Lilian Margaret Peake was born on 25 May in London, England, UK. During the World War II, she moved to the countryside. Her early. NEVER IN A LIFETIME Lilian Peake On a visit to her friend in Scotland, Jacqui had met Fraser Grant and fallen deeply. IRRESISTIBLE ENEMY Lilian Peake He was no knight in shining armor Although Reece Denman was her best friends brother.
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Carla is literally burning up with fever and has no money to download food or pay for a doctor's visit. It is only when she almost collapses that the bastard lifts her up and takes her into his lakeside mansion: The condescension continues after she becomes a "guest" in his home. All her clothing on the old boat is ruined so what does Blaze do?
He loans her his penis polisher's clothing. I just remembered I should have mentioned the strangest wedding and marriage happens between the MC's. Blaze had basically ordered Carla to marry him. She kept saying no but still continued her spineless desperate yearning for his kisses. Then they argue, he locks her in her room and tells her she won't be allowed out until she agrees to marry him.
The MC's relationship is so rocky and filled with conflict that they're like this cat and dog that keep nagging each other: Oh and the kind housekeeper Ellen is his co-conspirator; Ellen believes in her addled, romantic mind that she's doing the poor heroine a favour. Then the MC's have sex, Blaze tells her she will marry him and she smiles like a besotted dummy and agrees because she is in love.
It's a new incarnation of that old syndrome that has felled many a juvenile female heart: Love via orgasmic bliss.
It's just a pity that the love seems to be a bit one sided: This dog is smarter than Carla, because at least he thinks it safer to stay away from something he can't trust - even though it looks harmless. One minute he is horrible, then he is sweet and almost poetic then he is menacing again and accusing her of killing his brother.
It's like a vicious cycle with these two. Their wedding night is spoiled when Janetta turns up shouting loudly and saying stuff that causes Carla to put on her oldest suit of clothing, hightail it out of the mansion and go to stay on the boat.
Why do heroines always have to wear their most dowdy outfit when they're leaving the H? Why not leave in style, with a chin raised defiantly and shoulders erect with pride? The scene that follows is one that is really tormenting for the heroine. Blaze turns up on the boat, forcibly seduces her then leaves her after.
She might have made her bed by leaving him but his actions were contemptible. She thought she had gotten the upper hand on Blaze by leaving him on their wedding night.
Then he comes, makes her have sex with him and leaves her in the dark, musty, boat with no food! His parting comment proved that he knew exactly what he was doing too: " He raked her with his gaze. How much more was he going to humiliate her? He turned to the pile of her clothes, scooped them up and dropped them, item by item, along her white body. It was a mocking gesture, coloured with contempt.
He was at the cabin door. Only then did he answer her question. You walked out on me, so why shouldn't I reciprocate? These two seemed to share nothing but intense sexual chemistry. I couldn't feel the love. Carla also did some really dumbass things such as going out on dates with Janetta's lecherous brother, even after the sleazy guy forcibly kissed her and pushed himself on her. This girl had no brains, no common sense and no sense of self preservation.
All she seemed to want to do was to battle with Blaze and so, if Blaze was having cosy little "business" dates with Janetta then she would continue to date the OW's near rapist brother. Blaze even showed his own signs of utter stupidity because Rolf and Janetta both worked for his competitor yet he allowed the OW to type in his home office. Then when Rolf almost sabotages an important meeting for Blaze, the asshole H blames Carla and accuses her of giving Rolf insider information.
The asshole forgets conveniently, that HE is the one who had given the bitch carte blanche by allowing her to come and go in his study freely. There was only ONE instance where Carla actually stands up to Janetta and it deserves highlighting since it's perhaps her single show of pride and real defiance: " Janetta sneered, 'It's what you do with "the basics" that counts, isn't it?
I've been the female in his life for a long time. I know his needs, and I can satisfy them. Or just stay here relaxing.
It meets the sea out there. Gwenda led Jacqui over stones and boulders to stand on a headland, its sides sloping steeply away. Even on that warm day a breeze blew, tossing loose clothing and untidying the hair.
To one side there was a bay of rocks, smoothed by erosion. To the other was a curving beach of pale sand. The lonely beauty of the place took Jacqui's breath away and she knew that here she could find an inner peace. Across the water the long line of mountains climbed and dropped away.
There were islands, some of them little larger than rocks, others with clumps of trees. Gwenda cast a wry glance over her shoulder. He does spend a lot of time alone?
