the roof down about our ears." The howling had grown louder, and so had Mandy’s, in hysterical response. From the look on her face, Fanny was all set to join them.



Excerpt 11 - "Mount Joshua"

William carried his pistol loaded, but not primed in case of accident. He took an instant to prime it now, thrusting it back into its holster before walking around the corner of the house.

It was Indians—or one, at least. A half-naked man squatted in the shade of a huge beech tree, tending a small firepit covered with damp burlap; William could smell the sharp scent of fresh-cut hickory logs, mingled with the tang of blood and char. The Indian—he looked young, though large and very muscular—had his back to William and was deftly stripping the carcass of a small hog, slicing off ragged strips of meat and tossing them into a pile on a flattened burlap sack that lay beside the fire.

"Hallo, there," William said, raising his voice. The man looked round, blinking against the smoke and waving it out of his face. He rose slowly, the knife he’d been using still in his hand, but William had spoken pleasantly enough, and the stranger wasn’t menacing. He also wasn’t a stranger. He stepped out of the tree’s shadow, the sunlight hit his hair, and William felt a jolt of astonished recognition.

So did the young man, by the look on his face.

"Lieutenant?" he said, disbelieving. He looked William quickly up and down, registering the lack of uniform, and his big dark eyes fixed on William’s face. "Lieutenant…Lord Ellesmere?"

"I used to be. Mr. Cinnamon, isn’t it?" He couldn’t help smiling as he spoke the name, and the other’s mouth twisted wryly in acknowledgement. The young man’s hair was no more than an inch long, but only shaving it off entirely would have disguised either its distinctive deep reddish-brown color or its exuberant curliness. A mission orphan, he owed his name to it.

"John Cinnamon, yes. Your servant…sir." The erstwhile scout gave him a presentable half-bow, though the "sir" was spoken with something of a question.

"William Ransom. Yours, sir," William said, smiling, and thrust out his hand. John Cinnamon was a couple of inches shorter than himself, and a couple of inches broader; the scout had grown into himself in the last two years and possessed a very solid hand-shake.

"I trust you’ll pardon my curiosity, Mr. Cinnamon—but how the devil do you come to be here?" William asked, letting go. He’d last seen John Cinnamon two years before, in Canada, where he’d spent much of a long, cold winter hunting and trapping in company with the half-Indian scout, who was near his own age.

He wondered briefly if Cinnamon had come in search of him, but that was absurd. He didn’t think he’d ever mentioned Mount Josiah to the man—and even if he had, Cinnamon couldn’t possibly have expected to find him here.

"Ah." To William’s surprise, a slow flush washed Cinnamon’s broad cheekbones. "I—er—I…well, I’m on my way south." The flush grew deeper.

William cocked an eyebrow. While it was true that Virginia was south of Quebec and that there was a good deal of country souther still, Mount Josiah wasn’t on the way to anywhere. No roads led here. He had himself come upriver on a barge, then obtained a small canoe in Richmond and paddled on above the Breaks, that stretch of falls and turbulent water where the land suddenly collapsed upon itself. He’d seen perhaps three people during his time above the Breaks—all of them headed the other way.

Suddenly, though, Cinnamon’s wide shoulders relaxed and the look of wariness was erased by relief.

"In fact, I came to see my friend," he said, and nodded toward the house. William turned quickly, to see another Indian picking his way through the raspberry brambles littering what used to be a small croquet lawn.

"Manoke!" he said. Then shouted "Manoke!", making the older man look up. The older Indian’s face lighted with joy, and a sudden uncomplicated happiness washed through William’s heart, cleansing as spring rain.

The Indian was lithe and spare as he’d always been, his face a little more lined. His hair smelt of woodsmoke when William embraced him, and the gray in it was the same soft color, but it was still thick and coarse as ever—he could see that easily; he was looking down on it from above, Manoke’s cheek pressed into his shoulder.

"What did you say?" he asked, releasing Manoke.

"I said, ‘My, how you have grown, boy,’" Manoke said, grinning up at him. "Do you need food?"




Excerpt 10 - "Jamie and Roger"

NB from Herself: "There is a major spoiler for Book 8 (MOBY) in here, in case you haven’t read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD yet.)"

 The fly spiraled down, green and yellow as a falling leaf, to land among the rings of the rising hatch. It floated for a second on the surface, maybe two, then vanished in a tiny splash, yanked out of sight by voracious jaws. Roger flicked the end of his rod sharply to set the hook, but there was no need. The trout were hungry this evening, striking at everything, and his fish had taken the hook so deep that bringing it in needed nothing but brute force.
It came up fighting, though, flapping and silver in the last of the light. He could feel its life through the line, fierce and bright, so much bigger than the fish itself, and his heart rose to meet it.

"Who taught ye to cast, Roger Mac?" His father-in-law took the trout as it came ashore, still flapping, and clubbed it neatly on a stone. "That was as pretty a touch as ever I’ve seen."

Roger made a modest gesture of dismissal, but flushed a little with pleasure at the compliment; Jamie didn’t say such things lightly.

"My father," he said.

"Aye?" Jamie looked startled, and Roger hastened to correct himself.

"The Reverend, I mean. He was really my great-uncle, and by marriage at that."

"Still your father," Jamie said, but smiled. He glanced toward the far side of the pool where Germain and Jemmy were squabbling over who’d caught the biggest fish. They had a respectable string, but hadn’t thought to keep their catches separate, so couldn’t tell who’d caught what.

"Ye dinna think it makes a difference, do ye? That Jem’s mine by blood and Germain by love?"

