Authors: Bess McBride
I wrapped my arms around my chest and pulled my knees close. How on earth was I going to make it through the night? I had discovered over the past week that the Highlands were much colder at night in May than they were during daylight hours.
I buried my face in my lap and fought back tears of frustration. Where on earth was Julie? Where was I? Was this all just a dream?
A cold wetness brushed my right hand, and I shrieked. A dog barked beside me, and I jumped up but lost my balance and fell back against the hill. The dog barked again, and I heard a voice, a deep baritone.
“Robbie! What ails ye, lad?”
“Hello?” I called out. My voice came out in a sob. “Hello! Can you help me? I’m lost!”
The moon, free of the clouds, suddenly cast a light on my surroundings, and I saw the dog, a black-and-white sheepdog, which ran up to me and gave my hand another warm lick. With a shaky smile, I reached to pet his silky head.
A soft thudding sound caught my attention. Horse’s hooves?
“Who goes there?” the man called out. He appeared out of the darkness, astride a large horse and dressed like some Highlander warrior heading off to Culloden. He held a bagpipe under one arm as if he had been playing it. While riding his horse?
MY LAIRD’S LOVE
My Laird’s Love
Copyright 2016 Bess McBride
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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Cover art by Tara West
Published in the United States of America
To all my loyal readers who love the combination of time travel romance and the mystique of the Scottish Highlands! This one’s for you!
Table of Contents
Thank you for purchasing
My Laird’s Love
My Laird’s Love
is book 2 in the My Laird’s Castle series of Scottish historical time travel romances set in the aftermath of Culloden. The dialogue is laced with what I hope is enough Scottish dialect to give the reader a historical feeling, but not quite so much as Robert Burns might use such that readers have to reference their Scots-English dictionaries throughout. As I did. I hope you enjoy the story of Maggie and James.
Maggie Scott, having recently lost her fiancé, Sam, to a terminal illness, travels to the Highlands of Scotland for a brief respite—from the arduous months of caring for a sick loved one, from the grief that now engulfs her. But instead of finding solace, she finds herself transported back in time to the 1747, the year following Culloden, a year that saw the Highlands suffer in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion.
James Livingstone, laird of Castle Lochloon, survived Culloden, and by a miracle, he survived the purge of the lairds who participated in the rebellion. When Maggie comes into his lonely life, it seems as if another miracle has occurred—that of love. But tragedy strikes just as James and Maggie find each other, and Maggie races against the clock to save the man she loves. Can James truly ask for one more miracle?
Thank you for your support over the years, friends and readers. Because of your favorable comments, I continue to strive to write the best stories I can. More romances are on the way!
Many of you know I also write a series of short cozy mysteries under the pen name of Minnie Crockwell. Feel free to stop by my
and learn more about the series.
Thanks for reading!
“What’s going on over there? Pull in! Pull in!” I called out to my cousin. A pullout along the road held multiple cars and a tour bus.
“What? Another stop, Maggie?” Julie exclaimed. “We can’t keep stopping if we’re going to make our hotel in Glasgow before it gets dark.”
“I know. I know,” I said. “This is the last one—I promise.”
In all fairness, I had made Julie stop at every pullout or marker from Inverness to Fort William since we’d left that morning. I hadn’t thought I would find myself so attracted to Scotland, but I had fallen in love with the country over the past week, with the often-desolate mist, with the inherent melancholy of the battleground at Culloden, with the gloomy history of war, occupation and despair—all emotions that suited me at the moment.
Julie, my second cousin, was retired, and she had disposable income, not to mention a decent insurance settlement from her late husband’s estate. When she had asked me a month ago to accompany her on a trip to Scotland at her expense, I had at first declined—caught up in romancing my misery.
But she had begged and pleaded, insisting that if I didn’t accompany her on a road trip through Scotland, she wouldn’t be able to go...ever. She knew no one else to travel with, not since her husband had passed two years ago. She had said she was working on her bucket list, doing all the things she wished she had done when her husband was still alive.
We hadn’t spoken about Sam, but Julie had known full well how to get me to change my mind. She had only to mention death, to talk about unfulfilled wishes and dreams, and I would do what I could to make sure she had no regrets.
