Colin MacDowell was one jet-lagged werewolf. The trip from Scotland to Aunt Geraldine’s private island off the coast of Washington State hadn’t seemed this arduous the last time he’d made it. Apparently a seventeen-year-old pup could take more travel abuse than a thirty-two-year-old Were.
A dark-haired werewolf in human form named Knox Trevelyan had greeted Colin at SeaTac International on this balmy June afternoon and had escorted him to a private helipad. Knox operated an air taxi service, one of many businesses owned by the powerful Trevelyan pack in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
I’m really sorry about your aunt,” Knox said as he loaded Colin’s suitcase and carryon into the helicopter.
Thank you. It was a shock.” Colin was touched by the sincerity in Knox’s voice.
Colin’s Scottish aunt and her Vancouver-born mate, Henry Whittier, had avoided Trevelyan pack politics in favor of a quiet existence on their little island. Henry’s death a few years ago hadn’t made much of a stir in the local Were community, which was how Geraldine had wanted it. Colin hadn’t expected anyone to mourn Geraldine’s passing, either.
I was there when she died,” Knox said.
Yeah. Her personal assistant, Luna Reynaud, called me in the middle of the night. I flew over to the island with the best Were medical team in Seattle. They tried, but they couldn’t save her. Her heart just gave out.”
So it was you who made that emergency run?” Colin held out his hand to the pilot. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.”
Knox returned his handshake firmly. I wish we’d been in time.”
From what her lawyer said, nobody could have made it in time. But considering how they’d avoided being part of the community, you went beyond what could be expected.”
They didn’t have much of a pack mentality, but they donated generously to our environmental work.”
Colin nodded. I did know about that.”
Besides, Geraldine was a hoot. I’d pick her up every month or so for her recreational shopping trips in Seattle. Even after Henry passed away, she still loved hitting the resale shops for designer clothes and shoes.”
I’m sure she did.” The thought was bittersweet. Geraldine had specified that the contents of her closet be donated to charity, so he’d see to that while he was there. She’d willed a few pieces of jewelry to her household staff, and he’d distribute that, too.
Knox sighed. Damn shame. Well, might as well get you over there.”
Right.” Colin climbed into the small chopper. Once he was settled in, his jet-lagged brain nudged him to do the polite thing and ask how the Trevelyan pack was faring.
Quite well,” Knox replied. My father runs a tight ship, and all the various concerns, including my air taxi service, are showing healthy profits.”
Excellent.” Colin remembered another bit of disturbing Were news that he wanted to check out while he was in America. We got word over in Scotland about the Wallace pack two brothers each taking human mates. Is any of that happening in your pack?”
Not that I’ve heard. But I met Aidan and Roarke Wallace last year, and they both seem happy with their choices. Maybe taking a human mate can work in some cases.”
It seems bloody reckless to me.” Colin had used those very words the last time he’d had an argument about human-Were mating with his younger brother, Duncan.
Knox shrugged. Time will tell.”
It’s a colossal mistake.” Colin shuddered at the possibility of humans breaching the security of the Were world. Through the ages, werewolves had suffered horribly whenever humans had uncovered their existence, so secrecy was the only protection they had.
Humans could be business associates, perhaps friends, and occasionally even lovers. But they couldn’t be trusted with the knowledge that Were packs controlled much of the wealth in major cities all over the world. One Were mating with one human risked all Weres losing everything, not to mention how it would dilute the werewolf gene pool.
Then there was the issue of whether the half-breed offspring would be Were or human, something the parents wouldn’t know until their child reached puberty. Colin couldn’t imagine waiting until then to discover if he’d sired a Were or a human. He shuddered at the thought.
Knox reached for his headset. You could be right, but at this point it’s not a problem we’re dealing with in Seattle.” He turned to Colin. Ready to go?”
Yes.” Or as ready as he’d ever be. The sound of the rotor sabotaged any further conversation, and he was happy to slip back into his jet-lagged stupor. Exhaustion coupled with guilt sapped his desire for small talk.
Although he’d spent five summers on the islandfrom the age of twelve until he turned seventeenhe hadn’t been back since. What was done was done and he couldn’t change anything now, but regret weighed on his soul.
He could come up with a million excuses for why he hadn’t visited. He’d been busy earning an economics degree. Then he’d dealt with his father’s poor health, and eventually he’d taken over as laird of Glenbarra. But surely in the past fifteen years he could have spared a week or two?
Nostalgia gripped him as the chopper approached Seattle. The Space Needle rose like an exclamation mark that would forever identify the city, and would forever remind him of the day he’d spent playing tourist with Geraldine. She’d treated him to dinner in the Needle’s revolving restaurant where he’d gazed endlessly at the lights that sparkled below them like the Milky Way.
Closing his eyes, Colin leaned back against the headrest and dozed. He roused himself as the chopper veered northwest and skimmed over Puget Sound headed for the San Juans, an archipelago that included dozens of islands large and small. They all had official names on the map, but Colin had forgotten what his aunt’s island was called. Now he just thought of it as Le Floret.
On his first visit, he’d told Geraldine that the island looked like a giant clump of broccoli rising from the sea. She’d promptly declared they would call it Le Floret from now on instead of whatever boring name the map showed. She’d laughed whenever she’d told that story. She’d had a great laugh.
As Knox began the descent, wind from the spinning blades ruffled water bright as polished chrome. Colin blamed the glare for making his eyes water. Taking off his Wayfarers, he wiped away the moisture before settling the sunglasses back in place. Soon he’d walk into Whittier House, and Aunt Geraldine wouldn’t be there. That was going to be very tough.
A maverick to the end, she’d nixed the idea of a funeral. Her lawyer had read Colin her final instructions over the phone, and they were typical Geraldine. Just dump my assI mean ashesin with Henry’s and sprinkle them on Happy Hour Beach while you toast us with a very dry martini. Make sure we’re shaken, not stirred.
Then the lawyer had dropped the bombshell. Geraldine had left all her worldly possessionsthe island, the turreted, Scottish-style mansion Henry had built for her, and every valuable antique in that mansionto Colin. It was an incredibly wonderful gesture, but he wished to hell she hadn’t done it.
Much as he’d loved his irreverent aunt, he had no use for an island and an estate halfway around the world from Glenbarra. Sure, he had some fond memories of Le Floret and Whittier House, but keeping the property would be sentimental and impractical. As the new laird, he couldn’t afford to be either.
Geraldine’s lawyer had provided the name of a reputable Were real estate agent from Seattle, and Colin had contacted him before leaving Scotland. The agent would arrive the following afternoon, which would give Colin a chance to scatter the ashes and get some sleep.
That left the matter of the staff at Aunt Geraldine’s estate. That old codger Hector was still the groundskeeper, but the others had been hired since Colin had last visited. Perhaps the new owner would need them, but if not, Colin would hand the more recent hires a generous severance check and a letter of recommendation. He’d set up some sort of pension for Hector in recognition of his many years of service.
Selling a place that had meant so much to his aunt didn’t make him particularly happy. Geraldine had probably hoped that he’d cherish the estate as she had. But he couldn’t imagine flying more than twelve hours each way and dealing with an eight-hour time difference on a regular basis.
Logically, he had no choice but to unload what could become an albatross around his neck. The proceeds would bolster the MacDowell coffers, and after years of his father’s financial neglect and Duncan’s carefree lifestyle, the coffers could use some bolstering.
The rapid beat of helicopter blades vibrated the crystal chandelier over Luna Reynaud’s head and sent music and rainbows dancing through the entry hall. Tension coiled in her stomach. This Scottish laird had the power to ruin everything for her and the rest of the staff if he refused t...