"You know I don’t." Roger smiled himself at sight of the two boys. Germain was two years older than Jem, but slightly built, like both his parents. Jem had the long bones and wide shoulders of his grandfather—and his father, Roger thought, straightening his own shoulders. The two boys were much of a height, and the hair of both glowed red at the moment, the ruddy light of the sinking sun setting fire to Germain’s blond mop. "Where’s Fanny, come to think? She’d settle them."

Frances was twelve, but sometimes seemed much younger—and often startlingly older. She’d been fast friends with Germain when Jem had arrived on the Ridge, and rather stand-offish, fearing that Jem would come between her and her only friend. But Jem was an open, sweet-tempered lad, and Germain knew a good deal more about how people worked than did the average eleven-year-old ex-pickpocket, and shortly the three of them were to be seen everywhere together, giggling as they slithered through the shrubbery, intent on some mysterious errand, or turning up at the end of churning, too late to help with the work, but just in time for a glass of fresh buttermilk.

"Ach, the poor wee lassie started her courses last night." Jamie lifted a shoulder in an economical shrug that conveyed acknowledgement of the situation, regret, and resignation. "She’s no feeling just that well in herself."

Roger nodded, threading the stringer through the fish’s dark-red gill slit. He knew what Jamie meant. Jem’s arrival hadn’t stopped Fanny’s friendship with Germain—but this might. Or alter it irrevocably, which would likely come to the same thing, so far as Fanny was concerned.

There was nothing to be done about it, though, and neither man said more.

The sun came low through the trees, but the trout were still biting, the water dappling with dozens of bright rings and the frequent splash of a leaping fish. Roger’s fingers tightened for a moment on his rod, tempted—but they had enough for supper and next morning’s breakfast, too. No point in catching more; there were a dozen casks of smoked and salted fish already put away in the cold-cellar, and the light was going.

Jamie showed no signs of moving, though. He was sitting on a comfortable stump, bare-legged and clad in nothing but his shirt, his old hunting plaid puddled on the ground behind; it had been a warm day for (September, October?) and the balm of it still lingered in the air. He glanced at the boys, who had forgotten their argument and were back at their poles, intent as a pair of kingfishers.

Jamie turned to Roger then, and said, in a quite ordinary tone of voice, "Do Presbyterians have the sacrament of Confession, mac mo chinnidh?"

Roger said nothing for a moment, taken aback both by the question and its immediate implications, and by Jamie’s addressing him as "son of my house"—a thing he’d done exactly once, at the calling of the clans at Mt. Helicon some years before.

The question itself was straight-forward, though, and he answered it that way.

"No. Catholics have seven sacraments but Presbyterians only recognize two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper." He might have left it at that, but the first implication of the question was plain before him.

"D’ye have a thing ye want to tell me, Jamie?" He thought it might be the second time he’d called his father-in-law ‘Jamie’ to his face. "I can’t give ye absolution—but I can listen."

He wouldn’t have said that Jamie’s face showed anything in the way of strain. But now it relaxed and the difference was sufficiently visible that his own heart opened to the man, ready for whatever he might say. Or so he thought.

"Aye." Jamie’s voice was husky and he cleared his throat, ducking his head, a little shy. "Aye, that’ll do fine. D’ye remember the night we took Claire back from the bandits?"

"I’m no likely to forget it," Roger said, staring at him. He cut his eyes at the boys, but they were still at it, and he looked back at Jamie. "Why?" he asked, wary.

"Were ye there wi’ me, at the last, when I broke Hodgepile’s neck and Ian asked me what to do with the rest? I said, ‘Kill them all.’"

"I was there." He had been. And he didn’t want to go back. Three words and it was all there, just below the surface of memory, still cold in his bones: black night in the forest, a sear of fire across his eyes, chilling wind and the smell of blood. The drums—a bodhran thundering against his arm, two more behind him. Screaming in the dark. The sudden shine of eyes and the stomach-clenching feel of a skull caving in.

"I killed one of them," he said abruptly. "Did you know that?"


Jamie hadn’t looked away and didn’t now; his mouth compressed for a moment, and he nodded.

"I didna see ye do it," he said. "But it was plain enough in your face, next day."

"I don’t wonder." Roger’s throat was tight and the words came out thick and gruff. He was surprised that Jamie had noticed—had noticed anything at all on that day other than Claire, once the fighting was over. The image of her, kneeling by a creek, setting her own broken nose by her reflection in the water, the blood streaking down over her bruised and naked body, came back to him with the force of a punch in the solar plexus.

"Ye never ken how it will be." Jamie lifted one shoulder and let it fall; he’d lost the lace that bound his hair, snagged by a tree branch, and the thick red strands stirred in the evening breeze. "A fight like that, I mean. What ye recall and what ye don’t. I remember everything about that night, though—and the day beyond it."

Roger nodded, but didn’t speak. It was true that Presbyterians had no sacrament of Confession—and he rather regretted that they didn’t; it was a useful thing to have in your pocket. Particularly, he supposed, if you led the sort of life Jamie had. But any minister knows the soul’s need to speak and be understood, and that he could give.

"I expect ye do," he said. "Do ye regret it, then? Telling the men to kill them all, I mean."

"Not for an instant." Jamie gave him a brief, fierce glance. "Do ye regret your part of it?"

"I—" Roger stopped abruptly. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t thought about it, but… "I regret that I had to," he said carefully. "Very much. But I’m sure in my own mind that I did have to."

Jamie’s breath came out in a sigh.

"Ye’ll know Claire was raped, I expect." It wasn’t a question, but Roger nodded. Claire hadn’t spoken of it, even to Brianna—but she hadn’t had to.

"The man who did it wasna killed, that night. She saw him alive last month, at Beardsley’s."

