• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Ooookay….You sure you want to Know, now?

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful time with family and friends (to say nothing of the pleasant company of a twenty-pound fruit-stuffed, herb-rubbed turkey), after which the football fans sank into a contented stupor on the living-room couch and the dogs and I went off to enjoy a similar state of nirvana on the Taos bed in the lounge. (Dogs presently including Otis the pug and Charlie the corgi, as well as Homer and JJ, the two standard dachshunds. Charlie prefers to sleep -under- the bed, which is a good thing. Eighty pounds of assorted caninery generates a lot of heat.)

Anyway…I said that if nobody guessed the error I mentioned in THE EXILE, I’d tell you tonight, and as of last checking, nobody had. (I must say, y’all must be _terrible_ at those “find six things that are different between these two pictures” kind of puzzles…) But if you _do_ want to know….
Which of Jamie’s shoulders is wounded? It’s the left one, right? Until Claire starts doctoring it at Castle Leoch, when it’s the right one. Then during the fracas in Hall (and after), it’s the left one again.

Told ya it was a head-smacker. [g] Happy Thanksgiving!

Jamie’s Butt Model

Two things:

1. The editor of THE EXILE tells me that the book has been on the NYT Bestseller list for seven weeks so far. This is Very Cool Indeed, and thank you very much!

2. As a secondary thank you [g], here is a link to the original French painting that supplied the model (literally) for page 5. (It took a -lot- of hunting to find the right butt, believe me. I kept sending the illustrator, Hoang, links to Rober Mapplethorpe sites and the like, but Random House’s porn filters wouldn’t let Betsy, the editor, look at them.)

I would post the image itself, but am really not sure about the copyright of an image of a painting held by a museum–I mean, the museum certainly owns the painting, but not sure about the image. Don’t want to infringe inadvertently, though–and the web page has some interesting information about the painting, anyway.

(No, if you want to see Page 5, you’ll have to borrow somebody’s copy, or sneak into the graphic novels section at Barnes and Noble.)

"Leaf" is out today!

The new anthology, SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, is out as of today! It has a number of great stories, by wonderful authors from Neil Gaiman to Carrie Vaughn and Robin Hobb (all enthusiastically recommended)–and it does, of course, have one by me.

This story is titled “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” and tells the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents. It also fills in the interesting hole I opened in ECHO, wherein we learn that Jerry MacKenzie probably wasn’t shot down in his Spitfire during the War, and there is Much Speculation as to what really did happen to him.

This story will tell you. (Though one rather perceptive–if cynical–commenter observed that while I may have filled in that particular hole, I undoubtedly did it with dirt dug from another one. How well you people know me….[g]). I think you’ll enjoy Jerry MacKenzie, though, and his story.

The book is available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book formats, here.

Thanks to all those who’ve read the story already and written to tell me what you thought!

St. Simon’s Island writers conference

Someone asked for a repost of the information about the Scribbler’s Retreat writers conference this weekend, on St. Simon’s Island, GA. I haven’t been to this conference before (basically, I said I’d go because I’ve heard about St. Simon’s Island and wanted to see it [g], but I’m sure we’ll have fun), so can’t tell you a lot about it.

Here, though, is the link to the conference website, which has details and schedule.

See some of you there!

Days of the Dead and Ginger Rodents

Hope y’all had a happy All Saints Day! Here in New Mexico, today and tomorrow are Los Dias de los Muertos—the Days of the Dead. Today we celebrated the presence in our lives of those who’ve gone before and await us in heaven. Tomorrow (Nov. 2) is the Feast of All Souls, when we commune with our own beloved dead. May all your own families be with you in love today, no matter on which side of the veil.

And for a change of mood….

Got the following message yesterday from a British (and half-Scottish) friend [g]:

Light the Fiery Cross Diana,
An insult beyond bearing has been flung down at the feet of all things red and hairy!

At the Labour Party’s annual Scottish Conference yesterday Harriet Harman MP (Dep. Leader of the ousted Labour Party) declared Scottish MP Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent”, adding that while she was all for conservation she didn’t want to see one in the Highlands again. And this from the former Equality Minister, who has previously been known for being so politically correct that she more usually goes under the name of Harriet Harperson.

