Legend of the Mist

Legend of the Mist

Vicki Hinze

January 2013 $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-249-1

Catie Morgan's fallen in love with Jamie Cameron, a modern-day Scottish laird. Did she once love his lookalike twelfth-century ancestor? According to the diary that she may have written nine centuries ago, she disappeared into the Highland mists on the night of their wedding. In the present day, a murderer is determined to make certain history repeats itself.

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Catie Morgan’s fallen in love with Jamie Cameron, a modern-day Scottish laird. Did she once love his lookalike twelfth-century ancestor? According to the diary that she may have written nine centuries ago, she disappeared into the Highland mists on the night of their wedding. In the present day, a murderer is determined to make certain history repeats itself.

She ran from the mist to the clear air near the fire and threw herself at him, planting kiss upon kiss to his jaw, his cheeks, his eyes, his neck. "Oh, Jamie. Jamie.”

He lifted her to him. "Ye wear my colors,” he said.

She laughed deeper. Because he was emotional and his Gaelic burr so thick she could barely un­derstand him, she kissed him again and squeezed his broad shoulders. Her poor darling had probably worried himself sick after telling her to stay close to him—then her dozing off for a nap. "I’m all right. Really, I am. You can stop your worrying.”

But truthfully, he didn’t look worried. He looked dazed. "Ye wear my colors,” he repeated.

"Aye, Jamie,” she agreed, impatient to tell him she knew who had committed the murders.

"What is yer name, lass?”

"This is no time for humor. I’m trying to tell you that I know who killed—”

"I canna understand ye, lass. Is that English you’re speaking?”

"It’s me—Cather­ine. Don’t you know me?”

"Cameron, I challenge.”

Catie glared at the men walking toward them. "Excuse me, but I need to talk to Jamie in private.”

"Who are ye, lass?” an old man asked.

"Catherine,” she said. Why was everyone talking in Gaelic? Why couldn’t Jamie understand English?

Jamie set her down to the ground. "Catherine, ye willna be rude to yer king. Apologize.”

She frowned her confusion. A ribbon of fear wound up her spine, through her stomach and chest. "My—my king?”

Vicki Hinze is the award-winning author of 30 novels, 4 nonfiction books and hundreds of articles, published in as many as sixty-three countries. She is recognized by Who’s Who in the World as an author and as an educator. For more information, please visit her website at www.vickihinze.com.


"…an amazing achievement. This book wrenches the heart, uplifts the soul, and fills the reader with a sense of wonder.” -- Susan Wiggs, bestselling author

"Captures the reader’s imagination. Scottish history as rich and heady as a robust wine.” -- Rendezvous Magazine



Scotland, 2013

LAIRD HAROLD Cameron lay dead.

His widow, Letty, crossed the ice-crusted ridge and took her proper place. Despite the treacherous weather, the clan helicopter executed a perfect honorary fly-by. Its whirling props beat at the air, droning in her ears and pulsing in her temples. When it disappeared over the ridge into a wall of fog, Letty braced herself then looked down on her beloved Harry’s rain-swept coffin. Pain, sharp and swift, seized her heart. Rainbow spots blinded her eyes. Her head swam, and the ground rushed up to greet her.

Carry me, she prayed. This time she couldn’t walk alone. She shut her eyes and began the litany, seeking solace where so often she had found it in the past.

When she finished and felt brave enough to face what would come, she opened her eyes, but she didn’t dare to glance at the five distinct groups of mourners, or to her side at her grandson, James. Though for different reasons, their haunted expressions would be the same, would only add to her agony.

A tightness spread through her chest. She stiffened against it. Burying her husband of half a century had her feeling every day of her seventy years. Empty. Angry that Harry had left her. And frightened. So very frightened...

To some, her fear alone would have justified killing the Cameron. She couldn’t change that sinful fact, though it did console her to know that no man, no matter how noble or just he deemed his reasons, would openly admit that shameful truth. James had long since seen to that.

A twinge of pride for her sole heir eased the hurt that Harry’s loss held on her heart. Feeling sturdier, she risked a glance at her grandson. His expression as dark as the foul winter sky, he lifted his chin until all she could see was its underside. The freezing rain quickly soaked his beard, darkening it to the color of dried blood. He looked down, worry and fear for her clouding his eyes, then stretched out his hand and dropped a fistful of crushed heather into the hole he’d chiseled into the frozen ground—the gaping hole that now held his grandfather’s coffin.

Her Harry’s coffin.

Oh God! Her love, her best friend, was dead!

Pain speared through her heart. Ice-cold fear crept into her bones. Shivering, she forced her arms to stay at her sides and not to cross her chest in supplication. She couldn’t cry. She wouldn’t. Not now and not here. Never here.

Her clan, the three neighboring ones, the villagers and James—all would expect her to face this God-awful tragedy with courage and dignity, with spirit. But the sad truth was, her spirit was sorely flagging, and she just didn’t know if she had the strength to pull herself up alone.

It had only been a year—one scant year, for God’s sake—since she’d buried her sole son and his wife. One scant year since she’d watched James lower their coffins into the ground on this same barren ridge.

The old pain joined the new and surged through her chest. How much heartache could one soul bear? How much pain could one small, insignificant woman withstand without losing her mind? It wasn’t right for a woman to outlive her children. It wasn’t... right.

The tears in her heart slid up her throat, choking her, burning the backs of her eyes and stinging her nose. She fought them, and looked away.

Buried under nature’s winter wrath, the Highland ridge looked stark, as bleak as the empty eyes of the Cameron mourners. Just like before. But neither empty eyes nor demons from hell could have kept James Cameron from his duties then, and they wouldn’t now. Praise God, James was strong enough to see to his duties no matter how crushing his pain. Steeped in tradition, he had allowed no other man to shovel the sacred earth; he had buried his parents himself. And as Harry’s sole heir and the new Cameron laird, James alone would bury his grandfather. It was fitting. Proper. And, God forgive her for her weakness, it was comforting.

A puffin trilled a mournful tune, and James’s knuckles bleached white. She couldn’t bear seeing that. He had loved his grandfather so. Why had Harry had to die? Why?

Squinting against threatening tears and blowing rain, she glanced over at Father MacDuff, the old priest who had become her spiritual advisor and confidant over forty years ago. He too was steeped in tradition, droning on in the old Gaelic language, committing Harry’s soul to God as if this were the twelfth century rather than the twentieth. Aye, there was good in tradition. Familiarity. Safety. Stability...

Her old friend met her gaze. She saw his unease,, saw it, and worried that it might be just. Maybe she had lost her grip on reality. Did the insane know the moment insanity struck them? Did they? Or were they filled with doubts, or even blissfully ignorant that they’d slipped over the edge into madness?

The cold fear in her grew stronger, weakening her knees. Shivering, she crossed her chest with her arms and again looked away.

One by one the Cameron stepped forward to drop rose petals on Harry’s coffin. Harry had hated roses. Too many thorns, he’d said. But he had loved their scent... her rose water scent. She closed her eyes and again felt Harry nuzzling her neck, growling his pleasure, nipping at her skin as he had fifty years ago. As he had a week ago. She drew in a deep breath, shuttered thoughts that he would never hold her again, then opened her eyes. Since only petals fell, she didn’t stop the Cameron mourners. Her Harry would carry her scent with him through eternity; her scent, and her heart.