I'm the last person he'd confide in. And if you dare tell her you aren't,' she was opening her door and gnashing her teeth at the same time, 'I'll --' 'Okay, I'll stay,' agreed Jacqui, laughing.
Fraser appeared for dinner that evening. His glance at Jacqui told her as eloquently of his thoughts as the blank pages at the end of a book. His mother gave him a warm welcome, saying she had not seen him all day. His father spoke a quiet 'good evening, Fraser', and took his place at the table, his eyes already inspecting the dishes of vegetables which had been placed on the table.
If she had thought the comment would encourage James Grant to speak, she was wrong. He nodded and she was rewarded with the faintest of smiles, which could, only mean, she reflected with amusement, that she had at least managed to please him. As she pulled out her chair, she caught Fraser's eye. There was a glint of amusement there, too, as if he had followed the trend of her thoughts. Frowning, she reflected, how is it he sees and intercepts so much of what is going on in my mind, yet I can't even penetrate the outer skin of his?
His shirt was a blue-grey and open-necked, his shoulders pushing at the fabric. He sat, elbow on table, chin supported by his long fingers, waiting for others to be served. Jacqui guessed that his mind was anywhere but in that room.
A quick look around showed her an antique china cabinet, a tall, glass-fronted bookcase across the room and along one wall, a large and antique sideboard displaying silverware and valuable painted vases, in some of which delicately perfumed roses had been arranged. Gwenda had taken over the conversation, talking about her coming journey across country to Edinburgh. Fraser lifted his shoulders with resignation. Gwenda smiled. I do hope you'll stay on here, dear.
They were there to meet hers, as unreadable as ever, bringing colour to Jacqui's cheeks. Now why did I have to do that? It was almost as if she had been asking his consent. That evening, Gwenda lingered in Jacqui's room. He's got his own—the small but fast variety. Her friend had warned her that she would need to leave early for the drive to Fort William. There she would catch the train which would take her on the first stage of her journey eastwards. Fraser, she had said, would drag himself out of bed to take her, then probably go back to it on his return.
Jacqui ate a light breakfast, sitting alone at the large kitchen table. A newspaper lay beside the place which Fraser usually occupied. It had been opened out, but since it was dated a day earlier, Jacqui reasoned, he had probably read it yesterday. Leaving the house by the rear entrance, she walked along the terrace and round the side of the building. There she found the path along which Gwenda had taken her when she had shown her the way down to the loch. The gates she passed through she shut carefully behind her.
The sheep stared unflinchingly as she approached, only to swerve violently away as she came unfalteringly on. Another gate opened on to a wilder scene and grass gave way to a rocky surface. The raised headland on which she had stood with Gwenda pushed outward into the loch. The water, swelled by the sea's tides to which it was linked, frothed around the shore. The climb and fall of mountains dropped gently to meet the loch, and there were the islands she had seen before, like wide-spread stepping stones leading the way eventually to the sea which became a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Only when the newcomer was an arm's distance away did Jacqui realise he was there. He startled her so much she almost fell. His hand came out and caught her, steadying her. He wore a green round-necked sweater over his shirt. His pants were green too, and creased with wear.
Over-sensitive to the touch of him, she pulled to free her arm from his hold. In response, it tightened slightly, as did the line of his mouth.
His hand slid back into his pocket. The last boy-friend I had was over a year ago. We weren't suited. Since then I've found no one else. The sea-loch washed against the foot of the headland.
The sound of sheep communicating drifted from behind them. A cuckoo, quite improbably, sent its song away to the mountain summits, and Jacqui rejoiced in it all. He had come to stand beside her. The blood in her, veins responded to his proximity and she cursed whatever it was in him that made her body's chemistry act in such a way. What was it about him, she questioned herself fiercely, that attracted her? That look in his eyes? But she found that impossible to decipher.
His breadth of shoulder and hip, the strong arms which he had just folded across his chest? And what did all that add up to? He was also a man, she was certain, whom no woman would succeed in binding to her through any kind of affection, nor even love. This man beside her, as forbidding as those high-ridged mountains was, for sure, impervious to love. The breeze caught her at the same time as the thought and she shivered, cold inside as well as out.
His head turned towards her, although she did not look at him. There were a series of movements, then hands were turning her. He bent her head and slipped the neck of the sweater over it, ruffling her hair.
Her face emerged flushed and laughing. He went to pull the jersey down over her, but she forestalled him, afraid of what the touch of his hands might do to her. Now you'll be cold. Ice cold to my very depths. There was also a look in his eyes that told her his emotions were frozen into his own personal Ice Age, with not a sign of thaw in sight. Why did her heart have to sink like a stone thrown into the loch? While Fraser's effect on her amounted to little less than devastating, to him she was no more than a friend of his sister's left on his hands while she was away.
