“Blood and Frost” – first few chapters!

Here’s a little teaser for “Blood and Frost”…. the Prologue and first few chapters! =) Hope you enjoy! =)




Lucy’s Diary Entry
21 April 2013
~1:00 PM local, Weehawken, NJ
Yesterday was one of the most frustrating days of my life. I am SO over being yanked around by Steve. I don’t care what my parents say, I’m done.

Right now I am sitting in a café, having coffee and a croissant; I couldn’t be at home any more, I should never have moved back. Not only do I have extra things dumped in my lap to ‘make mom’s life easier’, I get no privacy, and mom overheard part of my argument with Steve over the phone. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

So this past weekend was the anniversary celebration for Rod’s firm, Exquisite Estates, and he was having the party down south. It’s already a bit of a drive just to the office and the location at the Palm Court Manor was even farther, so I sprang for a hotel nearby; Rod got us a discounted rate there, and it seemed smart to do.

Steve said he would join me but he had morning plans, so I drove down and checked in at four and started getting ready not long after that. I texted Steve the room number and a picture of the room, and no answer. When it got to be six I was worried and frustrated and texted and asked if he was on his way; no response, so I figured he was driving.

When it gets to be seven and he’s not around, I’m mad – he should have been here if he left at 6, and I doubt that he’s been in an accident; he’s been late before.

Finally I get a hold of him – it’s just after 7, and we’re supposed to be there at 7:30. He just left! He tells me to calm down, things ran over, but when I ask him what was so important to run over from the morning until 7 PM he gets mad, says he’ll be here soon, and hangs up.

I RSVP’d for two, this is my first big social event with Rod’s company and I am going to be late! I can’t believe Steve would do this to me, and I’m finally debating whether to just leave when there’s a knock on the door and it’s him. He’s showered but not dressed, and when we finally catch a taxi from the hotel, it is almost 8:30. This isn’t a friend’s party where it’s come and go as you please, but a sit down supper and my worst fears are realised; everyone is seated and a lot of people have already started eating, with many of the tables served. Rod comes to greet us along with the office manager, Stella, and a few others, including my most recent client, Sven.
I’m nervous and begin to apologise for our tardiness, and Steve interrupts. “Everyone knows how long it takes women to get ready!”, and they all laugh except for Stella, who casts a look at me and can clearly tell I am fuming.

I begin to talk and deflect – it’s shitty he’s making me look high maintenance or something in front of coworkers – but he interrupts again and steers the conversation to other things and next thing I know we’re in our seats at the table with Rod, Sven, etc. I can’t believe we’re seated with them and Steve blaming me for our tardiness is even more mortifying, because I recognise some of the names of the other people at the table including Matthew, a genuine English lord and one of Rod’s big clients. He’s not only well heeled but youngish, in his mid to late thirties, tall with hazel eyes and a thick, short mane of brown hair – he’s definitely a looker.
Steve reverts to his usual MO when he steps in it, which is to then try and butter me up and I’m having none of it, and scoot my chair to the side a little, away from him. I actually end up chatting a lot with Matthew, who is a bit intimidating at first with his proper accent and manners but after a short while I’m at ease with him even though I feel self conscious, like eyes are boring into me from somewhere. After a few drinks I am relaxed and decide I will ignore Steve as much as possible for the remainder of the evening.
Despite the earlier embarrassment, I had fun; I even danced with Matthew, who was really charming and asked me a lot about myself. We actually sat outside for a while and talked; the patio heaters took a bit of a chill off, but it was still cold and he offered me his jacket – how gallant! Why can’t I find someone who treats me well and desires me, instead of someone hot and cold that pushes and pulls? Steve seems to love my parents and they him more than he loves me.

Matthew apologised for being nosy and asked if I was engaged to Steve; I said no, because we had barely begun seeing each other again after our broken engagement and after tonight even dating was down the toilet, but I didn’t feel like airing dirty laundry. After I told Matthew that I wasn’t engaged he seemed relieved and said that Steve didn’t deserve me, and in a fit of drunken pique I said, ‘no, he doesn’t’. So much for that laundry airing.