Celwyn, the Cameron maid, stepped forward and dropped her yellow petals, her sob lifting her shoulders. She’d wrung her hands in her coat until it had crumpled the fabric. Her sister, Bronwyn, stood stone-faced at Celwyn’s side, giving her the evil eye for being emotional. Letty paused to again thank God James hadn’t married that woman, then looked back at Celwyn. She had loved Harry, too.

A tender hitch knotted in Letty’s chest. Celwyn’s spreading gossip of Cameron affairs in the village had annoyed Letty and, even now, she would be miffed, but to her way of thinking, James’s people needed to know their laird could be gentle. That truth had surprised them, to be sure—probably as much, if not more than, her own breaking down.

Celwyn glanced up, and Letty saw the worry in her eyes. Heat surged to Letty’s face, and she shifted her feet. Her toes had gone numb and were stinging. A blessed state, being numb, but so elusive in times of tragedy.

She supposed she shouldn’t have tried to explain Catherine Morgan to Celwyn. The lass was just too young. Only with age can a body accept that things go on in this world which defy rational explanation. Only with age comes the presence of mind, and the serenity to accept all one doesn’t understand.

Harry would’ve understood. Even with his mother’s inferior English blood, he would have understood. Her Harry had been an exceptional, superior man.

The Camerons continued their trek past Harry’s coffin, their footsteps crackling loudly, turning the crusted ice into muddy slush that would freeze again long before nightfall. Staring at the wet pine box littered with red, white, and yellow rose petals, Letty again suffered the lonely ache, the emptiness of losing Harry.

Especially now. Now, when she most needed him to guide her through this terrifying dilemma. Dear, dear Harry. What would he have her do?

She looked up at James. His expression had grown masked. Harry would have her tell James. Their grandson was strong but not, thank God, as ruthless as the first Cameron laird was said to have been over nine hundred years ago: a laird whose name her James shared.

She sighed. Aye, Harry would have her tell James, have her do the one thing she could not do. The risks were too high, and she had too little left to lose.

Celwyn was back in place with the Camerons and again wringing her hands. Letty fought back a sob of regret. Oh, Harry. Talking to her was such a mistake. Yet, I’d had to talk to someone. Finding that diary, learning the woman who’d written it had traveled from this time to that of the first Cameron laird, learning she’d become a Cameron ancestor and that I had brought her to Cameron... well, who wouldn’t have been stunned? Who wouldn’t need to talk with someone?

Letty stared at his coffin, mystified. It can’t be true, can it? How could it be true? Shaking, she squeezed her eyes closed to shut out the possibility. I don’t even know a Catherine Morgan. But did you, Harry?

Again Letty searched her mind, drifted back through fifty years of introductions and acquaintances, and again she failed to place any Morgan other than her old friend, Annie. Annie, who had never married and couldn’t possibly have a daughter or a granddaughter named Catherine.

Oh, Harry. What am I to do? What will happen if what the diary claims prove true? What will happen to James, to all Camerons, if this Catherine Morgan shouldn’t come to Cameron? If she shouldn’t go back and become an ancestor?

The same dark fears that had sent Letty reeling the night she’d first found and read the diary threatened her now. Summoning every ounce of courage she could muster, she fought them. There’d been a spectacle that night, but there would not be a spectacle at her Harry’s funeral.

I know the fault for that was mine. Why, oh why, did I claim finding the diary a miracle? If only I’d kept it to myself, then Celwyn wouldn’t have heard it—or repeated it in the village. More importantly, James wouldn’t have heard it. Oh, I know he overreacted in true Cameron tradition. Worrying. And I know it’s my fault he ruined the chapel door with his shoulder. Letty squeezed her eyes shut, then shot Harry’s coffin an apologetic look. But the truth is that the whole ordeal surprised me. Surely you understand that. But I would have calmed down on my own... eventually. And if you’d been here with me where you belong instead of in that damn box, then I wouldn’t have had to deal with it alone. So the fault is yours too.

Was it really? Harry hadn’t wanted to die. Letty fidgeted, remorseful. Snow crunched under her feet. I’m sorry, dear. It’s just that this is so hard to fathom, and James... well, you were right about James. He does need a wife to soothe his soul. I know, you said so at least a thousand times. But I still say that losing a bit of his stubbornness first wouldn’t hurt. He definitely gets that from your side of the family, darling, and it’s such a trial.

She sighed and looked at James from under her lashes. Tenderness welled. Aye, he has a stubborn streak as wide as Kirkland Dam, and a temper as foul and fierce as a Highland winter. Not so fierce as yours... well, maybe it is as fierce as yours, but the night 1 found the diary, James was gentle. He cradled me in his arms as if I were as fragile and tender as a spanking-new bairn. He’ll make a fine father, if we can ever get him to marry. He’s a proud man, our James, and getting him to recant his vow not to marry won’t be easy. But even if he does, if what that diary says proves true, then him marrying won’t happen unless I do the right thing about this Catherine Morgan business. How could he? Oh God, Harry. What if I make a mistake? What if I

James touched her arm.

Letty swallowed a gasp and looked around. The Camerons were all back in place. The Kirkland clansmen stepped forward, their heads bare to the stinging rain and icy wind, their laird conspicuously absent.

"Hot-headed and lusty,” Harry had said of the Kirklands fifty years ago. It was true then, and true now. Though their men weren’t as lusty as Cameron men, of course.

She stared at the kilt of the man leading them; the Kirkland’s second. Where was their laird? Why hadn’t he come to Harry’s funeral? How dare he not come to Harry’s funeral.

No matter. Dipping her chin, she dropped her gaze to the crusty ice. No matter. Harry would meet his Maker without the Kirkland just fine. And he’d agree it was Catherine Morgan who mattered now. For James’s sake, Catherine Morgan was all that mattered now.

When the last of the Kirklands returned to their group, Colin Ferguson, the youngest of the four lairds, stepped forward. "My sympathy, Lady Cameron,” he said, then sprinkled a spray of soil over Harry’s coffin.

How like Colin to know Harry loved the land more than what grew in it. Scotland. How Harry had loved Scotland.

Seeing pity in Colin’s eyes, Letty nodded to reassure him all was well, knowing perfectly well it wasn’t. Her Cameron pride intact, she then looked on to the Fergusons passing Harry’s coffin single-file, their looks and expressions mimicking their young laird’s.

The wind gusted and the MacPherson laird stepped forward, his billowing black coat dripping rain, his expression equally sleety. James stepped closer to her, and Letty narrowed her gaze on the big laird. The MacPherson clenched his jaw, glared at her, and then tossed snow onto Harry.

Letty nearly smiled. She didn’t, of course—they were enemies—but she could have. If the MacPherson did anything the least bit kind for any Cameron, Harry would haunt the man—and MacPherson knew it. Yet, he had come to bid Harry a final farewell. This time her respectful nod was genuine. Given grudgingly, but genuine.

The laird nodded back, then walked on, no doubt to tell more gossip.

So far he’d done little damage but Letty still stared daggers into his back; it was expected. Some in the village had hotly defended her. They firmly believed living with Harold Cameron could do awful things to a woman’s mind. Others denied she’d been affected at all. To them, being devout as Lady Cameron surely was, she’d never succumb to such a mortal sin as insanity. As if the insane had any choice in the matter! Still others pitied her. Spirited or no, it was clear as day to them that her grief had overcome her God-given sense. Grief had soured her lust for living.

