Gwendolyn & Jerry’s Inn
“I truly don’t mean to bother you, dear. It’s only that Jerry and I are both quite worried about you. I won’t pry, but I must insist that you at least open the door and accept the food and tea I’ve placed out for you, okay? Do you promise that you will come and fetch this once I leave? Please get something into your stomach. I fear I won’t be able to sleep a wink, from worry of you, if you don’t.”
Blaire sighed as she stared at the closed door of the small bedroom, knowing that the old woman wouldn’t leave until she answered her.
Surely she could manage to say the word ‘yes’ plainly enough that Gwendolyn wouldn’t pick up on her accent. Then, she might finally be left alone. And after the decision she’d just made, alone was all that she wanted to be.
Her heart ached, and each time she thought of the decisions she would have to make in the coming days, her nervous stomach heaved uncomfortably. The decision to let Adelle travel back in her place had been the right one in the moment, but every second since, the reality of just how unequipped she was for life in the twenty-first century sunk in a little more. Gwendolyn wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t be sleeping tonight, she was certain.
She steeled herself, cleared her throat and answered Gwendolyn with only one word.
“Oh, good. Just hearing your voice eases my worry some. I’ll leave you alone now, but please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything else. I hope you sleep well. I’ll check on you in the morning.”
“Wonderful,” Blaire whispered the response sarcastically under her breath. She knew the old woman meant well, but she already dreaded how their interaction would go after a night filled with anxiety and bad dreams. Her mood was bound to be even worse by morning than it was now.
She waited until the sound of Gwendolyn’s footsteps were no longer audible before moving toward the door. Moments earlier, she would’ve sworn she had no appetite, but the warm, fragrant smell overwhelmed her as she leaned into the hallway, and her stomach growled instantaneously.
Perhaps eating would help numb the anxiety inside of her. At the very least, it might help take her mind off everything that was worrying her for a few blessed minutes. Returning to the bed, she placed the tray on the covers and looked down at the spread in front of her.
The fresh bread and soup looked delicious enough, but the tea was what really drew her attention. The smell of it alone seemed to calm something inside her. Sighing as the hot steam brushed over her face, she reached for the small spoon beside the tea cup, and gave the warm liquid a gentle stir.
Working to cool the tea with her spoon, Blaire drew the cup to her lips once the steam subsided. It tasted lovely, and as the brew slid down her throat, Blaire noticed her shoulders relax a little. She pushed the food away, eager to continue sipping the tea. To her surprise, all of her worries seemed to drift away as her eyes grew heavy, and sleep closed in fast as she finished the last drop.
* * *
The Night of Ramsay’s Death
“What are ye still doing here, Mary? Ye should have left here long ago. Kip will be worried for ye.”
Mary dismissed Arran with the wave of her hand.
“Kip has been asleep for some time now. The excitement of the day left him exhausted. He willna be worried, for he willna know I’m here. I was home for a while, but I couldna sleep. I finally decided ’twould be a better use of my time to come back to the castle and get an early start on what we are going to feed the hoard of men camped all over the castle come morning.”
Arran yawned and motioned to Mary’s work.
“Is there anything I can do to help ye? I doona think I shall be able to sleep either.”
Shaking her head, Mary turned away from him.
“No. Instructing ye on how to help would only slow me down. Besides, have ye tried to sleep, lad? That yawn of yers makes me believe ye may have an easier time sleeping than ye think.”
He hadn’t. Watching Ramsay meet his death inside their home had caused so much adrenaline to surge through his body that he’d been too rattled to sleep for hours. But perhaps Mary was right. With each passing second, his energy seemed to fade, and he was quickly become more tired than he ever remembered feeling in his life.
“No, but I think ye are right. I shall retire now.”
“Here.” Mary extended a cup of something milky in his direction. “’Tis only a few herbs. They always help me sleep. Drink it as ye walk, and ye will be ready for sleep before ye make it to yer bed.”
Bidding Mary goodnight, Arran did as she instructed him and sipped the brew as he walked back to his bedchamber.
“What did the old lass put in this?” He whispered the question under his breath as his breathing calmed and his legs grew heavy.
He barely managed to make it to his bed before sleep found him.
* * *
The hallway he walked down was unfamiliar to Arran. It was so much shorter than any in the castle, and the floor beneath his feet wasn’t that of stone, but of fabric—a soft rug that lined the entire length and width of the floor beneath his feet. A door to the left caught his eye, and he found himself pulled toward it, eager to open it despite his ignorance of what might be on the other side.
