Later that evening after the band's last set, Thane slips quietly into the apartment that he shares with Morgan. Hoping desperately that Morgan has already gone to bed, his heart sinks when he sees the lights on and Morgan waiting expectantly for his return.
She jumps up when the apartment door opens and runs to embrace her beloved.
"I missed you tonight! How was the bar?"
"It was fine, lass." But his eyes belie that statement.
Morgan is more than a little fey and senses immediately that all is not right with Thane.
"Thane? What is't, then? Are you all right?"
Thane clutches Morgan tightly as he struggles to figure out how to break the news to her.
"I'm sorry, lass. I . . . I had some bad news tonight. Come and sit down."
He leads her to the couch and urges her to sit. Not trusting himself to get the words out if he is in physical contact with her, he seats himself in the nearby chair.
"Thane, please. What is it? You look as if someone has died!"
Thane finds it difficult to meet her eyes. He would rather do almost anything than confess his indiscretion with Jes, yet he finds himself with no other option. He forces himself to look Morgan full in the eyes and she nearly gasps at the level of pain she sees there. She begins to speak again, but this time Thane holds up a hand to stop her. "Wait."
He takes a deep breath and marshals his courage. Quietly, he begins.
"D'ye remember the day of the christening party at Diego and Colette's? When their baby was abducted and Jes . . ."
Here Morgan's eyes flare. She does not like to be reminded of the months-long affair between her beloved and Jessica St. Clair before she arrived in TEKville.
Seeing that she is once again about to speak, Thane once again holds up his hand to forestall any questions. He wants to get through this as quickly as possible.
" . . . and Jes was brought back, bruised and disheveled?"
"Aye. I remember." Her words are clipped.
Thane pauses and steels himself. It has to be done, but I'd kill to keep from having to hurt her.
"Morgan, I . . . I was the one who found Jes in the woods. She had been knocked unconscious by that Vasquez -- the one who took the bairn. I . . . we . . . ."
Thane finds it difficult to continue. He can no longer meet Morgan's eyes but looks instead at the wall, wishing he were anywhere else but here.
He draws a ragged breath and forces himself to go on.
"We . . . we made . . . we were intimate, Morgan."
She gasps and recoils as if she has been struck. Her eyes grow wide and her body goes completely rigid.
Thane flinches and forces out the rest of the story, as if this hadn't been bad enough.
"It was a huge mistake. I didna mean for it to happen. It just . . . we lost our heads . . . she was so defenseless, and I wanted to . . ."
His voice trails off. Morgan remains as motionless as a stone.
He clears his throat. "Lass . . . I saw Jes tonight at the bar. She . . . ." God help me. "She is . . . she's pregnant, Morgan. The bairn is mine."
Thane searches her face to assess her reaction. She is frozen, blank-faced, her eyes unfocused and unseeing.
She snaps out of it and meets his gaze, pain dulling her usual radiant expression.
"Go. Get out."
"Get OUT! I need some space, and I canna think with you here."
"But . . . "
Thane has known Morgan since childhood and has no doubt that she is serious. He stands and crosses silently to the door, turning his agonized gaze to her one last time before leaving the apartment.
Morgan remains motionless, mind racing to assess all of the repercussions of Thane's betrayal. Her "happily ever after" dreams are completely shattered, and it is going to take her some time to come to terms with their new situation. Her anger and hurt are compounded by the fact that she herself has been trying for months to conceive, and now to find out that Thane's firstborn child will not be hers is almost more than she can bear.
Long into the night she sits, stone-faced, until finally the tears burst forth in a torrent and she sobs herself to sleep.
Sun streaming through the window wakes her. At first she is disoriented and confused, but all too soon reality comes crashing down once again and a crushing weight settles over her.
She does not, however, succumb again to the anguish in her heart. She steels herself, squares her shoulders, and reaches for her phone.
"Thane? Come home. We need to talk."
