Selkies of Scotland
White Raven Series #3
Antique shop owner Jade Mackenzie went from mourning her mother's death to a whirlwind of mysteries, breakneck chases, and a cult of madmen trying to kill her… all while a gorgeous fireman made himself her personal bodyguard. Life got a whole lot more interesting when Aidan MacFie turned out to be a Selkie, hybrid human and ancient shapeshifting seal.
Forged in life and death circumstances, their newfound love has weathered the first storm, but an even greater danger lurks on the horizon…
Through his great-grandmother's diaries, Aidan learned of the Hunters' intent to destroy their people, believing Selkie were unholy, their hybrid offspring unnatural and evil. Just before Aidan and Jade escaped the cult leader after them, he spoke of a reaping in which the Hunters would at last wipe out the Selkies during their Great Birth, a 16-year event of multiple seal shapeshifter births that would take place in Scotland soon.
Putting their budding romance on hold is agony, yet Aidan and Jade head to MacFie Castle in Tobermory, where his uncle lives, to follow the Hunters' trail. Only by untangling the threads of Celtic folklore, aquatic shapeshifters, and the shocking overlap of their own families' histories can they hope to save the Selkie Folk. But will they be too late to avoid the mass extinction of Aidan's people by fanatics who will stop at nothing to purge the world of what they consider a threat to all humanity?
With peril around every corner, what hope do they have of sharing a happily ever after?
Release Date: December 14, 2021
Genre: Paranormal Romance
A Pink Satin Romance
Jade sipped her flute of champagne, reclining comfortably against the velvet seat cushion, and watched the pale mid-November sky fade away.
“A girl could get used to this luxury,” she sighed. It had been five weeks since their rescue and they were on their way to Scotland to visit Aidan’s family.
Aidan gave her a wink. “That’s what I like to hear!”
“I’m glad. It’s just disappointing that I wasn’t able to talk to Topusana. I was so hoping to learn more about the Comanche. I guess I’ll be investigating my Scottish side first,” she said with a sigh. “Anyway, I heard from Mary before we boarded. She has coverage at The Muse Gallery for the next couple of weeks. She volunteered to work at the antique store until I get back. She seems pretty happy to be staying at the cottage while I’m gone.”
“Yes, appears Deputy Rheinstein volunteered to continue checking in on her while we’re away. They really seemed to hit it off. I’m happy for them.”
“Paul’s a standup guy.” Aidan smiled. “I’m glad they’ve taken a liking to each other.”
“Me too. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the portrait. Mary told me the painting is back to normal. Can you believe it? The man is alone and on land again. It’s like the changes never happened.”
“Yep. It’s a relief. The portrait was really starting to creep me out. Seeing the imagery change was like watching an episode of ‘Night Gallery.’ So spooky. I guess that’s one mystery we didn’t solve. I still have no idea where the painting came from.”
“Well, at least it’s gone back to normal for now. Hopefully, it will stay that way. Maybe we’ll get some answers in Tobermory. My family is excited to have us with them for the holidays.”
“I still can’t believe we’re leaving the country.” She sighed. “I can’t wait to see your ancestral home in Scotland. Are you going to change into a kilt when we arrive?” He gave her a wink and his lopsided smile. “I’ll do whatever my lass desires.” She giggled, imagining him in formal Scottish dress.
Aidan studied her face with adoring eyes. “You’re a beauty, love.” He cupped her face, kissing her on the forehead. Afterward, he refreshed their glasses and placed the bottle back into the ice bucket. Once he handed her her drink, he raised his glass.
“I’d like to make a toast.”
She raised her glass in anticipation.
“To mysteries, adventures, and the great land of Scotland!”
They gazed into each other’s eyes and clinked their crystal flutes. Aidan squeezed next to Jade on the lounge seat and took her hand in his. They both smiled, watching Morrigan and Dougal curl up across the aisle. Their pets had become inseparable in the last five weeks, choosing to bed down together even when their owners were not.
Aidan leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I love you, Miss Mackenzie.”
“I love you, too, Mr. MacFie.”