The evening breeze had turned chilly, but that wasn’t what raised the hairs on Roger’s forearms. Jamie was a man of precise speech—and he’d started this conversation with the word "confession." Roger took his time about replying.

"I’m thinking that ye’re not asking my opinion of what ye should do about it."

Jamie sat silent for a moment, dark against the blazing sky.

"No," he said softly. "I’m not."

"Grand-da! Look!" Jem and Germain were scrambling over the rocks and brush, each with a string of shimmering trout, dripping dark streaks of blood and water down the boys’ breeks, the swaying fish gleaming bronze and silver in the last of the evening light.

Roger turned back from the boys in time to see the flicker of Jamie’s eye as he glanced round at the boys, the sudden light on his face catching a troubled, inward look that vanished in an instant as he smiled and raised a hand to his grandsons, reaching out to admire their catch.
Jesus Christ, Roger thought. He felt as though an electric wire had run through his chest for an instant, small and sizzling. He was wondering if they were old enough yet. To know about things like this.

"We decided we got six each," Jemmy was explaining, proudly holding up his string and turning it so his father and grandfather could appreciate the size and beauty of his catch.
"And these are Fanny’s," Germain said, lifting a smaller string on which three plump trout dangled. "We decided she’d ha’ caught some, if she was here."

"That was a kind thought, lads," Jamie said, smiling. "I’m sure the lassie will appreciate it."
"Mmphm," said Germain, though he frowned a little. "Will she still be able to come fishin’ with us, Grand-pere? Mrs. Wilson said she wouldn’t, now she’s a woman."

Jemmy made a disgusted noise and elbowed Germain. "Dinna be daft," he said. "My mam’s a woman and she goes fishin’. She hunts, too, aye?"

Germain nodded, but looked unconvinced.

"Aye, she does," he admitted. "Mr. Crombie doesna like it, though, and neither does Heron."
"Heron?" Roger said, surprised. Hiram Crombie was under the impression that women should cook, clean, spin, sew, mind children, feed stock and keep quiet save when praying. But Standing Heron Bradshaw was a Cherokee who’d married one of the Moravian girls from Salem, and settled on the other side of the Ridge. "Why? The Cherokee women plant their own crops and I’m sure I’ve seen them catching fish with nets and fish-traps by the fields."

"Heron didna say about catching fish," Jem explained. "He says women canna hunt, though, because they stink o’ blood, and it drives the game away."

"Well, that’s true," Jamie said, to Roger’s surprise. "But only when they’ve got their courses. And even so, if she stays downwind…"

"Would a woman who smells o’ blood not draw bears or painters?" Germain asked. He looked a little worried at the thought.

"Probably not," Roger said dryly, hoping he was right. "And if I were you, I wouldn’t suggest any such thing to your Auntie. She might take it amiss."

Jamie made a small, amused sound and shooed the boys.

"Get on wi’ ye, lads. We’ve a few things yet to talk of. Tell your grannie we’ll be in time for supper, aye?"

They waited, watching ’til the boys were safely out of hearing. The breeze had died away now and the last slow rings on the water spread and flattened, disappearing into the gathering shadows. Tiny flies began to fill the air, survivors of the hatch.

"Ye did it, then?" Roger asked. He was wary of the answer; what if it wasn’t done, and Jamie wished his help in the matter?

But Jamie nodded, his broad shoulders relaxing.

"Claire didna tell me about it, ken. I saw at once that something was troubling her, o’ course…" A thread of rueful amusement tinged his voice; Claire’s glass face was famous. 

"But when I told her so, she asked me to let it bide, and give her time to think."

"Did you?"

"No." The amusement had gone. "I saw it was a serious thing. I asked my sister; she told me. She was wi’ Claire at Beardsley’s, aye? She saw the fellow, too, and wormed it out of Claire what the matter was.

"Claire said to me—when I made it clear I kent what was going on—that it was all right; she was trying to forgive the bastard. And thought she was makin’ progress with it. Mostly." 

Jamie’s voice was matter-of-fact, but Roger thought he heard an edge of regret in it.

"Do you…feel that you should have let her deal with it? It is a—a process, to forgive. Not a single act, I mean." He felt remarkably awkward, and coughed to clear his throat.

"I ken that," Jamie said, in a voice dry as sand. "Few men ken it better."

A hot flush of embarrassment burned its way up Roger’s chest and into his neck. He could feel it take him by the throat, and couldn’t speak at all for a moment.

"Aye," Jamie said, after a moment. "Aye, it’s a point. But I think it’s maybe easier to forgive a dead man than one who’s walkin’ about under your nose. And come to that, I thought she’d have an easier time forgiving me than him." He lifted one shoulder and let it fall. "And…whether she could bear the thought of the man living near us or not—I couldn’t."

Roger made a small sound of acknowledgment; there seemed nothing else useful to say.

Jamie didn’t move, or speak. He sat with his head slightly turned away, looking out over the water, where a fugitive light glimmered over the breeze-touched surface.

"It was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done," he said at last, very quietly.

"Morally, do you mean?" Roger asked, his own voice carefully neutral. Jamie’s head turned toward him, and Roger caught a blue flash of surprise as the last of the sun touched the side of his face.

"Och, no," his father-in-law said at once. "Only hard to do."

"Aye." Roger let the silence settle again, waiting. He could feel Jamie thinking, though the man didn’t move. Did he need to tell it to someone, re-live it and thus ease his soul by full confession? He felt in himself a terrible curiosity, and at the same time, a desperate wish not to hear. He drew breath and spoke abruptly.

"I told Brianna. That I’d killed Boble—and how. Maybe I shouldn’t have."

Jamie’s face was completely in shadow, but Roger could feel those blue eyes on his own face, fully lit by the setting sun. With an effort, he didn’t look down.

