He arched a black brow, mocking, signaling awareness of her fear. Worse, B.A. read in those pale gleaming eyes her response pleased him. “If you’ll point my companions and me in the right direction?”
“’Tis directions you need?” B.A. felt devilment twitching at the corner of her mouth. Someone unfamiliar with her might mistake it for a dimple. “Start up Harbour Hill, turn right and follow the cobbled road. It takes you where you need to go.”
Tilting his head in thanks, a sexy smile tugged at his soft, full mouth. A mouth that conjured images of long, deep kisses. “I shall see you later?”
Sooner than you think, B.A. vowed silently, ignoring what that smile did to her heart.
If he or his companions attached significance to snickers when they passed, there was no indication. The three men started up the hill road― the bloody dogs falling in, yapping and bounding about them, followed closely by the putt-putt-putt of Wee Dougie’s scooter playing caboose.
B.A. waited until they moved beyond the range of the store, then rushed to the porch to watch. With strong athletic strides, they quickly passed the postcard perfect homes and businesses. The cobbled road circled the southern tip of the island, with the neat row of whitewashed, two-story, stone buildings lining the inner curve. Doors kept opening, Falgannonians coming to eyeball the Vikings and their bizarre entourage vanish around the bend.
Hurrying back inside, B.A. headed to the counter to see what answers the envelope held. Closest, Michael the Fiddle peered at the expensive vellum as if it would pop open and a jack-in-a-box would spring forth. B.A. joined him in glaring at the envelope. She needed a nice long stick to touch it, make certain it was safe. Maybe whack it a few times just to be sure.
Clearly, Michael shared her sentiment. He snagged a pencil from the cup by the register and poked it.
B.A.’s mouth flattened in a frown as she snatched it away and lifted the flap. While her eyes scanned the photocopies, the shawl dropped off one shoulder.
Eyes alight with assessment, Callum leaned his hip against the counter. “Interesting bloke, wouldn’t you agree, B.A.?”
“As interesting as a panther on a leash. I feel I should count my fingers to see if any are missing.”
“Oh, aye, B.A., ‘tis easy to discern how uninteresting you found this Desmond feller.” Seeing the silk clad breast proclaiming her arousal, Callum and Michael exchanged knowing male glances, and then burst into gales of laughter.
Adjusting the shawl, B.A. stuck her tongue out at them. Struggling to summon a scathing retort, she failed to live up to her fame for razor-edged repartee. Distracted, she studied the copies of legal documents and letters between Sean and Mershan.
Robbie the Butcher tottered inside, keen to see what she sussed from the envelope. “A wicked lass you are, B.A., sending them to trod the town circle. Another five minutes they’ll be coming back. Quick, what’s it say?”
“It appears an arrangement Sean set up last winter. The Vikings are here to survey the land on the eastern slope of the isle.” She rattled the pages in the air. “How has this not turned up before? Nothing was in the investment portfolio forwarded to me upon Sean’s death. While I gave him leave to invest the island’s money, I don’t believe he’d dare undertake something of this magnitude without my permission.”
Willie the Writer rushed through the door. A beloved islander joke, he churned out bestselling cowboy romances set in the U.S. under the penname Willa Macgregor. A hoot, since farthest west he’d ever been was Belfast. “’Tis a naughty lass you are, B.A. The villagers are hurrying to see the excitement. I fear the lads will jump to the conclusion it’s the Yank lasses finally come. Expect tempers when they discover it’s only a wee Viking invasion.”
The racket of Wee Dougie’s scooter grew audible in the distance, as the crowd rounded the far bend, giving B.A. no time to gather wits. She needed to ring her brother, the family’s solicitor. He would know whether this was legit, or if Desmond Mershan was nothing but a snake-oil salesman.
She reached for the phone on the wall, only Callum, Robbie, Michael and Willie cried in unison, “Blower’s down!”
“Still?” She questioned, “Where’s Jock the Repair, MacGyver of the East? With the matchmaking project, we need to be online 24/7 not seven hours out of twenty-four.”
“He’s fixing Davey the Weaver’s washer-machine. B.A., since we’re discussing our sorry state of communications on our fair isle, you ken the system needs redoing. Several lads are saving for their own laptops, and with the Yank lasses coming they’ll expect some conveniences.”
Willie bragged, “Dell is sending me a grand laptop with bells and whistles. Ordered a copy of new The Hobbit video game. I get to be Gandalf and kill Orcs.”
“Only you, Willa, would want to be Gandalf and not Aragorn.” Michael shook his head.
“You should be getting a Mac,” Robbie chided, “support the homeland businesses.”
Despite the irritation of the situation, B.A. smiled. Her islanders had it fixed in their brains, since the computers were Macs they naturally were a product of Scotland. She’d given up trying to correct them, and left them to their bit of merriment.
“B.A., this Desmond feller won’t appreciate being sent on a wee tour of our downtown business district.” Robbie moved to keep an eye out for the procession marching down the road. “Who were you going to ring, lass?”
“My Brother the Solicitor. Moot now. These papers seem to be a contract between Mershan and The Montgomerie.”
“Contract?” several queried.
“If it’s real and not a scam, Sean sought to up the income for the island by turning us into an exclusive tourist spot. Mershan’s come to judge if it’s feasible to place a hotel on the eastern tip of the isle.”