Said rodent, Danny Alexander, came back fighting Tweeting “I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up the mess others leave behind.”
I know, not exactly pistols at dawn is it?

So on behalf of our beloved gingers, I’m inviting you to lead the call to arms. (I would have asked Allan SD, but typically, where’s the Big Yin when ye need him? Likely basting himself on a Madeiran beach, probably resembling a smoky bacon crisp by now if I know Scotsmen in the sun.)

Is it to be borne that the English seek to rubbish Scots Pride once more with impunity … I think not (although it has to be said that Danny Alexander is more usually likened to Beaker from the Muppets and may therfore prefer this comparison)

Jamie wouldn’t stand for it … Claire would have her guts for garters

Light the Fiery Cross and gather the Clans!
Declare yourselves …The McDowall’s are here!


(Here’s a link to the full story should anyone be interested http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-11658228)


Dear Sorcha–

As soon as I get up off the floor, I’ll go dig through the woodpile for a couple of suitable sticks. [G] Though as it’s Halloween, were I to march down San Antonio Street tonight with a fiery cross, people would likely just applaud and shout “EEEha!”, rather than inquiring into the just cause of such an incitement to riot.

As for the Big Yin, he tweeted once to say he’d survived the flight, wasn’t so sure about his job–and wouldn’t have internet until next week. You’re likely right about the beach, though I just went and looked, out of curiosity as to just how warm Madeira _is_ in almost-November. It’s 68 degrees F. as of 6 PM today, so probably quite toasty enough for a basking Scot. (It’s about that on my back patio in Santa Fe just now at noon; I’m wearing a sweatshirt and calf-high Uggs.)

May I have permission to quote your rallying call to arms on my blog, though? Would hate anyone to miss such eloquence.

Ginger rodents of the world, UNITE!!



And another friend, Ron Wodaski, helpfully supplied this Uncyclopedia page on the subject.



Copyright 2010 Diana Gabaldon

“In the chilly season, when the air grows cold and the spiders die, comes a thin time. The days are short, so all the light of them is concentrated, squeezed between the dawn and dark. This is why the light is different, and each thing has a Shadow. This is when the other worlds draw close, and the barriers between grow thin. In a thin time, they say, you must be careful, because you might walk through a cobweb unthinking, and find yourself Elsewhere.

There is more than one other world; no one knows how many. Some beasts can see one; the dogs will sometimes stare at a blank space on the wall of a cave, and their hackles rise at what they see.

Sometimes, I think I see it, too.”

Happy Samhain!


Oookay. For those of you who’ve already read THE EXILE several times (and _thank_ you, btw! The editor tells me that the book is still hovering around the top of the NYT list–at #2 next week–and we’re still beating the author of Captain Underpants, which gratifies me deeply), and are beginning to write me, wanting to know When Is The Next Book Coming Out….

Well, not immediately. It does take me 2-3 years to write one of the big OUTLANDER novels, and about a year to write a Lord John novel (and I do work on more than one project at once; keeps me from having writer’s block, and makes me much more productive. So I’ve been working on both Book Eight _and_ LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER). It’ll be a little while.

However, I do have a suggestion to offer. A new anthology titled SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois) is coming out on November 16th (i.e., in a little over two weeks). This includes a story of mine titled “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows.” It’s a little unusual, in that it’s about Roger MacKenzie’s parents–but it does fill the interesting hole regarding Roger’s father that I opened up in AN ECHO IN THE BONE.

Here’s a brief sample:


It was two weeks yet to Hallowe’en, but the gremlins were already at work.

Jerry MacKenzie turned Dolly II onto the runway–full-throttle, shoulder-hunched, blood-thumping, already halfway up Green leader’s arse–pulled back on the stick and got a choking shudder instead of the giddy lift of takeoff. Alarmed, he eased back, but before he could try again, there was a bang that made him jerk by reflex, smacking his head against the perspex. It hadn’t been a bullet, though; the off tire had blown, and a sickening tilt looped them off the runway, bumping and jolting into the grass.

There was a strong smell of petrol, and Jerry popped the Spitfire’s hood and hopped out in panic, envisioning imminent incineration, just as the last plane of Green flight roared past him and took wing, its engine fading to a buzz within seconds.

