Sealed with a Christmas Kiss (8 page)

BOOK: Sealed with a Christmas Kiss
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Hang on. Kate had been standing in the hall for a few moments now, and there was no welcoming shout from the study, or any sign of life at all. Perhaps Roddy had taken her at her word, and
decided it was over. She felt another wave of sick-feeling wash over her, but this time it wasn’t the hangover. Why on earth hadn’t she stopped to talk to him, instead of just storming
off? She tentatively opened the sitting-room door, hoping to see him sprawled across the sofa, long legs stretching towards the fire – but no, the room was empty and the fire hadn’t
been lit.

She peeked around the door into the library, hoping he might be working at his desk, headphones on, but again no. The desk looked just as it had last night when she’d walked out.

A sudden swoop of panic hit Kate, a long-forgotten childhood fear. She ran her fingers along the green leather of Roddy’s desk, remembering how, after her dad had died, she’d sneak
into his study and sit at his desk, eyes scrunched closed, hoping that if she opened them again he’d magically reappear. So much of her old pre-island life had been coloured by her fear of
the unknown, by staying safe. She’d pottered along in a boring relationship for five long years because she was frightened of being alone. And now here she was, having proved to herself that
she could strike out, find a new life for herself, and end up living in a bloody castle into the bargain.

There was just one slight technical hitch – she’d come back to apologize, but there was nobody to say sorry to. Roddy was nowhere to be seen. She slipped out of the study, deciding
she’d check upstairs.

Kate had made a complete circuit of the square corridor upstairs, but there was still no sign of Roddy – or the dogs, for that matter – anywhere. There was nothing
worse than having an apology all ready, and nobody there to hear it. She trudged downstairs, feeling utterly miserable. Boxes were piled in the hall – the extra Christmas decorations
she’d ordered for the wedding must have arrived. She felt her shoulders slump a bit lower. This was awful. She plugged her phone into the charger, hoping for a message.

Perhaps if she put the kettle on, it’d give her a chance to think. It’d certainly help with the seasick hangover feeling, if nothing else. She opened the kitchen door, and took a
breath of surprise.

The table was laid beautifully for two. A rocket and watercress salad had wilted in an Emma Bridgewater dish, a bottle of posh red with the cork removed sitting on the dresser. One glass sat on
the table, another beside the sink – on closer inspection, Kate realized half the bottle was missing. She opened the fridge. Inside were dishes full of food, covered with cling film. Guilt
had settled in nicely beside the hangover, giving her a double whammy effect. She took out the milk, deciding the only answer was tea. Five minutes later, having drunk a miserable cup whilst
staring out the window, she decided perhaps it was better to try and find him sooner than later.

She stood in the courtyard for a second, wrapping her coat tightly against the bitter wind blowing up from the sea. This winter had been so much colder than last year. She
heard a bang, and realized instantly where she’d find Roddy.

He was chopping wood in the log shed, banging furiously with the axe, muttering to himself. He cracked through a thick log, splitting it in two. Kate stood behind him, watching him work for a
second, bracing herself.

Sensing he was being watched, Roddy turned around.

‘Where the
hell
have you been?’ His face was thunderous.

‘I was drinking wine with Susan – I’m—’ she began, but he threw the axe down on the floor, stopping her mid-sentence. It landed with a soft thud on the earth, and
then there was silence.

‘You disappeared without even a word. I’ve left about fifteen messages on your bloody phone—’

‘It’s dead – I didn’t realize until this morning . . . ’

‘Oh, that’s fine, then. Not that I was worried or anything.’ He picked up a log and turned it over, sizing it up.

‘I didn’t mean to worry you. I thought Tom was calling you to let you know I was okay.’ She’d been pretty thoughtless, really, and she felt a wave of guilt. ‘I was
just a bit upset.’


You
were upset?’ Roddy threw the log back onto the pile. He turned around to face her, wiping his hands on his jeans. His eyes were black against the pallor of his cheeks,
stubble shadowing his chin.

‘I thought you were dead, Kate. Or you’d got on the last boat back to the mainland.’

‘I stayed in the cottage.’

‘Yeah. I know. Tom called – eventually – but meanwhile, I had no bloody idea where you’d gone. You can’t just walk off when you feel like it.’

