Go-getter Georgia Paxton has ten days to acquire a quaint hotel in the Scottish Highlands for her travel accommodation company before she’s off on her next grand adventure. Too bad the sexy, broody Scot who owns the place is dead against the idea…and she’s in very real danger of losing their little bet to see who can convince who first.
There’s no way Callum MacGregor is going to let the gorgeous American turn his tiny hometown over to bored tourists looking to satisfy their Outlander fantasies. He only has ten days to convince her to slow down and see the magic of the town and its people. If he succeeds, he won’t have to run her out of the county. But if he fails, Georgia might run off with his heart.
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|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
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About the Author
Hayson Manning grew up with her nose in a book. She was entranced by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pippi Longstocking, Black Beauty and wanting to live in Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. She’s lived in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, London and now in California.
She loved a pint in London, hiding behind a phrase book in Paris and exploring the subterranean chamber of the Giza pyramid. All she ever wanted to do was write fun and flirty people who aren’t perfect but will fight for that one person who will love them for who they are. That dream has come true, writing for Entangled. A hopeless romantic she lives with her infuriating but adored shoe-discarding husband, two teenage swimmers, a tubby opinionated cat and a current foster dog who needs sanctuary before finding an ever after home.
Come, stop a while, escape in the pages of her books. She’d love to hear from you at www.haysonmanning.com
Read an Excerpt
Mammoths. There are freaking woolly mammoths on the road.
Georgia Paxton took a shuddering breath, twisted around in her seat, and inched her rental car backward. Seven feet lay between her and glory — "glory" being her car tucked neatly into the only available parking space in town. But as it had the last four times she'd tried to parallel park on the tiny Scottish road, the vehicle just jutted out at an awkward angle, blocking God and country — okay, a tractor, one car, and a herd of woolly mammoths — from passing.
She peered closer. Not mammoths. Cows. Furry cows.
And they were in her way as much as she was in theirs.
A four-hundred-year-old farmer sat on a tractor, honking his horn, and agitating the cows in the process. She refused to give into the hysteria making her muscles twitch. Surely the grumpy farmer could see she was having a tiny bit of trouble parking on what, to her, was the wrong side of the road? Laying on the horn was not helping.
Another car honked from where it had lined up behind the tractor.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. She jerked the wheel to the left, hoping the cows were paying attention, and got out of the way. Cold sweat gathered under her arms, and her heart galloped like she'd just won the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, in her panic, she turned the wheel in Southern California efficiency and the car now stuck out at an even worse angle. Her hands tightened on the wheel, and she let out a long, cleansing, frustrated scream. Why couldn't the Scottish drive on the right side of the road?
One cow stopped, stared at her through the matted brown fur hanging across its brow, then loped away.
One down, fifty to go.
A sharp tapping on the passenger window jarred Georgia from her impending meltdown.
A man with imposing shoulders filled the window. Tall and broad, he looked like he pulled trees from mountains and whittled them to matchsticks for fun. Dark, finger-combed hair curled past his ears. Thick brows furrowed over whiskey-colored eyes, and his rugged chin was covered with a scruffy beard. His full lips pursed.
Her stomach fluttered, the unexpected surge of attraction surprising her.
Then he motioned for her to open the door.
She may originally be from a tiny dirt town in Georgia — hence her name — but she didn't have a bucket of bolts for brains. She wasn't one to open doors for strangers, especially random men, even if they resembled a brunette Thor.
"Need a hand?" His Scottish accent rumbled through her ... thick, rich, and creamy.
Georgia blinked, and he chuckled, which set off even more flutters in her stomach.
"Want to let me in?"
Behind them, a car honked.
Right. She was having a crisis. "Are you an axe murderer?" she asked, leveling him with what she hoped was an intimidating stare. Georgia would do just about anything to get her and the car safely to the curb, but she drew the line at axe murderers.
He grinned, stepped back, and held up his hands. "No axe. I just want to help you park."
She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel and took him in. Jeans, boots, a navy-blue woolen sweater that made his eyes pop, and a black jacket. A smile that could stop traffic, not unlike her current predicament. Not that any of it made a difference, really, but he looked sane enough.
Her situation didn't leave her with many choices. A glance in the rear mirror ended the discussion. Two more cars. Georgia flicked the switch to unlock the doors, and in a second the space beside her was filled. She tried — and failed — to ignore his smoky, spicy scent, and clutched the steering wheel tighter.
"Go forward and turn the wheel as you go."
He regarded her, concern clear in his eyes. "You good?" She rubbed her temple. "Yeah. Long day, and now I'm trying to park on the wrong side of the road in a space Barbie's car wouldn't fit into."
No need to mention she'd driven over four hours from Edinburgh, passing through the main town of Fort William an hour ago on the wrong side of the road, hunched over the wheel like a blind cartoon character.
His warm, throaty chuckle filled the tiny compartment, and he reached a hand toward the steering wheel. "Do you mind?"
She stared at him blankly. "Mind what?"
He leaned toward her and adjusted the steering wheel. "You're turning the wrong way."
