The Heather and the Plaid by Raven McAllan
Book 2 in the Castle on the Loch series
General Release Date: 15th March 2022
Word Count: 40,287
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
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Condemned to a half-life for helping to protect Bonnie Prince Charlie, the only way Lachlan Stuart can live properly is to find someone who trusts and believes in him in the present day.
That person is Bonnie Drummond, who is not best pleased at having her peaceful life disturbed.
Especially when she discovers just what he wants her to do—and that it appears there are more powerful entities who will stop at nothing to ensure she doesn’t succeed.
Can Lachlan and Bonnie achieve what’s needed and get the happiness they both deserve, or is he condemned to forever be on the outside?
“No, no and even more so no.” Bonnie Drummond folded her arms and glared at the tall, long-haired man in front of her. “Get that into your thick head. Watch my lips. N…O… No.”
His dark, almost black, grey eyes twinkled as he laughed at her, lifted her and swung her around in a circle. Her multi-coloured scarf tangled about her neck and arms, and one tasselled end hit her on her nose. It stung.
“Ooft, no.” She blew a rogue tassel off her cheek. “Yuk, noooo.”
“Bonnie, my love, you’re awfy fond of that wee word and you don’t mean it. Yes, yes and even more so yes. We’ll do it. You’ll love it.”
“Lachlan Stuart, don’t you dare.” Brave words, because she knew he would. “I’ll be sick.”
“Sick? My brave Bonnie? Never and if you are then…”
Where are we?
She strained to see him, twisted and turned and…
Woke up as she fell out of bed.
“Of all the stupid, idiotic, ridiculous…argh.” Bonnie unwound the sheet—she’d been too hot to use the duvet and had put a sheet over her instead, which somehow was wrapped around her like a shroud—kicked it away and stood up, yawning. “Enough is enough. Give me a break.”
Yet another night of broken sleep. Of dreams and conversation with someone called Lachlan. Lachlan Stuart. “Why Lachlan Stuart? What’s it all about? Whose life was I in?”
The name seemed familiar—probably from being told it in her dreams—but she didn’t know anyone called that in reality. “Crazy statement,” she muttered. “In fact, the whole thing is.”
“Not at all.”
That was all she needed. The mystery voice in her head adding its tenpenn’orth. Shut up, and don’t butt in where you’re not concerned.
“Oh, but I am. Concerned. Really, Bonnie. Use your senses.”
She ignored that. She was using them, wasn’t she? How else would he have invaded her mind?
The laugh that echoed round the room made her scowl. Something screwy was going on and she didn’t like it one bit. Bonnie admitted she hated not being in charge of every part of her life. Why, when she acknowledged she was a ’seer’, someone who could hear voices, sense things, see happenings—in both the past and, she assumed, though it was never verified, the future—did one new voice bug her so much? Why did her life have to change anyway? She was content—sort of—as she was. Content enough not to want anything drastic to occur, at least.
Bonnie accepted her thoughts and dreams as part of her. Until recently those thoughts and dreams had been positive, mild even. Rarely about herself, more often about her close family. Sometimes about people she didn’t know and subsequently met. Those, though, didn’t unsettle her like this one had. Enough to wake her up sweating.
All her life she’d had conversations in her mind. Chatted to herself, so to speak. Argued and got the conclusion she wanted. Usually. The times she hadn’t she tried to rationalize.
Now, though… Now she couldn’t explain what she heard and thought. Nor, she decided, could she share those conversations with her parents. It was fine as a teenager, asking why she had silent conversations, could magic things to move—sometimes—and see and hear what other people thought—on occasion. But not why you were convinced you’d made love with someone who spoke softly to you in a language akin to but not the same as Gaelic, and you understood them. Experienced the sensations of heat and arousal as they caressed you. Sensed them fill you and rejoiced when you moved together as one hot, aroused and powerful entity. Saw stars as you climaxed and heard him shout his completion.
Not the sort of information she chose to share with anyone—especially her parents.
Her dad would have a conniption, her mum ask for more details, and if they passed the information on to her brother, Baird, she daren’t think what might happen. He was a bit ‘act now, think later’ when it applied to his sisters. How Marcail, the eldest, had managed to meet, make love with and marry her husband was one of life’s unsolved—or untold—mysteries.
