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He kept his tone soft. "Why did you offer me the bairn, Mary? I know you do not wish to be parted from him."
"'Tis better for him to be accepted into your clan than mine. He'll have the safety of a father to care for him, rather than a grandsire who will use him or abuse him."
"You know Collin well," he said.
"Aye." The huskiness of her tone tinted the word with pain.
Though she kept her head bent, he glimpsed her tear stained cheeks and red nose. He eased closer, driven by a need to comfort her.
She fell silent for a moment then raised her gaze to the stone structure behind him. "He will be a Campbell and he will never have to know what 'tis to have a foot in two clans, and never truly belong to either. He'll know what 'tis to owe his loyalty to only one and be accepted without question."
Something in her expression brought a tightness to Alexander's chest. "I do not wish to raise my son or daughter alone. A bairn needs its mother."
She remained silent.
Grasping her chin with his fingertips, he turned up her face. "Will you allow your hate for me to deprive our child of your care and affection, as you were deprived of your mother's?"
Her blue gaze traced his features with a pain that weighted the pit of his stomach with stones of guilt. "I did not wish to hate you, Alexander. I wanted very much to care for you because you were to be my husband."
The knowledge that she had meant to accept him, struck him with the force of a battle-ax and he drew a deep breath.
She raised her chin. "'Twas a lifetime ago when I was innocent enough to trust you. 'Twill not happen again."