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Authors: Donna Kauffman

The Great Scot

BOOK: The Great Scot
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“WHAT EXACTLY IS IT YOU NEED MY
HELP WITH?”

He'd been lethal enough to her libido when barefoot, wearing paint-spattered jeans. Standing there all intense and enigmatic, framed by his prowling roadster only intensified things. If that were possible. “Fantasy dates.”

“Fantasy dates,” he repeated as he eased the car out of the garage.

She risked a glance at him. He wasn't exactly smiling, but there was a distinct air of amusement about him. “Yes.”

“A little fun indeed,” he murmured.

Any reply she might have made was lost on her sudden gasp as he floored the gas pedal and sent the little sports car rocketing down the rear drive. When she looked at him again, he was grinning. And a fiercer thing she'd never witnessed in her entire life.

Dear God, she'd unleashed a monster.

T
HE
G
REAT
S
COT
DONNA KAUFFMAN

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

Chapter 1

D
ozens of sheep surged across the single track road and surrounded Erin MacGregor's car, pushing the tiny rental to and fro, bleating and carrying on as if the event was one giant sheep rave. They leapt in hordes over the low stone wall on the opposite side of the road, apparently dying to discover if, in fact, the grass was greener on the other side. Erin could have told them that was impossible. As it was, the grass in Scotland already looked like Astroturf.

Her forward progress temporarily halted, Erin used the break to once again study the directions given to her by Brodie Chisholm, the pub owner back in Glenbuie. She'd already gone past the family-owned Chisholm distillery, driven through endless stretches of Chisholm-owned farmland, and was finally nearing the mountains north of the little highland village. During the time she'd spent nursing a pint of ale at Hagg's and chatting up the locals, she'd learned, among other things, that the Chisholm whisky label was the backbone of Glenbuie's economy and had been for several centuries. “Well, just maybe I can add to that bottom line a little,” she explained to the sheep, who paid the announcement little attention; quite unlike the villagers, however, when she'd mentioned the same thing to them.

She drummed her fingers steadily on the steering wheel, no longer cringing as, one after the other, the sheep banged around her car. She'd already learned that the horn didn't faze them in the least. The first time the little bleaters had suddenly gone from being innocent woolly bystanders to abruptly leaping over the stone wall directly in front of her car in an apparent mass suicide attempt, she'd screamed and slammed on the brakes, terrified she might hit one of the adorable little black-faced darlings. One hour and four sheep-jackings later, her humanitarian instincts had rapidly receded. One of them gave her wheel well a thump as it passed, and she made a mental note to try the lamb before she left the country.

She nudged the car slowly forward, earning a few sheep glares, but was finally able to move past them. Minutes later the valley was behind her and no longer in sight, her rear view swallowed up by towering pines as she wound her way into the mountains.
Almost there.

“Please, please, please be what I'm looking for,” she prayed, downshifting as the climb grew steadily steeper. She'd scouted locations a million times, confronting language barriers, cultural differences, and any one of a number of complicated obstacles, and usually got what she wanted. So there was no reason to feel nervous or edgy. Yet, she did.

When their London site burned to the ground ten days ago, it had been Erin's bright idea to go to Scotland. She'd first gone to Edinburgh, convinced she'd find something in the ancient city to suit their purposes, but nothing had really grabbed her. So, this morning she'd headed north, intending on Inverness, and its proximity to both the mountains and the sea, but had gotten sidetracked the instant she'd wound her way into the tiny village of Glenbuie. It didn't have the cosmopolitan feel they usually went for—the “class factor” as her boss, Tommy, termed it—but what it lacked in urbane sophistication, it more than made up for with its intimate charm and romantic appeal. Glenbuie was like Brigadoon come to life.

She rounded the tight turn near the peak and found herself facing a narrow rock strewn lane, fronted by two, massive stacked stone pillars. There was a small brass plaque on one of them, long since oxidized green from exposure. She rolled to a stop and read the raised lettering.
Glenshire
. She was here.