Bonnie headed for the shower and ruminated over what she needed to achieve that day.
First thing on her mental list was to decide on the colours of the plaid she was making for her nephew’s first birthday. Once she had a rough idea about that, she intended to get stuck in and write a synopsis that made sense for her next paranormal mystery and romance book series. For a week or so it had been simmering in the back of her mind. Now she thought—hoped—she had the plot fixed, and a rough idea of how her characters looked. Tier traits and characteristics.
Where had that thought popped up from? ‘Like me’ who? She mentally shrugged. In general her heroes came out of her imagination and not from seeing someone in the papers or walking down a street.
No one had been more surprised than Bonnie when a dare by Baird—to enter a competition where you wrote a thousand-word hint-of-intrigue snippet for a magazine competition—had culminated in her being asked to expand the story, and subsequently being offered a three-book contract. She hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, except Baird, and he had been sworn to secrecy. When the first book had come out, under the name of Belle Scott, she’d casually asked her mum—who had been kneading dough—if she’d read it.
Her mum had shaken her head and put her dough to prove. ‘Should I have?’
Bonnie’s heart had sunk. ‘Just wondered.’
‘Ah, okay. The book club are interested. I’ve read an excerpt. It sounds great, and I’ve got it on my ‘buy next time I go online’ list. I reckon it will be right up my street. Hope to get it in the next day or so.’
Bonnie had grinned. ‘No need. Here you are.’ She’d handed a paperback to her bemused parent. ‘I reckon if you think about it, you might realise you know the author.’ Then she’d headed home in a hurry and immersed herself in weaving a cloth she’d decided to use to make Christmas presents. As ever, the simple repetition of working her loom had soothed her and as she’d weaved, she’d plotted, so by the time her mum had appeared at her door several hours later, she had almost forgotten she’d handed the book over.
‘Bonnie, its fabulous,’ her mum had exclaimed as she shared one of her gorgeous and jealously rationed homemade loaves with Bonnie. ‘You did write it, didn’t you? I wasn’t sure at first, but little things gave it away.’ She’d grinned. ‘Now I want it signed.’
‘How did you guess?’ Bonnie had chuckled and resisted the impulse to punch the air.
‘Your choice of words. Often those we use as a family for one, and then Belle for Bonnie and Scott because you’re Scottish?’
Bonnie had nodded. ‘Baird bet me to enter a competition. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered a three-book contract. I’m plotting book three now.’
‘Book three? What about book two?’ Her mum had appeared confused. ‘What’s happened to that?’
‘That’s gone off for editing. This next one is the last in the series. Hot, sexy hero. You’ll love him. He’s everything any woman wants all rolled into one sex-on-legs body.’
Bonnie almost jumped. A new voice in her head? I was going to say like my dad.
“That sounds dodgy.”
Not to my mum, and who are you anyway?
“You’ll soon discover that.”
‘Bonnie?’ Her mum had looked at her in concern. ‘Are you okay? You look a bit peely wally.’ A Scottish expression for pale. ‘I was saying how proud of you we are. And to keep it a secret. Amazing. You’ve never been able to do that before. You and secrets were like water in a leaky bucket.’
Damn it, she’d been away with the fairies—her family expression for deep in thought. Or was that thoughts? ’Gee, thanks, Mum. I’ve been called a lot of things but never a leaky bucket before.’
‘Sorry, love, but you just…went. And not as if you were in seer mode, if you get me. Sort of…’ She’d paused, obviously trying to find the right words.
‘Peely wally, I get you. Sorry, thinking about lots of things at once. Probably forget most of them.’ Especially pesky new voices.
Her mum had laughed. ‘I’ll buy you some notebooks.’
Bonnie still used notebooks for emergency ideas and when she was out and about. ‘Great stuff, I’m on my last one. The one that says watch it or you’ll die a gruesome death in my next book.’
“No gruesome deaths needed any more. I’ll remind you.”
That had been a while before.
To her annoyance, that sexy voice in her head was now a regular occurrence. When she’d started to think about her series, which she had decided was to be set on an imaginary island in the same loch as she lived on, one name had kept coming to mind.
