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Some Like It Scottish (Kilts and Quilts Book 3) Kindle Edition
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- Book 3 of 8 in Kilts and Quilts
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
PRAISE FOR TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE
More from Patience Griffin’s
Kilts and Quilts Series
mo chridhe (mo hree) my heart
shite (shite) expletive
burn—small river or large stream
céilidh (KAY-lee)—a party/dance
Ghillie (GIL-ee)—an attendant or guide for hunting or fishing
selkie—mythological creatures who live as seals in the ocean but shed their skin and become human on land
Twenty-six-year-old Ramsay Armstrong pulled the fishing boat alongside the dock and hollered to his oldest brother, John. “What’s so important that ye’ve called me back? I haven’t checked the north nets yet.” He threw the rope to his brother.
“I’ll take care of the damned nets.” John tied off the boat. “I have a job for you, and it can’t wait.”
“Do it yereself!” More often than not, Ramsay got stuck with the crap jobs in the family.
“I had planned to.” John ducked his head and, stepping aboard, muttered, “Maggie won’t let me.”
Ramsay grinned. “Yere wife telling you what you can and can’t do.” He pounded John on the back. “There’s the reason I’m still single, brother.”
“Nay.” John shook his head. “Ye’re an arse, Ramsay. That’s why ye’re still single. No woman would have ye.”
“So what’s this job you need done?”
John didn’t meet his eye. “It has to do with the maintenance we scheduled for the boat.”
“I thought we set enough money aside for that.”
“I thought so, too, but a revised quote came in. The price has gone up. Way up.”
“By how much?”
John shook his head.
Ramsay frowned. John never shared the actual numbers with him, always keeping him in the dark, always treating him like the babe in the family. “So what’s this have to do with the favor you want?”
“Ross and I’ll take care of the boat while ye’re doing it,” John hedged.
“Spit it out, man.” Ramsay was about to knock his brother into the drink. “What is it?”
John pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket and thrust it at him. “It’s all there. Her itinerary.”
Ramsay took it and opened the crumpled paper. The letterhead read:
Kit Woodhouse Matchmaking, Inc.
Kit Woodhouse, CEO
Real Men of Alaska Real Men of Scotland
Ramsay snapped his head up and glared at his brother. “What the crank is this? Matchmaker? From the U.S.?”
“Read on.” John busied himself with two empty buckets, but really he was avoiding Ramsay’s glare. He should be chagrined.
It was indeed a detailed itinerary—beginning with when this woman would land and her schedule for each day.
“For the next three cranking months?” Ramsay yelled. “Surely, you don’t expect me to play nursemaid for three months to some sappy matchmaker!” The word made him feel like he could breathe fire.
John hung his head. “I saw her ad for a driver on the Internet. We need the money. I thought you and Ross could run the boat for the summer and I’d put up with driving Ms. Woodhouse around. But when Maggie found out, she nearly chopped off my balls.”
“It would serve you right.” Ramsay ran his eyes down the length of the paper. “Did you never think to consult Ross and me in your scheme?”
“I’m the oldest; I make the decisions.” John acted like he had decades on Ramsay, but he was only thirty-five, nine years older than Ramsay.
Ramsay huffed. “Well, ye’ve screwed up this time. You better call it off and tell this woman we can’t do it.”
“But I signed a contract.” John’s brow furrowed as he ran a hand through his hair. “Ms. Woodhouse doesn’t care who lives up to the contract, as long as somebody does.”
Ramsay wadded the paper in his fist. “So you volunteered me.”
“Ye better get back to the house and clean up.” John started the motor. “You’ll have just enough time to get a shower, and shave, before you have to rush off to the airport.”
Ramsay considered cramming the itinerary down his brother’s throat. He stepped off the boat instead, too angry to speak. On autopilot, he loosened the line and pushed the boat away with his foot.
John shouted above the motor. “Be on your best behavior and don’t screw this up. We need the money.”
Ramsay flipped him off, and then, shaking his head, trudged off the dock.
He sure as hell wasn’t going to let John’s asinine matchmaker interfere with his own plans. In one month Ramsay intended to have enough money to buy ole man Martin’s boat. Between the odd jobs at the North Sea Valve Company and helping the surrounding farmers after he was done fishing for the day, he would have enough. One month. And dammit, if he didn’t get the old codger the money by then, the boat would be put up for auction and go for twice what Martin had agreed to.
Well, Ramsay had no intention of losing his chance to get out from under his brothers’ thumbs. He wasn’t born the youngest for nothing. He’d learned early on there’s more than one way to wiggle out of a chore. He would make short work of the matchmaker, he decided. Three days with him and the interfering ole biddy would be paying him to go back to her nice cushy life in the States, where she belonged.
* * *
Kit’s plane landed late—way late. Of course she couldn’t control the weather, but she prided herself on being prompt. She’d learned a thing or two about how to come into a remote area and set up shop. First and foremost, she had to gain the locals’ trust. Getting off on the wrong foot wouldn’t do.
After Kit deplaned and made it to the other side of the gate, there was no one there holding a sign with her name on it, no one to pick her up. She waited around a few minutes, in case whoever it was had run to the bathroom. But no one came.
“Dammit.” She marched off to baggage claim to get her luggage. After filling up a trolley, she checked one more time at the gate—no one. She pulled out her folder and found the phone number for John Armstrong. When he answered, the background noise of an engine was loud and obnoxious.
“Mr. Armstrong, I thought we agreed that someone would be here for me.”
“Och, I sent my brother Ramsay to fetch you. He left eons ago. Is he not there waiting?”
Kit looked around in vain, trying to keep her cool. “No.” She started walking, heading for the parking lot. “Do you think he might be waiting outside?”
“Hold on, lassie. I’ll give him a call.” John seemed to be struggling with something on his end, wherever he was.
