The Chieftain's Yule Bride - a Highland Christmas novella (Clan MacKrannan's Secret Traditions #10)

The Chieftain's Yule Bride

~ a Highland Christmas novella ~

Clan MacKrannan's Secret Traditions #10

 

by

JONNET CARMICHAEL

 

 

Callum MacKrannan is shocked to find that his castle guest Freya Harper is the living image of a portrait two centuries old, and that it was Freya's ancestor who painted it as a gift to a future chieftain.  Callum is that man, so Freya must be his... but she can't be told, because she's at the castle with her fiancé to book their Yule wedding.

Callum must bring his clan's traditions into the 21st century to win her.  Freya must return to her own ancestral tradition of the Second Sight to unravel the portrait's mysteries... and to see what's been there all along.

 

FOR MATURE READERS ONLY

Approx. 36,000 words

 

Highland erotica with GSOH!

 

 

Copyright 2014 © Jonnet Carmichael

 

The characters, places and events depicted in this book are fictional or are used fictitiously.  Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

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Callum MacKrannan
swore under his breath as his Events Manager continued reading out the list of special requirements.

"...A hundred crystal shot-glasses etched with our clan crest plus
I Got Smashed at Zavier and Freya's Wedding. 
The full range of medieval-themed items from the MacKrannan Wedding Favors Catalogue as table centerpieces with flashing fairylights in alternating colors.  MacKrannan Honeymead Special Yule Brew to supply a hundred guests, served in wooden tankards studded with crystals.  Release of a thousand balloons from the battlements.  And the best part yet... listen to this... ten white horses dressed medieval with silver foil helium balloons tied to their manes and tails." 

The impossible tackiness of this final bit of idiocy made Callum sit back in his leather chair with a grin.  "You're having me on, Robbie."

"Wish I was."

"Missed the turning for the toy shop, did they?"

Years of managing the MacKrannan Estates and seeing dozens upon dozens of couples getting wed at his family castle gave Callum the experience to know just what kind of folks this pair would be.

More money than sense.  New money, for sure.  A city groom who wanted to look like Old Money, willing to put up with anything to advance his career.  A bride who wanted all the tinsel off the Christmas Tree.  Bleached hair and a vacant face, pimped by her wealthy father as arm-candy.  Two expensive lawyers would be making a mint from them within the year.

Callum's ancestors would turn in their graves at the knowledge that MacKrannan Castle's survival now depended on being polluted with arses like that.

He stood up and motioned Robbie to the office door.  "I'll speak to them."

"Shame if we lost such a big wedding for the sake of all that extra glitter-shite.  Help me talk them out of the balloons and the bling, will you?"

"I'll no' be taking a wager on my success if that's the sort of folks they are," said Callum, scrubbing a hand over his jaw.

"Me neither," sighed his Events Manager.  "His name's Zavier Campbell."

"Campbell?" 
The old enemy.  The very name of their former neighbors still riled MacKrannan blood.  Centuries of feud had ended only when the last of the line had sold up and moved to Australia. 

"A London sharp suit in spite of his surname, and nothing Scots about him.  Interior designer for hotels, well-known in his field internationally.  I checked his website.  All that eclectic textures and TV screens the size of the beds crap – no' our style."  His faced changed when he spoke of the woman in all this.  "You might be familiar with the bride already.  Miss Freya Harper.  Lives in London but
she's
Scottish."

"Name doesn't ring a bell."

"No, it wouldn't, but her face might," said Robbie, skewering him with one of his weird looks.  The man came from a long line of Bards.  You could never be sure when his Druid ancestry would come out for a visit.

"Save it, man – unless you've some way to hex them when they hear the news that our horses never wear balloons."

Callum picked up speed as he strode through the ancient stone corridors to the Banqueting Hall where the pair awaited a decision on their booking.  He knew this was a waste of his time.  They were cutting it neat wanting a Yuletide Wedding here anyway.  Such large feasts were customarily booked well in advance and they had less than a month to do it in now.  Rushed nuptials, was it?  It would make a change from the usual couples bringing their bairns with them.

