Within Golden Bands Out Takes

It becomes necessary in the life of any book that certain scenes must be cut to improve the story. Here is one of my favorite scenes from Within Golden Bands, the beginning of Kieran and Bonny’s honeymoon in Albuquerque:

Within Golden Bands Out Takes

Chapter One – Scene One – Let the Honeymoon Begin

Albuquerque, New Mexico

What a way to begin a honeymoon.Pixabay-woman-1563732_1280

Dehydrated and exhausted, Bonny MacDonell allowed herself to slide into a drowsy state of semi-alertness, her hand gripped tightly by Kieran. Her husband hovered over her the way an eagle hovers over its nest. Outside the little room, the clamor of the Presbyterian Hospital emergency room rose and ebbed with voices, phones, footsteps, and every now and then, a cry. The semi-hard surface of the gurney was preferable to the continual motion of the last twenty-four hours.

Bonny had entered the Albuquerque Sunport too weak to stand without Kieran’s support, exhausted from constant nausea all the way from Scotland. Liquid gratitude puddled in her eyes when Dan and Kari suggested the hospital as their first stop. What a relief to give herself over to the love and support of the MacDowells, best friends since childhood and adopted family since her parents’ deaths.

Metal rings clinked against each other, and she forced herself into wakefulness as Dr. Mason slid the curtain back and entered the small room. His brown eyes were kind as he smiled, balanced the chart on the side rail of the gurney, and riffled through the papers. “Mrs. MacDonell, I checked your old records. Dr. Carson had good reason to say the possibility of pregnancy was slim due to the advanced stage of your endometriosis, but you proved him wrong.” He pulled the blankets down, and cool hands moved over her abdomen, applying pressure here and there. “Any idea how long ago it might have happened?”

Endometriosis. Fingers of fear snaked through her veins at the sound of the word.

Oblivious to how her old nemesis held the power to turn this dream to a nightmare, Kieran’s sapphire eyes lit up like a child with his first Christmas tree. “We’ve only been married for six weeks.”

Dr. Mason smiled. “You can’t imagine how rare an answer like that is these days.”

“Well, it’s true for us.” Her gallant, Scottish knight’s defensive tone sent flutters through Bonny in spite of the nausea.

“But …” A kaleidoscope of emotions, fear above all else, whirled through her mind as she glanced back at the doctor. The only anchor to reality was the weight of Kieran’s big hand on her shoulder.

“It’s early, to be sure, but some women begin morning sickness right away. I’ll prescribe medication for nausea. It may settle down a little now that you’re on solid ground. I suggest you follow up with an obstetrician in two or three weeks. An ultrasound to assess the role of scarring and disease in this pregnancy is critical.” Dr. Mason reached across her to shake Kieran’s hand, then patted her shoulder. “The nurse will bring your discharge papers as soon as the IV finishes. Congratulations.”

Kieran’s eyes danced with undisguised delight while why … how … what whirled through Bonny’s mind in a dizzying flurry along with the word baby.

He leaned close, elbows on either side of her pillow as his forehead came to rest on hers. “So much for Dr. Carson’s dire predictions. Six weeks. You must have gotten pregnant on our wedding night, mo gràdh. You’ll do nothing but rest and care for yourself and our wee bairn.”

My darling. The Gaelic endearment coupled with his tender smile and a sweet reference to an experience so far from her reality that it made her mind spin. “Kieran, I can’t …”

“God doesn’t listen to doctors, love.”

God. When was the last time she prayed for healing? Resigned to Dr. Carson’s diagnosis, Bonny never allowed herself to dream of bearing Kieran’s child. His cheek, scratchy under her hand, drew her attention back to her new husband. At the sight of such complete joy, the bubble of gratitude in her chest threatened to burst. “If your smile gets any wider, your face will split.”

The nurse entered, handing Kieran papers to sign while she discontinued the IV. Bonny turned away at the painful memory of telling her then-fiancé, Adam, that Dr. Carson’s surgical procedure was ineffective, making children impossible. Unbounded darkness eclipsed her world in disappointment and incompleteness from then on. Worse was the day her hard-confessed revelation crushed Kieran’s hopes of a family. Now, the sunshine of his delight bathed the small room in beauty.