Jacqui put on a smile. It's a lovely day. Doesn't this touch you, all this—this beauty? Had she changed his mood, conjured a smile from his hard face? His eyes did not follow where her hand had pointed. It stayed instead on her face, unsmiling, tracing her features like a walker mapping out a route. They came to rest at last on the deep blueness of her eyes, holding them, probing as if trying to read their message. Had he, she wondered, seen their puzzlement, their uncertainty?
Had they let tier down, her eyes, betraying her sensitivity to everything about him? A curl of fair hair blew across her face, and his hand reached out and brushed it back. His fingers seemed unwilling to leave and trailed Sown the soft skin of her cheek. Then he pulled his hand away like a parent disciplining a child. A muscle in his jaw moved and at last he looked outward, over the loch to the grey, sunflecked mountains.
Once again he had taken on their remoteness. It was as if the fleeting contact between them had never taken place. Was this how it was, Jacqui surprised herself by wondering, when he made love to a woman?
Passion, controlled and deliberate, then nothing? Her arms hugged her waist, holding his sweater close, trying to imagine it was he who was warming her, transmitting his body's heat to her.
It was all she would ever know, she told herself. It was the nearest she would ever get to him. Her head lifted. You can go back to your work with a clear conscience.
Sorry about that. Jacqui laughed, too: Someone had turned the day's dimmer switch up again. Their smiles met, clashed and entangled.
Jacqui found it impossible to extricate herself from the maze of feeling into which an emotion beyond reason had led them. He was the first to find the way out. They had not touched, yet her heart was pounding as though he had made violent love to her. His attention returned to their surroundings. As they walked across the entrance hall from the rear door, Elizabeth Grant came down the wide staircase. She smiled at once, yet her eyes, moving from Jacqui, still wearing Fraser's sweater, were curious as they rested on her son.
She looked down at herself, and it came into her mind that Fraser's action in lending it to her could have been construed as a gesture just crossing the border into familiarity. Hurriedly, to cover her heightened colour at the idea, she lifted the sweater's hem over her head and, to her dismay, became trapped by its npok.
Hands came swiftly and surely to her aid, and she emerged confused but smiling to hide it. Fraser pulled at the woollen garment, turning the outside of it back to its rightful place.
His mother looked at him and then back to Jacqui. Did you find him there? They seemed to hold a meaning. Judging by Elizabeth Grant's frown, it seemed she might have discerned it, too, and was disconcerted. Don't worry about me, Jacqui told her silently. It's true I find your son attractive, but it won't last.
As soon as I'm back in my own surroundings in the environs of London, everything will fall into perspective and I'll forget him. Or, she thought, making an effort to joke with herself, regard him as part of this wild, haunting scenery. His eyes were on her and she caught back the gasp his look drew from her depths. Yes, he would haunt her. Even after such a short acquaintance, she accepted that. But that, too, would pass I've been ordered by my sister to show her friend around.
I've seen books lying around I should love to read. The woman's eyes, so kindly and warm, shared only the colour with her son's. Elizabeth made for the kitchen. How will I know when you're ready? Jacqui felt irrationally annoyed by his attitude. What had she ever done to merit his sarcasm? It took her a few moments to find a pull-on jacket, comb her hair and apply the lightest touch of make-up.
Then she wondered why she had made the effort. It would make no difference to Fraser's attitude towards her. Yet she wanted more than anything to go out with him. After a suitable interval, she walked along the corridor, passing Gwenda's door and wishing her frigid was there. The large hall was empty. I'll tell you where to go.
She did not relish the reception she was certain she would receive from the room's occupant. There were two doors, but there was movement from behind only one. Her hand lifted, dropped, then lifted again, making her presence known with a knock so decisive it took her by surprise.
He had half turned in his swivel chair, and from under lowered brows he gave her a swift appraisal. This lightning assessment he gave a woman—Jacqui had no doubt there was nothing special about her which provoked it—seemed to come naturally to him. Maybe Gwenda's comment about her two brothers sharing a liking for the opposite sex had had more truth in it than the mere sisterly taunt Jacqui had assumed it to be.
So what? Why should it worry her? The fact that it did troubled her deeply. Another door, she assumed, led to a bathroom.
