She's ready for a change... But he's digging in his claws
Colleen Playfair has never been to Scotland, but when she discovers she must spend a year and a day overseas learning to manage her newly inherited estate, she’s ready for the challenge. She even has some ideas for improvements—if she can get past the sexy werewolf who seems convinced he’s the one in charge.
Grant MacQuarrie and his clan have been managing Farraige Castle for three centuries. The last thing he wants is a meddling American heiress trying to change the way things have always been done. He’s more than willing to fight the she-wolf every step of the way, using every tool at his disposal. And if that means taking the lass to bed, well…all the better.
|Locked in a battle of wills, caught in an attraction they can’t escape, Colleen and Grant must find a way to work together…or face losing it all.
Inheriting a Scottish castle high on rugged cliffs overlooking the North Sea might have been appealing, if not for Grant MacQuarrie, the man managing it. Unfortunately, Colleen Playfair couldn’t just fire him. Not when he had taken the reins to care for the property, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. She planned to go easy on him, but as she drove from the airport in Edinburgh to meet up with him in the Highlands, she dreaded the confrontation.
Just from the brief talk she’d had with Grant over the phone—in which he had grunted more than he’d spoken—she assumed the terms of her inheritance had pissed him off royally. Colleen tried to see it from his viewpoint: having the absentee landowner pop in to tell him what to do when he had been there day in and day out. And she was a woman and American.
She tapped her thumbs on the steering wheel as she considered the countryside. The ancient stone walls had meandered across the land for centuries, dividing it, and the sheep dotted the bright green grasses covering the hills. Like a pastoral scene of ancient times.
She loved everything she’d seen so far: the people, the old buildings, the vast uncluttered landscape now before her, the rivers and streams and trees. She would love it here, if Grant didn’t give her too much grief.
The terms of her inheritance weren’t her doing. One of the biggest problems she foresaw was that she didn’t know when she’d have a chance to run as a wolf. As a royal, she had very few human roots, which meant she could choose when she shifted—as opposed to the more newly turned, whose wolfish drive was dictated by the moon. But she would have to run and she was already feeling the need, the tingling urge to stretch her…wolf legs.
According to her father, Grant and his staff were human. She would have to get used to the layout of the land to learn where and when she could safely run.
She could just imagine someone seeing her as a wolf, alerting the rest, and starting a massive wolf hunt. Or worse, someone witnessing and then reporting her shifting. Then she’d have to change not only the person who had witnessed her shifting, but everyone else at the castle as well. Her whole visit could be a disaster of epic proportions.
But she wasn’t giving up her castle for anything or anyone.
Grant MacQuarrie swore he would rather fight a clan war, battling in the glen like they had done in earlier times, than have to deal with this.
For seven centuries, courtesy of lupus garou genetics and their ability to live long lives, he and his ancestors had administered Farraige Castle for the Playfair family. The family included a John Playfair, a noteworthy Scottish mathematician, geologist, and physicist, and his younger brother, who was a famous architect with a son even more famous. Colleen’s direct ancestor, the youngest of the Playfair brothers, was the inventor of statistical graphs.
Then there was Colleen’s own father, Theodore Playfair, whose mother, Neda, owned Farraige Castle. He had fought with his mother and left, mating an American and inheriting Farraige Castle upon his mother’s death. But he had left the management in the MacQuarries’ capable hands and returned to Maryland. Thank…the heavens. The man had been a thorn in Grant and his brothers’ arses for as long as Grant could remember.
Now Theodore’s daughter was arriving to take over.
Grant folded his arms as he stood on the castle walk towering over the stone drive that led into the inner bailey. Glad to see that his friend Ian MacNeill and fifteen of his pack members had arrived to help him out today, Grant smiled.
His triplet brothers, Enrick and Lachlan, joined him as they watched the men gathering in the inner bailey. Everyone was dressed in kilts and no shirts. Grant had figured they would look even more fearsome that way when the lass arrived. Their muscled shoulders and torsos were oiled, their skin glistening—making them appear as though they’d been fighting for some time previously. Their swords and dirks were at the ready as they waited for word to start, joking and laughing with each other in the meantime.
Grant and his clan had no trouble over-seeing the estates and would continue to do so, just the way they had been. Some slip of an American girl had inherited the castle and properties, and she would arrive to tell him how to run things. For a year and a day as part of the legal terms of her inheritance. Just like her father before her.
Two years earlier, they’d had to deal with her resentful father, which had been a trial in and of itself. Theodore had dictated new terms, ordering Grant and his people to change a lot of their procedures. Implementing the changes had caused a lot of strife, so Grant and his clan had gone back to the old ways of doing things once the tyrant left. Grant hoped the daughter would not be as difficult to deal with.
One hand resting on the hilt of his sword, Enrick, the middle triplet, shook his head, his tawny blond hair tousled by the wind as he stared down at the gathered men. “Seems you’re going to a lot of trouble to make the lass think we’re warlike barbarians in an attempt to scare her away. Or make her think she has no say in what we do.”
“I’m hoping this will be enough,” Grant said, giving Lachlan a scowl as his youngest brother—by fifteen minutes—grinned, his dark brown hair curlier than Grant’s and Enrick’s, his eyes the darkest brown of the three. He was also the most lighthearted, not as serious as the rest of them. Except in battle.
“So, if Lady Colleen Playfair doesn’t turn around and run out of here shaking to the tips of her toes, what will you do then?” Enrick asked, casting a look in the direction of the long, winding drive that led up to the open gate.
“Have you not heard?” Lachlan raised his brows. “Grant has given her the White Room.”
