The end of October/beginning of November is a big deal in my house because it’s Halloween (Yay!) and my birthday (double Yay!!). And this year was a milestone birthday, so I may have ordered a drink as big as my head to celebrate. As I said to a friend, “I am now officially on the backside of a century.”
So I was kinda busy!
Halloween is my favorite holiday, and my kids and I have certain traditions that we do every year. The first is going to the store at the beginning of October so they can choose their costumes. They always go in there knowing exactly what they want to get—they’ve been thinking about it for eleven months—and then they come out with something completely different! My son was adamant he was going to be scary this year, like a werewolf or a killer clown. Instead, he came home with a S.W.A.T uniform because he liked the handcuffs.
And my daughter always falls in love with something pretty and glittery.
Me? When I was growing up, I always went for the blood and guts! Here are some of the conversations you might hear at my house between me and my seven-year-old daughter…
7-yr-old: I want to be a princess.
Me: A blood-sucking vampire princess?
7-yr-old: No! A pretty princess.
7-yr-old: I want to be a mermaid.
Me: A scary, evil witch mermaid?
7-yr-old: No! A pretty mermaid.
7-yr-old: I want to be a fairy.
Me: A wicked fairy with horns and a blood-curdling cackle?
7-yr-old: No! A pretty fairy.
Our second tradition is visiting the pumpkin patch. This includes a petting zoo, tractor ride, corn maze, and enchanted forest with everything from Disney characters to gnomes having a tea party. After that, we go into the pumpkin field, usually with a wonky, lop-sided wheel barrow, so the kids can each pick a pumpkin to carve. This year we had lots of rain, and many of the pumpkins were already rotting. I heard “eewww” and “yuck” a lot…perfect for Halloween!
Our third tradition is going to their school's Halloween dance. We’ve been doing this since kindergarten and the kids love it! The school goes all out—Halloween baking, spooky games, loud music, and a disco ball. Trust me, nothin’ says Halloween like watching a baby Frankenstein doing the chicken dance under a disco ball!
Lastly, there’s the traditional carving of the pumpkins (and burning of the fingers as I try to light the pumpkins!). The kids designed cool jack-o’-lanterns this year that I then cut out. Afterward, I made them use their hands to scoop out the pumpkin seeds, which I may have said were brains.
When we put the jack-o’-lanterns outside, we also hung our creepy, skeleton ghoul from the eaves. It would spin in the wind and stare at you every time you came home. I may have forgotten to tell my husband, my dad, and my babysitter that we’d hung the scary ghoul. And they may have come home at night, by themselves, in the dark…
There is, of course, one last tradition I’ve missed. (And no, I’m not talking about trick or treating—that’s a given!). It’s me sneaking into the kids’ room at night and pilfering from their Halloween bags. Imagine my disappointment when this year the kids booby trapped their Halloween bags! And it was FOOLPROOF. On top of all the layers of candy and chocolate bars, they’d placed small, cellophane bags of chips. As hard as I tried, I could not squeeze my hand through that top layer of chips without waking the entire household! I had to wait until they’d gone to school the next day to get my treats.
Mmmmmm. Peanut Butter Cups.
All this talk about Halloween and birthdays has me thinking about a certain scene in Highland Promise in which Darach finds out it's Caitlin's birthday—in two days! That discovery takes place at the end of the scene… What happens before that, is one of my favorite scenes in the book and makes me laugh every time I read it.
I hope you enjoy it!
“Pray forgive me. Darach ne’er told me you were here.”
Darach looked down at his wife and his heart swelled. She was so lovely, all flushed and bright-eyed from their lovemaking, hair a little mussed even though she’d brushed it. His brothers and Gregor stood in front of the hearth in the great hall, staring at her with grins on their faces. They knew what had taken place upstairs and took no offense at being left to amuse themselves for a few hours. A man had his priorities—making love to his bride was at the top of the list.
She’d protested when he’d first told her about their visitors, but he’d quickly brought her attention back to the task at hand. Afterward, she’d scolded him the entire time she washed and dressed, saying, “They’ll think I’m wanton.” By the time they were ready to meet their guests, she was like a flustered hen. Darach braced for anything to spew out of her mouth.
“We were praying,” she said. “As you know, my husband is a verra pious man.”
His brothers and Gregor raised their eyebrows, except Lachlan, who coughed into his hand. Darach gave him a stern look, which Lachlan ignored. He moved forward to greet Caitlin with a kiss. “Aye, lass, for sure we heard him exclaiming to the Lord a few times.”
She nodded earnestly. “He was lost to the pleasure of prayer.”
Gregor took her hands in his. “I’m Gregor, lass. I too believe ’tis important to pray. My Kellie led me to the altar every night before bed and sometimes again in the morning before she died.”
