Mad About Plaid
She was lost.
And from the look of things, stuck on the shoulder of a single-track road deep in the Scottish countryside, it was doubtful another soul would be passing by soon. Unless sheep counted. There were plenty of those to go around, dotting the green hillside like hundreds of fluffy marshmallows under an ominous gray sky.
Lucy's stomach clenched into a hungry knot, a bag of marshmallows sounding pretty good right about then. With a wistful sigh, she returned her attention to the map. The last town was nearly five miles back.
Five. Long. Miles.
Once again, she'd allowed Riley to talk her into another wild scheme, and this time it had been covering for her cousin at work. What did Lucy know about travel writing? She'd never been beyond the Eastern seaboard—a failure in and of itself seeing as how she'd once planned to see the world.
"Damn it, Riley," she muttered, wondering how many times she'd said those words in relation to her cousin? Thousands probably.
She knew it was wrong, but part of her hoped Riley was having a craptastic day too. It was the least she deserved.
And while Lucy was at it, she might as well add the woman who'd met her at the airport to the growing list of offenders. The lovely Grace Lindsay who'd bought her lunch, taken her shopping for real Scottish clothes, and had rented Lucy her very own mini car for the trek to Balmorie Estate & Guest House.
"I put together the Lindsay and MacLaren Tartans," Grace had said beyond the changing room door during their shopping detour. "We'd be honored if you wear them."
Hurting someone's feelings and country pride was the last thing Lucy had wanted to do her first day in Scotland, so she walked out of the shop in blue and green checkered slacks criss-crossed in black, yellow, and red, paired with a green, red, and blue sweater.
Grace Lindsay, with her cool Scottish accent, bright red hair, freckles, and faulty directions was the reason Lucy was currently dressed like Willy Wonka out for a day of golfing. In the case of the matching plaid cap with the fuzzy red pompom on the top, which Grace had also bought for her, Lucy had shoved it into her backpack vowing silently that hell would freeze over before she'd wear it.
Could be worse.
It could always be worse. In fact, Lucy and 'could be worse' were intimately acquainted. Yet another often-used phrase in her life.
Resigned to the fact she'd have to leave her gas-deprived rental—whose gas gauge was obviously shot since it still indicated a full tank—and walk back to the last town, she grabbed her backpack off the passenger seat, praying that the remainder of her vacation would be just as she'd envisioned; peaceful and inspiring—the total opposite of the adventure Grammy Lin and her cousins envisioned with a string of hunky Scotsmen. It had been over a year since her last relationship. If there was a perfect time for a wild, irresponsible fling, it was now, or so they'd claimed, even going so far as to tuck several condoms into her carry-on bag.
Lucy didn't even want to think about the look on Reverend Atwater's face, the friendly missionary who sat next to her on the plane, when she'd pulled out a shiny foil-wrapped Mammoth Man while looking for her eye drops to which he'd asked hopefully, "Ooh, is that chocolate?"
Having to explain it wasn't exactly chocolate, she'd quietly searched her carry-on for more surprises, vowing to strangle both Gram, Kate, and Riley when she returned home. A fitting punishment, she decided, after discovering a handful of the shiny foil chocolates in her carry-on.
And not a single Median Man or Mini Man.
Mammoth Mans were a joke. If they were that desperate for her to find a man, they could have at least been realistic.
Lucy was surprised Kate hadn't tucked their treasured copy of Grammy Lin's Highlander's Harlot into her bag. Lucy still remembered the day they'd found 'Double H' on Gram's front porch swing and read it in the bedroom fort they'd made upstairs. And oh boy had it ever been enlightening. Scandalous, hysterical, amazing. She, Riley, and Kate had laughed so hard. They'd gone wide-eyed and quiet. Embarrassed and confused. Heartsick and hopeful for Alastair and Fiona.
Their love of heroes and all things Scottish had begun that day thanks to Gram's love of highland romances.
As she smiled at the memory, a splat of rain hit the tip of her nose.
No. No way.
Lucy tipped her head back, and eyed the dark clouds gathering above her. Another raindrop smacked her forehead. This was not happening.
