Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

Mary stared hard at her husband. The words rattled around her brain and made a mystery even more muddling.

“How can you be sure, Lennox? How can you know?” she asked, finally.

“I have been unhappy for the last few days, maybe as much as a week, about the amount of laudanum, Mama persuaded Wilson to offer you and I have been substituting a lesser preparation and then a cordial with no sleeping draught at all,” Lennox said. Mary heard the words with little understanding.

“What business has Lady Grizel telling such a distinguished physician how to minister to his patients?” she said at last. The idea forming in her mind lowered her spirits and scared her equally.

“What business indeed? However, it seems my mama and Doctor Wilson are both known to one Hazeldean, a moneylender. This individual keeps his premises in the Grassmarket.”  Lennox paused and Mary realised the servants had all melted away.

She lifted a shaky hand and brushed back her hair. Its thick mass felt matted and uncomfortable. Why did the Grassmarket cause icy shivers? Surely her earlier memory was of a shadow in woods?. Nausea rose in her throat and she sank onto a chair.

“The Grassmarket?” she questioned. “I sometimes go to visit my school friend in the Lawnmarket. Mistress Bailey, she is now.”

“Indeed, you do, my love,” Lennox was watching her closely. “And do you remember your last visit there?”

Mary sought his loving glance and tried to hold it, but the world went black once more and she slid to the floor.

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.


Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

Laudanum is a dangerous preparation to give too often.

Mary turned Lennox’s words over in her head as they waited for Agnes and Malcolm to complete their search of the house. Where had Lady Grizel gone and why so abruptly when Lennox’s wounds had not yet been seen to be without threat?

“Nothing, Malcolm?” Lennox asked the elderly retainer when he came paiching up the basement stairs. “We must hope Agnes has more luck.” Mary heard the strain in her husband’s voice and it only heightened her feeling of being on the edge of a discovery. What had Lennox found when he and Duff went chasing back out into the gloomy streets?

She looked through the side panel beside the huge front door and could make out the torches burning in their sconces by the edge of the platt, but nothing beyond. They might live in the most modern of buildings, but there was still more than enough untamed wilderness around.

“Sorry, my lord, I canna find Lady Grizel. Her fur-lined cloak is gone frae the bedroom and ane o’ the heavy pairs o bits.” Agnes rushed the words out as if they hurt her to say. She would have sunk onto a chair, Mary was sure, if her situation did not forbid it. Mary took the woman by her arm and led her to one of the hall chairs.

“Sit down, Agnes, you look ready to drop and we will have need of everyone if we launch a search.”

“Oh no, my lady…”

“Please, Agnes, just do as I suggest,” Mary said kindly. Didn’t she know all too well what it felt like to be shocked beyond bearing?

“Searches will not be necessary,” Lennox said grimly. “I know where Mama will have gone.”


BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

She’s like a midge in the summer gloaming, Mary thought, as her mama-in-law fidgeted around her. But she knew that this time she had to ignore her veiled threats and dark predictions. They had too much of a habit of coming true.

The realisation stilled her as she knelt above her struggling lord. It tore at the mists of memory hanging in her mind and through the rents she began to grasp meaning from those glimpses she’d been having throughout the day. Lady Grizel was at the core of this debacle somewhere. The fleeing shadow Mary remembered from seeing another in the gardens was connected with her.

“Malcolm,” Lady Grizel said peremptorily, “Send for Doctor Wilson. Her ladyship is in need of some of his medicine.”

That brought Mary to her senses and she exchanged glances with Lennox. She saw flashes of fire spark in his glorious eyes and knew he had come onto her side.

“No, Mama, Doctor Wilson is not required to attend Mary. It would be a good idea if Mrs Daiches came up from her kitchen with hot water and cleaned my cuts.”

“Lennox, how dare you offer an opinion on the health of the household’s women,” Lady Grizel said, not prepared to give up without a fight.

“Because I am sure my wife is not in need of more sedation. Laudanum is, to my thinking a dangerous preparation to give too often,” Lennox replied, and Mary recognised the tone of authority he used when he would not be thwarted. She rose from her kneeling position and turned towards Alfie.

“Alfie, my little love, why don’t you take Donal and go out to the mews to find Red Will. Tell him Duff needs his help and he’s to come to the house, please.” Mary smiled at her eldest. She needed to know who had defied his papa’s orders and driven him in from the country. In the meantime, it would still the panic over Lennox and Duff she knew he must be feeling, if he had a job to undertake.

She helped Malcolm ease Lennox off the tiles and into a chair with strong wooden arms. Mrs Daiches and one of the maids arrived with jugs of hot water and clean cloths. It was busy and only once they were sure Lennox had no grit or tiny shards of glass in his face, did she turn back to Lady Grizel.

Mary gazed at an empty hall.