Hot for the Scot

Hot for the Scot

by Janice Maynard

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601836267
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

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Hot for the Scot

Kilted Heroes


By Janice Maynard

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2016 Janice Maynard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-626-7


CHAPTER 1

On the East Coast train ... somewhere between London and Inverness ...


"Jamie Fraser is a fictional character. Like Harry Potter or Jason Bourne. You're not going to find him wandering around the Scottish Highlands, waiting to sweep you off your feet."

"I know that. I'm not delusional. But at least I have a whimsical soul. You wouldn't know a romantic moment if it smacked you in the face."

I listened to the argument with half an ear. Willow, ever the cynic, and McKenzie, the daydreamer, had been hammering away at each other since we left King's Cross. Though we checked out of our hotel and arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare for our noon departure, McKenzie nearly made us late when she insisted on standing in the snaking line of tourists to get her picture taken at the Platform 9 3/4 sign.

Not only was she a rabid fan of all the Outlander books, she was almost equally smitten with the world of Harry Potter. I couldn't blame her, really. As a primary school teacher and lifelong reader, I'd been called a bookworm and a nerd more than once. My own tattered copy of Outlander was tucked inside my backpack, even though my Kindle had enough books to last me until I was old and gray.

I was neither as unique as Willow nor as sophisticated as McKenzie. Middle-of-the-road at best. With the last name Smith, the cards were stacked against me when it came to standing out. I spent my days working with women and children and my nights grading papers. My goal for this trip was to live on the edge ... to seek out adventure ... and to quit being so cautious. I had come to Scotland to find myself.

I suspected Willow and McKenzie had equally private goals, but they hadn't shared them with me. We had all agreed to look for romance. Like Claire Randall, the intrepid heroine of the TV series Outlander, we yearned to find our own down-to-earth but utterly devoted Highlander.

It was a harmless fantasy.

The signposts flying past my window were poetry to me. I'd studied them on the map: Pitlochry, Gleneagle, Lindisfarne. I couldn't wait to leave this train and plunge into the greatest adventure of my life.

Reluctantly, I drew my attention from the passing scenery and intervened before blood was shed. "You're both jet-lagged," I said. "If you're not going to enjoy the trip, at least get some sleep so you won't be grumpy when we get to Inverness. I'm tired of listening to both of you."

We were riding in first class, four motor coach–style seats flanking a small table, two on either side. Lunch had already been cleared away. Our snacks littered the surface between us. So far the cuisine hadn't been all that impressive. But the food was included in our ticket price and better yet, we didn't have to queue up at the meal counter several cars away.

In front of us sat the remnants of our third cups of tea. Or was it the fourth? I'd honestly lost count. Already, I'd made several trips to the tiny restroom at the rear of the cabin. The pleasant stewards passed up and down the aisles, pouring tea and offering cream with almost mechanical precision. At this rate, I'd be a certified Brit by the time we arrived at our destination.

Finally, in response to my schoolmarm glare, my two friends sat back and exchanged sheepish grins, making them look more sleepy than cranky.

Willow yawned. "Tell me again why we didn't fly straight to Inverness?" "You know why," I said.

Willow wasn't as much of a hard-ass as she liked to pretend. She had a mushy, soft center wrapped in a hard candy shell. Her life had been difficult ... much more challenging than mine. I suspected her armor was only skin deep, but it gave her the illusion of being in control.

I opened my notebook. "We agreed that since we can't actually go back in time like Claire does in Outlander, this train journey will be symbolic of our desire to go off the grid for a month. No cell phones. No Internet. No Facebook. No Twitter. You agreed, Willow."

"Under duress," she muttered.

McKenzie snickered. "You're bitchy when you're tired."

"And you're even more annoying than usual," Willow drawled.

"Enough," I pleaded. I knew they loved each other. I'd known these two since we all shared a preschool babysitter, my sainted mother. Although the three of us had been a handful even as children, Mom relished the fact that she had two additional daughters in Willow and McKenzie. My parents always wanted a big family, but it wasn't in the cards.

I had heard the refrain a million times growing up: Those two girls are like sisters to you, Hayley. Don't ever let them go.

But inevitably, I had. In fourth grade, McKenzie's well-heeled parents enrolled her in private school. About that same time, Willow's dad walked out. Willow's mom couldn't keep up with the house payments on her own, so she and Willow had been forced to move all the way to the other side of Atlanta to live with relatives.