Kit stopped and snatched a pen from her pocket. “Why don’t you give me his number and I’ll call him?”
“Sure.” John rattled it off. “I’m sorry about this, Ms. Woodhouse. It’s a hell of a way to start out in Scotland.”
Tell me about it. “It’s okay.”
They said goodbye and hung up.
Kit pulled her trolley outside to see if the brother waited at the curb. There wasn’t anyone. She dialed the number. As it rang, a phone in the parking lot played the song “Kryptonite.” She hung up and dialed again—“Kryptonite” played once more. Exasperated, she dragged the trolley out into the lot to hunt for the owner of the phone.
She dialed once more and followed the song to a muddy Mitsubishi Outlander SUV where the door was open and a sleeping man sat inside. He had earplugs in, an iPod on his knee, and the cell blasting “Kryptonite” beside him. She hung up and stared at him for a long minute.
He was the same type of man she’d fixed up with her East Coast socialite clients through her Alaskan operation. A real man. He wore a red plaid shirt, jeans, and black wellies. The boots were awful and she couldn’t imagine anyone wearing them anywhere beyond a fishing boat. His dark hair was long and wavy, and framed a handsome, rugged face that also sported a day-old beard. Very attractive. But definitely not her type.
She dialed again, but this time as the phone rang, she nudged him. “You’ve got a call.”
He came awake on a slow inhalation and focused a heavenly groggy smile on her. “What?”
She pointed to the seat. “Your phone is ringing. It might be important.”
“Oh.” He picked it up. “Hallo.”
She put her phone to her ear, frowning, while maintaining eye contact with him. “I’ve arrived in Inverness. I’d like to go to Gandiegow now.”
The place between his eyebrows squinched together. “Fine,” he said into the phone, a quick flush of pink on his neck. He hung up.
She gave him a curt nod, pleased she’d embarrassed him.
He frowned at her. “They said your flight wouldn’t be in until eight p.m. I came out here to rest my eyes.”
“It’s eight thirty.”
He glanced at his phone and his brows knit together again. He unfolded his tall frame from the SUV. Scrutinizing her, he leaned against the side and crossed his arms over his massive chest. The puppy-dog sweetness was gone now, replaced by a mutt who didn’t like the smell of what had been dropped in his dish. “So ye’re the matchmaker.”
She slapped a smile on her face and stuck out her hand, determined not to let this skeptic get to her. After all, he was obviously not one of the wealthy Scottish bachelors she needed to win over. “Kit Woodhouse at your service.”
He considered her hand, and for a moment, she wondered if he might not take it. Just as she was about to abandon her effort at being civil, his hand enveloped hers. It was callused and firm. Normally, she had a good read on a person in the first five seconds, male or female. But she wasn’t clear on this guy. He was gorgeous if you liked rough-hewn and unpolished, which she didn’t, but that dark gleam he gave her hinted at more.
He held her eyes hostage while he gripped her hand. “Ramsay Armstrong. Unfortunate brother to John Armstrong, who contracted services with ye.”
She dropped his hand and shifted her eyes away from his gray ones. “Why are you the unfortunate brother?” She glanced up at his face again. “Or maybe I don’t want to know.”
He shrugged. “I’m a sea lover, not a land dweller. I understand that I’m to take ye all over the Highlands by auto. To do yere job.” He was indeed unhappy with her.
“Yes, I need to fill my stables.”
“Yere what? Is it man or beast ye’re after?”
“Stables. It’s an expression. I’m after men.” Great! That hadn’t come out right. Her delayed flight had her rattled. “I need to find eligible bachelors to fill my database.”
Her phone rang; it was Donna, her office manager in Alaska. “Excuse me.”
“We’ve got a problem,” Donna yelled into the phone. “Morgan has arrived from Connecticut, but Greg, her date, can’t be found. He isn’t answering his phone, either.”
Kit’s stomach dropped. “Son of a bitch. Greg assured me he’d show up to meet her, but I had a feeling he’d go MIA. Damned bachelor.” She’d been in Scotland all of three seconds and everything was going to hell back home. And here was this Scottish brute listening in on her conversation. She turned her back to him for privacy.
“What do I tell Morgan?” Donna said, fretting. “That’s a long way to come here for nothing.”
“Tell her not to worry. She just needs to hang on. I’ll find her a man in Scotland. Tell her that I’ll take care of her flight, everything.” It would cost a pretty penny, but Kit prided herself on customer satisfaction. It took another couple of minutes, but Kit was able to calm down Donna; then she hung up.
When she turned around, Ramsay was assessing her. “Ye know, don’t ye, that what you want to do here won’t work.” He lifted one of his smug eyebrows.
“What?” She couldn’t believe her ears; he’d given voice to her biggest fear—that she wouldn’t be able to make things work here in Scotland.
Kit had gone with her gut and gotten lucky with her operation in Alaska. The single women she’d known from the country club set—before her family had been forced to exchange caviar for bologna sandwiches—tended to be quiet and romantic; she sensed that what they wanted was a “real man” with a traditional approach to relationships. So she’d foregone the lower forty-eight entirely, bypassing not just the financiers and tech millionaires but the ranchers and oilmen who sounded rugged but who were just business tycoons, and sought out men from Alaska. And she was right. Real Men had proven to be what her clients’ hearts desired.
But when it came time to expand, Kit didn’t go solely on instincts this time. She’d hired a team of consultants to figure out her next move. The consulting firm’s recommendation: Expand her Real Men operation into Scotland. The firm had a great track record, but Kit had been worried ever since that they’d gotten it wrong. She worried whether her clients really yearned for a bigger adventure in a foreign location. She worried about the Scots and their compatibility. And she worried whether her East Coast socialite clients really longed for a Highland romance like the consulting firm said they did.
Kit’s father used to say never let them see you sweat. But right now, she could use more Arrid Extra Dry. She went on the defensive with the Scot before her. “You don’t even know what I do.”
