Kate pulled her two suitcases, trunks ready, forward. "So, let's give it a go."
"You're sure you're ready?"
"I've been ready for a week." She smiled, barely checking her excitement. "And you know it, since I've been breathing down your neck the entire time."
She'd spent the last week having facials, pedicure, manicure, and a sea algae body wrap. She wanted to look as good as possible when she got there because she fully anticipatedMacTavish was going to be madder than hell when she showed up, especially if he had, in fact, destroyed the painting to keep her in her century. And she had a feeling that was precisely the case. Her husband wasn't a man of half-measures and he'd told her to stay.
"Do I want to know what you've got in the cases?"
Other than breathing down his neck to finish, she and Hamish had had minimal contact. She'd wanted every second of his attention and spare time focused on re-creating the portrait as soon as possible. "You should, so that you know what to do with them in case they don't go with me. Gold and jewelry in this one, which is why it weighs so much. I converted as much of my money as I could to gold and also bought up as much fine jewelry as possible." She grinned. "My contribution to the clan's migration. This case is full of antibiotics, six month birth control shots, and a couple of medical resource books. I slipped in a pair of silkpajamas , but other than that...when in Rome, do as the Romans do." She tugged at her dress beneath her heavy woolen cloak. "Are you sure this looks okay on me? Does it make me look fat?"
"You look lovely. Just like an eighteenth century chieftain's wife should look. They did a marvelous job."
She wanted to go back, desperately, and she'd take the trip any way she could get it but she was praying like hell she didn't show up naked this time. She'd contacted a costume designer before she left Atlanta and had told the woman she was participating in a period history drama. The woman had come up with a complete, historically accurate wardrobe for her. But she still thought she looked kind of hippy in the dresses. Oh, well, if she looked fat in it, hopefully all the other women in the clan looked equally heavy.
"Thankyou for everything." She hugged him. "I don't expect to see you again in this lifetime. But keep an eye out for aMacTavish . I'll be sending them to find you."
Was that a tear in his eye? "It will be a pleasure to meet your and Darach's progeny."
"And if no one shows up by next week, you know what to do?"
"Yes. The money's in a Swiss bank account and if noMacTavish comes forward with your letter to claim it, then the money's to anonymously go to fund international medical relief work."
She patted the letter on her hip. It would be given to her and Darach's children and passed through generations until two-hundred-and-sixty-two years elapsed and brought them to today. Hopefully a MacTavish , with letter in hand, would arrive to claim the inheritance she'd left in a Swiss bank account. Since no time would elapse in the present world, Hamish would see her children'schildren'schildren's children here before she'd ever had a chance to conceive in real time. Freaky thought to wrap her head around, but she liked the idea of being an eccentric, long-dead benefactress.
"It's time, Hamish. I'm ready."
She shrugged into her backpack that was much like the carry-on piece you used when you traveled by plane. The one bag that was essential in case they lost your luggage in-flight. She grabbed the handle of each monstrously large case in each hand. Hamish took her arm and gave her a gentle shove.
Much as before, she was spinning, whirling in darkness, the air rushing past her at dizzying speeds. And much as before, she opened her eyes and found herself on Darach's bed. She double-checked.Woohoo ! She wasn't naked this time.
Damn. The bags hadn't made it.
They landed on either side of the bed. Must've been the weight factor that accounted for the time delay.
"What thebluidy hell?" Darach turned from where he'd stood facing the fire.
He was beautiful. The most beautiful sight she'd ever seen...and boiling angry to boot.
"Hi." She offered a small wave. "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in."
DARACH STOOD FROZEN, drinking in the sight of Katie, his Katie, on his bed. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to kiss her endlessly or strangle her. He settled for something in between.
"What thebluidy hell are you doing here?"
Katie smiled but her green eyes held a wariness-as well they should. "Now, honey..."
"Do not try your honeyed tongue on me, youbluidy hard-headed wench." He couldn't believe she'd defied him. How could he protect her if she didn't let him? "I told you to stay home."
Her eyes flashed and she jumped up from the bed. "Me, hard-headed?" She closed the gap between them. God's tooth but she smelled good. She'd lost that conciliatory tone and stormed over to him. Next she'd be poking hisbluidy chest. "How about you try that on for size? And I couldn't stay home until I got home, you big barbarian Scot. This is my home. NotGlenagan , but where you are."Poke. "And the more I thought about it...well, good husbands are hard to find and you were coming along so nicely in the training, how could I just let you go? I'd invested too much time and energy in your training to have to start all over again."