Lachlan. Lachlan Stuart.
She had no idea why. Her hero she had decided to call Frazer, her heroine Louise.
“Lachlan is better.”
For my heroine? She had to be perverse. I don’t think so.
“Ha, silly, ha. You know what I mean, or if not, you will. Soon. Know what I mean and know me.”
It wasn’t helpful being told that with no explanation as to why. Even so, Bonnie scribbled the name in her notebook, along with bairns, bodies, books and bribery. Where had all that come from? Used to the vagaries of her wandering mind, she mentally shrugged and carried on making an omelette. It would or wouldn’t be clear before long. Meanwhile she’d eat then go out in the boat to decide where to put the island and see if any colours hit her for her plaid.
It might have sounded daft to some people, but it made sense to her. The water, the scenery, helped her so often. She often thought she could have been a water sprite. It had made her laugh when she was told, very firmly, no chance—she liked chocolate too much.
“I need the purple of the heather, the blue of the loch on a misty day, the yellow of the broom and the green of the pines.”
It was time to put Mr New Voice into his place.
Well, it’s not up to you, whoever you are. You’ve never told me that before so tough. In fact, you’ve told me b. all. You just issue orders. Which I tell you, I’m going to ignore. This is my creation for my nephew so butt out and bugger off. She sneezed. Bloody pollen.
“Naughty. Bless you.” Male laughter echoed around her kitchen. “I haven’t said much, have I? You’ll find out soon enough.”
She didn’t bother to reply. The last thing she wanted was to start arguing with a voice in her head, especially when she had no idea what the darned voice was all about.
“Life, love, care, help. Us. The future to save the past.”
Clear as mud, as ever. That’s not me, that was someone else. She’d had to stand back and not help her sister, and even now it stung. Whoever made up the rules should cut a little slack.
“Tut, tut, you know that’s not our way.”
Well, it should be.
Damn it, she’d answered, and now there would be a stupid dialogue ending in a huff in her head.
Bonnie waited for the fallout.
“That was different, and you know it. Stop sulking, it doesn’t suit you. You’ll see soon enough.”
She waited some more.
Silence. No thoughts, no voices, not one thing. Not even a faint laugh or smart retort.
Fair enough. After all, the mood she was now in would probably magnify any little problem and become a migraine-sized headache. Something she could do without.
Bonnie ate her food standing up, left her dirty pots in the sink—one of the pros of living alone—and headed out with her camera. She fancied some heathery tones, blues and dusky greens in the plaid she was creating. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper tartan, but it would be young Master MacDonald’s very own pattern.
“Thought it was for me? We need one… To be…” The voice faded, and for the first time it annoyed her not to hear any more. Then came a mocking laugh that made her want to kick something. Or someone. Instead she threw stones in the burn that ran by her house then headed down to the loch via a series of tiny waterfalls and tiny but deep pools. They made a satisfying plop noise and the ever-spreading circles of water it displaced soothed her. It was time she pulled up her big-girl panties and remembered the basic tenets her mum had told her.
To wit, she had abilities most people didn’t. Those talents might vary over time, might not always be uppermost in her life, but were there for a reason. She was, for want of a better description, a witch. Her forte was seeing. Both the past and the distant—as in over a year or so—future. Weirdly not the present, or anything that could involve dishonesty. If someone asked her who would win the tennis tournament, she had no idea. Nor who would win the election or the lottery numbers. But she could tell if someone or something would have problems in the years ahead, whether a certain colour would be ‘in’ or not and relationships that would happen, whether the recipients wanted them to or not. She didn’t cast spells, but she could work out what herbs, flora and fauna could help in certain circumstances and also make potpourri, bath oils and salts and herbal teas.
She’d known who her sister’s partner would be before Marcail did, but luckily, not how and when they would get together. Nor any intimate details. That would have been beyond icky. Her brother Baird’s future was more uncertain and worried her to a certain extent. She could sense it wouldn’t be smooth or easy for him to overcome all the obstacles in the way of his fate. But at least she could sense a little of what was in store for him.