‘Yes, I sodding well can. I was angry.’ Mixed with her hangover, Kate felt a prickle of anger at Roddy. He could be so peremptory sometimes. ‘I don’t want to be married
because it’s convenient, or because it’s the right thing to do for bloody Duntarvie Estate.’

‘I couldn’t give a shit about Duntarvie Estate. I want to marry you because I love you.’ This came out as almost a shout. Roderick looked at her, furious.

‘Fine.’ Kate snapped back at him, irritated.

‘Fine.’ He turned away from her, picking up the axe again.

‘Right. That’s that sorted.’

‘Right.’

She turned on her heel and stomped back towards the house, the sounds of wood-splitting echoing in her ears.

Quite a bit later, having slept on the sofa in front of the fire, Kate was stirring, half awake, wondering if there was any chance of a gallon of Coke and several bacon rolls
to stave off the last of her hangover.

Drowsing, she was woken by the sound of the sitting-room door creaking open. Roddy’s head popped around it, his expression slightly sheepish. He came in and knelt down on the floor beside
her.

‘I’m sorry.’ His smile was crooked.

‘Me too.’ She reached her hand out, brushing wood shavings from his hair. He was filthy, needed a shower, looked like he hadn’t slept for days, and was utterly beautiful.

The dogs, who had all sneaked in, covered in mud, snaked around him as he reached into his pocket. They were hoping for treats, but he pushed them off, opening his hand to reveal a beautiful
diamond set into the muted old gold of a family heirloom. He took Kate’s hand.

‘Third time lucky.’

Kate looked steadily into his eyes. She knew she had to make a decision – but this time it was the right one.

‘Kate Jarvis – will you marry me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Definitely? No changing your mind? You don’t have to storm off and think about it for twelve hours and three bottles of corner-shop plonk?’

‘Definitely.’

Kate’s phone bleeped from the coffee table. With a wry smile, Roddy handed it to her.

‘I’m going to take a guess that’s Emma. She texted me earlier to check you were still alive.’

Any chance you can fill me in on what’s going on? Last I heard last night, you were halfway down your fourteenth bottle of rose, you hated Roddy, you were
contemplating rowing across to the mainland, and all men were tossers.

Um . . . Kate began.

‘Roddy.’ Kate shook him out of sleep.

‘It’s not time to get up yet, honey.’ He pulled her towards his chest with a lazy arm, not bothering to open his eyes.

‘I know.’ She’d been lying awake for the last hour, going over this in her head. They could sleep afterwards. ‘I’ve had an idea. Well, I’ve had your
idea.’

‘Good.’ He half-smiled through his sleep haze, giving a nod. ‘My ideas are usually great ones.’

‘Shut up, you.’ She laughed. ‘I think we should get married on Christmas Eve.’

Roddy’s eyes snapped open.

‘You are joking? After all that?’

‘Look. We’ve got the perfect opportunity sitting here. You said yourself there was no point in waiting.’

‘I also said we didn’t need to rush it, and your exact words were something like “no chance” as you ran out of the room at about ninety miles an hour, if you
recall.’

‘Yes, but . . . ’ Kate pulled a face. Technically he was right, but she’d got this all worked out in her head.

‘Sweetheart, if you want to get married on Christmas Eve, I’m all for it. I love you. I’m happy to tell the world.’

‘We would be telling the world, remember?’ Kate reflected on the emails she’d exchanged previously with Sian about wedding ideas. She was keen to get as much media coverage as
possible for her new site, but that would mean loads of publicity – and hopefully bookings, too – for Duntarvie House next summer.

‘Go for it.’ Roddy kissed Kate’s forehead. ‘As long as Sian isn’t about to text and demand a conference call, I’m happy to do whatever it takes.’

They drove in to Kilmannan that morning in separate cars. Roddy was going on to check on the progress of Finn’s new forestry project, which had the potential to make a
real difference. He’d had a plan to create and sell one-off pieces of sustainable wooden furniture as well as the garden furniture, which had started to take off thanks to online sales, and a
recent feature in a Scottish magazine had led to a flurry of commissions. Things felt exciting and positive. Even the half-longed-for, half-dreaded arrival of Kate’s mum, due in on the eleven
o’clock ferry, couldn’t make a difference to her mood. Parking outside the council offices, Kate stood and watched as Roddy tucked his Land Rover up against the pavement to avoid
blocking the narrow road.