On a yearlong sabbatical from my job as a computer programmer, I couldn’t decline to accompany her because I couldn’t take the time off work. I couldn’t say no because I didn’t have the money. I had plenty of money of my own and had paid my way, no matter that she had offered to shoulder the expense.
Julie had finally proposed she do the driving—on the left-hand side of the road—and I had agreed to accompany her, though I had warned her I might not be the most cheerful companion.
And so I had left Sam behind...for a while.
Yet Scotland had surprised me. Or I had surprised myself. It reminded me a great deal of the rainy Pacific Northwest, and I felt quite at home with the weather that could change from wet to windy to sunny to stormy within minutes.
I admit that I had been unprepared for the occasional days and hours of sunshine, almost resistant to a lightening of my depression as the sun highlighted the bright-blue lakes and emerald-green slopes of the Highlands. But there it was. Scotland—complicated, beautiful, mysterious, enigmatic, tragic and joyful. I had fallen in love.
Julie nudged our little rental car into an empty space, and I hopped out of the car and hurried up to the mortared rock barrier that kept hapless tourists from falling down the hillside into the valley below.
I heard the sound of a bagpipe to my right, somewhere in the pullout.
“A bagpiper,” I said reverently as Julie approached my side to look down into the valley. I hurried along the wall and found the bagpiper standing in front of the barrier, surrounded by numerous tourists. I assumed the vast majority of them came from the tour bus.
Middle-aged, with a thick auburn mustache that curled to a point on either side of his face, the piper’s reddened cheeks puffed as he blew into his elaborate instrument. A festively decorated gold-buttoned jacket fitted his stocky form snugly, tapering over a tomato-red kilt. White knee socks, black dress shoes, a sporran and an impressive pseudo bearskin hat completed his ensemble.
I stilled, mesmerized as I listened to his medley of Scottish songs
Although I had heard bagpiping in the past in the United States, never had the melancholic sounds agreed with me more so than they did in Scotland. The haunting melody of the piper’s music drifted out over the valley to the mountains beyond, enveloping them in a moment tenderly evocative of Scotland’s tumultuous history.
Julie, now at my side, whispered in my ear.
“Clock’s ticking, Maggie! Look, he’s putting his pipe away.”
My heart sank. The Scot was indeed stowing his bagpipe. Many of the onlookers turned to file back onto the bus or into their cars.
“Shoot!” I exclaimed. “I would have liked to hear more!”
“It’s about 4:00 p.m.,” Julie said. “That sort of explains why he’s leaving. Are you ready?”
I watched my magical bagpiper move toward a small beige sedan, where he removed his huge ornamental hat and shoved it and his bagpipe case into the backseat. Rubbing his thinning reddish close-cropped hair, he climbed into his car with the most extraordinary normalcy—a far cry from the fabulous spectacle he had presented only moments before.
With a sigh of regret, I turned to survey the valley. A small river ran the length of the valley, beckoning me.
“Wait!” I said hastily. “Do you mind if I run down there for a minute? I’m not sure I’ll come back here, and I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever get a true sense of the aura of Scotland—the land, the scenery, the feel of Highland heather under my fingers, the temperature of a cold Highland stream.”
Julie, a short blonde with the softened body of a retired widow who enjoyed cooking and eating, sighed and gave me a gentle push.
“Go on then, hurry up. I’m not going down there—too steep for me—but you can.”
“Okay, I’ll be real quick!” I said. Even from up on the roadway, I could see a few people ascending a dirt trail that led down to the valley. A trail along the valley floor paralleled the river and looked perfect for hiking, not that I hiked much, but I understood that the British enjoyed it.
“I’d say take your time, but I wouldn’t mean it,” Julie said. “Daylight’s a-burning.”
I hurried back along the rock wall until I reached an opening that led to the trail. Julie returned to the car, presumably to finish the rest of the tea and scones she had picked up at a cafeteria/gas station we had passed when we left Fort Williams.
I trotted down the trail, nodding to the people returning to their cars. The redness on the cheeks of some climbers, and huffing and puffing coming from others, told me the trail was much steeper going up than it was coming down. But I was undeterred. I wasn’t sure I would ever return to the Highlands again. While I was here, I wanted to touch stuff, to feel stuff, to be as one with the elements.