My host smiled and rose and asked if I would like another drink and I said yes. Why is it alcohol gives me courage to do things I should, but then fail to follow through on? I was a dozen seconds away from marching in and telling Steve I never want to see him again when Matthew returned, two glasses and a bottle of red wine in hand. We toasted, drank, conversed, and he suggested a short walk which I agreed to. I had already spied Steve inside chatting a woman up, hand on the wall by her head as he leaned in to whisper something into her ear. He was toast tomorrow, so I decided a nice walk with a handsome man with an accent was what *I* wanted and damnit, in the relationship department I was going to take the bull by the horns. I mean, shouldn’t I? Mom could marry Steve if he was such a fucking catch.

Matthew and I walked and found a little grove with a charming bench and arbor and we sat, looking at the Cheshire cat of a moon, sipping our wine and talking. At some point I realised I was really addled from the wine and had to lean back and collect myself. It was then he moved in and kissed me, and I realised how much I wanted to be kissed passionately, the way he did it. I don’t remember much after that and I think I dozed, because I heard voices, although they were far off.
I finally woke, leaning against Matthew, his arm around me and coat still intact; in fact, despite my drunken state I seemed to be entirely intact, which was a little disappointing and that thought made me flush. Somehow, during my dozing, I had become very aroused, more so than I usually am when drinking, and I was feeling a bit reckless. Some memory or desire or dream in this grove had touched me and ignited a flame inside.

I must have looked a mess but Matthew was nice, brushed his lips against mine and escorted me back to the hall and we parted after he asked for my card, which I gladly gave him. As he pulled me into an embrace, apologizing for having to leave, he once more whispered that Steve wasn’t worthy, but someday I would be with a man who would surpass all expectations for passion and intensity.

His words left me warm with desire but cold, because the evening was now dull and uninteresting. At some point Steve caught up with me and played the boyfriend and I tried to brush him off. He looked the worse for wear and I idly wondered if he had managed to get something from one of the guests, because he looked a bit ruffled, if you know what I mean. It reminded me of another thing that bothered me about our relationship – the mediocre sex. Foreplay is practically nonexistent, and his needs are primary. “I pounded you from behind, it’s not my fault you didn’t come”, was one of his priceless gems. Needless to say, the incentive to have sex with him is low, but that does nothing to quell my desire for it.

Returning to yesterday… I told him I was going to go back to the hotel and he said we should stay longer and I made it clear HE was welcome to do so, and I think how pissed off I was clicked. He rolled his eyes and said he would come along and I tried to dissuade him, but for some reason he decided he was going to ride with me, and I wished he hadn’t. We got back to the hotel and he tried to be amorous as we entered and I told him he could sleep on the couch or get his own room. We began to argue and I tried to keep it low, but he was more drunk than me, and it became a full blown fight in the room. He started to get nasty and told me I was shitty in bed and gave crap head anyway and I told him to get out and get his own room or I would call security. He finally left. I want passion, not fighting, and we always seemed to have more of the latter.

When I got home the next day, mom and dad were out and I tried to be scarce and have a good day on my own but Steve kept calling and I finally answered. He was trying to patch things up, and I told him I wasn’t interested, it was over and he scoffed at that, which made me really mad.

“I’m the best thing that ever happened to you. Good luck finding someone better.” He laughed. Laughed!

At some point I didn’t notice that my parents had come home, and a while later when I went upstairs mom pulled me aside and read me the riot act! Unbelievable! Her line? Steve was great, terrific job, going places, under a lot of stress, he loves the family, has been nice to my father, etc. As if I OWE him my life and allegiance because he periodically brings my dad some souvenir from football games his firm has tickets for! I appreciate the gesture but it hardly excuses being late and insulting me at an important event – if I went to a party for his firm and behaved like that… And it’s only just the most recent thing.