The door closed behind the nurse, and Kieran reached for her clothes. Bonny allowed him to steady her as she sat up to dress, raising her arms as he held her sweater. When her head slipped through, his warm, soft lips settled on hers and heightened the dizziness of an upright position.

She shut her eyes and breathed deep as a wave of nausea washed over her again. The sooner they left the antiseptic odor of the ER behind, the better. “Let’s only tell Kari and Dan, at least for now. I’ll call Dr. Carson since we’re here and get his opinion. He said I would never carry a successful pregnancy. Kieran, I’m afraid. Too much can go wrong.”

“Careful. Let me help.” Kieran’s grip gave security but failed to halt the swaying sensation when Bonny bent to put on her shoes. “It’s up to you whether we tell anyone now or not. You’re twisting your hair in knots. Don’t be afraid to accept a miracle. We’ll choose to trust, not fear.”

“I’ll try. Best not to tell your parents yet. It will make a great Christmas present when we get home if nothing goes wrong. By then, I’ll be a little further along. We can’t hide it from Kari and Dan. They’ll guess something’s up when I’m this sick, but you have a huge grin plastered on your face. You need to take this seriously. Things that appear too good to be true usually are, and I’m scared.”

Wheesht, I have a right to smile. My new wife is carrying our child, and you’re both miracles. Don’t give in to fear, Mrs. MacDonell. We’ll face them if they become reality, not borrow trouble.”

Don’t be afraid. Perhaps Kieran was right. Things changed.

A brisk knock signaled the nurse’s return with a wheelchair. Brakes set, Kieran half-lifted Bonny in and planted a firm kiss on her lips in the process.

“Let’s get you out of here so you can celebrate.” They wheeled through the double doors and into the hubbub of the waiting room.

The hospital atmosphere took on a dreamy quality. They were going to tell her best friends a miracle had taken place. Perhaps trust might come easier now with Kieran at her side.


Kari MacDowell, Bonny’s best friend since they were fifteen years old, stood and moved toward her as she and Kieran entered the crowded lobby. Kari’s sleek black ponytail swayed as she walked. Blue eyes glittered under the sharp contrast of ebony lashes against alabaster skin sprinkled with tiny freckles. Her tightly pressed lips revealed concern and surprise. “Dan went for the car. That has to be one of the shortest emergency room visits on record. You must not be too sick.”

“Not too.” Kieran winked and headed for a water fountain. “Ach, New Mexico air makes me thirsty.”

Kari bent and clasped Bonny’s hand. “I’ve never seen anyone get such rapid attention just on their husband’s insistence. How did he do it?”

“You don’t know my husband very well. Did you notice how much stronger his accent got? Works every time, even in Scotland. If blue eyes and charisma don’t melt them, the imposing size and Scottish burr will. It’s ten times more effective if he’s wearing a kilt. And believe me, my man knows when to turn on the charm. I’ll give you all the details in the car.”

After planes, airports, and hospitals, the clear New Mexico air smelled wonderful. Kieran assisted Bonny into the backseat of Dan’s Suburban and climbed in after her. She nestled into the delicious warmth of his arms.

Kari buckled her seatbelt and turned around. “You delayed your honeymoon by six weeks for Kieran to recover after an insane poacher tries to kill him, and now you have a stomach bug? Are you two jinxed?”

Kieran’s chest expanded under her cheek so far, Bonny expected buttons to pop off his shirt any moment, but he remained silent. The choking sensation in her throat threatened to prevent her from saying the words aloud. “I … I’m pregnant. Six weeks.”

“Whoot!” Dan pounded one hand on the steering wheel. “I guess doctors don’t know everything.”

Kari reached back for her hand. “Bonny, our babies will only be six months apart. It sure didn’t take you long.”

“We’ve waited so long for everything. I guess God decided to bless us all at once.”

With hands on her rounded abdomen, Kari smiled as Dan merged onto northbound I-25. “We have news too. We’re having twins.”

“Twins! If I wasn’t totally out of it, I might have noticed how big you’ve gotten. But shouldn’t they have discovered that sooner?”

