Authors: Red L. Jameson
Tags: #Romance, #Time Travel, #Historical
Highlander of Mine
Red L. Jameson
Copyright © 2014 Lanita Beth Joramo
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he muse sisters, Erato and Clio, sat beside the deserted Scottish road, A838. The perpetual slate sky set against the steely North Sea made the picture monochromatic to say the least. But the strip of color, a luscious green grass beside the road, seemed home only to the Highlands. The sisters sipped margaritas under a huge golden beach umbrella. Lounging in wicker chairs, their feet were propped on small wicker ottomans. Clad in gold jogging suits with gold sports caps, their unruly, auburn, wavy hair stuck out at classic Greek angles. They wore gigantic, Jackie O sunglasses, proving that neither of them was there for running, especially since they were giggling nonstop and waving their lime-green drinks toward the road.
“Oh, oh, oh, there’s our girl,” Erato, the muse of romantic writing, nodded toward the direction of an approaching runner.
Clio, the muse of historical writing, narrowed her eyes to make out the feminine form in a dark jogging suit with a bouncing black ponytail. “She’s prettier than I thought.”
Erato shoved her sister’s hand with her own. “What? You think only historian geeks can be pretty? My girl, even if she is a nerdy genealogist, is very pretty.”
Clio arched a dark red brow, but rolled her lips inward to keep from smiling. Finally, she said, “We seem to have a thing for geeks, have you noticed that?”
Erato shrugged, intently watching the jogger run closer. “We’ll choose a non-academic next time. Oh! She’s almost here!”
Clio studied the human woman. High cheekbones with pink spread throughout—obviously the girl had been running hard. The woman’s dark eyes were intense, determined. Angry. Yikes. But even through the anger, Clio noticed the soft, delicate planes of her face, the plump pink lips, the way the anger seemed turned inward rather than out. The girl needed a break, but she wasn’t giving herself one.
Barely paying heed to the muses or perhaps trying hard to ignore the scene the muses created, the jogger ran by on a wildflower-scented breeze, like the Clarkia Pulchella—Pinkfairy flowers. It was a sweet, delicate smelling blossom, native to Montana and the Dakotas. It was also a hades of a lot stronger than it looked. Clio wondered if the girl was the same.
“Did you see her ass? She has such a great ass.”
Clio turned to her sister, frowning, one eyebrow seriously arched now.
Erato shrugged. “What? Like you didn’t notice?”
Clio dragged her gaze back to the runner’s behind. Narrow hips boasted a tight little fanny. All right, the girl, even if she weren’t an historian, was a hottie.
Clio inhaled deeply and patted her sister’s knee. “Time to get to work.”
Erato giggled. “I can’t wait for this
“The hell you will,” said a very male, very annoyed voice behind them.
As one, Clio and Erato turned to face the tall dark god, attired in leather leggings and a breach clout. He was muscular, his six-pack abs proving it, but it was his broad shoulders and the power through his chest that had most women swooning. It didn’t hurt that the man had a mane that hung almost to his waist and looked more like a curtain of onyx-blue silk than real hair. The sisters both bit their bottom lips, trying to curb in their lascivious grins.
“Coyote, how nice to see you here,” Clio cooed.
“In Scotland too. This is such a pleasant surprise.” Erato’s voice was wispy and beyond flirty. More in the realm of sex.
Clio glared at her sister as they fought their way to stand.
Coyote was a trickster, and the muses admired his mischievous ways. He held a hand up to the both of them. “She’s mine, and you know it. Leave her alone.”
Both the muse sisters glanced the direction of the runner.
“Actually, the laws don’t—”
Coyote raised his hand again to the sisters, halting their protests immediately.
He sighed and shook his head. “If you’re going to whirl her back in time, give her this
, it’s on my terms, understand?”
At that both Clio and Erato rushed to him, embracing the large god. He held each sister around their waists, pulling them tighter with a sly grin, as if he’d known all along his protest would actually merit their undivided attention, which was more than alluring.