Ramsay crossed his arms over his massive chest again, a man relaxed and sure of himself. “I have a pretty clear idea. If ye think your Alaskan boys don’t like to be told what to do, what makes ye think we Scottish men will?”
The Scottish man standing in front of her may have a lot going on in the looks department, but he had a lot to learn when it came to Kit and her tenacity. “I’m very good at what I do, Mr. Armstrong.” She had a high marriage rate to prove it.
“Why are you even here?” he questioned. “If you wanted to fill yere stables, as you say, you could’ve done that with yere computer from the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard or wherever ye call home.”
She took a cleansing breath. The Martha’s Vineyard house had been auctioned off with their other homes to pay their creditors. But she wasn’t telling this brute about her family’s plunge into poverty.
She straightened her shoulders and stood as tall as her five-foot-two frame would allow. She’d endured some stubborn men before and now it looked like she would have her hands full with this one. She stood her ground with the Scotsman. “For your information, Mr. Armstrong, I do things the old-fashioned way. I interview my clients and their prospective dates in person.” It was the best way to get an accurate assessment of them. “Skype or FaceTime might be considered the face-to-face of the twenty-first century, but I believe in the personal touch.”
He raised his eyebrows as if a crude comment was forthcoming.
She put her hand up to stop him. “Computers are for storing databases, not for getting to know one another.” It was bugging her that she still hadn’t pinned down this Ramsay Armstrong. She decided it must be because he was all brawn and no brains.
He had been leaning nonchalantly against the vehicle but pushed away from it, standing to his full height. He skimmed his eyes over her, from her summer sweater to her Lee jeans, right down to her new Doc Martens.
She wasn’t intimidated. She’d learned from her Alaskan adventure to dress properly. For the weather and the culture. And the natives. It was best to try to fit in, but not to try too hard.
When he was done with his perusal, he gestured at her person like she was nothing more than a mannequin. “You don’t look like an old-fashioned kind of lass. You look to me like you saw this outfit in an outdoor magazine and ordered it online.”
“Are you trying to provoke me, Mr. Armstrong?”
He shrugged. “I think what you want to do here is a crock of . . .” He stopped himself as if he’d thought better of it and stepped forward. “I don’t believe in matchmakers. People should come together naturally without the help of a third party, unless it’s the Almighty. Haven’t ye ever heard three’s a crowd?”
“All brawn, no brains,” she murmured. She wished she was taller, but her feminine stature was no match for him. He had to be six-two at least. She made sure her attitude made up for the difference. “You’re arguing against history. Matchmaking has been around since the beginning of time. Look it up.”
“If ye’re so good at this, then how would you match me?” he challenged.
She maintained eye contact. She was going to enjoy putting this arrogant cave dweller in his place.
“First, we’d have to discuss your assets. Do you own a manor house or an estate?”
“What do you mean not exactly?” It felt good to wipe that smirk off his face.
“I live in a cottage.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Is it at least a nice-sized cottage?”
“It’s the house I grew up in.”
“You still live with your parents?” He didn’t look like he’d failed to launch.
“I live with my brother Ross. And of course John, and his wife, Maggie, and their boy, Dand.”
Good grief. “That’s quite a crew.” She bet they were stepping all over one another. But back to the business at hand. She tilted her head back, trying to stare him down. “What about other property? A ranch? Any sheep? Cattle?”
He looked riled, his neck and chest creeping with red. “My brothers and I own a fishing boat.”
She shook her head. “Maybe if you owned a fleet of boats. Sorry, Mr. Armstrong. I won’t find you a bride.”
His eyes narrowed. Brawn looked like he was barely holding back a few choice obscenities.
In Alaska, she didn’t require the bachelors to possess major assets, just a decent job, but she was changing it up here in the Highlands. She was tired of running interference between her socialite clients and their parents. It had been a monumental task, trying to prove to the girls’ families that a man’s substance didn’t lie in his wallet. Kit was done with that hassle. She couldn’t change the paradigm for Alaska, but she sure as hell could require her bachelors here in Scotland to have money, or property, or both. Mummy and Daddy would feel better about losing their daughters to the wilds of Scotland if their offspring were matched with millionaires.
The great hulk of a Scotsman before her stood rod-straight, a warrior ready to make a scene here in the parking lot.
He could bluster all he wanted. Tough guys like him needed to be brought down a notch. Especially if they were attacking how she made her living.
She’d gone on the offensive; now, it was time to help the poor lout out. “I have a list of Marriageable Attributes. You should check out my website.” She reached in her bag, pulled out a business card, and slid it into the front pocket of his flannel shirt, patting it. She couldn’t help but notice he was rock solid, all muscle under her hand. She had the urge to pat a little longer. “Maybe after you review the list on my site, you can work at being a better catch.”
He caught her hand before she’d fully withdrawn it, turning the tables on her. He oozed with latent sexuality. “I do fine all on my own. I don’t need help to find a mate,” he drawled.
The word mate hung in the air. He let go of her hand.
Gads. Her imagination raced into overdrive. She was either extremely jet-lagged or she needed a date herself. She hadn’t been out in ages; she was too busy bringing other couples together. From the beginning, she’d drawn a clear line. She chose rugged men for her clients and picked Wall Street suits for herself. That way she was never tempted to mix business with pleasure. She hadn’t found a man with the qualities she wanted, but one day she would. As it turned out, her greatest gift—reading people—was also her biggest impediment to finding someone for herself. The stockbrokers and bankers she’d dated so far had only had money and sex on their minds, and little else.
Ramsay grabbed her bags. “Let’s get going.”
She glanced up and saw his muscles ripple under his shirt. Her breath caught. Yeah, I need a date.
He opened the back and threw in her luggage with brute force. She started to protest, but inhaled deeply instead. It would be best to choose her battles with this one. Otherwise, it would be a long, long summer.