The door pushed open easily. He stepped into the room as the door closed on its own behind him. The room was dim, save for one small light beside the bed. A candle, perhaps? Although it didn’t flicker like one. Intrigued, Arran stepped closer to the light, only noticing then the figure that lay sleeping on the bed.
His beloved, Blaire.
* * *
Someone touched Blaire’s shoulder as she slept, shaking her gently until she could no longer ignore the motion. She groaned as she stretched with her eyes still closed, knowing that she would open her eyes to find Gwendolyn hunched over the bed.
She was certain she’d locked the door after picking up her dinner tray. Was the old woman really so bold to enter the bedroom without permission?
Keeping her left eye closed, Blaire peeked her right eye open just enough to see if perhaps she’d slept well into the day.
No. She could see through the window that it was still pitch black outside.
The voice sent a tremor down Blaire’s spine. Arran. She would know his voice anywhere. She squeezed her eyes tightly closed, willing her mind to change to another dream—anything but this.
Again, his voice pierced its way into her sleepy mind. Slowly, she allowed her eyes to flicker open.
And there he was. Next to her. Sitting on the edge of the bed. His eyes desperate and confused. Her shoulder was warm where his hand gripped her.
Frightened, Blaire jolted up, scooting back in the bed until her back pressed firmly against the headboard.
How was he here? He couldn’t be. Not really. Could he?
“Arran? What…what are ye doing here?”
He shook his head gently, his face mirroring the bafflement she was certain was displayed on her own.
“I doona know. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I was here, outside yer room.”
Of course. The realization hit her in an instant. Arran wasn’t here. She was still fast asleep, all alone in a century completely unfamiliar to her. All of this was a dream.
She stared at him, and all of the pain she felt the last time she’d seen him came rushing back, slamming into her, causing tears to spring into her eyes.
“Ach, lass. Please doona cry. Blaire, I doona know how or why I’m here, but I must tell ye something while I’ve the chance to do so. I dinna mean it. Not a word of it. Ever since ye left, I’ve regretted all I said to ye every moment. I dinna know what to do, lass. Ye must know how I truly feel for ye.”
Blaire drew in a shaky breath as she reached up to brush the tears from her face, and her emotions settled as she smiled. What a funny thing the mind was. How hard it must work to try and keep us from pain. It didn’t surprise her that this was what Arran would say to her in her dream—the very thing she so desperately longed to hear from him—the words he would never say. That he didn’t mean it. That he felt the same as she did.
She couldn’t remember ever being aware of her dreams in such a way before, but now that she knew she was dreaming, the thought occurred to her that she might as well take advantage of it. If her mind was so determined to make her feel better, why not squeeze everything she could out of this strange experience.
“I know, Arran. I know. Will ye kiss me? I need to feel ye against me before all of this ends.”
A groan escaped Arran’s lips as he moved toward her, reaching for her hand to pull her toward him as he crushed his lips against her own.
The breath whooshed from her body as he leaned into her, his kiss causing her to skin to flush with warmth as she lost herself to his touch.
God, how she’d longed for him. She’d dreamed of him, too, but never like this. Never had she felt so much while sleeping.
They moved together, their kiss desperate, as they held each other close.
How long they kissed, she didn’t know, but it was palpable the moment everything began to change. Her arms began to tingle, her skin grew cold, and just as the new sensations became too intense for her to ignore, Arran pulled away, distress evident in his eyes.
“Blaire, lass, I doona want to leave.”
Surely, it wasn’t time for the dream to end. She reached for him, planting her lips to his in an effort to prolong the dream, but the coldness in the air continued to grow and he pulled away from her once again.
“’Tis ending, lass.”
“No. I can keep sleeping. I know I can. Doona leave.”
Before her eyes, Arran began to disappear, his figure growing translucent.
“Come back to me, lass. Please, if ye can find a way, come back.”
With the next blink, he was gone. As Blaire opened her eyes to sun streaming through the window, she began to cry.
It really had all been a dream.
* * *
Awaking to find himself staring up at the same cold, stone ceiling he’d slept under for all of his life seemed a cruel joke after the dream that had found him during the night.
Every moment of it had felt so real. If he closed his eyes, he could still see her, could still smell the floral scent of her hair, could still feel the softness of her lips against his own.
Sighing, he closed his eyes and said a silent plea he hoped Blaire would somehow hear across the centuries.
“Do as I asked of ye, lass. Please come back to me. Please come home.”