Then it comes out he called my mom earlier that day, I guess while driving home, to complain about me! I really, REALLY need to find an apartment on the sly and tell my parents AFTER I have moved into it. My relocation back home was only supposed to be for a short while but it has dragged on, and I keep getting sucked into things and have no life of my own practically, and clearly no privacy. I only reunited with Steve after he fooled around with Mary because my mom interceded and drove me nuts, and he kept pestering me. I always thought I was strong, but I can be so weak sometimes – not any more.

P A R T I :

Chapter 1

Lucy’s Diary Entry
21 November 2013
10:15 PM, local, North Sea

We are on our final approach to land in Edinburgh, and my nerves are strung tight – I hate long flights. The seats are cramped and there is no comfortable way to sit and take a rest… except that the woman next to me has managed to find a comfortable position – uncomfortable to us on either side of her – and has been snoring for the past three hours, denying those of us around her rest.
I know I’ll be tired to-morrow, but I’m going to do everything I can to push things along and wind up business quickly. I still have hopes of making it to Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving supper, or maybe leftovers the next day. While I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been given, there’s no denying the fact that I hate to miss holidays; I get to see my brothers, their girlfriends, and spend time with my friends and eat good food. It’s generally a time where peace and comfort reign, and I like that. This is real estate and relocation, not a hospital where you work holidays! Who has to fly thousands of miles to close some property sales?

Well, I do. It’s a great opportunity, but it’s so weird that I’m the one doing this, since I’m still technically the low man on the totem pole. Apparently I was highly recommended and that got me this client – and it means I might have to miss Thanksgiving. The commission will be great for my savings, but it’s bittersweet. Dad’s heart attack over a year ago made us all realise how fragile things could suddenly be so I hate the thought of ever missing a holiday with him again – Mom and Dad won’t be around forever, and even though they drive me nuts sometimes, they are still my family. That’s me, getting nostalgic – it happens every year.

They all supported my decision to do this though. A nice commission will be a boon for all of us – it’s better this way. It was nice of Mom’s cousin Rod to hire me, when all I had was a freshly minted real-estate licence that I got after an unrelated four-year, so even if I really wanted to say no, I wouldn’t have. When it looked like I would have to rejoin the workforce instead of continuing college, Rod immediately suggested the idea of a licence and job, and kept good on his promise.

I’ve always wanted to visit England and Scotland, and wish it was under different circumstances so I could really get a sense of the place – I have a feeling that I’d like it. Getting to at least take in part of the countryside on the way to the client is something, anyway.
Right now the wind is knocking the aircraft around, which always makes me nervous. What is it about flying that gets people antsy anyway? Intellectually I know the chances of the plane crashing are very small, but when you’re in a little aluminum tube getting buffeted around and you’re 50,000 feet above the ocean, it’s a terrifying experience. Statistics mean little to feelings of discomfort and disorientation in these circumstances. I’m in a plane, I’m not the pilot, I’m not Mother Nature, and despite the aircraft weighing, oh, 125,000 lbs or more I’d wager, it’s getting smacked around and there is nothing I can do about it. Try to use statistics as a pry bar when you’ve got THAT realisation rolling around in your head. You just need to sit back and take it and I’m trying to not be a sit back and take it kind of person. I grew up with three brothers and if you sat back and took it that usually meant mud pies in the face, worms in your shoes or any other number of far more heinous things, but that being said, sometimes you had to just deal with it. Sitting complacent, hands crossed, perfectly composed waiting for your in-flight destiny doesn’t sound like Nirvana to me. So I fidget, read, fidget, write, fidget, try to sleep, fidget, write and then, well… whoever reads this gets the idea. As you can probably tell, I am in the ‘write’ portion of the cycle, soon (I hope), to be followed by the flight crew announcement, ‘Welcome to Edinburgh airport’, part of it.

I hope in another three years or so I’ll have enough saved up to at least THINK about going to grad school. I don’t care if I enter it late, as long as I go. Deep down I knew it was a stretch with three older brothers who needed schooling, so managing to squeak out my bachelor’s degree in biology was more than I probably should have reasonably hoped for. Shit, this lack of sleep has made me meander a lot – I’m usually not this over the map.

