Colleen woke feeling much better and vaguely remembered a very naked Grant coming out of his shower last night, looking red-skinned, soapy, and more than heated—in a steamed sort of way. She must have scalded him. She was sorry for that, but she hadn’t given it a thought when she flushed the toilet. Besides, if they didn’t have another bathroom for her to use, she really couldn’t have helped it.
She stretched in the bed, smelled Grant all over the sheets, and sat up quickly. What was she doing in his bed? Naked! Oh. My. God!
She rushed out of the room and returned to the adjoining one, shutting the door. Her skirt, blouse, bra, and panties were scattered on the Turkish rug all the way to the lady’s chamber door that led into the hall. She stared at her clothes, trying to recall what had happened last night. Had she wandered around the castle in the raw in the middle of the night? And when did she end up in Grant’s bed? And then she recalled—he had been in it! At the same time!
She was burning up with mortification.
Then she paced. She needed a shower. She took a sniff. Why did she smell like the fishy sea? Then she vaguely remembered the rough surf, waves, rocks, but not much else. What had happened last night?
Thank God, Grant wasn’t around. Surely she could lock the bathroom door or his chamber door and get a quick shower until someone could tell her which bathroom she could use.
She picked up her clothes off the floor and set them on a chair. Afterward, she rummaged through her bag for some fresh ones and her shampoo, then stalked through the room into Grant’s. She was in the middle of her shower when she heard Enrick call out, “Grant?”
“He’s not here,” Colleen shouted back, hoping Enrick didn’t walk in on her while she showered. She realized she’d been in such a panic to shower quickly and get dressed before Grant caught her at it that she’d forgotten to lock his door. “He slept somewhere else last night.”
She hoped he had.
She smiled, thinking she had cooked Grant’s goose by letting his brother know Grant hadn’t been able to sleep in his own room, since she was certain he intended to move her into the White Room tonight.
“Okay, I’ll…look for him elsewhere,” Enrick said, sounding highly amused. The door to the chamber shut.
She hadn’t planned to make any changes in the management of the place. Not right away. She didn’t know why Grant thought he had to make her feel unwelcome.
Finished with her shower, she climbed out to grab a towel, which was way too far from the shower itself. That meant she was dripping water all over the tile floor when a male someone said, “My laird…”
She whipped a towel around her wet, naked body and shrieked.
Stretched out on a plaid recliner and half-asleep in the sitting alcove of the study, Grant felt as though someone was close by. He took a deep breath. Enrick. Grant opened his eyes to see his brother smiling down at him, arms folded across his chest. He was dressed properly in jeans and a shirt.
“So what’s next on the agenda? No White Room. No more whisky. She enjoyed our sparring, so that didn’t seem to work, either. Did you sleep here all last night?” Enrick asked.
Grant shot him a look that said he did not think the situation was the least bit humorous. “We’ll eat, then I’ll show her the grounds.” Grant stood, then started to stalk off to his chamber.
“She’s in your shower.”
Grant paused and looked back at Enrick.
“I didn’t see her. I thought you were in the shower, but she called out to let me know that you weren’t there.”
“Bloody hell.” Grant turned and went to the kitchen. “Let’s get some breakfast, then.”
Enrick glanced at Grant’s kilt. “Are you…going to wear your great kilt for the rest of the time the lass is here?”
“Don’t say another word,” Grant growled, giving his brother a look that said he was serious.
Enrick just grinned.
Darby, Grant’s personal valet, hurried to meet with Grant. He was perfectly dressed as always, with every red hair in place, but judging from his pinched brows and lips, Grant suspected Darby had met Colleen. Hopefully, not naked in the shower.
“A lass was in your bedchamber when I went in to change the linens. Though Iona usually does the job, she was sent away for two weeks, and I must do it now.” Darby sniffed a little at the notion. “The woman in question screeched when she saw me and told me to leave at once.”
“Was she dressed?” Enrick asked, grinning.
“In a towel. I’m sorry, my laird. I didn’t realize she was in your room. But she is a wolf. Have you taken a mate? That changes everything, and you will have to let me know when to straighten your chamber from now on.”
