Authors: Bethany Claire
BOOK 5 OF MORNA’S LEGACY
LOVE BEYOND COMPARE
A SCOTTISH TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE
Copyright 2015 by Bethany Claire
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Available In eBook & Paperback
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9960037-7-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9960037-8-0
Love Beyond Compare
~Book 5 of Morna’s Legacy Series~
by Bethany Claire
She left her whole world behind to find the one thing that really matters.
Jane Mitchell has many dreams for her life, but living in the seventeenth century was never one of them. Unknowingly transported through time by the meddling witch, Morna, Jane chooses to stay in the past so she can remain in her beloved nephew’s life. Castle life doesn’t really suit her, and Jane quickly finds that her love for her family isn’t enough to fill her hungry soul. Eager for purpose, she takes work at the village inn. One frigid evening, she takes in the most infuriating man she’s ever met…never suspecting for a moment that he could be the one her soul hungers for.
Adwen MacChristy doesn’t want to be laird of Cagair Castle. With a youth spent traveling the world and sleeping beneath the stars in the company of loose women, nothing weighs on Adwen’s heart like knowing the life he loves is about to come to an end. He would rather spend his days as a penniless wanderer than take on the responsibilities handed to him by his father. On his last night of freedom, Adwen stops at the inn near McMillan Castle and meets the only lass to ever deny his advances, bewitching him in an instant. Suddenly, he finds himself believing that responsibility might not mean a life spent in chains if he has a fiery lass like Jane by his side.
Will Jane allow herself to fall for a man who is the very embodiment of the reckless life she left behind, or will fate make the decision for her when it sends her through time once again?
McMillan Castle, Scotland
December 28, 1648
Tiny, freezing toes pressed themselves against the side of my leg, jolting me from a dream that would have made even a nun’s blood race.
“It’s always the good ones, isn’t it, Coop? You can never wake me while I’m dreaming about spiders, or worms, or sharks.”
“Never mind.” I squirmed away instinctively, rolling as I used my hands to push the way-too-early-rising six year old to the other side of the bed. Instantly, Cooper’s sleepy voice pleaded with me as his heat-seeking toes sought the warmth of my side once again.
“Ohhh, please don’t, Aunt Jane. I’m freezing.”
I kept my eyelids closed, doing my best to hold on to any remaining fragment of my dream.
“Coop, I love you but you know the rule—you aren’t supposed to wake anybody up before six a.m.”
“First of all, you know that’s not the rule anymore, Aunt Jane. We don’t have those electric clocks here, so I have to wait until the sun rises. And second of all…”
He paused for dramatic effect, and I could all but see his little fingers ticking away his points. After a long pause, he continued.
“I didn’t come to wake you up. I came to sleep. I’m soooo tired.”
I heard him yawn in the darkness, and I knew then what had sent him fleeing from his own room in the middle of the night. “Baby Violet keeping you up?”
“Yep. She sure does cry a lot. I can hear her through the walls. I know that she’s supposed to get more fun later, but right now…I just wish she’d stayed inside Mom.”
I laughed and allowed my eyes to open as I rolled to face him, his outline illuminated by the moonlight streaming in through the window. I could just make out the smattering of freckles across his face, his dirty blond curls shining in the moonlight. “I’m pretty sure that your mother felt the very same way about me for a long time.”
“No way. I bet you were always fun.”
Cooper was the only person on Earth who thought so highly of me.
“Believe me, I wasn’t. Now,” my mouth pulled open, catching the remnants of Cooper’s yawn, “you ready to get some shut eye?”
Cooper made his teeth chatter for effect. “Not until my toes are warm.”
Reluctantly, I pushed myself upright in the bed. “Okay, fine. Stick your toes up here.”
He shifted himself in the bed, spinning so that his head was near the bed’s end as he thrust his feet toward my face. “Thank you. I’m pretty sure they were about to fall right off.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure they were.” I laughed as I rubbed my hands back and forth over his feet. “Why don’t you wear socks to bed? I know that you have some.”
“You see, I always start out in socks. Mom always makes me put them on but, somehow, I toss and I turn and they end up disappearing. I have a theory. I don’t think they actually disappear, of course. I think the little fairies that Bebop says live in the Highlands come to live inside the walls during colder months, and they take my socks at night to use as sleeping bags to keep warm. Works good for them, but it sure makes my feet cold.”