Back on topic… what should I say about my assignment? Mr. MacEwan is apparently from a very old and wealthy family, and has decided to expand his real estate holdings so they include more than the British Isles and the ‘continent’. Since ‘Uncle’ Rod’s real estate company is ostensibly one of the most highly rated, (but not largest), real estate firms in the metro area, I guess we caught Mr. McEwan’s interest – somehow. There’s a story that Rod helped Mr. MacEwan’s friend’s something or other and was kindly disposed towards the service he received and recommended us. There are so many other, larger and more upscale firms in the region, (hello, the tri-state area is TEEMING with them, like ticks in high grass during the summer), that I’m not sure WHAT we could have done to merit Mr. MacEwan’s business… I hope it didn’t involve someone at the office giving MacEwan’s relative a blow job in a high rise parking garage or something – that goes beyond MY definition of ‘exemplary service’.

Speaking of blow jobs, Steve called and wished me a good trip, and I could still manage to be barely civil. I’m guessing things have run their course with Mary (again – since our last split in April), and he is testing the waters and hoping to be ‘on again’. We’d broken up again, (as is our pattern), but I didn’t expect him to sleep with my one of my ex-best friend two days after we had that fight after the party, never mind that earlier dalliance that meant I called off our engagement. Sigh. Predictably the brothers have been useless: Paul said I should take him back, and that all men stray at some point and the family likes him, Ryan said no way, and Thomas abstained. I told Thomas just because he was born the middle brother doesn’t mean that he should try to stay out of things and prevaricate but he just shook his head. If I didn’t know better I would think they conspired to fix the vote so it would come up a tie and stymie me. What the hell are older brothers for if they won’t beat up a wayward ex-fiancé? I should trade them in.

Perhaps I’ll meet some landed gentry during this trip, like that guy Matthew from months back, have a lovely little fling with a Peer that has a gorgeous accent and I’ll come back a new woman. A bit of excitement would be good for me – at least that’s what I’m telling myself right now. In all seriousness, (and I’m a bit punchy at the moment since I haven’t been able to sleep thanks to Mrs. Snoresalot), I hope Mr. MacEwan is a reasonable man, we get along well, I help him with his real estate concerns… things go smoothly, he’s happy and I am home for Thanksgiving and get to look forward to a decent bonus cheque. I know it’s asking for a lot perhaps, but on paper the whole affair seems pretty straightforward.

Oh, I should add… I spoke with Mr. MacEwan twice, and if he’s any indication of Scottish hospitality I’ll get along with the people there just fine. He said he was excited for my business, and thrilled with the properties I found for him. His accent was sexy and he sounded young, vibrant; I’d be lying if I didn’t say it made my stomach flutter a little… well, actually more than a little; he figured prominently in a few, ah, fantasies – there is something about his voice. Anyway, he urged me to pack warm clothing for the trip, as the weather could turn cold at any moment, and he wanted to be sure I was prepared for ‘the fickleness of my beautiful homeland’.

Sounds charming and poetic, doesn’t it?

They’re just telling us to put our things away and lock the trays up, so I’m afraid I’ll have to finish this off later, although there’s probably not much to tell until I’ve spent some time on the ground.

Lucy’s Diary Entry
22 November 2013
1:19 AM local, Edinburgh

Well, that wasn’t an auspicious start to my trip. Baggage took forever to arrive and then it was murder going through customs and trying to flag a hack for a ride to the hotel. The clerk, Brendon, couldn’t find my fucking reservation and then when he finally did, informed me that they had given my room away when I didn’t check in; they didn’t bother to look at the fucking arrival time, which I supplied. Do I sound cranky? Because I feel cranky. I paid for a room , it was clear I was coming in late and they gave my fucking room away and I’m stuck with a single. It’s just me, but that’s not the point; I paid for the damn thing – well, Rod did – and it’s not right the real estate company gets screwed because people here lack the capacity to pay attention to detail. When you’re jet lagged the last thing you want is Mr. Vapid staring at you oddly because you were silly enough to think that a pre-paid room is something that is sacrosanct. I did manage to get something to eat however, so that’s a plus.