“You won’t be sorry. This will be a wonderful experience for her,” Clio gushed.
“Been working out? My, what big pecs you have.” Erato’s hands spilled down Coyote’s chest to the ridges of his stomach.
Clio again glared at her sister.
Coyote laughed and soaked up the petting and sibling rivalry until it was time to go to work.
itting the wall. Hitting the wall. Damn, the wall hurt.
Fleur Anpao’s body was giving out on mile twenty-eight of her self-imposed twenty-eight
five-mile run. The jog had been beautiful with one side of road A838 so green she wondered if emeralds got their hue from the grass. The other side of the motorway, though, showed nimbostratus metal-colored clouds rolling toward her from the grim North Sea. Or what did they call the bay? Not a firth, she’d been scolded by the chatty bed and breakfast innkeeper about that. Firths were what
might call it—the word “others” had been whispered the same way cancer had been murmured in a previous conversation. Here, in the Highlands, it was a
. And Fleur wasn’t too sure how to pronounce it, even after hearing it.
She’d needed something to do on her one day off, so why not run an impromptu marathon by herself? Her body groaned, asking like a petulant teenager, Why not? Why not? I’ll give you why the hell not! It also kept repeating the mantra: Hitting the wall. Yep, her body had multiple voices, and all of them were screaming at her to stop.
Of course, she wouldn’t.
Pursing her lips, Fleur pushed beyond the point of pain. Her breath came in spastically as though she was taking in acid. That same toxin poured through her blood now, making the pumping of her legs burn.
Pound, pound, pound,
. Pound, pound, pound,
The fourth step in her jog was always more pronounced like the drums at a powwow; although, she hadn’t attended one in years. Similar to a heart’s beat, that triumphant staccato end beat always amped her juices, gave her a little more energy to finish. She saw Cave Smoo, her destination, maybe only a couple hundred yards away. God, let it be over already.
Think of something else. To my right, she thought in a flight attendant’s nasal voice, is the gloomy North Sea, waving in heavy salty air, and to the left is the rich green countryside, dotted with little houses and occasional gas station/convenience stores that sell odd things like pickled meat. Beyond the smell of brine from the ocean, she sniffed the lush green scent of—was it?—heather? Heather was purplish in color, but smelled...well, green. The thought nearly tripped her as she tried to remember the names of the vegetation here.
Concentrating on her breath, Fleur listened to her lungs shakily inhale and struggled to exhale smoothly. But it wasn’t happening. Her breath was erratic at best. Then, her brain skipped to the next discussion, as if it were shuffling songs on her iPod. She thought of the bone she’d drilled yesterday to extract DNA. It had been a tiny toe bone and hardly well preserved, so she wasn’t sure if any molecular evidence remained.
That was why she’d left Ithaca, New York and was here in Scotland. As a favor for her friend, anthropologist Dr. Rachel Bestin-Calloway, Fleur was trying her best to trace the genetic markers of the bones Rachel had excavated last year near Tongue. Since the tarsals were close to Nordic pottery, Fleur was to prove through DNA that, yes, the Norse, or Vikings, or whatever they were called now, got around. She wasn’t interested in the historic research herself, but Fleur would do almost anything for Rachel—her first real friend since she was fourteen. And Rachel’s husband, social historian and fellow PhD, Ian Calloway, had tagged along supposedly to help pass the time with Fleur and Rachel. He’d been the one to tell her the names of the different kinds of greenery, like a tour guide, when this was his first trip here too. Ah, the power of 4G could make anyone an expert.
But Fleur hadn’t found Ian and Rachel this morning, cementing her half-hearted plan to run this idiotic marathon. She shouldn’t have done it, her body screamed at her. She hadn’t had enough sleep last night. Oddly, she kept dreaming of a dog jumping on her. Only, it wasn’t any kind of dog, but a coyote. Never a good sign, her grandmother, Na, would have warned. The dreams hadn’t been the only thing that had made sleep hard to come by. The wind almost never ceased around Tongue. She’d heard it was much worse around Cape Wrath—a tidbit of information Ian had told her yesterday, reading from his smart phone. What a fitting name. Wrath. Because she felt like she was about to explode with...God, was this really anger? What the hell was she angry at? She had a great life. She made great money. She was greatly respected.
