Authors: JoAnn Durgin
Tags: #christian Fiction
ECHOES OF EDINBURGH
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Echoes of Edinburgh
COPYRIGHT 2014 by JoAnn Durgin
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Contact Information: [email protected]
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version(R), NIV(R), Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
Cover Art by Nicola Martinez
White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC
First White Rose Edition, 2014
Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-395-7
Published in the United States of America
Thank you, Lord, for never failing to provide inspiration when I sit down to create a new story. It's my prayer that readers may experience Your abundant love as they read
Echoes of Edinburgh
For my family, as always, I could not do this without you.
For my cousins, Terry and Lyntha Eiler, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Your invaluable “insider scoop” from your many summers in Edinburgh with your photojournalism students from Ohio University enriched this book immeasurably.
For Christine Lindsay, thank you for exchanging Passport to Romance chapters and sharing ideas. Your faithful friendship, prayer support and encouragement are a blessing.
For the citizens of Scotland, I thank you for your gracious hospitality when I visited Edinburgh and Glasgow while studying abroad in London during my sophomore year of college. I eagerly anticipate visiting your charming country again one day.
“This one's for you, Daddy.”
Six months ago, who could have guessed Shelby Harmon would be standing outside a castle? Not your average, run-of-the-mill castle, either, but Edinburgh Castle. Scotland's national treasure. She breathed in the heady scent of blooming roses and soil dampened by the late morning rain. Shelby's pulse strummed faster as she followed the winding walkway. Was she crazy to travel nearly four-thousand miles to deliver an envelope containing who-knows-what to a man she'd never met? Perhaps, but a promise was a promise, especially to her dying father.
The tour guide said she'd find the man she sought somewhere on the grounds, most likely in the Castlehill Gardens. After rounding a bend behind a row of hedges, she stopped short. Hunched between multi-colored rose bushes, a middle-aged gardener was engaged in a tug-of-war with pesky weeds. Intent on his work, he grunted with the effort. Thankful he hadn't yet spied her, she stepped off the walkway, frowning as her new ballet flats sank into the earth.
When she glimpsed his profile, Shelby's breath hitched. The strong resemblance to the man in the faded photograph she'd found among her father's possessions was undeniable, the only difference being the added refinement of a quarter century. His dark hair was peppered with silver and cut military short, and his faded jeans were tucked into combat boots. The rolled sleeves of his denim work shirt revealed arms tanned a deep brownâan anomaly among the perennially fair-skinned Scottish natives.
He straightened to his full height and released a shallow groan. Sliding his hands down to his hips, he raised his face to the warmth of the emerging sun. As though sensing her scrutiny, he turned, his features a study in curiosity as he spied her.
“Please stay on the walkway, lass.” After tugging a soiled work glove from one hand, he pointed to the path. His slight brogueâhusky as if thick with the ever-present mistâwas tinged with an unmistakable Kentucky accent, an unexpected solace so far from home. He took a few slow steps toward her, favoring his right leg. As he approached, Shelby caught a glimpse of deep-set, piercing blue eyes that held a guarded wariness.
Not wanting to irritate him further, she stepped back on the walkway. “I'm sorry to interrupt your work, sir, but I'm looking for Robert Nichols from Lexington, Kentucky.”
“You've found him.” Standing a few feet away, he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes.
Shelby smiled, hoping to put them both more at ease. “I'm Shelby Harmon, Katie and Tom Harmon's daughter.”
No immediate response was forthcoming although something akin to recognition flickered in his gaze.
“My Aunt Lily told me you worked at Harmony Lane with my mom when you were teenagers. I believe you knew her as Katie McCormick?” Her professional instincts taking over, Shelby extended her hand.
Robert's stoic expression relaxed and, for a fleeting moment, reminded Shelby of her father. Gruff around the edges but softening at the mention of her mother. “Aye, I should have known. You have your mama's same honey blonde hair and bonnie blue eyes.” He removed his remaining work glove and enfolded her hand in his warm grasp. A quick glance revealed the hands of a working man with small, rough calluses. His nails were clean and neatly trimmed, and he wore no wedding band.
“It's been a long time since I've planted my feet on Kentucky bluegrass,” Robert said. “Left a big part of myself there. Kind of hard to shake it out of a man, not that I'd ever want to.” His lips curled as he released her hand. “Tommy was sweet on your mama from the time we were old enough to saddle up and ride.” He smoothed a hand over his short hair and glanced into the distance before returning his gaze to hers. “Seems fitting she ended up marrying the boss's son and living at Harmony Lane. The way I see it, Katie belonged there all along. Born to the manor.”
