Grant couldn’t believe how damned possessive he felt about Colleen. Maybe it was guilt over being the one to tell her about her grandmother. He hadn’t handled the matter carefully enough.
The only good news was that the lass hadn’t packed her bags and left with them.
Both Lachlan and Enrick looked on, waiting to hear what Grant had learned about the lass as he tried to come up with something gentler to say to her over the phone, despite his anger and concern about her leaving without a word to him or anyone else.
When Colleen didn’t tell him where she was, he thought he might have upset her even more with his gruff, blunt tone. He couldn’t help it. He’d been frantic to learn where she had gone once he realized she wasn’t in the area. And he’d called several times, unable to reach her. Now that he had her on the phone, he wanted to know where the bloody hell she was.
But with Colleen, he had to temper his approach a bit, he realized.
“Sorry, lass. I’ve had men searching for you all over the place, fearing you’d had a wreck.”
“Oh,” she said coolly. “I’m at Kelton’s Pub.”
“Kelton’s Pub?” He cursed under his breath. How had she managed to drive that far? “Are you lost? Forget it. I’m coming to get you.”
“No. I’m fine,” she said, sounding determined to do this her way.
She had every right to, he knew, yet he didn’t want to worry about her even if he had nothing to concern himself with.
“How did she get there?” Enrick asked.
“Stay in the area,” Grant said to Colleen, ignoring his brother. He could only deal with one conversation at a time. “I’ll meet you at the pub in two hours.”
“Forget it, Grant. I’ll get a room at a local bed and breakfast.”
He ground his teeth. He didn’t like the scenario, but as long as she was fine, he really had no say in what she did or didn’t do. Maybe she’d feel better when she returned home.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay with me?” Archibald asked Colleen in the background.
As soon as Grant heard Archibald speaking with her, he saw red.
The bastard was there? With Colleen? At the same pub? It was a date? What the hell was the deal with a bed and breakfast? Damnation.
Or maybe it hadn’t been a date and she had gotten in touch with Archibald so that she could air her gripes about Grant and his clan. Or cry on his shoulder about her grandmother.
If she needed to talk to anyone, it would be Grant. He knew her grandmother. Not that bastard.
“I’m coming. Don’t leave,” Grant said to her, his voice a pack leader’s command. Not that he had any business ordering her around, but he wasn’t going to let Archibald have his way in this. He hung up on her before she could tell him no again and headed for his car.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Enrick asked, brow furrowed.
“I want you to take care of things here. Lachlan, you come with me. Archibald’s with her at Kelton’s Pub.”
“The same place he used to take her father,” Enrick said. “Bloody hell. That bastard will stop at nothing to win her over.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Grant just hoped she wasn’t drinking to take away the sting of what she’d learned about her grandmother. He could see the man trying to take advantage of her vulnerability.
And he could see Archibald hugging her, consoling her, trying to kiss her. That had Grant growling again.
He and Lachlan climbed into his car and took off. Grant took several deep, calming breaths in an attempt to curb his temper. He was ready to pummel Archibald, because he was certain the man played to Colleen’s sympathies. She needed someone like Grant to talk to her, someone who would be honest with her and not weave a fairy tale to win her over.
“What are we going to do?” Lachlan asked. “She’s a grown woman and American, and doesn’t have to listen to anything you have to say. She’s not one of our clan members, not of our pack. She can do whatever she wants.”
“I’ll bring the lass home. I want you to drive her car back to the castle. She doesn’t know the roads and most likely isn’t used to driving on the correct side of the road, so it would be better if she didn’t drive at night. Tomorrow, I want her rental car returned to the airport. She shouldn’t be paying for the cost of it when she can use my car anytime she wants.”
“What?” Grant said, annoyed.
“If you don’t want her here, why are you making her depend on you for transportation? When have you ever let anyone borrow your car willingly?” Before Grant could comment, his brother added, “Oh, I see. You don’t intend to let her drive it whenever she is of a mind to leave. Or you’ll insist you or one of us goes with her. Which brings me back to my original question. Why do you now want the lass confined to the castle? Or is it that you think that will make her feel restricted, and she’ll want to leave?”
“I would think the answer obvious. If she stays, and it appears she is, we don’t want her roaming the countryside when Archibald has set his sights on her.”
“So he invited her to stay the night with him,” Lachlan said.