She slid into the passenger seat and chewed her lower lip. There was a subject she had to broach with him and he wouldn’t like it. But it was important. She turned toward him in the seat.
“Ramsay,” he corrected.
“Ramsay, then.” She paused. “We need to talk about my expectations.” She scanned his person one more time, really hating those black wellies of his. She steeled herself for what had to be said. “The bachelors I’ve selected to interview are men of substance.”
Almost imperceptibly, he shook his head as if he was barely tolerating her. “Don’t confuse substance with worldly goods; they’re two different things, lassie. Ye mean men of wealth, power, and standing.”
It wouldn’t do any good to try to convince him that she knew the difference. Hell, she’d put it in her business plan. “Yes, I’m speaking of wealth, power, and standing, as you put it.”
“Then what’s the rub?” he asked.
“I was wondering if you might reconsider your attire. Wear something a bit more upscale.”
He glanced at her with raised eyebrows. “Ye have a problem with me being a fisherman?”
“No, of course not. It’s an honorable profession.” She meant it but hurried on. “There’s nothing wrong with being casual and comfortable.” She gestured toward her own clothing. “But when I interview these men, I’ll be dressed professionally.”
“I see. And since I’ll be with ye, ye’ll be wanting me to convey the right image as well.” He put his eyes back on the road and jammed the gearshift into drive. “Don’t worry, lassie. I’ll be dressed the part.”
“Thank you, Ramsay. I appreciate your cooperation.”
She didn’t tell him that everything was riding on this trip. Every dime she’d made and saved. Her sister Harper’s fall tuition for graduate school. The cost of community college for her younger sister, Bridget. Kit expected she’d have to help her mother with her living expenses now that Bridget had graduated high school and her social security survivor benefits from Daddy had run out. Even Kit’s self-worth and ego were on the line. Everything. She had to make a go of it in Scotland or lose it all.
As silence filled the car, Kit gazed out the window. It was late and the sun still hung in the sky. The summer days were long in the north of Scotland, the view desolate and beautiful. The mountainous hills rose out of the earth like giants. There were few trees and she couldn’t help but compare it to the Alaskan bush with its vast forests of green. The stark landscape around her had a soothing quality, but Kit couldn’t tamp down the fear rising within her. Fear of the future and the unknown. In the past, she had never let the fear overtake her. She’d always made it through the tough times and she would again this time, too, wouldn’t she?
She must’ve dozed off because she came awake abruptly as Ramsay brought the vehicle to a stop.
“Are we here?” She looked out and saw the roadblock in front of them.
“Nay. But we’ll be there shortly.” He shifted into four-wheel drive and drove the car down an embankment.
Warning bells should’ve gone off, but the man in the seat next to her must’ve instilled a walloping dollop of trust. Or she was too exhausted to be concerned at his sudden foray into off-road four-wheeling. “So do you want to share with me what’s going on?”
“The road into Gandiegow is being repaved. We’ll have to go in by boat.”
Dread swamped Kit and she twisted her hands in her lap. She hadn’t been on a boat since her father died. “Is there another way?” She hated how weak her voice sounded.
He glanced over at her. “Ye have my word that ye’ll be safe.”
She nodded. He couldn’t know what this did to her. As they rose over the last dune, the water appeared. Her father’s grave.
Ramsay pulled the SUV to the edge. “There it is.”
A wooden dinghy was tied to a post with a long rope that drooped in the mud. “Low tide, I presume?” She looked down at her new Doc Martens, not happy to have to break them in this way. But more importantly, did Ramsay have a life vest?
Her father used to call her trout because she was a born swimmer. But that was before.
Ramsay turned off the car and shoved the keys in the glove box. He jumped out and retrieved her bags.
They walked through the grass to the edge of the mud. There Kit hesitated.
Ramsay shook his head and muttered, “New shoes.” He dropped her bags, scooped her up, and began trudging toward the boat like she was nothing more than a piece of luggage.
She gasped. “What are you doing?” She clung to him for dear life as he walked her toward the water. “Stop!”
“Ye’re lucky I don’t sling you over my shoulder.” His wellies hit the water and he held her higher, making sure she didn’t get wet.
She could only stare into his determined face, forcing herself to calm down, focusing on his chiseled features, weathered from the sun and wind. His solid arms and shoulders made her feel safe, reassured he wouldn’t drop her.
She relaxed just enough to get why he wore the wellies.
Whatever lingering thought she’d had that he’d behaved gallantly slipped away as he none too gently deposited her in the boat. She had to grab the gunwale to keep from falling on her butt.
As he waded back to shore for her bags, she scrambled for the life jacket stored under her seat and quickly secured it around her, buckling it into place. She ignored that it was wet.
He frowned at her in the life vest for a long second before putting her bags in the boat. She didn’t care if he thought she was a chicken or not.
He untied the rope from the post and looped it to the front of the dinghy before climbing in next to the motor. “You better hold on.” He pulled the rip cord and they were off.
Thank God the ocean was calm tonight or else she might’ve flung herself at him for a stronghold as they bounced through the water. She’d never been afraid of the ocean as a little girl on her father’s yacht. How times had changed. How she’d changed. Just another example of what she’d been reduced to.
As the boat zipped through the water, spray shot up, lightly misting her face. She turned back to look at the Scot.
He was the picture of serenity, his face gazing toward the setting sun. He looked like he owned the ocean around him, as if perhaps he were a relative of Horatio Hornblower or the nephew of Poseidon. He did look like a Greek god—well, a Scottish god anyway.
