Authors: Cassidy Cayman
“I’m afraid if Piper didn’t have the wedding to focus on, she might go off the deep end,” Evie admitted.
“But all that nastiness with her granny and Daria is over. She’s got her powers under control, and she and Lachlan are ridiculously happy, yeah?” He edged the leg of her jeans up to massage her ankles and her eyes rolled back in her head at the ecstasy of it.
“Yes, but you have to remember, Piper’s a nomad at heart. All the craziness with her batshit ancestors was keeping her busy, but now that things are settled down, I bet she gets antsy.”
“You mean she’d leave Castle on Hill?” Sam stopped massaging and looked worried. “Everything she’s done— the renovations, the museum, and the historical camp— the town’s really been the better for it all.” He shook his head. “She’d never up and leave us.”
“Maybe.” Evie said. “I hope not.”
She knew her best friend had changed a lot since she’d inherited her castle and billions, but she’d also had a lot to distract her and keep her occupied in that time. She hoped she’d stick around, but ever since they’d been adults, Piper had never spent much longer than six months in one spot, with Evie flying to whatever exotic locale Piper had found a job at, or waiting for her to come home for holidays.
“I think she’s really enjoying planning the wedding,” Evie said. “I couldn’t take that away from her after all she’s been through.” She awkwardly hoisted herself closer so she could kiss him.
“I’d marry you tomorrow in your polka dot pajamas,” he said, hooking his finger into the neckline of her sweater to keep her close.
“No, those make me look fat,” she teased, kissing him again. She closed her eyes and savored his lips lingering on hers. “I would love it if we could have our own secret little wedding, though.”
“Shall we enter into trothplight, then?” Sam asked.
She giggled and leaned back, the stress of the day melting away. “It sounds like crop blight, and about as romantic. But if it’s easier than all this rigmarole, let’s plight it up.”
“We can call it handfasting, if you’d rather. You basically clasp hands and do the vows. It’s legally binding. At least, it used to be.”
“Sweet,” Evie said absently, until she looked up at him.
He looked completely serious, and the idea began to take hold. They could be married right that moment. He leaned across her lap and she shivered at the intensity in his eyes.
With a tremor, she reached out and he slid his palm against hers, wrapping his fingers around her hand, filling her with the warmth and strength of his touch.
All her life she’d always thought the best things, the most thrilling adventures, the most perfect romances, could only be found in books. Before she came to Scotland, she’d barely dared to dream she might find someone she could tolerate, who wasn’t a complete jerk, and that she might not get stuck in Dilbert, Texas.
Instead she’d found Sam, her handsome, sweet, funny and kind, book-slinging Highlander who put up with her nonsense. She’d had an adorable angel child, and lived in a fairy tale, ivy-covered cottage. It was almost too much, there was no way she deserved it all.
All of her old fears crowded out her happiness and she looked down at their clasped hands. Even though she finally broke down and accepted a salary from Piper for helping with the castle management, she couldn’t do that forever. She still didn’t know what would happen with her career, if she’d ever even manage to start one. It made her feel guilty, how much she loved being with Mags, as if all the hard work, money, and time she’d put into getting her degree had been wasted.
“Where have you gone off to?” Sam asked, leaning over to kiss her and pulling her back to the moment. He always knew exactly when to reel her in from her downward spirals.
“I’m here,” she said with a smile. “Let’s do it. Not the crop blight thing, but let’s do vows that’re just for you and me. We can even have it at the church if you like.” She pictured herself holding a small bouquet of flowers from their own front garden. All the other details were hazy, but nothing else mattered, except that it would be her and Sam.
“We can do a civil ceremony,” he said.
“No, I don’t mind. We’ll have some Jewish traditional bits at the circus wedding so I’m fine. So long as it’s you and me and Mags.”
He nodded. “And wee sprout,” he added, patting her belly. “I’ll speak to Father Branaghan, but I’m certain he’ll do it whenever we want, seeing as we’ve been living in sin so long.”
She laughed, all her worries completely gone. She knew Sam loved her whether she ever had a stunning academic career or not. He would be perfectly happy if she helped him run the store, or stayed home to take care of the babies full time, or kept working with Piper. She didn’t have to have everything sorted in order to be with him, he was happy as long as they were together.
She grabbed his face and kissed him passionately, so grateful to have him.
“What was that for?” he asked when she released him. “I liked it, mind.”
“You’re perfect,” she said, twisting around so she could rest against him, rather than have her feet in his lap.
Sam hugged her tight and smoothed her hair, turning to give her a nice kiss near her ear. “I’m pleased you finally realized that.”
She was too comfortable to poke him in the ribs and snuggled closer instead, her blood beginning to race as she ran her hand over his muscular expanse of chest. It seemed the squishier she got, the harder he got, but she certainly wasn’t going to complain. He sympathy ate whenever she did, so probably just went to the gym more to make up for it, bless him.
“We have to take it to our graves though, and Father Branaghan has to treat it like confession. I don’t want Piper’s feelings to be hurt after all the work she’s doing for us.”
“Aye, I don’t want her to be hurt, either.” He scooted down so they were more on a level and pressed his lips gently to hers. “I only want this, forever.”
She melted into the lingering kiss, then pulled away and blinked several times. “We still have the photo session tomorrow. You can’t get out of that.”
He groaned so hard she thought he might burst a vein. “Really, Ev? That was your idea, wasn’t it? Not Piper’s? You’re way too excited about it.”
“It’ll be fun,” she wheedled, working her hands under his shirt.
“But all of them?”
“She already got all the costumes, sorry. We have to do all of them.” She grinned at him, not the least bit sorry about her fantasy engagement photo shoot.
“You do know the actual versions of those fairy tales all ended in gruesome, unhappy ways, right?”