“Aye. At least, she had the good sense to say no. But if he pressures her…”
“Like if she starts drinking at the pub…”
Grant glanced at his brother.
Lachlan shrugged. “He can be persuasive, like he was with her father.”
“Who was prone to drinking.” Grant rubbed his chin. “The lass couldn’t hold her liquor the other night. I don’t believe she’s anything like her father.”
“It doesn’t mean she won’t drink to make herself feel better if we’ve upset her.”
“Which is another reason we have to rescue the lass,” Grant said.
Lachlan chuckled again. “I don’t know, but somehow it seems the scenario has turned upside down, from your wanting her gone to wanting her back. Didn’t Ian warn us about this? What exactly did happen between the two of you that upset her?”
The issue with her grandmother. But he didn’t want to discuss it with his brother.
“Enrick said one of our dogs got loose from the kennel last night. He suspected he entered through the wolf door in the kitchen. Although he wondered if Colleen had encouraged Hercules to come to her room. He smelled beef on the dog’s breath,” Lachlan said when Grant didn’t answer his other question.
Grant frowned. “Besides encouraging the dog to want to stay with her, nothing bad happened, I take it, or I would have heard of it.”
“You were preoccupied with the lass’s whereabouts. But no, he is fine.”
“Where was he?”
“Sleeping beside the lady’s chamber door as if he was guarding it or wanted in. I had a real time convincing him to come with me.”
Had the lass taken steak treats to bed with her? Grant shook his head.
“So you didn’t say before, but how were the sleeping arrangements last night?” Lachlan asked.
Grant had no intention of telling his brother about the noisy pipes scaring the lass. “Just fine.”
“Which is why you slept so late this morning when you never sleep until noon. The lass looked exhausted, dark circles under her eyes, and I suspect she didn’t get a whole lot of sleep either. What were the two of you doing last night?”
“Sleeping,” Grant said in a much too aggressive manner. His brother would know the truth of the matter—Grant only slept that late if he had been up half the night or he was ill.
He would have been sleeping if the lass and then Maynard hadn’t woken him.
“Tell me the truth. Do you think she’ll return to Farraige Castle with us? Or do you think she’ll stay the night in the village?” Lachlan asked.
The truth was, as much as Grant wanted to return her to the castle, he had no idea what he would do if she wouldn’t go along with the idea. Especially if she took Archibald up on his offer and agreed to stay with him.
Colleen wasn’t sure what to do. Archibald was still trying to convince her to go with him, even more so now that Grant was on his way.
She finished a lovely meal and sipped on her water, still trying to decide. She did like the idea that she could follow Grant home and not worry about losing her way in the dark. She also had the notion that he might be changing his tune about her residing at the castle. But maybe—just maybe—he would even be better behaved if she stayed the night here. She certainly didn’t want him or his people to believe that he could growl and snarl and dictate what she would or would not do. And that she’d go along with it. Even if he asked very nicely and she agreed to return with him, the situation would appear as though he was in charge and she would meekly acquiesce.
That decided it. She was staying. She reached for her purse to settle her bill, but Archibald quickly paid for it.
“You didn’t have to,” she said, “but thanks so much.”
“I was more than happy to treat you to a meal. Now about your accommodations…” he said.
“I’ll be more comfortable at a place of my own.”
“Which is why you are here and not at your own castle,” Archibald said, his tone challenging, irritated, perhaps a hint of his true nature coming through? She must have looked a little wary as he quickly added, “But all much appreciated as I had your lovely company.”
“Thanks.” She smiled a fake smile. “Yes, well, I have to go to ensure I can find a place that has a room before it gets too late.” The pickings looked slim: small village, one small inn, and just a couple of B and Bs. She hoped that someplace was available, or she wouldn’t have any choice but to return to the castle.
She rose from her seat and said, “Thanks again for dinner. It was nice seeing you.”
“Do you want me to come with you? In case you don’t find an available room?” Archibald asked, hurrying to rise from his chair.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.” She left him then, before he got ideas that she should kiss him good night because he had bought her a meal.
“Call me,” he called after her, “if you have any trouble.”
“Okay,” she said, not intending to, and she got out the door and away from him as quickly as she could. She’d assumed since she’d driven for a couple of hours before she stopped, that Grant would take just as long.
Or maybe not, because she had driven slower, unsure about the roads or where she was going. She glanced at a clock tower. And couldn’t believe it. She’d spent a whole hour and half at the pub? Grant could be here in half an hour or sooner!
