The men were tired, hungry and wanted to see their families. Instead of being inside the wall, the women, children and most of the guards were standing on the crest watching something in the meadow. Kevin almost didn’t go see what it was, but when his men headed over and the crowd laughed, it piqued his curiosity.
As soon as he swung down off his horse, Katie ran to him. “You are not going to believe this!” She grabbed his arm and was practically dragging him when he came to a sudden halt.
There she was. The horse was as big as he remembered and the woman was even more beautiful. She was wearing the same skirt with her purple tunic, belt and medallion. The only thing different was the white ruffled nightcap on her head and this time she carried no bow and arrows.
The woman slid off the horse and lay down in the field. The horse circled her once and then sidestepped until he was as close as he could get without stepping on her. Then the stallion nudged her side with his head. She didn’t move a muscle, so he nudged her again. Suddenly, she sprang up, patted his nose and ran away. The crowd roared.
It was the horse’s turn. He got down on all fours, laid down and rolled over on his back until his hooves were sticking up in the air. Again, the crowd roared.
“The horse showed up two days ago,” Katie said, watching the woman walk over to the horse. The woman took her bare foot and gently nudged the side of the horse, but the horse didn’t move and half the crowd was bent over with laughter. Again, the woman nudged the horse and this time the horse rolled away from her until he was on his side. The woman gently patted his neck, sat down on his side and then stretched out. She folded her arms and closed her eyes. The horse closed his eyes as well and they both looked like they were asleep.
Kevin was worried. “The horse cannot help but hurt her this time.”
“I have seen her do this twice before. Just watch.” said Katie.
The horse moved so slowly, it was a thing of beauty. He let the woman sit up, step off and move away before he rolled on his stomach and got his legs under him. Then he waited until she grabbed his mane and swung up on his back. As soon as they were up and trotting again, she moved to stand on his back, and when he stopped in the middle of the meadow, she slowly curtsied. The crowd cheered.
“How did you find her and what do I do now? I am married.”
Katie was surprised Anna’s ruffled nightcap hadn’t given it away. She put her hands on her hips and watched the side of his face. “‘Tis a sorry day when a MacGreagor does not recognize his own wife.”
His mouth dropped and he nearly went weak in the knees. He couldn’t take his eyes off her before, but now he saw her as his wife and she was even more magnificent.
“The horse swam the moat and nearly toppled the wall to get to her,” said Katie, “I have never seen anyone so happy to see a horse. I tell you Kevin, she rides like the wind and gave her guards quite a scare the first time she outran them.”
Anna slid down off the horse and started to walk away. The horse followed and began to nudge her back just as it had the first time Kevin saw her.
Katie continued, “We also have a visitor. The same morning the horse showed up, the guards found Anna’s friend, Harold, sleeping in the courtyard. He is the one who told us Stoneham was dead, her mother was free and you were looking for Rachel.”
“How did he get in?”
“No one knows and he is not telling, no matter how many of your men glare at him. He came to bring her belongings. Anna probably knows how he got in. In fact, it might take a lifetime to learn everything Anna knows and we must be grateful our mother taught us to speak English. Shall I get her attention?”
“She knows I am here. She shot an arrow between my legs, remember, and I was certain she had not noticed me then.”
Katie laughed, “She said she wasn’t aiming that low.”
He looked at his sister finally. “Do you mean she remembered me?”
“When you tried to find her that day, she hid in the forest to get a good look at your face. Then the first morning she was here, she recognized you.”
“I looked everywhere for her that day and each time I went back.”
“She tried to find you too...when her father finally let her out. Kevin, you have no idea how happy you made her when you told her about the lass on the horse.”
“I thought she would hate me forever.” He watched Anna sit down and then carefully turn until she was lying face up on the horse’s back. His smile widened even more when she finished her trick and the horse brought her to him.
“Threcher stop,” she said not two feet from him. Her eyes were dancing and she nearly forgot her manners until the horse started pawing the ground. “Oh, do forgive me. Threcher, this is my husband. You will obey him as you do me.” The horse nodded, curled a leg back, bowed and then stood back up.
“He might not let you touch me,” she warned, when Kevin moved closer. “He will need to get used to you first. In case you have not noticed, he is a very powerful horse. I have had him since the day he was born and sometimes I think he understands English. Tell me, are my mother and sister well? Did you find Rachel?”
She was so beautiful up close he could hardly think and Katie had to nudge him to get him to answer. “Aye, are you getting down off that horse?”
They had a very large audience, but neither of them seemed to notice. “That depends.”
He spread his legs apart and folded his arms, “On what?”
“I have not yet had a wedding feast and I wondered if that could be arranged.”
“It could. Is there anything else?”
“And what might that be?”
She grinned and once more stood up on the horse’s back. With her eyes closed, she began to turn and fall so she would land on her back in his arms. “You!”
It was the first time she had been kissed and she hardly knew what to expect, but the minute he set her down, put his strong arms around her and touched his lips to hers, she was completely lost in the wonder of it.
He didn’t hear the crowd cheering or feel his sister pat his arm before she walked away. All he could think about was how good she felt in his arms. He didn’t even notice when the horse trotted off to graze and the crowd left.
He kissed her, ravished her neck, lifted her into his arms, swung her around and kissed her again. Then he remembered he meant to bathe in the loch before he saw her.
When he finally set her down, she looked into his eyes. “Did you kill him?”
“Nay, the King of England killed him.”
She was astounded and couldn’t quite take it in. Finally, she asked, “Did you tell him what I said?”
“Aye, right before he died.”
“Good.” She took his hand and walked with him toward the drawbridge.
He let go of her hand and put his arm around her instead. “Should we put your horse in the stable?”
“I doubt anyone can.”
“Are you challenging us?”
“Not at all, I am protecting our property. You would not like knowing what happened to the last stable someone tried to put him in.”