Even though it was after ten at night, the orange sky filled the expanse. A fishing boat was anchored just to the right of the white sun that rested on the edge of the earth. Everything shimmered with color. As they rounded the corner, she caught her first sight of the village. For a second, she forgot how unforgiving the sea could be as the scene before her stole her breath away. Arcing around the cove, idyllic cottages painted blue, red, and white nestled like a row of children’s blocks. The town glowed from the setting sun, making Gandiegow look alive, a beautiful sleeping beast, nestled under the ancient bluffs.
Ramsay steered toward the dock, dropping the motor into idle. “Are you ready for Gandiegow?” He cut the power and tied them off.
She stood and climbed out on her own, proving she didn’t need or want his help this time. She removed the life vest and set it on the seat.
He grabbed the suitcases but stopped. “Oh, ye won’t be staying at the Thistle Glen Lodge, the quilting dormitory.” He looked as if he was baiting her. “Your arrangements have changed. Ye’re now at The Fisherman.”
He had a gleam in his eye.
She didn’t know what he was up to, if anything. But she could give as good as she got. She turned the tables on him. “But I thought I was staying at your place. That’s what your brother John told me.”
And as expected, Ramsay’s eyes bugged, looking horrified to have her shacked up with him and his family.
She smiled at him sweetly. “You do have room for me at your spacious cottage, don’t you?”
“I— I . . .” The poor guy’s mouth opened and shut like a fish out of water.
She had mercy on him. “Breathe, Ramsay. The Fisherman will be fine. I’m up for anything.” She’d even slept a few nights in a tent in Alaska.
“Aye. Right.” Relief spread across his face. He stopped in front of a two-story stone building reverberating with noise and turned to her, that glint in his eyes restored. “You do know, don’t ye, that The Fisherman is a pub?”
“Sure.” She hadn’t known until that moment, but she certainly wasn’t going to let on now. She walked ahead of him, worrying if she’d get any sleep with it being so loud. The Alaskan bush had been quiet, and once she’d gotten over the worry of being mauled by a bear, she’d slept like a baby. A baby with one eye open all night.
Before going in, she glanced up at the building one more time. Hopefully, there was a separate bedroom upstairs and she wouldn’t be relegated to sleeping behind the bar. She opened the door to the establishment and went inside.
The place was packed with wall-to-wall Scots, mostly men. There were all different sizes of them, from the tall, lean types, to the boxy weightlifters, to a few beer guts. But every one of them was as rugged as the bluffs that hung over the town.
Ramsay put his hand on her shoulder and shouted to her. “The steps leading upstairs are over there behind the bar.” He pointed to where a very buxom blond woman was pouring shots. “That’s Bonnie.”
Bonnie had a lot going for her—a tight T-shirt stretched over double-Ds, red gloss on full lips, and men gathered around her like flies to bait.
“I’ll introduce you,” he said.
But when they stood before Bonnie, Kit could see the other woman’s hackles go up and her talons come out. She sneered while Ramsay made the introductions; the man didn’t have a clue. Ramsay stood so close to Kit that she could feel the heat coming off him. And whenever anyone tried to squeeze by, he bumped into her back. None of which Bonnie missed. She looked ready to start a catfight, but this kitten wasn’t interested in making trouble.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Kit presented her hand.
“I don’t think so.” Bonnie grabbed a bottle, poured a dram, and shoved it toward Ramsay, all the while keeping her eyes on Kit. “I hear from Maggie that ye’ve come to steal away all of our men.” The other barmaid gave a commiserating nod.
Hell. Kit had hoped to head off some of this posturing. She had planned to offer her services pro bono to a few local women, to build up goodwill in the community. Too late now. Even the sweet-faced young woman nursing a Coke at the end of the bar was giving her the evil eye.
Ramsay leaned down and spoke in Kit’s ear. “Just so ye know, Maggie’s my sister-in-law. John’s wife. She has two younger sisters. Unmarried sisters, Sinnie and Rowena.”
Kit got it. Gandiegow wasn’t going to turn out to be smooth sailing—by any stretch of the imagination.
Kit hollered back to Ramsay. “I’m ready to go to bed.”
There was a sudden hush, her declaration hanging in the air. Bonnie set the bottle down so hard on the bar that the drinks in front of the two customers in either direction shook.
With her face hot, Kit stammered, “I mean, I’m tired. I want to get settled in.”
Ramsay, unfortunately, rested his hand on the small of her back and guided her. Was he crazy? Bonnie looked ready to dive over the bar after her.
As they made their way to the narrow steps leading up, Kit wondered if it was too late to call John and get the other brother to drive Kit around Scotland. Ramsay was clueless. And his warm hand on her back wasn’t helping.
Bonnie’s eyes followed them and her scowl deepened. “Watch yereself, Ramsay,” she said.
But Kit was pretty sure it was directed as much at her as it was at him. She felt certain it’d only been her first glimpse of the summer to come. Gandiegow might look beautiful from the sea, but she was going to be a bitch to deal with.
Ramsay followed Kit behind the bar, toting her bags for her. Hell, Bonnie was right. He’d better watch himself. The matchmaker hadn’t turned out to be the battle-ax that he thought she’d be. She was young, spirited as a colt in spring, and gawd help him, beautiful. He tried to focus on her flaws and not her arse as he followed her up the stairs.
Kit Woodhouse believed in all that bull she was trying to sell, too. Matchmaking. Complete bollocks. But he had come up with a surefire plan to get out of this misbegotten scheme of hers. He’d surely given more forethought to his plan than the ruddy matchmaker had given to hers.
His first idea hadn’t worked—trying to talk her out of this crazy notion of hers of matchmaking here in Scotland. Of course, she hadn’t listened. But camping over the rambunctious pub would certainly change her mind. He needed her gone. Sooner rather than later.
He glanced up. Aw, hell. Those jeans. Her bum. Her hips swaying from side to side. Gawd, he had no right to enjoy her backside as much as he did. The matchmaker had fit nicely in his arms, too, as he carried her to the dinghy, her clinging to him like a barnacle. He liked that he was bigger and stronger than she was. The tough guy. The man.
