Patrick MacLeod is haunted by his past, by events he had no control over and wishes desperately he could change. He hasn’t the heart for love, nor the time for rescuing maidens in distress of their own making. Until he sees a woman who touches his heart and stirs his soul…and makes him believe love might be possible again after all.
For Madelyn Phillips, Scotland is the land of dreams, filled with magic, romance, and handsome Highland lords. Unfortunately, the reality of her dream vacation is no car, no luggage, and a pesky ex-fiancé determined to shadow her every move. She thinks her dreaming is in vain.
Until she sees a man standing on a windswept moor, a Highlander full of secrets and longing, and knows she has seen her destiny.
But the past isn’t through with either of them, and it will take all the love both of them possess to make their dreams come true…
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About the Author
Lynn Kurland is the New York Times bestselling author of Dreams of Lilacs, All for You, One Magic Moment, the Novels of the Nine Kingdoms, and the MacLeod series (Roses in Moonlight, Till There Was You, With Every Breath) as well as numerous other novels and short stories.
Read an Excerpt
Scotland in the Fall
Were there any other words in the Mother Tongue that could possibly conjure up more romantic thoughts and feelings than those? Madelyn Phillips let her luggage slip to the ground, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply. No, those were the words, this was the country, and she had two weeks stretching out in front of her with nothing to do but enjoy. That she was poised to visit the Highlands when the air was full of the briskness of fall was simply the stuff of dreams.
"Get a move on, ducky.'"
Madelyn moved, thanks to a friendly shove on her backside by the man standing behind her. Thank heavens he had used his suitcase. At least she hoped he had used his suitcase.
She looked around her and realized belatedly that she was blocking the exit from the train station. In her defense it had been a very long day. Or maybe it had been two days. At this point she just wasn't really sure anymore. It felt like weeks since she'd slept in a horizontal position.
She moved out of Mr. Ducky's way, pulling her suitcase along behind her and trying to ignore the fact that one of the wheels had somehow become fused to something else during a too-lengthy stay near her radiator on the night before she'd left the States. She paused at the station's entrance, looked, then smiled at the sight of people driving on the wrong side of the street. She listened to the conversations wafting past her and sighed in pleasure at the lilting sounds that cascaded over her.
It was better than she'd dared hope, and she'd dared hope a lot.
She yawned suddenly, then rubbed her eyes and gave herself a shake. She didn't have time to sleep. She had much to see, much to do. Sleep could wait. She pushed away from the wall, hauled her carry-on and violin case farther up over her shoulder, took a firm grip on the handle of her no-longer-rolling roll-along suitcase, and made tracks for the local rental agency.
Half an hour and several dubious looks later--it was possible she'd yawned one too many times--she was the possessor of keys and a very unsatisfactory map of the Highlands. She put it into her notebook with great reluctance, though she supposed she didn't have to look at it. After all, she had directions to the inn where she was staying from the proprietor himself. He could no doubt tell her where to find a map that had more roads drawn on it than this.
Unless these were all the roads there were.
Then again, fewer roads, fewer people. Less things to run over on her first day. Maybe that was a good thing.
She hauled her gear to the car, put it in the trunk, and managed to get herself behind the steering wheel on the correct side of the car without any undue stress or confusion.
"Drive on the left,'" she reminded herself as she negotiated her way through the parking lot. That was a little unsettling in and of itself, but it was nothing compared to trying to blend in with the local traffic. She wondered why rental agencies didn't grill potential renters about their level of jetlag before handing over any keys.
She took a deep breath and put her foot on the gas. She had a few hair--raising near misses with pedestrians, cars, and other bits of unyielding curb material, then she was quite suddenly on the road out of town. The road narrowed and the accompanying traffic eased up as well. She relaxed her death grip on the steering wheel and let herself smile.
She was in Scotland. It was almost too good to be true.
She could pinpoint the precise moment when her fascination with the country had begun. Her father had come home from a conference in Edinburgh and brought her a little statue of a Highlander playing the bagpipes. And for some reason, that had set fire to her ten--year--old's imagination. Her father had never traveled to the UK without bringing her back something Scottish, even if he'd purchased it at Heathrow. Child--sized bagpipes, kilts, books: All had served to deepen her fascination with a land that boasted so many lochs, such a rich history, and such a fiercely independent people.
Of course, an elaborate teenage fantasy about an ultra--buff Highland lord who would fall madly in love with her the moment he saw her hadn't done anything to blunt her enthusiasm, either.
She'd wanted to come to the Highlands for years. She'd wanted to touch the stones with her own hands, to roam the land on her own two feet and imagine who might have walked there before her, see the lochs and mountains with her own eyes and envy those who called them home. Even when school and career had taken the lion's share of her time and money, she'd always kept Scotland in the back of her mind.
