A Highlander for Christmas

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`Tis the season to be jolly-but Boston antiques dealer Claire MacGregor isn't looking forward to a solo Christmas, or cocoa for one, or trimming the tree by herself. But company's coming. Claire is fooling around with an old puzzle box and when it opens.a gorgeous, studly laird appears. Thumbs down: Sir Cameron MacLeod is centuries old. Thumbs up: he doesn't look it. And Cameron is tall, dark, and lusty-very lusty.

COME AWAY TO MINE

Who is this lovely lass? And where is he? ...

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Overview

`Tis the season to be jolly-but Boston antiques dealer Claire MacGregor isn't looking forward to a solo Christmas, or cocoa for one, or trimming the tree by herself. But company's coming. Claire is fooling around with an old puzzle box and when it opens.a gorgeous, studly laird appears. Thumbs down: Sir Cameron MacLeod is centuries old. Thumbs up: he doesn't look it. And Cameron is tall, dark, and lusty-very lusty.

COME AWAY TO MINE

Who is this lovely lass? And where is he? Before awakening in the 21st century in Claire's bedroom, the last thing Sir Cameron MacLeod remembers was readying for war with a rival clan. Despite her strange clothes and odd ways, Claire is bonny and brave. He's about to find out that love is a many-splendored thing indeed.

"An absolutely delightful, delicious romp!"

—Romantic Times on A Thief In A Kilt

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821779972
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Series: Zebra Book Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 4.34 (w) x 7.04 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A Highlander For Christmas


By SANDY BLAIR

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 Sandy Blair
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8217-7997-2


Chapter One

Boston December 2, 2007

Claire MacGregor wanted to cry. The biggest shopping weekend of the year had come and gone and she'd only brought in thirty-six dollars and change. Merry Christmas, ho, ho ... blah.

But then Christmas hadn't been the same since her mother had died eight years ago. Had it not been for customer expectations and the hope of luring shoppers into the Velvet Pumpkin she wouldn't have bothered to decorate at all.

The brass bell hanging above her antique shop's door chimed, and Claire looked up from her computer screen, a smile in place for her first customer of the afternoon. Seeing Tracy Simpson crossing the threshold, all hope of her making her first sale of the day fizzled. "Hey, Tracy. How did the job interview go?"

Tracy grinned as she pulled off her gloves. "I didn't go. I went to a cattle call instead."

"A cattle call." Claire glanced at the French banjo-bottomed clock she held on consignment, then out through the wide bow windows fronting her shop. Four-thirty and snowing. No way could Tracy race across town now. "I don't believe you did this."

Tracy dropped her leather trench coat onto the back of a nearby Victorian side chair, then strolled toward Claire's mostprized possession, the eight-foot-high baroque mirror that dominated the front half of the Velvet Pumpkin. "I know, I know. I should have gone to the job interview and I will ... tomorrow, if I don't get a call back in the morning."

God, not again. "And what if you don't get a callback and that secretarial position is taken? What are you going to do? Swivel around brass poles for the rest of your life? You have no savings, Tracy. You spend every dime you make. Hell, you're only a good case of the flu away from being evicted."

Tracy waved a dismissing hand as she scrutinized herself in the mirror. "Claire, you worry too much. I'll get the call. I'm perfect for the part."

Hating herself for asking, Claire grumbled, "What part?"

Tracy's face lit up like the small Christmas tree standing next to the mirror. "Of Sandy."

"Sandy."

"In Grease! You know the musical that starred Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. You remember. We saw it a dozen times."

How could she forget? Having been an academic geek in bottle-bottomed glasses in high school, never having been on a date that Tracy hadn't strong-armed one of her boyfriend's football teammates into going on, she'd been mesmerized by the film, caught in the fantasy of having a man of her own with flashing blue eyes, dimples, and a cleft chin. A fantasy she was ashamed to admit she still harbored and had yet to experience despite new contacts and having read every Cosmo she could get her hands on.

"Ya, I remember. But hasn't the production been here and gone?"

And didn't the role of Sandy usually go to a headliner? And a young one at that?

"It's summer stock."

"Where?" Please don't tell me it's some community theatre without a budget. She didn't have the money to bail Tracy out again.

Ignoring the question, Tracy turned sideways to the mirror and lifted her boobs with her hands. "I think gravity is starting to take its toll. I'm not collecting the tips I did a few years ago, not dating as much either. Tell me the truth. Do I look my age?"