I was the one left behind to grow up in the neighborhood where we had spent so many happy times.

Even so, Mom held us together, forcing the exchange of birthday cards and the occasional get-together in downtown Atlanta. By high school, though, the contact between my two childhood playmates and me had become minimal.

Then came Facebook. Mom gleefully searched online for pages of kids she'd shepherded in her daycare. And, of course, she found Willow and McKenzie. Right off the bat, it was apparent that our lives had taken far different tracks. Ironically, I now taught third grade in the elite private school where McKenzie spent most of her grammar school career.

Willow owned Hair Essentials, a beauty salon located in a nice middle-class suburb of Atlanta. Her approach to money was save, not spend. It was no wonder she was a little tense. She had taken out a loan against her business to make this trip.

McKenzie had completed an Ivy League education and now filled her days doing charity work with a number of Atlanta-area organizations. She was beautiful and sophisticated and had traveled the world. But underneath it all, she was still the little kid who refused to be afraid of dogs or spiders and wanted to be friends with everyone. I'd always envied her confidence.

Without McKenzie, Willow and I wouldn't be in Europe at all.

Our plan was to stay together tonight at the hotel adjacent to the train station in Inverness. Then tomorrow morning, we would all three go our separate ways. My mood skittered back and forth between exhilaration and terror.

I tapped the notebook where I had underlined the final piece of our plan. "And remember. Every night at nine o'clock, or as close as we can make it, we'll turn on our phones and check for any emergency messages from each other."

McKenzie nodded. "I won't forget. Willow knows her way around the mean streets, but no offense, Hayley, you're the one I'm worried about."

Her remark was fair enough, but it stung nevertheless. "I'll be fine, McKenzie," I said automatically. The truth was, I had my doubts. I wasn't an experienced traveler. Still, McKenzie's offer had been impossible to resist. She paid for all three of our first-class plane tickets and for three train fares as well. All Willow and I had to cover was lodging and food. Immersing myself in this kind of trip was the opportunity of a lifetime.

McKenzie was Willow's opposite in almost every way. Her family had money ... serious money. Old Georgia wealth that grew even in financial hard times. The impetus for this bucket-list trip was a bequest from McKenzie's paternal grandmother. Instead of putting her inheritance away for a rainy day, McKenzie decided she wanted to go to Scotland. With us.

Given her background, it wouldn't be surprising if she were a spoiled brat. But the truth was, she was a sweetheart. A little bossy maybe ... and with a tendency to believe she was always right. But a sweetheart. And I loved her.

I loved Willow, too. At the moment, though, I was ready to murder both of them.

Inverness couldn't get here soon enough ...

CHAPTER 2

We arrived in Inverness just after eight. Fortunately, the gently aging hotel was located only a few steps away from the train station, because I was weaving on my feet. I was so tired, I felt sick.

McKenzie checked us in. Our room consisted of two single beds and barely enough room for a rollaway cot. I volunteered for the cot. I planned on sleeping until someone made me get up. The trip adrenaline had faded; all I wanted at this moment was oblivion.

My two roomies were in agreement. With the most cursory of nighttime routines, we readied ourselves for bed and turned out the lights.

I was almost asleep when McKenzie's drowsy voice broke the silence. "I'm glad you both came with me."

"Me, too," I said, yawning and punching the thin pillow into a more comfortable contour.

Willow groaned aloud. "I'm sorry I was in a bad mood earlier. I really am excited. But are we absolutely sure we want to split up?"

It was a question I had asked myself many times. Because I so badly wanted to say no, I did the opposite. "We have to," I said. "If we're really going to be on the lookout for our own Scottish heroes, we need to be independent. A cluster of three women isn't likely to attract the attention of an available Scotsman."

McKenzie giggled. "Unless he's into ménage à trois."

"Your math skills suck," I said. "And I don't know the French word for four. Go to sleep. We don't have to say goodbye yet."

The weather the following morning provided a less-than-auspicious start to our outlandish scheme. A steady gray rain covered the city in mist and disappointment. But then again, it rained back home in Georgia, too.

