Sequentially this story follows my Monarch of the Glen fan fictions titled, Assumptions, MotG Story 1; A Thousand Miles, MotG Story 2; The Unexpected Arrivals of Winter, MotG Story 3; Dear Duncan, MotG Story 4.

I do not own any of the Monarch of the Glen characters or their respective worlds, but have enjoyed creating this fan fiction.

Allie Gace, William McGinty and a few other minor characters are of my own creation.



Chapter 1

Worries & Uncertainties

"Ha-zel…" Sitting in the glass-encased alcove of her kitchen's tiny dinette area, her feet propped up comfortably on a worn pleather banquette first time Aunt Lizzie MacDonald stretched out the pronunciation of her niece's name to fully appreciate its sound. She decided she liked it, thinking it unique and as pretty as the jungle of overgrown plants presently surrounding her. All manner of flora seemed to thrive in the makeshift greenhouse environment provided by this little nook, without—and this was the most fortunate part—any extra due attention from her, this corner being favored by the sun for most of the day. Definitely her favorite spot in the house office paraphernalia such as a slim ceramic pencil holder, colorful blocks of sticky notes and endless piles of paper, the rudiments of her former, present and always-in-flux work situation in public relations sat alongside common kitchen staples like a wooden napkin dispenser and jars and shakers of condiments. Holding a portable phone firmly between her shoulder and cheek, Lizzie tried hard not to think about how ergonomically-incorrect this positioning was for her neck and upper back, though it did free her hands nicely enabling her to fold them around a warm beaker of tea.

"Yes ha-ha! That's exactly what I said!" Standing alone in Glenbogle's wide, dusky entry hall Molly MacDonald chuckled softly, innocently. Her right hip pressed against a dark carved-wood telephone table, she ran her fingers idly over its thick marble-topped surface.

"Nnno Mummy, I believe you've misunderstood me. I think it's a fabulous name!"

"Oh um," Molly placed the telephone receiver near her chest mid-conversation, rolling her eyes and biting her lower lip. They'd only been chatting for mere minutes but already she and her daughter Lizzie had had several tiffs. Though a normal occurrence for the pair Molly had been holding out hope for some time now that one day they'd manage to have a completely civil conversation, two rational adults chatting pleasantly. Until then and as always Molly took a deep, marginally-calming breath, rejoining her daughter who was still speaking on the line.

"And you don't well surprise, surprise! Yet another thing we disagree about. What? Were you expecting another family name perhaps? There is my Martha you know. Ah-ha! I get it now! Martha was named after Father's Mum and I bet you were hoping that Archie would name his first born after someone on your side of the family! Yes that's it, isn't it? You're keeping a tally. MacDonald's one, McLean's zero."

"Don't be silly, Lizzie that's not how I feel at all. Please don't put words in my mouth. Actually the baby is named after Lexie's maternal great-grandmother. So it is a family name after all."

"And my younger brother didn't have any objections to that, did he?"

"Well apparently not. Lexie's his wife, Lizzie. Her family is his family now, too. Anyway Hazel is a beautiful, healthy baby and really that's all that matters!"

"Yes, well said, mother." Pouring another cup of herbal tea, Lizzie sipped the strong, hot brew heartily, steeping herself in its smell and steam. Natural tearomatherapy, she liked to call it. Though a far cry from the mood-altering substances she dabbled with in her youth she found it was as equally transformative for the mind without any of the nasty side effects and fuzziness all too commonly experienced when inhaling or ingesting actual recreational drugs. "So tell me," hoping to relieve some of the mounting tension Lizzie changed the subject to one she deemed more neutral, "how was your Mediterranean trip?"

"Oh, it was glorious!" Molly's voice became lively, sparking up at the chance to relive the recent holiday she had taken with her brother Jolyon. "We spent most of the time in Greece sailing the turquoise seas, basking in the warm Mediterranean sun and learning all about their culture. It was simply fascinating. I brought along this new digital camera Archie and Lexie had given me before the journey. I think it holds something like 600 images—or possibly even more—I'm not that technically-savvy as you know, but I bet I took just as many."

"Sounds like you had a lovely time. And how's Uncle Jo?"

"He's quite well, but you know Jolyon, Lizzie. He'll never change and I dare say he'll never settle down. As we speak he's off traveling again to some exotic place or other. Whereas me? I'm glad to be safely returned back to the comfort of my own home."