Her cheeks pinked.
"Now keep moving back." He took his hand off the wheel and continued to give calm encouragement until the car slid efficiently into the spot.
The tractor rumbled by, along with the released cars. She caught a couple of exasperated looks as the drivers passed.
"Thank you," she said in a whoosh, and was rewarded with a smile full of straight white teeth.
"American," he said.
She unclipped her seatbelt. "Did my superb driving skills give me away?"
He chuckled, and his eyes sparkled.
Georgia studied him for a beat, and he stared back. She had the instant impression that you'd know what this man was thinking. No games, no pretense, no hiding behind perceived images.
She pulled her iPhone out of the back pocket of her jeans to check for any messages her boss might have left and swiped her phone into life. Half a bar of service.
"Not great service here. Part of the charm," her mysterious driving instructor said. "If you send a text it will go through eventually ... well, sometimes, if service kicks in."
Part of the charm? Her mouth dropped open. If the internet kicked in? Didn't he know the world — and her life — ran on the internet? Tiny prickles danced up her spine. Since she was in a committed relationship with her cell. Ten days with patchy cell coverage would make the job she'd come to do nearly impossible. She rubbed her suddenly chilled arms. At least there'd be wifi in the hotel.
He opened the door, effortlessly grabbed the two bags that contained her life from the backseat, and banged the door shut with his hip before heading down the cobbled path.
In a panic, Georgia grabbed her handbag and jumped from the car, jabbing the lock button until lights flashed in the murky gloom, her heart doing a NASCAR lap in her chest. Who just up and took someone's belongings without permission?
"Excuse me!" She chased after his broad back, pleased she'd worn knee-high riding-style boots whose rubber soles gripped the smooth, rain-splashed stones. She caught up to the man, and grabbed his muscled forearm. "That's my luggage."
"Georgia Paxton?" He had the grace to stop so she didn't have to gasp for air, which, if she ran a couple more steps, she totally would. She and exercise were not besties.
She tried her best not to sound too out of breath. "Yes."
He lowered a bag to the ground then held out his large hand. "Callum MacGregor. I own the hotel you're booked into for ten days."
She took his hand, which clamped around hers. She judged people on their handshakes, and this ... this was a handshake. He let go and she registered the loss of warmth.
And then his introduction sank in.
She'd assumed Callum MacGregor, who lived in Glendrie, Scotland, in a centuries-old manor house that had been converted into a hotel, would be at least seventy, have a pipe wedged between his lips, and be eager to break out the bagpipes.
She'd assumed wrong.
Surprise must have registered on her face, because he grinned. "We don't get a lot of people coming through. At this stage, you're the only guest."
She plastered her most professional smile on her face. "I've been looking forward to meeting you."
He gave her an odd look. "Is that so?"
"Very much so." Georgia worked for LiveAbout, the premier short-term vacation rental accommodation company for people wanting to get out of the city to kick back. LiveAbout's slogan was pretty much her mantra: "Your journey, our destination." She'd floated the take on the Australian aboriginal term at the startup meeting, and they'd jumped on it.
She mentally rubbed her hands together. About an hour from Fort William, the small town of Glendrie was perfect. As soon as she'd found the town, she knew it would be a great fit for LiveAbout's clientele. They'd even get a kick out of the fluffy cows.
Now all she had to do was convince Callum MacGregor to sign over his hotel.
The man in question, seemingly amused by her eager greeting, picked up her bags and resumed his trek to ... wherever they were going. Hopefully the hotel.
Her boss and the rest of the team would be here in ten days to start the setup and maybe bring a couple of potential clients. Conquering this town, then moving to the next project, would keep Georgia on track. If she stayed at a job longer than two weeks, she'd break out in hives.
She trudged through shallow puddles, pulled her jacket tighter, and followed Callum's measured strides up a short pathway to an old wooden signpost. The Lair was painted in black on an ivory background and swung in the stiffening breeze. Dim light from a flickering streetlight cast a shadow on the beautiful hand-painted sign. She frowned. Georgia had driven past the hotel twice and never spotted it.
"Have you thought of getting a neon sign so people can find you?"
He opened the door as the sky unleashed again. Georgia shivered as the icy drops slapped her face. She'd assumed that coming in September, she'd catch the dying days of summer, but not so far. Her flat iron would be working overtime.
"People who want to find me."
Not much to say to that cryptic comment, so she didn't. The warmth of a fire drew her to a massive fireplace framed in old green ceramic tiles. Logs sparked in a metal cradle, and a glass-and-steel paneled screen protected the room from errant embers.
You could roast a hog in there.
The warmth of the fire seeped into her weary bones. She'd give herself a moment before she squared her shoulders and marched onward. She breathed in the scent of wood polish mixed with fresh flowers and smoky fire, and relaxed for the first time since that morning.
A black cat laid full length in front of the fireplace like a tourist at a resort sunning herself. Georgia crouched down and scratched the cat's soft, furry belly, and was rewarded with a purr. "Hello, Kitty," she murmured.