Low, stone boundary walls jutted out from the pillars and disappeared up into the rocky hills, but as they were mostly covered with ivy, and backed by more thick stands of towering pines, she couldn't see how far they extended, or any of the property that lay beyond. She drove slowly up the rutted lane, thankful there was not one sheep in sight, and automatically began making mental notes about what would have to be done to make the entrance accessible and camera-ready. She doubted the owner would mind the upgrade.

The narrow drive wound upward almost another full kilometer before finally topping out on another hairpin turn. All thoughts of pre-production prep work fled her mind completely as she let the car roll to a stop. That familiar, much-wanted rush of adrenaline punched into her system as she hungrily took in the vision before her.
Wow. And double wow.

So, Brodie hadn't been kidding. In fact, he'd undersold the place. She sat at the entrance to a circular cobbled driveway. The centerpiece was a huge, beautifully sculpted fountain that had seen obvious repairs, but was all the more remarkable because of its age. Beyond the fountain rose Glenshire itself. Not a fairytale castle by any stretch, nothing so Disneyesque as that. No, this place had true character. It was a rather immense, battle worn pile of bricks, but with the ivy covering the walls and the crenellated trim that ran along the rooftop edge, it was impressive. She could only imagine the history those walls had endured.

The central section sported a huge double door entry with a massive iron and glass light fixture strung up on heavy chains above it, all of it appearing to have been there since the original mortar was mixed. It was imposing, and made the estate even more interesting and inviting. The double doors were framed by tall, narrow windows. The steeply peaked roof was inset with a pair of gabled windows, their glass panes gleaming brightly in the just setting sun.

Two-story wings jutted from either side of the three-story central section, the stone a slightly darker color brown, with the odd black brick here and there throughout. Each had a row of wide, double-casement windows along the bottom, and smaller inset windows along the top. Those had flower boxes beneath, each overflowing with a gorgeous array of pink and white blossoms that Erin, who had a black thumb and only had to think about planting something to kill it, couldn't have named if her life depended on it, but was envious of their vitality nonetheless. The bright spot of color, along with the neatly trimmed box hedges that ran beneath the lower windows, and the topiary trees set on either side of the front door, all leant the place a rather magical glow.

She could easily picture a horse drawn carriage circling the cobbled driveway and made another mental note to tell the production staff to consider using one in the opening sequence. Maybe Greg could come prancing in on some fine stallion when he met the women for the first time. She sighed just a little, framing the shot in her mind.

There were no cars in the drive, so she pulled all the way around to the front of the house. Only then did she see the view from the house itself. She'd wound her way so far into the mountains she'd lost her bearings, but she'd assumed, this being the Chisholm clan stronghold, and perched on the peak as it was, that it would look out over the valley that ran between the village and the mountains, allowing the clan chief to look down over his domain. She'd expected to see Glenbuie and the distillery dotting the vista below.

The view was altogether different, however, but equally majestic and commanding. She climbed out of her rental car and turned, shading her face with her hand against the sun. Standing in front of the house looking out, her view was straight down the mountain range. An endless ripple of deep blue and green peaks, contrasted to the plum and rose hues of the early evening sky. The peak on which she stood was clearly the highest, providing her with an awe-inspiring outlook.

She walked over to the part of the circular driveway that edged along the steep drop off. It was railed off and quite safe, but the way it jutted outward, stepping to the railing felt like stepping off a cliff. Her heart caught in her chest as she looked down at the tops of trees that soared stories high. The dense stand of pines were so thick she couldn't quite make out any of the winding mountain road below. She looked out across the narrow drop to the rise of the next mountain, then the peak beyond it, and on and on, as far as the eye could see. It was definitely a rush, like standing head and shoulders above the world. She could only imagine what it would be like to stand here during a wild storm, or when the mountains were cloaked with mist and fog.

The canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa…each had been backdrops for previous seasons of the show. Glenshire was so completely different from anything they'd used before, far more remote, without a famous historical landmark as a marketing tie-in. But standing there with the warm, late afternoon breeze whipping at the tips of her hair, she couldn't think of a more fitting setting for their next Prince Charming happily-ever-after story. Glenshire was earthy and bold, ancient and imperfect…and utterly romantic.

“The view is something, is it no'?”