Kari’s face reddened. We knew at your wedding but waited to tell you. It was your special time.”

Dan reached over and patted his wife’s expanding midsection. “My little beach ball.”

Bonny laughed at the thought of Dan, combat-hardened Marine, sheriff’s deputy, and her best friend since the church nursery as a father. She nestled deeper into Kieran’s arms. The strong, solid bond eased the sensation of floating in a dream. “Don’t tell anyone. After all my problems, we plan to be cautious. I’ll see Dr. Carson while we’re here.”

Dan’s blue eyes twinkled in the rearview mirror as he took the ramp from I-25 toward I-40 east. “Sure, Bon. It sounds as if you’ll have a quiet honeymoon, Kieran, old buddy. You and I might need to go fishing for a few days while these two talk babies.”

“We could use little downtime.” His chest vibrated with baritone resonance under her cheek. “Our lives have been a wee bit out of control, in case you hadn’t noticed. I can think of no better way to spend our honeymoon.”

God was giving her new husband a second chance for the family he longed for. He’s shown her the grave in the Fort William kirkyard where his infant son Liam rested in Bronwyn’s arms, both dead from complications of childbirth. The depression caused by his first wife’s death had ceased, but sadness lingered in the farmhouse where her touch remained in every room.

Kieran’s smile of adoration set Bonny’s heart kathumping in a rapid rhythm. One calloused thumb stroked her cheek, and he planted a warm kiss on her forehead. The scent of his woodsy, Scottish cologne didn’t affect her stomach, and she inhaled again. He was hers. They were a family. God was good.

The majestic and rugged Sandia Peak, rising over 10,000 feet east of the city, caught Bonny’s eye. Painted in brilliant shades of pink by the afternoon sun, these were called the watermelon mountains. Recollections of her childhood home on the other side of the mountain added to her flood of emotions. The loneliness of living there after the death of her parents and a broken engagement sent her to Scotland—and Kieran. Hot tear swelled up. This trip would decide whether they kept the house or not. Sharp pain stabbed deep in her heart at the idea of selling her childhood home.

“What is it, love?” Kieran bent forward, his face close.

My heart’s in the highlands … The Robert Burns poem echoed in her mind, and she pointed. The Scottish sheep farmer and soon-to-be-pastor holding her in his arms was now her life, but the sensation overwhelmed her, nonetheless. “Home.”

“Do you miss it so much, then?”

“No. I mean I do, but not the way you think. This time you’re here as my husband, and I’m a total mess today. I’m sorry.”

His cobalt eyes clouded to steely gray, and lips thinned to a tense white line as his arms tightened around her. Memories of a sunny day in the hospital garden after the car accident played in her mind. The day she refused his marriage proposal and sent him home to Scotland alone still haunted her. Did he doubt her commitment when their newly conceived child grew beneath the hand he rested on her abdomen?


Some scenes will always remain in my heart as a writer. That doesn’t mean they made it into the book. I love this scene, set at the Owl Cafe, an Albuquerque icon. It brings back the rivalry between Kieran and Bonny’s former fiancé, Adam.

Within Golden Bands Out Takes

Chapter One – Scene Two – Kieran and Adam

Seated on the same side of a booth in the fifties-style Owl Café, Bonny and Kieran fed coins into the tabletop jukebox, selecting oldies while they sniffed the delightful aroma of burgers and fries. Blenders whirred in the background, mixing the famous shakes so thick they required spoons. Bonny’s stomach growled in anticipation. She leaned against Kieran, head on his shoulder, lips a tempting distance from his cheek. “What kept you busy while I was sick upstairs this morning?”

The server appeared with their hamburgers. They offered thanks with clasped hands.

“I worked on a plan to let our neighbors know about the chapel. We’ll invite everyone along Loch Garry and Loch Quoich to the farm for a ceilidh—food, music, and dancing—to introduce my wife and invite them to a Bible study. Those who show an interest will form a core group, able to help once we start worship services.” How those sky-blue eyes twinkled when he talked about the chapel. “Do you think you’ll feel up to a ceilidh before Easter? It’s almost four months away.”