Hell, they both did.

Tracy, the leggy blond star of their high school musicals, had blown off college and run straight for Hollywood. After ten years, three commercials-one for a laxative-and a supporting actress role in a truly forgettable, straight-to-video horror flick, she'd given up on being a film star and headed to New York in hopes of making it on Broadway. But by then, she was well into that no-longer-an-ingénue-not-ready-to-play-someone's-mother netherworld so many middle-aged actresses found themselves in. After a few more fruitless years, she'd returned home, an obsessive name dropper.

Meanwhile, Claire had been hip deep in endless minimum-wage jobs but finally she'd acquired her master's in art history, only to discover after a decade of no sleep, night classes, and shouting "You want fries with that?" that she was but one of hundreds looking for curator positions. Thank God she had an eye for quality antiques and had been able to parlay a few awesome estate and garage sale finds into solid cash. At least she now owned this shabby three-story brownstone and the Velvet Pumpkin, failing though it was. "Your boobs are fine. Leave them alone."

With her gaze still locked on her reflection, Tracy arched her back and pushed out her butt. "You haven't answered my question."

Mentally groaning, Claire assured her, "You look great, could pass for twenty-five, maybe twenty-two." When Tracy grimaced, Claire shrugged. "Stop fretting. And I'll keep my fingers crossed for you."

Looking sullen, Tracy grumbled, "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Claire turned her attention back to her computer screen. Praying someone had put a bid on the Victorian jewelry she'd scooped up at an estate sale, she clicked on eBay and mumbled, "Anything is better than you dancing at the Purple Pussycat."

"I heard that and it's not that bad. The bouncer keeps the creeps at bay."

Finding only two bids for the gold-filled locket and chandelier earrings, neither of which covered her initial cost, Claire groaned.

"I'm thinking," Tracy said as she faced the mirror, "of getting breast implants. Maybe even a butt lift."

Good Lord. There comes a time in every woman's life when she just had to admit she's no longer the cutest kitty in the litter box and go on. "For heaven's sake, Tracy, you've read all those articles-"

The bell over the door clattered, and Claire rose from her stool, a smile again plastered on her face for her Christmas shopper, only to find her mailman clomping snow on her welcome mat. "Hi, Mark."

"Hey, Claire. Howz it going?"

"Slow, but then it's snowing." She took the box addressed to her upstairs tenant from his gloved hands, mindful that his attention had already shifted from her to Tracy, who stood with one hip cocked, twisting a strand of shoulder-length platinum hair between her fingers. Long resigned to fading into the woodwork whenever Tracy was around, Claire muttered, "Tracy, meet Mark Mullany. Mark, meet Tracy Simpson."

Turning beet red, Mark mumbled, "Hi ya, Tracy."

"Hi, yourself."

Tracy's tentative-out-of-character-tone caused Claire to glance from Tracy to Mark, then back again. Did they already know each other?

Mark, forty-something and still good looking in a padded teddybear sort of way, was married last she heard and not really Tracy's type.

As if to confirm her suspicions, Mark tugged at the cuffs of his gloves and muttered, "The kids have been sick and Kathy's been pulling her hair out, so I haven't been getting out much."

Tracy suddenly grinned from ear to ear. "Well, I hope the kids are feeling better soon."

"Ya, me, too." Mark glanced at Claire, apparently realized she was paying attention and turned fuchsia. "Well. Gotta go. Hope business picks up, Claire."

Curious about the undercurrent between her friend and her mailman, Claire mumbled, "Thanks, Mark. Give my best to Kathy and the kids."

"Will do."

With a wave and a final glance at Claire, Mark left, leaving only a puddle on the door mat and a brassy tinkle in the air.

Claire watched her friend fidget with her hair and makeup for a moment before asking, "What's going on?"

"Nothing."

Crap! Claire came out from behind the mahogany sideboard that served as her reception desk, office, and lunch counter. "Talk to me."

Tracy spun, a slight blush gracing her cheeks. "There's nothing to tell. He comes into the Pussycat once in a while, that's all."

"Uh huh. Then why did you light up like that tree when he said his kids were sick?"

Tracy sidestepped left and started rearranging the cinnamon-scented candles sitting on the oak dresser beside the mirror. "He hasn't been in the club in a while and I was worried that something might have happened to him."