Darach sighed silently and rolled his eyes. The bastards were going to play this for all it was worth. Thank God Caitlin was oblivious, and his brothers knew not to laugh. If they did, he would have to kill them. He would not have her feelings hurt.
Kerr came forward next, shoving Gregor out of the way. “Congratulations on your nuptials, Caitlin. I’m Kerr. It would please me to introduce you to my Isobel. Maybe you can instruct her on the need to pray with her man.”
“Oh, aye. I would be happy to,” she said, looking a wee bit guilty.
Darach squeezed her fingers to let her know she had his support, even though she’d lied yet again. He supposed it was all right as long as no one was hurt. It wasn’t as if anyone believed her—you just had to look at her face to know the truth.
Callum pushed between Gregor and Kerr. “I’m Callum, lass. My Maggie is more likely to wield a dagger than the holy book. Maybe you could give me some advice on how to instruct her?”
Caitlin looked at him seriously. “Well, ’tis always best to get on your knees. Maybe with another person, in a church or a bedchamber. And you can use candles or beads to enhance your prayer. Some of the best prayer I’ve had was with Darach when we used a candle. Of course, he was sick at the time—’tis important to know how to pray by oneself as well.”
His brothers and Gregor looked at Caitlin with varying expressions of amusement and disbelief on their faces. Silence reigned a moment before Gavin turned to Darach and said, “You’re one fortunate bastard. A bonny woman who has nary a bone of deceit in her body and likes to pray. Unbelievable.” He walked forward and kneeled in front of Caitlin. “You are sister to us all now, Caitlin. I’m Gavin,and it fills me with joy to make your acquaintance.”
She blushed prettily, and Darach wrapped his arm around her. He kissed the top of her head. Aye, he was fortunate, married to the sweetest, purest, most amusing woman in all the Highlands. He prayed—a real prayer this time—that she would retain her innocence for all their years together.
Apparently God wasn’t listening, for she bit her lip and looked at each one of them. “We’re not talking about prayer, are we?”
The men burst into laughter, but they swamped Caitlin with so much love and affection she forgave them, saying it was her fault for telling a falsehood. In truth, she and Darach had been napping.
The day progressed amid much rolling of eyes and backslapping. Caitlin cried with Gregor over the loss of his wife, Kellie, and with Gavin over the loss of his son. She gave advice to Kerr on how to woo Isobel and to Callum on why he should marry Maggie immediately, despite the problems in his clan. Lastly, she reprimanded them all numerous times about their language.
It was a wonderful day.
When supper finished, they all indulged in a wee shot of Gregor’s uisge-beatha. Caitlin tried some too, and made such a face while saying it was wonderful the men almost fell off their chairs. She tried valiantly to take another sip, but Darach took pity on her and finished it himself.
He was lost in his own thoughts, Caitlin curled up in his lap, when he heard her ask the men the dates of their birth. It made him smile, knowing she would remember each one and send them good wishes on their special day. She was asked the question in return, and Darach brought his attention back to the group. He would write the date down and spend months planning a celebration for her.
“’Tis the day after tomorrow,” she said.
“Aye, the fifth of June. I’ll be twenty. The same age as you when you first saved the MacKenzies from the Frasers.” She lowered her voice so only he could hear. “My great laird and master.”
He smiled and kissed her, but his head whirled. Two days. What could he give her in two days that would even begin to match what she’d given him? He tried to think of anything she’d asked for over the last few weeks. She wanted a chapel, aye, but that couldn’t be built in two days. She wanted to cook, but it didn’t seem right that she do so on her own birthday. She wanted to clean his solar, but…well…no one cleaned his solar but him.
What else did she want?
He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the noise around him, and instead heard Gregor, who had a love of horses, say, “Tell me, Caitlin, did you really ride the wild stallion?”
Darach MacKenzie vowed never to let a woman near his heart after his bride-to-be betrayed him, sparking a blood feud between his clan and the Frasers. With all-out war in the wind, Darach can’t allow a woman to distract him again—not even a sweet and charming lass who desperately needs his help.
THIS HIGHLAND LAIRD WILL FIND A WAY TO HAVE BOTH.When Darach rescued Caitlin MacInnes from the vile Laird Fraser, she vowed to never let men or misery rule her life again. She has a plan, and it involves leaving Darach and the MacKenzie clan no matter how safe and happy she feels. But when Laird Fraser shows up to claim what’s rightfully his, it’s too late. Darach will have to use all his brawn and brains to protect Caitlin—even if it means losing his heart.
I'm thrilled to say that HIGHLAND PROMISE has received some great reviews. If you haven't read the FIRST book in the series, download the free book until Monday night. After that it's just 99 cents!
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Thanks for reading, everyone—have a great day!! And I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!
Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.
She and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab named Jasper.
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