"How'd you know her name?"
Callum's scent announced him behind her.
She laughed and looked up. "Is that her name?"
"Aye." Those expressive eyes twinkled. "Don't be surprised if you find her on your bed in the middle of the night. She can turn door handles. Be warned, she's a spooner."
"We're going to get along fine." She gave the cat's stomach another scratch, then stood and glanced around the reception area. A huge leather couch that could seat an NFL team was to her left, and beautiful landscapes she guessed were of the area hung on yellow-striped walls. Worn but thick rugs dotted polished-wood floors. A couple of chairs were nestled around a table. Books were crammed into a bookshelf against the back wall.
She couldn't remember the last time she'd sat down and read for pleasure. On her hectic schedule, where she ran on double-shot espressos between appointments, there was no time for the simple act of falling into a book. Not that she had any complaints. She loved her job. No, she adored her job.
Speaking of double-shot espressos, one was precisely what she needed before hitting the ground tonight.
A cold hand reached in and squeezed her sluggish heart.
"Do you have the equivalent of Starbucks here?"
Was that a shudder that moved across his face?
"Anything resembling Coffee Bean?" She didn't try to hide her rising voice. If caffeine was not flowing through her veins before seven a.m. tomorrow morning, the day was a rubber-stamped disaster.
He shook his head.
"I'm doomed," she whispered.
"You're good. I make a mean coffee. There's an espresso machine in the kitchen area. You're welcome to use it."
Relief like warm syrup flooded her. "Thank you." She walked toward her bags. "Can I check in, and is there a place around here I could eat?" Luckily, she'd slept most of the fourteen-plus hours from LAX to Edinburgh via Paris, but her stomach hadn't, and reminded her it required food. She glanced outside at the rain streaking down the glass. Night pressed in.
"Once we get you checked in, I'll show you the way to the pub. It's the only place open around here for dinner unless you want fish and chips, then Ivan's may still be open."
Callum stepped behind the reception desk, then opened a beautiful leather-bound journal, and pushed it and a pen with a quill toward her, which she picked up and studied.
"They have these in Harry Potter." She turned the pen over. "I didn't know people actually used them."
"It belonged to my grandfather. I like the connection." He shrugged. "He resembled Dumbledore as well."
She cocked her head to one side. "Are you a J.K. Rowling fan?" His eyebrows rose. "You've got Hufflepuff written all over you."
It had been a long time since she'd bantered with a man. A Scottish Hemsworth no less. She grinned, letting her gaze drift over him.
He cleared his throat, and passed her a brass key with the number three stamped on the thick metal.
The tips of her ears heated. Caught checking him out. How embarrassing.
To distract herself, she flipped through pages of the ledger, skimming names, addresses, and comments. There were more visitors checked in during the summers, but once he signed the hotel over, he'd have year-round revenue.
She put the pen down the same time he reached for it and her hand brushed his, sending more of those unexpected flutters up her arm and across her chest.
Well, she had to ignore that fluttery feeling because she was here for one purpose only: to make Callum MacGregor's day.
But not in that way.
"Your hotel is charming," she said.
"The restoration is going to take a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Halve the size of the rooms, add another level, and modernize it, and you'll have a winner. She tilted her head. "You don't want to modernize the place?" "Some things belong in the past, like this old girl." He patted the counter, pride on his face. "Took me a while to restore the fireplace, rip out the electric heater, peel back the paint, and source the tiles that would have framed it originally. Good things take time."
"Some things take no time at all." She pulled her phone from her pocket to email her boss an update.
Her palms landed on the smooth wood. "Do you have wifi?" Her assistant had made the booking and forwarded her the email. She hadn't thought to read it for the amenities.
He shook his head.
She frantically swiped at her screen.
The half bar died.
Doom and gloom threw a pity party in her head. There went her lifeline along with her eBay bid — a Jurassic Park helicopter for her sister's Monopoly token collection. She'd been stalking that sucker for weeks. She and her eBay rival, Boot_The_Scotty_Dog, were locked in a fierce battle as always. As soon as any unique token came on the market, she and Boot both went after it.
"We have carrier pigeons."
She looked up, her mouth already open to inform him it was a potential disaster, but the smile pulling at the corner of his mouth stopped her.
It had been a long time since she'd been teased.
"Eventually you'll bar up, and your emails will go through."
She cocked an eyebrow. She could tease, too. "So, any minute now, you're expecting to bar up?"
Lovely banter aside, it wasn't going to fix her very real problem. She could stay in Fort William, an hour away, but her boss wanted her on the ground for as many hours as possible. Plus, she wasn't into the idea of driving the two-hour round-trip, considering her walking outside usually triggered a rain event, and driving on the wrong side of the road in a rainstorm would probably lead to an insurance claim.
She'd have to find another hotel. Somewhere local. Not being in contact with the outside world wasn't tenable. "Anywhere else to say around here?"
"No. Looks like you're stuck with me for ten days."
Excerpted from "Ten Days with the Highlander"
Copyright © 2017 Hayson Manning.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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