Read an Excerpt
"Sullivan has become a prime objective between US agencies and Interpol, especially in Great Britain. MI-5 is not happy he's on British soil."
"Is this the latest surveillance information?"
"Yes. Also included is information on a property in either Ireland or Scotland and a woman who may be unwittingly involved."
"And she is important because..."
"She owns property strategic to his plans for shipping and smuggling."
"As always, you're on your own. We'll take care of any special needs or requests you might have, but you only report to me when you feel it's warranted."
"Good, I'll provide you with what I need as soon as I go through these."
"Out of curiosity, how long have you been after this guy?"
"What is the latest on the offer we made to Her Ladyship?"
"No answer yet."
"Damn! Why is she taking so long?"
"She doesn't want to sell the family holdings. Research has her directly descended from the first Lord Ravencroft."
"It's a losing proposition with her."
"She doesn't see it that way."
"What's our current offer?"
"Fifty million, US."
"Up it to seventy-five and add two weeks. I want her to say she'll sell. See to it."
Douglas Sullivan, ruthless and without compassion, wanted Ravencroft Manor at Ravenshire and he would get it one way or another. He didn't care as long as he got what he wanted.
Ravencroft Manor stood on a hill overlooking the small hamlet of Ravenshire, Scotland. Behind it, the highlands protected it and the valley while it faced the North Sea. Over the early centuriesof its existence, the villagers looked to the sitting lord to protect them in times of war or other dangerous situations.
In return, the people worked to make their lives good while supporting the castle and its inhabitants. A good system, it provided for an extremely good working relationship for everyone involved. To the present day, the people depended on the Ravencroft family as the Ravencrofts relied on the village. Not too much had changed outside of the current lords no longer needing to mount the armies that once fought for their safety--everyone grateful.
Over the years, Ravencroft had hosted various festivals and celebrations, and now was no different. The hamlet's inhabitants put together the annual end of summer event with lots of food and entertainment. This year, they held a hot-air balloon race.
The balloons of different shapes, sizes and designs entranced those in the crowd below them. Twenty entered and the winner appeared to come from a neighboring village.
"You've outdone yourself this year."
"Thank you, Sir Charles. You are way too kind."
"Only stating the truth. Who'd have thought balloon races..."
"I saw one in the States a few weeks ago. It made for an enjoyable affair. I'm amazed at how popular it seems to be over there."
"I had seen articles but I hadn't realized it either."
"I'm just glad we could pull this off. The money raised should be a good amount for the school, I think."
"By your leave, Your Ladyship, I'd be happy to go check."
"Thank you. I am interested."
Sir Charles left her and she watched the race head to an end. As she watched the balloons soar overhead, relief eased her mind, but only for a short while. Danger from outside this peaceful valley weighed on her as she began to formulate a plan on how to keep it this way.
"Damn, we cannot lose this piece of heaven."
"Your Ladyship, they would like you at the finish line."
"Thank you, Jamie. I'll be right there."
"Yes, mum," he replied, bowing to his mistress. Laurell Ravencroft could be described in only one way. Watch the John Wayne movies named The Quiet Man and Big Jake. Everyone who saw her said the same thing. If anyone is an image of another, Laurell would be it. The conversations would be the same.
If anyone watched The Quiet Man or Big Jake, they immediately remembered Maureen O'Hara. She played a spitfire with fiery red hair and a disposition to match. No one ever crossed her because her Scottish roots became more and more evident. She never lost her temper, though she had come close. Laurell Ravencroft echoed the firm but respected countenance of Martha McCandles--strong, independent but with a devilish side to her.
Laurell's red hair highlighted her green eyes. On some occasions, they would sparkle with the fire of a magnificent emerald while on others, they appeared to be piercing like cold, green ice. They still showed fire but those around her knew not to make her mad.
Everyone in the hamlet loved her because she held a special place in her heart for each and every one of the villagers. It tickled Laurell to see the young boys attempt to hide the obvious crushes they had on her. Single for years, some of the men thought they'd try to spend quality time with her but she easily turned them down while not hurting their feelings.