Enrick, the next most serious of his brothers, was still grinning.
“No. She is the castle’s owner,” Grant said, his voice tight with annoyance. He’d forgotten Darby had been away the past couple of weeks, got in early this morning, and hadn’t been here when the lass arrived.
Darby’s mouth hung agape. Then he glanced at Enrick for confirmation, as if Grant would jest about such a thing.
“Aye, she is,” Enrick said, still smirking.
“Oh. I may need to look for other employment, then. Maybe with the MacNeill clan at Argent Castle,” Darby said with great regret. He’d served Grant forever and was the most likable valet Grant had ever had.
“Why? What did you say to upset the lass?” Grant asked, not knowing what else could go wrong.
“She told me to tell you that you were sleeping in the White Room tonight and for a very long time after that. I told her she’d better watch her manners or she’d find herself locked out beyond the castle walls.”
“And she said?” Grant asked. He was not moving to the White Room.
Darby opened his mouth to speak, but the lass spoke instead.
“I said…” Colleen informed Grant as she swept into the room like a she-wolf with a mission—an alpha she-wolf who was very much in charge, her gaze locked onto his, her expression combative. “I might need to find…”
“Find what?” Grant asked, standing tall and growling now.
She shook her head. “Maybe we need to speak of this privately.”
If the lass thought she could send him and his pack off the properties to install some other wolf pack to manage her place, she would have a battle on her hands. He and his ancestors had managed the castle and grounds for seven hundred years. He knew everything about the place, and who to contact when anything went wrong. This was the only home they had known. And her grandmother had treated them like family. Neda Playfair would never have moved them out. Besides, the will made some stipulation to allow the family to stay here.
If they walked out today, Lady Colleen Playfair would be in a world of trouble.
“In private?” Colleen said, folding her arms as she regarded Grant with an alpha’s stare.
From when she’d first arrived, Colleen did not think she had come on too strong with Grant MacQuarrie. Then again, considering he was a Highlander who probably wasn’t used to a woman telling him what to do, maybe she had. Although, come to think of it, her grandmother must have been running things until she died. Maybe she’d been easygoing with Grant and his kin and allowed them to do as they pleased. Her cousins had warned Colleen that if she didn’t play hardball with Grant, he’d bulldoze right over her, and she wouldn’t have a say in anything—despite the castle being hers. She had meant to be nice, even knowing he was trying to scare her off.
She arched a brow when he didn’t agree to meet with her in private.
“Come this way,” he said, his voice gruff, annoyed, as if she had pushed him to the edge.
She hadn’t gotten that far yet. Wait until he knew her next plan of attack. That would teach him to take her on.
After Julia warned her what Grant had planned, Colleen had tried to go along with it—for the time being—to show him that he didn’t need to feel threatened.
She wasn’t sure what had made her snap and gather up her mental sword to fight him, but she suspected it was because she’d been sick with no bathroom close by when she was trying to sleep last night. No way had she wanted to sleep in Grant’s bed—with him. She only vaguely remembered being closer to the bathroom. Like she would have been in her own home. In her groggy state, when she retired after another trip to the bathroom, she had believed that was her bed.
She wondered how long he had remained there before he left his chamber.
She was tired and cross, and she wasn’t about to take any more crap from the Highlander. He was probably just as fatigued and annoyed. They both needed naps—in separate beds.
He ran his hand over his disheveled hair. His face sported whiskers and his hair was mussed from having just woken up, making him look ruggedly sexy and just a little barbaric. He looked like he’d love to take her on in the inner bailey, to fight a duel to see just who would win. And truly? She was ready.
The she-wolf was more stubborn than any Grant had ever met.
Colleen smiled, the look pure vixen, Grant thought. Dressed in warmer clothes today because the temperature had dropped, she wore burgundy brushed-suede boots that added an inch and a half to her petite height, snug-fitting jeans that showed off her toned legs, and a mint-green cashmere sweater that hugged her breasts. She looked…edible. Not hot and sexy, but soft and tasty.