His study, as his mother had called it, was furnished like a sitting-room, with two or three chairs and a two- seater settee. The carpet was patterned; the fireplace, with an overmantel, was screened by an antique, framed piece of embroidery.
Many of the books were classics. Some were modern, others from the past; there were collections of essays and Shakespeare was there, side-by-side with Christopher Marlowe, sharing shelf-space with poets from the famous to the lesser known.
Turning, she shook her head. I'm just a humble magazine writer, while your feet are planted firmly in the past. Mentally, of course. The smile had brought his face to life and Jacqui's pulses leapt at the transformation. He stood up, rolling down his shirt sleeves and buttoning them. He was so tall Jacqui found her head tilting backwards and he was so broad, her thpughts spun as they tried to guess what it felt like to be enveloped by those arms against that chest.
His eyelids flickered as he gazed back at her and she was certain he had interpreted her heart's message. Because it had come from the heart. She knew that now. She was in greater danger of falling in love with this man than any other man she had known. And where would that leave her? Loving a man who, on his own admission, was ice cold to his very depths. It was also the colour of silver and its roof had been folded back.
Jacqui's hair went all over the place as she sat beside Fraser. He drove steadily round the twists and turns and Jacqui felt the smoothness of his driving technique. Her eyes kept straying to his hands on the steering wheel, admiring their perfect control of the vehicle. It said so much about the man, the competence of those hands.
How would it feel, she wondered, if they She dragged her thoughts from the track they were taking and forced them outwards to the passing scenery. They were well on their way when she asked, 'Where are we going? Heard of it? There's a monument there, isn't there? Born around He raised his standard there and waited, the story goes, with a gathering of his followers on August 19th, , for an army of men who would go with him on his advance against the English.
Am I right? The National Trust for Scotland owns the Glenfinnan area now. At each twist and turn of the road, another ridge of mountains was revealed. There were rhododendrons in full flower, adding their purple to the grey and the green, the yellow of the gorse enhanced by the sunshine. When she had first arrived, she could not have imagined that the aloof man who had come to meet them would have condescended to take her anywhere.
There were cottages here and there, isolated but lived in. Streams which followed roads were surely there before roads were even dreamt of. There was the hump of a grey mountain, toothed-rock ridges along the skyline. Forests sloped down, lines of trees climbed upward.
Telegraph poles carried civilisation across the near-wilderness. In the open-topped car, Jacqui's hair streamed as she lifted her face to the wind. She laughed in sheer delight at the sensation, at the barbaric splendour of the landscape, and because she sat beside a man whose appearance of strength and bedrock solidity mirrored the permanence and continuity of the mountains all around.
These were the qualities Jacqui had not known since the death of her father and the remarriage of her mother ten years ago. Which she thought in a flash of self-analysis, was probably why something inside her turned like a flower to the sun towards this fascinating stranger.
There was the sudden sighting of water, another loch. Clouds turned quiescent mountains into would-be smoking volcanoes. Jacqui gazed at the coldly impassive beauty through which they were passing, and felt a creeping chill like a cloud winding around her heart. There was an unreachable side to this man's personality, just like those daunting mountain masses. They were descending now, the steep hill curving past the village shop to level out at last, and there, not far away, was the Glenfinnan monument.
Fraser turned the car on to a large gravelled area, braking to a stop. His head came round and he gazed with an elusive half-smile at Jacqui's face. Her cheeks were on fire from the exhilaration of the drive, her eyes brilliant with the remembered beauty of the hills. It's a dream I've always had, to drive in a car like this with the wind through my hair.
He looked ahead, expression changed, amusement gone, staring out at nothing. Then he stirred with a kind of impatience. His head jerked sideways. Or,' he paused with his hand on the half-opened door, 'are you hungry?
Not yet. Where shall we go? It looks so beautiful everywhere, in every direction. The monument over there overlooking Loch Shiel,' he pointed towards the loch, 'was built in memory of the men who fought and died in that struggle. You can get one at the counter over there. There were sandwiches on sale and cakes. She gazed into the unreadable brown eyes and felt the overflowing happiness inside her form her lips into a smile.
A hand came out and the rough back of it smoothed across her mouth. He mustn't even begin to guess that it was he who was responsible for her soaring spirits. I can— well, feel it in my mind. It's a song in my head She had turned away, afraid that he might, with his intelligence and insight, dig down to the truth through the sand of misleading words she had thrown in his eyes.
Aiming for the waste bin, he disposed of his throw-away cup, taking hers from her hand and doing likewise with it. Jacqui looked through a door. First, we'll walk. Whet our appetites for lunch.