The din of an argument was echoing round the empty Hall as he walked in.  Nothing new there.  He'd heard plenty of disagreements during wedding plannings, though it was usually the bride's mother having the tantrums.  A fight between the couple themselves at this stage did no' bode well for the event itself running smoothly or the wedding going ahead at all.

It was the last of the altercation which changed his mind about this pair.

"Sweetie, if I let you have this crap from the Stone Age, then I should get at least something from the twenty-first century.  Forgodsakes, who's ever heard of a wedding
without
the 'I Got Smashed' shot-glasses?  And now you want flowers instead of fairylights on the tables?   Oh come
on,
Freya, how bloody boring is that going to look?  What's the point in having a Christmas wedding if we're not going to have some bloody sparkle?  We've got to liven this up a bit!"

Dammit... it was the
groom
wanted the bling.  A city prat, for all his bluster, and with a newly-practised handshake of the sort that tried for a brotherly discount on the prices.  Callum did not reciprocate, and tucked his thumbs into the belt of his kilt as soon as was polite.

"So which are you – Clan Chief or
Lairrrd?
  Freya's been trying to teach me the difference."

A thick English accent coming out of a Campbell mouth that had seldom been north of the border, apparently.

"Chieftain.  My father's the Chief," Callum replied carefully.  "We forfeited our earldom after my ancestor refused to sign away Scotland in the Union with England some centuries ago."

Tourists who bothered about his title usually clamored to hear more, wanting the name-drop.  This one didn't care a hoot.

"Poor you... but excellent timing!  Fetch out your claymore and prod some sense into my darling wench here.  I'm going for Winter Wonderland and she's gone all Maid Marion on me."

A prize arse of the worst sort.  And the bride-to-be?  That blonde currently turned away in embarrassment at being caught in a bling argument?

Callum's heart near stopped when she came forward to shake his hand.  Freya Harper's hair was never bleached at all.  It was its own color, like something out of a Viking saga, fairer than an oatfield full-ripened and hanging down her front in a long, thick twist.  The eyes that looked into his own were as pale a blue as the periwinkles that grew among the ivy in the summer hedgerows.

The description wasn't his own.  It was the one given him by Robbie's late grandfather when the old man had toured him round every portrait in the castle as part of his early education on the clan's history.  A couple of years it had taken to get round them all, for there were hundreds of them in varying sizes and lengthy tales to go with each.  A young lad had a short attention span for such things.

The one he now recalled had been in an oval frame, and the lassie in it as ethereal as a dream in a long white floating gown and her hand outstretched.  So clever were the brushstrokes that you'd think she was poised for flying through the glass to greet you.

Quite a simple thing it was, done in pencil and watercolors.  Nothing like the other portraits in oils commissioned by his family although in many ways it was better than any of them.

There wasn't the usual descriptor on a wee brass plaque, nor much of a story to go with it.  All he'd been told was that it had been painted by a visiting minstrel from Orkney as a gift to his hosts at MacKrannan Castle, and that there was a superstition about keeping it in the ownership of the MacKrannan bloodline which the old clan Bards had taken most seriously.

Damned if he could think where he'd seen it, though.  It could be anywhere from the attics on the fifth storey up right down to the many storeys below ground level, though he was sure it had been someplace where only the clansfolk could see it.  In an unlit alcove somewhere, was the best he could do.  A private treasure, no' for outsiders to be gawping at.

He was also positive it had been nowhere on view since the castle opened to the public in his youth and many rooms and corridors were cleared.  Plenty of valuables were still on show, and the security cameras to go with them.  Others were copies with the real paintings hidden away with all the other irreplaceables.

Where was she now, that blonde lass in the oval frame?  He'd be making it his business to find out.