Soured her lust for living? If he’d been in it and not spiriting his way to heaven, Harry would’ve rolled over in his grave laughing at that one. But if he thought it true, he’d scorch her ears with his lectures on the Scot’s duty to embrace life, on her to follow the traditions he’d held dear.

And though it rankled, she had to admit that, on hearing the gossip, a few of the villagers had preened. The old hag finally had shown her true colors. Hadn’t they warned against her pious lies for years?

Letty glared at the MacPhersons. Thank God those ugly rumors had come from them, the senseless twits, and everyone knew the Camerons had been feuding with the MacPhersons for nine hundred years.

What had started that feud, anyway? Letty cocked her head.

Harry would remember. Harry remembered everything about Cameron history.

But Harry was... gone.

A sob rose in her throat. She swallowed it back down. Just a few more minutes and this would be over. She could do it. She could talk with Harry some more, do her duty, follow tradition and hold up for just a few minutes more. Harry would expect—no, Harry would demand her to hold up. She’d given him her word.

A MacPherson clansman strutted by and lifted his nose over Harry’s grave. Letty didn’t dare check to see how James had taken that snub, but still she gripped his arm to keep him in place. There would be no bloodletting brawl at her Harry’s funeral. Afterward would be soon enough for James to box the upstart’s ears.

Behind the clans, the villagers huddled under a sea of black umbrellas, waiting patiently for their turn to parade past Harry’s coffin. They’d come to the funeral knowing the service would be a lengthy one. The old Cameron, they would say, had done too much that required forgiveness; so much that even the devout Lady Cameron’s pleas for his salvation would fall on deaf ears, and Harold Cameron’s soul would be spirited straight to hell.

They were wrong, of course. Letty sniffled. Her Harry was surely already tucked away, safe and snug in heaven, going on about his duties there. But she forgave them. After all, they had been deceived.

The villagers came forward. Letty gave each of them a respectful nod. It was not for the Cameron that they had braved the brutal storm, but for her. She knew that, and she loved them for it. The laird had been feared. But for reasons she’d never fully understood, the villagers and the clan members had given her their love. It was a gift she considered precious. So very precious.

Still she wasn’t naïve, or unaware of their pitiful tales. Since Harry’s death, rumors about her had swept through Cameron Village like a life-eating fire, belching dark secrets and family skeletons burned bare-bone clean. They knew that after she’d seen Harry dead she’d locked herself in the chapel for three full days and nights. They knew that James, God love his heart, had allowed no one in the castle to intrude on her grief. And they knew that Celwyn, the young Cameron maid, had sworn hand on the Bible to Father MacDuff that she’d heard Letty screeching her thanks to God for the miracle that would spare her grandson’s life.

Uncertain it was a miracle, Letty squeezed James’s arm. He covered her hand with his, and gave her a gentle pat. She stared at his fingers, blunt and strong and raw from the cold and wind. Yes, Harry would have her tell James about Catherine Morgan’s diary. But whether or not finding that book had been a miracle, Letty couldn’t tell James. He was a Cameron down to the marrow of his bones, and no Cameron would allow Catherine Morgan to endanger her life by going back to the first laird, as the diary said she had. For James’s own safety, Letty couldn’t tell him. Lacing her fingers with his, she looked up at her grandson. For her own selfishness, she couldn’t tell him. She already had buried too many of those she loved. James was all she had left now. She couldn’t lose him, too. Harry was... gone.

Dear, dear Harry. God, but she missed him. She swallowed back a sob, stiffened against the gnawing pain, thrust out her chin, then scanned the mourners with their now watchful eyes. So they had come. The defenders, the pitiers, and the MacPhersons had joined the merely curious and the few devoted mourners at Harold Cameron’s funeral. Harry would have expected them. And, though Letty would have preferred that only those who’d loved Harry had come, she understood why the others had felt they must attend his funeral.

They were on a mission.

Each wanted to see for himself whose hushed whispers proved true.

Each wanted to see for himself if Lady Cameron indeed had lost her mind.

Their uncertainty terrified her. Because, truthfully, she herself wasn’t sure.

I’m watching you, Letty Cameron. Aye, you’ve put on a brave front but, a moment ago, fear shadowed your eyes and it’s bleached your face deathly white. You know everyone sees that you’re struggling, yet you can’t make it go away. You’re wallowing in misery and fear—and I’m savoring every moment of it.

My, my, I never imagined such an intense reaction from you. You look so frail and beaten that even the fat, old priest is trembling, fearful his precious Letty will soon join the Cameron in the grave. And you will—if I wish it.

I’ve seen MacDuff’s terror before. The fool trusts everyone. That flaw has made him vulnerable for a long time. Even before he became a priest, when the good Father MacDuff was just plain Gregor Forbes, he was as easy to lead as a lamb to slaughter. Fitting that even his name isn’t of his own choosing, eh? "MacDuff” comes with the collar, Letty. It’s an honorary tribute to his twelfth-century predecessor, the first Cameron priest. You didn’t know I knew that, did you?

There’s a lot you don’t realize I know. But what matters is that by whatever name he’s called, this MacDuff should’ve known better than to cross himself—twice no less—when the coroner decreed the Cameron’s death due to natural causes. Of all things. Absurd, eh, Letty? Harold Cameron dying of natural causes?

God, but I hate stupid people. And that coroner is as stupid as MacDuff. I heard MacDuff myself, later that same day atop Kirkland Dam, tell the Kirkland—the Kirkland, for God’s sake—it would take a miracle to keep you alive. And that asinine remark started all the dangerous speculation. Had Harold Cameron died in his sleep without a whimper? Or had he been murdered?

MacDuff will answer for the trouble he’s caused. His loose tongue has put me through hell for a week. His hell will last longer, and be more painful. Aye, that I promise. For now, all’s well that ends well. The old Cameron’s coffin is in the ground, and you, his proud old woman, after burying your son and his wife just a year ago with courage and not a tear, now stand slumped against James, weeping like a wounded child.

I heard you carrying on like a wild woman about that diary you found in the chapel, too. Unfortunately, you made sense only to the demons in your mind. I couldn’t find the damn thing that night, but I’ll find it soon. I must know what in it has affected you so magnificently.

In the meantime, my obstacles are crumbling. Oh, I know I have to be careful, especially of James. The new Cameron laird looks wooden, aye, but he is in pain. Admirable that even devastated, he stands tall and wears his red-and-black tartan plaid proudly, by God, though it’s rain-soaked and limp. I wonder; would he love his colors nearly so much if he knew I’d used them to kill his parents?

Amusing that mere water affected their fall, and it will affect his. Then I’ll reclaim everything stolen from me. It’s my destiny, eh, Letty?

Aye, proceeding with my plans will take cunning—the new laird is nobody’s fool—but then, neither am I. I’ve succeeded before, and I will again.

The priest has finally finished. For that, even I give thanks. My danger again has passed. Harold Cameron is dead and buried. Soon you will leave my beloved Scotland for an "extended rest” in America. And the new Cameron will be left alone to suffer his grief. Grief that will blind him, until it’s too late.

Just look at him, Letty. Even the mist rises for the arrogant bastard, enveloping him in a frosty gray shroud. ’Tis fitting, because he’s at my mercy. He doesn’t yet realize it, of course, but he will. And when the Kirkland is discovered, James’s debt to me will double. You see, I alone will believe him innocent of attacking the Kirkland laird. But then, I alone will know who committed that attack. Clever of me to deliberately confuse everyone, eh?