Fraser produced a card, then handed over some money. Turning to Jacqui, he gave her a ticket. And you've just paid for me?
They passed through a gate and trod a narrow gravel path towards the stone-built monument. At its turreted top there was a giant figure of a Highlander.
The monument was encircled by a stone. She could not remember when she had seen anything so beautiful as the view which spread itself before her. Into the far distance, mountain upon mountain sloped down to the water. Some were tree-covered and green while others were rocky and ridged. The still loch mirrored ruffled reflections, as if the water's soft-textured surface was unfitted to carrying the reflected weight of the dark grandeur of those mountains. At last, she turned to find Fraser standing a few paces behind.
His eyes were on her and it seemed he had been watching her as she had gazed at the view. Her mind was still filled with the beauty of it as she smiled up at him. His gaze wandered over her face, like a man taking a now-familiar path. It dwelt on her long-lashed blue eyes, the nose with its tilted end, the small, rounded chin and finally, the parted lips. The stairs twist like a corkscrew right up the narrow interior. The view's even better up there.
Like to try it? Got enough breath in your lungs? The winding staircase was as challenging as he had warned, but she made it, breathless, to the open air. She stared up at the great figure of the Highlander, seeing in the statue the rock-hard, unswerving resolution inherent in Fraser Grant's character. She shivered, hoping that she would never have the misfortune to come up against that side of him. The view from the top was, as Fraser had said, even better than from the loch's edge.
In the near distance, almost surrounded by water, was a seeming island swathed in trees. The mountains' slopes looked bare and defiant, the wind blew strongly. Jacqui felt Fraser beside her at the rail and she looked up again at him, smiling in her delight, filled with a sensation of near-euphoria.
It was impossible to sort out whether the cause was entirely the magnificent surroundings, or the nearness of the man beside her. It was as much as she could do to prevent another shiver from shaking her. It was marshy and desolate.
And probably windy,' he smoothed back his ruffled hair, 'like it is today. When they'd almost given up hope of a reinforcement, they came over the hills and mountains there and there.
He nodded. Determination to succeed and conquer, no matter what? To plunder and ravage? Despite the force of his hold, the kiss did not break the bounds of the accepted code.
Lips parted and warm from the touch of his, Jacqui tipped back her head to look at him. Her mind misted and played tricks. There was the light of fight in his eye, of ruthlessness; in her daydream, his stare was as wild as his dark hair, his clothes like a two-centuries' past Highland warrior's.
The leather belt around his waist grew rough and laden with fearsome weaponry, his arm upraised in an attitude of ferocious defiance, sword aloft Then she knew the tearing demand of his mouth on hers, plundering and unsparing of its moist cavities and tender inner lips. Voices faded in, shouts, ribald laughter, pipes playing, toasts to the future king She felt history jostling her and fought, frightened, back to the present.
The pressure came from the angles and bones of his body against hers, the gasping from her own throat, not of fear but a wild abandon to the angry feel of him. The voices were those of tourists, the laughter and shouts came from children trying to climb the twisting stairs. At last Fraser let her go and her head dropped against his arm, her forehead moulding itself to the muscle and flesh of it. She felt like a wounded animal that had just been rescued from a trap, only to feel that another might not be far away, waiting.
Others were up there, exclaiming at the view. They were round the other side of the tower's circular shape. The kiss, Jacqui thought, finding a resting-place for her cheek against his chest, was what she had been wanting from the moment she had first seen him.
The sudden revelation of her inner longings frightened her, and her hands clutched at his shirt. Could she lay a trail away from her innermost feelings?
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Had he felt the tension, too? She told herself astringently not to get too excited. If he had indeed experienced tension, then it had come from lust.
The moment had been spoilt by words, the destroyer of so much that was good. Like a skier on ice, she had descended too swiftly from her precarious pinnacle of delight. By some kind of instinct, she knew it had been a danger even to begin the ascent with this man as her leader, for he had indeed led the way. And she, so trusting, had followed.
Her spirits had already gone down in front of her. At the bottom there were people, families full of laughter and life and very much of the present. How could she ever have mistaken them for the clansmen and warriors of two centuries ago? It was the effect Fraser Grant had on her. In his arms and with his harsh mouth on hers, he had taken her back to the time of his ancestors.
He could, she thought, take her anywhere he wanted. To Paradise—and back. They had their picnic meal seated on the ground on an old tartan rug spread out beneath them.