"Aye?" Jamie said, his voice calm, but definitely curious. "What did she say to ye? If ye dinna mind telling me, I mean."

"I—well. To tell the truth, the only thing I remember for sure is that she said, ‘I love you.’" 

That was the only thing he’d heard, through the echo of drums and the drumming of his own pulse in his ears. He’d told her kneeling, his head in her lap. She’d kept on saying it then; "I love you," her arms wrapping his shoulders, sheltering him with the fall of her hair, absolving him with her tears.

For a moment, he was back inside that memory, and came to himself with a start, realizing that Jamie had said something.

"What did you say?"

"I said—and how is it Presbyterians dinna think marriage is a sacrament?"



Excerpt 9 - "Brindle"

"Can we wash my dolly’s face, too?" Mandy asked. "Dose bad boys got her dirty!"

I listened with half an ear to her mingled endearments to Esmeralda and denunciations of her brother and Germain, but most of my attention was focused on what was going on in the yard.

I could hear Jem’s voice, high and argumentative, and Roger’s, firm and much lower, but couldn’t pick out any words. Roger was talking, though, and I didn’t hear any choking or coughing…that was good.

The memory of him bellowing at the children was even better. He’d done that before— it was a necessity, children and the great outdoors being what they respectively were— but I’d never heard him do it without his voice breaking, with a followup of coughing and throat-clearing. MacEwan had said that it was a small improvement, and that it took time for healing. Had I actually done anything to help?

I looked critically at the palm of my hand, but it looked much as usual; a half-healed paper cut on the middle finger, stains from picking blackberries, and a burst blister on my thumb, from snatching a spider full of bacon that had caught fire out of the hearth without a rag. Not a sign of any blue light, certainly.

"Wassat, Grannie?" Amanda leaned off the counter to look at my upturned hand.

"What’s what? That black splotch? I think it’s ink; I was writing up my case-book last night. Kirsty Wilson’s rash." I’d thought at first it was just poison sumac, but it was hanging on in a rather worrying fashion… no fever, though… perhaps it was hives? Or some kind of atypical psoriasis?

"No, dat." Mandy poked a wet, chubby finger at the heel of my hand. "Issa letter!" She twisted her head half-round to look closer, black curls tickling across my arm. "Letter J!" she announced triumphantly. "J is for Jemmy! I hate Jemmy," she added, frowning.

"Er…" I said, completely nonplused. It was the letter "J." The scar had faded to a thin white line, but was still clear if the light struck right. The scar Jamie had given me, when I’d left him at Culloden. Left him to die, hurling myself through the stones to save his unborn, unknown child. Our child. And if I hadn’t?

I looked at Mandy, blue-eyed and black-curled and perfect as a tiny spring apple. Heard Jem outside, now giggling with his father. It had cost us twenty years apart— years of hearbreak, pain and danger. And it had been worth it.

"It’s for Grand-da’s name. J for Jamie," I said to Amanda, who nodded as though that made perfect sense, clutching a soggy Esmeralda to her chest. I touched her glowing cheek, and imagined for an instant that my fingers might be tinged with blue.

"Mandy," I said, on impulse. "What color is my hair?"

"When your hair is white, you’ll come into your full power." An old Tuscarora wisewoman named Nayawenne had said that to me, years ago—along with a lot of other disturbing things.

Mandy stared intently at me for a moment, then said definitely, "Brindle."

"What? Where did you learn that word, for heaven’s sake?"

"Grand-da. He sayss it’s what color Charlie is." Charlie was a rather stylishly multi-colored pig belonging to the Beardsley household.


"Hmm," I said. "Not yet, then. All right, sweetheart, let’s go and hang Esmeralda out to dry."


Excerpt 8 - "Jamie and Jenny"

"God, I miss the old bugger," Jamie said impulsively. Jenny glanced at him and smiled ruefully.


"So do I. I wonder sometimes if he’s with them now— mam and da."

That notion startled Jamie — he’d never thought of it — and he laughed, shaking his head. "Well, if he is, I suppose he’s happy."

"I hope that’s the way of it," Jenny said, growing serious. "I always wished he could ha’ been buried with them, at Lallybroch."

Jamie nodded, his throat suddenly tight. Murtagh lay with the fallen of Culloden, buried in some anonymous pit on that silent moor, his bones mingled with the others. No cairn for those who loved him to come and leave a stone to say so.

Jenny laid a hand on his arm, warm through the cloth of his sleeve.

"Dinna mind it, a brathair," she said softly. "He had a good death, and you with him at the end."

"How would you know it was a good death?" Emotion made him speak more roughly than he meant, but she only blinked once, and then her face settled again.

"Ye told me, idiot," she said dryly. "Several times. D’ye not recall that?"

He stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending.

"I told ye? How? I dinna ken what happened."

Now it was her turn to be surprised.

"Ye’ve forgotten?" She frowned at him. "Aye, well… it’s true ye were off your heid wi’ fever for a good ten days when they brought ye home. Ian and I took it in turn to sit with ye— as much to stop the doctor takin’ your leg off as anything else. Ye can thank Ian ye’ve still got that one," she added, nodding sharply at his left leg. "He sent the doctor away; said he kent well ye’d rather be dead." Her eyes filled abruptly with tears, and she turned away.

He caught her by the shoulder and felt her bones, fine and light as a kestrel’s under the cloth of her shawl.

"Jenny," he said softly. "He didna want to be dead. Believe me. I did, aye… but not him."

"No, he did at first," she said, and swallowed. "But ye wouldna let him, he said— and he wouldna let you, either." She wiped her face with the back of her hand, roughly. He took hold of it, and kissed it, her fingers cold in his hand.


