Authors: Donna Grant
“Overturned vehicle?” Iona couldn't stop repeating his words. She knew she sounded like an idiot, but that was before she discovered how her father died.
The driver raised his gaze to her and slowly lowered the clipboard. “Forgive me, lass. I thought you knew.”
“I just arrived.” She swallowed, hoping he didn't hear the catch in her voice. “Please tell me.”
He hesitated as if he were trying to think of a way to get out of explaining. Finally, he pursed his lips for a moment and then said, “John's Rover was found on its side about two miles from town the day before yesterday.”
Two miles? That meant he was coming off the mountain. There were no guardrails, just boulders and more mountain, if someone went off the side.
“I'm sorry to say, lass, that John was found deceased.”
Iona blinked and nodded. “Did you know my faÂ â¦ John?”
“I did. I considered him a friend. He would hate to know that you'd finally come home now that he's gone.”
She couldn't stand the censor in his dark gaze, nor did she care that her father had a friend. “Was John drunk?”
“Nay,” the old man said, affronted. “He came into town three times a week for dinner and then went to the pub for a dram with me and a few other lads.”
It seemed odd to find out such little things about her father's life now that he was gone. She grew uncomfortable standing there talking about her father.
The driver must have sensed her unease because he went back to writing on the clipboard. A few seconds later, he tore off a portion of the paper and handed it to her along with the keys. “It'll take me just a moment to unhitch the vehicle.”
Iona didn't move from her spot while the Range Rover was freed from the constraints, nor did she move until the truck was out of sight. Only then did she let her shoulders sag. Now that she knew her father died so unexpectedly and harshly, she felt bad for thinking so callously of him just moments before.
With the trees blocking most of the light, the shadows began to lengthen, urging Iona to get her things and go inside the house.
The key was on the fob with the others of her father's. She let herself in, and then closed and locked the door behind her. Paying little attention to the house, Iona walked to the first door on the right and came to a sudden stop.
Her old room was just as it had been the night she left. Nothing had been moved, though everything had been recently dusted. Even the red plaid comforter was still draped across the bed.
Iona dropped her bags next to the bed. It was like walking back in time, except she couldn't pick up her life at eight. She was twenty-eight.
She spent the rest of the evening going from room to room looking through everything. Her father's office, next door to his room, was a complete mess. Just as she recalled from her childhood. There were papers stacked everywhere. His computer was on, the cursor blinking in the middle of the page where he had stopped writing.
When she next looked up at the clock, it was well past midnight. Iona shuffled to her bed and fell upon it, still fully dressed.
She only meant to rest for a moment, but exhaustion won out. The night was passed filled with dreams of her mother and father, and when her life was turned upside down. Iona would wake up and roll over, only to be woken with another dream.
She tossed and turned all night, and finally gave up trying to sleep. It took two cups of coffee before she could even glance at the clock to see it was just after six in the morning. The sun was shining as she set aside her cup and made her way into the bathroom.
After her shower and a change of clothes, she felt more human. She would give the cottage one more night, since it could have been all her snooping that caused the dreams. But if she had another sleepless night, she would book herself into the nearest motel or B&B until all of her father's belongings were taken care of.
Iona dropped her head forward to bang against the mirror in the bathroom. She still had the funeral, and since she was his only living relative, it would be up to her to arrange everything. Not to mention the reading of the will.
The sooner she got everything over with, the sooner she could move on. She lifted her head and smoothed aside her wet hair before she reached for the blow dryer. As she dried her hair she made a mental note of all she needed to take care of like the funeral, his will, his bank accounts, selling his Range Rover and the property.
Iona didn't think there would be much in his bank accounts since her father had never been good at controlling his funds, but with the sale of the land and the SUV, she figured it would be enough to reimburse her for what she would have to shell out for the funeral.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Attractive, that's what men called her, but not a great beauty. She didn't turn heads or cause men to forget themselves. Occasionally she would catch a man's eye, but with her schedule of travel, she didn't go looking for a relationship. Of any sort.
Her parents might have played a huge role in that decision-making process, however, when it came to men and relationships.
Iona ran her fingers through her pale blond hair. It took her forever to straighten, and with the humidity of the Highlands she didn't even bother to try. She opted to go with her natural state, which were waves. Not pretty curls, but waves that did whatever they wanted.
To help fortify herself, Iona pulled out what little makeup she carried with her. The small village wasn't London or Sydney, but she wanted to make a good impression.
Less than an hour later, she walked out of the house to her car. Another thirty minutes and she was in town. It took her two passes through the narrow street where most everything was located before she found the police station.
Iona parked and took a deep breath before she stepped out of the car. She closed the door and realized that several people had stopped and were staring as if she were some oddity.
She put a smile on her face, pulled her purse on her shoulder, and went to collect her father's body.
It was the longest day of Iona's life. Everyone wanted to talk to her about her father. John Campbell had been admired, respected, and even loved among the people of the village. Odd since it went against everything she remembered her mother saying of him.
Iona was dead on her feet by the time she returned to the cottage in the late afternoon. All she wanted was a sandwich and a beer. She tossed her keys and purse on the kitchen counter and kicked off her shoes. Then she opened the fridge looking for a beer.
“Of course,” she mumbled when she didn't see one.
It never dawned on her that she might need to pick up some groceries. She made her sandwich before going outside to sit at the table. As she ate, she watched the birds flying from feeder to feeder, their singing soothing. One by one, they settled for the night. Dusk was upon her, and yet she didn't want to go inside and be reminded of her childhood.
