For Regan Penhaligon, there’s no better place to run to than the exclusive Ardnoch Estate in the remote Scottish Highlands. Her impulsive behavior has finally caught up with her and Regan’s visit with her sister, Robyn, is an opportunity to hide from someone who has grown dangerously obsessed with her.
Determined to make amends for her mistakes, Regan plans to repair her relationship with Robyn by staying close. And when an offer of help comes from Thane Adair, Regan gratefully accepts.
Widower, Thane, needs a new nanny housekeeper for his two young children and when they bond with Regan Penhaligon, he offers her the job. But as the weeks pass and the complex American reveals who she really is, Thane struggles with his growing attraction to her.
Regan never expected to feel so intensely for Thane, but she can’t deny her passion for him or her love for his children. When someone from Thane’s past threatens his family, Regan wants to be his pillar of support. However, his continued inability to trust her might just destroy their chance at future happiness… and the person who drove Regan to Ardnoch might snuff out her chance for any future at all.
Release date: August 23, 2021
Publisher: Samantha Young
Print pages: 462
Reader says this book is...: emotionally riveting (1) entertaining story (1) realistic characters (1) sex scenes (1) strong heroine (1) terrific writing (1)
Content advisory: explicit language; sexual content;
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There With You
The Scottish countryside was pretty epic, a contrasting yet perfect combo of lush and rugged, bright grass greens, muddy browns, and ambers. Smooth, rolling hills and then startling peaks and troughs. But I remained untouched by its heroic scenery as the cab drove through the Highlands from Inverness-shire to Sutherland. To Ardnoch Estate. I could see it with my eyes, but I couldn’t feel it with my heart. I couldn’t feel anything past the nervous churning in my gut.
My decision to flee Boston for Scotland only hit me as the flight from London descended toward Inverness. The Highland airport couldn’t have been in a more picturesque spot, sitting near the banks of a lake, or a loch as they call it in Scotland. The water was surrounded by the hills that immediately came to mind when anyone said the words Scottish Highlands.
Yet I’d wanted to vomit as soon as the wheels juddered on impact with the runway.
Knee bouncing as I watched the time on my phone tick by, I tried to regulate my breathing. The winding roads were not helping my nervous nausea.
“How much farther?” I asked the driver. Again.
He stared at me in the rearview mirror. “We’re only about ten minutes away fe Ardnoch.” His brow furrowed. “Ye sure they’ll let ye in? A long way ta come ta be turned away.”
This would be the third time he’d asked. And for a reason. Our destination was Ardnoch Castle and Estate, an exclusive members-only club for the film and TV industry’s elite. To join, potential members had to pay an extortionate fee on top of annual dues. Its owner was an ex-Hollywood action star, the Scottish actor Lachlan Adair. The estate once belonged to his family, and he’d turned it into a prestigious members-only club.
And I knew all that because he’s dating my big sister.
The thought of Robyn made those butterflies in my belly swarm. I couldn’t wait to see her, and yet I dreaded it. I’d made so many mistakes, and I didn’t know how to fix them.
I’d never been good at admitting when I was wrong or knowing how to turn things around. Robyn had always been my guide. Not anymore.
A horrible ache flamed in my chest, joining the butterflies.
“I’ve never had a fare wantin’ ta go ta Ardnoch. Aye, ma wife will find this aw a bit interesting, I’ll tell ya that. She’s fascinated by aw yone celebrity stuff, ye ken. Makes me take day trips yone way ta see if she can catch a wee glimpse of a famous person. Or Adair himself. We’re fe Macduff, nor-east of here, an’ we moved ta the Sneck—that’s Inverness, ye ken—a few years back ta be nearer ta the bairns and the granbairns, but sometimes I think ta maself the wife moved us here ta be nearer ta Ardnoch.” He chuckled, completely oblivious that I couldn’t understand a damn thing he was saying. Did everyone in Scotland speak like this? If so, I was screwed.
“’Tis a good thing ye arrived on such an auspicious day. Ta see the Highlands in aw its beauty. But be prepared, it can be a right dreich place and summer will be fast endin’. I hope ye packed mare than yer dookers? Ye got yer ganzies and yer wellyboots wi’ ye? ’Cause it’ll turn from right mochie ta right oorlich faster than ye can blink.”
It sounded like there was a question in there. “Yeah?” I answered.
“Aye, aye, that’s good. A well-prepared lass, that’s what I like ta see.” He peered at me in the rearview. “Ye sure ye’re awright? Yer lookin’ a wee bit peelie-wally back there?”
I understood half of that. “I’m okay.”
It wasn’t a complete lie. Part of me was shit-scared to see Robyn again, but I was so relieved to be out of Boston and heading to one of the most heavily secured estates on the planet. Especially since one of their former members went all stalker/murderer on Lachlan and my sister.