"Ye dinna think ye had anything to do with it?" he asked, straightening up and smiling down at her. "For either of us?"


Excerpt 7 - "You Came Back"

"Ye healed me of something a good deal worse, Sassenach," he said, and touched my hand gently. He’d touched me with his right hand, the maimed one.

"I didn’t," I protested. "You did that yourself—you had to. All I did was…er…"

"Drug me wi’ opium and fornicate me back to life? Aye, that."

"It wasn’t fornication," I said, rather primly—but I turned my hand and laced my fingers tightly with his. "We were married."

"Aye, it was," he said, and his mouth tightened, as well as his grip. "It wasna you I was swiving, and ye ken that as well as I do."

I swallowed, watching the fire-shadows move on the rough-hewn wall and recalling all too vividly the coldness of hard stone against my back and the fire-shot, fractured images that had splintered in my mind as his hands had closed around my neck. I cleared my throat by reflex.


"It was me at the end," I said softly, and touched his face with my free hand. "You came back— to me."



Excerpt 6 - "In The Dreamtime"

I was having the delightful sort of dream where you realize that you’re asleep and are enjoying it extremely. I was warm, bonelessly relaxed, and my mind was an exquisite blank. I was just beginning to sink down through this cloudy layer of bliss to the deeper realms of unconsciousness when a violent movement of the mattress under me jerked me into instant alertness.

By reflex, I rolled onto my side and reached for Jamie. I hadn’t reached the stage of conscious thought yet, but my synapses had already drawn their own conclusions. He was still in bed, so we weren’t under attack and the house wasn’t afire. I heard nothing but his rapid breathing; the children were all right and no one had broken in. Ergo…it was his own dream that had wakened him.

This thought penetrated into the conscious part of my mind just as my hand touched his shoulder. He drew back, but not with the violent recoil he usually showed if I touched him too suddenly after a bad dream. He was awake, then; he knew it was me. Thank God for that, I thought, and drew a deep breath of my own.

"Jamie?" I said softly. My eyes were dark-adapted already; I could see him, half-curled beside me, tense, facing me.

"Dinna touch me, Sassenach," he said, just as softly. "Not yet. Let it pass." He’d gone to bed in a night-shirt; the room was still chilly. But he was naked now. When had he taken it off? And why?



Excerpt 5 - "Fishing"

"Who taught ye to cast, Roger Mac?" His father-in-law took the trout as it came ashore, still flapping, and clubbed it neatly on a stone. "That was as pretty a touch as ever I’ve seen."
Roger made a modest gesture of dismissal, but flushed a little with pleasure at the compliment; Jamie didn’t say such things lightly.

"My father," he said.

"Aye?" Jamie looked startled, and Roger hastened to correct himself.

"The Reverend, I mean. He was really my great-uncle, and by marriage at that."

"Still your father," Jamie said, but smiled. He glanced toward the far side of the pool where Germain and Jemmy were squabbling over who’d caught the biggest fish. They had a respectable string, but hadn’t thought to keep their catches separate, so couldn’t tell who’d caught what.

"Ye dinna think it makes a difference, do ye? That Jem’s mine by blood and Germain by love?"

"You know I don’t." Roger smiled himself at sight of the two boys. Germain was two years older than Jem, but slightly built, like both his parents. Jem had the long bones and wide shoulders of his grandfather—and his father, Roger thought, straightening his own shoulders. The two boys were much of a height, and the hair of both glowed red at the moment, the ruddy light of the sinking sun setting fire to Germain’s blond mop. "Where’s Fanny, come to think? She’d settle them."


Excerpt 4 – "Mantalk"

"How old were you, the first time you saw a man killed?" Roger asked abruptly.

"Eight," Jamie replied without hesitation. "In a fight during my first cattle raid. I wasna much troubled about it."

Jamie stopped quite suddenly and Roger had to step to the side to avoid running into him.

"Look," Jamie said, and he did. They were standing at the top of a small rise, where the trees fell away for a moment, and the Ridge and the north side of the cove below it spread before them, a massive chunk of solid black against the indigo of the faded sky. Tiny lights pricked the blackness, though; the windows and sparking chimneys of a dozen cabins.

"It’s not only our wives and our weans, ken?" Jamie said, and nodded toward the lights. "It’s them, as well. All of them." His voice held an odd note; a sort of pride—but rue and resignation, too.

All of them.

Seventy-three households in all, Roger knew. He’d seen the ledgers Jamie kept, written with painful care, noting the economy and welfare of each family who occupied his land—and his mind.

"Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel." The quote sprang to mind and he’d spoken it aloud before he could think.

Jamie drew a deep, audible breath.

"Aye," he said. "Sheep would be easier."


(This excerpt from Book Nine was originally posted by Diana as one of her "Daily Lines" on January 2, 2015, on her Facebook page).


Excerpt 3 – "Fanny"

Note from Diana Gabaldon that appeared at the beginning of this excerpt:

Posted on March 6, 2015:

March 6th, 1988 is the day I began to write what would eventually become OUTLANDER. I meant to write a practice book, in order to learn how to write a novel. Once I knew how it all worked, I thought, I could write a real novel; one I meant to be published. But I didn’t mean to tell anyone what I was doing, let alone show it to anybody.

Things Happen, though, and here we all are, twenty-seven years and fourteen books and a lovely TV show later. Apparently I was right, when I thought (at the age of 8) that I was supposed to be a novelist. And so in celebration, here’s a much larger-than-usual chunk of Book 9 excerpts. Hope you enjoy them!

-Diana

________________________

In which, Fanny has just started her first menstrual period, and is more upset than might usually be the case, since to her, it’s the signal that she’s just become a marketable sexual commodity.