She had to hurry.
When she reached the first home turned into a B and B, she found it had no vacancy and had been booked through the end of the month. Disheartened, she feared she’d find the same at the other B and B. Maybe she’d have better luck at the inn.
The next place was another two-story gray stone home converted into a B and B with a pretty yard surrounded by a low, gray stone wall. When she walked inside, a dark-haired lady smiled. “Are you Mrs. Jones?”
“Um, no. I don’t have a reservation. I wondered if I could get a room for the night.”
“She has a whole castle to sleep in,” Grant said, stalking into the lobby, his voice dark and threatening.
Colleen whipped around and gaped at him. “How did you know I was here?”
“Small village. I saw your car parked out front.” He towered over her, scowling, and then turned his attention to the owner of the B and B. “You didn’t have a room, did you?”
Colleen wanted to laugh. How could he make a question sound so much like an order that the B and B owner had better not have a room?
“No, of course not,” the brunette said, frowning.
Colleen swore that if the woman did have accommodations for her, she would have quickly changed her mind once she caught sight of Grant and his growly composure.
“I haven’t seen you in forever, Grant MacQuarrie,” the woman said, her whole persona changing, becoming coyer.
Colleen wondered if he were to ask her if she had a room available for him, would she offer one right up? Her own, most likely. And Colleen had no idea why she was even thinking such thoughts. But worse, she wondered if the Highlander had stood on top of a hill in the glen and kissed the B and B owner like he had kissed Colleen.
“I’ve been busy managing the lass’s castle,” he said, casting another look in Colleen’s direction, an attempt at being very businesslike, similar to how she would think a manager of said castle would behave, and not like some growly wolf-pack leader. “Colleen Playfair, meet Lily Cameron. Lily, Colleen is the new owner of Farraige Castle.”
The woman gaped a little at Colleen, probably wondering why she would need to sleep at a B and B when she had the run of the castle. Which, because of Grant’s iron rule, Colleen didn’t. But she would keep working on it until she left for America.
“But you reserved—” the woman said.
Grant cut her a glare, and the woman quickly clamped her mouth shut.
Colleen wondered what that was all about.
“Are you ready for me to drive you home?” Grant said to Colleen. Only this time he tried to put on the charm.
She hated how much it worked. She knew he wasn’t being sincere in the least, just like she now suspected that Archibald wasn’t, either. Yet when Grant’s eyes locked on hers, damn if she didn’t feel all tingly and warm, and as much as she hated her traitorous body for it, her face flushed.
Men did not affect her in such a way. Not normally. Despite his wearing pants and a shirt and boots, she still saw him in the other way—kilted, half-naked, unshaved, and sexier than any man she’d ever met up close. Not to mention that she’d seen him wholly naked a number of times. He was just too hot for her own good.
“All right. I’ll follow you.” She hated to concede defeat, but she didn’t know why he’d say he would drive her home. They had their own cars.
“If you’re ever in the village,” the woman said, and Colleen turned to see that Lily had directed the comment at Grant, “drop by and see me.” She smiled brilliantly.
Colleen should have just walked out the door, showing no interest at all, but she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to know how Grant would handle the situation. She suspected they had been lovers or had a one-night stand or something. Which was perfectly acceptable for a wolf who was not mated, but she hated that it still bothered her.
“You know I will,” Grant said, but from the tone of his voice, Colleen knew he meant just the opposite.
She thought Lily tried to hide her disappointment behind a fake smile. “You do that.” The inference was that she wasn’t holding her breath.
Grant motioned to the doorway, then hurried to open the door for Colleen.
“Just so you know, Grant MacQuarrie,” Colleen said as they headed outside and he shut the door, “I’m only following you home because no rooms were available here tonight. You’re not—” She paused when she saw Lachlan leaning against her rental car, arms folded. She looked at Grant.
“Lachlan will drive your car. We need to talk.”
She realized then how much he’d outmaneuvered her. And how things had flip-flopped between them. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She respected Grant for being clever enough to come up with the plan at a moment’s notice, and she gave him credit for his determination. And she kind of liked the fact that he wanted her home.
“Fine,” she said, only because she didn’t want to drive at night on unfamiliar roads, and truly, she was tired after the sleepless night she’d had. Not to mention the fight she’d had with the dog in her bed. He had taken up a goodly sum of the mattress, and she hadn’t been about to share it with him.