His lips found hers while the plane bounced in the turbulence. Lightning lit up the cabin compartment. Her breath hitched as his fingers slipped down her shoulders, grazing over her waist and hips. They lingered for a moment, before clicking the seatbelt over her lap. She gazed into his warm eyes while dimples rose in the corner of his cheeks. “I’ll always keep you safe, lass. Ye have my word.” She smiled up into his brilliant blue eyes.
“I know you will, love. You always have.”
Aidan reached his arm around her shoulders while they braced for the impending storm.
Jade leaned against his powerful body, realizing she’d finally found her place.
Jade Mackenzie raced toward the pounding shore. Tears blurred her vision while she attempted to find her way through the shadows. She watched the melted wax stream over the candelabra clutched in her shaking hands. A pinpoint of light flickered in the distance. She followed the vague glow highlighting a narrow passage within the mouth of the cave. Pausing by the entrance, she hesitated. Swarms of rats scurried up the walls, fleeing from the soft candlelight. She shuddered, imagining them watching her from the damp passages. Cold sweat trickled down the small of her back and her lungs tightened in response to the frigid air. She could hear women crying, and realized time was not on her side. After saying a silent prayer, she slipped into the darkness.
* * *
Jade gasped as she woke from her nightmare. The plane struggled in the storm, while Aidan embraced her.
“It’s alright, lass. We’ve hit some turbulence, but our pilot’s the best.”
The stewardess, Mrs. Macleary, walked down the aisle with her beverage cart. Aidan and Jade both noticed her pale face and pursed lips.
A tightening sensation gripped Jade’s stomach when she approached. The middle-aged woman pushed back a lock of salt and pepper hair behind her ear with a trembling hand. She offered a tight smile, which did not reach her baby blue eyes.
“Mr. MacFie, the Captain asked to have a word with you.”
Aidan gave Jade’s hand a gentle kiss before following the stewardess back to the flight deck. When he was gone, Mrs. Macleary smiled down at Jade and took her flute. “Would you like another glass of champagne, Miss Mackenzie?”
“Yes, please.” Jade returned the smile. “Is everything alright, Mrs. Macleary? Is this kind of turbulence normal?”
“Well, dear, we do have some terrible storms over Scotland this time of year, but rest assured, our pilot is well-equipped to handle these kinds of issues. Just make sure to keep your seatbelt fastened. We may be in for a bumpy ride. I’ll be returning to my seat in a few moments. May I offer you anything else before I go?”
“Thank you. I think I’m good. The champagne is lovely. I have to admit flying is not my favorite pastime.”
The stewardess nodded. “You’ll be fine, ma’am. Just sit back and relax. You’re in good hands.”
“Thank you,” Jade said, leaning back in her seat. After Mrs. Macleary left, Jade took a sip of champagne and closed her eyes. The plane continued its rough course while she whispered a prayer for their safety.
* * *
Aidan reached the cockpit door with a feeling of unease. Once inside, he took a seat next to the captain. “Everything alright, Johnathon?”
Johnathon Green was in his mid-thirties, with dark brown eyes and a shock of red hair. He shook his head slowly, glancing down at the instrument panel. “Aidan, I asked you to come up here because we’re in trouble.”
Aidan’s brow wrinkled as he studied the captain’s profile. “What’s wrong?”
“We’ve been dealing with some challenging weather conditions for the past several hours, but that’s nothing new. Storms in this part of the world are common. The problem is with the engine. The plane’s equipment was triple checked before we left, but there’s something wrong with the navigation system. Simply put, it’s not responding well.”
Aidan’s mouth drew down in a tight line. “How serious are we talking, Johnathon?”
“I’ll be honest, it’s bad. It’s almost as if someone’s messed with the equipment right before takeoff. Look, I’m going to do everything in my power to land this thing, but you need to be ready for a rough descent. I’ll announce over the intercom when we’re getting close. Please make sure to fasten your seat belts and prepare yourselves.”
Aidan patted the pilot on the shoulder. “I have confidence you will do everything in your power to get us home.”
