Later that night after Colleen had readied herself for bed, she heard Grant opening drawers while he packed some stuff to vacate his chamber. She hated that he had to move, but she couldn’t see any other way to handle this unless he finally and miraculously came up with another bedroom she could sleep in that had a bathroom en suite.
After what seemed like forever, he shut the door to his chamber, not banging it as she suspected he might do. He hadn’t spoken a word to her at dinner, and she assumed he was seething about having to move from his chamber tonight. She also wondered if that’s why he had initiated the kiss earlier today—an attempt to change her mind about where he’d sleep.
Was he also upset with her about her cousins coming? She’d told them they didn’t have to. Even suggested they arrive later because she felt Grant and his people still needed to become accustomed to her being there first. But both of her cousins worried about the weather getting worse. They wanted to see the castle before that happened and then return home.
She could have said no and insisted they wait until next summer when the weather was better, but they were so eager to visit that she had agreed.
She hoped she and Grant hadn’t returned to business as usual—him being all growly, and her cheerfully attempting to show it didn’t bother her.
Hating to admit it, she much preferred him kissing her atop a hill in a serene glen.
Grant toted his bag into the White Room and shut the door none too gently. He could live with this as long as he needed to, he told himself. He’d had an awful time trying to be civil to anyone this afternoon, knowing that as soon as the day ended, he would be subjected to sleeping in the White Room.
Everyone was well aware of the reason for his discontent and, thankfully, gave him a wide berth.
He stripped out of his clothes, then pulled aside the white ruffled and eyelet-trimmed curtains and stared at the white comforter and blankets decorated with pink roses covering the bed. The tiny white bed.
Maid staff would be certain to give him grief about leaving fur on the bed if he shifted and slept there. When he’d kissed the lass on top of the hill, he had been the alpha male to the alpha female, on top of the world, right with the world. Now he felt like one of his Irish wolfhounds relegated to the doghouse.
He stretched his body, embracing the heat and change in his muscles until he stood on four paws, staring at that damnable child’s bed. He growled, not that it did him any good, and curled up on the pink-and-white braided rug next to the hearth.
He still wondered how it had come to this. Him, the pack leader and manager of the estates and a laird in his own right, sleeping on the floor of the room reserved for the now “owner” of the castle.
Colleen shouldn’t have felt guilty for sleeping in the lady’s chamber while relegating Grant to the White Room. She wondered if he slept there or had made someone else do so while he commandeered that pack member’s room.
She finally closed her eyes, wrapping the blanket and covers tight to her chin, and heard a strange sound coming from the direction of Grant’s chamber.
Her eyes popped open as every one of her senses went on alert. Had Grant sneaked back into his chamber to sleep, defying her order? She couldn’t imagine the Highland alpha warrior-wolf sneaking anywhere. Unless he was ready to do battle with his enemy.
He might see her as his enemy, despite the fact that she paid for his services and he had free room and board, but she didn’t believe he was ready to engage in combat with her.
She heard some more strange noises. She wasn’t sure what to do. Make him leave? Pretend she slept right though it? Maybe he had only come back to get something out of the bathroom.
She closed her eyes, listening. Another odd sound. A creaking noise. She listened for a long time, half expecting to hear Grant climb onto his bed and the box springs to squeak.
She barely breathed as her ears tuned in to sounds only her wolf half could hear. A strange rumble. She ground her teeth.
She had to know what he was doing. If he thought to make noises all night long to disturb her sleep just because she made him leave his chamber…well, he wouldn’t get away with it.
Dressed in a long T-shirt, she left the bed and crossed her room barefoot. She opened the door to his chamber, didn’t see any movement, and walked across the floor until she reached the bed, then listened.
No sound. No breathing. No heart beating. Another rumble. It came from the bathroom.
She peeked between the midnight-blue curtains and found the bed empty. She had no desire to see Grant naked again. Well, not that she didn’t admire his form or really want to see him like that again, but that wasn’t conducive to conducting her mission here.
She stalked across the tapestry rug to the bathroom where the solid oak door stood ajar.
“Grant?” she called out.
Goose bumps dotted her skin. He was either in the bathroom, caught, or attempting to pretend he wasn’t there… No, he would be too alpha for that.