"Sweetheart," I said, more gently, and put a hand under her chin to lift her face. Her eyes met mine like a blow, their soft brown nearly black with fear. Her chin was rigid, her jaw set tight, and I took my hand away.

"You don’t really think that we intend you to be a whore, Fanny?" She heard the incredulousness in my voice, and blinked. Once. Then looked down again.

"I’m…not good for anything else," she said, in a small voice. "But I’m worth a lot of money—for…that." She waved a hand over her lap, in a quick, almost resentful gesture.

I felt as though I’d been punched in my own belly. Did she really think—but she clearly did. Must have thought so, all the time she had been living with us. She’d seemed to thrive at first, safe from danger and well-fed, with the boys as companions. But the last month or so, she’d seemed withdrawn and thoughtful, eating much less. I’d seen the physical signs and reckoned them as due to her sensing the imminent change; had prepared the emmenagogue herbs, to be ready. That was apparently the case, but obviously I hadn’t guessed the half of it.

"That isn’t true, Fanny," I said, and took her hand. She let me, but it lay in mine like a dead bird. "That’s not your only worth." Oh, God, did it sound as though she had another, and that’s why we had—

"I mean—we didn’t take you in because we thought you… you’d be profitable to us in some way. Not at all." She turned her face away, with an almost inaudible sniffing noise. This was getting worse by the moment. I had a sudden memory of Brianna as a young teenager, and spending hours in her bedroom, mired in futile reassurances — no, you aren’t ugly, of course you’ll have a boyfriend when it’s time, no, everybody doesn’t hate you — I hadn’t been good at it then, and clearly those particular maternal skills hadn’t improved with age.

"We took you because we wanted you, sweetheart," I said, stroking the unresponsive hand. "Wanted to take care of you." She pulled it away and curled up again, face in her pillow.

"Do, you didn." Her voice came thick, and she cleared her throat, hard. "William made Mr. Fraser take me."

I laughed out loud, and she turned her head from the pillow to look at me, surprised.

"Really, Fanny," I said. "Speaking as one who knows both of them rather well, I can assure you that no one in the world could make either one of those men do anything whatever against his will. Mr. Fraser is stubborn as a rock, and his son is just like him. How long have you known William?"

"Not…long," she said, uncertain. "But—but he tried to save J-Jane. She liked him." Sudden tears welled in her eyes and she turned her face back into the pillow.

"Oh," I said, much more softly. "I see. You’re thinking of her. Of Jane." Of course.

She nodded and put her face back in the pillow, small shoulders hunched and shaking. Her plait had unraveled and the soft brown curls fell away, exposing the white skin of her neck, slender as a stalk of blanched asparagus.

"It’th the only t-time I ever thaw her cry," she said, the words only half-audible between emotion and muffling.

"Jane? What was it?"

"Her firtht—first—time. Wif—with—a man. When she came back and gave the bloody towel to Mithess Seacrest. She did that, and then she crawled into bed with me and cried. I held huh and—and petted huh—bu—I couldn’t make her thtop.” She pulled her arms under her and shook with silent sobs.

"Sassenach?" Jamie’s voice came from the doorway, husky with sleep. "What’s amiss? I rolled over and found Jem in my bed, instead of you." He spoke calmly, but his eyes were fixed on Fanny’s shivering back. He glanced at me, one eyebrow raised, and moved his head slightly toward the door-jamb. Did I want him to leave?

I glanced down at Fanny and up at him with a helpless twitch of my shoulder, and he moved at once into the room, pulling up a stool beside Fanny’s bed. He noticed the blood-streaks at once and looked up at me again—surely this was my business?—but I shook my head, keeping a hand on Fanny’s back.

"Fanny’s missing her sister," I said, addressing the only aspect of things I thought might be dealt with effectively at the moment.

"Ah," Jamie said softly, and before I could stop him, had bent down and gathered her gently up into his arms. I stiffened for an instant, afraid that having a man touch her just now—but she turned into him at once, flinging her arms about his neck and sobbing into his chest.

He sat down, holding her on his knee, and I felt the unhappy tension in my own shoulders ease, seeing him smooth her hair and murmur things to her in a Gaidhlìg she didn’t speak, but clearly understood as well as a horse or dog might.
Fanny went on sobbing for a bit, but slowly calmed under his touch, only hiccupping now and then.

"I saw your sister just the once," he said softly. "Jane was her name, aye? Jane Eleanor. She was a bonny lass. And she loved ye dear, Frances. I ken that."

Fanny nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks, and I looked at the corner where Mandy lay on the trundle. She was dead to the world, though, thumb plugged securely into her mouth. Fanny got herself under control within a few seconds, though, and I wondered whether she had been beaten at the brothel for weeping or displaying violent emotion.

"She did it fuh me," she said, in tones of absolute desolation. "Killed Captain Harkness. And now she’th dead. It’th all my fault." And despite the whiteness of her clenched knuckles, more tears welled in her eyes. Jamie looked at me over her head, then swallowed to get his own voice under control.

"Ye would have done anything for your sister, aye?" he said, gently rubbing her back between the bony little shoulderblades.

"Yes," she said, voice muffled in his shoulder.

"Aye, of course. And she would ha’ done the same for you—and did. Ye wouldna have hesitated for a moment to lay down your life for her, and nor did she. It wasna your fault, a nighean."

"It was! I shouldn’t have made a fuss, I should have—oh, Janie!"

She clung to him, abandoning herself to grief. Jamie patted her and let her cry, but he looked at me over the disheveled crown of her head and raised his brows.