They ate in silence with Loch Shiel at their feet. The beauty of the place seeped into Jacqui, and the sunshine came creeping back into her mind. Her head moved round and she caught his unsmiling profile only seconds before his eyes came swinging round to hers.
They held a question, then the corners crinkled faintly. Did you hate it so much? A mouth can't fool a mouth. Yours has been telling me all along. It's been saying, come kiss me.
When mine met yours up there,' his head tipped back, indicating the monument, 'it found a welcome enough to gladden any true man's heart. Embarrassed, she coloured, meeting his eyes shyly, her chin still imprisoned. Expression unreadable again, he searched her face. His mind, Jacqui thought, seemed to be climbing the mountains he was staring at. The desire to shiver came on her again, but she tensed, holding it firmly under control. His arm around her now would be her undoing.
After all, you said you fancied a day out in the company of an attractive woman. She said I'd be quite safe with you. And, with regard to my "type",' his eyes were still on the loch, 'I'm open-minded on that subject. Well, what do you say?
For a moment, she could not reply. When she did, it was through trembling lips. His eyes had grown as dark as a mountain in shadow. He did not apologise. He got to his feet and went down to the loch's edge, watching its to-and-fro movement, hands slipped into his waistband, his broad shoulders pushed forward.
It was the picture of his outline that hit at her heart, making her give a mental cry of anguish. He looked so alone and so unreachable in that aloneness. Her instinct was to go to him, offering comfort of some kind.
But she sensed he wanted no one. And what use would she, someone forced upon him, be to such a man in such a mood? She did get up after a while, walking over to join him. He did not turn when she stood there, but went on staring down. That's what I'm here for. I don't need yours. Then some tension somewhere in him slackened and his great shoulders shrugged. Okay, so I stop acting courier for today. Tomorrow, name your place and I'll take you. Had she let him get under her skin so deeply that she had developed an acute sensitivity to his every word and movement?
The answer was that she had. Her mind lashed about for an antidote to the agony which the impact of the realisation caused on the whole of her being. And it had to be this man who made her feel this way—a man who plainly revelled in his solitude as much as that Highlander at the top of that tower. Then he focused and really saw her. Yes, if you like. But, she thought, it could not have been the road conditions which demanded it, since he seemed to know each curve and bend by heart.
He indicated by a movement of the head that he was listening. His eyes did not shift from their task of guidance and anticipation. I didn't ask you to. I'd like to get that clear. And,-' he slowed for a sharp bend, 'your looks don't exactly lag behind the rest of you. About my face, I mean? Yes, that sounds right.
It had been wiped clean away. Fraser must have felt the movement since he said, 'Okay, I apologise for that remark. It was not intended as an insult, even if you took it that way. They were crunching to a stop. The engine sound ceased. He looked at her. I can't make you, but it's in your interests to do just that.
He started to open his door. He held the door open for her, watching her, and she wished fervently that she could read the look in his eyes. For dinner that evening, Jacqui wore a close- fitting peach-soft dress with a low-draped neckline and a skirt which fell with a hint of folds to the midway hem, while the sleeves ended just below her elbows.
It was after Molly had served the first course that Elizabeth Grant asked Jacqui whether she had enjoyed her day. What harm has she done you? He was remembering the kiss, even though he had told her to forget it! By the set of his mouth, it seemed he was still blaming her for what had happened on that tower.
Elizabeth's glance moved from her son to her guest, then back to her son. For a moment she watched his bent head, then frowned, but kept her misgivings to herself. Molly swept in to clear away the first" course dishes, and the talk turned to family matters. There was the mention of a phone call from Gwenda. There was a passing mention, too, of Malcolm who, it seemed, was 'itching to go again'. Go where? Jacqui wondered, but the subject of Gwenda's other brother was dropped. His eyes moved to his mother, then swung to rest darkly, almost angrily, on the girl beside him.
He pushed back his chair and stood up. It's the day for the ferry to go there. Fraser's hand was in his pocket, his grey tweed-mixture jacket draped over it. The bright red tie was in startling contrast to the rest of his outfit, but Jacqui could only admire the quirk of taste—or was it character? University don he might be in reality, but there was, she sensed, within him the fire of a tiger lurking, ready to pounce.
Clouds hung low, blotting out the mountains with a kind of contempt, Jacqui knelt on the window-seat and found herself looking for something. When she realised what it was, she turned her back on the muted colours of the gardens. She had been searching for a sighting, of the man who had stared up at her window on her first morning there! Fraser was at the breakfast table, having reached the toast and coffee stage.