She pushed the door open and peered in. No one. The bathroom was empty. No noises.
Maybe by the time she moved around his curtained bed, he’d slipped out through his chamber door, not wanting her to catch him here. Surely she would have heard him opening and closing his door into
She sat on a bench by the bed and waited, thinking if Grant or anyone else was pulling shenanigans, maybe even unbeknownst to Grant, the perpetrator would return, and she’d catch him at it. As she suspected, no other noises occurred. She continued to sit there, so sleepy she was barely able to keep her eyes open.
She closed them for a moment. Or she thought she had until something rattled, waking her, and she discovered she’d fallen asleep, her head resting against the foot of Grant’s bed. The sound had come again from the bathroom.
She jumped to her feet and strode into the bathroom. No one was there, and fresh goose bumps trailed up her spine.
Then she took a deep, settling breath. The chamber next door probably shared the pipes with this bathroom and whoever was over there was making the strange racket.
She left Grant’s room and went next door and knocked. She glanced at her attire and realized she was wearing only an oversized T-shirt, and she shivered in the chilly hall. No one answered.
If they thought they could try scare tactics on her and pretend now that Grant’s room was haunted, she wasn’t buying it. She twisted the handle on the door, telling herself that whoever was inside the room couldn’t fault her too much because she was the owner of the keep. She slowly opened the door and was about to call out to the occupant when she saw not a stick of furniture in the place. Paint cans and a tarp and the smell of fresh paint told her this room was not being used. Though to be sure, she checked out the bathroom and then the room adjoining this one. That room was also empty of furniture, the walls caulked, but the painting hadn’t begun.
Unless someone had slipped in here and made the noise in the bathroom to disturb her sleep.
She knew the White Room was on a lower floor and fully intended to speak to Grant about this.
If someone in his pack was bothering her, the duty was his to take charge of the man—as he had stated emphatically to her already. Then she frowned. What if Grant wasn’t sleeping in the White Room? And someone else was?
She glanced at her state of undress. She needed to rectify that first. After returning to her room, she pulled on a pair of jeans and slipped on a pair of tennis shoes, then left the chamber for a word with Grant. She half suspected he wouldn’t be there.
She had to admit she’d overheard five of his men offer to give up their accommodations for his use, but not either of his brothers. She’d admired him for not taking any of the men up on it. Then again, maybe he had other accommodations, and he didn’t want her to know about it.
When she finally reached the room, she knocked softly. She didn’t pound on it to wake the dead, afraid to bother anyone else in the rooms down this hallway.
No one answered and she was certain Grant had gone someplace else to sleep.
She opened the door to the chamber and stared at the small child’s bed. Maybe five feet long? She was petite, but even she would have hung over the edge by nearly five inches.
Beautiful white-eyelet bed coverings and curtains made her think of a little girl’s room. Is that what Grant thought of her? As a little girl to be manipulated?
She stifled a growl and came around the corner of the curtained bed to find a very naked Grant trying to pull his pants on.
Unable to help herself, she smiled. The man was serious cover-model material in a ruggedly handsome Highland wolf sort of way.
“What the devil are you doing here, lass?” Grant growled. “Have you changed your mind about sleeping here?”
He had to be kidding.
“This is a little girl’s room,” she said, annoyed. She could see why his brothers didn’t want to switch rooms with him. “Why in the world would you think I would want to stay here?” Not that she believed he thought anything of the sort. He wanted to encourage her to leave.
“By your grandmother’s orders, this is your room,” Grant said.
Colleen couldn’t believe it. Her grandmother had wanted to see her all those years? She felt a lump in her throat, and her eyes grew misty.
“I’m sorry, lass. I thought you might have already known. She sent letters to you when she thought you were old enough to read. She had a private investigator take pictures of you while you were growing up, and she had them on display in her chamber.”
She couldn’t believe it. “Did she stay in the lady’s chamber, then?” Colleen somehow managed to get out.
“No. Once her mate died, your grandfather, she moved into the other wing in a corner apartment and wanted my grandfather to take over the laird’s chamber.”
“Who stays in her room now?” Not that Colleen wanted to use it. She didn’t believe in ghosts, she reminded herself, but she didn’t feel comfortable with the notion of sleeping in there.