A mechanic was pelting down from the hangar to see what the trouble was, but Jerry’d already opened Dolly’s belly and the trouble was plain: the fuel line was punctured. Well, thank Christ he hadn’t got into the air with it, that was one thing, but he grabbed the line to see how bad the puncture was, and it came apart in his hands and soaked his sleeve nearly to the shoulder with high-test petrol. Good job the mechanic hadn’t come loping up with a lit cigarette in his mouth.

He rolled out from under the plane, sneezing, and Gregory the mechanic stepped over him.

“Not flying her today, mate,” Greg said, squatting down to look up into the engine, and shaking his head at what he saw.

“Aye, tell me something I don’t know.” He held his soaked sleeve gingerly away from his body. “How long to fix her?”

Greg shrugged, eyes squinted against the cold wind as he surveyed Dolly’s guts.

“Half an hour for the tire. You’ll maybe have her back up tomorrow, if the fuel line’s the only engine trouble. Anything else we should be looking at?”

“Aye, the left wing-gun trigger sticks sometimes. Gie’ us a bit o’ grease, maybe?”

“I’ll see what the canteen’s got in the way of leftover dripping. You best hit the showers, Mac. You’re turning blue.”

He was shivering, right enough, the rapidly evaporating petrol wicking his body heat away like candlesmoke. Still, he lingered for a moment, watching as the mechanic poked and prodded, whistling through his teeth.

“Go on, then,” Greg said in feigned exasperation, backing out of the engine and seeing Jerry still there. “I’ll take good care of her.”

“Aye, I know. I just—aye, thanks.” Adrenaline from the aborted flight was still surging through him, thwarted reflexes making him twitch. He walked away, suppressing the urge to look back over his shoulder at his wounded plane.


Jerry came out of the pilots’ WC half an hour later, eyes stinging with soap and petrol, backbone knotted. Half his mind was on Dolly, the other half with his mates. Blue and Green were up this morning, Red and Yellow resting. Green flight would be out over Flamborough Head by now, hunting.

He swallowed, still restless, dry-mouthed by proxy, and went to fetch a cup of tea from the canteen. That was a mistake; he heard the gremlins laughing as soon as he walked in and saw Sailor Malan.

Malan was Group Captain and a decent bloke overall. South African, a great tactician—and the most ferocious, most persistent air fighter Jerry’d seen yet. Rat terriers weren’t in it. Which was why he felt a beetle skitter briefly down his spine when Malan’s deep-set eyes fixed on him.

“Lieutenant!” Malan rose from his seat, smiling. “The very man I had in mind!”

The devil he had, Jerry thought, arranging his face into a look of respectful expectancy. Malan couldn’t have heard about Dolly’s spot of bother yet, and without that, Jerry would have scrambled with A flight on their way to hunt 109’s over Flamborough Head. Malan hadn’t been looking for Jerry; he just thought he’d do, for whatever job was up. And the fact that the Group Captain had called him by his rank, rather than his name, meant it probably wasn’t a job anyone would volunteer for.

He didn’t have time to worry about what that might be, though; Malan was introducing the other man, a tallish chap in army uniform with dark hair and a pleasant, if sharp, look about him. Eyes like a good sheep dog, he thought, nodding in reply to Captain Randall’s greeting. Kindly, maybe, but he won’t miss much.

“Randall’s come over from Ops at Ealing,” Sailor was saying over his shoulder. He hadn’t waited for them to exchange polite chat, but was already leading them out across the tarmac, heading for the Flight Command offices. Jerry grimaced and followed, casting a longing glance downfield at Dolly, who was being towed ignominiously into the hangar. The rag-doll painted on her nose was blurred, the black curls partially dissolved by weather and spilled petrol. Well, he’d touch it up later, when he’d heard the details of whatever horrible job the stranger had brought.

His gaze rested resentfully on Randall’s neck, and the man turned suddenly, glancing back over his shoulder as though he’d felt the stress of Jerry’s regard. Jerry felt a qualm in the pit of his stomach, as half-recognized observations—the lack of insignia on the uniform, that air of confidence peculiar to men who kept secrets–gelled with the look in the stranger’s eye.

