Authors: Cali MacKay
The Highlander’s Hope
A Contemporary Highland Romance
The Highlander’s Hope
By Cali MacKay
Copyright © 2012 by Cali MacKay
Published by Cali MacKay
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 publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2012, edition 1.
I wanted to thank my sweet, understanding and horribly sarcastic husband for all his support, my two lovely girls for being so good when I’m trying to write, and my fellow writers for supporting me and combing over my stories.
For more information or to join a mailing list for updates, please visit
Dust danced upon the shards of light that pierced the ancient hall of the library archives. As if calling out to her, the words on the page taunted and teased, daring Catriona to find the secret they had long held safe. One would think it a simple letter between lovers torn apart at a time of war. However, Cat saw the clues woven through the endearments. She was one step closer to solving a centuries-old mystery and finding a priceless treasure.
he pounding of her heart competed with the flutters in her stomach. It could be a historic find of epic proportions, and yet it was so much more than that to her, having been raised on her grandmother’s stories of highland heroes and ancient lands.
The Highlander’s Hope
. A necklace crusted with emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, it had once been destined to fund the Scottish rising against the English. But that was before the battle of Culloden shattered Scotland’s dreams of retaking the English throne, and the necklace was lost.
Cat was now one step closer. A
ll she had to do was piece the puzzle together and find the Hope.
“Crap!” Cat maneuvered her car to the edge of the narrow road, with the growing suspicion that the flopping sound killing the rhythm of her music meant she had a flat tire.
for her appointment with Callum MacCraigh could ruin everything, and she was still hours away from the highland town of Dunmuir. Everything hinged on getting access to the MacCraigh estate and family records, and without the clan’s cooperation, she’d never find the jewels.
Having left at the crack of dawn, s
he’d already been on the road most of the day, the drive from Cambridge to the north of Scotland long enough for her butt to have gone numb hours ago.
Muttering curses under her breath, she pulled her hood
ie up over her head and stepped out into the pouring rain. Luckily she had a spare, even if she’d never had the occasion to change one. Couldn’t be that difficult to get the blasted thing on.
he hauled the tiny spare out from the back of her car, relieved to see that, at the very least, it was inflated, and then grabbed the metal doohickey for undoing the nuts. With the opening fitted over one of the bolts holding her flat hostage, she grabbed the metal arm and yanked with all her might. A muscle in her back twitched in protest as she strained in effort, but to no avail. Was it rusted or had years of gunk and grime cemented it in place?
tighty, lefty- loosey.”
She tried again, with a grunt of frustration
, water dripping off her nose with an evil tickle, as the bolt finally gave way. Relieved, she loosened it and stuck it in her pocket. One down, three to go. The next two came off with relative ease, if she ignored the scraped knuckles and broken nail. The last one, however, refused to budge.
Bent over and once more straining against the iron, she didn’t notice the car
whizzing around the corner, coming right at her, until it was nearly on top of her. She jumped out of the way, landing in a puddle of mud as the silver Jag screeched to a halt.
she tried to slow her tripping heart and pulled herself to her feet, wiping her face in a futile attempt to rid herself of the nasty puddle water, even though she did little more than smear the mud.
Now out of his car, the other driver was stalking towards her. “Are ye hurt?”
She took a quick account of all her body parts. “No, I’m fine, other than being covered in muck and mud.”
Any concern he’d shown blazed up in his fury.
“What the bloody hell were ye doing in the middle of the road? Have ye lost yer mind, woman?”
Are you kidding? There is
way this is my fault, and I was
in the middle of the road.” With her own temper rearing up to match his, she barely took in the handsome face and blue eyes. “You could have killed me, coming around the corner that fast.”
“And ye’d not
have been in danger if ye’d been sensible and parked farther down the road, rather than in the blind spot by the wall.”
tousled hair. Touch of stubble on a strong jaw. Tall. Well-muscled. Sexy. Why did he look vaguely familiar?
Well, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind when choosing when and where my car will next break down.” She squinted to keep a nasty drip from invading her eye. There surely had to be sheep dung in that mud. She’d never get clean, and her mind was already running down the dozens of bacteria and diseases that would likely overwhelm her body’s defenses.
As if s
uddenly remembering his manners, he tilted his head towards her flat. “Ye need a hand then?”
she’d accept his help after he’d tried to blame her for the entire incident. With arms crossed in front of her chest and her head cocked to the side, she said, “I’ll manage just fine, thank you for asking. And do try to not kill anyone on your way to wherever it is you’re going.”
Hmph.” Without another word, he stalked back to his car and took off like the furies of hell were on his tail, his tires spinning and spitting gravel onto the wet road.
By the time she
got to Dunmuir and walked into the inn, she was colder than a polar bear’s butt after sitting on a glacier, and filthier than a three year old making mud pies. Nearly dying had left her more than a little on edge; however, all that mattered was that she hadn’t missed her appointment with Callum MacCraigh. She even had enough time to get ready and collect her thoughts.
“Here, sit by the fire and get yerself warmed up.” Mrs. Gordon
, a motherly type in her sixties, tried to steer her towards the chair, but Cat shook her head no.
“I’m filthy and don’
t want to get your sofa dirty. I’ll be fine once I get cleaned up.” The thought of soaking in a hot tub sent goose bumps crawling across her skin. She quickly signed the papers that were put in front of her, not wanting to delay that bath any more than she had to.
“Aye, of course. The room has an en suite
, but be sure to let me know if ye need anything else. If ye set aside yer laundry, I’ll be happy to have it done for you.” She handed Cat the key to her room. “It’ll be the second floor on the left. Follow it to the end.”