Bonny swallowed a large bite of her burger. “Yum, this tastes good. I should definitely feel better by then. We can ask your parents and our friends to help, and then I don’t have to do everything. It will be nice to meet our neighbors.”

“Aye, there hasn’t been a ceilidh at Stonehaven Farm in years. Now I have the loveliest woman in Scotland as my hostess.” He reached for her milkshake and took a long drink.

“Hey, you wanted Coke. That’s mine.” She grabbed it, gulped, and closed her eyes. “Uh oh … brain freeze.”

Kieran’s big, warm hand came to rest in the middle of her back. “Bonny, you’ll never finish such a huge amount of food. A wee bird eats more than you have in the last few weeks, and now you order a huge burger with green chile and cheese. If you manage it, you’ll be sorry later.”

Bonny shoved her milkshake as far away from him as possible. “We head home in ten days, and I want my first big meal to be one I’ll remember.”

The corners of his eyes crinkled as a teasing smile spread across his lips. “You’ll remember all right. That hamburger would be too large if your appetite were at its best. This is your husband talking—the one who watches you push food around your plate three times a day.”

A too-familiar voice drew her eyes to a couple who seated themselves in a booth a few feet away. Adam. A well-remembered ache settled in her heart as images, good and bad, stormed through her mind. She would never forget her former fiancé arriving with a bouquet of roses and a box of Frontier Restaurant cinnamon rolls the day after her father’s funeral—inadequate consolation for breaking their engagement in favor of Vanessa, a fellow attorney in his office. His callous behavior sent her to Scotland and Kieran. Would he ever be out of her life to stay, or would the memory of the pain he inflicted always linger?

“Bonny?” Kieran’s voice jolted her back to the present.

“I don’t believe it …”


“Look across the aisle and two booths up.”

Kieran’s face grew red. His eyes narrowed. His jaw worked as if he chewed a piece of gristle. She married him, and still he rankled at the sight of Adam Lawson. Sparring knights she had called them, and the best man won. Adam never created the spine-tingling ecstasy the mere thought of Kieran produced.

His scowl was the perfect picture of aggravation and dislike. “I thought we might avoid him for the entire trip.”

“We frequented the same places for too long.” Bonny giggled at his irritation. “Kieran, it would be rude to walk past without a word.”

“Is there another way out?” He chomped the last of his burger as if he were grinding Adam to pieces.

Bonny placed her hand on top of his. “I doubt he wants to see us anymore than we want to see him.”

“We could pretend absorption in each other to the point we miss them.”

“We won’t be rude.”

Kieran drew his hand out from under hers and settled his arm around her shoulders.

Maybe she could tease him into realizing how ridiculous his continued jealousy toward Adam was. “Hmm, now that I think about it, I want to experience the expression his face. After all the times he called you Scotsman as if it were a disease, we should make him squirm a little.”

“Rubbing it in does have appeal.” His eyes widened.

“What an un-pastor-like answer, Kieran MacDonell. I was kidding, silly.”

“I’m only human.” His smile faded. “It rubs me the wrong way to think of Adam Lawson near you. Isn’t the blonde a little young?”

“Says the man who married a woman ten years his junior.” Bonny gave his shoulder a playful nudge. “She’s his sister, Christy. A sweet girl.”

Kieran loaded the leftovers into a to-go box, picked up the bill, stood, and guided her toward the door. When Adam saw them, his eyes widened. “Come on, we can do this,” Kieran said in a gruff whisper.”

She swallowed hard. “Hello, Adam. Christy.” Keep walking Bonny. Just keep walking.

“Bonny!” Christy, perky as ever, jumped up and ensnared her in a hug.

Adam nodded. “Bonny. Kieran. You look well.”

Bonny recognized his courteous I-can’t-stand-you-but-I’ll-act-nice-anyway tone all too well. Kieran’s arm tightened around her waist.

“Thanks. So do you.”

Bonny took a step forward, but Christy grabbed her hand. “How long are you here?”

No stranger to her brother’s faults, Kari had informed Bonny that Christy understood why she refused his proposal.