Ops at Ealing, my Aunt Fanny, he thought. He wasn’t even surprised, as Sailor waved Randall through the door, to hear the Group Captain lean close and murmur in his ear, “Careful—he’s a funny bugger.”

Jerry nodded, stomach tightening. Malan didn’t mean Captain Randall was either humorous or a Freemason. “Funny bugger” in this context meant only one thing. MI6.

[end section]

Fake Hair-Product Review

Hm.  Someone just emailed me to ask whether I had posted a fulsome review of a hair product online.  I hadn’t (as should be obvious to anyone who’s read my books.  As IF I would write run-on sentences…!), but the name on the review was Diana Gabaldon.

Now, in all justice, I’m not the only person in the world with that name. [g]  I’ve met at least two others, and there may be more.  But I definitely didn’t make positive comments about any sort of hair product, ever.  Just so you know.


Just a general question, to anybody who might know:

Where has the image-importing capability gone? When this site changed (ahem, “improved”) its posting software, the little icon that allowed you to add images to your postings disappeared from the toolbar at the top of the post box. Boldface, italics, strikethrough, Link, and Quote (which seems of dubious use, but who knows?) are there, but no image icon.

So–is it still possible to attach images to postings or not? And if so…how?

Many thanks for all suggestions!

Back From the Road – new excerpt!

I’m Baa-aack!

Had a lovely time in Canada, despite losing one (luckily inessential) bag, that followed me faithfully from city to city like a dog, but never caught up. With luck, it’ll come home tomorrow. Of course, I’m leaving home again tomorrow morning…(but for New Mexico, where I propose to hide out for the next couple of weeks, not speaking to anybody but husband and dogs, peacefully eating green chili, and picking up the threads of Book Eight and SCOTTISH PRISONER).

Speaking of SCOTTISH PRISONER…I recently posted a longish excerpt from that book (during the 24 hours I was home, between the West Virginia Book Festival and whatever happened next (things tend to blur when you’re book-touring)) on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum. Since I know not all of y’all go there, I figured I’d also post it here.

Now, a word about excerpts. I love for people to read them, but I do have an agreement with my publisher about how much of a book is up on the internet at any one time—which means that I need to control said excerpts, and try to make sure they aren’t reposted elsewhere. So excerpts from my books appear (with rare exceptions), only in three places: the Diana Gabaldon folder in the Compuserve Books and Writers Community (community.compuserve.com/books — NB: _no_ “www” on that), on my website (www.dianagabaldon.com –and btw, we hope to have the All New Spectacular Cool New Website up and working by the end of November, very exciting!), and here.

So if you want to share or discuss with your friends, please just give them the link to this page, my website, or the Compuserve folder.


Copyright 2010 Diana Gabaldon

He was carrying a huge basket of rotted manure up to the kitchen garden when Robert, one of the footmen, appeared from behind a wall and hailed him.

“Hoy, MacKenzie! You’re wanted!”

He was surprised; it was mid-morning, not a usual time for visiting or errands. He’d have to catch that wee bitch Venus, presently enjoying herself in the back pasture. And the thought of driving the pony-trap, with Lady Isobel’s slitted eyes burning holes in his back, was less than appealing. It wasn’t as though he had a choice, though, and he set the basket down, safely off the path, then straightened up, dusting his hands against his thighs.

“Aye, I’ll have the trap round in a quarter-hour.”

“Not the trap,” Robert said, impatient. “I said you’re wanted.”

He glanced at the man, startled.

“Who wants me?”

“Not me, I assure you.” Robert had a long nose, and he wrinkled it ostentatiously, looking at the greenish-brown crumbles and smears on Jamie’s clothes. “If there was time, I’d make you change your shirt, but there’s not. He said at once, and he meant it.”

“Lord Dunsany?” Jamie asked, ignoring the footman’s barb.

“Who else?” Robert was already turning away. He looked back over his shoulder and jerked his head. “Come on, then!”

[end section]

He felt strange. The polished wood floor echoed under his tread and the air smelt of hearth-ash, books, and flowers. He smelled of horses, horse-shit, and his own bitter sweat. Since the day he’d come to Helwater, he’d only once been further into the house than the kitchen where he took his meals.