Aye, he’d better watch himself.
And he’d better remember that Kit Woodhouse Matchmaker was out to ruin Ramsay’s plans. Before he’d been saddled with her, he’d been confident that he’d be able to come up with the final bit of money to buy ole man Martin’s boat in time. Ramsay could and would bust his arse to make it happen. But if he didn’t get rid of the matchmaker, his dream would be postponed once again. He resented the hell out of being stuck driving Miss Daisy. He would just have to make her miserable enough to get her to leave.
At the top of the stairs, he reached around her and opened the door to the room. “The loo is down the hall.” He dropped her bags inside and turned to leave.
She was right there, her five-foot-barely-nothing blocking his path.
He tried to step around her.
“Wait.” She dropped a hand to his chest like that would stop him.
The earnestness in her eyes did, though.
“We need to go over my itinerary first. Before we do anything.”
“I’ll come for ye at eight.”
A skirl of a bagpipe broke out downstairs. Right on time, just as arranged.
She slumped. “Can you make it nine?”
“At nine the day’s half gone to us fishermen.”
She rolled her eyes. But then a roar of laughter drifted up the stairs as well.
He grinned. The plan is working. “Suit yereself on the time we leave.” He didn’t say good night but left her to settle in on her own. On the way downstairs he tried to put her worried eyes out of his mind. He had to, or else he wouldn’t be able to do what needed to be done next.
As he hit the bottom step, Bonnie gave him a look. She’d probably been counting the seconds he’d been upstairs with the intruder.
Ramsay motioned to Coll, who had just stepped out of the kitchen. “Pour me a dram, will ye?” He sure as hell didn’t want Bonnie fixing him a drink. It would give her another chance to rag on him. The bagpiper ended his tune, which gave Ramsay an opportunity to shout to the room, “How about a dance contest?”
Everyone whooped and hollered, exactly as he’d hoped.
Ross, his brother, pounded him on the back and yelled over the noise. “Ye’ll not beat me at the sword dance.”
“No,” Ramsay said. The sword dance didn’t make enough noise. “I was thinking more along the lines of clogging.” He pulled Thomas, one of the fishermen, from his barstool and set him on his feet. “Show them how it’s done.”
Thomas yanked up his brother, Lochie, as the bagpipes came to life again. The brothers stomped and shuffled to the beat as the rest of the bar patrons clapped.
Ramsay looked up at the ceiling and hoped their upstairs guest was getting an earful and a clue. He didn’t care if she wasn’t the old crone he’d expected. The matchmaker wasn’t wanted here, and the sooner she realized that and left, the better.
* * *
Kit lay in the dark with her pillow clamped on her head as the noise reverberated through her overexhausted body and traveled up until it banged against her temples. If she didn’t know any better, she would’ve sworn that the later it got, the noisier it became downstairs. Didn’t these people sleep?
Something else bugged her. Ramsay’s presence remained in the room, although he’d only stepped in far enough and long enough to drop her bags and run. But he was still here all the same.
It wasn’t easy being a sex-deprived matchmaker.
He wasn’t her type anyway. She wanted smooth, sophisticated security from a man. She didn’t need sexy and rugged. She had plans. Big plans. In ten years’ time, she’d be done paying for her sisters’ educations and would’ve bought back their home, the sprawling estate that had been in her father’s family for generations. Kit would not veer from her goals, not even for a little self-indulgent fun. Like having a fling with her red-blooded polar opposite—Ramsay. Besides, he was her chauffeur. The number-one rule in matchmaking: Never mix business with pleasure.
The phone beside her vibrated. She shoved the pillow off her face and checked her e-mail.
“Crap.” Something had come up with Art MacKay, one of her potential bachelors. He could only meet first thing tomorrow morning, and then he was going to be away for a while. She’d have to rearrange her schedule, but she’d make this work; Art was one of the wealthiest men on her list.
She wrote him back with a time to meet and hoped Ramsay was a go-with-the-flow type of person. If he wasn’t, he’d better learn to be. Matchmaking was a fluid business, and they’d be stuck together for the next three months.
The noise downstairs thundered on. She climbed out of bed, dug an eye mask out of her carry-on bag, and then wrapped the pillow around her ears. After she snuggled under the quilt and right before she drifted off to sleep, she had the strangest thought: She couldn’t have a fling with Ramsay—this bed wasn’t big enough for the both of them.
* * *
Kit heard knocking and her name. But everything was black. She heard the door open.
“Wake up, Your Majesty,” a very male voice said. Then a prolonged, “Ummm.”
She pulled the mask from her eyes. Ramsay stood in the doorway, holding a tray. But his eyes weren’t on her face. He was focusing on her chest.
“What?” She glanced down. “Ohmigod.” She snatched the edge of the sheet and yanked it over herself. Her nightgown had shifted to the side and one breast was nearly exposed.
“What are you doing in my room?” Her pitch sounded close to a wail.
The rogue leaned in the doorway and shrugged, grinning at her embarrassment. “It’s ten. In my defense, I did knock and call out first. Then I tried to call you. Did you shut your phone off? It went straight to voice mail.”
“Crap. My battery. I should’ve plugged in the phone last night.”
He smiled at her expletive and walked toward her with the tray. “Breakfast?”
She pulled the sheet up farther. “Out.”
He set the tray on the nightstand.
“What is that smell?” She glared at the offending tray.
“Dig in. It’s pickled herring and haggis. A right proper Scottish breakfast.” He took one of the mugs from her tray and sipped.
Her stomach came close to revolting. “Can you take the tray out of here? And can you leave, too?” She grabbed the other mug with her free hand.
Ramsay leaned back against the wall again, as if he was just settling in. “I looked at your detailed itinerary. There’s one appointment you don’t have on there.”