Johnathon gave him a strained smile, then focused on the instrument panel. “Thank you, sir.”
* * *
Jade caught Aidan’s ocean-blue gaze as he made his way down the aisle. She knew something was wrong even before he took his seat.
“What’s going on?”
Aidan hesitated a moment. She bet he was trying to explain the situation carefully without scaring her.
“The captain is expecting a rough landing.”
Her steel-grey eyes searched his face, and she swallowed. “Oh, God. That’s not good.” He reached his arm around her slender shoulder, and she closed her eyes. “I’m here, darlin’. It’s going to be alright.”
The stewardess strapped into her seat behind the flight deck and made the sign of the cross.
Lightning lit up the cabin as the plane struggled to stay on course in the torrential rains. A sudden drop in air pressure cued the release of oxygen masks. Aidan pulled one over his mouth and nose before fitting Jade’s. His fingers encircled her hand as the aircraft lost altitude.
They bumped and swayed for what felt like an eternity. When the wheels finally contacted the ground, the plane bounced and skidded over the asphalt.
Jade let out a cry as they sped over the tarmac. She felt the seatbelt pinching into her skin as she was thrust forward. Her wine flute flew across the room, shattering against the wall. Dougal and Morrigan’s eyes flashed open while the private jet bounced across the landing strip. Jade tightened her grip on the chair and said a silent prayer. When the plane finally slowed to a stop, she released her breath.
Aidan gently removed her oxygen mask, along with his own, before nuzzling her cheek. He winced at the coolness of her flesh.
“Oh, Aidan. That was terribly frightening.”
“Sorry, love.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips. “I think we’re out of the woods now.”
After several minutes passed, Captain Green made his way to the cabin to check on his guests.
Aidan removed his seatbelt and shook his hand. “That was incredible, Johnathon. You really saved the day.”
“Thank you, sir. It was a close one. We’ll need the engineers to check this plane from top to bottom once we’ve unloaded. There’s no logical reason this happened without someone messing with the control system. I’ll give the jet a complete once over, but we are probably going to want to get this officially investigated. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was foul play involved.”
Aidan nodded soberly and pulled out his cell phone, searching his contacts for their driver’s number. “Collins, we're ready for the car. Thank you. See you in a few minutes.”
Aidan slipped Jade’s woolen coat over her shoulders before putting on his own. Once they were bundled up, he took her arm and led her down the stairs and into the frigid evening. She blinked, her eyes adjusting to the bright lights surrounding the landing strip. Beyond the spacious tarmac were acres of endless fields of heather. She inhaled the aroma of the sea, feeling at home.
The distant sound of pounding surf eased her agitated mind while she waited. Moments later, a Silver Dawn Rolls-Royce pulled up and their driver opened his door. Jade blinked in astonishment, admiring the lush interior and bouquet of flowers on the seat closest to her.
Aidan reached for the colorful arrangement and handed them to Jade with a bow.
“Welcome to Scotland, lass.”
She let out her breath, gathering the gift in her arms, breathing in the fresh scent of roses and lilacs. Despite the safe landing, her hands shook when she lifted the bouquet to her nose. “Thank you, Aidan. They’re beautiful.”
He gave her a soft peck on the cheek and held the door while she climbed inside the vehicle. Dougal hopped in beside her. The Scottish terrier yawned before resting his fuzzy head on her lap. Aidan placed Morrigan’s cage next to the driver’s seat before opening his door. The white raven ruffled her pearly feathers and glanced toward the windshield with interest. Once inside, he took Jade’s hand while she leaned back against the lush interior. She sighed, enjoying the comfort of the heater.
They drove along a cobblestone road, cutting through a lush hillside. As they drew closer to the MacFie Castle, Jade noticed a receiving line of formally dressed staff awaiting their arrival. Her eyes adjusted to the muted scenery. She marveled at the lavish grounds surrounding Aidan’s ancestral home. Jade blinked in surprise, studying the rows of vintage streetlamps lining the road. It was as if they’d fallen back in time. Before she realized it, the driver parked inside the roundabout adjacent to the castle’s main entrance.