“It’s been left like it was in her memory. If you want to stay there, you can. I wasn’t sure you would want to.”
She shook her head.
“Did you…come here for some reason? Other than to check out the room?”
The noise in the bathroom disturbing her sleep didn’t seem so important now. She wanted to resolve the sleeping arrangements instead.
“Why don’t you sleep in my grandmother’s apartments? You can’t sleep in this bed. Why didn’t you say so?” she asked. She thought they believed a ghost haunted the room. She’d never expected this.
“You told me where you wanted me, and I’m fine with it.” He tried to look like he was fine with it, but his expression and growly tone said otherwise.
“You can’t sleep in that bed. You’re too big. Stay in Neda’s apartments,” she said.
“The single women live in that wing and only the single women.”
“So you’re inferring I should move there?”
“Not at all.”
“Fine. Do what you want.” She was about to turn and leave when he reached for his pants. Was he planning to drop them right in front of her? Sure, most wolves didn’t sleep in anything, but he surely hadn’t been sleeping in that bed.
“What I want is to sleep in my own bed,” he said, then unzipped his pants. “But since that’s not an option, I’ll sleep here.” He pulled off his pants and dropped them to the floor, his gaze remaining on hers—she would not be intimidated—and shifted.
So that’s how he slept in here. As a wolf. She thought he would jump onto the bed, but instead, he curled up on the rug and closed his eyes. He was just as stunning as a wolf, with rusty-colored fur around his face and body that made him appear more colorful than some grayer wolves. Black strands of fur gave him the appearance of having a saddle, and the same colored strands intermingled with reddish brown on the top of his head and down to frame his eyes. Eyes that were a golden brown, now shut tight.
But he wasn’t sleeping. Not while he breathed in her scent, his ears and whiskers twitching, waiting for her to make her exit.
“The reason I came here,” she decided to say, “was I’ve heard strange noises in your bedchamber.” Then she turned and walked out of the room. Before she closed the door, he ran across the floor still in wolf form and joined her.
Shocked that he’d take interest, she asked, “Are you going with me?”
Relief filled her that he hadn’t been behind the noises if he planned to investigate them.
When they reached his chamber and entered, she motioned to the bathroom. “In there.” She peered in while he sniffed around and looked at her. Of course, nothing would happen while he was here. Then a knocking, grumbling sound perked his ears and lips up.
He gave her a full-fledged wolfish smile. He shifted, grabbed a towel, and covered himself. “Pipes in the walls. You’ll get used to it.”
“Pipes,” she said skeptically.
“The castle is ancient. Old pipes throughout, though not as old as the castle. They were updated five years ago. But they still make some noise.”
“Where did my dad stay when he was here?”
“He made Enrick move from his chamber. I shared these chambers with my brother for the year.”
“So Enrick stayed in the lady’s chamber?” She couldn’t imagine the brothers sharing the same bed.
She hated to make him leave, but she just couldn’t share the chamber with him. “Thanks, Grant, for checking out the noise for me.”
“No problem. If that’s all you needed…?”
He hesitated to leave and she thought he looked hopeful that she’d changed her mind. Or maybe he was waiting for her to turn away before he whipped off his towel and shifted again. Her cheeks heated in embarrassment. Not because she was embarrassed to see his ripped body, but because she didn’t want him to know she liked seeing it.
But then he said the one thing that had her hackles up all over again. “Did you make a date with Archibald?”
Her lips parted in surprise before she could stop herself. She could not believe he had the audacity to ask. Her personal life was her personal life—period. She clamped her lips closed and scowled at him.
Now she wished she had made a date with Archibald and hadn’t put him off—again. But it bothered her that he was pushing this so much when she’d said she wanted a week to get settled in. Not to mention that Grant’s words continued to niggle at her about why Archibald wanted to date her.
She turned away from Grant, not about to answer him, and in a flash, he loped out of the chamber as a wolf. She sighed, heard the pipes squeaking, and wondered if maybe she should stay in a room where the bathroom wasn’t attached. She’d never get any sleep this night.
She closed Grant’s chamber door and was heading back to bed when she heard someone breathing behind her closed bed curtains. Her heart skipping beats, she grabbed hold of the curtains and yanked them aside.
One of the Irish wolfhounds was sleeping in her bed!