Lord Dunsany had received him and John Grey in the study on that first day, and now the butler—back stiff with disapproval—led him down the corridor to the same door. The wooden panels were carved with small rosettes; he had noticed them so intensely on his first visit that seeing them again recalled his feelings on that day—and gave him now a feeling as though he had missed the bottom step of a flight of stairs.

His immediate assumption on hearing the summons was that somehow Dunsany had discovered the truth of William’s paternity, and his heart was in his throat, his mind filled with half-formed notions between outright panic and…something else. Would Dunsany cast the boy out? If he did….a faint, breath-taking vision of himself stealing away from Helwater, his son in his arms, came to him—but vanished at once as the door opened.

There were three men in Lord Dunsany’s study. Soldiers, in uniform. A lieutenant and two private soldiers, he thought at once–though it had been a long time since he’d troubled with the distinctions of English uniform.

“This is MacKenzie,” Lord Dunsany said, with a small nod at him. “Or

The officer looked him up and down, assessing, but his face gave nothing away. A middle-aged man, with a sour look. He didn’t offer his name.

“You’re to go with these men, MacKenzie,” Dunsany said. His face was old, his expression remote. “Do as they tell you.”

He stood mute. Damned if he’d say “Yes, sir,” and double-damned if he’d knuckle his forehead like a servant. The officer looked sharply at him, then at Dunsany, to see whether this insubordination was to be punished, but finding nothing but weariness in the old man’s face, shrugged slightly and nodded to the privates.
They moved purposefully toward him, one taking him by each arm. He couldn’t avoid it, but felt the urge to jerk loose knot the muscles of his arms and spine. They led him into the hall and out the front door; he could see the butler smirking from his pantry, and two of the maids hanging wide-eyed and open-mouthed out of the upper windows as the men emerged onto the drive, where a coach stood waiting.
“Where are ye taking me?” he asked, with what calmness he could.
The men glanced at each other; one shrugged.

“You’re going to London,” he said.

“To visit the Queen,” the other said, and sniggered.

He had to duck to enter the carriage, and in doing so, turned his head. Lady Isobel stood in the window, mouth open in shock. William was in her arms, small
head laid in sleep on her shoulder. Behind them, Betty smiled at him, maliciously triumphant.

[end section]

They gave him a serviceable cloak to wear, and food at the taverns and inns, shoving it indifferently across the table toward him, ignoring him while they talked, save an occasional sharp glance to be sure he wasn’t getting up to something. What, exactly, did they think he might do? he wondered. If he’d ever meant to escape, he could have done it much more easily from Helwater.

He gathered nothing from their conversation, which seemed mostly regimental gossip, bawdy remarks about women of a sort indicating that they’d seldom touched one, and low jokes. Not a word as to their destination.

At the second stop, there was wine—decent wine. He drank it cautiously; he hadn’t tasted anything stronger than small-beer or the occasional glass of ale in years, and the lush flavor clung to his palate and rose like smoke inside his head. The soldiers shared three bottles—and so did he, welcoming the slowing of his racing thoughts as the alcohol seeped into his blood. It would do him no good to think, until he knew what to think about.

He tried to keep his mind off their unknown destination, and what might await him there, but it was like trying not to think of a—

“Rhinoceros,” Claire said, with a muffled snort of amusement that stirred the hairs on his chest. “Have you ever seen one?”
“I have,” he said, shifting her weight so she rested more comfortably in the hollow of his shoulder. “In Louis’s zoo. Aye, that would stick in the mind.”

Abruptly, she vanished and left him sitting there, blinking stupidly into his wine-cup.

Had it really happened, that memory? Or was it only his desire that now and then brought her so vividly to life, in snatched moments that left him desperate with longing, but strangely comforted, as though she had in fact touched him briefly.
He became aware that the soldiers had all stopped talking and were staring at him. And that he was smiling. He looked back at them over his cup, not altering his expression.

They looked away, uneasy, and he went back to his wife, for the moment tranquil in his mind.

[end section]

They did take him to London.

He tried not to gawk; he was aware of the soldiers casting covert glances at him, sly smiles. They expected him to be impressed, and he declined to give them the satisfaction—but he was impressed, nonetheless.