She’d tried to imagine the grandeur of the MacFie Castle many times while listening to Aidan’s detailed descriptions of his ancestors’ home. Yet, nothing could prepare her for the sheer magnitude of the estate. This reality sunk in when she noticed over two dozen staff members awaiting their arrival. She studied their pressed uniforms and serious faces.
The attending personnel were skilled in a variety of disciplines. Many had worked for the MacFie family for decades, like their families before them. Several times Aidan tried to explain his generational legacy in Tobermory, but it was only now beginning to sink in. Her boyfriend was the laird to one of the most famous castles in Scotland. She felt her stomach tighten at the thought of meeting everyone. Would they see her as just a silly American tourist out of her element? Not making a fool of herself was suddenly her top priority.
Seeming to sense her unease, Aidan slipped his arm around Jade’s tiny waist and planted a warm kiss on her rosy cheek. “I love you, Jade Mackenzie. I hope you enjoy my ancestral home. It’s an honor to have you visit, darlin’.”
“I love you, Aidan MacFie.” Jade smiled up into his vivid blue eyes. “I hope I don’t do anything to embarrass you in front of your employees.”
“There’s nothing you could do to make me feel different for ye, lass.” He chuckled, placing his large hand on her knee. He then leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You could run naked through the castle, and I’d love you all the more for it.”
“Naked?” She felt her face flush. Jade put her hand to her mouth and laughed. “That would get the staff talking.”
“That’s my bonnie lass. Your laughter is music to my ears.”
Aidan felt her body relax under his arm and smiled to himself. He knew she was nervous but understood there was nothing to worry about. He’d already spoken to his employees and instructed them on Jade’s vegan diet requirements and preferences. Many of the workers he’d known since he was a small child. They were like family, and he looked forward to seeing them again.
The grand estate towered over the sandy cliffside, like a mountainous mirage. There was an organic feeling about the castle, something she hadn’t expected when she tried to picture it back in the States. Once they’d parked, the driver rushed to Jade’s door and smiled. She thanked him before turning toward the steps of the castle. Looking up at the curious faces made her heart race. She felt a mixture of excitement and nervous energy, but she was eager to meet the staff and explore the grand home.
Aidan turned to Collins, instructing him to bring Morrigan into the first guest room on the right wing, along with Dougal.
“My pleasure, sir.”
Her brows raised, not used to being waited on.
“Oh, thank you, Mr. Collins,” Jade said. She felt Aidan’s hand graze over the small of her back as they made their way toward the reception area. She had an overwhelming sensation of slipping back in time. Men and women of various ages waited in two rows leading to the stone steps.
A woman in her early sixties was the first to address the couple. The housekeeper’s grey hair was pulled back in a tight bun. Her black and white uniform was neatly pressed. She curtsied when introduced. “Welcome, Laird MacFie. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Flannery. I’d like you to meet Jade Mackenzie.”
“Miss Mackenzie, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The middle-aged woman offered a warm smile. “We hope you enjoy your stay at MacFie Castle. It’s been my family’s honor to help manage the estate over the past two centuries.”
Jade’s grey eyes widened. “That’s wonderful! It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Flannery.”
“Thank you. If you have any special requests, I can help you night or day.”
Aidan turned toward Jade. “Mrs. Flannery oversees our kitchen and housekeeping staff. She’s an excellent manager. I can’t imagine the estate running without her.”
Mrs. Flannery’s face softened in gratitude. “Thank you for saying so, Laird MacFie.”
Jade’s mouth fell open when she heard Aidan referred to as a laird. I really have fallen back in time.
“It’s an honor to be employed by such a well-respected family. Your parents were the dearest people. God rest their souls. It’s my privilege and duty to care for the new master of the house,” Mrs. Flannery said.
“Margaret Flannery’s been with us since I was a baby. She’s more like family than an employee.”
“It’s a true pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” Jade said, making a small curtsey in return.
Mrs. Flannery smiled in surprise and gave Aidan an approving look.
