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About the Author
Lorie Langdon is an Amazon bestselling author of six YA novels, including the Doon series, Gilt Hollow, and Olivia Twist, which received a starred review from Booklist Magazine and is being sold in Target Stores across the nation. She is an international speaker who has been featured on media outlets such as USA Today.com, NPR Radio, Entertainment Weekly.com, Redbook Magazine.com, Girl’s Life Magazine, and Broadway World.com. Her first novel has been optioned for film by Dreamstreet and Lonetree Entertainment. She is a self-professed Wonder Woman Wannabe who lives in Ohio with her husband and two superhero-obsessed teenage sons.
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Destined for Doon
By Carey Corp, Lorie Langdon
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Carey Corp and Lorie Moeggenberg
All rights reserved.
I glided down the backstage hallway with the sort of stealth that would've made my best friend proud. Unfortunately my ninja-like skills didn't last for long, as I stumbled over my own feet and careened shoulder first against the wall. Before I could recover, Jeanie waved at me from the doorway of the adjacent green room.
"Outstanding show tonight, Kenna."
"Thanks." I flashed my fellow intern a dazzling smile meant to overshadow my clumsy moment. "I'm really grateful for your support."
I gave her a quick hug before slipping into the sanctuary of my private dressing room. The familiar aroma of roasting greasepaint and lilies, so pungent I could actually taste it, greeted me. Rather than turn on the sizzling, artificial lights that would transform the windowless room into a life-size Easy-Bake Oven, I lit a candle.
Adrenaline Theatre interns didn't usually get the royal treatment. But none had ever stepped into the leading role hours before opening night and then been proclaimed "a fresh and stunning revelation" by the Chicago Tribune. After a six-week run and forty-eight performances, I was no longer just an intern. I was the actress who saved Little Jimmy: The Margaret Mitchell Musical, an up-and-coming talent with invitations to audition for a handful of Broadway shows and national tours.
Even Adrenaline's artistic director, Weston Ballard, wanted a piece of me — in more ways than one. He'd announced a new musical for the following season, written exclusively with me in mind. In typical Wes fashion, he'd commissioned the work without even asking if I wanted the role. I guess since he felt like he "discovered" me, he assumed he owned me as well. I wasn't doing his show, but I was avoiding the part where I informed him of my decision — at least until after closing night.
Just in case he decided to pay me a visit, I locked the door before kicking off my tap shoes and getting out of costume. As much as I'd wished for house elves to magically tidy up after me, my street clothes were still lying in a heap behind my folding screen. Padding over to the changing area, I shimmied out of my constricting 1940s dress and girdle, my hips sighing in relief as I eased on my favorite jeans.
Since the first time I heard "Hard Knock Life," I'd dreamed of stage life in vivid detail, from the dressing room to the curtain call. But not once did I ever picture being on stage without my bestie applauding me from the first row. And now, thanks to my misadventures in Doon, other dear but improbable faces joined her in my ultimate theater fantasy. Some nights I caught myself scanning the audience as I dared to hope for the impossible — that I could celebrate my success with the people I loved.
Holy Hammerstein! The voice stopped me cold.
I hastily pulled on a sweater and then peeked around the screen to see Duncan MacCrae leaning against the edge of my dressing table holding a duffel bag. But I knew from experience it wasn't really him. It was a Calling delusion, a manifestation of my subconscious longing for my one true love — a boy who was literally a world away.
Like every other time he'd appeared in my visions, he was ridiculously gorgeous — even in faded jeans and a white button-down shirt. Which was odd ... The many times I'd conjured him, he'd always worn Doonian clothes — breeches, tunics, the occasional kilt, and often a sword strapped to his side. I'd never pictured him in anything close to modern before.
Something about his unexpected attire caused my heart to wrench. He looked so natural, as if he belonged in this place — this life. Which was inconceivable! He was a Scottish prince, complete with a castle and kingdom.
Stepping out from the screen, I skirted a pile of discarded clothes to grab my bag. Similar occurrences had taught me that Duncan's apparition could linger stubbornly for hours. But if I left, he wouldn't follow.
"Mackenna." His soft, deep brogue tempted me to reconsider. But I'd already played that role — talking back to his image, begging him to stay ... He never did. He'd fade away and I'd be an emotional basket case for days.
"I'm too tired for this," I pleaded. "Please go away."
When I brushed past the imaginary Duncan, he grabbed my arm. Warm, solid fingers produced little electric tremors on my skin as the clean scent of sunshine and leather saddles enveloped me.
While I wouldn't have ordinarily believed my eyes — or ears, or any other sense as far as Duncan was concerned, my soul stirred in recognition as a voice in my head cried out that the impossible had come true. "You're real?"
"Aye." His velvety brown eyes, with the golden flecks that reminded me of melting caramel, fastened to mine. "And so are you."
Giddy with shock, I whispered, "What are you doing here?"
I waited for words of love, a confession that he couldn't exist without me any more than I could live without him, reassurance that he realized my leaving him on the Brig o' Doon had been at the expense of my own heart, and the promise that we would never be apart again.