“Wow, that’s…that’s quite the theory, Coop.” Cooper was ridiculously intelligent for his age—always had been.
“I know it is.”
His feet were now warm to the touch, and I gave them a pat so he’d know I was finished as I helped him spin so that his head was back at the top of the bed.
“You ready for bed now? I promise not to cry and wake you like baby Vi.”
“Are you sure? You’ve been just about as whiny as her lately, Aunt Jane.”
The things that came out of that little man’s mouth never ceased to amaze me. “What?”
He moved in close for a snuggle, no doubt an attempt to soften the blow. I allowed him to rest his head on my shoulder as he spoke again.
“You heard me. Do you not like it here, Aunt Jane? ’Cause I would miss you like crazy, but I don’t want you to stay here just for me.”
“Oh, Coop.” My heart squeezed suddenly, causing an ache to root itself deep inside my chest. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a child of my own—the constant overwhelming love so strong it was almost painful, and the way their words could devastate you completely. “I’m not staying here just for you. Everyone that I care most about in the world is here. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t want to.”
“Oh, good. That’s really good, Aunt Jane.”
He yawned and I knew now that his fear was comforted, it wouldn’t be long before he drifted off to sleep. Not that he would stay asleep for very long. Cooper had a reputation for rousing hours before anyone else of Mitchell descent ever dreamed of waking.
I leaned over to kiss the top of his head and hunkered back down in the bed. Cooper’s observational skills were as keen as ever. I wasn’t unhappy, only dissatisfied with the lack of purpose in my life here. With each passing day, I felt as if I were one step closer to the cliff’s edge, to losing my mind and, with it, everything that made me, me.
I had nothing to do with all of my time here. And time seemed to last forever in the seventeenth century. I now believed that anyone in present day who ever said they wished they could escape to a different time to enjoy a slower pace of life obviously never thought about what exactly that meant.
For me, the unmarried sister of the laird’s sister-in-law, it meant I lived my life in a weird state of pointlessness. I contributed nothing to the people who provided me with a lifestyle of pure luxury compared to most of those living on the outskirts of the castle—people who worked for everything they had, rising with the sun and working well into the night, all the while remaining thankful for each and every blessing.
My lack of real responsibility around the castle, or keep, made me feel like a lazy, spoiled moocher. And slowly, if it continued this way, I knew it would drive me mad in a matter of months.
Not to say I lived my life with a whole lot of purpose in present-day time. I knew what my family’s wealth had afforded me. At times, when I was younger, I took full advantage, wasting years doing just exactly what I pleased rather than participating as a productive, responsible member of society.
Fun and carefree I might have appeared, but that lifestyle slowly ate away at me in my old life just like it was doing here. Difference was, there were so many more distractions in the twenty-first century, so many more mind-numbing forms of entertainment and social activities to fill my days with and keep myself from thinking on it all that much. Here, the only thing I had to do with my time was think.
And think, I had. What Cooper didn’t know was that my strange, whiny behavior the past few weeks wasn’t out of unhappiness but instead out of anticipation and anxiety. I knew what I wanted, what I needed to do with all of my spare time, but I knew that it wouldn’t be considered appropriate. If I asked permission, which I absolutely refused to do anyway, no matter the time period, it would be denied.
I would have to keep my plans a secret from all but a few.
I woke the next morning to the shock of finding Cooper still sleeping soundly next to me. Baby Violet had certainly changed the flow of everything around the castle, but for none more so than Cooper, if she had the power to wear him out enough that he slept past five a.m.
I slipped out of the bed as silently as I could manage, moving across the room to wash my face in the basin of freezing water. With weather as cold as it was now, I wasn’t sure it was worth cleaning my face. For the sake of vanity, I gritted my teeth while I scrubbed the sleep from my eyes before pulling up my hair and dressing in a simple but thick green gown suitable for keeping out the bitter cold while riding. Not nearly as suitable as a pair of jeans and some boots, but it was as good as I could get away with here.
Once dressed, I stepped out into the hallway and right into the pathway of my sleep-deprived sister.