“Please let me know if I can assist you in any way during your stay. It’s our aim to make your visit as comfortable as possible, Miss Mackenzie. My daughter is newly apprenticed. She’ll be helping you with setting up your room tonight,” she said with a proud smile.
Jade turned to the teenager standing by her mother’s side. The young woman curtsied, her cinnamon curls falling over her freckled face. She grinned at Aidan, soft blue eyes peeking beneath thick lashes.
“Jade Mackenzie, this is Marcail Flannery.” Aidan said.
The teenager’s smile faded when she was introduced to Jade.
“Pleasure, ma’am,” she said, just barely above a whisper.
Her mother glanced at her in surprise.
“Well, that’s a first. It’s not like my daughter to be at a loss for words.” “It’s very nice to meet you, Marcail,” Jade said, flashing a warm smile.
The young woman nodded but did not return the smile. Instead, she looked down at the ground, studying her black loafers.
Jade was puzzled by her aloofness, but didn’t have time to dwell on it. Before she realized, she was ushered down the long row of servants and introduced one after the other.
After meeting the Flannerys’, Jade was presented to their head butler, Mr. Jacob Allen. He was in his early seventies with a serious demeanor and few words. Shortly after, she met the head groomsman, Rusty O’Sullivan, and his apprentice Donavon Dunsmore. They smiled when introduced and offered their services in the stables. Jade turned to Aidan with wide eyes.
“I had no idea you owned horses!”
Aidan chuckled, enjoying her delighted expression.
“Well, it was a little surprise I was saving for ye. I know how much you love animals, darlin’.”
Jade grinned, shaking her head.
As she walked past the waiting staff, Jade tried her best to remember their names and faces. She stifled a yawn; the long flight was catching up with her. Once they’d reached the end of the introductions, Aidan led Jade toward the yett, a set of latticed iron and cherry wood doors leading to the castle entrance. The head butler, Jacob Allen, and his assistants moved to open them. She listened to the sound of scraping metal on granite, intrigued and slightly overwhelmed.
Aidan gently placed his hand against the small of Jade’s back and led her inside. Spiraling staircases swept toward the stone ceilings, while massive portraits covered every inch of the walls. Many of the paintings represented the MacFie ancestors. Jade blinked in wonder while passing through a grand parlor filled with suits of armor and ancient artifacts.
“As I mentioned before, my great-uncle rebuilt the castle in the eighteenth century. It’s a miracle they were able to recover many of the priceless relics. Several portraits were re-commissioned after the fire. By the time the castle was repaired, my great-grandmother had successfully relocated to America.”
Jade recalled the story. When she’d first heard of Aidan’s great-grandmother belonging to a non-human race called the ‘selkie folk’, she was astounded. Little did she know it was only the beginning of the mystery of the MacFie legacy. Through a collection of diaries, his great-grandmother revealed her husband, Railbert MacFie, had been murdered in a savage attack in their private garden. The castle was set aflame before his great-grandmother, Edina, escaped to her brother-in-law’s estate. He’d promised an oath to his sister-in-law to re-build the MacFie Castle and give her safe passage to the Americas. Once she arrived in the States, she was escorted to one of the uncle’s private homes, located in an established Virginia colony. The Selkie Hunters continued their search for Aidan’s great-grandmother for decades afterward. Her grandchildren eventually relocated to Monterey, California. Jade was surprised to discover her own great-grandparents worked alongside the MacFie clan in the nineteenth century, overlapping their family’s histories.
There was so much more to discover concerning his family’s rich history. Jade stifled a yawn despite her excitement. She wanted desperately to explore every inch of the castle, examine every portrait, rare antique, and nook and cranny. Sadly, her body and mind had other plans. The long trip and rocky landing had zapped her energy.
Aidan, sensing her fatigue, pressed his lips against the back of her neck. His touch sent an electric current through her body. She sighed as his hands encircled her waist. “Tired, darlin’?”
“I feel like I’m in a lovely fairytale.” Jade smiled up into his dazzling aqua-marine eyes. “I’m dying to explore your home, but I can barely keep my eyes open.”