I got up and came to stand behind him, a hand on his shoulder, and in murmured French, acquainted him in a few words with the other source of Fanny’s distress. He pursed his lips for an instant, but then nodded, never ceasing to pet her and make soothing noises. The tea had gone cold, particles of rosemary and ground ginger floating on the murky surface. I took up the pot and cup and went quietly out to make it fresh.

Jemmy was standing in the dark just outside the door and I nearly crashed into him.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" I said, only just managing to say it in a whisper. "What are you doing here? Why aren’t you asleep?"

He ignored this, looking into the dim light of the bedroom and the humped shadow on the wall, a deeply troubled look on his face.

"What happened to Fanny’s sister, Grannie?"

I hesitated, looking down at him. He was only ten. And surely it was his parents’ place to tell him what they thought he should know. But Fanny was his friend—and God knew, she needed a friend she could trust.

"Come down with me," I said, turning him toward the stair with a hand on his shoulder. "I’ll tell you while I make more tea. And don’t bloody tell your mother I did."

I told him, as simply as I could, and omitting the things Fanny had told me about the late Captain Harkness’s habits.

"Do you know the word ‘whore’—er…’hoor,’ I mean?" I amended, and the frown of incomprehension relaxed.

"Sure. Germain told me. Hoors are ladies that go to bed with men they aren’t married to. Fanny’s not a hoor, though— was her sister?" He looked troubled at the thought.

"Well, yes," I said. "Not to put too fine a point on it. But women—or girls—who become whores do it because they have no other way to earn a living. Not because they want to, I mean."

He looked confused. "How do they earn money?"

"Oh. The men pay them to—er—go to bed with them. Take my word for it," I assured him, seeing his eyes widen in astonishment.

"I go to bed with Mandy and Fanny all the time," he protested. "And Germain, too. I wouldn’t pay them money for being girls!"

"Jeremiah," I said, pouring fresh hot water into the pot. "’Go to bed’ is a euphemism—do you know that word? It means saying something that sounds better than what you’re really talking about—for sexual intercourse."

"Oh, that," he said, his face clearing. "Like the pigs?"

"Rather like that, yes. Find me a clean cloth, will you? There should be some in the lower cupboard." I knelt, knees creaking slightly, and scooped the hot stone out of the ashes with the poker. It made a small hissing sound as the cold air of the surgery hit the hot surface.

"So," I said, reaching for the cloth he’d fetched me, and trying for as matter-of-fact a voice as could be managed, "Jane and Fanny’s parents had died, and they had no way to feed themselves, so Jane became a whore. But some men are very wicked…I expect you know that already, don’t you?" I added, glancing up at him, and he nodded soberly.

"Yes. Well, a wicked man came to the place where Jane and Fanny lived and wanted to make Fanny go to bed with him, even though she was much too young to do such a thing. And…er…Jane killed him."

"Wow."

I blinked at him, but it had been said with the deepest respect. I coughed, and began folding the cloth.

"It was very heroic of her, yes. But she—"

"How did she kill him?"

"With a knife," I said, a little tersely, hoping he wouldn’t ask for details. I knew them, thanks to Rachel and Lord John, and wished I didn’t.

"But the man was a soldier, and when the British army found out, they arrested Jane."

"Oh, Jesus," Jem said, in tones of awed horror. "Did they hang her, like they tried to hang Dad?"

I tried to think whether I should tell him not to take the Lord’s name in vain, but on the one hand, he clearly hadn’t meant it that way—and for another, I was a blackened pot in that particular regard.

"They meant to. She was alone, and very much afraid—and she…well, she killed herself, darling."

He looked at me for a long moment, face blank, then swallowed, hard.

"Did Jane go to Hell, Grannie?" he asked, in a small voice. "Is that why Fanny’s so sad?"

I’d wrapped the stone thickly in cloth; the heat of it glowed in the palms of my hands.

"No, sweetheart," I said, with as much conviction as I could muster. "I’m quite sure she didn’t. God would certainly understand the circumstances. No, Fanny’s just missing her sister."

He nodded, very sober.

"I’d miss Mandy, if she killed somebody and got—" He gulped at the thought. I was somewhat concerned to note that the notion of Mandy killing someone apparently seemed reasonable to him, but then…

"I’m quite sure nothing like that would ever happen to Mandy. Here." I gave him the wrapped stone. "Be careful with it."

We made our way slowly upstairs, trailing warm ginger steam, and found Jamie sitting beside Fanny on the bed, a small collection of things laid out on the quilt between them. He looked up at me, flicked an eyebrow at Jem, and then nodded at the quilt.



Excerpt 2 – "Narcolepsy"
There was not only a quarter of an apple pie and cream to go on it, but a heel of sharp cheese, cold potato pancakes, salt in a twist of paper, and a dish containing the last of the pickled herrings he’d brought from Salem two weeks ago. And a jug of milk. And one of small-beer. And two cups, a knife for the cheese, and a pair of spoons. And an old dish-cloth, in case of spills. I sat down on the bed beside him and spread this tidily over my knees before picking up my own spoon.

"Shall I poke up the fire?" I asked. It was a bit chilly in the room, but Jamie was radiating a sleepy warmth, and I liked the irregular glimmer from the smoored hearth; it gave me a pleasantly dream-like feeling, a sense of midnight secrecy.

"No on my account, Sassenach. I’ll likely be asleep again, directly I’ve finished my supper." He gave a sudden huge involuntary yawn, then shook his head as though driving off an imminent threat of sleep.

"Do you know a General Lincoln?" I asked. "Benjamin, I think his first name is."
He paused, a bite of cheese halfway to his mouth and blinked once or twice.

