"Now she's done it!" Cian Mackinnon glared at the chain across the road, furious it prevented him from driving to the castle the back way. He considered putting the vehicle in low, rev the engine until it reached high torque, then smash through the chain. His luck--it'd only mess up the front of his Range Rover. "The witch has no bloody right to stop me from using the driveway."
Aye, he could use the front entrance to Castle Dunnascaul. It'd mean backtracking several kilometers. Add to the fact, the road leading to the front door wasn't really drivable--needed grading and filling in with gravel--his mood was not cheerful. A gale loomed on the horizon. A sensible lad, he wanted no part of getting caught on the old cliff road when high winds howled like The Bansidhe.
Gillian Grant played the bitch simply because she bought into the centuries old feud between her family and his. Didn't matter she spent half her life in the States. Nor did the fact neither of them had been raised in the castle have bearing on The Troubles. He was a Mackinnon and she was ... hmm ... a bitch.
A damn sexy bitch, he admitted, but a pain in the arse when it came to the castle. What did he expect? She was a Grant. Their motto surely was Stubborn to the End. Living up to her name, she'd upped the ante by placing a chain over the back drive to prevent him from taking it.
The Mackinnon-Grant War was about to heat up.
Disgusted, he climbed out of the Rover and stomped down the winding driveway to her quaint, thatch cottage. As he neared the whitewashed, two-story structure, he saw the picture window curtain flutter. She'd been watching, expecting the confrontation when he discovered the chain.
The front door squeaked open and she stepped onto the stoop, arms crossed, a glower upon her face. If she ever stopped frowning, she'd be a damn fine woman. Neatly braided, her dark blonde hair snaked over her shoulder, around her full breast and past her hip. Always in the prim braid, he'd never seen that mass of hair loose. If just once she'd let down her hair-literally and figuratively--he feared she held the power to bewitch him until he didn't ken down from up.
From the day they'd sat in the solicitor's office and heard the will, relations between them had been anything but cordial.
The bone of contention--a five-hundred-year-old castle.
Castle Dunnascaul once belonged to Gillian's family. Once being the key here. When Bonnie Prince Charlie pulled his stunt in 1745, trying to claim the throne of Scotland for his father, Clan Grant remained Royalists. Supporting the lost cause, Gillian's branch blithely marched to their doom. Oddly, though most Mackinnons were out for Charlie--showing no better sense than the Grants--his particular sept of the Mackinnnons refused to rally to the Stuart's standard. After Culloden, Dunnascaul had been confiscated and given as a reward to Malcolm Mackinnon, his great-grandfather, thirteen odd generations back. Despite the Grants being attainted, they held tight to the burning hope one day they'd regain the castle.
Tempers cooled over the past century. Controversy again flared when Gillian's grandmother, Anne Grant, began an affair with his grandfather, David Mackinnon. Cian didn't know the story, why if they were so in love they didn't each divorce and marry, ending the feud. But no. They'd scandalized both clans, indulging in a lifelong affair. Tongues wagged for decades.
The castle's ownership became a rub once more when Anne died of pneumonia. Supposedly, David promised Anne on her deathbed Dunnascaul would return to her family on his demise. Several witnesses swore he'd vowed this. For years, the Grants waited for David to stick a spoon in the wall so the ancient castle could revert to its rightful owners.
Last month, when they met at the solicitor's for the will's reading, Gillian anticipated Dunnascaul would be hers. Shock came when they learnt it passed to Cian. Only the thatched cottage on the southern boundary was left to Anne's granddaughter. Not uttering a word of protest, and with a defiant tilt of the chin, she accepted the keys and took possession of the thatch. Since then, she'd plagued him at every turn.
"You trespass, Mackinnon." She tugged the shawl around her shoulders.
"Aye, I am. I wouldn't be troubling you, Gillian Grant, but someone foolishly put a chain across the driveway."
"It stops trespassers. You have a drive to Dunnascaul."
Cian ran his eyes over her. She was an eyeful, not some skinny model-type, but a woman with flesh shaped to please a man. Shame she looked like she'd sucked lemons. "You know what you need, Gillian Grant?"
That stubborn chin jutted higher. "Save your chauvinistic patter, Mackinnon."