Aye, but she was a beauty, his wife. Another thought occurred to him. "Are you with bairn?"
"No. And I think we should wait until we get to Quebec. I'm thinking seasickness is bad enough without adding morning sickness to it."
"How did you get here?" He looked at the blank spot on the wall.
"Ah, so you did destroy the painting?"Poke.
She had some nerve getting her ire up. "I just want to protect you. Your world is so much safer than this one, Katie-love."
"I didn't have a life without you there-I had an existence." Her tone softened and took on the nuance of a caress, sliding over him like warm honey. "I don't need your protection. I just need your love. Don't you understand, you daft Scot?"
Instead of another poke, she slid her hand over his chest. His body tingled all over. For the first time since he'd traveled back through the portrait and left her behind he felt alive. He kept his hands by his side. If he touched her, held her, he wasn't sure he could ever let her go.
"Aye. I do understand. That's what it's been like for me as well. But how did you come?"
"Hamish repainted the portrait." God's tooth, the lass was even comely when she smirked.
And as alive as he felt, there was naught to do but send her back to a safer place and time. "Aye. Then there is naught to stop me from having him repaint it on this end and send you back."
"Don't even try it, big boy." She linked her arms about his neck, a satisfied smile curving her mouth. "It won't work."
"It has worked before," he countered. He grasped her arms, trying to unfasten them from about his neck but she stayed fast like a stubborn exotic orchid determined to bloom on the windswept moor.
"It's worked before because need was the key. We needed one another. Now we have one another. There is no need on the other end to pull me back in time. It's a very nice portrait of you and I wouldn't mind looking at it for the rest of my life, so if you really want him to re-create it, go ahead, although I think it's going to be rather cumbersome to transport. But it's not going to make any difference as to whether I stay or go. I'm here. You're stuck with me." For good measure she jumped up and wrapped her legs around his waist with a cheeky grin.
He damn near toppled over at her surprise attack. With blinding insight, he realized Hamish had been proven right. Sometimes it mattered not what he wanted.
He caught her buttocks in his hands and the fiery heat he knew with Katie scorched through him. "What am I going to do with you Katie-love?"
"I have an idea or two I'm willing to share with you." She scattered kisses along his jaw. "You could start by tying me to the bed again."
A sense of rightness washed over him. "'Tis a nice dress you're wearing, but I preferred when you showed up naked."
She smiled up at him, her green eyes brimming with mischief and love. "I can definitely help you with that, Highlander."
HAMISH MADE ONElast round. Tonight the exhibit closed in New York. Next stop, Chicago.
Footsteps echoed on the museum's wood floor. He looked up. A couple approached.
The woman was dark. The man, by contrast, fair. Hamish had never laid eyes on either before, but a vague sense of the familiar echoed through him.
The woman hailed him from a distance. "Excuse me, sir. We're looking for Hamish."
A knowing, a moment of recognition danced down his spine. "Then you're in luck, Miss. I'm Hamish. And who might you be?"
The woman stood tall and slender, her straight short hair as black as a raven's wing, her green eyes piercing. The man, his flaxen curls brushing his broad shoulders, regarded him with eyes as dark and fathomless as a starless night. The man stepped forward. "I'm GavinMacTavish and this is my sister, Isobel. I hope you don't think us odd, but we have a letter that's been in our family and passed down for two-hundred-and-sixty-two years. It instructs us to meet you here this evening." He pulled a folded letter, ragged and weary with age, from his pocket.
Hamish's heart soared. Yes, but of course. Kate and Darach's offspring-it would be what, six, seven generations? But it was there in Gavin's breadth of shoulder and tall stature, the directness of his dark gaze. And the woman with her fearless approach and green eyes could be none other than Kate and Darach's progeny. Isobel and Gavin. Darach's mother's and brother's names, passed down through generations.
He smiled at the siblings. "No. I don't think you're odd at all. I've been hoping to meet you." He ushered them toward the door. "The museum is closing, but there's a coffee shop around the corner. I can explain the letter and I'd like to hear all about your family."
The two shared a cautious look. Isobel gave an almost imperceptible nod.
This time it was she who spoke for the two of them. "We'd be glad to join you for a coffee. But exactly who are you?"
Hamish smiled, feeling very much at ease with the man and woman who reminded him so much of Kate and Darach.
"I'm a very old friend of the family."