Ayda Rogers can't believe her luck, she's been invited to a Scottish castle for the summer to research her Doctoral thesis. When she gets there she finds with 900 years of history to contend with, the past is always present. Steamy tales of previous castle owners meld within the modern story as she learns all she needs for her paper. And sometimes its not the past but the present which makes you change your whole way of thinking, especially when it comes in the form of the future Duke named Hunter.
Ayda Rogers stopped the car as it came to the top of a hill, the entire North Sea standing before her. Half hidden in the misty dusk stood the castle Am Binnean with only a nineteenth century bridge linking it to the world. Hovering ghost like the castle sat on an island where an ancient tower protected the bridge from being crossed in addition to the castle battlements. Perhaps in far off times it had been a proverbial drawbridge. Beyond lay the orange grey sky and the matching sea. Not one tree broke the monotony of short grass in every direction except a single line of lindens that ran along the road. A pair of golden eyes stared back at her as she checked her hair in the rearview mirror before she descended the hill into the small village. All of one street facing the water surrounded by a small cluster of white washed houses. She wasn’t expected until tomorrow, though, so she pulled her rented car into the inn where she had a reservation just short of her destination. The village of Wrathe clawed almost to the bridge well under the eye of the cannon that once protected the battlements.
An entire summer in a Scottish castle. No one in her doctoral program could believe it. Even more so, when they read the list of paintings that hung on the walls. She had written the letter to the castle in a moment of craziness. It was a self-esteem thing, seeing as she had worked at preeminent auction houses, studied in far-flung museums around the world, and worked with leaders in the art restoration field. Granted it was all as grunt labor and assistants. A little part of her always worried that Brad would somehow steal every new job away from her too. Still she never thought they would answer her at all, the family held titles, a castle and the list got too long for reasons they shouldn’t have. She about died when a letter inviting her had actually arrived.
The village was tiny when she stepped out of the inn. A dock with fishing boats all around, a post office, a few shops pretty much summed it up. Some old warehouse took up one whole area near the pier with the very unScottish name of Trowbridge Shipping. After a brief look in the fourteenth century chapel that stood in the center of town, the only other place to go was the pub, surprisingly ancient 1500's the sign said and filled with wood worn dark over centuries, and not to mention droll. Its name, The Cock in Hand. Despite the size of the village, the place was full. One lone table waited for her, and then another couple came in behind her. The woman waiting tables looked around and her shoulders fell. Somehow Ayda had a feeling they weren’t full often.
“Why don’t you join me? I’m alone.”
Ayda turned to find a man already at a table, grinning at her. His dark red hair stood out in the room of blond and brown. “Thanks, so what’s the best to try?” she asked, sliding in as the couple behind her took the last open table.
“Anything with fish, I catch it meself. If ye’ll trust me.”
With his accent, she couldn’t catch half of what he called to the waitress, even though she was certain he spoke English.
“What brings ye to town? Ye don't look like ye came on the tour.”
So that’s why it was so busy. “No, I’m here for the summer, I’m going to be working on the art collection at the castle.”
His eyes widened, and Ayda felt a little uncomfortable, as he looked her up and down. “Well, that is news, not many good-looking women come to stay. Ciaran Maceachran. You’ll have to let me take you to the festival next month, the social event this far north.” The waitress called something and his glare finally left her. She let out a little sigh. Before he turned back to her, the door opened and a man came in. Ayda had to try hard not to let her jaw drop. The newcomer was gorgeous to a fault, maybe thirty two, with dark blue eyes and thick brown hair streaked with blond. Just a sweater couldn’t hide his solid lean build, but it showed off the reddish brown tan of a man who spent a good deal of time outdoors.
The man she shared a table with leaned over near her ear. “If it’s the castle ye be staying at, ye best be watching out for the Sinclair boys or ye’ll be their next whore.” It wasn’t whispered, though. The entire room heard it. The man at the door turned his head from the counter. Only a few steps to reach the table, and he hit the red haired man solid in the jaw. Her companion slumped in his chair.
“When he wakes up, remind him his sister didn’t do anything she didn’t want to do. The woman was old enough to leave.” That was whispered to her alone before he walked out of the door. Looking over at the man across from her, Ayda grabbed her purse and took her food to go.