This story takes place several months after Hector's death. Lexie and Archie have married and are running Glenbogle together. Golly and Duncan are still working on the estate, Ewan has been retained as the cook, and Donald has returned—but of his own accord.

This is my own take on Paul Bowman's story. What if Hector wasn't his father?

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Assumptions

Donald MacDonald, though his name had never been what one would call universally famous was well known in his own right amongst the racing car set. Back in an era when racing, unlike the fuel-injected, turbo-charged and glitterati populated sport of today demanded from its drivers complete relinquishment that their bodies, minds and souls might become one with their beloved vehicles. Man becoming machine.

To say that Donald relished these exciting, golden days of yore would be an understatement. Of women there were plenty. Of money it flowed freely. So too, did the drink. And travel to exotic places, criss-crossing the globe a necessity. He had been in the prime of his life.

But fame as has been said and as Donald was so harshly forced to face was fleeting. Without his career, without his wealth—which so easily and effortlessly had slipped right through his fingers, without even one of the lovely ladies with whom he'd charmed over the years standing by his side Donald, for the first time in his life, was alone.

Having only rumination and reflection to occupy his time to keep him company and raise his spirits on this solo journey through the next phase of his life Donald found he couldn't get past an overwhelming sense of regret. Not for the obvious reasons, his tanked career or loves and riches lost but for something even more simple and yet more dear. He longed for the now-futile chance to once more be called brother. To again be known as in-law, friend, and mate. To hear for the first time his niece and nephew call him uncle. And to return to the Glenbogle estate—his family home, a humbled man but with his head held high.

Chapter 1

Tempus Fugit

"Ah! Thank you, sir." Donald MacDonald reached out to take an offered mug of steaming—and now fortified—coffee. "You are a gentleman and a scholar, my friend." Undoing a button on his taut, plaid sports coat he did his best to balance his massive frame on a rickety metal chair. In the process his clashing bowtie, ascot and the wilting bright pink carnation he'd stuck fresh in his lapel that morning had all gone askew. Finally settled, he stretched his long, tired legs out before him.

The Glenbogle estate's ghillie known simply as Golly, shrugged his arched shoulders bristling slightly at the comment. Although Golly hadn't seen Donald in years settling down with him outside his croft to have a wee nip and a chin-wag, a warm pit fire blazing in the ground nearby felt as familiar as always. Silvery white hair, wrinkles and creaky bodies, however had definitely reminded them otherwise. Their youth had done slipped away from them.

Stepping back, the ghillie capped the whisky bottle and set it down beside him in the unlevel grass where it fell against his chair leg with a light clink. Lowering his own thin but still quite muscular self into his seat, he sighed, "Och, Donald," leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, he shook his head from side to side. "I'm no scholar, man."

Donald peered out over the dusky terrain with unfocussed eyes, "Ah, that's not true. You, Golly MacKenzie, are a student of all of this," raising his left arm, he swept it slowly through the air as he spoke, "of the landscape, of nature. There once was a time when I knew these woods, this soil, this air, this life, so well. Hmm," he took a deep breath, "and now it is all lost. Sand through an hourglass, Golly and I shall never get it back!" Donald blew lightly over the contents of his cup then took a healthy sip of the hot brew. "What will my legacy be?"

The sun was setting low on this, such a long day.

Glenbogle Estate Grounds

Duncan McKay, the estate's diligent Head Ranger kept a watchful eye on the deep grey storm clouds forming overhead as he loaded some feed bags onto the open bed of a lorrie. With the threat of a soaking downpour looming he struggled to cover the porous burlap sacks with a waxed weatherproof tarp, lamenting as he worked that his job was never done. Spotting the MacDonald's young cook Ewan Brodie, a magazine tucked into his back pocket, he meandered up slowly from the beach, his break obviously over. Duncan called out to him eager for the possible aide of an extra pair of hands.

"Hey, be a mate, would'ya and give us some help? If this feed gets wet, it'll be ruined and Golly will have my head!"

Without hesitation Ewan quickly sprinted over to the vehicle. Grabbing a corner of the heavy piece of canvas from Duncan he affixed its metal grommet to a hook on the inside rim of the truck.

The young chef, whose keen knowledge of cuisine was solely based on his observation of cooking shows on the telly, had managed to find himself a plum position at the estate, though he had never taken his job for granted. He was grateful that the MacDonald family had given him a chance to prove himself and strove daily to assure them that their decision had been merited. Thus, lending a hand to a fellow estate worker was par for the course.