She pulled her scarf tighter against her face, tucking her nose in to keep it warm – there was a biting wind coming in from the harbour. Roddy leaned over, dropping a kiss on her
forehead.

‘You’ve definitely picked up all the right stuff? I put my birth certificate on the table, and they need another form of—’

Smiling, shutting her up with a kiss, he patted the envelope he had tucked under one arm. ‘It’s all in here.’

Excitement and nerves hit at the same time. Reaching across, Kate squeezed Roddy’s hand to reassure herself.

‘Once we’ve done this bit, it’s really happening. I think it’s more fun doing this without waiting around for ages and spending two years stressing out about wedding
plans.’

She was gabbling a bit as they sat in the waiting room of the registrar’s office. It happened whenever something exciting or stressful was happening, and this was both. An impromptu
Christmas wedding was one thing, but one where the stakes were this high was quite another.

‘Two years of Sian flapping about making sure everything is picture perfect would send me insane.’ Roderick’s tone was decisive. On discovering that her plans for a winter
wedding feature for her new launch weren’t cancelled, Sian had activated Total Control Freak mode. Roderick had dealt with it by developing a sudden, all-encompassing need to involve himself
in Finn’s marketing plans, claiming that Finn could really do with a hand with the business side of things.

‘Well, you’d better brace yourself,’ Kate said, as much for her own benefit as for his. ‘She’s due here in a week. We need to find a way of dealing with her when
she goes over the top – it’s only a blooming wedding, after all. Apparently her new boyfriend is a photographer, and he’s coming to do reportage shots of the
preparations.’

‘Roddy, Kate?’ The registrar opened her door, looking down at her piece of paper. ‘Come away in, we’ll get this sorted.’

With the paperwork formalized, and a kiss in parting, Kate was left with an hour to spare in Kilmannan before the ferry was due. Parking the car down by the harbour, she walked
back up onto Main Street. There was time to get a coffee in Bruno’s cafe – and no doubt he’d be watching for the ferry eagerly, knowing his sweetheart was on the way. Kate smiled
to herself at the thought. She was almost at the cafe when the colourful jars of sweets in the newsagent’s window caught her eye. She slipped inside and ran her eyes along the displays of
magazines until they hit her target.

Your Wedding. Our Wedding. Perfect Wedding. Brides. Wedding Hair. Scottish Wedding.

They’re research, Kate told herself firmly, grabbing an armful.

‘You’d be amazed how many of these I sell every month.’ The old man behind the counter looked at Kate, sizing her up.

‘I just need to get some ideas,’ said Kate.

‘Aye. They all say that, and I make a fortune out of them.’ With a wink, he handed her the magazines in a thick carrier bag. ‘I tell you what, mind you, you dinna need any of
that nonsense to get married. You need a good sense of humour and a wee dose of common sense, no’ hand-drawn invitations and fancy doilies.’

Opening the door of Bruno’s cafe, she heard the familiar strains of Elvis singing Christmas carols on the jukebox. The air was thick with the scent of freshly ground
beans and the hissing of steam.

‘All right, Kate, ma darling? Can I make you a wee bit of breakfast before your mum gets here?’

‘Just coffee, thanks. Have you heard from her this morning?’

‘Aye, she sent me a text from the cafe on the mainland. She’s no’ got much charge left on her phone, but she’s looking forward to getting over here for
Christmas.’

Bruno handed Kate a coffee, popping a Christmassy cranberry and almond biscotti on the side of her saucer before she had a chance to refuse.

‘I’ve just got a wee order on for the office round the corner.’ Bruno motioned to the counter behind him, where he was in the midst of preparing ciabatta rolls. ‘You
don’t mind if I just get on?’

‘Not at all.’ Kate was dying to have a look at the magazines, which clamoured to be read from inside their shiny packaging.

The thought of her mum being there from now until Christmas was slightly terrifying, given that she was prone to organizing Kate into doing what she thought best. Perhaps if she had a chance to
look through these and get some quick last-minute wedding ideas . . . forewarned was forearmed, after all. Absentmindedly, she dipped the biscotti into her coffee and popped it into her mouth as
she got lost within the covers of
Perfect Wedding.

‘Darling.’

Kate, who was immersed in the comparative virtues of hand-tied table decorations and ‘this season’s more formal, structured displays’, looked up with a jolt of shock.

BOOK: Sealed with a Christmas Kiss
13.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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