“I’m pretty worn out myself. I arranged to have your suitcases, Morrigan, and her supplies sent up to your room. Let’s get you to bed.”
Jade held her breath when he flashed his disarming smile. The idea of Aidan joining her made her heart skip a beat. She suddenly felt wide awake. He led her to a spiraling stone staircase on the right side of the parlor, leading to the master suite. Medieval candle sconces were set along the rising walls of the castle, illuminating their path.
Once they’d reached the top of the stairs, they followed a long hallway. Several portraits and framed photographs adorned the walls, along with antique tables filled with priceless antiques. She paused next to an eighteenth-century mahogany table set beneath an ornately framed ocean-themed painting. A large Georgian vase sat atop an embroidered tablecloth. Pink roses and lilacs filled the crystal.
“Oh, Aidan. This reminds me of the bouquet and vase you gave me the day of my antique shop’s grand opening.”
“You have a good eye, lass.” He drew her in his arms, and she gazed into his loving eyes.
“It’s part of the same collection. I thought you might enjoy some fresh flowers on your arrival.”
“You’re truly the most thoughtful man I’ve ever known.”
He took her hand, then quietly led her to the end of the expansive hallway.
When they’d reached an ornate golden door, he turned a crystal doorknob. Jade found the expansive bedroom adorned with eighteenth century furniture amazing. A roaring fire sat opposite a lavish king-size bed covered by a cherrywood canopy and sheer forest-green curtains.
“This room looks fit for royalty.”
“Glad you approve, my lady. The fire should keep you nice and toasty tonight. November in Scotland is positively frigid.”
“I can imagine,” Jade said, grinning when she noticed Morrigan perching on her stand near the opposite end of the room. Her beak was hidden beneath her snowy wing.
Dougal jumped onto the comforter and thrummed his tail against the lace-covered bedding.
“Oh, Aidan...this is such a lovely room.”
“I’m glad my lass approves.”
Jaded noticed her suitcases were placed next to an ornately carved wardrobe. The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall. Marcail cleared her throat before tapping on the other side of the door. Aidan opened the partition for the young housekeeper.
“Excuse me, sir, and miss. My ma instructed me to help Miss Mackenzie unpack for the night.”
Jade looked at Aidan in confusion. “Oh, that’s very kind, but I can take care of my suitcases.”
The teenager’s baby blue eyes rested on Aidan’s while she played with a lock of her cinnamon-colored curls. Her fingers grazed over a string of pearls encircling her ivory neck.
“I've got my orders.”
Aidan smiled gently, trying to put the girl at ease.
“Marcail, you don’t have to be so formal. After all, I’ve known you and your mother for as long as I can remember. Why, I believe you were just entering kindergarten when I was a freshman in high school?”
Marcail glanced up in surprise, a slight smile on her pixie-like face.
“And I’ll never forget that little teddy bear you carried everywhere.” He ran his fingers over the back of his dark hair. “What did you call it again? Mr...”
“Mr. Fluffy Bum,” Marcail whispered. Her face flushed, recalling the memory. “I can’t believe you remember that!” She placed her dainty hands over her face, surrendering to a fit of giggles.
Jade glanced back and forth between the two and smiled. Aidan winked at his girlfriend.
“I’m happy to see you smiling again, Marcail.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said, blushing to her strawberry-blonde roots.
Once the teenager managed to stop laughing, she straightened the hem of her apron and turned toward Jade.
“Miss Mackenzie, would you like me to start unpacking your suitcases before your evening tea?”
“Oh, that’s kind, Marcail. I don’t want you to have to wait on me. I’m sure I can put my things away myself.”
“I have my orders to unpack and get you settled in for the night.” Marcail frowned, not expecting to be turned away from her duties.
Jade, sensing the girl’s distress, offered a smile. “Oh, well then, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d love the help. To tell the truth, I can barely keep my eyes open.”
“Very good, ma’am. I’ll get started right away.”
The petite maid gracefully made her way to a large cherry wood wardrobe in the corner of the room. Intricate carvings of forest creatures covered the furniture. The image recalled Jade's favorite childhood book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a stunning antique.