And, she had to admit with a good bit of chagrin, she'd always kept that daydream of that handsome Highland lad in the back of her mind as well.
It was a good thing she'd just recently sworn off men, or she might have been distracted on her trip. After her last relationship, she'd decided to give them up for at least a decade or so. She just couldn't imagine anyone changing her mind. Besides, she was in Scotland to see the country, not find a man. That Highland lord could just look elsewhere.
She put all thoughts of impossible fantasies behind her and concentrated on the fields and forests that were full of autumn color. She rolled down the window and savored the chill in the air. Fall was by far her favorite season. It was full of promise for mornings spent lingering over a hearty breakfast before going outside to shovel leaves, afternoons spent watching the leaves wearing their autumn colors, evenings spent reading next to a roaring fire. Sweaters, boots, scarves: even the clothing worked for her.
Of course, she didn't have any of that really great fall--type clothing. What she had was a suitcase full of business attire, very expensive business attire, but that was a different story entirely. At least the obscenely expensive black shoes she was wearing were comfortable. It almost made up for the nylons that had slouched their way down her thighs and seemed determined to slide even farther. She didn't dare tug. They were her last pair, and she didn't have any money for others.
So to take her mind off her migrating legwear, she forced herself to admire charming stone houses separated by equally charming stone fences and pay attention to the delightfully winding road leading past them.
After a while, though, the road began to feel like one endless ribbon that wove its way in a rather haphazard fashion through the countryside, and she began to feel a little disconnected. Soon she wondered if she'd slipped into a trance. Things were becoming very peaceful.
Or at least they were until she glanced in her rearview mirror and found a black car of indeterminate origin suddenly crawling up her tail as if it had every intention of taking up residence in her trunk. She was invited to pull over with a series of friendly toots on the horn.
All right, so the guy was actually leaning on the horn as if he'd collapsed there. Not even being passed, seeing a ferocious scowl tossed her way as the man slowed in his passing to make sure she knew he was irritated, followed immediately by an acceleration so rapid she had to roll up the window to avoid road dust blinding her, was enough to sour her determinedly cheerful mood. She happily flipped the rapidly disappearing sportscar the bird and continued on her way.
The road continued northward and soon it began to wind with more enthusiasm. Her driving skills were definitely improving because she found herself growing used to driving on the wrong side of the road. She even managed to avoid various and sundry bits of animal husbandry that seemed to find warm, fallish tarmac to be to their liking. She'd never thought of sheep as a road hazard, but there you had it. When in Scotland, look out for white, fuzzy impediments to your journey.
If only the natives would take that advice, they would probably get a lot farther in their travels.
This was something she decided as she rounded yet another corner and found herself facing a traffic tableau that brought her foot into forceful and sudden contact with her brakes.
Mr. Black Sportscar was standing by the side of the road, looking at his beautiful car, which was now facing the wrong direction and sporting an enormous scrape down one side. Madelyn pulled over. No sense in adding to the tragedy by becoming a road hazard herself. She rolled down her window and poked her head out to look at the man who was speaking quite enthusiastically in a language she supposed had to be Gaelic. He was coming close to tearing his hair out.
Then he stopped and turned to look at her.
And she felt her mouth go dry.
All right, so she was sleep--deprived. She was also probably overloaded with too many expectations and too much airline food. And it was also possible that her social life was so far in the toilet that anything that looked passable in jeans and a black sweater seemed like a dream come true.
It was possible.
Nope, there was just no denying that the man before her was simply, undeniably stunning. Tall, dark, unbelievably handsome. She tried valiantly to remember why it was she'd sworn off men. Not that it would have mattered. This guy was reason enough to deep--six that resolution.
And surely he had a fabulous personality to match that incredible face and impressive physique. Charming, strong--willed but chivalrous. She could only imagine what sort of gallant reply he would give to the offer of aid she couldn't not give. Really. It was the right thing to do.
"Need help?" she asked in her most helpful tone of voice.
He stopped his swearing and turned to look at her.
So it was more of a glare than a look. Maybe he'd had a bad day.
"Help me?" he snarled. "Help me? Nay, you cannot help me, unless you'd care to go along before me and sweep the sheep from the bloody road where they don't belong!"
She blinked. Okay, maybe his chivalry had been buried under all the paint he'd scraped off the side of his car. She couldn't blame him. But as far as sweeping sheep went, she doubted it would do all that much good. His car didn't look as if it was going to go far enough for sweeping to become an issue. She turned her mind to more practical matters.
"Need a ride?"
He swore at her--she was quite certain he had--then stomped over to his exceedingly scratched door, opened it, threw himself inside. He managed to get the door shut with only a minor struggle. He whipped a U-turn, then flung his damaged car down the road with rather unwise abandon, to her mind.