Enrick looked from the men in the bailey to Grant. “Nay, you did not.”
Grant let out his breath. “You know the trouble the MacNeill brothers faced when American she-wolves invaded their castle, aye?” He looked back at the MacNeill men, waved at Ian, and headed to the tower stairs to join the men below. “Besides,” he said, clomping down the centuries-old stone steps, “she won’t last that long. Once she sees all those sharp swords and dirks, and all that fighting and mayhem, she’ll turn around and leave, realizing she really didn’t want to stay here after all. I’ve made reservations for her at a nice bed and breakfast two hours from here.”
“Surely not for a year.” Enrick snorted.
“Nay, for two weeks.”
“Duncan MacNeill warned me the lasses from America can be as stubborn as us. So we might have a real fight on our hands. Especially since this means she could lose her inheritance to her cousins. How are you going to keep up the ruse that we are unruly barbarians for a year and a day?” Enrick asked.
“She won’t last more than a day or two,” Grant assured him. “And from what I have gathered, her cousins are betas, so they would be easily swayed. If they inherit the properties, everything will go as planned.”
“Are you sure you want her to stay in the White Room?” Enrick asked.
“The chamber is one of the nicest rooms we have at the keep. It overlooks the sea and has a delightful view of the gardens. I’m just trying to be hospitable. Besides, her grandmother wished it. Who am I to go against the woman who had a heart of gold?” Grant said, thinking fondly of Neda Playfair and saddened that she had never met the granddaughter she would have doted on if she’d had the chance.
Enrick grunted. “And if Colleen doesn’t want to stay there? You know the bad blood that existed between Colleen’s grandmother and her father. If he poisoned Colleen against Neda, then she might not want to stay in the room for that reason alone. Not to mention the accommodations are rather…lacking.”
“No other rooms are available. She can stay in the village, then. One of the men can escort her there,” Grant said.
He was determined to keep the castle running as smoothly as always—his way. He didn’t like change. He guessed it was because Neda, who had essentially raised him and his brothers, loved to change things—from reorganizing to adding new stuff and getting rid of old things. He loved constancy in his life. Most of all, he didn’t like the idea of an outsider coming in and telling him how best to do his job when the person didn’t have a clue about the operations.
Enrick frowned. “How are you going to make the two adjoining chambers that are free for guests to use suddenly unavailable?”
“Lachlan is having them painted as we speak. The furniture is all moved out, and paint fumes are ghastly for our sensitive sense of smell.” Grant smiled a little.
Lachlan bowed his head a bit. “As his lairdship wished.”
“I still think you’re going to extremes on this,” Enrick said. “You could have waited until you saw her. Maybe she’s not anything like her father. You could have given her a chance.”
“If she was only going to be here for a few days, we’d treat her with kindness and hospitality, agree to everything she said, and then send her on her way. Afterward, we would conduct business the way we’ve always done. End of story. But she’s not going to reside here for only a few days. So we need to find a way to cut her stay short,” Grant said, determined to get the upper hand with the lass right away. “You remember how it was with Theodore, do you not? We didn’t think we’d ever last through his stay.”
They exited the tower and greeted Ian, leader of both his gray wolf pack and the MacNeill clan, and several of his clansmen. “Where are your brothers?” Grant asked, surprised that they wouldn’t be here. They all loved a good skirmish.
They were all great fighters, and Grant’s brothers had looked forward to taking on Ian’s in a mock battle. When it came to swordsmanship, Ian, the oldest, really had no match, except for Grant. As it should be. Pack leader against pack leader. Clan leader against clan leader.
“My mother had some activity planned and needed their help. My wife actually was pushing me out the door to come here with some of our men to help you,” Ian said, wearing a blue-and-green kilt of the more muted, ancient variety. He smiled, his dark brown eyes lighting up with amusement. “So where is the lass?”
“On her way. We checked with the airline and rental car agency, so unless she’s had unforeseen trouble, she should be here soon. We’ll conduct the fight in the inner bailey as soon as she arrives. Or…start it, actually, as she drives up the road.” Grant motioned to the wall walk where two lookouts were posted. “They’ll warn us well beforehand. Then after the practice fight, we’ll have a feast in the great hall. I’ve set it up so that she can see what it was like to eat in yonder castle during medieval times.”
“Us all sweaty and oily, and I take it you mean to have her sitting between some of the hulking brutes during the meal?” Ian asked, sounding amused.
“Aye. Roasted boar—the whole thing, apple in mouth and all—no silverware, a bard telling bawdy jokes, the dogs underfoot.” Grant smiled. “Good thing we took some of those pups of yours off your hands a couple of years back. They’re unruly and love new guests. She won’t know what hit her.”
Ian shook his head. “I forewarned you that Americans can be…odd. And do the unexpected. You might not get rid of her that easily. How old is she?”
“She’s twenty-six. Not too old that we might give her a heart attack, or too young we could scar her for life.”
“Have you considered that she might like all that you’re going to do? That she might want to stay even longer? Not that you could keep the charade going for all that long. Have you thought, perhaps, that if you went about your routine lives, she might be so bored that she’d leave? Visit the surrounding countries while she has a chance? I doubt her inheriting the properties is contingent on her being here every minute of the day for three hundred and sixty-six days,” Ian said.
“Aye. I’ve thought of it. But you know me. I’m not a patient man, and the sooner I can get us back to doing things as usual, the better.”
“Car approaching!” one of Grant’s men shouted atop the curtain wall.
Grant gave Ian an evil smile. “As the Americans would say, it’s showtime.”
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