My internal clock thinks it’s afternoon, so that combined with the stress from downstairs means that I am fairly awake. I didn’t bother to ask about late checkout because after Brendon said for the tenth time, ‘but you checked in late’, I used some very precise curse words and I don’t think anyone in earshot would have been amenable to a request for a late checkout. I’m re-reading this and it sounds about as cranky as I feel, which is satisfactory in the sense that you can glean my level of frustration but unsatisfactory because I need to calm down, clean up and sleep. I have about a six hour drive or worse ahead of me and I haven’t slept in over twenty-four hours. Why Mr. MacEwan made it clear I was not to arrive prior to 6 PM I don’t know; it’s difficult to time that bit when you’re driving practically the full height of the country. These things are hard to guarantee. All of our correspondence except those two short calls has been through email, so I hope he’s not the type to mean ‘6:00 PM and not 6:15 PM’ and get bent out of shape about when I will arrive at his ‘castle’. I’m not sure it’s a castle, but there are a great number of them in Scotland so it’s possible – with the amount and quality of real estate he is purchasing I guess it’s more than possible, it’s likely.

At first I was a little nervous about staying at his home, but when he informed me of its location in the northern Scottish Highlands it became clear he wasn’t exaggerating when he said there were no nearby hotels or even motels. Since Rod and so many other people are aware of my itinerary and MacEwan is known to someone who was a client already, it didn’t seem like a risk. Rod said he had done some checking and Mr.MacEwan is an upstanding citizen in the eyes of the Scottish government and has no criminal record. So… a little odd, but then I get to enjoy the Scottish countryside and see parts of it few tourists ever venture to. Sounds like that adventure I was talking about earlier. Damn, I wish they still had the Adventurer’s Club in DisneyWorld – this whole trip makes me think of that place. Going into the wilds of windswept Scotland… that sounds like an Adventurer’s life, doesn’t it? Paul and Tom were old enough to get in before they closed and brought Ryan and me pins and cups and made us march to the song. I should have brought that pin as a fun little inside joke – they would have appreciated it.

Maybe if I wind up things quickly I can do a little touristy stuff; I know there are supposed to be a lot of haunted castles in Scotland, and it would be cool to stay in one. I’m not a big believer in that sort of thing, or the Loch Ness monster or any of those ‘boo’ type stories – three older brothers are scary enough without a lot of make believe nonsense – but perhaps I’ll change my mind if I stay in an ‘authentic’ haunted house. You never know.

Even though they gave me trouble downstairs the hotel itself is nice; it’s an old building with radiators for heat. The bathroom is a little small but clean, and has pretty black and white tile on the floor. There’s a little electric hot water kettle so I can make tea for myself to-morrow.

1:53 AM local, Edinburgh
Rod called, wanted to know if I got in okay and I said yes. Told him about the room and he was annoyed but not as much as I thought he would be – of course he wasn’t the one jetlagged and arguing. To-morrow is a busy day for the office, so he probably won’t be around much – lots of showings – and when I get to MacEwan’s it will be around 10AM Rod’s time… just before a lot of the open houses are going to begin. I appreciate he gave me a call since he hadn’t heard from me; he’s an okay guy, if a bit flaky sometimes. I know we didn’t get our high rating from him, because he is all over the map with tracking details, but he seems to have a way with customers nonetheless. He’s one of those guys who can convince you that something is a great deal, even if you’ve already got ten of the thing and don’t use nine of them. He’s not slick or anything, he just has a way with presentation and figuring out what the customer really is interested in.

I should probably wash this jet-lag off of me and get into something and crawl in to bed. It was cold when I got here but the room is finally warming up some, although I do hear the occasional whistle of wind sneak through some crack in this old building. It’s a brutal night, and I’m glad I’m not outside any more. I’ll text my mom and then take that shower.