As Ewan stretched out the opposite end of the tarp, adjusting and securing the left corner as he had done the right, something in the distance caught his eye. "Hey, Dunc, who's that bloke over there?"

"Where?" Brushing his hands on his kilt—for this tartan garment along with a graphic-printed tee and black leather jacket was the daily kit of choice for the active, Scottish lad—Duncan squinted in the direction Ewan pointed. A man, wearing hiking gear and a royal blue anorak was trudging along one of the three main paths near the estate but it appeared he was veering away from Glenbogle's front entrance.

"Hey! Hey!" Waving both his arms in the air above his head, Duncan tried to catch the hiker's attention. Receiving no response, he called out loudly again, jumping up and down, his arms flailing all about. "Hey can I help'ya with anything, mate?" When this too was ignored, Duncan hopped down from the truck, thinking the better of unduly stressing the rusty metal joints on the old jalopy.

"Nah, you're going about it all wrong. This is how you get someone's attention, Dunc." Inhaling deeply, Ewan placed two fingers in his mouth and managed to produce a loud, sharp whistle. At this, the tall stranger turned and stopped, staring for a moment and adjusting a small grey knapsack on his shoulders before heading toward them.

Incredulous that the stranger had actually dared to overlook him, Duncan, generally an even-tempered, good-natured chap, rudely demanded of him, "Are you deaf or something? Didn't ya'hear me calling you?"

"Yup, I heard you." The hiker's accent, they noticed, wasn't local. "See," Looking down his nose at the estate workers the man patronizingly explained, "I just don't think my business concerns you, is all. I'm just passing through."

"Wait just a minute here!" Petite in stature Duncan bolstered his confidence by tugging on the front of his leather jacket and jabbing a pointed finger about making his presence, in his mind at least, seem all the more large. He was determined to pry a better answer out of the stranger. "This here is Glenbogle land and I'm a member of this household, and…and…if, if ya've any business here, well then, ya'can take it up with me!"

Chuckling slightly at Duncan's found bravado, Ewan grinned and stood with his head cocked and his arms folded across his chest, waiting to see how the situation would play out.

"All right, you really want to help me," the hiker asked with tempered aggravation. "I'm looking for a man named Douglas MacKenzie. You ever heard of him?"

"Oh, well let's see," Ewan helpfully offered, "we know a Golly Mac…umph…Ow!" Duncan silenced the youth with a swift elbowing to the ribs followed by a stern glare which clearly relayed the message to shut it! Returning an equally disdainful look, Ewan whispered to himself, "Douglas?"

"MacKenzie, you say?" Duncan's voice unintentionally raised an octave as he spoke, "What'd'ya want with him, then?"

"So you do know him," the stranger asked expectantly, his gruff demeanor easing up a bit.

"Nnoo…" Duncan stammered, realizing his folly.

"Hmph," snorted the stranger turning away, "That's typical. Local yokels, you are!"

"Yokel wha?" Ewan questioned, rubbing his ribs.

"I said it's typical." The man's eyes widened, punctuating each word, "I got the run around down in the village and I'm getting the run around here. What's with you people? Tss, it must be the Highland air, 'eh?"

"Even if we did know him—which we don't," Duncan boldly sounded off again, "just what'd'ya want with him anyway? We don't know you."

"Tch, " replied the stranger, shaking his head, preparing to walk away.

"Oi! Don't you walk away from me, pal! I haven't finished with you yet!"

Turning back the hiker approached Duncan. His full height over 6 foot tall he towered menacingly over the kilted man. Trying to control his annoyance he spoke through clenched teeth, his voice deep and gritty. "Now you listen up pal, I don't want any trouble all right? I came here, and God knows where here evenis, to find a man. I will do it with or without your help, with or without your permission, with or without you lot harassing me! Do I make myself clear?" Giving them one final glance the man stormed off again and, as if on cue for this dramatic departure, the clouds opened and fat droplets of rain began to fall.

"Oh aye," bitter about being called a yokel Ewan smirked and scornfully shouted, "But you're goin' in the wrong direction, mate!"

Library, Glenbogle Estate

"Arch?" Lexie MacDonald found her husband, the 15th laird of Glenbogle, in the estate's bookshelf lined library. He was sitting studiously at a writing table set before a large bank of windows which afforded whatever meager light there was from the gray day to fall precisely across the table, softly illuminating the centered blotter and casting Archie into the spotlight. Tapping out a rhythm on the desk's smooth surface with one hand, he held up a piece of paper with the other, silently mouthing the words to something. Were it not for his pull-over cardi, jeans and work boots, Lexie could have envisioned his likeness in an oil painting; his handsome face captured forever, his portrait hung with esteem on one of the high walls alongside all the former MacDonald lairds.

