Authors: Donna Grant
“You think it’s Declan arriving tonight,” Charon said as he walked out of the bedroom.
Ramsey nodded, looking from Charon to Arran. “But I pray I’m wrong.”
Declan Wallace didn’t notice the scenery outside of his window as Robbie, his cousin and first in command, drove the A9 through the Highlands.
No, all Declan could think about was finally tracking down Tara. It had taken far longer than he would have liked. Years in fact. He knew Tara’s magic was potent, but it shouldn’t have allowed her to elude him for this long.
Not that Declan didn’t like a good chase. It had been amusing at first when he found her gone from his home. He hadn’t set out right away to catch her because he’d thought he’d find her easily enough.
How wrong he’d been.
And with each year, each hunt that ended in failure, his anger grew. Declan had warned Tara that she was his. She hadn’t listened, hadn’t taken him seriously. By the time he was through with her, she would know exactly who she was dealing with.
“Just another few hours,” Robbie said as he glanced at Declan through the rearview mirror.
Declan didn’t bother to answer him. He was relishing the idea of walking into Dunnoth Tower and seeing Tara’s surprised face.
Was she still as pretty as she’d been at eighteen? He’d always thought her blue-green eyes unusual, but pleasant to look at. She wasn’t what he would call a great beauty, but she would serve her purpose.
Especially since Deirdre had been killed, and Saffron had once again been taken by the Warriors of MacLeod Castle.
Even with Saffron and Deirdre out of the picture, Tara could give him all that he desired because of her magic. All he had to do was convince—or force—her to undergo the ceremony to become
Declan let out a long breath. In a matter of hours Tara would be his.
* * *
Tara finished scattering the last of the rose petals over the king-sized four-poster bed. She stood back and looked at her work with a smile.
“Whoever this woman is, she’s certainly in for a treat,” Tara said to herself.
She’d never thought herself a daydreamer. She’d always kept herself firmly planted in reality, but for the first time in her life, she couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to be the woman who walked into such a room. To know that the man she was with cared so much, and had gone to such lengths, for her.
No one had ever done such a thing for her. Not that she could be upset about it. She’d never let anyone close enough.
Of course she went out on dates. Occasionally.
Tara rolled her eyes as she turned and walked into the bathroom. She had a few more roses left over, and she wanted to add a special touch there.
Dates. The last time she had gone on a date had been over two years ago. He’d been nice and quite handsome. But he’d wanted another date from her. He’d wanted a relationship, and Tara couldn’t allow that.
She’d quickly broken it off. And the nights alone in front of the telly hadn’t been so bad. She’d watched almost every movie known to man, and spent hours on her laptop.
Tara shook her head as she thought of her dour life. She knew she needed to go ahead and pack up to leave Scotland. She should do it tomorrow.
Her hands filled with roses slowly lowered to the counter in the bathroom as an image of Ramsey sprang into her mind. She didn’t want to leave Dunnoth Tower. She didn’t want to leave Ramsey.
Although she couldn’t say exactly why.
Tara shook her head to clear it of her thoughts. She needed to concentrate on finishing the room, and decide later that night what to do about leaving.
She opened the cabinet and found the vase Liz always kept in the room for such occasions. Tara rose on the very tips of her toes, but couldn’t reach the vase.
With a sigh, she carefully set down the roses and tried again. When that still didn’t work, she found the small footstool and stepped on that.
She stretched, her fingers just grazing the crystal vase. “Oh, come on,” she muttered in frustration.
Tara licked her lips and scooted a bit more to the left of the stool. She knew she was close to the edge, but she only needed to reach a little bit farther.
Her fingers took hold of the vase the same instant she felt the stool tilt. Instinctively, Tara released the vase as she felt herself falling sideways. Her arms cartwheeled wildly to try and grab on to something so she wouldn’t fall, but there was nothing.
And then arms like bands of steel wrapped around her. Her hands gripped muscled arms. For a moment all Tara could do was soak in the feel of the heat and sinew beneath her palms.