“Ten more days. Three weeks altogether.” Kieran pressed harder on her back, but Christy’s grip on her hand made it difficult for Bonny to comply.

“Kari showed me a beautiful photo of your farm.”

“Yes, it’s lovely.” Bonny’s stomach rumbled in protest of the hamburger. The restaurant was uncomfortably warm.

“We should go. My wife needs her rest,” Kieran said, pressing on her back again.

But the room spun, and Bonny’s vision narrowed to a dark tunnel. She reached for Kieran’s hand.

“She’s never fainted before.” The familiar voice was distant and muffled.

Someone patted her hand.

“She’s never been pregnant before.” Kieran’s voice penetrated the murky mist swirling in her head.

Her lips moved, but no sound came out. She forced her eyes open to a blur. The Owl Café. Adam and Christy.

“Bonny, love …” Kieran’s calloused fingers stroked her cheek.

“What … what happened?”

“You fainted. You’ve been out for at least five minutes.”

She attempted to push to a sitting position in the booth where she lay, but her arms collapsed. Kieran caught her and helped raise her upright.

“May I have a … a sip of water?”

Christy held the glass, and the cool liquid revived her a little.

“Congratulations, Bon.” Adam’s voice trembled. When their eyes met, he looked away. “You always wanted children.”

“When did you get married?” Christy asked.

Christy, please, I want to go home. Her one-time love for Adam had turned to pity. His familiar, chocolate-brown eyes looked sad and vacant.

“As of today, seven and a half weeks,” Kieran answered without looking up. “Shall I carry you, hen?”

“No. That won’t be necessary.”

Kieran helped her to her feet, his arm tight around her waist. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

Christy hugged her again. “Wow, congratulations. How far along are you?”

Oh, Christy, don’t do this.

“About seven and a half weeks.” Kieran’s tone held the same pride and purpose evident when he spoke of his family’s ancient heritage. His lips lifted in a smile.

Adam looked away, jaw working in a nervous twitch. His ego would suffer enough face-to-face with his rival’s victory in both their marriage and her pregnancy.

“Excuse us. I should get her home.” Kieran supported, and they headed for the door at last.

“Are you all right, mo chridhe?” My heart’s desire. His words and tone caressed her as he guided her to the parking lot.

“Did you see his eyes, Kieran? I’m sorry for him.” When she stepped into the Jeep, a single drop of saltwater trickled down her cheek, in spite of her effort to hold it back.

Kieran leaned in, his thumb caressing her cheek. “Surely you’re not crying about Adam?”

“He hurts, Kieran. It’s tough for a man who hates to lose to realize you not only won my love, I’m having your child.”

“I still don’t like him.” He shut her car door, walked to the driver’s side, and reached for her hand after he got in and closed the door.

“The absurd rivalry between you two should be over. You behaved the same ridiculous way when I was in the hospital, and you did your best to one-up the other.”

Jaw clenched, Kieran started the Jeep, pulled his phone out, made a music selection, and headed for the street. “Try to relax.”

She leaned back and shut her eyes. The soft, sweet strains of “The Rosebud of Allenvale” evoked vivid memories of the night he first said he loved her and their first waltz as man and wife. “Thank you.”

As Kieran focused on the traffic and merged onto I-40, Bonny stared at houses and trees for fifteen miles, while her new husband remained silent. When they exited the Interstate and headed up the winding and wooded North 14, he cleared his throat and rested his hand on the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, love. I shouldn’t have let it irritate me when Adam said you’d never fainted before. My ring is on your finger, and you carry our wee bairn. We were bound to run into him at some point. It’s better to get it over with now.”

He lowered his hand, but she caught it and held it tight. “Yes, I suppose. The kilt always weighed heavily in your favor, you know.”

“Mrs. MacDonell, you just fainted. It’s too soon to flirt.” His lips twitched as he tried to hide his smile with a gruff tone of voice.

“I’m not flirting. No matter how much you dislike him, he means nothing anymore.”

Kieran sighed. “It’s foolish, but I wish you had never loved another man but me.”

“Thank you.”

“For what?” His eyes searched hers for an instant before he looked back at the road.