Jade turned to Aidan. “I don’t see your bags?”
He offered his familiar lopsided smile. “Well, lass, I have my room down the hall. I’ll be close if ye need anything.”
It was Jade’s turn to blush, realizing she’d assumed Aidan would be staying with her.
Marcail turned from the wardrobe, a hint of a smile on her face, before turning back to unpack the suitcase. It was just a moment, but it made Jade uneasy. She didn’t like the idea of being eavesdropped. She couldn’t quite place it, but something about the teenager made her apprehensive.
“Well, I should let you get comfortable, darlin’. It’s been a long day. I’m looking forward to showing you the castle tomorrow morning. If the weather permits, we can visit the garden as well,” Aidan said.
“Oh, yes. I’d love to see the garden and the rest of the castle.” Jade remembered the dream she had concerning his great-grandmother tending to her herbs and plants. She wondered if seeing the grounds would match her vision.
Aidan kissed Jade on the forehead while Dougal leaned against his boots. When he turned to leave, his pup followed.
“Don’t forget, if ye need anything at all, I’m just down the hallway.”
“Thank you.” She searched her boyfriend’s face, wondering why he didn’t want to stay in her room. He gave her hand a squeeze before leaving. Dougal followed his master out the door.
After he’d left, Jade turned her attention to Marcail. She was busy unpacking her clothes and hanging her collection of woolen sweaters snugly inside the antique wardrobe.
“Thanks again for all your help. I really appreciate it.” Jade said.
The young woman turned, nodded, but did not speak.
For the next half an hour, Jade sorted through her belongings, making herself familiar with the massive room. She discovered an attached master bathroom. Inside was a clawfoot tub with a gilded shower fixture. A white vanity covered with pink flower etchings was set in the corner. A crystal vase rested on top. Pastel-colored roses filled the container. She bent down and breathed in their sweet perfume.
“You really thought of everything, Laird MacFie,” she whispered. Sighing, she placed her beloved pewter brush and comb onto the polished surface. The set was one of her most precious antiques, an heirloom passed down through the generations. Whenever she brushed her sandy-blonde locks, she imagined her great-grandmother enduring the long trek across the Oregon Trail. In Cathy Mackenzie’s diary, Jade discovered her grandmother packed her family’s heirlooms in a hope chest before traveling out west.
After she’d finished unpacking her toiletries, she went back to the bedroom. The crackling fireplace and lovely antiques immediately made her feel at home. When the last of her dresses were hung, Marcail closed the wardrobe.
“My ma should be here with some tea in a moment. Goodnight, ma’am.”
“That sounds lovely. Thank you, Marcail.”
She watched the teenager turn to leave. When the door closed, she sighed in relief. Jade moved toward the large bay window overlooking the Atlantic. There were several rows of kerosene lamps illuminating the shore, casting soft light across the roaring waves. The view was spectacular, and her mind wandered while watching the cresting surf. She blinked in surprise when several dark forms surfaced from the cascading sea. Jade moved closer to the glass, trying to get a better look. A pair of grey seals made their way onto the sand dunes, galumphing across the beach.
More than a dozen seals were onshore by the time Jade heard a soft knock on her bedroom door. She left the mist-covered window and went to answer. Maybe Aidan changed his mind, she thought, her heart racing. She opened the door to see Mrs. Flannery waiting in the hallway. Jade flashed a welcoming smile, trying to hide her disappointment. The housekeeper wheeled in a silver serving tray, along with a polished teapot and ivory-colored teacups.
“Good evening, Miss Mackenzie. Ye must be terribly tired, poor lass. And I just heard about the airplane nearly crashing over the coast. Lord have mercy! I’ll be saying my prayers tonight for God’s divine intervention.”
Jade smiled, enjoying Mrs. Flannery’s company. The mother, unlike her daughter, was warm and talkative.
“It was a bit of a scare. I’ll make sure to take my Rosary beads tonight and give thanks.”
Mrs. Flannery searched Jade’s face to see if she was serious, looking her square in the eyes.
Satisfied, she patted her hand.