The irksome putt-putt noise increased, silencing the whole store.
“Would you look at this? ‘Tis like a bloody May Day parade,” Angus called, stepping out on the porch.
B.A. came up behind them, watching Mershan and his Viking bodyguards stalk down Lower Harbour Road in determined strides, The Escape Artists still barking and rollicking about them. In the lead strutting proudly was The Cat Dudley, a feline parade marshal, and yes, a large portion of the isle’s populace was in tow. Eleven were on bicycles, while Ian and Brian Fraser rode on horses. Wee Dougie, on that blasted scooter, trailed after the islanders afoot.
Rushing behind the counter, B.A. checked in the off-chance Jock the Repair had duct-taped the phone to working in the past few minutes. No such luck. She stood tapping the envelope against her chin while the din outside grew louder.
The invaders approach, she mused.
Metal-tipped cane clicking on the wooden floor, Angus the Ancient tottered back inside, leaving the door open. “You've done it, B.A., sending them Vikings on a Gooseberry Fool’s walk. That black-headed feller has steam rolling out his ears! Dunna ken him to be thrilled a’tall being the butt of your joke, lass.”
Silence descended causing B.A. to turn. Suddenly, the whole storefront shook with the force of a small blast. For a fleeting second, B.A. wondered if they’d suffered an earthquake. But no, someone had slammed the door with such violence it sent everything on the shelves rattling.
Not seismic activity, but another force of nature. He stood there.
Her stomach dropped. Maybe she had been a little abrupt in handling him. Well, it was his own bloody fault, setting off so many wild emotions within her!
“Now you’re in for it, B.A.,” Angus the Ancient chided, waving a shaky finger at her.
Mershan’s leather jacket was off, draped in the crook of his arm and partially over the duffle he carried. Lasers of fury, the ice-green eyes targeted her, and in spite of sexual-tension crackling in the air between them, she was reasonably positive it wasn’t lust. Though his chest rose and fell, she noted it was controlled anger not the exertion of the walk. He hadn’t broken a sweat on the kilometer circle of the tiny village, showing his peak physical condition.
All the better to throttle you, B.A., her mind whispered, as she suppressed the instinct to run.
“He’s right,” Mershan growled, “I’m not happy.” He dropped the bag and coat on the floor, as if needing both hands free.
All the better to wrap around your neck, B.A., echoed through her brain.
Desmond took a step toward her. Instinctively, B.A. took one back. She feared no man, but for the first time in her life one rattled her.
Frozen in her fight-or-flight response mode, it took seconds to recognize that an odd creaking came from overhead. Jerking her gaze up to the ceiling, her eyes locked onto the old shark’s jaw, suspended by a wooden peg from the rafter. Hung there before she was born, it suddenly dropped, hurtling straight at them. She stood, too stunned to move. With feline reflexes, Mershan yanked B.A. aside, shielding her with his body. Razor sharp teeth just missed them. However, chunks of the brittle bone ricocheted into the pyramid display of soup cans, sending them scrambling and dodging again.
The man howled. The cat yowled.
Kitty still dangling from his leg, Desmond tottered, dancing over chunks of bone. B.A. had inferred, long ago, Dudley had fixed in his brain the source of all evils in his kittydom originated with Callum. Thus, she wasn’t surprised to see it shriek and then launch that fat tabby-striped body at his ‘nemesis’ thigh. Glomming on, Kitty clung, a parody of a stuffed Garfield toy stuck to car windows with plastic suction-cups. No time to regain footing, Desmond ducked trying to avoid Callum’s wild flailing.
Callum, with the wee beastie hanging on for dear life, stepped on a rolling can of tomato soup. Flying backward, he collided into the off balance Desmond. The men and cat then crashed into the five-tiered rack of the large jars of sweets.
B.A. gaped in horror as canisters filled with jawbreakers, gumballs and jellybeans bounced and scattered, everyone dancing to dodge the confections and shattering glass. Hard candies acted like ball bearings, while softer jelly and cream-filled sweets squished to a slippery slime. Standing proved treacherous. Her eyes went wide as Desmond hit the jawbreakers. He skidded once more, flapping his arms as if to take flight. The only thing that flew was his feet, high into the air. He went down hard, cracking his head on the floor.
Content with the chaos he created, Dudley leapt to the countertop, flopped down on his hip, and stuck his hind leg up in the air. With a loud sneeze of disdain, he began giving it a tongue-bath.
“Demon-cat! I’m going to burn you in the Wicker Man come May Day,” Callum snarled from his knees.
For several heartbeats, B.A.’s mind reeled, waiting for the invader to get up. He didn’t move. No rise and fall of his chest. Step-by-cautious step, everyone made their way over to the felled man and peered down at his still form.
Resembling creatures Scully and Mulder tracked for the X-files, the villagers crammed against the store’s door and bay windows, pressing noses to the glass to witness the Marx Brothers antics inside. Chuckling, they deemed it the most excitement on Falgannon since the Floating of the Sheep in June, when they prepare them for sheering by tossing them into the creek.
“B.A.,” Angus the Ancient muttered in reproach, “you've gotten yourself in a pretty pickle! Gone and murdered the Vikings leader. ‘Tis ashamed you should be.”
#ScottishRomance #ParanormalRomance #ScottishContemporaryRomance
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