3:45 PM local, Inverness
Stopped at a pub for a pint. Wow. What a day. I took that shower and crawled into bed but despite the lovely room and comfortable mattress I slept fitfully. When I awoke to use to bathroom the blankets were tangled in my legs and I felt unsettled. I went back to sleep finally and when the alarm went off I remembered snatches of dreams that disturbed me. I had the feeling of a dark shroud being sewn up around me and I couldn’t move or speak but I could see and was aware of everything that was going on. I remembered some odd chanting from my dreams, ancient and somewhat menacing, and hands that seemed to burn with cold fire when they touched me. They touched me… intimately, and I both loathed and enjoyed it. I seldom include something that sexually personal in my journal but it was so confusing, so vivid and so…bizarre I feel the need to record it. It is my journal, I did promise to be honest, so it’s alright. I have never had such an acute mixture of opposing feelings in my body at the same time, as if this great tug of war was being played out. The hands repulsed me, but felt sublime at the same time. Perhaps it was eating a Whopper as a late night meal; it was probably too heavy a choice for right before bed and after a long flight, but nothing else was open and close.

Anyway, I was glad Rod insisted on renting an SUV; it’s a Range Rover Evoque and although it’s a bit of a pain getting used to driving on the wrong side, the car is comfortable. The weather has been horrible all day and I don’t think I would have gotten this far in a vehicle that wasn’t all terrain equipped. It was pouring when I left Edinburgh after a quick Pret-a-Manger egg salad sandwich for lunch, and as I got farther north, the ground turned to slush and then snow, making driving hazardous. It’s been a nail biting drive because I’m not familiar with the car, the roads or the country, and the wind has really reduced the visibility; it whips the snow into the windshield so violently it reminds me of the white streaks in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon would go into hyperspace. I feel like I’ve been just gripping the wheel non-stop and I needed to pull over, take a break and sit down. I emailed Mr. MacEwan that I am behind due to the weather, but I have yet to hear back from him; I hope he’s not mad, I want to make a good impression. When I checked the weather before I left the States it was supposed to be a little windy and rainy over the next few days – the ferocity of the weather seems to have taken everyone by surprise.

4:15 PM local, Inverness
I just had a bit of an… unsettling talk with the barkeep who gave me my drink. Upon hearing my accent he wanted to know what kind of tourist would pick this time of year to come and visit and so we began to chat. I didn’t tell him the exact nature of my errands, just that I had some business in the northern Highlands and I needed to take a break from the weather before I went any further. He asked where I was headed and I said to an estate or castle near Loch Nam Breac and he blanched; I’ve never seen anything like that before and I hope I never do again.

The words trembled from his lips. ‘The Viscount MacEwan?’

I frowned. I had no idea Mr. MacEwan was titled but I answered, ‘I am to see someone with the surname MacEwan.’
The barkeep’s head was shaking even before I finished my sentence. ‘Yoo dunna want ta go dere.’ I’m doing an approximation of his accent, so you can get a taste of it.

‘Why not?’

‘Not wise.’

I couldn’t really get anything out of him except admonishments that visiting the Viscount was not a smart move; it was clear that the barkeep was frightened by the idea of me going there.

‘What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of him?’

‘Lass – ye hear enough an’ ya know dere’s some troof to whas been said.’ I’ll skip the phonetics because I’m not getting it right and the words are more important than the sounds.

What sort of things?’

Enough, lass, more than enough. Strange things, he’s an odd man, peculiar habits. Not friendly, not liking outsiders. Guards around him all the time like he’s real royalty. I’ll bet he is into something illegal and at worst… some of the stories don’t bear mention. That’s all I’ll say – I don’t want no visits from dangerous folk! But you should stay here and get someone else to do the business or meet him. Don’t go to his keep!’