So this was London. It had the stink of any city, the narrow alleys, the smell of slops and chimney-smoke. But any large city has its own soul, and London was quite different than either Paris or Edinburgh. Paris was secretive, self-satisfied; Edinburgh solidly busy, a merchants’ town. But this…it was rowdy, churning like an anthill, and gave off a sense of pushing, as though the energy of the place would burst its bonds and spill out over the countryside, spill out into the world at large. His blood stirred, despite his fears and the tooth-jolting ride.

The Jacobite soldiers would talk about London, early in the campaign, when they were victorious and London seemed a plum within their grasp. Wild tales—almost none of them had ever seen a city, before they came to Edinburgh. Talk of gold plates in the taverns, streets with gilded carriages thick as lice …

He remembered Murdo Lindsay, bug-eyed at the description of the London boozing-kens, where the poor clustered in dark cellars, drowning the misery of life in Holland gin.

“Whole families!” Murdo exclaimed. “All of them, dead drunk! If even the poor folk can afford to stay drunk for days at a time, what must the rich ones be like?”

He’d smiled then, amused. He smiled now, bitter.

As the campaign had turned, withering in the cold, when the army camped at Derby, shivering while the commanders argued whether to push on or not, the soldiers had still talked of London. But they talked in whispers, and not of gold plates and Holland gin. They talked of the gallows, of the famous Bridge, where the heads of traitors were displayed. Of the Tower.

That thought sent a qualm through him. Christ, could they be taking him there? He was a convicted traitor, though paroled these past three [ck] years. And he was the grandson of Lord Lovat, who had met his death on the block at that same Tower. He hadn’t been fond of his grandfather, but crossed himself and murmured “[Gaelic]” under his breath. [May your soul be with Jesus.]

He wondered what the devil the Tower of London looked like. He’d imagined it, of course, but God only knew what the reality was. It was big, though, he thought, it had to be big. So he’d have a bit of warning, seeing it. He’d be prepared.
Aye, prepared for prison? he thought. The thought of it, of cold stone and small spaces, endless days, months and years in a cage as life and body dwindled inexorably away, shriveled his heart. And William. He would never see William again. But they might kill him instead. At the moment, that was his only hopeful thought.

But why? Had his parole been revoked? That last, disastrous conversation with John Grey…his fists curled up without thought, and one of the soldiers started, looking at him hard. With an effort, he unclenched his hands and pulled them inside his cloak, gripping his thighs under its cover hard enough to leave bruises.
He hadn’t seen—or heard from—Grey since that day. Had the man been nursing a grudge all this time, and finally decided to put paid to Jamie Fraser’s account, once and for all? It was the most likely explanation—and unforgivable things had been said on both sides. Worse, both of them had meant the things they said, and both of them knew it. No excuse of hot blood speaking—though in all justice, his own blood had boiled, and…

There it was. He gasped, couldn’t help it, though it made all the soldiers look at him, conversation interrupted.

It had to be. He knew the look of a prison well enough. Huge, round towers set in a grim, high wall, and the filthy brown water of a broad river flowing past, flowing under an iron-barred gate. The Traitor’s Gate? He’d heard of it.
All of them were grinning at him, maliciously enjoying his shock. He swallowed hard and tensed his belly muscles. They wouldn’t see him cower. His pride was all he had left—but he had enough of that. Enough to last until he was alone again, at least.

But the carriage didn’t leave the road. They bowled past the grim bulk of the moated Tower, the horses’ hooves ringing suddenly on cobbles, and he blessed the sound because it drowned the wrenching gasp when he realized he’d stopped breathing and started again.

It wasn’t a warm day, but he was drenched in sudden sweat, and saw the private behind him wrinkle his nose and glance sideways at him. He reeked of fear; could smell himself.

Could ha’ been worse, a allhamarach borb, he thought, coldly meeting the man’s eye and staring ‘til he looked away. I might have shit myself and ye’d have to ride into London smelling that.

