Kilgannon. Home. There were times I'd thought I'd never see it again. The air was cold this winter morning, and the sun glinted off the water, turning it from sapphire to silver. Above us the mountains loomed deep blue against the pale sky; white clouds scudded overhead. And the bare branches of the trees reminded me that this was the season of death. So much death.
All those months, when I had dreamed of coming home, I'd assumed we would all be together. If we were wise, we would visit those who were still here, and the grave, and then we'd leave, away in the dark like the criminals we'd become. I glanced at the blond man standing so quietly next to me, then gripped the rail of the Mary Rose
and watched us turn into the inner loch. And a few moments later, as we sailed around the headland, there it was, the most beautiful home on earth. The dark stones rose into the sky, the roof of the keep pointing at the clouds. The gulls overhead called their welcome to us. Kilgannon. Home.
It was the same and I sighed with relief. There was our room, there the parapet where I'd watched so many sunsets. And there, in the meadow beyond the castle itself, was the knoll where Alex had given the prizes, and where I had welcomed him home. And in front of us now, the dock where we had welcomed the MacDonald to change our lives. Next to me the boys bounced impatiently and I smiled at their eagerness as I took a deep breath. Nowhere else on earth smelled like Kilgannon. The sea met the mountains and their scents mixed with the fragrance of roses. Roses. Impossible, but there it was. Kilgannon smelled like heaven. I turned to look over the boys' heads, to the other side of the loch, where the grave was, and I sighed. It would be, I knew, the first place we'd visit.
"Home," I said.
"It seems so strange without him," said Matthew quietly, following my gaze. "How can it be home if he's no' here?"
"He is here," I said softly, turning to him as he towered over me, his handsome face drawn. "He is here, Matthew," I said again.
Next to me, Ian nodded. "It is home," he said and looked up at me. I smiled and put my hand on his shoulder.
"And I'm glad to be here," said Jamie, his voice bright.
"So am I," said the blond man next to me, his voice full of emotion. When I turned to him, he gave me a weary smile and I patted his arm, knowing he felt the empty space next to us.
I had imagined that Kilgannon would be deserted, that all the people would be gone, but the hills were dotted with tartan-clad figures running toward the loch, and on the dock a small group waved. Despite my best efforts, I felt tears fall as the first lonely strains of "MacGannon's Return" came over the water to us.
I closed my eyes for just a moment. And remembered.
Excerpted from The Wild Rose of Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens. Copyright © 1999 by Kathleen Givens. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.