"But you say that like it's a bad thing, not wanting to settle down, I mean. The world is rich with things to see and do. Why anyone wouldn't cherish the opportunity to do so is beyond me. Guess I know where I get my wanderlust from then, eh?"

"Hmm yes, I suppose so but when one has responsibilities," Molly's voice trailed off.

"I'm sorry?"

"No it's nothing, Lizzie. But speaking of traveling are you planning to come and visit your new little niece any time soon?"

"Yes, especially since Martha has a school holiday coming up. Oh and I'm sure Jimmy will be able to get some time off from work too." There was silence on the other end of the line. "Oh Mother, you're impossible, you know that?"

"What?" Molly fretted with the frayed hem of her taupe-colored sweater.

"See this is why I stay away for such long periods of time!" Lizzie slid her feet off the banquette. The wall of windows behind her, no doubt aided by her angry outbursts had begun to fog. You're full of hot-air, Lizzie, her father used to jokingly chide.

"What is it I've done now, dear?"

"Aargh!" Lizzie's anger-tinged tone escalated, "You're already passing judgment on a man that you've never met before, whom you know nothing about!"

"Oh, Lizzie I'm doing no such thing. You're just being overly sensitive as…"

"As what, mother as usual? Go on say it for goodness sake!"

"Fine, if I must defend my comments I will. Who isthis Jimmy person anyway, Lizzie? Because let's face it you haven't fared very well in the romance department, have you?"

"Oh here we go! And it's entirely my fault, is it?" Slamming down the beaker of tea, its contents, Lizzie's precious liquid calm sloshed onto the table, spilling out into several little puddles, like her emotions all come undone.

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to!"

"But yes," Molly interrupted. Though she hadn't wanted to resort to yelling, Molly found it impossible to hold herself back. "When it comes right down to it, you're the one making all of the decisions, aren't you? Oooh, listen Lizzie I really don't want to spend my time arguing with you! That certainly wasn't my intent when I rang. Visit. Don't visit. Do as you please or see fit. You always have done!" With her voice more in check Molly added, "You know you are always welcomed here. Please tell Martha My Love I was asking after her. I do really hope we see the two—or three—of you very soon."

Nearly shaking, Molly hung up the phone and the loud bang echoed throughout the hall. Pressing her hands on the edges of the cold marble surface of the table she squared herself against it, exhaling with great force, feeling as physically worn out as if she'd just run a 5K. The conversation, a hard-fought emotional marathon and test of wills was one in which both she and Lizzie had, it had seemed, lost.

"Molls? Are you all right?"

"What?" Molly responded hazily. "Oh yes, Donald, yes I'm fine." Turning to face her brother-in-law she realized he was waiting on more of an answer. "I've just rung off with Lizzie, you see."

"Ah," Explanation enough, Donald raised his bushy, unkempt brows. "She seems a free spirit, that one." His look had turned to one of concern. "You shouldn't let her get to you so, my dear."

"I know Donald, I know," Molly shook her head in agreement then drew her arms tightly across her body as if fending off a chill. "I try to maintain my calm, really, I do but she just frustrates me so and has this way of getting under my skin! She knows exactly which buttons to push and is never willing to listen! She thinks she knows it all and is every ounce as stubborn and hot-tempered as Hector ever was!"

"Mm-hmm the proverbial apple didn't fall far from the old, unbendable MacDonald tree, did it? Well," Donald took Molly gently by an elbow as he spoke, "I was just about ready to pop down to the Ghillie's Rest for a wee dram. I don't know why but there's just something about the taste of liquor on one's tongue that does wonders to help clear the mind and solve away some of life's ills. What's say old girl you come along with me, hmm?"

Molly hemmed and hawed for a moment, brushing at the front of her sweater, trying in vain to smooth down her hair. If only it were that simple, she thought to herself. But staring up into Donald's expectant face where a trace of his classic, infectious smile was waiting to emerge she suddenly became more resolute and surprised herself with her response. "You know Donald I think that's exactly what I need!"

"Grand!" Donald beamed, delighted at the chance to escort his sister-in-law who was still, in his eyes, just as lovely as on the day they first met, many, many moons before.