[end section]

What with the tangle of foot-traffic, barrows, carriages, and horses that thronged the narrow streets, it was more than an hour before the coach finally pulled up outside a massive house that stood in its own walled grounds at the edge of a huge open park. He stared at it in astonishment. If not the Tower, he’d certainly expected to be taken to a gaol of some kind. Who the devil lived here, and what did whoever it was want of him?

The soldiers didn’t tell him, and he wouldn’t ask.

To his amazement, they took him up the marble steps to the front door, where they made him wait while the lieutenant banged at the knocker, then spoke to the butler who answered it. The butler was a small, neat man, who blinked in disbelief at sight of Jamie, then turned to the lieutenant, plainly about to remonstrate.
“His Grace said bring him, and I’ve brought him,” said the lieutenant impatiently. “Show us in!”

His Grace? A duke. God…Cumberland? His heart had already been in his throat; now his wame tried to follow it. He’d seen the Duke of Cumberland just once. When he’d left the battlefield at Culloden, hidden under a load of hay in a wagon. The wagon had passed through the edge of the Government lines, just at evening, and he’d seen the big tent, a squat, vigorous figure just outside it, irritably waving away clouds of smoke with a gold-laced hat. The smoke of burning bodies.

He felt the soldiers jerk and glance at him, startled. He froze, fists at his side, but the chill and the fear were gone, burnt away by the sense of rage that rose abruptly, drawing him upright with it.

His heart beat painfully, eager, for all at once, the future had a shape to it. No more long days of mere survival. He had purpose, and the glow of it lit his soul with a smoky flame.

The butler was falling back, reluctant, but unable to resist. Aye, fine. All he need do was behave circumspectly until he got within grip of the Duke. He flexed his left hand, briefly. There might be a knife, a letter-opener, something…but it didn’t matter.

The lieutenant jerked his head, and he moved, just in time to keep the privates from grasping his arms. He saw the butler’s eyes fix on his feet, mouth twisted in a sneer of contempt. A door opened in the hallway and a woman’s face appeared for a moment. She caught sight of him, gasped, and closed the door.
He would in fact have wiped his sandals, had they given him time; he’d no desire either to foul the house nor to look like the barbarian they plainly thought him. The men hastened him along, though, one on either side, and he had even less wish to give them an excuse to lay their hands on him, so he went, leaving dusty prints crumbled with dry mud and caked manure along the Turkey carpet.

The door to the room was open and they propelled him inside without ceremony. He was looking everywhere at once, gauging distances, estimating the possibilities of objects as weapons, and it was a moment before his eyes met those of the man seated at the desk.

For a moment longer, his mind refused to grasp the reality, and he blinked. No, it wasn’t Cumberland. Not even the passage of years could have transformed a stout German prince into the slender, fine-featured man frowning at him across the polished wood.

“Mister Fraser.” It wasn’t quite a question, nor was it quite a greeting, though the man inclined his head courteously.

Jamie was breathing as though he’d run a mile, hands shaking slightly as his body tried to burn away anger that now had no outlet.

“Who are you?” he asked rudely.

The man shot a sharp glance at the lieutenant.

“Did you not tell him, Mr. Gaskins?”

Gaskins. It was a minor relief to know the bugger’s name. And a distinct pleasure to see him go red and then white.

“I…er…I…no, sir. He…er…didn’t ask.”

“Leave us, lieutenant.” The man didn’t raise his voice, but it cut like a razor. He’s a soldier, Jamie thought, and then, I ken him. But where…?

The man stood up, ignoring Lieutenant Gaskins’s hasty departure.

“My apologies, Mr. Fraser,” he said. “Were you mistreated on your journey?”

“No,” he replied automatically, scrutinizing the face before him. It was remarkably familiar, and yet he would swear he didn’t know this man. “Why am I here?”

The man drew a deep breath, the frown easing, and as it did, Jamie saw the shape of the man’s face, fine-boned and beautiful, though showing the marks of a hard life. He felt as though someone had punched him in the chest.

“Jesus,” he blurted. “Ye’re John Grey’s brother.” He groped madly for the name, and found it. “Lord…Melton. Jesus Christ.”

“Well, yes,” the man said. “Though I don’t use that title any longer. I’ve become the Duke of Pardloe since we last met.” He smiled wryly. “It has been some time. Please sit down, Mr. Fraser.”

[end section