Tynedale, English Middle March – Late July 1538
The Foster Peel Tower
Maggie Armstrong stood on the gentle slope, letting the early evening breeze caress her cheeks. Though the sun sank low along the horizon, it still sparkled off the small burn that ambled past the Foster peel tower, its gurgling rhythm soft and calm. Releasing a weary sigh, she stared out across the moor, toward Scotland and her family. She had betrayed them all, at least that’s what they thought. Ye’ll never be welcome in Scotland again, her uncle had called after her. But what choice had they left her? She wasn’t about to let them murder an innocent man, even if he was an Englishman?
She glanced down at Will Foster, dozing contentedly on the grass covered ground. How could she have ever suspected him of murdering her father? Ian Rutherford that’s how! She let out an angry, frustrated growl, and Will stirred.
He sat up and stretched his arms before pulling her down beside him. “Why did ye no’ wake me, darlin’. ‘Twas rude of me to fall asleep.”
Maggie rested her head against Will’s shoulder, savoring the warmth of his embrace. He smelled of saddle leather and meadow hay with a touch of evening dew. And despite his rugged appearance, his straw-colored hair was as soft as the down that filled her pillow. She ran her hand along the late day stubble that had sprouted from his normally smooth chin.
“You’ve been through a lot in the past two days,” she said. “My family tried to drown you for God’s sake. I figured you deserved a little rest.”
Will smiled and kissed her head. “And what of yerself? To be fair, I did carry ye off to begin with, something ye were no’ too happy about if I mind right.”
“No, I don’t suppose I was at first, but that was before I knew you - and the truth.” She heaved another sigh, filled with exasperation. “How could I have been so stupid and naive?”
Will tightened his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head. “Ye canna blame yerself for believing Ian Rutherford’s lies. He’s a wicked creature, that one, with a silver tongue. Ye werena the only one to be deceived. Even yer Uncle Geordie believed him, and he’s a canny one, or so me brother Walt says.”
“Hmmm, I guess.” She leaned deeper into Will’s embrace, willing herself to relax and enjoy the moment. Yet, even as she did, she could sense the tension in Will’s shoulders.
Reaching up, she touched his cheek. “What’s wrong? And please don’t tell me nothing.”
Will chuckled. “Nowt for ye to be fashing yerself ower. Me kin will see to it.”
Maggie sat up, turning so she could face him. His expression might not give anything away, but those stunning blue-gray eyes were another story. “There’s no way my family could regroup and attack this soon – is there?”
“I reckon no’ even Geordie Armstrong could manage that.” Will laughed, a deep, pleasant rumble that sent warm ripples down Maggie’s spine, despite her apprehension. “God’s teeth, lass, ye left them to walk home in their stocking feet.”
“I did, didn’t I.” Maggie leaned back against Will’s shoulder once more, feeling quite proud of herself for thinking of a way to keep her kin from following them, at least for a while, but the more she imagined her uncle trudging bootless through the moors, the less comical she found it. “They will come for me eventually though, won’t they? And then what will they do? Hang me, or worse yet, wed me to Ian Rutherford?”
Will pulled her hair back and nuzzled against her neck, leaving soft kisses and causing a tingling sensation to travel all the way down to her toes. “Neither if I’m still breathing,” he said, “for I’d die afore I let them take ye.”
Maggie snuggled closer, allowing the warmth of his body to soothe and comfort her once more. She had no doubt he meant every word he said. Perhaps that’s what worried her so. There was a way out, though, a secret she’d shared with only one other. Now if she could just get Will to believe her.
“We could go away from here,” she said.
“Leave the Borders?” He sat up, gently nudging Maggie around so he could gaze into her eyes. “But this is me home. I’ve land here and an income to keep us, no’ to mention me kin.” He stood up, taking a few steps away before turning to face her once more. “And where d’ye reckon we’d go?”
Maggie watched as the small burn tumbled over rocks and pebbles, splashing its way past each obstacle. Back to the twentieth century of course. How she wanted to say the words, but he’d surely think she’d gone mad. Instead she gave him the only answer she could.
“Perhaps we could go down to Lancashire.” If she could get him to agree to that, she could take care of the rest later. Of course, she’d have to locate the amulet first and the chest. If only her father hadn’t died, none of this would be happening. A tear trickled down her cheek, and Will bent down beside her, wiping it away.
“We’ll go wherever ye want, lass, but there’s nae need to fret ower it now. Geordie’s no’ fool enough to attack again, no’ yet anyway. He’ll wait and file a bill against us with the warden. By then, me da will have made a petition of his own. Let’s bide a bit, and see what happens, eh.”