His quick glance encompassed her slim form, then returned to the newsprint of the paper propped against the honey jar on the table. Jacqui took the seat opposite him and had got some way into her dish of porridge before she spoke. The silence did not seem to trouble her companion, but it certainly irked her. The newspaper was lowered and two impatient eyes met hers.
Since he continued to stare at her, she added, 'You'll be able to get on with your work. But at least we're in touch with the needs of ordinary people.
And we have to write good English. It didn't take a university lecturer on the subject to teach us how to do that. He linked his hands behind his head and stretched out his legs under the table. Each to his own, as they say. I must get back to that work that worries you so much. If it does, I'll take you to Mallaig. Elizabeth Grant emerged from her private apartment looking her usual neat, calm self.
She found Jacqui in the entrance hall, head tilted, gazing at the wall paintings. And look at the size of those logs! Molly carried in a tray of coffee, saying how well the fire was burning, but how she felt in her bones that the weather would start clearing soon.
But do you live with your parents? My mother's married again. She nodded and went on, 'So you have a room somewhere? Share a house, maybe, like so many young people these days? You've been standing there long enough. How long, and what had he heard? He looked at the space beside his mother, then made for the settee which Jacqui occupied. He accepted the coffee his mother offered and leaned back, drinking it.
He took a quick look at Jacqui. I expected you to say not just that I have the "look" of it about me but that I smelt of it, too. His glance came alive under the fire of hers and Jacqui's heart soared.
Elizabeth's smile at her son's remark was topped by a look of puzzlement and, Jacqui was certain, a fleeting tinge of anxiety.
Fraser looked at his mother and could not have missed her frown, but he changed the unspoken subject by saying, 'Where's Father? From the shoeless state of his feet, it seemed he had not been able to resist at least a walk outside. Plainly a solitary by nature, he nevertheless made an effort to avoid the role of social misfit which many men of his character became. You also said it was a song in your mind. I have. Yet he had not moved. They were not, she realised, looking at the scene through her eyes, which,, were illuminated by the electric sensation the man next to her generated inside her whenever he was near.
Fraser's eyes met hers and there was amusement in them. She found a white woollen jacket and pulled it on, then tied a scarf around her head, knotting it at the back. Elizabeth was in the hall. Have a happy day. If she was really worried about any possible attraction between her son and her guest, would she have sounded so sincere?
As Jacqui emerged outside, she heard a shout from someone disappearing round the corner. She raised her hand in answer to Fraser's father's salute. He too seemed to have accepted her, but in what role? As a visitor in her own right, as Gwenda's colleague and friend—or as their son's chosen companion? The last idea burst on her mind like a firework, only to die away emptily as she saw that son leaning against his car, his posture and expression so resigned as to border on boredom.
Companion to Fraser Grant she might be, for a few hours, but chosen—and by him? If the ridiculous thought had not been so painfully sweet, she would have felt like laughing. He turned slowly as she approached and he eyed her dispassionately. It would not be removed and she felt the back of it pressing against her forehead.
With a catch in her breath, she said, 'Please, stop it. Impassively he held open the passenger door. She looked up at him, irritated by his change in attitude, and felt the urge to goad, 'Is this one of your sudden attacks of politeness that Gwenda told me to make the most of because it was so rare? They could make an indelible mark on the rest of your life. His eyes slewed in her direction. Or maybe that's what you're after? Was he still asserting that the 'wanting' was all on her side?
Then she remembered how much she had wanted him to notice her as a woman, and she could not stop the spread of colour into her cheeks. She knew he had noticed by the twitch of a smile across his mouth as he put the car into motion. The stait of the drive westward took them first through Cariscraig village. The great bay swept round, boats beached on its shore, waiting for the tide. Fraser knew the road as if he had helped to carve its path in centuries past, alongside his ancestors.
His strong hands guided the steering wheel round bends and over hills as they drove onward to Mallaig. Reaching their destination, Fraser found a parking place for the car, and they walked around the town, wandering on to the quay and smelling the aroma of fish stacked in boxes for transport.
In the harbour, boats were moored. A ferry boat was taking on cars and passengers, and preparing to sail across to the Isle of Skye which rose hugely through remnants of the mist.
They had lunch in the restaurant of a small hotel, then Fraser took her to a craft and souvenir shop. For a long time Jacqui wandered round, entranced by the variety of goods on show.
There were brooches and necklaces made of bright polished stones, of shells and mother-of-pearl. There were paperweights and leather-craft and knitted goods. When all the items which Jacqui wanted to download were stacked on the counter-top, Fraser asked, 'Is that it?