I should celebrate my mischief Aye, I should. Here at your Harry’s grave, I’ll whisper the words I’ve wanted to speak for so long: "Beware, James Cameron. Today you’re a mighty laird, but by the end of the next Festival of the Brides, everything you love or value will either be mine, or dead.”

I can’t help but to laugh, Letty. He doesn’t know I’ve made the vow, much less that I can keep it. But I can. I can do anything I wish, and I’ve proven it.

Harold Cameron is dead.

And for the third time, I’ve gotten away with murder.




LETTY CAMERON sniffed. The two huge collies flanking her grandson were wet, and smelled it. Between that and James’s roaring her head felt near ready to explode.

Disgusted with the lot of them, she tugged a hot pink floppy hat down on her ears. "Do lower your voice, James. I’m not deaf yet. Though if you keep shouting—”

"If shouting you deaf would keep you at home, I’m thinking it’d be the thing to do.” He paced the great hall, his anger evident in his steps.

"Well, it won’t.” She glared at him. At times the man could try the patience of a saint. "And you can just quit your snarls. They’re worse than Zeus and Cricket’s.”

The pounding at her temples had her shushing herself. "I’m going to America, and I won’t hear another word about it.”

"Damn it, Letty, you’re being unreasonable.”

That statement earned him a second glare, then slowed her down. This trip would seem unreasonable to James. He’d no idea whyshe was going. Her heartstrings suffered a wild jerk. He looked so worried.

She walked over to him. Cricket and Zeus flanked their master, growling. She stared at the dogs, daring them to move, and held them pinned until they hushed. "Cowards,” she said, knowing they were anything but. If anyone else tried getting as close to James, Cricket and Zeus would go straight for the throat.


Reaching up, she patted James’s bearded jaw. "Don’t bother, love.”

He narrowed his brows in question.

"Don’t bother beating yourself to death with if onlys. If Harry were here, I’d still be going.”

James covered her hand with his, pressing her palm flat on his tufted jaw. His voice grew tender. "I’m worried about you. It’s been less than a month...”

"I’m fine.” Hoping she sounded reassuring, she forced a brittle smile. If her grandson knew the reason for her trip to New Orleans, he’d have her straitjacketed and locked up. Which was exactly why she’d not told him. That, and because if she failed... . . no, she wouldn’t fail. She didn’t dare fail. Their very lives depended on her success.

Her hand began to tremble, then to shake. She stepped away so he wouldn’t feel it.

Father MacDuff rushed into the hall, huffing as if he’d just finished a marathon run and tugging his ample self out of his overcoat. Cricket and Zeus, Letty noted with disgust, ignored him. "Gregor, what’s got you in such an uproar?”

"I was afraid I’d missed you.” He tugged at his sleeve, but couldn’t get it off.

Letty helped the poor dear. Coming from the cold into the warm hall had his glasses fogged and his skin the color of ice. "Well, you didn’t. You really shouldn’t rush around so. We’re too old for that nonsense anymore.”

"My thoughts exactly.” Pacing by the rocker, James gave it a solid whack. "Maybe you can talk some sense into her, Father. She’s got no business rushing off to America. Not now. She’s not even out of mourning.” James looked at her hot pink outfit and grimaced.

Letty stiffened. "If I mourned more than a week for Harry, he’d haunt me to my grave, and you know it. Harry hated me in black. He hated anyone in mourning, and I won’t do what I know my Harry despised. Now you stop this nonsense, James. It’s been years since I’ve seen Annie Morgan. I’ve said I’m going, and I am going.”

The throb at her temple grew stronger. She resisted the urge to rub it. James wouldn’t miss that telling sign. "Besides, you know your grandfather hated traveling. I couldn’t get him to Edinburgh, much less out of Scotland, and I’m wanting to see my friend.”

"But you don’t even know Annie anymore,” James said. "It’s been years.”

"Forty-two, since I’ve seen her. But we’ve corresponded.” Letty let James see her impatience. "It’s high time I saw her again. Forty-two years is being patient enough, don’t you think?”

James clenched his jaw and stepped forward. "What I’m thinking, is that what I’m thinking doesn’t much matter.”

"Now, children,” Father MacDuff intervened, his glasses finally clearing. "James, your grandmother is right. When you get our age, you need the comfort of familiar people—especially during times of stress and tragedy.”

James folded his arms over his chest. "I’m familiar.”

"So is Annie,” Letty said, dismissing James’s frown. "I would remind you, young man, I’m your grandmother, not your daughter. Though if you don’t get busy soon, you’ll—”

"Don’t start on that again.” He gave her a warning look that she completely ignored, then let out a sigh that heaved his shoulders. "All right. All right, go.”

"Thank you.” She lifted her chin. "I shall.”

"But I’m calling you once a week to make sure you’re safe.”

Despite his wagging a finger at her, she knew the argument was over. She’d won. Still, it had taken her three days. At times, James could be a stubborn cuss. That definitely came from Harry’s side of the family. His English mother had been more stubborn than the patch of summer weeds in the hedge maze. It’d taken years of devoted wifely work to break Harry of that flaw. Well, honesty forced Letty to admit, to weaken it, anyway. Darling as he’d been, poor Harry never had overcome the trait.

She would agree to the calls only because if she didn’t, James would start the arguing all over again and her paining head demanded the reprieve. "You have my permission to call every Saturday.”

James bent down, kissed her cheek, lingered for a long moment, and then whispered, ever so softly, "I love you, Letty.”

If she failed, she’d never again hear him say those words. She’d never again feel the touch of his cheek pressing against her face. She forced the words out past a constriction of fear in her throat. "I love you, James.”

Before the tears came, she stepped back and sucked in a breath. "Go on now. Take the dogs for a run to the stream. That always soothes your temper.”

"I’m wanting to see you off.”

She shook her head. "I want a private word with Father MacDuff.”

James gave her a curt nod. "All right. But I don’t like this. Why do you have to go to America? Why can’t you do your grieving in Scotland? Your friend could come here, I’m thinking.”

"For God’s sake, James, stop.” Totally out of patience, she pulled herself up to her full five-two. "I’ll grieve where I choose, and I choose New Orleans. Now, not another word—and I mean it.” She’d said and meant it at least twenty times in the past three days. Maybe this time, he’d listen.

Father MacDuff clasped James’s shoulder. "She’ll be fine, James. I’d think you’d better spend your worrying on Annie and the people in New Orleans.” The priest tucked his chin and looked at James over the top rim of his glasses. "They’ve not encountered our Letty for some years, if you’ll remember.”

"But Annie’s fickle,” James protested.

"Annie’s my friend,” Letty said in a near shout. "Don’t you be insulting her.”

James didn’t back down. "I didn’t say she was a bad person, I said she was fickle.” He shrugged. "Truth is truth.”

He had her there. Letty lifted her chin. "She’s not fickle.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at her with one of his best we-both-know-better looks.

Infuriated, Letty sniffed. "She’s just a wee bit eccentric.”

"Excuse me?”

Narrowing her eyes, Letty shouted. "She’s eccentric. Eccentric, James. But Annie is not fickle.”

James gave her a cool smile, walked to the castle door, then pulled it open. Looking back over his shoulder at her, he sighed. "I give up. But the first Saturday you neglect to answer my call, I’m coming to get you. And no crazy stunts while you’re there. You’re a Cameron, I would remind you.”

"Yes, James.” She had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. He was back to using the c word again. That proved it beyond all doubt. At least he considered her sane.

"I’m serious, Grandmother.”