"Are you two seeing each other?" Is this what all the talk of boob and butt lifts was about? Tracy wasn't simply worried about her floundering acting career but fearful she couldn't hold a man's attention anymore?

With her face averted, Tracy inched farther away. "We're just friends, Claire, nothing more."

"He's married." Having come up the hard way, Claire didn't live in a black-and-white world, but there were definitely limits on how much gray she'd tolerate.

"Ya, I know." Tracy headed toward the desk and her coat, no doubt hoping to escape.

Pissed, Claire blocked her path. "And he brags regularly about his kids."

"It's not like that! Look, he comes in twice a week, throws back a few beers and we talk. Nothing more."

And pigs fly.

Tracy needed attention to function. Particularly a man's. Insecure at the best of times, she had a long history of choosing bad boys who left her twisting in the wind. Mark, a family man, would be a break from tradition, but then again, he did say something just a few weeks ago about working on his Harley.

Seeing her friend's jaw set and normally full lips thin into a hard line, Claire heaved a resigned sigh. Hey, it wasn't her life. "Sweetie, I just don't want to see you get hurt again."

"Thank you. And you're no one to be shelling out dating advice. You haven't been out with a man in years."

"Have too. I went out just last week."

Tracy snorted. "Going to a comedy club with Victor, your gay interior designer, does not constitute a date, Claire. I mean ... when was the last time you got laid?"

Sensing the accusation worm turning, Claire reached for the candles, rearranging them back to the way Victor, a master merchandiser, had piled them. "I don't remember."

"My point exactly. I bet you look like a prune down there. You really need to invest in some serious lingerie and then find yourself a boink buddy. You know what they say ... use it or lose it."

"Augh." True, she hadn't been on a real date in years, hadn't found anyone worth getting dolled up for, much less making love to, but prune? Claire shuddered.

Tracy, a look of pity in her eye, wrapped an arm around Claire's shoulder. "Finding someone safe-and in as much need of some healthy, casual sex as you are-would do you a world of good."

Claire grumbled under her breath. The only males in her life were either gay or plain vanilla. No way would she be boinking any of them. She'd done the let's-turn-this-friendship-into-something-more thing with the guy she'd been dating in college. Biggest mistake of her life. The sex went from bad to hopeless and she'd lost a friend when she put an end to it. Lesson learned, she vowed never again. She was holding out for the man of her dreams, one with flashing blue eyes and dimples, one who'd be able to turn her knees to jelly and her blood on fire with just a look or touch. The fact that she was now thirty-one and he'd yet to show up didn't dissuade her. Miracles did happen.

Tracy looked at her watch. "Now that we've made nice, do you want to join me for supper? I haven't eaten all day."

Claire studied the snow falling in fat, dime-sized flakes that clung like meringue to the lonely parking meters outside her door. Hell, there was no reason to stay open. No one would be out Christmas shopping tonight. And closing early would save on heating oil. "Only if we go to the Union Oyster House." Clams were her comfort food, and the Union had the best.

"That works for me."

"Let me check something before we leave."

She clicked on eBay. As she punched in her password, Tracy twirled the wrought-iron Christmas card holder sitting on the desk. "Hey, you got another card from that old guy you helped a few years ago."

"Yes." Claire grinned. It had been on a night much like this one that she'd first met Tavish MacLean. She'd been closing up for the night when she heard the crash, rushed outside and found Tavish half frozen, his compact car crumpled against a light pole and sitting crosswise to the deserted street. After he assured her he could walk, she brought him back to the shop, where she'd called the police and tended his wounds.

While they waited three hours for the tow truck to arrive, she'd filled him with cocoa and sugar cookies and he'd entertained her in his lovely burr with tales of his Christmases in Scotland. Since then, he called regularly, always sent her a lovely anniversary card three weeks before Christmas, and drove down from Portsmouth to have lunch with her the day before Christmas.

Reading the card, Tracy grinned. "I think he's sweet on you, Claire."

"Just my luck the only real man in my life is almost eighty and-"

Brrrrringggggg.

Tracy jerked, her head snapping around in the direction of the sound. "What the hell is that?"

"Just the loading dock bell." As it continued to clatter like an ancient firehouse alarm, Claire reached for the cane she kept behind the desk.