Well, looks were deceiving, it seemed. His car was fully functional, but his manners were definitely not. She sighed. So her first contact with indigenous culture had been a bust--her father would have been appalled at her inability to ascertain the man's linguistic origins in ten words or less--but in spite of all that, maybe things would look up soon. After all, no sheep were lying dead on the road, she still had her car intact, and she'd been witness to a helping of just desserts.
Not bad, considering the alternatives.
She put her car back in gear and continued on her way, happily humming a tune and looking forward with eagerness to a decent dinner and a good night's rest. The sooner she was acclimated to her new time zone, the better use of her time she would be able to make.
It was rather late in the day when she finally reached the village of Benmore. She didn't bother consulting her map of the village because she'd already memorized it. She wound her way up to Roddy MacLeod's small inn.
She parked next to a very expensive-looking Jaguar, then turned her car off and sighed deeply. Safe and sound with a bed in her immediate future. Miraculous.
She dragged herself from the car, grabbed her purse from the front seat and her violin from the trunk, then made tracks for the front door. The entryway was neat and clean, but humble. She loved it on sight. But she hadn't taken but a handful of steps inside before she came to a screeching halt.
A feeling of horror washed over her.
Not Eternal Riches cologne.
She rubbed her nose vigorously on the off chance that she was imagining things. But no, she wasn't. After all, who could mistake that for anything but what it was, especially given the permeation ratio she was currently experiencing?
Before she could decide between swearing and screaming, a middle-aged, ruddy-haired, ruddy-complected man came out, wiping his hands on a towel. He looked at her with a smile.
"May I help you?" he asked.
"I'm Madelyn Phillips. I have a reservation."
The man stared at her in surprise. "Miss Phillips," he said, blinking in surprise. "Aye, you did have a reservation, but..."
Did? Did he say did? Madelyn ignored the sinking feeling in her stomach--and the fierce itching in her nose.
"I called before I left the States," she said. "To confirm. You are Roddy MacLeod, aren't you?"
"Aye, I am," he said, beginning to look very unsettled. "But Mr. Taylor said you'd made other arrangements at the last moment."
Madelyn gritted her teeth. "He didn't. He couldn't have."
"Ah, but I could and I did."
Madelyn looked to her right to see a man emerging from the darkness of the hallway like a damned vampire come to look over the evening's offerings and offer his opinion on how they were lacking.
Bentley Douglas Taylor III. Her former fiance. The man who had left her with no money, no job, and no apartment.
Was it bad to loathe another human being?
She glared at him. "You stole my reservation," she said, putting her hand over her nose so she wasn't quite so assaulted by his cologne.
"It was the honeymoon suite--such as it is, and it isn't much. I didn't think you would want it."
"What I wouldn't want is to share it with you."
Bentley removed a toothpick from between his teeth--he carried them in a silver case in his shirt pocket--and sucked those teeth, probably to retrieve whatever expensive lunch he had stowed there for later inspection. "Madelyn, you aren't being a very good sport about this."
What in the world had ever possessed her to agree once upon a time to marry the man standing in front of her? Obviously some sort of momentary loss of all rational thought. Bentley Douglas Taylor III was suave; he was handsome; he was powerful. He had also dumped her six weeks before their wedding only to turn around and become engaged to someone else approximately six minutes later. Just what in the hell was he doing here, fouling up her vacation?
"Food's not bad," he said, continuing to dig around in his teeth. "Not the civilization I'm used to, of course, but it'll do."
Yes, she'd been blinded by perfect teeth, lovely hazel eyes, and unassuming freckles across his nose. The fact that he was the uber-lawyer at her firm with the accompanying stench of power that clung to him like perfume had likely had something to do with her fascination.
"Hey, Roddy, got a McDonald's around here?" Bentley asked, giving their host a friendly punch in the arm.
Too late, Madelyn decided, too late had she realized that the stench that clung to Bentley wasn't just power and Eternal Riches cologne, it was Eau de Fast Food. Over the six months she'd dated the man, she'd learned to differentiate between McDonald's, Burger King, and Jack-in-the-Box in three whiffs or less.
"McDonald's?" Roddy asked, looking appropriately horrified. "Nay, I'm afraid not."
"Why don't you try real food, Bentley?" Madelyn asked. "You know, fruits and vegetables."
"I prefer fries and burgers," he said archly.
"How do you survive on that junk?" she asked, but her incredulity was gone. She'd seen him throw back a triple-patty, slathered-in-sauce death sentence followed by fat-saturated fries and lard-soaked dessert and have not so much as a discreet burp to hide in his monogrammed hankie afterward.
"Superior physique," he said. "Teflon arteries. I eat whatever I want, in whatever quantities I want, and never do anything but flourish." He looked at her critically. "You've packed on several pounds, I see. I thought you would bear up under my rejection much better than this."