Grandmother? Oh my, he was serious. "I see that you are. What I don’t see is why you’re raising such a fuss. I’ll be back before Christmas. A scant month is all we’re talking about here.” She slid him a pitying look. "Oh. Oh, my. I hadn’t considered it, but I suppose you’ll be terribly lonely while I’m gone, having no wife to keep you company.”

He opened his mouth, no doubt to roar, then without uttering a sound closed it again, snapped his fingers for the dogs to come, then left the castle.

Letty celebrated with a satisfied sigh. She’d known that would shut him up.

"Has he been like that all week?” Gregor busied his hands, wiping his glasses.

"Worse. Today was pretty mild, actually.” She paused to frown. "If you keep rubbing so hard, you’ll have your lenses as thin as paper.”

Suspecting she knew why he was nervous, she walked over to the buttery, disappeared behind the screen for a moment, then re-emerged with two snifters of brandy. Her nerves could use a strong shot and, if his actions were telling, so could Gregor’s. The man was awfully pale, and he kept clutching at his stomach. "Are you ill?”

"Nay, I’m fine.” He took the offered glass with a grateful nod. "You’re sure about going through with this?”

She wasn’t sure of anything. But by her reckoning she had no choice. "Aye.”

He lifted his glass. "Then, Godspeed, lass.”

"God willing.” She tapped her glass to his.

The sip burned going down her throat. She’d have to bring up the subject. Left to Gregor, they’d still be standing here skirting the issue on New Year’s Day. "Did you read it?”

"Aye, I read it.” He pulled the battered diary from his jacket then passed it to her. "And the test results agree. The parchment and ink are genuine twelfth-century.”

Letty closed her eyes and let the news sink in. She’d known it, of course. But knowing it and hearing her beliefs confirmed as truth were two different things.

"And I, um, apologize for...”

Hearing discomfort in his voice, she opened her eyes. "For thinking I’d snapped my crackers?”

He nodded, and her heart thundered. "So you do believe it’s a miracle?” she asked.

"I’m not sure what to think, lass.” He sat down on the rose silk settee. "Had this happened to anyone else—”

"But it didn’t. It happened to me.”

"Aye.” His eyes rounded. "Whether it’s a miracle or not, I don’t know. But I do believe you found Catherine Morgan’s diary for a reason. What that reason is, only the good Lord knows for sure.”

Letty sat down beside him. "You don’t seem to be having much trouble accepting that this Catherine Morgan traveled back in time.”

"I’m not sure she did.” His gaze grew earnest. "But I’m open to the possibility. Who am I to judge what can or can’t happen?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Besides, theories about a soul living through many lives are too common to dismiss without due consideration.”

"But reincarnation isn’t what we’re discussing here, Gregor. This is about a woman living now who somehow went back to then.”

"And wrote a diary linking herself to both times.” He grasped Letty’s hand. "Aye, I know. But consider it, Letty. If we believed in only what we could physically sense, we’d be lacking more than faith, now wouldn’t we?”

The fire in the grate snapped. A spray of sparks shot up the chimney. "I suppose.”

"We can’t touch time, yet it exists. We can’t touch love, yet we both know it too is real. And what of tenderness or compassion, of grief, or faith itself?” Rubbing the back of her hand, his fingers gentle yet strong and reassuring, he smiled. "I guess what I’m saying, lass, is that anything is possible. Aye, even this Catherine Morgan woman traveling through time.”

Tears clogged Letty’s throat, burned the backs of her eyes, and set her nostrils to stinging. For a long moment they just looked at each other, two old and trusting friends. A tear slid down onto her cheek. "I didn’t realize just how much I needed to hear you say that.”

"I know.” He brushed the pad of his thumb over her smooth cheek and cleared his throat. "Faith’s my business, lass.”

"Thank you for believing in me, and for having those tests done on the diary—and for not telling James and getting him worried.”

"I love you, Letty.”

"I love you, too, Gregor.” She gave his arm an affectionate squeeze, then stood up. "Well, I’d better get going.”

"Will you go to Annie’s right away?”

Letty nodded. "She’s expecting me. And that’s where the diary says I found Catherine Morgan.”

He set his brandy snifter on an old oak table and frowned. "You don’t know what will happen to her here. Have you considered that?”

Fear gripped Letty’s stomach. She covered it with her hand. "I’ve thought about it. It seems logical that if she’s living in another time, she’ll not at the same time be living in this one.” Letty turned her head and swiped at a tear. "But if she doesn’t go back, then James will die—or cease to exist.”

Gregor touched her shoulder, turned her toward him. "What are you saying, lass?”

"It’s simple logic.” She lifted a hand. "Catherine Morgan said in her diary she went back in time and married James Cameron. Their children—”

"Sweet Mary!” Gregor crossed himself. "James is their direct descendant!”

"Precisely.” Letty grabbed the priest’s hand. "And if Catherine Morgan doesn’t go back, then she won’t marry the first Cameron laird, and she won’t have his children. Without those children, my darling Harry’s ancestors won’t ever be born, so—”

"Your grandson James, the current Cameron laird, will not exist,” Gregor finished for her. "Sweet Mary.” He crossed himself again.

Hadn’t this occurred to Gregor? That Letty’s life too would be different because her beloved Harry never would have been born? Intolerable, that. "For pity’s sake, Gregor.” Letty hissed and pulled his arm down. "You’ll have your arthritis flaring up. And I might be adding that for a man who feels fine, you surely look peaked.”

"I am fine, lass, and we’ve certainly got more pressing matters to attend to at present than my paltry stomach irritation.” He stilled. "You accept this—about the diary?”

"I’m working on it. It’s not easy to accept.”

"The diary is authentic, Letty. It’s a proven fact that it was written in 1100. And your deductive reasoning on the Cameron lineage, I’m sorry to say, makes sense.” He rubbed his neck. "What we haven’t proven is whether or not this Catherine Morgan was... sane.” His face flushed red.

"At Harry’s funeral you were questioning my sanity,” Letty reminded him.

"I confess I was concerned, but I hadn’t read the diary then.”

Letty pinned her oldest, dearest friend with the same stare she’d used on James’s dogs. "And now?”

"I believe, as you so eloquently put it, your crackers are unsnapped.”

Enormously relieved, Letty breathed easier. "Catherine Morgan was sane too, though I’m sure she faced her share of doubting Thomases back in 1100—not the least of whom, I expect, was the Cameron laird she married.”

Gregor retrieved the brandy snifter and clenched it until his knuckles went white. "How do you know?”

Letty debated not telling him. He’d doubted her. But, she reminded herself, she’d had more than a few doubts of her own.

She walked to the wall and looked up at the portrait of the first Cameron laird. That James was a huge man. Sitting atop a gleaming black stallion, he wore only the Cameron plaid and black boots—the clean-shaven, spitting image of her grandson.

A shiver raced up her spine. She turned to answer Gregor. "I know because I went to the archives and looked at the old records. We have them from back then, you know. Since King Edgar made James laird in 1100, every Cameron marriage, birth, and death has been recorded there.”

"And you found Catherine Morgan’s name mentioned?”

"I found that a Catherine married James in 1100 at the Festival of the Brides feast.”

"Sweet Mary.” Father MacDuff swallowed, causing his Adam’s apple to bob. "When had she arrived? From where?”

Taking it as a good sign that he’d not crossed himself again, Letty replied. "The records say she came from the mist the first night of the festival.”