She tugged at his sweat pants tie. “That’s why we’re going to re-enact the happy, musical cartoon versions. You’re going to do all the princes proud.”
He groaned again, but mostly because her hand was now moving steadily lower. “As you wish,” he murmured as she kissed him some more.
“Oh my gosh, we never even thought about The Princess Bride. We can probably add it, though. I’m sure we’ll have enough wardrobe choices.”
He laughed against her mouth and pulled her closer.
Mellie opened the door to an exhausted and irritated looking Evie. Not even the promise of pancakes put a smile on her face.
“Piper’s not down yet?” she asked with a scowl. “If it’s so all-fired important that I get here at the crack of dawn for this, she should have her butt down here.”
Mellie glanced at the clock. It was close to nine, so miles from the crack of dawn, but she just smiled and nodded, which made Evie huff and tear up.
“Oh my God, am I being a pregzilla again already? Or is it a bridezilla now? I’m definitely being a monster of some kind.”
“Not at all,” Mellie said soothingly. She pointed to a tall stack of old books and papers. “I’m sure she’ll be down soon. There was a poem she wanted you to read, but couldn’t remember which of those it was in. It’s supposedly really beautiful and perfect for before the vows.” She watched Evie look at the pile with disdain, and waited for her to take the bait.
When Piper had complained about her ancestors’ lousy record keeping abilities the night before while trying to find that old poem, Mellie had begun concocting her plan.
“It’s probably scrawled on the back of a receipt for barley,” Evie said. She sat down and took the first book. “I don’t know why I’m bothering. I won’t know what I’m looking for.”
“Aye, it’s a shame the old Glens didn’t properly catalog everything for future generations. I mean, think of all the information that was probably lost completely.” Mellie kept a straight face, and she thought her voice sounded natural enough.
Evie nodded vigorously, not seeming the least suspicious. “Right? Hopefully Piper keeps things straight for everyone after us.”
Now that she’d taken the bait, Mellie began to slowly reel her in. “Can you imagine what horrible things might happen if someone got accidentally blasted back in time and no one knew how to go after them?”
Mellie felt a little bad when all the color drained from Evie’s face. Having been an accidental time traveler herself, it was no laughing matter to her to think about some poor soul being trapped forever in a different time.
“I never thought about that,” she said. “You know, we destroyed Daria’s disgusting old grimoire, and as far as I know, that was the only written record of that spell. Piper and Lachlan just do it the other way by memory.”
“Huh,” Mellie said, pretending to lose interest while adding pancake batter ingredients to a bowl. Inside she was a roiling mess of nerves as she waited for Evie to put it together on her own. She was silent so long, Mellie couldn’t stand it and said, “Well, that terrible spell with the bones is better off lost—”
“But the spell they use now, that’s harmless,” Evie said, drumming her nails on the plank table. “And they’re the only ones who know how to use it.”
“Do you really think anyone else would ever need to use it? Years and years from now when Mags has children of his own?” It was a low blow, and Mellie added extra blueberries to the pancake mix to make up for it.
“God, I hope not. But if they did, and it wasn’t available?”
“Yikes,” Mellie said, trying not to grin at her clear victory.
Piper came down just as the pancakes were ready and Evie immediately began haranguing her about the danger to future generations if the spell was lost.
“What if there’s another Brian Duncan type situation?” she said, referring to the sinister Highlander who’d come forward at the same time as Lachlan, had murdered a villager, and tried to kill Piper as well.
“Where is all this coming from?” Piper asked, looking over Evie’s head to Mel.
Mel sucked up her guilt and waved goodbye to any chance of redemption, then shrugged, pretending not to have a clue what Evie was prattling on about.
“And it could be worse than someone evil coming from the past. What if one of your kids or grandkids gets sent back and they don’t know how to get home, or no one knows how to go after them. You know it’s in your bloodline. It could happen!”
Mellie thought Evie might pass out, her neck and arms were mottled with red blotches and her eyes were huge with worry at the thought of unprepared time travelers.
“Okay, you have a point,” Piper agreed, after a nerve rackingly long silence. “I guess I could write down the instructions and we could lock it up in one of the secret safes.” She reached for a piece of paper and made a big show of doing it right away so Evie could calm down.
Mellie almost let out her held breath in a loud gust, but instead hurried to act like she was completely absorbed in washing up the breakfast pans. She felt sick, thinking Piper might take it to the safe as soon as she was done writing it, but she merely put it on top of one of the book piles. Ambling over to the table, she sat down close to it and asked if she could help search for the lost poem.
“That’s so nice of you, Mel,” Piper said. “I’m almost positive it was in a leatherbound book, not that that narrows it down much. But feel free to dig in. It starts with ‘Our love flies home with the geese’ or something.”
Evie made a choking noise. “I thought we were going to have a song before the vows. Mrs. McClary has such a pretty voice.”
Mellie eased her phone out of her pocket, hands trembling as she placed it on the table. She didn’t think she’d ever felt so nervous, biding her time for the perfect moment. She was sure if they gave her so much as a glance they’d instantly see she was up to no good. She’d be fired on the spot and kicked out of the wedding party. She wiped her brow, which actually had a few beads of sweat on it, and thought she’d throw up.
When they turned on a playlist of wedding music, and she was certain they were engrossed in listening, she quickly snapped a picture of the instructions with her phone. Her hands were so sweaty, she dropped it, and it landed with the noise of a cannon blast. She was certain it was broken and she’d lost her chance. There was no way the instructions would be left laying around much longer. After scrambling to pick it up, she expected both of them to be glaring at her with disgust, but they barely turned from reading song lyrics.
“Your phone okay?” Evie asked.
She looked down at it, unbroken, the picture safe. Heartsick at betraying their trust, she nodded, making a weak excuse and fleeing before she confessed everything.