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Nairn, Scotland, Present Day
EYES NARROWING, JANET DUVAL'S LIPS PINCHED TOGETHER AS she studied her outfitted form in the inn room's unflattering and depressingly accurate mirror. Nobody had ever accused her of being too skinny, she thought grimly, but lordy did she look pudgy in this number.
Twirling around to get a better look at her backside, she qualified that mental statement a bit. She didn't just look pudgy, she looked downright fat.
She wanted to go on a diet really she did...! but she knew at the same time that she never would. Janet morosely considered the fact that her body seemed to be at its happiest when she was about twenty pounds heavier than what was considered cosmopolitan back home in the States.
Ah well. C'est la vie.
Unzipping the fashion monstrosity that she was supposed to wear to her business meeting tomorrow, she threw it into a pile on the nearest chair and fished around her suitcases for a comfortable sundress. Janet told herself as she climbed into the cotton, clingy number that nobody at the whiskey distillery cared one way or another how she dressed up for meetings anyway. So long as she showed up tomorrow with a hefty check and purchased a ton of Highlander whiskey for the American-based firm she worked for, they'd all be happy.
After she'd donned the thigh-length, spaghetti strap green sundress, Janet took a speculative look at herself in the mirror and as usual found her attributes lacking. She wasn't gorgeous, she knew, but she oftentimes doubted that she was even remotely passable.
But then, Janet was the sort of female who would need a miracle before she'd realize her worth as a person and as a woman. Where Janet would have called her long, tawny-colored hair unremarkable, others would have noted the sleek beauty of it, not to mention the unruly curls that gave her a sensual, freshly bedded look.
Where Janet would have said her lips were too big and her smile too wide for her face, others would have thought her mouth lushly formed, her smile able to brighten even the blackest of black moods.
Where Janet believed her body to be too fat for a man to get turned on by it, men conversely tended to think of her curves as fleshy and voluptuous, the kind of body a man could cuddle up with on a cold night and love until all hours of the morning.
But Janet Duval never saw that possibility. Never even considered it. Not even once.
Turning away from the mirror, Janet glanced about her private quarters in the local inn until she located her favorite pair of sandals. Stepping into them, she grabbed her cloak from a wooden peg jutting out from the bedroom wall just in case it got a bit chilly out.
It was May, that much was true, but even in May the Highlander climate never surpassed the seventies. At night it could get downright cold.
Throwing her cloak absently over one shoulder, Janet picked up her purse and headed for the door. Tonight was, after all, fish and chips night at the local pub.
As she threw open the heavy door and closed it quietly behind her, she grinned to herself that no pudgy girl worth her salt would ever let a Scottish fish and chips night go by unattended.
Being pudgy might not be in vogue, but it beat the hell out of eating salad.
"ACH EUAN, I dinna ken why we are no' wearing our own plaids. Why must we sport these..." Graeme swept his hand to indicate the nondescript, black garments they'd all donned and frowned. "...things."
Euan and Graeme's middle brother Stuart chuckled and answered the question instead. "Graeme boy, half the fun o' reivin' is leaving the mon ye reived tae guess who it was that did it. Ye dinna wear your plaid like an emblem dunderhead."
Defensively, Graeme's chin tilted upwards. "I knew that."
Euan shook his head at Stuart. He didn't think it wise to undermine the boy's pride before a dangerous activity. 'Twas mayhap only another few minutes' ride into the heart of Nairn, the village where his riders had followed the Hay entourage to.
'Twas luck, that. The Donalds wouldn't have to ride all the way into the eastern Highlands to abscond with Hay wenches after all. In another hour or two they'd have their pick of the lot.
For whatever that was worth.
Euan nodded toward Stuart, indicating 'twas time to fall behind him in the line. Stuart acquiesced, nodding toward Graeme to do the same.
The predatory thrill of the hunt flowed into the Donald's veins, fixing his features into their usual harsh relief and causing his muscles to cord and tense.
'Twas time for the Lord of the Isles to find a wife.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.