Highland Hogmanay by Krystal Brookes
Kilrigh Heat Series #3
sensual contemporary romance
Release Date: 12/20/12
Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs
The week between Christmas and New Year is always dreary and for single mum of two small children, Isla, it's doubly so. A toddler throwing a tantrum and an over-inquisitive four year old are stressing her out. The broken carrier bag spilling her shopping out in the wet street is the final straw. But handsome Mark Ferguson turns up out of the blue to help her.
The New Year may be looking up, until she finds out that Mark owns one of the biggest computing firms in the USA. Can they make a long distance relationship work and can Mark stop trying to make their relationship into a business venture?
“Damn,” muttered Isla, as the plastic bag of groceries ripped open, causing cans and packets to scatter over the pavement.
“Mummy, the bag burst,” said four-year-old Jenna, pointing out the obvious. “And you said a bad word.”
“Yes, Jenna, I know. Mummy’s naughty.” Two-year-old Amber was screaming in her buggy, making it known just how much she wanted to be out, walking along with her big sister. But Isla had opted for the buggy to make the shopping trip with two young children easier on herself.
Amber shouted “Want out!” frequently throughout the walk down to the village shops and once they had arrived, the little tyrant had taken to throwing a full-blown tantrum. To say Isla was frazzled was an understatement. Now she was battling against horizontal sleet and gale-force winds as she tried to grab the groceries on the pavement.
“Jenna, hold the buggy,” she commanded, as she reached for a rolling tin of soup. A hand came out of nowhere and caught the tin as it rolled out of her reach.
“I’ve got it.” The American accent made her start, and she looked up into a pair of dark brown, smiling eyes. Her gaze flitted up to his mop of dark hair and the tanned skin on his forehead. He obviously hadn’t been in Scotland for long. “Can I help?” he asked. “You seem to have your hands full.”
“Oh, umm!” She was flustered, and the concerned look in his eyes had warmed her from the inside. It had been a long time since she had seen anything but disdain in a man’s eyes. “The bag burst,” she stated—for want of something to say.
“I could help you home. Do you live near?”
“I’m staying in the holiday cottages just up the road.”
“That’s lucky—so am I,” said the man. “Maybe you could carry the little one and we could put the groceries in the stroller.”
“It’s not far. If I hold her hand, she can walk. I only put her in the buggy... I mean stroller... to make the shopping easier. And you can see how that worked out.” She grimaced as she undid the strap holding Amber in the buggy and lifted her out. The squeals of delight as Amber got her way made Isla frown. She had to learn that she couldn’t get her own way by throwing a tantrum. She’d been far too lenient on the girls and if she wasn’t careful, she would end up with a pair of terrors on her hands.
“Mummy, it’s snowing,” exclaimed Jenna. Isla looked up. The sleet had turned to snow and was soaking them.
“It is. But it won’t lie. It’s too wet.”
“Does that mean I can’t make a snowman?”
“Yes, pet. But we can have a mug of hot chocolate and watch Charlie on the TV.”
“Charlie?” asked the man.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” she explained.
“The old or the new version?”
“The Gene Wilder one, of course. Santa brought it.”
The man grinned.
“I’m glad you approve.” He had bundled the groceries into the buggy and was pushing it beside her as she held onto the hands of Amber and Jenna. “Sorry, I’m Isla Kennedy, and this is Amber and Jenna.”
“I’m Mark Ferguson. And I'm not a fan of movie remakes.”
“If I'm honest, I usually prefer the original versions too. Are you just here for the holidays?”
“Yes, I’m visiting relatives. They don’t know I’m here yet. I’m going to surprise them on... I can’t remember the word you use for New Year’s Eve,” he finished with a grimace.”
“That’s it. I’m going to first foot them.”
“I’m sure they’ll love that.”
“Are you visiting?”
“Kind of. I’m getting my life back together and my friend offered me a holiday cottage since it’s off season. I just needed to get away from the city and... well, a few other things.”
“I guess we all need to get away at times,” he mused.
“Well, here we are.” She indicated the door of the cottage she was staying in. Her friend, Fiona MacNeil had arranged for her to stay here. Her father-in-law was the laird and had agreed to allow Isla to stay in the holiday cottage until the tourist season started up again.
“I’ll help you in, and then I’ll leave you in peace,” Mark offered.
“Thank you.” She fished in the pockets of her anorak for the keys as Jenna jumped up and down on the doorstep.
Once they were all inside, Isla bent down to undo the buttons of Amber’s coat while Jenna undid her own coat, dumped it on the floor, kicked off her Wellington boots and ran off into the living room. When Amber had her outdoor clothing off, Isla grabbed the discarded coat and hung it up, shrugging out of her own coat. She looked up at her knight in shining armour.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it. Would you like to stay for coffee?”
Mark’s face broke out into a smile and he bared straight white teeth at her. He was gorgeous.
“I’d love to. Thanks.”
As they made coffee and put away the groceries, they talked about Christmas and the toys the girls had received. Then they discussed the weather.
“Is there no Mr. Kennedy in the picture?” Mark asked suddenly.
“Mr. Kennedy forfeited his place in the picture the minute he shagged his big-breasted, blonde secretary. Honestly, he knows how much I hate clichés.” Man, she sounded like a crazy, bitter old hag. She placed the kettle back on its base and gripped the countertop. “I’m sorry. My decree absolute only came through a few weeks ago and I’m still angry. Though I’m angrier that he didn’t even phone the girls on Christmas Day. Amber is young enough not to care, but Jenna kept asking for him.” She took a deep breath and fought back the tears that were prickling behind her eyes. For a few moments she stared out the window at the grey sky and the flakes of snow falling before they melted on the wet grass.
It felt so natural when he placed his large, warm hands on her shoulders and pulled her back against his strong frame.
“I shouldn’t have asked,” he said quietly. “It’s none of my business. I just didn’t want a husband coming home and thinking I was making a move on you.”
“That sounds like you’d be doing something that would make a husband jealous.” Was he flirting with her? She was so out of practice. Surely a handsome guy like him would not be interested in her. She still hadn’t lost a lot of her baby weight, her hair had been thrown up in a ponytail while it was still wet that morning and she didn’t have a scrap of make-up on.
“Not with the children around, but I’d like to return when the children are in bed and share a bottle of wine with you.” His voice was husky.