"Huh?" His concentration broken, Archie put down the paper and looked up. "Hiya, Lex." Stretching his back and shoulders he motioned for his wife to join him.

Lexie, still experiencing the heady effects of life as a newly-wed smiled and giggled as she made her way across the room. She gave her husband a proper smooch, slow and sultry, definitely not her common-variety early evening kiss. It left Archie wanting more but Lexie didn't linger.

"Have you seen Ewan?"

Leaning back against the cane woven chair, contemplating the question, Archie teased, "Hmph, how crushing. My kisses are so unforgettable they remind my wife of another man!"

"A man? Ewan?" Lexie joked. "Och, go one with you, Arch. I just wanted to know what he was preparing for dinner and…" A noise in the adjacent hallway distracted her.

"Give me a sec will you, Lex? Mother, Mother?" Archie called out, "Is that you?"

Moments later a slender figure clad in a brown tweed skirt suit, pale pink pashmina and floppy brown hat appeared at the library door.

"Hello, Mother. You know I thought I'd do a special toast for Uncle Donald tonight at dinner," Archie cheerfully proclaimed, "as a sort of welcome home gesture. What do you think?"

The widowed Molly MacDonald, her brow deeply furrowed, walked into the room, "Sure," she said, a forced smile stretching across her lips, "whatever you think is best, dear."

"Molly," Lexie questioned, concern tingeing her voice, "is anything wrong?"

"No," Molly shouted fretting with the cashmere shawl tied around her shoulders, fastidiously loosening the knot and readjusting the soft fabric. "Why should anything be wrong?"

"Take it easy Mother, Lexie was only asking. Anyway," Archie lifted the piece of paper he'd been reading from, jiggling it back and forth, "did you want to hear my speech?"

"Archie," Molly's agitation rose, "if that's what you want to do, well then, I'm sure it will be just fine! You are the laird, after all. And he's your family, your uncle is. You share the same blood." Hesitating, she twisted her hands together. "Listen, I have some things that I, well, that I have to take care of." Hurrying out of the room she added, "I can't be standing around chit-chatting the rest of the day away, can I?"

"Molly?" Lexie called after her. "What do you think that was all about, Archie?"

"I don't know, Lexie. With Mother, one never knows. Whatever it is though, she'll come round. I'm sure of it. Now, Lexie MacDonald, my darling, blushing bride, do want to hear my toast?"

Resigned, Lexie rolled her eyes and put forward an attentive ear.

Glenbogle Estate Grounds

Estate Ghillie's Croft

Golly MacKenzie was standing at his kitchen sink washing out a coffee pot and mugs, mulling over his visit with Donald when he heard a loud knock on his front door. His croft, tiny but cozy was outfitted like his tool shed on the estate; crammed with all sorts of interesting odds and ends tucked here and there, all precariously balanced in little piles. Wiping his damp hands on a green and white striped dishtowel he headed to the front entry, skillfully weaving in and out amongst the contained clutter. Opening his front door, which was deep red in color and weather-beaten down to the bare wood in spots—both inside and out—it creaked ominously and added to the uneasy feeling Golly had upon seeing a stranger on his doorstep.

Before the ghillie had a chance to address him, the wayward hiker spoke, his tone impatient, terse and demanding, "I'm looking for a man named Douglas MacKenzie. Would that be you?"

Stunned to hear his real name uttered Golly stood silent for a moment and when he did speak, he faltered. "Oh, I'm, um, I'm sorry, son. Aye, well I mean, yes, yes, son. Yes, that's my name, um, 'tis me."

"Son," the stranger shook his head and mumbled under his breath, "yeah, right.

"I'm sorry?" Golly questioned, confused.

The rain that had begun to fall earlier was now coming down steady and thick. Moving closer to the house the man pushed back his hood and tried to get beneath the entrance's overhang. "Look," he shouted above the din of the miserable weather, his voice now worn and weary, "I've come a very long way to say something brief. Do you think it might be possible for me to come in for a few?"

Shifting his footing Golly reached higher on the door as if to shut it, "I don't know, I'm not sure what it is you want from me." Studying the stranger's uncovered, rain-slicked face in the faint beam shed by the lamp above the door, Golly looked him squarely in his deep blue eyes and then into the surrounding precipitation-shrouded darkness and changed his mind. "Mmm-hmm, yeah," the ghillie changed his mind, "I think it might be best you do come in."