An ominous moment went by before the water-laden clouds gave way. In seconds she was drenched, her hair flattened against her head. Freaking perfect. A sharp laugh escaped her wet lips. Luck had never seen her through before. Why should it start now? The awful cap with the red pompom on top was still secure in her backpack. With a defeated sigh and a glare at the heavens, Lucy shoved it on her head and continued walking—no, slopping—down the now muddy track.
Hell had officially frozen over.
Should her bad luck continue, at least the bright red beacon on her head would visible from the rescue plane.
Despite it being May, the rain was cold and it coated her clothes and skin until she felt like a walking icicle. Not a single car had come by. Or a tractor. Or a person. Not even a marshmallow.
Her gut clenched again with hunger. The thought of a warm meal, hot shower, and a soft bed was the only thing that kept one foot in front of the other. Just make it back to town. That's all she had to do. Five miles. Easy right?
After two steep hills Lucy started having second thoughts about it being easy.
As she crested a third breath-stealing hill, a deer leapt across the road. She stopped and watched its retreat, letting out a surprised oath at what she saw in the distance.
Talk about picture perfect.
Not too big, not too small. A small L-shaped castle, with what looked like a Victorian-era addition complete with high peaks and Gothic windows, sat in the nicest spot tucked between the base of low hill and a long, thin loch. Tidy outbuildings surrounded the place and a well-tended lawn curved down to a tiny pebble beach.
Now this was what she'd come for.
A slow smile spread across her face. Scotland. Castles. Lochs. Yeah, life was definitely looking up. There were two cars in the driveway and a few dim lights in the windows. It looked to be a half-mile away or so. If she left the muddy track, made a shortcut over the pasture, through the woods, she figured she'd be there in no time. And it sure as hell was closer than five miles back to town...
A Scot Like You
(MacLarens of Balmorie, Book 2)
Don't freak out. Act normal.
Easy to say. But way harder to do. As soon as Kate looked out the window and saw the land 10,000 feet below her, the song from Braveheart wafted through her brain like a summer breeze over heather-covered hills, and she wanted to scream like a groupie at an all boy band concert.
A huge grin split her face, and she bounced a few times—discreetly, of course—in her seat.
Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined she'd be here. And she sure as hell never thought her cousin's trip to Scotland three months ago would result in an engagement with a half Scot, ex-marine, Innkeeper.
Inevitably, her thoughts turned to the last few months and the utter wreck her life had become. Funny how things worked out. Lucy's life had risen to joyous highs as Kate's had crumbled to dust.
Just . . . crumbled.
Needing a distraction, Kate turned to Mrs. Fitz-Grant-Williams. But the elderly woman kept her attention fixed solidly forward. Which might have been Kate's fault.
When she'd sat down next to Mrs. Fitz-Grant-Williams seven or so hours prior, Kate had struck up a mostly one way conversation. Mrs. F.G.W. had learned all about Lucy's whirlwind romance, Kate's itinerary for the next two weeks, followed by her reasons for the trip, and her break up with He Who shall Not Be Named (one Holden Morten who had earned himself the name Holdenmort for good reason). After that, she might have revealed the origins of her love affair with Scotland—the discovery of Grammy Lin's cache of lusty romances and her well-loved edition of Highlander's Harlot.
After that Ms. Fitz-Grant-Williams avoided her altogether.
Which was okay because Kate brought said book with her to pass the time.
Bringing that old paperback felt like a rite of passage. She wasn't really sure why she'd brought it. She'd been angry when she grabbed it, angry at Holden. Angry at love. Angry at the book for making her believe in heroes and happily ever afters.
Her cousin, Riley had swiped Highlander's Harlot (affectionately dubbed, Double H) from Gram's porch swing at the age of thirteen and read it out loud to Kate and Lucy under the covers of their make-shift fort. Ever since, Kate dreamt of her own extremely hot, alpha Highlander with a voice potent enough to conquer worlds, and a body to rock them all.
Screw Holdenmort. Evil jerk.
Not that he ever rocked her world or loved her in that way.
But trust was trust. Friendship could be as deep and true as any other kind of love.
Kate forced away the negativity. This was going to be the best vacation of her life, damn it. It had to be because she wasn't going to settle for anything less.
Scotland and Kate, she mused, together at last.
The lovely brogue that came over the speaker to announce their landing nearly did her in. Kate sighed again and settled back.
Fasten your seat belts, lairds and laddies, she thought with a smile, Katherine Lee Walker is about to land.