After she ends the call, she goes into the bathroom to shower and wash away the ravages of the previous evening. Once presentable, she marshals all of her considerable strength and sits to await Thane's return.
Thane has spent the night with his friend Gannon at the boarding house where many of TEKville's bachelors live. Filled with dread, he does not rush home. Finally, his feet dragging as if encased in cement, he opens the door of the apartment he shares with his soul mate to find her sitting stoically in much the same position in which he last saw her. Now, however, she is quietly composed. Only those who know her well -- as he certainly does -- can see a trace of the hurt lurking behind her eyes. Her pain is a lance to his heart and he longs to take her into his arms, but there is no hint of welcome in her demeanor.
"Morgan . . ."
"No, Thane. Sit. Let me speak before you say anythin'."
Fear courses through him once again as he takes a seat on the couch next to her and waits for the words that will bring his world crashing down around him.
Morgan studies him levelly before speaking, taking note of his disheveled appearance and reddened eyes.
"Thane, I canna pretend to understand what the hell you were thinking or feeling the day of the christening. I donna want to know. I should leave you. I have every right to leave you. But I canna. What binds us is stronger than this . . . this . . ."
She almost erupts into recriminations but her strong will prevails and she regains the iron grip she is keeping on her emotions. She begins again. "I dinna come all the way here from Scotland to be discouraged at the first hint of adversity. I waited for you to let her down gently, and now . . ."
Once again she pauses to restore her composure. "Thane, I canna pretend to be happy about this, but I canna leave you. I must accept the situation, and we must make the best of it." Fearing his answer, she still must ask the question, but she cannot keep the anguish from her eyes as she speaks the words. "Thane . . . do you . . . will you . . ."
Sensing her unspoken question, Thane comes to her rescue, leaning forward to take her tiny hands in his. "Morgan, no. I donna want to be with Jes. I have a responsibility toward the bairn, aye, but you are my life. I couldna turn my back on you if I tried."
Relief suffuses her face, but she quickly composes her features. "Then we must figure out together what we will do."
Thane's relief knows no bounds. He feels as if the weight of the world has been lifted from him. He crushes his beloved to him in a frantic embrace, tears stinging his eyes.
After a few moments of simply holding her, he pulls away, maintaining contact.
"Jes says she doesna want or need anythin' from me, 'at least not now'."
"But Thane . . . I know you. You willna be content to sit back in the shadows. I know you will support the bairn financially, but willna you also want to be its faither? In more than name only?"
Thane is taken aback, not actually having thought that far into the future. He blinks.
"I . . . I donna know, lass. The whole idea is still verra foreign to me. My lifestyle, my career . . . they donna leave much room for being a . . . . a father."
"We'll deal wi' that when you've had more time to come to terms with it, aye? For not 'tis enough that we are together."
"Lass, have I mentioned lately how much I love you? You are a remarkable woman."
Inpulsively, Thane drops to one knee and takes her hand.
"Lass, I know this isna the best time, but . . . will you marry me?"
Morgan looks at him as if he has completely lost his mind -- which, considering the circumstances, isn't far from the truth.
"Thane . . . ."
"Morgan, it's what you've always wanted, aye?" Thane sounds a little bit desperate.
"Yes, of course, but . . . now isna really the best time, love. Let's wait and see how everything works out once the child is born."
In her mind are the words she will not speak aloud.
I love you with all my heart, Thane Campbell, but I donna want to marry you NOW. I wish I could feel more secure about what will happen once the bairn arrives, but after what you did . . . I canna.
Thane is crestfallen, but remains hopeful. A few minutes ago he was certain that she would leave him entirely, so he is willing to give her as much time as she needs as long as she agrees to remain by his side. He nods once and resumes his place on the couch, still grasping her hand as if it were a lifeline. Morgan drops her head to his shoulder and they sit together in what outwardly appears to be companionable silence, but what is in reality individual hell.
To be continued . . .