Over breakfast we shared a sense of anticipation laced with reluctance. Here in the confines of the hotel, we were safe. And together. What had seemed like a lark back in the States suddenly felt astonishingly real.

A month. An entire month on my own, exploring a country I had read about and dreamed about. I trembled inwardly with a raw mix of panic and exuberance.

It wasn't going to be difficult to watch my calories on this trip. The bacon and eggs and toast we served ourselves from the buffet were unexceptional. But I drew the line at baked beans before noon. Although I made myself taste a tiny bite of haggis — after all, what was the point of travel if not to expand one's horizons? — I spit it into my napkin. Sheep organs mixed with oatmeal? Who the heck thought that was a good idea?

I shuddered and washed my mouth out with tea.

As we finished our meal, McKenzie reached into her turquoise Kate Spade tote, the one that had a Mary Poppins–like tendency to produce the unexpected, and held out three tissue-wrapped objects. "Pick one," she said.

Willow and I chose at the same moment. With a nod from McKenzie, we unwrapped our gifts. Inside, I found a small oval box, perhaps two or three inches across and an inch deep. The lid was inscribed with Celtic symbols.

"It's beautiful," I said.

Willow stared at hers. "This is an antique, Mac. Must have been wickedly expensive."

McKenzie waved a hand. "They're snuff boxes. I found them on E-Bay. Sterling silver and ram's horn. Aren't they cool? Even women dipped tobacco back in the day."

I ran a finger over the engraving on mine. "I love it. But I know you don't expect me to take up dipping."

"Of course not. These are for us to collect mementos. Anything that touches our souls or stirs our imaginations. Little bits and pieces to remind us of our trip so that in the weeks and months to come, we can open the boxes and remember Scotland."

"It's a lovely idea," I said. And it was. McKenzie had a romantic heart, in the largest meaning of that word. She made everything in life seem like an adventure.

Willow nodded. "Thanks, McKenzie. I have no idea what I'll find, but I'll keep my eyes open."

A short time later, we stood out on the walk, huddled beneath an overhang. McKenzie had ordered a cab to take her to the car rental place. After that she would be on her way to Skye, where she was renting a small house for the month.

Willow and I clutched bus schedules in our hands. She had made arrangements to stay in the general Inverness area but in a youth hostel. I was headed south for a village on the shores of Loch Ness.

I wondered if my face reflected the same emotions I saw on my two friends' countenances. "Be safe," I said.

Willow nodded. "And don't do anything stupid."

The cab pulled up at the curb. McKenzie gave the driver a dazzling smile as he loaded her bags into the trunk. Before she stepped into the car, she looked over her shoulder at us. "Remember Claire," she said. "Be brave."

And then she was gone.

Across the street at the bus stop, the 107 pulled up. "That's me," Willow said. She grabbed up her backpack and suitcase.

I hugged her awkwardly, feeling my last lifeline slipping away. "Take care of yourself."

"You, too."

And then I was on my own.

CHAPTER 3

My destination was only half an hour south along the A82. But almost immediately as we left the city behind, I felt as if I had severed a connection with Inverness and Willow. Aboard my bus, I stared out the window, plunged into a rural setting that was as lovely as anything in my imagination.

The narrow two-lane highway, filled with twists and turns, wound along the shores of Loch Ness. I was happy not to be driving myself. Whizzing along on the left side of the road would take some getting used to. After flinching repeatedly when it seemed as if oncoming traffic was going to bash into us headlong, I decided to keep my eager gaze trained to the left and the right. The front windshield was off-limits.

As much as I enjoyed the trip, I was anxious to arrive at my journey's end and get settled. Only then would I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing I had four weeks ahead of me to do whatever I pleased.

Travel was expensive. Even for a penny-pincher like me. I was delighted to have found in my online searches a small bed and breakfast in the equally small and out-of-the-way village of Drumnacrochit.

Fortunately, the B&B was near a stop on the bus route, or I would have found myself lugging my things several blocks in the rain. When I stepped off the bus and walked to the end of the block, my heart sank as I read the numbers on the houses. Mine was the least prepossessing of the lot.

Though the yard was tiny, it was overgrown like Sleeping Beauty's castle after a hundred-year nap. Thistle, of course, tall and wild. Harebell, flame flower, and several other plants I didn't recognize.