"I am bearing up very well," she shot back. And she was. Getting dumped by him was the best thing that had ever happened to her. But to have him potentially turning Scotland in the Fall into Vacation in the Toilet?
Not a chance in hell.
She'd figure out just why he was standing in Roddy MacLeod's unassuming foyer later. For now, she had more pressing matters to attend to. She looked at Roddy MacLeod.
"I need a place to stay since my room has been illegally and immorally purloined by the scumbag here."
Roddy clasped his hands together and began to wring them. "Ach, but all I have is a very small room--"
"I'll take it," she said quickly. "If it has a bed and I can become horizontal very soon, I'll be happy."
"Of course," Roddy said. "And I'll not charge you--"
"I'll pay a fair price," Madelyn said. "I won't stay for free."
"Take him up on the free thing," Bentley advised. "You don't have a job."
"Thanks to you," she reminded him.
"I did you a favor by taking you out of the partner's race. You never would have made a good one anyway. Look at you. A little stress and you eat your way out of your business suits and into matronly muumuus."
"I am still wearing my business suits, thank you very much, and you did more than just take me out of the partner's race. If memory serves, you had me fired as well."
"You did, too!" Good grief, how could he stand there and deny it? He'd signed her termination notice! And the events leading up to it had come so quickly and so efficiently, she'd known it had to have been him, ruthlessly following a hastily jotted down list.
First had come the termination of their engagement. Then, in the order of appearance, had come the cessation of invitations to the partners' dining room, losing her best clients, being ignored by paralegals who had once quivered in fear before her, losing her crappy clients, losing her secretary, and finally, and by far the most humiliating, having her parking pass shredded by the lot attendant. She'd been forced to shell out ten bucks in advance to get into the garage.
Her pink slip had been taped to her door.
Of course, Bentley had been behind it all. With one stroke of his foul pen he had crushed any and all dreams she might have had of continuing her meteoric rise at DiLoretto, Delaney, and Pugh. Too bad it couldn't have ended there. Unfortunately, with all the people he knew in Seattle--and all the names she'd called him as she'd taken his pink slip to his office and thrown it into the ketchup on his china plate--she'd be lucky to get a job slinging burgers.
Would Roddy MacLeod call the police, she wondered, if she were to just reach out and plant her fist in Bentley's nose?
"Barbie Patterson was a better choice all the way around," Bentley said, chewing on his toothpick. "Less likely to cave under pressure. Less argumentative."
"I'm a lawyer. I'm supposed to be argumentative. And in case you didn't notice, Barbie is a lawyer, too."
"But she's a lousy one," he said pleasantly. "Couldn't argue her way out of a preschool dispute. But she'll look damn good in the annual report. Now, let's get down to business. Are you planning to stick to our itinerary?"
"Go to hell."
"Hell is where we are," he said, removing his toothpick and examining it. "I cannot believe I let you talk me into Scotland for a honeymoon. Scotland, a country where perfectly reasonable men dress in skirts."
"Kilts," Madelyn corrected.
"Plaids," Roddy MacLeod said, his nose beginning to quiver.
Bentley, unsurprisingly, was oblivious to the undercurrents of irritation flowing around him. "I suppose if I stay next to you, I will avoid any unwanted advances from light-steps in skirts."
"You're not going to be near me," she said firmly. "I don't want to see you. I don't want to sightsee with you. Sniff your way on your own to fries and unidentifiable burger material."
"You'll be much happier with me at your side."
What was he, nuts? The man was engaged! She might have suspected jetlag to be the cause of his lunacy, but he'd no doubt flown first class and she was sure they didn't have jetlag in first class. She could see she had only one choice.
She'd have to ditch him at first light.
Madelyn looked at Roddy. "May I have my key?"
Roddy retrieved one from his reception desk. "Here it is, lass. Fresh sheets, bathroom down the hallway. You don't think twice about asking for whatever else you need from me. Happy to provide it, happy indeed."
Madelyn hoisted her gear, then made her way down the hall and decided, as Bentley began to engage their host in a conversation regarding pubs and what kinds of unhealthy substances might be found therein, that the rest of her luggage would keep. She could wash her face tomorrow. Her teeth would survive a night without being brushed or flossed. She suspected that even her bladder might leave her alone if she asked, but there was no sense in overdoing things.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, she eased her way into her minuscule room and cast herself gratefully upon Roddy MacLeod's second finest mattress. She could deal with the wreckage that was her life tomorrow. For now she had a comfortable bed beneath her, and she was no longer trapped by any kind of moving mode of transportation.
--from A Garden In the Rain by Lynn Kurland, copyright © 2003 Lynn Kurland, published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.., all rights reserved."