She had the nagging suspicion that someone had sneaked him into her room while she had visited Grant in the White Room. How else would the dog have gotten in there? True, she had left the door to Grant’s chamber slightly ajar, but she’d seen no sign of the dogs before she’d retired for the evening so she suspected they were kept in a kennel at night.
Fully expecting Grant to chastise her for driving off across Scotland without his permission—that would be the day—she was surprised on the drive back to Farraige Castle when he said instead, “Did you take some steak bits to bed with you?”
“Enrick said Hercules slept outside your chamber last night.”
So he thought she had enticed the dog to come to her room with meat treats.
She gave him an annoyed look. “Better there than in my bed,” she said, letting him know someone had been up to tricks last night.
He glanced at her. “In your bed?”
“Yes. After we said good night, I discovered Hercules smack-dab in the center of the mattress. Despite the bed being big, the dog is huge. Believe me, moving him was no easy task.”
“That’s why Enrick smelled a hint of beef on him.”
“What? Did you think I enticed the hound to my room and posted him as a guard dog?”
“Well, I didn’t. Who let him out of the kennel and into my room?”
Grant’s smile faded.
Apparently, he hadn’t assumed anyone had done so on purpose.
“I’m sure someone neglected to lock him in the kennel last night,” Grant said, though he didn’t sound at all sure of it. “So you enticed him out of bed with the bits of meat?”
“Have you ever tried to coax a sleeping Irish wolfhound off your bed? He wouldn’t even raise his head off my pillow to look at me. When coaxing and pleading with him didn’t work—as an alpha wolf, you should never have to stoop that low to a dog—I pulled at his collar, pushed him, and called to him again. He wouldn’t budge. He reminds me of a Highlander I know, come to think of it.”
Grant again smiled.
“Earlier in the day, I’d found some bits of meat left over from the meal to train the dogs with. But last night, I had to go all the way down to the kitchen to get the beef. It was all I could find that wasn’t frozen, and I wasn’t defrosting something else and spending my whole night in the kitchen because I had a monster dog in my bed. Then I had to deal with your cook. Then with you. And then I had to carry the treats all the way back to the chamber. When the dog smelled the beef, he stirred and sat up, and I had his attention.”
“I’ll make sure he’s kenneled tonight and doesn’t bother you, lass.”
“Who was responsible?”
“A lad. I will talk to him.”
Okay, so she knew it was Grant’s pack and she had no say in it, but her bed and her sleep were affected last night. She had every intention of visiting the kennels when the hounds were put up for the night and learning the truth for herself.
“Concerning another matter,” Grant said, his voice sounding authoritative, and she stiffened a little, ready to fight the next battle. “I’ll have one of the men take your car back to the rental place, and you can use mine any time you like. Or one of us will drive you where you’d like to go.”
She snapped her gaping mouth shut.
“There’s no sense in you paying all that rent when you can use one of the cars at the keep,” he continued.
She stared at him. What happened to wanting her out of the castle?
When she didn’t respond, he said, “All you have to do is ask.”
“This doesn’t all have to do with Archibald, does it?” She highly suspected it did.
“Not all to do with him. Why waste money on a rental when there’s no need?”
She’d planned on buying a used car to drive while she stayed here for the year. But now he was conceding that she was staying here for all that time? She couldn’t believe it. Changing tactics? Or did he genuinely not mind that she was here to stay for the year?
“You weren’t really worried I had a car wreck, were you?” she asked, still surprised that Grant had come to fetch her. He had no way of knowing she’d been with Archibald at the pub before the man had spoken.
“Aye.” But Grant didn’t say anything more than that.
“Why were you worried?” She couldn’t believe he had changed his mind about her staying.
“You were upset when you left. I worried that in your frame of mind…” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry you learned about how your grandmother doted on you in the way that you did. Your father shouldn’t have stood between the two of you. I believe you would have gotten on famously.”
The notion saddened her all over again. She hated her father for having taken that away from her.
“Thank you. I…wish that I had not listened to him.” Then not wanting to dwell on the past, she had to broach the subject no manager wanted to hear about. “First thing in the morning, I want to see the financial records for my properties.”
She didn’t believe her father had found anything wrong with the books. Archibald was probably just trying to cause trouble between her and Grant.
“As you wish,” Grant said, and she thought he sounded just a tad concerned.
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