Not that sitting outside was any different. She recalled playing among the trees as a young girl and hunting the wild cats in hopes of getting a glimpse of the elusive animals. She hadn't had the entire forest to play in, however. The forest was huge, covering several hundred acres, but she had been confined to a small portion near the house.
Campbell land, her father called it. The land beyond belonged to Dreagan Industries. She still didn't understand why one company would need so much land.
Iona finished her sandwich and sat back in the chair. She remained until it grew so dark that she couldn't see anything. As she rose to return to the house, she paused, sure she heard something in the forest.
She listened intently, but didn't hear anything else. With a shake of her head, she walked inside the house and closed the sliding glass door.
She was walking to her room when she saw her keys on the floor. Iona bent and picked them up, sure they had landed by her purse. Or maybe she was just too tired to realize they had fallen.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
It was after midnight when the mobile phone rang. He rose from his bed and the warm body of the woman to pad naked to the coffee table where all six of his mobile phones were lined up.
He sat on the cream leather of the Chesterfield sofa and reached for the fourth phone. He answered with a curt, “Yes?”
“She's arrived just as you said she would, sir,” came the Australian accent across the line.
“Good. What other news do you have?” he asked.
The mercenary said, “She visited the morgue and talked to many of the villagers before returning home. I looked through her purse while she was outside, but I've not found anything yet.”
“Keep looking. John will have left her something.”
“What about the other group of men I sent? Have they spotted you?”
The merc chuckled. “No, sir. It's working just as you told me it would.”
“Excellent. Have they been seen?”
“Not yet, but they've remained hidden in the trees behind the house with only two as guards watching who comes up the drive.”
He leaned back against the couch and smiled. “Keep me posted.”
The call ended. He replaced the phone back with the others. Everything was falling into line perfectly. Next, Con would send one of the Kings to get close to Iona in the hopes of determining how much she knew.
Then the King would notice the group of men following Iona, just as he had set up. The Kings would be so focused on the group that they would never realize what was really going on around them.
He could almost taste the victory.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Con flew amid the clouds, loving the feel of the wind against his scales. As much as he wanted to enjoy his time, he was on patrol. Though it gave him time to think over his next step with Iona Campbell.
Just as he'd asked, he was notified as soon as she arrived in town. It was going to take one of the Dragon Kings to make a connection with her to discover if John left her instructions on what to do. Because if John didn't, then it was going to be up to the Kings to fill her in.
How Con hoped that wasn't the case. He didn't know Iona, but he expected her to be like most humans and scoff at the idea there were other beings on the planet with them. The fact that the land was crucial to Dreagan didn't help matters.
He dipped a wing and circled back around, his gaze scanning the ground. The only thing he spotted was a herd of red deer nestled in a glen. Things had been quiet, too quiet. John's death and the Dark Fae movements suddenly becoming difficult to track only spelled bad news for everyone at Dreagan.
Whether Iona wanted it or not, she was part of something she couldn't escape.
All Con could hope for was that Iona and a King made some sort of connection. Even if it meant the King found his mate.
He grimaced. Constantine hated to even think along those lines, but if that's what it took to get Iona to believe them, then Con would parade every unmated King in front of her if he had to.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Iona was numb. Not from lack of sleep for a second night, though that was part of it. But because it was the only word she could come up with to describe what she felt as she watched her father's body being lowered into the ground.
Even as she dressed for the service, it hadn't hit her until she arrived at the church that she was burying her father. That she would never hear his voice again or see his smile.
Halfway through the service she stopped paying attention to anyone. She stopped hearing everyone's condolences. She saw their mouths moving, felt their sympathetic touches, but everything was drowned out by the ringing in her ears.
Once the service was concluded and the body was in the ground, she wanted to run to her car and get away, but she couldn't. People kept stopping her wanting to talk, to tell her how much they liked John Campbell. She nodded and smiled cordially, unable to utter a single word.
“Miss Campbell,” said a deep voice beside her.
She turned her head to stare into a face so gorgeous he almost didn't seem real. His blond hair was short and wavy, reminding her of the guys she watched surfing in Australia. His penetrating black eyes scrutinized her carefully.
“I'm Constantine from Dreagan Industries. I'm verra sorry for your loss,” he said.
She nodded, glancing down to see his perfectly tailored black suit and the starched white shirt beneath with the black and silver tie.
“I'm sure you have many pressing things to do, Miss Campbell, but please know if you need anything, you need only to come to Dreagan and ask. I considered John a friend. His loss will be felt for years to come.”
She simply looked at him, unable to fathom that her father was friends with someone like Constantine from Dreagan.
Constantine gave a quick bow of his head to the gravesite. “John Campbell was a good, honorable man.”
Before she could say anything, he walked away, his long strides eating up the ground. He stopped beside a bright blue Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale and got inside before driving away.
Iona knew she should be happy her father apparently had so many friends, but she couldn't manage to feel much of anything. She took a deep breath and spotted her father's lawyer, Thomas MacBane. He was the one who called to tell her about the will. He gave a nod, waiting for her. Iona made her way to Mr. MacBane.
As soon as she reached him, he began to speak of her father fondly, but Iona tuned him out as they walked down the flower-laden path by the church to the sidewalk that took them to his office two blocks over.
Mr. MacBane opened the door and waited for her to walk through before he entered his building. He smiled and motioned her forward into his office as his receptionist greeted them.
Iona settled into the comfortable chair before his large desk. She sat back and crossed her legs. She'd had to buy a black dress when she landed in Edinburgh. It seemed odd to see herself in heels when she normally wore hiking boots every day.