She took a drink of tea, then set the mug back down. The food looked inedible. “The plans for today have changed anyway.”
“Aye, they have.”
What was he talking about? He didn’t know about Art and the rearranged schedule.
Ramsay smirked at her. “The quilting ladies are gathered at Quilting Central. They want to meet you right away.”
“I’d like to, but there’s no time. We have more pressing matters. This morning is our only chance to catch Art MacKay before he leaves.”
Ramsay didn’t look happy to catch anyone. “Lass, have you not heard the storm raging outside?”
No, she hadn’t. She was barely awake. She’d hardly gotten any sleep. She swung toward the window, still clutching the sheet to her breasts. Rain and wind battered the window. “So?”
“It’s not safe to take the dinghy to the SUV.”
“Oh.” She’d been reduced to monosyllables.
“Now, get dressed.” He eyed her like he expected her to climb from the bed and dress while he watched. “Ye don’t want to get on the wrong side of the quilters.” He gave her a devilish grin like he definitely knew something that she didn’t. He remained there.
“I’m not getting out of this bed until you vacate the premises.” She clutched the sheet like a lifeline.
“Oh. Aye. Yes.” He turned for the door, but then spun back around like he remembered something. He stopped and scanned down the length of her sheet. By the smile on his face he looked as if he was imagining all sorts of wicked things.
“What is it, Ramsay?” she said with exaggerated patience.
He lazily brought his gaze back up to her face. “That sheet won’t do. Ye’ll give the wrong impression. Make sure ye’re dressed appropriately. Something more professional than what you have on now.”
That’s when it registered what he was wearing and she dropped her death grip on her sheet. Up top, he had on a crisp white long-sleeved T-shirt pushed up to the elbows. Down below, he sported a khaki-colored utility kilt. A kilt. She looked farther down to a nice set of knees and heavenly muscular calves. On his feet he wore army boots and thick black socks. Holy smokes. He looked even more masculine today than yesterday. How could that be possible? If she was being honest with herself, it kind of took her breath away.
Maybe kilt should be added to her must-have list for the Scottish bachelors. Hell, all of her bachelors.
She straightened her shoulders, feeling vulnerable while he towered over her. “That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I asked you to ratchet up your attire.”
“Oh?” He looked down at himself, seeming perfectly puzzled and looking as innocent as the mug in his hand.
She knew he was messing with her.
Then understanding dawned on his rugged features. “I know the problem. I forgot the best part.” He set the mug on the floor and pulled a cap from his back waistband, slipping it on his head. It was a chauffeur’s hat. And he looked absolutely ridiculous in it.
She laughed. “Lose the hat and you’ll be fine.”
He smiled back, and she liked it. Maybe a little too much.
“Now, shoo, so I can get dressed.”
For a second he stood there, grinning, like he wouldn’t leave for all the sheep in Scotland.
“Out,” she commanded again.
“Okay, okay. Whatever you say, boss. You American lasses sure like to tell men what to do.” Ramsay pulled the door closed behind him.
“You forgot this blasted tray.”
But he was gone. She took the tray and set it outside her door. She found her adapter, plugged in her phone, and wrote Art MacKay an explanation and an apology. She grabbed a quick shower and did exactly what Ramsay suggested—dressed professionally for the village quilters in a black tailored pantsuit. She grabbed her day planner, shoved it into her waterproof carrying case, and headed downstairs with the awful tray.
Ramsay stood when she came out of the kitchen—her breakfast now deposited in the trash. He picked up his rain slicker and headed toward the door.
“Wait.” She grabbed his arm—one of the strong arms that had carried her over the water last night. “Is there a store in town where I can buy a pair of wellies, too?” She shivered—with what might have been regret. With her own wellies, she would have no excuse to cling to him again.
“Aye, ye’re right. I can’t be lugging ye back and forth from the boat. I think ye hurt my back.” He rubbed his backside like he was in terrible pain.
She rolled her eyes. “Poor, fragile, wee man.”
He shoved his arms into his slicker. “You don’t have time right now to shop, but the General Store has them. I’ll point it out on the way.”
She pulled the hood up on her trench coat. From the sound of the storm, they were going to get wet.
When she stepped outside, she found she was wrong. She wasn’t going to get wet; she was going to get drenched. A gust of wind hit her and she fell back into Ramsay.
“Whoa.” His arms came around her and he spoke in her ear—loud enough to be heard over the storm and close enough that it made her shiver. “I’ve got you. But ye have to be careful, lass.”
“I can see that.” The town sat right on the water’s edge with the retaining wall serving as the boardwalk. With the sea churning violently, the waves crashed onto the walkway. One misstep or rogue wave, and a girl could be pulled out to sea before she had the chance to say Ramsay, save me.
He righted her but held on to her arms as he guided her down the boardwalk through the village. She wanted to ask him about the quilting ladies, to prepare herself, but the gale-force wind prevented it. They passed several buildings, but she didn’t get a good look at their facades. Her whole focus was set on getting to safety. It would’ve been smarter to have stayed at the pub.
Ramsay stopped her in front of a building. “Here.” Still holding her arm, he reached around and opened the door. The wind caught it and it flew open. Ramsay pulled her back into his hard chest again. She felt a little like a ragdoll, the way he manhandled her. But for some reason, she really didn’t mind. He guided her inside, pulling the door closed behind him.
Relief swept over her that they’d made it through that harrowing experience. She pushed her hood back, expecting to see a few elderly women waiting. But in the very large open room filled with tables and sewing machines was a crowd, both young and old, men and women alike. Was the whole damned town here? The room went silent. She turned to Ramsay, questioning him with her eyes.
He shrugged, looking too innocent. He reminded her of Bridget, her youngest sister, when she was up to no good. Kit wondered if he’d arranged for all these people to be here. And by the scowls on their faces, this wasn’t a pleasant meet-and-greet.