"Came from the mist?”

Letty shrugged. "I guess there was a frustrated poet in the family tree.”

Her old friend quirked a brow. "Was the festival in June back then?”

Again Letty nodded. "Translated to the Gregorian calendar, it’s the same. Two days, beginning June twenty-fourth.” She set down her brandy on a little oak table then retrieved her purse from the settee. "The way I see it, I’ve got until then to find this Catherine Morgan and get her back here.”

"What if she refuses to come?” He blinked, then blinked again. "If you tell her this—”

"She’ll think I’m crazy. I know.” Letty narrowed her eyes, hardened her voice. "Which is why I’m not going to tell her—or James. And neither are you.”


"No,” Letty insisted. "Don’t you see? If James learns any of this, he will believe it—I’ve no doubt about that. But he’ll stop Catherine Morgan from meeting her destiny. He’d never risk her coming to harm.”

Father MacDuff lowered his gaze. "Maybe he’s supposed to stop her.”

Letty looked up.

"Maybe that’s why you found the diary.”

"No. No, the diary says she went back,” Letty contradicted him, wishing she felt as certain as she sounded. "If it were just my life involved, I wouldn’t risk hers either.” Letty paused, considered telling Gregor her plans. She couldn’t stop Catherine Morgan from facing her future, but Letty could see to it that the woman didn’t face fate alone. However, Gregor was back to looking worried again, so she decided she’d best keep her plans to herself. "I see no choice in this. Without the Camerons, the villagers don’t stand a chance.”

"Robert Kirkland and his godforsaken dam.”

"Aye.” Letty decided she might as well reveal the last of the possible proverbial nails in Catherine Morgan’s coffin. And in Letty’s own. She’d outlived her child and her husband. She could not, would not, outlive her only grandchild as well. "When I was going through the records, I learned something important about Kirkland Loch.”

"Oh?” Gregor raised his brandy snifter to his lips.

"Until that same feast where Catherine Morgan met and married James, that loch belonged to Clan Cameron.”

MacDuff sputtered brandy. "How—? How—?” He tried again, but got no further.

"I don’t know how it changed hands.” Letty gave him a few good whacks between the shoulder blades. "But I’d be willing to bet Catherine Morgan had something to do with it.”

"You’re breaking my back,” he gasped.

"Sorry.” Letty tilted her head and looked at him, still bent double. "There is another factor we’ve not considered.”

Gregor straightened up and his face lost a bit of its flush. "I’m almost afraid to ask.”

"No more so than I am to suggest it. What if Catherine Morgan goes back as she’s written, but while she’s there, she somehow changes history?”

He slanted Letty a look heavy with reprimand. "Fate is fate. What will be will be—anyway.”

Letty narrowed her gaze. "Are you sure?”

He hesitated. "No. I’m sorry to say, I’m not.”

"Neither am I.” Letty slung her hot pink purse over her shoulder. "But I’m thinking that’s where faith steps in.”


Letty rolled her gaze heavenward and rushed through a quick prayer for patience. "Faith, Gregor. You know—your business. Surely God wouldn’t have let me find Catherine Morgan’s diary to hurt her. And if she changes history, well, I’m thinking maybe God wants it changed. Why else would I have found the diary?”

Gregor shook his head. "You’d better go. You’re making sense.”

"I take exception to that.”

"I know, lass. But be kind, mmm? I’m wearing the collar. I’m supposed to be giving, not getting, spiritual reassurance.”

Letty grunted her feelings on that remark. "Really, Gregor. You are human, after all, and even a priest’s soul needs a booster shot once in a while.”

CATHERINE MORGAN fingered the gold medallion at her neck and looked at the two elderly women sitting across the coffee table from her. Never in her twenty-two years had she seen more conspiratorial looks pass between two people in such a short time.

Personally, before Letty had arrived in New Orleans four days ago, Catherine had thought her godmother’s friend a little flaky. But now she wasn’t sure. Her reasons had nothing to do with Letty’s age, though. Any woman who dared to wear a zebra stripe jumpsuit with neon orange knee-boots had to be a little touched. Yet, she seemed friendly—not that Catherine expected a woman wearing such bold clothes to be timid—and she had the most beautiful green eyes, even if at times they did look haunted.

"Have you decided, then, Letty?” Annie, thin and just as eccentric as Letty, sipped her tea. Steam rose from the delicate cup.

"Aye.” Letty scrolled her gaze to Catherine. "Your godmother tells me you’re looking for a job.”

Catherine reluctantly nodded. Fresh out of college, she needed a job she could begin building her career on: one that put her history major to use, and one that wouldn’t embarrass her fiancé, Andrew. Oh, he swore her acting as a companion to her godmother didn’t embarrass him, but Catherine knew better. The problem was that "history” jobs were as elusive as Andrew’s approval.

"Are you interested in history, Catherine?” Letty nibbled at a cheese puff. "Scottish history, to be precise.”

Catherine’s heart started a low, thrumming beat, but she kept her excitement hidden. She’d always loved Scottish history, been fascinated by it. "Yes.”

Now what was wrong with her throat? She’d quacked like a duck. Andrew would have been mortified.

"Good.” Letty glanced at Annie. When her godmother nodded, Letty looked back at Catherine. "It so happens I have nearly a thousand years of family records that need organizing. Everything from ledgers to personal diaries.” She tilted her head. "Do you keep a diary, dear?”

"Mmm, no. I don’t.”

"Oh.” Letty smacked her lips. "Well, when my Harry was alive and I had a question about Cameron history, I’d just ask him. My Harry knew his history. My grandson, James, does too, but he’s so busy, rushing around all of the time, and him with no wife to make him slow down... . . well, never mind about James. You’ll meet him soon enough. Anyway, now that my Harry’s gone, I find myself grappling. And I don’t mind telling you, my dear, nine hundred years of unorganized Cameron history requires a great deal of grappling.”

So did keeping up with Letty’s conversation. Catherine felt dizzy. Not only did Letty’s distinct brogue make following her monologue difficult, but Catherine’s ability to concentrate had gone kaput. The prospect of immersing herself in a job she’d love had her mind racing and her spirit soaring.

Easing her hand to her thigh, she covertly pinched herself. When she felt the sting, she couldn’t help but smile. She hadn’t died and gone to Heaven. But for being on Earth, she’d come close. "I’d love that.”

"Wonderful!” Letty smiled and her eyes lost that haunted look. "We’ll leave for Scotland on the first of December. That’ll give us five days to get you ready—”

"Scotland?” Catherine’s heart sank. "I can’t go to Scotland.”

"Why not?” Annie asked, her brown eyes challenging.

Catherine had to think for a second. "Because of Andrew. I’m engaged, Annie. I can’t just take off for another country without even consulting my fiancé.”

Annie rolled her gaze. "You’re not married to him yet, dear heart. I don’t see why you need his approval to do the least little thing.”

Annie didn’t like Andrew, but did she have to flaunt her disapproval in front of Letty? Catherine’s face burned. "Accepting a job in a foreign country isn’t the least little thing.”

"But it is something you’ve always wanted to do. Why not do it now?”

Letty pressed a stilling hand to Annie’s forearm, then spoke to Catherine. "I would love to have you, dear. James would be equally welcoming, I’m sure. Annie says you have a deep respect for history and that’s vitally important to James and me. We are Camerons, I would remind you.”

"Thank you, but—”

"This arrangement would be perfect for both of us. Why don’t you talk to Andrew?” Letty sat back and crossed her legs. "In fact, why not invite him to come along?”