Her living image said, "Have we met before, Mr MacKrannan?  You seem familiar but I can't think where from.  Was your photo on the castle's website?"

The lilting accent of the north of Scotland in a sweet voice that would melt a man into a puddle at her feet.

He dropped her hand which he'd somehow managed to hold for far too long.  His own Scots brogue sounded rougher than usual when he said, "No... no photo on there, and I don't think we've met.  You remind me of someone else too.  It's a wee bit uncanny."   

Uncanny?
  What kind of daft words was he spouting in his disbelief?  Hell, it was like seeing a ghost appear in the flesh.

"So...
Chieftain...
can you accommodate our wedding or should we take our business elsewhere?" the prat cut in, a bit too eager with the last bit.  This man didn't want to be here.  The castle was the bride's choice.

"We'd be pleased to help you out," said Callum to his own surprise.  "Most of what you want, anyway.  Balloons are banned on the whole estate because they get stuck on the deer antlers and clog up the streams. We also run a Wildlife Park here.  I'm sorry you didn't spot that in our brochure."

He beamed his best corporate smile and let that sink in.

"Shit!  Anything else
banned
on your whole estate?"

This Zavier Campbell came a bit short of the six-foot mark, and tried to compensate by having his ginger hair sticking up in spikes.  Callum topped him by seven inches and a bloodline that had given him the darkest hair and eyes in all Scotland.  He knew how intimidating he could be.  Hell, he'd been mistaken for one of his own Security Guards more than once.

He took a step forward.  Zavier Campbell took a step back.

"We can do static white fairylights only."

Totally untrue – there were boxes of flashing colored lights in the store.  Worth the saying to see the lassie's face turn to happy and keep her prat appeased.  The soft flickering of the beeswax candles would light her better anyway.  This Freya would be the bonniest of brides ever seen here and he was already imagining her wedding photo in his advertising.  Her hair on his pillow would be even better.  No chance of that, given her purpose here.

"...and we wouldn't want the words 'I Got Smashed'
to be on anything breakable... especially anything with my clan crest on it.  Now, would you like to speak with our Head Chef about menus?"

"Shit! 
You're going to give us some glitz on the tankards at least?  How about a fireworks display?"

A smooth white hand came under the man's elbow.  Surely she'd been absent at the choosing of that engagement ring?  The brash square-cut diamond solitaire on a platinum band did no' suit her at all.  She deserved real Scots gold, the rare stuff that took years of panning in the hillwaters to get a mere few ounces.

"Darling, those crystals might look a bit out of place without the rest of your ideas, and they're not going to allow fireworks anywhere near a Wildlife Park.  Please, can we keep it simple? I don't want theatre.  They dress the castle up so nicely for Yuletide – it'll be enough."

The darling shook his head and took her aside, a wee bit forcefully for Callum's liking.  The empty Banqueting Hall's acoustics were too good for their whisperings not to travel.

"Let's go somewhere nearer London.  When I think how many hotels down there would snatch at the chance..."

"I'm your Scottish bride, remember?  I
need
to be married in Scotland."

A stiffened back and a nod of submission.  She'd laughed the man down so gently that he believed he'd made the jump himself.

"Is it this castle, Zavier?  Would you rather have Inverness?"

"Oh god no!"

"Okay.  I'd really like to be married here."

Damned if she did no' glance over his direction when she said it.  A shiver ran through Callum like someone walking on his grave... or rising from her own, more like, except a lot more pleasant.

 

 

Freya couldn't wait a moment longer to be alone.  While Zavier talked more with the Events Manager she excused herself to their suite and leaned against the wall, phone in hand, all ready to search for the name of Callum MacKrannan before she burst with curiosity.

Battery dead.  Hadn't she just charged it in the rental car on the way here from the airport?  She rummaged through her bags for the plug-in and could find it nowhere.  For once she'd have to rely on her own memory.

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