Erin let out a little yelp. The unexpected voice had come from quite close behind her. A very deep, beautifully melodic, male voice. She made a grab at the railing when her feet slipped on the cobblestones as she whipped around to face him. She was rarely caught off guard, her internal radar having become highly developed by, oh, around age four. Being raised in a state home did that to a person. No one snuck up on her.

Disconcerted by so swiftly losing the upper hand, she plastered a self-deprecating grin on her face even before she found her balance. “So much for my grand entrance,” she quipped, even as he moved swiftly to take her arm and help her regain her footing.

“The stones get a bit slick when the evening mist comes in.”

The sun had just begun lowering in the sky and there wasn't so much as a hint of mist in the air, but she welcomed the gentlemanly offer of an excuse. “Yes, thank you.” She slid her arm free from his unsettling touch and leaned back against the railing, gripping it with both hands, just as a precaution. Her knees had gone a bit wonky when she'd gotten her first full tilt look at him.

Earthy and bold, yet utterly romantic.

Her words to describe Glenshire could easily be used to describe its owner. Back in the village, they'd affectionately referred to him as The Great Scot. She'd never gotten around to asking why.

Now she didn't have to.

He was tall, more than a head-and-a-half taller than her own five-foot-seven, forcing her to look up to see him properly. Way up. Like his younger brother, Brodie, Dylan Chisholm had a gorgeous mane of thick, dark hair, but the family resemblance ended there. His was straighter, and he wore it more on the long side. It fell across his forehead in a rakish sweep and brushed well below his collar in the back, which only added to the overall Heathcliffian effect. She doubted it had seen a brush in some time, but looked as if it had been repeatedly raked through by his own hand. Made a woman want to sink her fingers into it and tousle it a bit more. Her grip tightened on the railing as she realized she wanted to be that woman.

Her gaze lifted to his, and she noticed his eyes were a dark gray, fringed with dreamboat-thick lashes. All that lush beauty was offset by high, aristocratic cheek bones, a strong nose, and a hard jaw shadowed by a hint of a beard. It was an incongruous jumble of angles, not a classic profile by any stretch, and yet arresting for its imperfection. But it was his mouth that snagged the best of her attention.

His lips were firm, but slightly full, as if they'd been chiseled on an Italian Renaissance statue. Even more compelling were those deeply grooved lines on either side of his mouth that hinted at dimples, yet his expression was far too serious to truly believe him capable of it. And when you added his accent into the mix? Well, what warm-blooded female wouldn't have gotten a bit wonky-kneed? If she had indeed seen any mist, she could be easily convinced it was just a cloud of pheromones wafting around him.

She belatedly realized she was standing there, all but ogling him. And he was letting her, with nary a flicker of amusement or consternation filtering into his steady expression. Although she couldn't be too sure on that last part. He was rather hard to read. And it wasn't like her to get so caught up in appearances. Far from it, in fact. Working in Hollywood had long since inured her to dreamboat good looks.

So why was it that this one made her want to fluff her hair and check her teeth for leftover bits of parsley? That was about as foreign a concept to Erin as wearing makeup or worrying about what outfit to wear. And yet, she had to resist the urge to run her tongue over her teeth and suck in her tummy a little.

She made herself release her death grip on the railing long enough to stab her hand toward him. “Dylan Chisholm, I presume? I'm Erin MacGregor. Your brother, Brodie, was supposed to call and tell you I was coming.” Which, from the totally blank look on his face, she could only assume hadn't happened. Great. Strike two.

He took her hand, in a quick, business-like shake. His palms were wide, a bit work roughened, he had long fingers, warm skin and…and why in the hell was she noticing that? She jerked her attention back to his face, which didn't help all that much. “I'm guessing you missed his call.”

“Apparently,” he said. “So…what exactly am I missing?”

Not the flirty question it could have been, despite the hint of amusement that had crept into his tone. In her experience, men who looked like Dylan generally didn't make innuendo-laden, sexually suggestive small talk with women who looked like Erin. Which was to say average. Dead average.

And up until right that second, she'd been perfectly okay with dead average. Average was non-threatening and it enabled her to get what she wanted more often than not. As long as what she wanted was a production location and not…well, what she found herself suddenly wanting right at the moment.

BOOK: The Great Scot
5.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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