“You’re the embodiment of all my dreams and the answer to my most fervent prayers. No one could hold my heart as gently as you.”

The soft touch of a finger on her cheek drew her eyes back to his. “We should keep your house. I love the trees, the weather, and the opportunity to be near your friends.”

“I hoped you’d decide to keep it.” Bonny kissed the back of his hand.

“It’s not the honeymoon we planned, but perhaps it’s what a honeymoon should be, to seek what God wants for our future.” His voice softened, husky with emotion.

His eagerness was reminiscent of his unexpected arrival at her door, all the way from Scotland after she refused Adam’s proposal. “Kieran MacDonell, I could not have a better husband.”

Bonny leaned back and closed her eyes. Frequent visits would be nice, but the tree-lined loch and old granite house, the home she and Kieran would make with their child had supplanted New Mexico in her heart.


This scene that I cut from Within Golden Bands is just typical New Mexico romance, as Bonny and Kieran experience all the beauty and wonder of Christmas when you’re in love.

Within Golden Bands Out Takes

Chapter One – Scene Three – The Old Town Christmas Stroll

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The evening was warm for December, even for Albuquerque.

Kieran scrunched sideways in the backseat of Dan’s Suburban so Bonny could lean against him as they headed to the Old Town Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Stroll. “Forty-five degrees in December. My parents would never believe it.”

“We could sightsee more if I wasn’t sick all the time.” Bonny burrowed deeper into his arms, a sure sign it wasn’t a complaint. “After the baby is born, we should come back so I can show you everything when I feel better. You’ll love Old Town. The Christmas Stroll is every bit as beautiful as on Christmas Eve.”

“New Mexico is the best place in the world at Christmas.” Kari turned in the front seat to face them. “You’ve only gone a few places, in spite of little hiking and no horseback riding. Did you enjoy Santa Fe, Kieran?”

“It was fun. The Shed has great food, though Bonny wasn’t hungry. The drive up North 14 is spectacular, and Madrid is one of the more unique towns I’ve ever seen.”

Dan laughed. “I think eclectic is the word you’re looking for.”

Kari thumped him on the shoulder. “What did Dr. Carson say about your nausea and weight loss, Bonny?”

“He had a name for it, hyperemesis gravidarum, meaning I lose my lunch so much I’m losing weight. More medication. Ugh. Some women end up hospitalized. But hopefully, I’ll improve. I hate to spend most of our honeymoon sick. The doctor’s concerned about the scar tissue and wants an ultrasound when we get home to assess any danger. Kieran called and set it up for right after New Year’s.”

The streetlights caught the gleam in his wife’s eyes and her slight smile begged for a kiss. Kieran drew her closer, but if he waited until they were home he could do it right. They passed the hospital where he had once prayed for her to regain consciousness and live to marry him. The months while she healed, and decided between him and Adam, were a nightmare. Now, it all seemed insignificant.

A thrill of excitement and anticipation throbbed in his heart, palpable in her jittering knees, turning head, and obvious eagerness to share this special time with him.

“You’ll love this, Kieran. The Christmas tree, the luminarias, dinner at La Placita, and a stroll around the plaza. There’s nothing better. Hurry, Dan. We don’t want to be late.”

“From the sound of it, I’ll be lucky to get you on a plane back to Scotland.” Kieran placed a finger under Bonny’s chin, turned her head, and searched her eyes for a response. Did she regret the permanence of her move to Scotland?

“I’m ready. It’s wonderful to have you all to myself, but I can’t wait to tell your parents about the baby. Besides, I need to learn to be a sheep farmer’s wife before I have to juggle farm duties with motherhood.” The quick response eased his concern a little.

Dan pulled into a parking space and stopped. Kieran stepped out first, offered Bonny his hand, and tucked her arm through his. “Lead the way, Mrs. MacDonell.”

“Hmm, smell the pinon smoke.” Dan and Kari fell in behind them. “Have you explained luminarias, carrot-top?” Dan teased.

“I’m a married lady, Danny-boy. Haven’t I outgrown my childhood nickname. And yes, I did.”