She knew without looking up it was Ramsey. Tara kept her eyes locked on the middle of his torso and his T-shirt. Her heart pounded rapidly in her chest and it had nothing to do with the fall and everything to do with the man holding her.
It wasn’t like her to act like a silly schoolgirl, but around Ramsey, she could hardly form a coherent thought, much less act rationally.
Slowly, Tara raised her face to find him staring down at her, his amazing ashen eyes locked on her. He said not a word as he gradually shifted her so that she was standing. Yet, he didn’t release her.
Tara reveled in the feel of his heat, the same heat that had stolen through her when he’d touched her earlier. It felt amazing, almost as if it went directly into her chest and spread outward.
It did more than warm her, though. It made her body tingle, as if every nerve ending were stimulated and waiting for more.
His fingers tightened for a second, as if he too felt the current between them. Tara wasn’t sure what to make of it. No one had ever affected her so strongly.
“Thank you,” she finally managed.
“I’m glad I was here,” he said and released her. “It could have been a nasty fall.”
Tara raised her hand to her temple and the small scar hidden by her hair. A forgotten memory of her mother pushing her down the stairs in an attempt to make Tara use her magic to protect herself filled her mind. She squeezed her eyes shut as a shudder went through her.
How she loved the sound of her name on Ramsey’s lips. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “Just a bad memory.”
“A recent memory?”
“No. One from long, long ago.”
Ramsey gave a small nod of his head before he stepped around her and retrieved the vase. He placed it on the counter with a slight grin.
Tara set about arranging the roses while Ramsey worked on the shower. There was nothing to fill the companionable silence, but then again, there wasn’t a need.
She covertly watched Ramsey work in the mirror. And long after she was finished with the roses she found reasons to stay in the bathroom so she could be near him.
Her body still tingled from his touch, and she hated how she wanted more of it. Tara had never been one of those girls who threw themselves at men, but she was certainly thinking of doing just that to Ramsey.
It was ridiculous, but her body craved his touch like her lungs craved oxygen.
Tara rearranged the roses for a third time. She shifted one of the flowers and looked into the mirror to meet Ramsey’s gaze.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
A black brow arched. “I already told you.”
“No. Really. Look at you. You’re smart and good-looking. You’re able to fix anything. A man like you shouldn’t be doing a job meant for someone who couldn’t graduate from school.”
Ramsey leaned his forearm against the shower. His chest expanded as he took a deep breath and slowly released it. “I could ask you the same question.”
“You could.” Tara lowered her eyes, hating that she wanted to tell him what had driven her to the northern fringes of Scotland.
“But you wouldna tell me.”
“Just as you won’t tell me.”
Tara scooted the vase into the corner of the countertop and turned to go. She quickly halted in her tracks when she found Ramsey filling the doorway. And blocking her exit.
“You doona need to be afraid of me,” he said.
She lifted her chin. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“Good. Why no’ tell me the real reason you’re here?”
The wall she had erected around herself trembled as it cracked, but she didn’t let it crumble. If she did, she wouldn’t have the strength to continue. She swallowed and voiced the lie she’d told everyone since arriving at Dunnoth Tower. “I was looking for something different.”
Ramsey looked at the ground for a moment. He said nothing as he picked up his toolbox and walked out of the room.
Tara leaned her forehead against the wall of the bathroom and fisted her hands. It was the only show of emotion she could allow, the only evidence that she wanted so much more.
When she collected herself, Tara left the room and made her way back downstairs to her desk. She was scratching the items off the list their mysterious guest had given her when the first drops of rain hit against the window.
She looked out the window at the gray sky and thick, heavy clouds. Before she knew it she had risen and walked to the windows. The rain poured down the glass as rivulets of water made trails of their own before disappearing from sight.
Headlights drew her attention as a car drove up the long drive. She took a startled step back when she saw the black Jaguar and all the blood drained from her face.