If the lass thought to tell him she intended to find someone else to take his place, Grant ought to leave her to her own devices. Order his pack to depart. She couldn’t even lock the gates at night without him and his men to do the job.
She’d be begging him to return after one night.
He motioned for her to follow and headed down the hallway.
He wanted to get this out in the open with his brother present. But he decided it might be better to sequester her in his study and lay down the law there. It was killing him to do so. He had nothing to hide from his people.
When they reached the study, he let her go in first, then he followed and shut the door. Before he could utter a word, she motioned for him to be quiet.
He glowered at her, not believing her gall. She was beautiful, a spitfire, and a royal pain in the arse.
He said, “Why don’t we take a seat.”
“Fine.” She sat on one of the leather chairs facing him. The day was misty and no sun graced the room this morning, so it seemed darker than usual with rows of books lining one wall and his desk against another. Wood was stacked in the fireplace, ready to add a warm glow to the room later tonight. “Okay, I know you didn’t want me here to begin with, but you knew I had to come. So first of all, get used to the idea. I certainly didn’t expect you to be so melodramatic about it,” she said.
“I loved how you put on the sparring show yesterday. So did Julia. The whisky was a little much. But I could deal with that. The bedroom without a bathroom? Nah. Not for a year and a day.”
He didn’t say a word. Had someone told her the White Room didn’t have a bathroom? Or was she referring to the lady’s chamber?
“You were to stay in the lady’s chamber only for the night. Beyond that…”
“Beyond that, you will stay in the White Room. Or some other you so choose.”
His jaw dropped. He didn’t know what to say. She had the right to move anyone from any chamber she wished. The property was hers. But he couldn’t believe she’d do it. To him.
He folded his arms and glowered at her. How would that look to his people? He ground his teeth, attempting to keep from saying what he knew he might later regret.
“The point I want to make is that I have no intention of changing anything unless I believe it necessary once I get the layout of things here. So you are jumping the gun, to my way of thinking. If I suggest some changes later and you don’t like them, we can talk about them. Civilly. Castle owner to castle manager.” She smiled.
Her expression was pure evil.
“About the White Room…” he said. He couldn’t sleep in there.
“You can move out of the laird’s chamber by nightfall. No rush.”
He ground his teeth some more and glared at her, but for the first time ever, he didn’t have a good comeback. Somehow the American she-wolf had taken control.
“You said you were going to find—”
“A solution to the problem.” She again smiled wickedly, and he suspected she meant he’d be out on his ear if he didn’t like it. “Now, if you don’t want to deal with me, that’s perfectly acceptable. Maybe one of your brothers could speak to me on your behalf and I could tell him what I’d like, and he could relay the message to you.”
“Bloody hell, woman.”
This time her smile was highly amused.
“You will deal with me. Not my brothers. Not my clansmen. They are all part of my wolf pack. Together we manage your castle, but I run the pack. No one else.” He wanted to say she had no part in telling his people what to do, but he attempted to keep his temper before he said too much more.
“I completely understand.”
Surprised she’d acquiesce, he was still on guard. “You and your cousins are without any other family? You are not part of a pack?” He wanted to know if she was in charge of a pack and was used to getting her way because of it. What if she moved her whole pack here to take over?
“What I do back home doesn’t concern you, Laird MacQuarrie. Now, can we have some breakfast? On plates? Or do I have to buy some for myself to use while I’m here?”
He growled under his breath. He’d already ordered that the dining tables be returned to the dining hall, that plates would be used for all future meals, and that silverware would be present. “It’s already set up the way I’m sure you’re accustomed. As to the White Room…”
“I hear it has a beautiful view of the gardens and the North Sea. You will love it, I’m told.”
How the hell did she know that?
She smiled. Then she rose from the chair and flounced toward the doorway of the study without another word, as if she owned the place. Which, damn it to hell, she did.
He would never live it down if—instead of the lass—he had to sleep in the White Room. But worse? That she would sleep in his chambers!