That was one of many mantras she repeated, but this one she whispered to herself when she felt so fragile she worried she might break.
Fleur’s vision blurred. Damn, it was hot. The innkeeper had said they’d been having odd weather, being so warm and all. Fleur had to agree. Even with the ominous gray clouds rolling in, it was damn-fire hot. Wow, Fleur hadn’t heard an expression like that since she’d lived in Texas. Weird to think about that right now. Well, she was probably delirious what with running too much. Wearing a black running suit as well as her black CamelBak hadn’t been her best move. Already she had her running jacket tied around her waist. Her t-shirt crumpled somewhere in the pocket of the CamelBak with her iPod and cell. The only color she wore was her expensive-as-hell athletic shoes with florescent blues and greens.
Blinking a lot helped with her hazy vision, but for some bizarre reason it made her feel as if she might cry. Fleur cleared her throat, tripped a little, then found the worn dirt path that paralleled the road for a bit and eventually dove to the shore of the
then led to the cave.
Just a little more. Just a little more. Dammit, why was this so hard? Why was life so hard?
She had no clue where that thought had come from.
Stumbling more than jogging, she was relieved there were no tourists at Cave Smoo. In fact, no one was around. Which was good, especially when considering how she’d tripped and face planted as soon as she found the sandy shore, her muscles seeming tenderized by her run. But rocks and pointy shells did not make for a comfortable place to rest. She had get up to cool down, stretch.
The tide was low, and Fleur could easily walk into the cave, although her muscles felt like taffy. Wasn’t this cavern restricted? Hadn’t Ian said something about not being able to go inside? But her too hot skin desperately needed the shade from the cavity, and she sank to her knees as a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. What the hell? She didn’t cry. She. Did. Not. Cry.
Stretching felt as if her limbs were no longer her own, and small gray dots began to float in her periphery. One of the dots moved in her line of vision, and she swore it looked like a...Shit. A coyote.
A deep male laugh echoed through the cave.
“Did you just—” she asked the shaggy, skinny canine. Her voice trembled. Her breath caught in her throat. Her heart pounded ferociously beneath her ribs. No, she’d imagined the chuckle, she told herself, trying to calm her goose bump filled skin, settle the hair standing on her arms and the jittery feeling at the nape of her neck. But as she gazed at the dog she wondered if it was smiling at her. Shaking her head, she speculated about hallucinations from severe exercise.
That was when she heard a groan. A very disappointed, as if she were the dumbest person on earth, kind of groan.
She swallowed slowly, checking the dog again. It had to be just a dog. There weren’t any coyotes in Scotland. Were there?
Feeling overwhelmingly hot, she took off her CamelBak and flung it toward the front entrance, close to a large limestone rock. But without the small backpack, a chill ran along her spine, penetrating through her skin. Too hot, now too cold—she zipped into her black jacket. Drink some water, she sluggishly reminded herself, but it was just too wonderful to sit. Suddenly, she realized she wasn’t sitting any longer. Prickles of panic perforated through her when she realized her cheek was against the sand, and she could smell the salt from it. While running, she’d pushed herself too far, a bad habit she perpetuated in other facets of her life.
The dog began to bark excitedly, but she could hardly keep her eyes open enough to gauge what he was yipping at. He jumped up and made funny little yelps, almost sounding like guffaws. Running in a tight circle a couple times, he then made an incredibly high leap straight into the air. And hovered there.
Fleur blinked. Weakly, she sat up and stared at the canine floating above ground. Then, its body shifted so the stomach flattened around a man’s dark head. On top of the man’s scalp sat the coyote’s, still looking as though it smiled. Under the coyote pelt, clad in doeskin leggings and a breach clout, a man materialized, standing on the beach, looking eerily like a long ago Lakota warrior.