"Really?” Her hope flared again, then just as quickly died. "Oh, no. Andrew wouldn’t. He’d never leave the law firm unsupervised for more than a few days.”

Letty worried her lip. "I’ll tell you what. Let’s prepare to go on the first of December as planned. If Andrew wants to come along, fine. If not, he and Annie surely can join you for the holidays. That’s only three weeks. Then afterward, we’ll come back to the States for a while.”

"That’ll work.” Annie gave Catherine a broad smile. "Oh, Catherine, I do so want you to do this. You might never again have the chance.” She stretched to refill her teacup. "Even Andrew shouldn’t begrudge you three paltry weeks.”

"No, he shouldn’t.” Catherine stood up, excited and worried. She’d defended Andrew, but she wasn’t at all sure of his reaction. "I’ll go call him.”

Letty watched Catherine go. A beautiful woman, Harry’s ancestor was. Long blond hair and eyes the color of heather. James loves heather. But why did the lass smother her emotions? She’d wanted to jump for joy—it had shone in her eyes—yet she’d held herself in check. It wasn’t natural. Not natural at all.

"Well, what do you think?”

Letty wheeled her gaze to Annie. Bars of sunlight streaked through the window and across the hardwood floor near her feet. "About what?”

Annie frowned. "My godchild.”

"I think what I’ve thought for four days. She’s lovely.”

"You’re quite right. She is.” Annie sighed and reached for another cheese puff "You know of course that Andrew will pitch a fit about this trip to Scotland.”

"Mmm, I suspected he might.”

"He runs her ragged,” Annie complained. "It’s always what he wants.”

"Why does she put up with it? She’s surely had her share of male attention, she’s beautiful.”

"No, she’s not—had her fair share of male attention, I mean.” Annie frowned. "Andrew claimed her before her parents died. Engaged four years, you know.”

"Four years? I don’t believe it.” Letty firmly set her cup to its saucer. The fine china chinked. "Catherine’s clearly an innocent.”

"Yes, she is.” Annie sniffed and tucked a wiry strand of gray hair back into the bun at her nape. "And if that doesn’t prove something’s wrong with Andrew, then nothing will.”

"Mmm.” Letty pressed a fingertip to her cheek. "If not her, then what’s he after?”

"The law firm,” Annie bluntly admitted. "He worked for her father.”

The sun eased behind a cloud and the room darkened, fading the bars of light on the floor to shadows. Letty grimaced. "And when Jason died, Andrew took over, since he was engaged to Catherine.”

"Exactly.” Annie reached over to the table lamp and gave its pull chain a firm yank.

Well remembering those ill feelings from James’s relationship with Bronwyn, Letty snorted. "That sorry shepherd.”

Annie agreed with an emphatic nod. "But try telling that to Catherine.”

Letty lifted a brow. "Stubborn?”

"As a mule.” Annie grabbed a cheese puff from the plate. "And worse, she’s convinced she loves him.”

That did pose a problem. Letty fought the knots filling her stomach. Catherine Morgan had to go back with her—preferably, without Andrew. "So when is their wedding supposed to be?”

"June twenty-fourth.”

A shiver shot up Letty’s spine. "Dear God, the first day of the festival.”

"Excuse me?” Annie reached for yet another cheese puff.

"I said, you’re going to make yourself sick, eating all that cheese. Milk products are awfully hard to digest, you know.”

"Fiddle on my digestive system, Letty Cameron. I need your help. We’ve got to stop my goddaughter from marrying Andrew. He’ll ruin her life.”

"Settle down, dear.” Letty reassured her friend. "I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

"It has been a problem. Andrew’s changed Catherine. She used to wear her hair loose and free, and she never wore the drab browns she wears all the time now. Pastels, that’s what my Catherine used to wear—inside and out.” Warming to her subject, Annie slid forward on her chair. "And Catherine used to laugh, too, Letty. Really laugh, straight from her heart.” Annie’s worry and bitterness seeped into her voice. "But then Andrew, the prig, convinced her to tamp her ‘exuberant spirit.’”

"She’s been trying to please him, but she’ll soon tire of that.”

"She hasn’t tired of it in four years.”

Letty harrumphed. "My James hasn’t been seeing to it that she did tire of it for four years, either.” Annie gaped, but Letty calmly sipped at her tea, then added, "If everything you’ve told me is true, then Catherine hasn’t really wanted anything Andrew didn’t want—until now.”

"I guess you could be right.”

"Of course, I am.” Letty sipped from her cup. The tangy tea felt good in her throat. "Catherine’s a smart woman, she’ll come around.”

Annie started to reach to the plate of cookies beside the cheese puffs, but she looked at Letty, then drew back her hand. "I just hope she comes around before the wedding.”

"Oh, I’d bet on that. When I leave here Saturday, your goddaughter will be going with me, Annie—and she’ll not be marrying Andrew on June twenty-fourth.”

"I wouldn’t be too sure. You don’t know Andrew. Don’t underestimate him. He’ll twist Catherine around until she thinks not going is her idea.”

"Don’t underestimate Catherine. There’s a reason she’s always wanted to go to Scotland. Some powerful reason. And I’m betting it’s more powerful than Andrew...” Letty reached for the phone.

"What are you doing?”

Letty gave Annie a conspirator’s wink. "I’m calling the powerful reason.”

Annie scrunched up her face. "What?”

The receiver at her ear, Letty rolled her gaze heavenward. "I’m calling James, dear.”

Annie’s confusion faded to a slow smile. "Ah, James.”

IN HER PRIVATE suite, Catherine clamped the cell phone tightly to her ear and listened.

"Absolutely not,” Andrew said. "It’s five weeks until Christmas, and you haven’t even finished our shopping.”

"But this is Scotland, Andrew. Letty’s family has a castle in the Highlands.”

"Please, don’t shout.” His heavy sigh cracked static through the receiver. "Look, it’s impossible. My family’s expecting me—both of us—for Christmas. We’ve made plans for New Year’s Eve.”

Catherine swallowed her disappointment. Why couldn’t he bend a little? He knew this was important to her. "We can go to the New Year’s party at The Clarion next year. Please, Andrew.” She hated the pleading she heard in her own voice.

"We simply can’t. I have year-end reports to take care of, too.”

He hadn’t said it, but the implication was there. If she knew how to do those reports and did them instead of wasting her time with history, then he would have more time for her. She swallowed a sharp remark that would have accomplished nothing but to convince him he’d made a mistake in choosing her as his future wife. She hated legal paperwork. But to go to Scotland... "I’ll do them.”

Andrew laughed. "That’s funny, darling.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. "What’s funny?”

"You’re a historian. You’re not qualified to do my reports.”

She clenched her jaw so tight it ached. She could tell him the reports were hers. She was qualified, just uninterested, and it was her firm. But she wouldn’t say any of those things. She wanted his approval—and she wanted him to give in. Ticking him off wouldn’t accomplish either objective, so she settled for the simple truth. "I want to go, Andrew.”

He didn’t answer.


"I heard you. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I live in the real world, Catherine. I have responsibilities. I can’t flit off to a foreign country just because you have a whim. Now, you’re going to have to be adult about this.”

Be adult? She was an adult. Hadn’t he noticed that she’d grown up? When was the last time he’d really looked at her? "A whim?”

"Now, darling, you know what I mean. For God’s sake don’t cry. You know it makes your eyes puffy for days, and we have a client dinner on Saturday.”