So far from any major city, the inn was larger than she’d imagined, and had been recently renovated with a modern feel that still gave a nod to its history and past. It was a pretty seaside town that saw its share of tourists in the summer, though most only came for daily excursions to see the standing stones not far from town.
She let herself into the r
oom, abandoned her things by the bed, and headed straight for the bath. Her knees practically went weak at the sight of the tub. It was deep and jetted, and the water was plenty hot. Fighting with her wet clothes as the tub filled, she finally managed to pry them off, leaving them abandoned in a filthy heap on the tile floor. Not bothering to grab a book, she slipped into the hot water, her skin burning from the extremes in temperature, her body yet to thaw.
By the time she’d scrubbed herself clean and let the heat of the water soak through to her bo
nes, she felt like herself again. Excitement bubbled within her, knowing she could soon have access to records few had seen before. She just needed to find more concrete information on where the jewels were hidden. Tansy, her research assistant, would be beside herself if she actually managed to find them. Cat knew better than to trust her colleagues with such a find, but Tansy was the one exception.
th her makeup and hair done, Cat slipped on her dark boot-legged jeans and cashmere sweater, the robin’s egg blue of her top playing against her dark mahogany locks. Casual, but put together.
ith the address plugged into the GPS in her car, it wasn’t long before she found herself at her destination and pulling down a long gravel drive. The home could have graced any postcard or travel brochure, quintessentially Scottish with its stone walls and embattlements, harkening to a time long gone.
the granite steps of the manor to its front door, letting the heavy knocker drop against the brass plate. Her stomach fluttered with nerves as she waited, but it didn’t take long for someone to answer. An older gentleman stood before her, his blue eyes keen and a giant scruffy dog at his side.
You must be Ms.—pardon me, Dr. Ross. Callum MacCraigh, and this here is Duncan.” He tilted his head towards the grey beast. “Come in, come in.”
“Thank you. And please, call me
Catriona—or Cat.” She shook his hand with a smile, and followed behind him.
Excitement sparked as she t
ook in the home, her thoughts running amock as she imagined hidden clues and secret treasures. Tapestries hung on the walls, as did paintings hundreds of years old. The place felt grand and well-loved, no signs of neglect despite the age.
t thank you enough for agreeing to speak with me.”
“The pleasure’s all mine
, my dear. We seldom get visitors, and certainly no one who’d be interested in hearing any of the stories I have to tell.” Callum shrugged, not looking too worried that he didn’t normally have an audience.
led her into the great room, the ceilings high and the wooden beams exposed to add a rustic charm. However, her focus immediately went to the stone fireplace which traveled the height of the entire wall, a roaring fire nestled within. He showed her to a seat close enough to feel the heat of the flames and ward off the damp.
“It gets cold this time of year, and it
can be hard to keep this big drafty place warm. I hope you won’t get chilled.”
This is perfect. Thank you.” When the dog nudged her leg, she gave his head a long scratch. The dog’s ears then perked up and he dashed across the room, taking the corner so fast his legs skidded out from under him on the hardwood floors.
my son, Iain. I told him you were coming, since he’s studied our family’s history and could be of use to yer research. He’s actually the one you should be talking to and will be happy to help ye in any way he can.” Callum got to his feet. “Iain, come here, lad.”
She stood and turned to face him
, when her smile faded and a furious heat rushed to her face. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
as he took her in, and then let out a scoff. “Ah! You clean up well, I’ll give you that. Barely recognized ye.”
“Ye’ve met?” His father looked at the two of them in question
, confusion and humor lining his face.
“Aye, Da. But only for a moment and at the time I di
dn’t realize I had the pleasure of speaking to the esteemed Dr. Ross.” A smug smile tugged at his lips, his blue eyes alight with amusement. He reached out and took her hand. “It’s a pleasure to put a name to the face, since we weren’t properly introduced earlier.”
“The pleasure’s mine.”
Cat tried to erase the sarcasm from her voice, but wasn’t sure she was entirely successful. She couldn’t risk jeopardizing everything over a stupid incident.
And then it occurred to her why the bastard looked vaguely familiar.
She’d been looking at the MacCraigh clan, but not once had she thought to associate them with
Iain MacCraigh—Scotland’s most eligible bachelor, businessman and playboy extraordinaire. That would teach her to ignore the tabloids. Her mind never put the two together.
I’ll fetch us a cup of tea.” Iain didn’t bother waiting for anyone’s response, but spun around and headed back out the way he came.
sat back down, and she followed suit. “He’d be my oldest. There’s another son, Malcolm, but he lives in Edinburgh. Comes to visit often enough. And then there’s Moira. She’s away in Paris, though I keep hoping she’ll someday return. Can’t really blame her. There’s not much for the young folk around here, and I’m sure if it weren’t for me and this place, Iain would’ve also left long ago.”
“Is it just the two of you then?” She suspected it might be the case. No one else had poked their h
ead in, and the house had a bit of an empty feel to it.
“Aye, it is. My wif
e passed a few years back. It’s an awfully big house for just the two of us, but I’m hoping Iain will eventually settle down. It’d be nice to see new life brought into this old place.” He gave her a kind smile. “Enough about me. You came here for a reason, and I doubt it was to hear me rambling ‘bout nothing at all. What is it I can help you with?”
Cat couldn’t tell him the real reason for her research—not yet anyway
—though she could skirt the truth. Telling anyone of her plans now would only make it more difficult to keep treasure hunters and other researchers at bay. It was a lesson she’d learned the hard way, and was still furious that her ex had taken all the credit for a past research project when she had done most of the work. She wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, especially not with a find as important as the Highlander’s Hope.