The woman looked up at him, smiling. That's fine, Mr Grant. How's your --' she paused to count out the change, and continued, 'your brother Malcolm? He's fine, I hope? Ye've no' been climbing over there lately. And Malcolm's job's in London. When she spoke her thanks to Mrs Rose, Jacqui was puzzled by a strangely speculative look in the woman's eyes as they moved between herself and Fraser. I'll write you a cheque——' He put the parcel into the back of the car and closed the lid with a slam.
His face was set as he said, 'Consider them a gift. Some distance along the route, Fraser drew up on a bend of the road and invited her to follow him across it. The way led down through a hedge and on to rocks, beyond which was a loch and a curving beach of white sand.
It was a weekday and the place was deserted. Jacqui gazed around at the low green hills, the sweep of the loch, free now of mist, allowing islands and distant mountains to stand out clearly against the cloud-strewn blue of the sky. I'd like to take off my sandals.
She paddled barefooted in the sand, scuffing it up for the sheer pleasure of dabbling in its softness. There were shells scattered around and she darted for them, putting the best into her pockets. Then she ran down to the water's edge, avoiding the rocks and letting the water run over her feet. Fraser had followed and stood just beyond the water's reach. He had removed his jacket and his short-sleeved dark red and green shirt was partly opened. His hands rested on his hips and his green slacks followed the hard outline of his thighs and legs which were placed a little apart.
There was a movement at the back of Jacqui's neck. She turned from the waist, unwilling to leave the stroking feel of the water which swished over her feet and ankles. Please give it back. Jacqui ran to stand beside him and pushed in her hand to retrieve the scarf.
He slapped his hand over hers and she felt the hard shape of his hipbone beneath her palm. He pulled her round and, with his free hand, ran over her hair, resting his fingers against her neck. The nerve in her throat was pounding and it was right beneath his fingers.
It was such a near-embrace with her hand fastened to his hip and his on her flesh, she grew warm with a longing to be back where she had been when he had kissed her the day before. Had he read it there in her wondering stare? He was impelling her towards him, leaving her hand where it was and putting his on her hip, while his other held the back of her head. The kiss was like floating on water, on that sea- loch near their feet; like treading in the silver sand and sinking down, down into it until the breath was almost taken from her, so suffocating was the tide of feeling he was arousing in her.
He eased away and pulled off her jacket throwing it beyond the water's reach. Then she was back, hard against him, and a longing came to life deep down, wanting this man to love her as she loved him Loved him? Oh, no, she thought, why have I let myself fall in love with this man—ice cold, he'd called himself—who's so beyond me he might as well be an orbiting satellite and me trying to pull him from outer space?
After the kiss, they stood together, his arm round her waist, hers round his. Something told her they shouldn't be standing like this, like lovers But if someone had asked her why, she wouldn't have been able to find an answer. It's owned by the Nature Conservancy.
Eigg is privately owned but the public are allowed to visit. I'll take you over there some time. Fraser's arm around her did not move, so together they made their way to where the shoes lay. White sand clung to Jacqui's feet and ankles and the silvery encrustation fascinated her. She sat down and studied it, playing for time. Even now, she had not completely recovered from Fraser's assault on her mouth, nor from the incredible realisation of how strongly her newly- discovered love for him had taken hold.
He crouched down, taking one of Jacqui's feet. Slowly, his palm brushed away the sand, and pushed on a sandal, doing the same to the other. Dropping her foot, he caught her eyes and she saw his mouth curve, but his expression stayed inscrutable. Jacqui felt anger spurt, because of the way things were. Why did she have to be so transparent to him, yet to her, his mind was as unreadable as a book written in an obscure foreign language.
Chance would be a fine thing. We've moved a bit farther since then. Are you giving me that chance? If so, I'm game. She joined him, dusting her seat. His attention was on the distant islands. As they seated themselves, Jacqui asked, slanting him a bright- eyed glance. At the house, he left her, making no mention of another outing together.Only when he had disappeared round a corner of the house did Jacqui let out a long sigh.
Do you mean they sold the house to your brother? It was the effect Fraser Grant had on her. Please, no! Over the rim of her glass, she watched people passing. The stait of the drive westward took them first through Cariscraig village. So hard had Bella been staring into the distance that she had failed to notice the tall, striding figure coming towards her from out of the gathering dusk. At its turreted top there was a giant figure of a Highlander. I'm sure we can come to an amicable arrangement.
Her breath was caught on a gasp as an alien sound invaded her ears.
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