"Chauvinistic, she says." He huffed. "You thought I'd say you needed a good shagging--and I won't deny that might be the source of your sourpuss moods. What I was going to say, Gillian Grant, is you need turning over my knee and given a good paddling."
She snapped, "You and what man's army?"
"I don't need assistance, lass." He stepped up on the concrete porch, invading her space. "A pleasure it'd be to demonstrate it. If you'd rather, I could help in the shagging department ... just to improve your disposition."
Gillian took a step backward, caught herself, clearly not about to let his taller frame intimidate her. Composing her face, she glared at him with regal bearing. "Shouldn't you hie yourself off. You've a wee bit of a drive back to Dunnascaul and a storm's coming."
Since it neared Winter Solstice, night came in the middle of the afternoon. It would be pitch-black before he reached the castle if he took the front drive. With the storm coming, he had no intention of navigating that kidney-busting driveway.
"You cannot close access to the road. You may have been raised as a Yank, but surely you know simple trespassing isn't a crime in Scotland."
"Only if the trespass doesn't--"
"Destroy crops, inhibit the property's regular use or invade privacy. Since I do none of those things, you cannot prevent me from using the drive."
"The driveway's mine. Your grandfather--liar that he was--left the cottage and ten acres surrounding to me. Freehold."
"I care less if the Pope blessed your Freehold. You can't stop me from using it."
She smirked. "I just did."
"Och, you shouldn't have said that, lass." He winked, then spun on his heels to head down the drive.
Over his shoulder, he saw her watching him. The smug expression fell off her face. Calling after him, she moved to the edge of the small porch. "What are you doing, Mackinnon?"
He swung around, walking backwards. "Guess you'll have to watch, lass."
"Mackinnon!" She raised her voice to carry over the rising wind.
He shrugged. "Can't hear you!" Jauntily, he jogged to his truck.
She didn't leave the stoop. She must be getting chilled, but stayed observing as he reversed the Rover until the tail backed up against the chain.
Getting out, he snagged a rope from the back and uncoiled it. Wrapping it around the chain, he then secured it about the boat hitch. Whistling, he scooted behind the wheel and shifted the Rover into gear. Watching the rope play out in the rearview mirror, he saw Gillian on the stoop, hands on her hips, furious as it grew clear he planned to yank the chain and the posts out.
Precisely what he did. Completing a U-turn, he sped down the drive to park. Hopping out, he untied her chain, then dropped it clanking at her feet. "Yours, I believe?"
"OOOooo, bloody Mackinnon!" She seethed. "I'm calling the constable."
"Go ahead, ring up Hamish Abercrombie. While you're at it, lass, tell him you limited the access. You'll end up fined."
"OOOooo, beast," she growled.
He shot back, "Vixen."
He laughed. "Witch."
Her brown eyes blinked. "Did you call me a bitch?"
"No, I called you witch."
"Why would you call me witch?"
"You must be one."
"Why would you assume that?"
"Because all I can think of doing is this." Tossing good sense to the wind, he grabbed hold of her shoulders and yanked her to him, taking her mouth with his in a bruising, no-holds-barred, mother-loving, knock-your-socks-off kiss.
He must've lost his mind! Or maybe felt surge in his blood what his grandfather felt for Gillian's grandmother all those many years.
To his surprise, Gillian kissed him back! She leaned into him, her mouth softly opening under his, as though she couldn't get close enough. Inside his skin wouldn't be close enough!
She tasted of lemon drops and rain.
Rain? It registered the sky had opened up while they stood kissing, as if neither of them wanted to stop.
His sane side said he was nuts to kiss her, even more of a fruitcake for standing in the rain when they could take a few steps into the coziness of her thatched cottage. Only, instinct warned the instant he broke the kiss, her presence of mind would return and she'd probably deck him. It'd be worth it.
Gillian stepped back, blinking tear-filled eyes. "Wh-why did you do that?"
"Seemed the thing to do." Reaching out, his thumb gently stroked the curve of her cheek. Crippled by grinding hunger, his eyes traced over her face, memorizing every line, mesmerized to the point he couldn't speak. Shrugging, he pulled his hand back to massage the centre of his chest where a tightness lodged. Off kilter, he was unsure what possessed him, other than he dreamt of kissing her for the last month--of doing a lot more than kissing her.