In Due Time
Book 4.5 of Morna's Legacy Series
Mitchell Family Estate—Lake Placid, New York
I'm not saying I didn't question my sanity the moment I'd relented to Grace's request that I take a trip with Cooper to the present to visit his grandparents, alone, without her.
Still, I told myself repeatedly that I was doing this for Cooper—that he needed it, that it was important for my son to know his grandparents, to see his aunts who were up in arms about our long absence. All of that was true, but what's the saying...from the mouths of babes? It's too true. So many children are too smart for their own good, but my kid really does top them all. The squirt was going on twenty as a toddler and is now six-going-on-forty.
Cooper knew it was more than my willingness to do anything for him, but it wasn't until he told me so outright that I realized just how thoroughly I'd been lying to myself.
We'd just turned onto the mile long, tree-lined driveway leading up to the Mitchell family estate when Cooper leaned forward from his seat in the back and rubbed the side of my arm sympathetically.
"Oh Dad, you must really hate it at the castle."
"What?" His words caught me off-guard. No matter my thoughts on its lack of running water and the questionable hygiene of ninety-eight percent of the population, I'd never complained to anyone about my life in the seventeenth century. Why would I? I had nothing to complain about. I knew how lucky I was to be living such an unbelievably extraordinary life. And I was happy there, but that didn't mean that I wasn't also ready to feel like a normal guy for a day or two.
After arriving in the past, I quickly learned that no amount of time there would turn me into a man like Eoghanan and his clansmen. I couldn't ride a horse all bloody day long without my ass getting sore, and no one was going to convince me to go commando in a kilt while riding. I still couldn't chunk half a tree twenty yards or drink whiskey like it was water and stay standing for very long. Worst of all, I hated kilts—the essential clothing staple among all seventeenth century Scots. They were heavy and cumbersome, and there was something about not having separate leg holes that made me uneasy.
Months of living in the past hadn't changed me from being the modern man I was. Despite the fact that men of that time, or at least the ones I knew, seemed to take quite well to women from modern times, the same could not be said for seventeenth century women. They did not take to me very well at all.
"What?" I shook my head, returning my thoughts to Cooper. "I don't hate it. I was just ready for a break. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a hot shower and maybe watch a football game."
"Dad." The tone of his voice made it clear that he didn't believe a word. "You're taking me to Grandfather's. He really doesn't like you."
"He used to." I frowned involuntarily. I really didn't like the old bag either, but I wished that Cooper hadn't been able to pick up on that.
"Yeah, he used to, but then you and Mom ran away from your wedding and you quit your job."
"Well, it doesn't really matter what he thinks about me, Coop. You know that he loves you, right?"
I could see my son nodding in the rearview mirror, although his face seemed less sure. "Yeah, he kinda does, but not like Bebop."
My father, Bebop as Cooper knew him, loved people more strongly than anyone I'd ever known in my life. "Grandfather couldn't love anybody the way Bebop does."
"Yep. Hey, so Dad, why'd you make me sit in the backseat? Mom's not here."
Once...only once, I'd allowed him to sit in the front seat when Grace wasn't around, and the chewing she'd given me afterward had cured me of any such thoughts of ever letting it happen again.
"It doesn't matter that your mom's not here. It's not safe for you to sit up here yet."
My son was not the sort of boy to pout, not over something as trivial as sitting in the front seat, so when he slumped back in his seat and let out a long sigh, I knew what bothered him.
"Cooper, you know Morna would never ignore you. If she hasn't responded yet, there's a good reason."
Morna, our friendly witch and the one responsible for hurdling us through time, was Cooper's confidant and fellow schemer. Although Morna resided in the present, her magical abilities allowed them to be the strangest pair of cross-century pen pals.
"Yeah, but Dad, it's been four weeks, and she wasn't at her house when we went by. She would have known we were coming. Why wasn't she there? I'm worried about her, Dad."
Cooper didn't need to worry about Morna. By my calculations, the old broad should've been in the ground decades ago, and she was still going strong and no doubt would for some time to come.
"Coop, if I had to guess, she was probably just out tending to the sheep. Don't worry about it. She will respond to you, I'm certain. I have to ask you though—what was in this last letter? I usually help you write them, but this time you went to Bebop. Why?"
Whatever reason he had for keeping me out of the loop made me nervous. It meant he was busy scheming, and he knew he had my father wound so tight around his little fingers he could make him an accomplice in anything.
"Oh that." I could hear Cooper's smile in the tone of his voice. "I guess since I've already sent it and you can't do anything about it, I can tell you now."
"Son...what did you do?"
"Oh, you know, the same thing I've been tryin' to do for months now. I just asked her if she'd found you a lady yet."
Finding me a 'lady' had become Cooper's obsession from the moment Grace married Eoghanan.
"It's not Morna's job to find me a woman, Cooper. I can do that on my own."
Cooper said nothing but made a noise of disagreement. I took his brief silence as opportunity to change the subject.
"So you remember that we can't tell anybody the truth about all of this, right?"
"Of course we can't. They'd think we're totally crazy." Cooper laughed, lifting from his previously slumped state.
All Grace's family knew was that her business trip had been extended indefinitely after she'd fallen in love, gotten married, and now, six months later, was pregnant. They also knew that my father and I had joined her and Cooper in Scotland, but that was the extent of their knowledge as to our new life. They would remain oblivious to the fact that we'd all decided to live happily ever after in the seventeenth century.
A sudden loud honk repeated itself as a red convertible came up on our tail, following so closely I reluctantly increased the car's speed.
"It's Aunt Jane!"
Cooper twisted so that he could wave out the back window to her. She waved her arms at us frantically, taking her hands from the wheel. After she nearly veered into the trees, she gripped the wheel once again and Cooper faced the front, slightly embarrassed.
"I didn't mean to make her do that."
I waved a dismissive hand in his direction. "You didn't make her do anything. She's very good at driving horribly on her own."
Next to Grace, Jane was by far the most likeable Mitchell and really the only one who didn't walk on eggshells around Walter. I had immense respect for her. She was crass, funny, and likeable as hell.
"Come on, Dad. Speed this rig up. I want to see Aunt Jane."
I pushed on the gas to keep Jane from ramming the back of us and scrunched my eyebrows in response to my son. "This rig? Where do you get this stuff?"
Cooper laughed, elated that he was about to be free to enjoy his favorite play toy—his Aunt Jane. "I don't know. It just comes to me, Dad."
We rounded the corner that revealed the Mitchell mansion and reluctantly I placed the car in park. Unbuckling, Cooper flung the car door open and ran to the driver's side of Jane's car, waiting for her to open it to him. As she climbed out of the car, he threw his arms around her legs. "Aunt Jane. To the tree," he pointed down the path beside the house, leading to the extravagant tree house. "We gotta go before Grandfather comes out."
Jane laughed but stayed where she stood, shouting at me from beside her car. "Hey Jeffrey, I'd come say hello, but it sounds to me like this kid's got the right idea. I'll catch you later."
Shaking Cooper loose, she took off in the direction of the path. "Race you, Coop. You better hurry." Turning, as she ran, she yelled back in my direction. "Oh! And, I have some big news to share with all of you later."
I called after her as she ran. "That makes me nervous."
"Oh, it should." Her voice faded as she disappeared around the side of the house.
Squealing with laughter, Cooper took off after her, leaving me to unload the car alone. I exited the vehicle slowly, wanting to take as much time as I possibly could. When I faced the house, only one person waited for me in the driveway.
© Bethany Claire