It made her present circumstances not exactly a worry, but something that gave her an itch up her spine and a slight unease. The sensation of trying to find a light in a darkened room and not succeeding.
Maybe a day being away from the house and the island would help. Bonnie had changed into her walking gear, made sure she had the basics for a meal, her phone and mobile charger, and strode briskly shoreward.
She was about to cast off her tiny boat with its reliable outboard motor when her phone pinged.
That in itself was unusual. He hated technology with a vengeance. Bonnie held off untying the craft and opened her phone instead.
“Hi, Pa, what’s up?” she said cheerfully and waited for his usual reply.
“The sun and do not call me Pa. Snarky madam. I’ve a request.”
“Oh, yes?” Bonnie said warily. Her dad’s requests usually involved whoever he was speaking to doing something they didn’t want to do. “I’m on a deadline for my next book and need to do a lot of research.” Not strictly true as she’d got the outline completed and finished most of the research she would need in the immediate future. “In fact, I’m researching now and waiting for a call from…” She searched her mind for a plausible phone call. “The library about a book I’m after.” The fact she did most of her research online wasn’t lost on her and she hoped it wouldn’t occur to him to query her response.
Her dad made a noise akin to a boiling kettle. “Fshhht. This won’t take long. I need you to come for dinner tomorrow. Your mum says it’s Crowdie fish pie from Mrs Henderson, and Cranachan by herself.”
Bonnie’s mouth watered. They were both her favourites, and not her dad’s. His wording hit her. No wonder she was suspicious. Need… Not would you like to…but he needed. “What’s the catch?”
“What do you mean?” Her dad’s voice was bland, which was a giveaway that he was up to something. “Whatever fish Mrs H’s husband caught, I guess.”
“Ha ha, Pa. You’re so sharp you’ll cut yourself if you’re not careful. You know fine well what I mean. Why the formal call? It’s usually a ‘do you fancy dinner tonight’ or whatever. Not an official request. I feel like I need a gilt-edged RSVP card to reply.”
Her dad didn’t answer.
“In lieu of one”—Bonnie felt proud of that response—“thank you for asking but I’m so sorry, I must gracefully decline your oh so kind invitation.”
She waited for the explosion and wasn’t disappointed.
“De…you can’t bloody decline.” His voice rose. “You need to come.”
“Do I, Dad? Why?”
“Why?” he blustered. “Your mum will be upset if you don’t.”
“Oh, Pinocchio, how’s your nose?” She mentioned the story about the boy whose nose grew if he told a lie. “That’s the biggest load of tosh I’ve heard from you in a long time, Dad, and you can’t half spout some if you have a mind. Fess up or I’ll ask Mum what’s going on, and she’ll tell me.”
“Mum doesn’t know,” he said triumphantly. “So, you can’t.”
“Your poor dad doesn’t deserve your grief, you know. Remember Paden.”
That’s what I’m trying not to do. Butt out, this is my problem, not yours.
The laughter in her mind was mocking.
Sod off. She scowled at a nearby frog, which jumped into a nearby puddle with a reproachful croak. “Sorry,” she muttered to the frog, which of course ignored her.
Three ducks took up the complaint.
She turned the switch on the boat to start the engine, was about to apologise when she remembered what was going on. “Dad, I have to go, speak later.”
“Wait,” her dad said in a harassed voice. “You need to know what time to get here.”
“As I’ve declined, I don’t, you know.” Bonnie smirked as she ended the call and thought what state her dad would be in. It served him right. He was a champion at not explaining things and expecting people to fall in with his often unwanted wishes. Well, no more. She intended to make a stand and be firm.
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About the Authors
After 30 plus years in Scotland, Raven now lives near the east Yorkshire coast, with her long-suffering husband, who is used to rescuing the dinner, when she gets immersed in her writing, keeping her coffee pot warm and making sure the wine is chilled.
With a new home to decorate and a garden to plan, she’s never short of things to do, but writing is always at the top of her list.
Her other hobbies include walking along the coast and spotting the wildlife, reading, researching, cros stitch and trying not to drop stitches as she endeavours to knit.
Being left-handed, and knitting right-handed, that’s not always easy.
She loves hearing from her readers, either via her website, by email or social media.
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