Excerpt from If Not for Love:
Another storm is rolling in. The kind that is bitter cold and seeps into the bones. The kind I dreaded when I was a child, poor and living in an old house with no heat, and very few blankets. Though those days have long since passed, they remain in my memory.
Since moving to Inveraray two months ago, my body is slowly acclimating to the highland weather. Of course, the Aran sweaters, wool kilted skirts, cashmere socks and boots help. I had winterized my wardrobe as soon as I arrived and I now dress like a Scot instead of a tourist. I've even acquired a slight accent, which boggles my mind. Truthfully, I have never been a tourist. That term would describe someone just visiting. I'm staying.
Shivering, I turn up the thermostat and wrap a quilt around my shoulders. Murky days like this are standard and considered another part of Scotland's wintertime beauty. Bad weather doesn't stop anyone here. This is not a land for wimps.
Gazing through the cottage window, I can see him. He is out walking again, there, just along the shore of Loch Fyne. His dark auburn hair is pulled back in a ponytail, exposing his rugged features. Puffs of fog escape his lips with each breath he takes. A heavy mist sits over the loch and thick dark clouds block the sun that had only moments ago sat in a clear blue sky. The weather in the highlands is ever-changing and unpredictable, so it is best to always be prepared–something else I've learned. How I look forward to experiencing spring and summer here.
I have watched Tavish MacLachlan walk along the loch every day for two months, and every day my writer's mind comes up with another layer to add to the Scottish highlander hero of my newest short story. Oh, the story is not really about him, but physically, he definitely fits the bill when I picture the character, owning the physique of a warrior during the times of Rob Roy and William Wallace, the kilt, Aran sweater, thick socks and Ghillie boots adding an earthiness to the traditional wear.
Since learning Tavish's name from a waitress in the local pub, my fascination with the man has only increased. I keep wondering what his story is. Everyone has one, and my imagination is working overtime conjuring up one for him. Glancing over at my laptop sitting on the desk near the window, my eyes roam over the latest excerpt illuminated on the screen:
Each morning, Evan McNeal walks along the shore and thinks of his lost love. She had left him without a word, taking their children with her. His heart still pines for her and he is sure it always will. She could be anywhere, for she had kin all over Scotland.
They had shared harsh, bitter words, words he would never be able to take back. If only he could go back and relive the moments of that night. If only . . .
Pulling my eyes from the screen, I gaze down the loch a distance where he now stands, staring out over the water, his profile dulled by the mists that have thickened. A part of me suddenly doesn't like the idea of Tavish MacLachlan's heart belonging to another woman. No, I don't know him, but the thought of him pining away for someone bothers me for reasons I don't understand.
I remind myself that the story isn't really about him, he just fits the physical mold, that's all. If there is one thing we writers are good at, it's separating reality from fiction–most of the time, anyway. Totally lost in thought, I fail to notice it has started raining until the small drops transform into a heavy downpour. Peering through the rain, I spot Tavish MacLachlan. He is standing by the bench in front of my apartment.
Looking at me!
Standing with his arms folded, looking like a drowned puppy, he smiles and I smile back. He's just so adorable, and call me crazy, I open the door.
“Would you like ta come in?”
“Aye,” he calls, hurrying over the gravel road. “I thank ye kindly,” he says as I move aside for him to enter. I close the door, mentally chanting, Daft is what I am I'm daft, I'm daft, I'm daft. I look at him then. A good daft though.
After standing for a moment gawking at him like an idiot because my mind has gone completely blank, I come up with the brilliant comment of, “You're wet.”
“Aye,” he replies, a grin spreading across his face. “That, I am.” He pushes back the hair plastered against his forehead as a puddle slowly forms at his feet. “Forgive me for intrudin' and making a mess o your floor.”
“That's okay.” My brain is finally functioning again. “I'll get you a towel.” When I return from the bathroom, he slips off his sweater and I have to literally pick my chin up from off the floor as he towels off his bare chest and arms. Around six-feet-tall, his build is broad but solid, every inch of him honed muscle, his arms and legs built like tree trunks. His kilt is also soaked, but if he takes that off, I know I will have to be scraped up from the carpet. Quickly grabbing a chair from the dining table, I take his shirt and sweater and drape them over it, then place it near the heating vent to dry.
“I'll make us some chocolate.”
“Thank you,” he says.
I turn to the kitchen area before he can notice my flushed face. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Putting a kettle of water on to boil, I pull two mugs from the cupboard and spoon in the chocolate, my mind running a mile of minute as my thoughts dwell on the fact that Tavish MacLachlan is standing in my living room, behind me! The man has no idea he has been a permanent fixture in my thoughts as of late. But now that he is here, I should get to know him.
Shouldn't I? After all, here is the hero of my story. No, he isn't! Now I'm mentally arguing with myself. This is not good. I can feel his eyes on me and I fight to keep from glancing back. As heat rises up my neck, I am suddenly feeling too warm in the sweater.