His fears seemed more the result of local superstitions about a recluse than anything material that should cause alarm, but he delivered the caution with such fervency that I couldn’t help but be a little nervous myself. HE seemed to believe that there was something not right about Mr. MacEwan so I did my best to assure him that I would take every precaution. He wasn’t really comforted and his anxiety is starting to bleed off on to me, so I’m trying to finish my pint quickly.

On the plus side, I did get an email back from Mr. MacEwan and he was very understanding. Reminded me of our conversation about how the roads and weather can be unpredictable, and it is more important that I arrive safely, rather than in a timely manner, although he is anxious for me to arrive. His sentences are fairly formal, well structured now that I think of it, so perhaps the barman is correct and MacEwan is titled. I had better hit the road and try to make some more progress before it gets completely dark. I wanted an adventure… I guess, be careful what you wish for!

Chapter 2

The road to MacEwan’s estate is even more treacherous than Lucy expected. The wind and snow continue to whip around, and progress is much slower than she anticipated. At one point she digs out a thick sweater to throw over her shirt and under her coat; the dampness and chill are seeping into the car and the heat appears to be fighting a losing battle, which seems impossible.

It is just after seven thirty when she takes the last turn according to MacEwan’s directions and begins to ascend a road leading to his home. It is absolutely pitch black and the lamps on the Rover appear to only light a small swath in front of her so Lucy crawls along slowly, worried about encountering a sharp turn that might result in her ending up in a ditch.

When she clears the rise she is confronted by a large opening in a stone wall; it’s enough to drive the car through and after she passes the portal she enters a large courtyard. The wall cuts some of the wind, and the snow is less frenzied here and so visibility is slightly improved. She drives up to what appears to be the front door; a porte cochere affords even more protection from the weather, which is a relief. She is exhausted from driving in dangerous conditions and her gratitude at reaching her destination is mitigated by the unease she feels; this location is so remote she cannot imagine a more isolated place – perhaps a lighthouse in the middle of the roiling North Sea, but that’s about it. If there is a medical emergency – or if MacEwan turns out to be dangerous – it would be difficult for her to leave. She checks her cell phone and sees that there is still one bar, which is only a small comfort.

The front door opens and a large form emerges – his size and obvious strength are immediately intimidating. Lucy shuts the car off and gets out and is immediately assailed by the chill and the imposing nature of the structure. Although the light is dim this seems more like a castle than even an estate.

She hardly has time to think about it because a sudden gust tears through the courtyard, instantly chilling her to the bone; she shivers and watches as the figure approaches.

He’s well over six feet, and has the physique of a linebacker – obscenely broad and muscled shoulders seem to suddenly fill the space in front of her. Lucy gasps as her gaze latches onto his face; it’s hard and fierce, with burning amber eyes, and a knot forms in her stomach.

“Miss Lucretia. I am Mister Hamish, Master MacEwan’s manservant. I’ll show you to your rooms.” He has a definite Scots accent with something else indistinguishable thrown in. When she moves to retrieve her luggage, he adds, “I will attend to your bags”, but Lucy reaches in and grabs her rucksack and purse anyway before following Hamish to the front door.
She almost drops her bags when she enters the keep. The entryway is softly illuminated by lighting built into a soffit below the ceiling. Antique sideboards grace the walls on either side of her, and a large, beautifully carved wooden chair sits in the corner, waiting for a guest.

The decorations nearly disguise the ancient age of the structure, but it is apparent to Lucy. Modern comforts have been introduced but they cannot totally eradicate the heritage of the keep. The place is beautiful and tastefully adorned, and gives some indication of the vast wealth MacEwan must have. She nearly forgets to follow Hamish to the wide staircase to the second floor and on up; she is entranced by the charm and elegance of the place, and yearns to explore.
Hamish leads her down a long hallway to a set of double doors and pushes them wide.

“This will be your suite whilst you conduct your business here”, he says flatly; Lucy just gapes. A small sitting type area opens to a spacious bed sit. A fire is lit in a small stove in the sitting area and is augmented by a roaring blaze in the generous hearth in the sleeping area.