It might have taken a thousand years, since time seemed to drip by like a glacier melting, but the man eventually gave her an enormous smile. Bright-as-snow teeth beamed down at her, and he chuckled again. It was deep and rugged. And altogether too real.
He strode toward her, reached down, grabbed her arm, and gently lifted her. That was very, very real—his hold on her, the warmth and strength of his fingers and calloused palm.
“Why didn’t you take a break, Fleur?” he drawled. The man spoke as if he had lived his whole life in the Badlands, on the Sioux reservation.
She wouldn’t answer him. There was no use talking to something provoked by running too hard. This was just in her mind. This was just in her mind. This was...
He shook his head slowly and guided her out of the cave. Although Fleur couldn’t see it, the sun felt calming, comforting, and no longer too hot.
“Baby girl, don’t you remember your grandma telling you running too long with no food would give you a vision?”
She breathed out a puff of relief. “That’s proof then. I’m just hallucinating. That’s all.”
Then, he really laughed. He laughed so hard he had to tilt his head back. “You wish, little girl.”
She tried to step away from him, but he held her firm.
“This can’t be real. This can’t be real. This can’t be—”
“Oh, but this
be real. This can be real. This can be real.” He mimicked her chanting. “Do those mantras really work? I mean, really? If you say it enough, it will come true? Is that what you think?”
As if he’d found a gigantic needle to pop through her skin, she felt as though she was billowing away from her corporal form.
“D-don’t—” was all she could offer to defend herself.
His face went dark. His grip tightened around her arms. The planes of his cheeks tensed and the parenthesis lines around his mouth whitened.
Suddenly his grip shifted, softened incredibly. In the span of a heartbeat, she was suddenly in his lap while he cradled her as if she were child with a skinned knee, caressing her hair from her face. Oddly, she felt consoled, but even that was too unsettling for her to wrap her head around. Rattled, she tried to pull away, push against him. He let her sit up and away from his lap, but still held her arms.
“You have Lakota blood in you,” he whispered, his eyes turned miserably sad. “You are my family. I cannot stand idly by while you are a shell of who you could be.”
She shook her head. Confusion coursed through her, making everything blurry and hurt, because she did feel something familiar about him. Familial. But the words he’d said felt like nails that kept hitting her too tender skin over and over again. She was bleeding interiorly. Maybe exteriorly too.
“This is for your own good, Fleur.”
“What?” she finally seemed to have the capacity to ask.
He looked up as two long shadows drew near. They were women. Beautiful, glowing-like-gold women with glittering turquoise eyes.
Recognition flashed through Fleur as she noted their gold running suits. They no longer wore their matching hats and larger-than-life sunglasses, but they were the twin-like women who’d sat under a giant umbrella by the side of a road as if that was a natural vacation destination. Not a beach, but the side of a nearly desolate thoroughfare. Fleur struggled to stand to run away from the man, from the strange women, from the moment. In her attempt to flee, she caught the gaze of the coyote still on top of the man’s head. Something in her snapped back in time to her grandmother warning her about, Coyote, the trickster god. The man, the god, not the pelted canine, reached out for her easily enough as if she weren’t fighting with every last ounce of her strength, and with tender but calloused hands he drew her closer to him.
He gazed deeply into her eyes. “I’ve had enough, Fleur. I want so much more for you.” Clearing his throat the way men do to counter a cry, he looked at the two women, then he slowly nodded.
“We’re giving you a
,” one of the women spoke in a hushed tone. “You’ll stay here, in the Highlands, but go back a long time ago.”
“What?” Anger surfaced for not having enough wits to ask anything other than that one useless word. But she was far too freaked to figure out many other questions. And through it all she heard...she heard a heart beat. Her own, or maybe the trickster god across from her, holding her still in the wet sand, she didn’t know. But she heard it.
“I want so much more for you,” he repeated.
“What?” Fleur heard her own voice, sounding small, almost child-like.