"I wouldna say he’s a personal friend, but I’ve heard the name, aye. He’s commander of the Southern Army." He ate the cheese slowly, swallowed, and added, "Why?"

"Denzell Hunter told me that the General suffers from narcolepsy. Your yawning just reminded me of it."

He shot me a mildly suspicious look, and reached for a pickled herring.

"Do I want to know what that is?"

"Probably not. But on the off-chance that you ever meet General Lincoln, it might be helpful to know. It’s a rather fascinating condition wherein the patient falls quite suddenly asleep, no matter what he’s doing."

That interested him; he ate the bit of herring but didn’t reach for another.

"No matter what? Even if he should be eating? Or in battle? That might be just a wee bit awkward, aye?"

"That appeared to be the possibility that was occupying Denny’s mind, yes."

He yawned again, without warning.

"Does it come on suddenly? Or is it contagious? I think I may have caught it. Oh, God." He yawned again and blinked, eyes watering slightly.

"I doubt narcolepsy is catching, but yawning is," I said, smothering an involuntary gape. "Will you stop doing that?"

He let his head fall back, eyes closed, and gave a faint groan, then straightened up again and reached for the last of the pie.

I wasn’t surprised. He’d left at dawn, going after a hog that had been making repeated nightly efforts to root up my garden fence and devour the last of the neeps and yams. He’d tracked the beast for more than two miles before finding and killing it—and had then dragged it back, single-handed. Even gralloched, the thing weighed more than I did, but there were wolves about and he’d been unwilling to leave the carcass long enough to come home and fetch help. He and the hog had finally arrived, dead-tired and dead, respectively, just after nightfall.

I’d been of two minds about waking him—but he’d been too tired to eat much supper. And then again, it was apple pie. We finished the meal in a companionable silence, and after rinsing his mouth with water and spitting out the window, Jamie came back to bed like a heavy-eyed homing pigeon.

"I think I’ll work for a bit in the surgery," I said, drawing the quilts up under his chin. His eyes were already half-shut. "I’ll be up in an hour or so."

"Dinna hurry yourself on my account, Sassenach." He snaked an arm out from under the covers and drew me down, giving me a sweet, pie-scented kiss with undertones of herring. "I willna be much good to ye in bed for another fortnight or so."


"That a promise, is it?" I kissed him gently back. "I’ll circle the date on my calendar."



Excerpt 1 – "For Murtagh and Ian"

"Oh, ye’ve got your beads after all," Jenny said, surprised. "Ye didna have your rosary in Scotland, so I thought ye’d lost it. Meant to make ye a new one, but there wasna time, what with Ian…" She lifted one shoulder, the gesture encompassing the whole of the terrible months of Ian’s long dying.

He touched the beads, self-conscious. "Aye, well… I had, in a way of speaking. I… gave it to William. When he was a wee lad, and I had to leave him at Helwater. I gave him the beads for something to keep—to… remember me by."

"Mmphm." She looked at him with sympathy. "Aye. And I expect he gave them back to ye in Philadelphia, did he?"

"He did," Jamie said, a bit terse, and a wry amusement touched Jenny’s face.

"Tell ye one thing, a brathair—he’s no going to forget you."

"Aye, maybe not," he said, feeling an unexpected comfort in the thought. "Well, then…" He let the beads run through his fingers, taking hold of the crucifix. "I believe in one God…"
They said the Creed together, and the three Hail Marys and the Glory Be.

"Joyful or Glorious?" he asked, fingers on the first bead of the decades. He didn’t want to do the Sorrowful Mysteries, the ones about suffering and crucifixion, and he didn’t think she did, either. A magpie called from the maples, and he wondered briefly if it was one they’d already seen, or a third. Three for a wedding, four for a death.

"Joyful," she said at once. "The Annunciation." Then she paused, and nodded at him to take the first turn. He didn’t have to think.

"For Murtagh," he said quietly, and his fingers tightened on the bead. "And Mam and Da. Hail Mary, full o’ grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blest is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen." Jenny finished the prayer and they said the rest of the decade in their usual way, back and forth, the rhythm of their voices soft as the rustle of grass.

They reached the second decade, the Visitation, and he nodded at Jenny—her turn.

"For Ian Òg," she said softly, eyes on her beads. "And Ian Mòr. Hail Mary…."

_______________________________________________________________
This excerpt was posted by Diana (as one of her Daily Lines) on her Facebook Page on April 21, 2015 at 4:10 a.m.

7 comments:

  1. Diana, your beautiful work leaves me breathless, stunned and full of admiration for your talent. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Lynn

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  2. We're so glad you come to Outlander Homepage to keep up with all that's happening in the world of Outlander! Thank you for supporting our Wee Blog.

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  3. I am about to finish WIMOHB for the second time. I am on page 955. I have read all of them 3 or 4 times. I tried to read slow, but that is impossible, as I love these books. Please hurry with the last one (or maybe not the last one) so I don't have to wait to long. I loved these teasers, but a whole book would be better.

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  4. Diana thank you so for these beautiful words..I have no words to express the emotions that you touch while reading your wonderful pages.My heart sings with joy and pains with sorrow at your written words. Please never stop writing!

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  5. Diana thank you so for these beautiful words..I have no words to express the emotions that you touch while reading your wonderful pages.My heart sings with joy and pains with sorrow at your written words. Please never stop writing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just would like to thank Mr.Watkins and the rest of Ms.Gabaldon's family for their perseverance while their Mother and wife write these enormous tombs, and very well done. Thank you, Barbara Jo Price

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just would like to thank Mr.Watkins and the rest of Ms.Gabaldon's family for their perseverance while their Mother and wife write these enormous tombs, and very well done. Thank you, Barbara Jo Price

    ReplyDelete