Shelby had expected to hear more about her father, not her mother. What
Robert's connection to her parents? Enough to bring her across the world on a personal mission?
For a half second, she considered pulling the envelope from her purse and handing it over. The promise to her father would be fulfilled, and she could return home to Chicago and her usual routine. No strings attached. End of story. “Mr. Nichols, I have something I need toâ”
They both turned. A tall, lean man with tousled blond waves rounded the corner. He was rugged with high cheekbones, healthy sun-kissed skin, a square, chiseled jaw with a shadow of stubble, and a well-formed mouthâthe latter
something she normally noticed. She estimated him to be in his late twenties to early thirties. With a black T-shirt stretched across broad shoulders, faded jeans and scuffed leather boots, he appeared an incongruous cross between a muscled surfer and an urban cowboy. Most definitely, this was a man she'd never expect to see standing in a garden outside a castle.
“Sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt.” Raising his hands, he started to back away but not before he shot a curious glance Robert's way. “I'll check on you later, Pops.”
Robert motioned to him. “No need to leave. Come meet Shelby Harmon. I knew her mama a lifetime ago when I worked at her daddy's thoroughbred farm in Kentucky. Shelby, this is Harrison Reed.”
Shelby's pulse skipped a few beats, but whether from nerves or an instant awareness of this man, she couldn't be sure. Eyes as blue-green as the lochs in the travel brochures met hers. Brilliant and intense. Intelligent. The ingrained business instinct kicked in again and she stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“You, too.” Harrison's grip was assured and self-confident, always a good trait.
Shelby opened her purse, retrieved a business card from a small engraved case, and handed it to Robert. “I'm staying at the Radisson Blu on The Royal Mile. My cell phone number is on the card. If you'd consider having lunch while I'm in Edinburgh, please give me a call.” A trace of her no-nonsense, professional tone crept into her words. Wonderful. Instead of coming across as friendly, she probably sounded like a controlling, bossy know-it-all. Not exactly the impression she'd hoped to make.
“It would seem you inherited more than your looks from Katie.” Amusement laced Robert's words. He glanced at her business card before tucking it in his front shirt pocket. “One of the top ten worldwide brokerage firms, eh? I'm sure Katie and Tommy are very proud of you, as well they should be. So, you've come all the way from Chicago. Are you in Edinburgh on business?” The charming way he pronounced
made her smile.
“No. I'm here for personal reasons.”
“Fair enough,” Robert said. “How about sharing the noon meal tomorrow?” He nudged Harrison's arm with the ease of well-worn familiarity. “I trust you're free to join us.” Robert returned his focus to her. “Provided that's all right with you, Shelby?”
“Of course.” Although she'd planned on meeting with Robert in private, why shouldn't Harrison come along? The two men obviously shared a close relationship.
“I have a meeting in the morning, but I'll make it a priority to be done before noon,” Harrison said. “Abernethy's might be fun and give Shelby an idea of some of the local flavor.”
Robert appeared pleased. “Excellent idea.”
Harrison's mesmerizing gaze met hers again. “How about I swing over to the Radisson and meet you in the lobby a few minutes before noon? It's only a five minute walk to Abernethy's from there.” His deep southern accent hinted of Alabama or perhaps Mississippi and was as distracting as everything else about this intriguing man.
“Ever been to Scotland before, lass?” Robert tugged a work glove back on one hand.
“When I was eight.” Her gaze moved to the ancient castle wall behind them. “I told Mama I was moving here to be a fairy princess and live in Edinburgh Castle forever. The rolling hills and the countryside were so lush and lovely, and the lochs were the most incredible color of blue-green I'd ever seen.” She avoided glancing at Harrison since his eyes brought to mind that very thing. As it was, his smile thawed her more with each passing moment. “And sheep,” she said, feeling silly. “Lots of sheep.”
Harrison chuckled. “You'll find nothing's changed in that regard. How long will you be in Edinburgh, Shelby?”
“I'm not sure. At least a few days. My airline ticket says a week from Sunday.” Now she'd done it. Must be her subconscious taking over. She'd intended to return home straight away, but as a precaution, she'd cleared her schedule for a little more than a week in case she'd need to track down Robert across the Scottish moors. Thanks to her Aunt Lily, she'd discovered Robert lived in Scotland, and through the wonders of the Internet, she'd located him quite easily.
“Long enough to fall in love then,” Robert said.
Shelby snapped up her chin. “I beg your pardon?”
“I think you'll quickly fall under the charms of...Auld Reekie.” Was that pause purposeful? The corners of Robert's mouth tipped upward, making her wonder.
“What exactly is Old Reeky?”
“It's a nickname for Edinburgh,” Harrison said. “Pops is a self-appointed ambassador.”