Instead, Duncan let his hand drop from my arm. His posture stiffened as his gaze refocused in the vicinity of my right earlobe. "The queen has tasked me with bringing ye back to Doon."
The queen? The absence of his touch left me feeling ice-cold. Goosebumps covered my arms as I crossed them over my chest. "You mean Vee? My best friend?"
"Aye. She has need of you."
She needed me? And the unspoken truth — he didn't. He was here only because those were the orders he'd been given. The hope that'd been welling up inside of me froze. "What's going on? Is she okay?"
Shadows from the flickering candle shifted across his face, making it impossible to read. "She's well. She requires your assistance is all. I'll explain when we're underway."
It was probably a best friend thing. She wanted a confidante or someone to keep her grounded despite her recent ascension to royalty. The reason didn't really matter because if she needed me, I would go. However, since Prince MacCrae was only following orders, I didn't have to make this easy for him.
"Now's not really the best time." I let my shoulders rise and fall with my words. "I've got a lot of stuff going on."
Duncan stepped closer so that I had to lean backward ever so slightly to see his face. Through tightened lips, he said, "It's not a request. I'll throw you over my shoulder and drag ye back if I have to."
"You came all this way to threaten me?" I took a cautious step back and flicked the switch near the door. The overhead lights hummed to life.
He clamped his eyes shut and sighed. "No."
When he looked at me a moment later under the unforgiving lights of the dressing room, he appeared older. Deep worry lines formed creases above the bridge of his nose and at the corners of his mouth. Purplish crescents accentuated the baggy skin under his eyes making me wonder when he'd last slept. Most noticeably, the easy grin that seemed to be an integral part of his persona was gone, and I couldn't help but wonder if he'd left it on the bridge next to my heart.
Threading his fingers through his dark hair, he said plainly, "Look, I dinna like it any more than you. Do ye think I'd be here if I could've avoided it?"
The question was obviously rhetorical. Everything from the deep frown he wore to his awkward posture indicated he could barely stand being in the same room with me. Not that I could blame him. I promised him that we could be together in the modern world and then tricked him into returning to Doon alone. At the time, I believed it was the right thing to do.
Almost like he'd been eavesdropping in my head, he said, "Ye made your choice and I swore to respect it. I promise as soon as we get things sorted out, I'll return you to your life and you'll never have to see me again. My queen says I'm to beg you, if need be."
I wouldn't make him beg — he'd been humiliated enough. My best friend wanted me to come so nothing would keep me away. Not even the animosity of the prince who was once mine. "Okay."
Duncan hoisted his duffel over his shoulder. "Good, then. We'll leave right away."
"No." I stepped to my dressing table to tidy my things. "I've got one more performance tomorrow afternoon and then I'm free."
From the reflection in the mirror, I watched the corners of his mouth pinch downward, hardening his face. I braced myself for an argument, but rather than fight me, he agreed with a single nod.
Before I could fully absorb the implications of our arrangement, the knob on the dressing room door rattled, shattering our awkward truce. Duncan's hand instinctively reached for his sword, and when it came up empty, he clenched it into a fist.
The rattling quickly escalated into pounding. Each reverberation caused Duncan to tense a bit more — like a windup jack-in-the-box. If I didn't intervene, he would likely spring forward, rip the door from its hinges, and use it to pummel the person on the other side.
Dreading what was about to unfold, I hurried to the door and twisted the knob to release the lock. Bracing it with my body, I edged it open. Through the gap, I saw Weston's salon-perfect blond locks and his narrow eyes with their faint traces of guy-liner. When he realized I wasn't alone, he quickly replaced his scowl with an overly wide smile that revealed high-end veneers. He leaned against the door, forcing me to give way.
"There's my diva!" Weston glanced from me to Duncan. His expensive smile never faltered as he sauntered into the room and snaked his arm around my hip. "Who's this, babe?"
My heart pounded against my ribcage as Duncan coiled into what I recognized as his Highland warrior stance. For a moment I worried he would clobber Wes like an opponent in the coliseum ring back in Doon. Fortunately, he seemed to reconsider. Raising himself to his full height — a full head above his adversary — he stepped forward with regal grace. "I am Duncan Rhys Finnean MacCrae, Third Earl of Lanarkshire. You may call me Lord MacCrae. And you are?"
"I'm Weston Ballard, lord and artistic director of this theatre. And Kenna's boyfriend."
Boyfriend? That was so not true. Well, maybe a little bit. After a couple of miserable dates, during which the company started referring to us as Keston, I broke it off. Dating Wes had been a mistake, a pathetic attempt to get over Duncan after months of agony. But I quickly found I had no stomach for being wooed — at least not by him.
At the B-word, Duncan's smile froze. He blinked at Weston while he absorbed that little relationship bomb. I'd heard Wes do this multiple times — especially where other guys were involved. He loved to exaggerate circumstances to make himself appear important.
Wes pulled me closer so that our hip bones jabbed against one another. "Who is this guy, babe?"
"Just an old friend from Scotland." My heart hitched in my chest. As if Duncan could be "just" anything.