The bed is a king size canopy, adorned with crimson curtains and bedclothes that appear so rich one might be able to sink into them. Against the wall opposite the bed is a small dresser and a writing desk, and next to it is a door; there is also a second door in the wall to the right as she enters.

“Master suggests you wash away your road weariness; I will summon you to a late supper in approximately one hour.” Hamish inclines his head before he leaves.

Lucy steps farther in the room, her anxiety over the manservant’s terse attitude forgotten in her excitement to explore the beautiful, sensual room. The fabrics are either soft or wispy, and the gentle scent of gardenia pervades the suite. The fires keep the rooms comfortable but not hot, and the amber light casts everything into warm highlights or pleasant shadows. The large chair in the sitting room seems destined to seduce the room’s inhabitant to occupy it, and lose herself in the inviting cushions and form.
She’s pleased she brought her rucksack, as she always has a change of clothes and her toiletries packed in it. The door near the desk appears to lead into a closet so she checks the one closer to the bed and discovers it leads to the bath.

A large, taupe whirlpool tub sits at the back of the room; marble tiled steps lead up to it, and there are columns on either side flanking it. To the left of it is a large glass and marble enclosure with multiple shower heads, jets and a tile bench. To the right of the tub alcove is a private room with a bidet and toilet. There are two sinks and two other doors, presumably to linen closets.

Small, high square windows in the tub alcove sport wispy curtains, and a large plush crimson ottoman is in the centre of the travertine tile floor. The chandelier in the ceiling boasts alabaster glass, and the countertops are marble slabs. The coffer in the ceiling is hand painted to look like clouds lit up in browns and oranges from the setting sun, and a stray blooming branch of a cherry tree adds an asymmetrical accent to the design.

It is the most opulent and stunning bathroom Lucy has ever seen; the colours are warm and the fixtures and finish are exquisite. The lighting is subdued, and she notices candles have been lit and placed around the edge of the tub.
She runs the water, eager to get warm and feel the comfort of a relaxing bath. Some salts are near the tub and she adds them to the water, and the gardenia scent grows stronger.

Lucy strips quickly and folds her clothes and places them on the red ottoman before carefully stepping up to the tub. It almost seems too luxurious, too perfect for it to be intended for her.

Lucy’s Diary Entry
22 November 2013
8:31 PM local, near Loch Nam Breac, MacEwan’s Castle

I just finished the most unbelievable bath; I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I’ll spare the details of how the weather got increasingly worse for now, how I got here a little after 7:30 only to be met by the linebacker cousin of Lurch from the Addams Family. I only have a few minutes before I’m to meet Mr. MacEwan for a late supper.

The manor or estate seems more like a castle, although I’ve only seen a small percentage of it so far. Portions of the place seem to definitely show that it is an old structure while other parts of it – like my beautiful suite and bathroom – are utterly modern. No expense appears to have been spared in the outfitting of these rooms, and I guess from my glimpses of artwork, fixtures and other items that the rest of the home is similarly decorated. I’m almost rendered speechless – and wordless, as I write – when I think about how the bedroom and bathroom have been kitted out. It’s something that you would see in a Hampton’s home or in a tycoon’s estate. The level of quality is insane.

When I came out from my bath my bags had been placed in my room. I have no idea what to wear for supper but since it’s late and I’m here on business but I’m in someone’s home, I think just nice jeans and a sweater will do. It’s warm in the suite here – there’s central heating, a lovely fireplace AND a small stove so it’s quite cozy – but older buildings can have drafts and I feel the need to be comforted. I peeked outside and from the little light around the castle I can tell it is snowing like crazy. I mean that exactly. It’s almost as if it’s an historic snowstorm or something, it is falling THAT HARD.

I hung my clothes up already; it’s a good thing I’m staying here because there would be no way to get stuff sorted out if I had to drive here every day. I’d have to wait for the spring thaw, and take up residence in some B & B – incidentally, I think the nearest lodging is over an hour away.

I hear a knock on the door – it’s Lurch, I mean, HAMISH, the manservant. More later.

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