Declan had always favored Jaguars. He owned a few other vehicles, but always he used the Jaguar.
Tara was calculating how quickly she could grab her bags and leave without Declan seeing her when the car door opened. She took two more steps back.
There wasn’t time for her things. She had to leave. Immediately.
She hurried to her desk and grabbed her keys as the driver opened the rear door of the black Jaguar and a man with white hair stepped out of the car.
Tara nearly collapsed from the relief. She released her keys so they clanked back on the desk, and just as she was turning back to the door she spotted Ramsey on the stairs watching her.
Ramsey had been coming down the stairs to the front entry when he’d felt the tremendous fear in Tara’s magic. He jumped from the third floor of the switchback stairs to the landing leading down to the main floor when he’d seen her reach for her keys.
He’d halted, wondering what she would do. It was obvious she thought the Jaguar was Declan’s, and she hadn’t intended to stay to find out.
Several possible scenarios flashed through Ramsey’s mind in those few seconds, and the one theme in all of them was getting Tara away before Declan spotted her.
But as he looked into her cool, clear blue-green eyes, Ramsey could feel her relief. Though he was equally pleased it wasn’t Declan, what the episode had proved was that Tara feared Declan above all.
His respect for her grew as she squared her shoulders and looked him full in the eye. She knew he had seen her, but she wasn’t going to hide what she had done.
“You can no’ run forever,” he said as he descended the few remaining steps.
“What are you running from?”
He inwardly smiled at her bravado. She was scared witless, but she wasn’t going to let anyone know it. “I’m no’ running from something, lass. I’m running
Her brow furrowed, but before she could respond the door opened and the man walked into the castle, a large smile on his face.
“I’m looking for Tara,” he said in a friendly voice tinged with an English accent.
Tara returned his smile and held out her hand. “That would be me. I suppose you’re our special guest, Lord Huntington?”
Ramsey moved out of sight as Tara showed the gentleman into the front sitting room and fetched him some champagne. He’d had no idea who the man was, but obviously Tara had. Apparently Lord Huntington was well-known.
“Is everything I requested in order?” Lord Huntington asked.
Ramsey didn’t need to move closer to hear the conversation. His enhanced hearing could pick it up easily, but he needed to be close to Tara. Especially after touching her again.
The feel of her body against his had been a jolt straight to his soul. There was something remarkably different about Tara, but he had yet to discover what that was.
“Of course,” Tara answered. “And if there is anything else you need, you have only to ask me.”
“Good. Good,” the lord answered.
Ramsey watched from the shadows as Tara poured the champagne into a fluted glass. She kept glancing out the windows, as if she expected Declan at any moment. And Ramsey suspected that’s exactly what she felt.
Tara set down the bottle of champagne and said, “Your dinner will be ready at eight as you requested.”
“Wonderful. Sara should arrive shortly. I just wish it wasn’t raining. She hates to ride in my helicopter in the rain.”
Ramsey’s mobile vibrated in his pocket, and once he retrieved it to see it was Arran, he hurried away from Tara and answered it.
Arran said, “How is everything? We saw the car pull up, but once we noticed it wasna Declan, we waited for you to call.”
“Tara thought it was Declan as well. She had her keys, ready to run.”
“We could have caught her.”
“Aye. She’s terrified of him.”
Arran sighed. “If what Declan did to Saffron is any indication, Tara has every right to be afraid.”
“Keep watch on the drive. I doona want a surprise.”
“We’ll see to it. One of us will stay here and have a look around the grounds while the other goes to the road as lookout.”
“Remember Declan’s X90 bullets.”
Arran snorted. “As if I need reminding.”
Ramsey ended the call and replaced the mobile in his pocket. He’d been ready to spring into action when he’d thought it was Declan who had arrived.
What worried him was that he hadn’t decided whether he would first protect Tara by taking her away or first battle Declan. If he fought Declan, Ramsey could end it all right then.
But if he got Tara away, he knew she would be safe at MacLeod Castle and not have to run anymore.