Another one. Andrew worked hard to keep the firm successful. She should try to be more understanding. She had promised her father...

A background buzz preceded Andrew’s impatient sigh. "I’ve got another call. Look, I’m sorry about Scotland, but maybe we can go over for an anniversary or something, some time. I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”

Any words but those and she could have remained civil. How many times in their four years had she heard his "I promise?” Forty? A hundred? He’d been giving and breaking his word so long, he probably didn’t even realize how worthless his promises were anymore. But he would know. She had to be honest. This was Andrew: the man she meant to share her life with, to marry. The man she loved. And she’d had it!

She drew in a deep breath for courage then, for the first time, defied her fiancé. "I’m going to Scotland on Saturday, Andrew. If you want to come at Christmas, Annie will tell you where I am. If not, then I’ll be back after the New Year.”

Her hand grew clammy against the plastic case covering her cell phone. She’d spoken slowly to give him time to adjust.

He didn’t. "Don’t issue ultimatums. I won’t stand for them.”

"I didn’t.” She defended herself. "You told me what you were going to do, now I’ve told you what I’m going to do. That’s not issuing ultimatums, it’s communicating.”

"Don’t instruct me, either.”

She didn’t say it, but she thought that he was the one who needed to act like an adult. Yet maybe he was right. Maybe she’d gone too far.

Oh God, what if he broke their engagement?

When would she ever learn to temper her exuberant spirit? Andrew hated emotional displays; she knew that. A sinking feeling racked her stomach. He probably would cancel their marriage. But this was Scotland. Scotland!

"I’ll pick you up at eight on Saturday. Wear something discreet, hmm? And not that black thing with the back out. And your contacts. You should get rid of those tortoiseshell-frame glasses, Catherine. Maybe something in a solid color. Brown, I think.”

Her visions of Scotland were fading. No. No, she wouldn’t let them. Not yet. "Andrew, I want to ask you something.”

"Quickly, darling. I’ve another call waiting.”

He always had another call waiting, another commitment that rated higher than her on his priority list. Still, the woman in her had to know. Since overhearing Annie and Letty’s opinions on Catherine and Andrew’s relationship, curiosity had infiltrated into what before then she’d just accepted. "Do you find me attractive?”

"Catherine, please. Your timing is—”

"Do you?”

"We’re engaged, aren’t we?”

"Do you, Andrew?” Why was she persisting? She knew she was courting disaster.


Slumping back against her pillows in relief, she prodded on. "Then why haven’t you made love with me?”

"Don’t be base, darling. It’s beneath you.”

"Don’t you want to make love with me?”

"Catherine, please.”

Her patience snapped. "Damn it, Andrew, we’ve been engaged for four years and you’ve never attempted more than a few halfhearted kisses. I think I have a right to know why.”

"There is more to marriage than lust and sex.”

His chilling tone made her shiver. "But shouldn’t those things be a part of it?”

"Not in a Huntley marriage.”

"Well, what is in a Huntley marriage?”

"Position, social standing—”


He didn’t answer.

Her chin started quivering, tapping against the phone. "Do I appeal to you sexually, Andrew?”

More silence.

"I asked you a question.”

"I don’t want to discuss this. There’s no need—”

"There is need. If I’m going to spend the next fifty years or so in bed with you, Andrew, there’s every need. Do I appeal to you sexually?”

"No. I’m sorry, Catherine, but I don’t find you particularly stimulating.”

She couldn’t breathe. The diamond ring on her hand felt so heavy. She jerked it off, put it down on her bedside table, then stared at it. Why didn’t her heart hurt?

Numb, she decided. She was numb—all over.

"Catherine, this doesn’t change anything. We’ll have a good marriage.”

"Annie was right all along.”

"Excuse me?”

Catherine drew in a deep breath and looked away from the ring she’d once been so proud to wear. "It’s not important.”

"Good.” He let out a nervous laugh. "Everything will be fine. You’ll see. Incidentally, I changed the china pattern you selected at Carrington’s. Much too garish, darling.”

"It’s white with an opaque iris. How can that be garish?” Catherine squeezed her eyes shut. Please, God. Please, tell me china doesn’t come in brown.

"You’ll like the one I chose. Promise. I’ll pick you up at eight on Saturday.”

He hadn’t heard a word. But this time she refused to back down. She was through backing down. "I won’t be here, I’ll be in Scotland—with, or without you.”

"I’m not going and neither are you. Now stop this, Catherine. I’ve got work to do.”

She cringed at the anger in his voice, but she held her ground. "I am going, Andrew. You’re welcome to come.” She’d said it because he was still her fiancé, but whether or not she’d meant it would take her a while to sort out. "I know you’re busy now, so I won’t keep you from your work any longer. Let me know what you decide.”

"What’s gotten into you? Catherine? Catherine, don’t you dare hang up that phone!”

Quietly, she put the phone down. There was only so much she could or would do—even for her father.

JAMES STOOD ATOP Kirkland Dam and looked down on the murky water. It seemed to grow more polluted every day. He let fly a string of curses that had Zeus and Cricket taking off for the shore.

Why in hell wouldn’t Robert Kirkland listen to reason? He had to breach the dam so fresh water could flow through, and that’s all there was to it. The problem wouldn’t be cured, but it would reduce the immediate environmental impact and give the four lairds time to cure whatever was causing the problem. Kirkland wasn’t an idiot fool who couldn’t see that they had a serious problem. He was their problem. He respected money, not nature, and the electricity generated by his dam converted into lots of money—and unfortunately, into lots of dead fish.

Cricket’s barking caught James’s ear, and he looked from the three black lumps on the shore to his collie. "Zeus!” His heart raced. "Get away from that water!”

The dog loped up the shore, then crossed the moor. Cricket followed.

James frowned. The water had to be unsafe, regardless of what the Kirkland’s tests showed. Nothing could look that bad and be healthy, and if the villagers didn’t stop eating the damned fish and drinking the loch water, they’d be unhealthy as well. But old wives’ tales die hard, and the villagers still believed the water had mystical healing powers. Worse, they believed Kirkland’s damn test results.

Scanning the shoreline, James saw another lump, and grimaced. He walked across the dam, then down the slope. Squatting, he spread apart the dead grass. Another dead puffin—without a mark on it.

"Damn it.” James clenched his hands into fists. If Kirkland was right and the water was safe, then why the hell was everything dying?

Having no answer, James drew himself up, walked off Kirkland’s land, then back onto Cameron soil. It was time he ordered a few tests of his own—by someone he trusted.

My, my, Cameron, I’ve never seen your face this naked or raw or vulnerable. Few know that in their feared laird lives a dreamer. But I know. That’s my weapon to use against you. To make your dreams nightmares.

You’re in a fine rage, aren’t you now? Positively reeking of determination. Aye, you’ll confront the Kirkland soon.

For a time, I feared his inept men would dawdle too long and not find him alive. Thankfully, he clings to life as tenaciously as you do.

So my attack was successful and has served its purpose well. You see, your heather was found on the unconscious Kirkland’s chest. Naturally, all the clans blame you for his injury. Clever of me, eh—to use your heather?

Aye, you’ll confront him soon. And when you do, then my work truly will begin.

Though much remains to, be done, in the end, you will fall, Cameron. By God, you will. You damned me, and you must repay.

My demand?

Your life.

My dream?

To strip you bare and see you rot in hell.




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