In the autumn of 1768, Lord John arrives unannounced at Fraser's Ridge with his stepson, William—Jamie's illegitimate son. He reveals that his wife, Isobel, died while on the passage to Jamaica with William, and he travels now to his wife's estate in Virginia. Fraser's Ridge is not precisely on the way from Charleston to the estate in Virginia, but Lord John wanted to stop and see Jamie, for various reasons.
While visiting, Lord John contracts the measles, and Claire treats him while Jamie takes William on a hunting trip to protect him from infection. John and Claire speak frankly while Jamie is gone, a tense conversation that perhaps helps them understand each other better. He leaves once he has recovered and William returns with Jamie from hunting.
About a year later, John returns to North Carolina, this time to Cross Creek, where a pregnant Brianna awaits news of Roger and her parents. Lord John stops at River Run in the course of searching for Roger Wakefield, as Jamie had asked him to do months ago, but Brianna apprises him of the developments in the search for Roger. Instead of moving on to Wilmington, Lord John stays on at River Run and keeps Brianna company while they wait for Jamie and Claire to return, hopefully with Roger.
After witnessing Lord John paying a late night visit to the slave quarters, and guessing at his homosexuality, Brianna tries to blackmail Lord John into marrying her, threatening to expose him as a "pederast" if he refuses. Lord John insists she explain how she came to resort to blackmail to solve her problems, and they have a long discussion about her predicament and John's own history. Eventually, John agrees to fake an engagement with her, in order to throw off her other potential suitors while they wait for news of Roger. It is during these months at River Run that Brianna and Lord John become close friends.
In the spring, Lord John hears of Stephen Bonnet's arrest and sentence to hang, and tells Brianna of it. She insists she wants to see Bonnet before his execution, and Lord John reluctantly agrees to take her to him. While in the cellar of the building where Bonnet is being kept, Sergeant Murchison knocks a blow to Lord John's head, rendering John apparently dead. Brianna discovers he is not, and gets Bonnet to carry John's lifeless body out and away from the building, which is set to explode. They get out in time, and Bonnet escapes while John survives.
Lord John is still recovering from his injuries when Jamie and Claire return from their journey in May. Claire inspects the healing wound to John's head, on which another physician performed surgery. Claire returns John's ring to him, which had helped maintain the ruse of his engagement to Brianna.