The Wellspring (Kaitlyn and the Highlander #12) - Diana Knightley

Part I

One - Kaitlyn

Day One After Coming Home

Magnus and I shoveled in breakfast. I couldn’t get enough of the eggs and sausage but also the piles of sweet things. Zach went overboard on it which was necessary, fewer than three courses would have been just. so. sad. We were hungry, deep through into our core. Not just hungry for the food, but for it all. The love, the laughter, the sweet conflicts of parenthood. The messiness of a big family with lots of big personalities.

Isla sat beside me in the high chair and beat her hand sweetly on the tray, splashing goo around, and wiping it in circles, and shoving it in her mouth and I laughed and she laughed at me laughing, and we got into a regular ol’laughfest which was awesome.

Her laughing at me, me laughing at her.

Archie, long since done eating because he hadn’t been starving for a year, climbed on Magnus’s lap, put a hand on his face to center his attention and said, very seriously, “Did da see the pool?”

“A pool? Tae swim in?”

Archie said, still serious, “Aye.”

“I have not seen it wee’un. Chef Zach, is there a pool now?”

Zach said, “Yep, we got it installed and we’re all dying for you to swim in it, some might say it was the whole point.”

“What are we waitin’ for then?”

Emma laughed. “I think it’s pretty cold out there right now. About 65 degrees and not a sunbeam in sight.”

Magnus grinned.”Och! Tis a balmy summer day! Wee’un, ye want tae go for a swim?”

Emma shivered and Archie and Ben yelled, “Swim!”

Magnus and I rushed into our room to pull on bathing suits. I had to add a pin to tighten the waistband of Magnus’s shorts because he had lost so much weight. My skin, in my bikini, glowed a pale white, the clammy pallor of a foot that has been encapsulated in a wet sock for a few days of canoeing during summer camp. I said to Magnus, “You’re so pale—”

“I look tae be the underside of a river trout.”

I joked, “Aye.”

When we emerged into the main room, Archie and Ben were waiting to lead us to the pool.

I said, “Isla! Want to go to the pool with me?”

She looked at me for a moment, then shook her head. “No no.”

I met eyes with Emma, but I smiled widely. “No problem, Isla can go with me next time. I will be in the pool. If Isla wants to come see me in the pool, ask Emma.”

I gestured toward Emma. Isla said, “Ma ma!” Emma and I met eyes again.

This was going to be hard, but also, I would be okay — I felt very sad, but that moment this morning with Archie had lightened my heart so much. With Archie fully our son, he would persuade Isla to be our daughter again too. I knew it, I just had to be patient.

I kissed Emma on the cheek to set her mind at ease. She had little Zoe snuggled in her arms. “It’s hard to remember having such a tiny being in my arms. Now look, she’s all sassy.” I asked Isla, “Are you sassy?”

She squealed happily and smacked her hand down on her tray.

I asked, “Zach, should I help you clean that up?”

“Hell no, your first moment back? I got it, go see the pool, spend some time with Archie.”

I rushed through the back doors and around to the pool house, arriving just in time to see Magnus jumping into the deep end, with maximum splash, drenching Ben and Archie who stood giggling on the side. He came up with a “Fwish!” And exclaimed, “Och! Tis warm!”

I dipped a toe in, laughing, “It is warm!”

I was exaggerating, it was probably about 60 degrees. But when had I last been submerged in a body of water? Years? Centuries? I jumped in with as much maximum splash as I could accomplish and surfaced right beside Magnus. We grinned at each other and then beamed up at the boys.

Their little arms crossed, their bare legs shivering. Ben shook his head.

Magnus said, “Archie?”

Archie looked from Ben to the water and yelling, “Cannonball!” took a courageous plunge, spraying us with water, just about making my heart burst with love.

Zach entered the pool house following a toddling Isla who was wearing a little swim diaper. “She decided to come, you got her?”

I barely said, “Heck yeah,” before she flung herself into my arms.

I scooped her onto my hip and she spit and gasped. “Is

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