“Explained them?” Kieran looked back, laughing. “This determined woman made them in Beauly last Christmas at my parents’ house. I shoveled snow for her to set them out.” With her head against his arm, his heart expanded in gratitude. He sniffed the air, pungent with a plethora of unfamiliar odors. “People, lights, luminarias, music. I see why your eyes light up when you talk about it.”

“Honey, there’s the Christmas tree.” Bonny pointed and tugged on his arm. “Come on.” As Bonny dragged him through the crowd, the tree burst into brilliance as white lights revealed red and white ornaments of giant proportions.

“It’s huge.” Kieran tilted his head back. “They really are entire trees put together to form one big tree. It’s more than two stories tall. How many trees do they use?”

“A hundred and fifty,” Bonny said proudly.

Kari smiled when she and Dan walked up. “You can close your mouth now, Kieran. Did she describe it well?”

“Yes, but I couldn’t imagine it.” His eyes flitted from one unfamiliar sight to another. The warm, golden radiance of the luminarias trailed along sidewalks, rooftops, and porch rails. The flickering lights bestowed a simple beauty on the ancient adobe buildings. “I’m amazed how something as simple as hundreds of small paper sacks with sand in the bottom and candles inside can produce such beauty.”

Bonny’s snaps hadn’t done justice to San Felipe de Neri, the old Catholic Church across the crowded street, so different from the stone cathedrals of his homeland. For more than 300 years, its majestic simplicity of adobe and white-painted wood had graced the north side of the plaza. In spite of throngs of people in the narrow blocked-off streets, the atmosphere was serene. Christmas songs emanated from the bandstand with a distinctive beat, played on simple instruments, guitars, violins, and trumpets. “Tell me again what they call the music.”

Mariachi.” She tugged him behind her, closer to the tree. “Take our picture, Dan. We need to send photos to Kieran’s parents. Isn’t it beautiful, honey?”

He nodded, filled with memories of last year, when they performed “Silent Night” in Gaelic on Christmas Eve in Scotland. The unfamiliar Spanish was every bit as beautiful. Like tree lights illuminated with the flick of a switch, the answer to a question long agonized over became clear. Bonny refused his proposal and sent him home to Scotland because she craved the familiarity of home while she healed. Now, they stood amidst sights, sounds, and aromas as common to her as they were curious to him. The rugged mountains where she lived, chili, adobe, and the rustic wooden spires of the church meant to her what sheep, heathered hills, castles, and glacier-carved lochs were to him. Home. Given time, she had chosen to leave it all—for him.

His throat tightened and he pulled her into his arms despite the crowds. “You left all you’ve ever known to marry me. For the first time, I fathom your sacrifice—why you had to be so certain.”

With a soft moan, her arms slid around his neck and pulled him down to where her sweet, warm lips melded with his. “I gained much more than I gave up. You are my home now.”

Kari and Dan returned from the other side of the tree. Ever-sensitive Kari touched Bonny’s shoulder. “Dan and I will go on to La Placita. It looks as if you need a moment alone.”

Bonny’s eyes glimmered as bright as the lights on the tree. “Kieran just had a revelation. We’re fine.”

Arm in arm they strolled through the plaza, past the wooden bandstand festooned with white lights and red bows, where a group of carolers had replaced the mariachis. The culture surrounding them was as strange to him as Hogmanay and haggis were to her. Was he brave enough to do what this incredible woman had done?

The emotions surging through him were not the pride of victory over Adam, but humility because she chose him. He drew her out of the crowd, into the circle of light under an old-fashioned lamppost, gazing into eyes made greener by the dark forest hue of her coat.

“Kieran?” Cold fingers caressed his cheek. He caught her hand and massaged it. “What does that little smile mean?”

The crowds disappeared and he knelt, grasping the hand where his grandmother’s ruby sparkled amid the diamonds of her wedding band. “I’m the happiest man on earth. I will cherish and protect the gift of your love, mo chridhe, and never take it for granted.”

Only four more days until they boarded a plane for Scotland. Bonny had called it home, and her worries about the baby appeared to have given way to excitement. He almost skipped across the street to the luminaria-festooned restaurant.


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