Ramsay pushed her toward them with a light shove, but she felt like he was throwing her to the Scottish wolves. She could’ve sworn she heard him say good luck under his breath.
Stalling, she unzipped her coat and slipped out of it, trying to buoy herself before speaking. She smiled at the crowd. “That’s some storm, huh?”
They didn’t say a word but looked at her as if she were a caged creature for them to gawk at before they started poking her with sticks.
“Hi, everyone.” She put her hand up in salutation. “I’m Kit Woodhouse.”
Bonnie stood and slammed her hands on her hips. “We all know who you are.”
Not you again.
Ms. Big Boobs stuck out her chest. “They all know, too, and why you’ve come. To steal our men.”
“Aye,” said an anonymous female voice from the crowd.
“Steal them and give them away to American lasses,” Bonnie corrected.
The crowd grumbled.
An old woman, a few inches shorter than Kit, and older than Old Mother Hubbard, stood up and lumbered over to her. “I’m Deydie McCracken. A quilter here.” And apparently one of the town’s elders. By the scowl on the old woman’s face, she wasn’t here to welcome Kit. She looked ready to forcibly pitch Kit back out into the storm.
Deydie positioned herself in Kit’s space, delivering the fiercest glare she’d ever experienced. Up close and too personal. “We want to know what your intentions are with the lads of Gandiegow.”
Kit opened her mouth but didn’t get to answer.
Deydie shifted to address the group. “We all know that our village is male-heavy. There aren’t enough lasses to go around.”
Another woman stood. She had piercing blue eyes and long dark hair, which was plaited into a braid slung over her shoulder. “But we still have single women here. Good girls like my sisters.” She motioned to the two beet-red women beside her. “Why should we let her bring more women to our town?” She pointed at Kit.
Ramsay leaned over her shoulder and whispered into her ear. “That’s Maggie, John’s wife. My sister by marriage.”
Deydie cleared her throat. “It wouldn’t hurt to bring fresh blood into the village.”
“Aye,” said several male voices from the back of the room. They had to be the fishermen of the town, gathered at the back wall, all wearing those ugly, but necessary, black wellies.
Deydie spun on Kit but kept her voice loud enough for everyone to hear. “But if ye bring these lasses to Gandiegow, and I remind ye that you haven’t been given permission to do such a thing, then those girls would be expected to raise their bairns here amongst us. We’ll not be letting ye take our lads away to America with you. Do ye hear?”
Several of the older women nodded their heads in agreement. Bonnie gave a loud harrumph. Maggie looked nonplussed and her sisters looked defeated.
This is a nightmare. Kit moved closer to the crowd, though facing the storm outside seemed the safer choice.
As alienated as she felt, she wanted to tell them she’d come in peace. Nothing like this had happened in Alaska. There had been a few hardheaded bachelors, but never a community ready to crucify her for just pulling into town. She better do something before the lynching began.
She nodded to Deydie and put her hand up to get their attention. “I assure you, your concerns are unfounded.” She made certain to give Bonnie and Maggie eye contact. “I have no plans to take any of your men away from Gandiegow. In fact, I won’t be pairing them with any of my clients from the U.S.”
“What?” said one of the fishermen from the back wall. Indeed, the fishermen looked ready to rebel. There was a low-pitched rumble as they groused among themselves.
Kit held her hand up for silence. “I only want to base my operation out of Gandiegow because the town is centrally located for my recruitment needs.”
“Why?” Deydie said. “Our lads aren’t good enough for ye?”
More rumbles rolled out from the back. Even the females were getting into the heat of it. Kit wondered whether they would pull out the tar and feathers next.
A brilliant idea popped into her brain. One that should appease the majority of the crowd. She’d planned to host her mixers in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
Kit put her hand up once again. “But what I would like to do is to have my mixers right here in your town.”
“What’s a mixing?” asked Deydie.
“A mixer is where I bring the men and the women together. That is if Gandiegow can accommodate such an event.” This would be Kit’s out.
Deydie’s eyes took on a shrewd gleam. Kit got the feeling that the negotiations were just beginning. “Ye would have to make it worth our while.”
And Kit felt her checkbook being cleared of its balance as well. “What do you propose?” Reward never came without risk.
“Aye, we can accommodate this mixing thing, as ye say. We have the restaurant’s grand dining room. Right, Dominic and Claire?”
A couple in the middle of the room waved. “There’s plenty of room,” the strawberry blonde said.
“We’d be happy to cater it,” the dark-haired man beside her agreed.
“Yere American lasses can stay in one of the quilting dorms,” Deydie said.
“For a fee, of course,” Kit mumbled under her breath.
Deydie proved her wrong, though. “The lasses can stay free on one condition.”
“And that would be?”
The old woman grinned. “They would all have to sign up for a quilting retreat.”
Chapter Three--This text refers to the mass_market edition.
- File size : 1222 KB
- Publication date : July 7, 2015
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publisher : Berkley (July 7, 2015)
- Print length : 384 pages
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B00PT4IWLG
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
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- Best Sellers Rank: #387,310 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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First off, I'm a sucker for matchmaker stories, and Kit's drive to expand her business to the "real men" of Scotland is fun and intriguing. But I have to say Ramsay Armstrong won my heart from the very first chapter. Of course if you've read her other books you'll instantly recognize the Armstrong family, one of the stalwart fisherman families of Gandigow. Ramsay is the teasing quipping younger brother and I absolutely loved the byplay between him and his brothers. I enjoyed the town's involvement with the couples - Deydie and her pals at Quilting Central are a hoot.
Some Like it Scottish is not a tear-jerker like her first book. There's a lot of humor in this particular story but there's some poignant scenes as well, especially later in the book. All in all this another enjoyable read from Ms. Griffin.
is past time for return, I want a refund or a readable copy. I have enjoyed the first two books in the series.