"Who'd be making a delivery at this hour?"

"No one. It's probably just kids screwing around."

Every merchant on the street had recently been hit by vandals. Their leader, a pimple-faced kid of about fifteen with a pierced eyebrow and tattooed fingers, had had the audacity to suggest she pay protection money to ensure her windows remained intact. When she told him to go screw himself or she'd call the cops, he'd shrugged and walked away.

At three the next morning, the crash of glass followed by her security alarm screaming nearly gave her a heart attack.

She'd shot out of bed, grabbed her cell phone and cane and headed for the back staircase. She hadn't made it to the first landing when she heard alarmed shouts from her elderly second-floor tenant.

After telling Mrs. Grouse to stay calm, she raced down the stairs and found the glass in her double front doors in shards but everything else intact.

The police came, dusted for prints and said they'd patrol the neighborhood.

And then it happened again.

To date, the little bastards had cost her $1,800 in new plate glass and glazing fees, an amount she could ill afford.

In the backstore room, cane in hand-its lethal inner blade exposed-she peered through the small window. A moving van filled the alley and a man, dressed in a delivery uniform, stood on her loading dock blowing white clouds into the air. The loading dock-an add-on the previous owner had constructed when he'd converted the first-floor apartment into retail space-had been the primary reason she'd chosen this narrow building over others. That and its rock-bottom price. There was something to be said for leaking pipes, an antiquated heating system, and layers of lead paint.

She pulled back on the steel bolt and cracked open the sliding door. Peering out, she asked, "May I help you?"

The guy stomped his feet as he held out a clipboard. "Are you Claire MacGregor?"

"Yes."

"Good. Sign this, and we'll start unloading."

"But I haven't ordered anything."

"Doesn't say that you did. We're just delivering the stuff from the house."

"What house?" She hadn't been to an estate sale in weeks. Couldn't afford to go. "Look, you must have the wrong-"

"Claire!" Tracy shouted from the front, "The phone-some guy from Brindle, Bailey, and somebody, attorneys at law. He says he has to talk to you."

Shit. Now what? Scowling, Claire pointed at the delivery guy. "Don't you dare unload a thing until I get back."

At the front of the store Tracy held the phone out to her. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"

Chapter Two

Claire shrugged as she took the phone. "Not that I know of."

Praying her vandals hadn't decided to sue her for defamation of character-her language had been scathing the last time they'd called and threatened her-she brought the phone to her ear. "Hello, this is Claire MacGregor. How may I help you?"

"Ms. MacGregor, this is Wesley Brindle, senior partner at Brindle, Bailey, and Sheltonship. I'm the executor handling the estate of Mr. Tavish MacLean, formally of 210 Willow Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It's my sad duty to inform you that Mr. MacLean has passed, and-"

"Passed?"

Claire groped for the stool behind her. No, no. She'd just received her anniversary card, had spoken with Tavish not a week ago. He'd called to thank her for the chocolate chip cookies, and they'd made plans to meet Christmas Eve as they did every year. If the weather was nice they'd stroll through the Common, admire the decorations and store windows, then ...

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Highlander For Christmas by SANDY BLAIR Copyright © 2007 by Sandy Blair. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    wonderful time travel romance

    In 2007 in a Boston neighborhood, a gang of hooligans terrorize Claire MacGregor at her antiques store shop. As he fusses with an eighteenth century puzzle box, she wishes for some peace on earth, at least in her store during Christmas, but instead a naked hunk arrives. -------------- Highlander Sir Cameron MacLeod is confused as he struggles with all that he sees as he insists the year is 1745 and he is preparing for the battle of Culloden. He needs to return home to perform his duty even in a losing cause. Claire tries to help him, but the local witch fails at sending him back in time. As he gets into all sorts of trouble with the law and giving back to the gang what they gave Claire, they fall in love, but he is eighteenth century and she is twenty-first.----------- The key to this wonderful time travel romance is the tongue in cheek humor as the eighteenth century style chauvinistic honor keeps getting the good intention hero in twenty-first century trouble. Claire is a solid protagonist and the supporting Bostonians enhance the plot however Cam makes the tale as he struggles to adapt to modern day living demands that make it a bit difficult for a kilted warrior to walk down Beacon Street carrying a sword.---------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted July 27, 2009

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    Posted November 22, 2009

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