I had studied and made notes for weeks before this trip. The truth was, I might easily have spent my life a perpetual student if money had been no object. Research was my passion, and I could think of nothing more exciting than cataloging all the flora and fauna I was likely to encounter on this trip.

Even with my bent toward economy, the dwelling in front of me seemed dismal and far from what I had expected. Its age was indeterminate, but, as far as I could tell, surely dated back to the early twentieth century. The single-story, whitewashed structure was in dire need of a good external cleaning. The slate roof was missing pieces here and there.

The windows seemed sad, as if they looked outward all day and never found anything of note to entertain. Perhaps this was the first test of my resolve. Daydreams were not the stuff of reality. I had come to Scotland on a budget. Where I laid my head at night was far less important than the many wonders I was going to experience during the light of day.

I trudged up the short stone pathway and knocked on the door. The woman who answered reminded me of the crone in The Princess Bride. Petite and stooped, she kept one hand on the doorframe as if for support. Her curly hair, more white than gray, stood out around her head like a halo.

"Ken I help ye?" she asked, her gaze suspicious.

"I'm Hayley Smith. I've rented a room here."

The old woman's face cleared. "Aye. So ye have. I'm Annis Pottinger. Come along in, then."

She led me back through a house straight out of a novel. Piles of magazines and newspapers were stacked high in every available corner. Though the home seemed to have plenty of windows, the rooms were dimly lit, perhaps because of the overgrowth outside the cottage.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Hot for the Scot by Janice Maynard. Copyright © 2016 Janice Maynard. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Hot For The Scot 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A contemporary highland romance that rekindles my dreams of finding my way to Scotland and seeing if any of my dreams come true... Really good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this one, it was cute
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A different type of story and it could have been much better if the editing was more exact. Spell check does not pick-up wrong or missing words. Three friends decide to go to Scotland for a month to explore their individual interests in different locals. The three go their separate ways and then the story focuses on the school teacher from Georgia. While exploring the area she slips and falls into the water. Not being able to swim she thought that was the end of her life until a strong arm pulls her to shore. The man who saved her happens to be a world famous "football" soccer star but she does not know it. Fast forward to them dating when a hurricane hits their small island and the place where she is staying with an old woman suddenly begins to flood. Is she destined to drown or will she and the old lady make it to safety? For less than a dollar, this is a good purchase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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AliTheDragonSlayer More than 1 year ago
This is a relatively short (184 page) read, quite a cute love story. A group of young girls travel from the USA for a vacation in Scotland, they decide it would be a good plan to lay off of technology in order to relax. Of course drama unfolds and the heroine Hayley tumbles into Loch Ness (luckily she didn’t met the monster!) and had to be rescued by Angus. Angus is predictably a hunk and romance could bloom. As much as I like Scotland as a country and agree it’s scenery is beautiful I’m not convinced about sexy Scots in kilts. If you are a fan of ‘Outlander’ or ‘Harry Potter’ then this is more likely to appeal .. unfortunately I’m not keen on either! It’s an easy read, pleasant and entertaining but I would have liked to ‘feel’ a little more for the characters. Thanks to the author and Pump up your Books .. this is my honest opinion.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Outlander. That describes Hot for the Scot by Janice Maynard perfectly. Although I have never been swept up in the craze drawn by the aforementioned movie, show and books, I loved this one. These sisters of the heart have drifted apart but are united by their love of a revered book Outlander and their fantasies about Scotland. They journey to the land of their dreams, where adventure waits and maybe even romance. Hot for the Scot is the first book of the Kilted Heroes series. Hayley stumbles into her own romance novel, learns about herself and has to make important choices. I requested an ARC of Hot for the Scot from NetGalley. A great blend of fantasy, reality and romance.
Anlenhart1 More than 1 year ago
Hot for the Scot is the first book in a trilogy that features three friends that are vacationing in Scotland, in hopes of meeting their one true love. Each is in a different place, and at the end of a month they will meet to share their stories. The first book features Hayley Smith, a elementary school teacher and lover of all things "Outlander" and retired football/soccer star Angus Munro. They meet when Angus pulls Hayley out of an icy lake and their romance grows from there. This romance features a handsome Scottish hero and spunky american with a large cast of supporting characters in a beautiful setting. I am a big fan of Janice Maynard and look forward to the next book in the series! I was given a free copy for an honest review.