Outer Property Glenbogle Estate

Golly MacKenzie just happened to be passing by the grounds which immediately surrounded Glenbogle proper when something had caused him pause. As Head Ghillie for the entire estate there wasn't anything particularly unusual about him being in this area of the property. He had, in fact, worked the lands nearly all his life and as such a comfortable relationship between him and the MacDonald family had gradually been forged, especially with the former laird, the late Hector whom Golly had simply, but reverently called Boss. This close relationship, which quite often meant Golly's presence would be required inside the house for one reason or another had served them all well over the years and though he was grateful for and respected the importance of this association Golly also knew his place. After all he was, when it came right down to it, a hired hand.

At this very moment however, his work having been halted for no apparent, obvious reason it would have appeared to anyone observing him that he was just standing there staring. Loitering, his father would have called it. But in truth this hard-working, diligent man who'd probably never had the adjective slacker uttered in reference to him save maybe in his youth wasn't just standing and staring at all. He was watching. Watching suspiciously the rogue Donald MacDonald as he, in all his pompousness and affectations ushered Molly out of the house and across the front drive. Arm in arm no less. Donald could and did fake the part of debonair charmer rather successfully but the polished air he projected to the rest of the world usually born of wealth—of which he'd none and of good-breeding—of which he'd had plenty, did little to fool Golly. Donald's outwardly slick sheen only served to mask the true character that lay beneath, the murky, tainted soul of a cad whom Golly had know since they'd been lads.

Securely hidden from view behind a tall row of neatly sculpted hedges the ghillie spied with disgust the couple's friendly, relaxed manner and he perfunctorily fished from a pocket of his leather jacket a set of worry beads, the Grecian souvenir—a small but certainly not insignificant gift Molly had brought back for him from her Mediterranean trip. Komboloi, she had called them. He dangled them loosely from the middle finger of his left hand where they lightly grazed the flat of his palm. He found he was getting the hang of maneuvering them and just as Molly had shown him, he flicked his wrist quickly, flipping the strand up onto his knuckles, and then using his thumb he glided the squarish amber beads one by one over his index finger and smoothly along the tiny gold chain. The slow, rhythmic motion and faint click-click-click sound, nearly hypnotic. When he came to the end of the string Golly swung the weighted chain round to restart the process but instead slipped the beads back into his pocket.

He had counted enough worries for the day.

Glenbogle Village

Allie Gace took one more turn around the store. The wooden floorboards creaked noisily beneath her feet as she made her way but it was a pleasant, familiar sound. The tiny catch-all shop, similar to those found in any small town where all the necessities one could hope to find or didn't even know they were searching for were all neatly arranged in one place, every free space efficiently utilized. She could have stayed in the shop for hours taking in the earthy scents of tobacco and dried heather and listening to the traditional Scottish music playing softly in the background. But it was getting late and she was eager to find her way back to the Bed & Breakfast before the impending darkness set in. In the morning she'd be having her first important face-to-face meeting with her book publisher and she wanted to be well-rested.

Having already coasted past the rows of novelty items, selected an interesting jar from the shelves of locally-produced preserves and chutneys and even chosen a small box of Walker's shortbread with its recognizable red plaid tin—surely set out to catch the eye of Americans like herself; all that remained on her list were postcards. Remembering where she'd spotted the rack Allie headed to the front of the store. As she passed by the counter the clerk, who was working on a crossword puzzle while tucking into what appeared to be his meager dinner of cheese, bread and cold meats, a ploughman's Allie thought—one of those small tidbits of information she'd gleaned from watching English programs on public television, he glanced up, preparing to offer his assistance. When she pointed to the rack of cards situated to the left of the counter he smiled warmly and nodded, indicating for her to take her time. Returning his attention to the puzzle he pushed the half-eaten plate of food off to the side.

Balancing her shopping basket on her left arm Allie used her free right hand to spin the rack and sort through the post cards but in her haste to find that one perfect picture she accidentally twirled the rotating stand a bit too hard, knocking it off-balance. And as it goes with accidents, Allie, realizing there'd be no feasible way for her to stop the stand from falling to the floor imagined it toppling before her as if in slow motion. Closing her eyes she anticipated the inevitable, loud crash. This didn't happen.

Luckily someone entering the store had caught the display rack. Just in the nick of time.