“That’s a good lass. Many brethren are leaving the Church these days. It’s nice to see there’s some devout young ladies left in this world.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Flannery. It’s a comfort for sure. My mom taught me to pray the Rosary, and it’s always given me peace when times have been difficult.”
“That’s lovely. Does your ma live in California as well?”
Jade bit her bottom lip and looked away. “No, she passed away earlier this year.”
“Poor dear.” Mrs. Flannery folded her hands together and shook her head. “I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Well, now, you just have a nice cuppa and get some rest. I’ll be by in the morning with refreshments. Laird MacFie suggested you prefer coffee in the morning. He wants you to be comfortable during your stay with us.”
“Oh, that’s thoughtful, but I wouldn’t want to make more work for you.”
“It’s no trouble at all. What do you prefer, lass? Coffee or tea first thing?”
“Well, I do love my morning coffee.” She lowered her voice. “To tell the truth, I’m a terrible grouch if I miss my daily dose.”
“I’m the same way, Miss Mackenzie! Coffee in the morning and tea in the evening. Oh, and Laird MacFie made sure to instruct us about your special vegan diet preferences,” she said with her brows raised.
“Oh, that’s perfect. Yes, I’d love a little almond or soy milk with my coffee if possible.”
“Wonderful. You should know that the master of the house made sure to set up everything to your liking. He’s a darling man. Been considerate since he was a wee lad. His parents raised him right. God bless their souls.”
Mrs. Flannery poured a steaming cup of black Scottish tea along with a splash of almond milk.
“Please,” Jade said.
She watched the steam rise as the metal spoon stirred against the porcelain cup. The faint sound of the sea echoed in the background. The housekeeper left the serving tray by the side of the bed and made her way to the door.
“Please let me know if I can be of any help during your stay, Miss Mackenzie.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Flannery. You may call me Jade if it pleases you.”
“Oh, that’s considerate, child. However, we must keep to tradition. Please have a good night, Miss Mackenzie.”
When the heavy door closed behind her, Jade moved back toward the bedroom window. A light sprinkling of rain covered the glass, and she could see the moon shining over the breakers in the distance. She looked forward to exploring the beach in the morning. Her thoughts turned to Aidan as she readied herself for bed. After slipping on a flannel pair of pink pajamas and matching slippers, she took a seat at the side of her bed and sipped her tea.
She let out a sigh, imagining Aidan down the hall. If she were honest with herself, she’d love for him to visit her bedroom in the middle of the night. Since their rescue from the Hunters, they’d confessed their love for one another. Up until the kidnapping, Aidan held back complete intimacy fearing his selkie nature would come between them. Yet, once he’d saved Jade from a near drowning, she knew nothing but love for the man. When they finally admitted their true feelings, Jade confessed she was a virgin.
Aidan’s reaction had been a combination of shock and intrigue. Since the Hunters were arrested in the States, the couple spent plenty of time together getting to know one another. And although they’d enjoyed many intimate moments, they’d yet to take their relationship to the next level. She wondered if their trip to Scotland would finally allow their love affair to fully blossom. Jade placed her teacup back onto the silver platter and made her way into her adjoining bathroom. After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she padded back to bed. She kicked off her slippers and turned off the antique lamp next to the bed. Listening to the crackling logs in the fireplace and the wind striking the thick windows, she drifted off to sleep.
* * *
Jade walked toward the glassy waves beneath the star-filled sky. Moonlight showered ribbons of light over the sea. She listened to a melody in the distance, a beautiful harmony which spoke of an ancient way of life. Selkies rose from the depths, swimming toward the mouth of the cave.
Cries of pain and laughter intermingled.
A baby cried in the darkness, and melodious voices rose in answer. In awe, she watched the great pod near the shoreline. Two raven-haired beauties galumphed toward the cave; one carried a newborn baby in her arms. The witnesses sang, their lovely voices celebrating the newest clan member. But joy turned to horror as dozens of cloaked Hunters appeared outside. They ran toward the helpless mothers with harpoons in their gloved hands. The sound of their screams followed her into the darkness.