Duncan's smile warmed slightly. "Not that old." It was an obvious dig at the fact that Wes was in his twenties — practically an old creeper compared to the eighteen-year-old prince.
Wes bared his freakishly white teeth. "That's right. You're barely out of diapers."
Before things could get any more testosterone-y, I stepped between them. I just needed to keep the peace with Wes for one more show. Was that really so much to ask?
Flashing Duncan a threatening smile, I explained to Wes, "He came to surprise me."
Weston's free hand captured my face. In a deceptively gentle-looking caress, he dug his index finger into the flesh under my chin and forced my head to turn until we faced each other. "Is that so?"
If it hadn't been for Duncan's presence, I would've broken Wes's hand. He was being a jerk on purpose and his actions bordered on abuse. Out of the corner of my eye, I observed Duncan's murderous scowl. Obviously, he'd noticed the inappropriate behavior as well. He took a fraction of a step forward, his smooth Scottish brogue heavy with subtext. "Aye. We go way back."
Since childhood ... which I hadn't realized until recently.
Releasing my face, Wes leaned toward me and nuzzled my neck like Snuffleupagus. With an affected and no doubt rehearsed nonchalance, he asked, "Where are you staying tonight, mate?"
That was a good question. All too aware of the way Duncan's hands clenched into fists, I subtly twisted away from Wes's face. Under the pretext of straightening up, I slipped his grasp to pick up a sock lying at my feet.
Considering the question with an elegant tilt of his head, Duncan mused, "I suppose I'll stay at the local inn."
"Duncan is staying at my place." It tumbled from my mouth before the thought had finished forming. He didn't know this world, and even if he hated me now, it was my job to protect him until I could get him home. I wasn't about to let him out of my sight, not even to sleep.
Wes grabbed my arm and spun me around so that we faced the corner with our backs to my newly declared houseguest. Leaning in, he hissed in my ear, "Babe, you haven't even let me spend the night, and this guy's gonna sleep over?"
"Wes" — it took every ounce of effort not to glance toward Duncan to see if he overheard and had a reaction to Weston's innuendo —"he doesn't know Chicago. I'm not letting him stay in some random motel —"
"So put him up at the Hilton," Wes shot back, showering my neck in spittle.
"No. I didn't ask him to come, but now that he's here, I feel responsible for him."
"Okay." Wes's fingers dug into my arm, to hurt me or brand me, or maybe a bit of both. "But I'm coming too."
Keeping the discomfort my "boyfriend" was inflicting from coloring the casual tone of my voice, I replied, "Duncan and I will be talking old times. You'd be bored."
The pain increased. A muscle in Wes's cheek ticked as he said through gritted teeth, "I'm not letting you go without me."
I felt Duncan's heat at my back as he stepped closer. His scent filled my senses, flooding me with a sense of safety in spite of the present situation. In a lethal voice, Duncan growled, "Tha's exactly what's going to happen, mate. Mackenna and I are going to her flat and you can go wherever the devil it pleases you. As long as it's no' with us. Now unhand the lass."
With one last pinch, Wes let go. As he stepped back, he had the audacity to look hurt. But I wouldn't waste one speck of empathy on his smoke and mirrors. I was so done with him.
However, in case I had any illusions about what the future held with a certain Scottish prince, Duncan lifted his hands and said, "You need not worry for your girlfriend's sake, mate. I wouldna so much as lay a hand on her."CHAPTER 2
If Sondheim is to be believed, and I see no reason why he shouldn't be, size matters — at least when telling lies. Letting Duncan believe I was Weston's girlfriend seemed harmless enough for the moment ... or at least better than the alternative — confessing that I was still crazy in love with the boy from the bridge and getting shot down because he hated my guts. As soon as I found the right time, I would tell him the truth.
With unsteady fingers, I fumbled to unlock my studio apartment. When the bolt finally cooperated, I opened the door with a flourish, followed immediately by a sense of panic. Little molehills of clothes were strewn about the floor, exactly where I'd shed them before collapsing into bed. I hurried inside, scooping up jeans, undies, and bras while making a joke about it being the maid's day off, then flipped on the desk lamp. Low lighting seemed better than the overhead considering the state of my humble abode.
Duncan stepped into the room, set his duffel by the door, and surveyed the area the way a lieutenant inspects his new quarters. I knew from my extended stay in his kingdom that he kept his chambers tidy. My style tended to be clutter bordering on chaos. Dirty clothes erupted from the hamper in the corner. Makeup and hair stuff littered my desk/dressing/dining room table. Dishes were stacked in the shallow sink next to the tiny fridge and second-hand microwave that perpetually smelled of burritos. Next to the kitchenette, there was a small bathroom that I'd thankfully cleaned the previous morning. At the opposite end of the room, an unmade full-size bed, dresser, and freestanding wardrobe took up the majority of the space.
It took Duncan all of about five seconds to take the grand tour. "This is your home?" His flat tone gave me no clue how he felt. Or if he even cared at all.
Excerpted from Destined for Doon by Carey Corp, Lorie Langdon. Copyright © 2014 Carey Corp and Lorie Moeggenberg. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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