The thought made me flinch. I couldn’t face the idea of something happening to her. Which was why our relationship was in the mess it was in.
My visit to see Robyn was so past overdue. There was no excuse for it.
Robyn, my big sister, my hero, the love of my freaking life, probably hated me.
What did I do?
How did I approach her?
With my usual easy-breezy Regan way?
Or did I get down on my knees and beg her to forgive me?
I winced just thinking about the latter. I wasn’t a “get down on my knees and beg for forgiveness” type. And yet, no one deserved an apology more than Robyn. She’d been through the toughest eighteen months of her life. And where was I?
Like a coward.
Biting my lip against the fresh tears pricking my eyes, I stared unseeing into the woodlands as we passed. There was never a better time for me to put my acting skills to good use.
“Almost there,” the driver announced, and I heard his turn signal moments before we turned right down a short gravel drive. A vast brick wall and massive wrought iron gate abruptly blocked our way.
“What now?” I asked.
“Dinna ken.” He craned his neck around to look at me. “De ye have the number of someone inside?”
I did. I had Robyn’s international number, but I’d never used it. And I was kind of hoping there would be a run-up to seeing her. Maybe it would be Uncle Mac who came to the gates.
The thought of Uncle Mac caused some confliction. Part of me was excited to see Robyn’s birth father, but another part still hated him for how much his abandonment had hurt her.
Robyn and I are half sisters. My dad is Seth Penhaligon, a Boston detective. Robyn’s dad, Mac, is Scottish and met our mom, Stacey, when he came to the States to live with a relative. He lied about his age (he was only sixteen!) and got our college-age mom pregnant with Robyn. They split soon after, and Mac introduced Mom to my dad. By then, Mac was a cop, along with Dad, though Mac eventually left the police force and got into private security.
I’d adored Uncle Mac. He was this big, handsome Scot who told the most amazing stories. When I was around eight and Robyn was twelve, he took a job as part of the young Hollywood actor Lachlan Adair’s private security team. Other than a visit when Robyn was fourteen, she never saw Mac again.
Until almost six months ago, when she’d come to Scotland to hash things out with him. Mac was now head of security at Ardnoch Estate.
And boy, Robyn had gotten a lot more than she’d bargained for.
Self-reproach was a knife across my gut.
“Well?” the cabbie asked.
“Uh …” I glanced down at my phone. Well, damn. I’d thought there would be a security booth with a guard in it at the gate. Before I could launch into a feeble explanation about why I didn’t want to call the one person who could grant me access, the driver said, “Someone’s comin’.”
I glanced up and saw a black Range Rover coming down the gravel drive surrounded by dark woodland on either side. The vehicle stopped and a man got out. He was stylish for a security guard, wearing black suit pants and a beautifully tailored black shirt, along with very cool sunglasses. I noted a wired earpiece in his left ear.
“That’s yer cue,” said the driver.
Taking a deep breath, I got out of the cab, my stiletto heels wobbling on the gravel. Straightening my shoulders and pasting on a bright smile, I sashayed toward the gate, ignoring the slip of my heels.
“This is private property. I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the man behind the gate said in a softer Scottish brogue that I could actually understand.
“I don’t think so, handsome.” I grinned, wrapping a hand around a bar of the gate. “I’m here to see my sister.”
His expression (what I could see of it behind the glasses) didn’t change. “And who might that be?”
“Your boss’s babe.”
Despite my nervousness, my smile was genuine. This guy was a hoot. “I’m Regan Penhaligon. Robyn’s sister.”
I thought I detected a slight change in his demeanor, but I wasn’t sure. “Do you have identification?”
“Uh, I have my passport.”
“I’ll need to see it.”
“Wow, you guys really do take your security seriously, huh?” Works for me, I thought, as I wandered back to the cab and pulled open the back passenger door.
“Everythin’ awright?” the cabbie asked as I rifled through my large purse for my passport.
“Terminator over there just wants identification.”
The cabbie chuckled as I found the passport.
I wanted to race across the gravel driveway. Now that I was this close to seeing my sister, I wanted it over with. I needed to know if she hated me or if we could get past this. However, my pride forced me to act cool and casual as I walked to the gate.
“Here you go.” I passed the passport through the decorative bars.
Security Guy took it and flipped it open. After a quick scan, he said, “One moment, please.”
Pressed against the gate, I watched as he stalked to his SUV, leaned in, and spoke in an inaudible murmur, to whom I didn’t know. But seconds later, he returned. “I’ll need you and the driver to hand over any recording devices—mobile phone, cameras, etc.”
“Are you serious?”
His answer was a stony nothing.
He was serious.
With a sigh, I handed over my cell and then went to tell the cabbie the news. My driver seemed completely unperturbed about handing over his phone.
“You’re not annoyed?” I asked quietly through his window.
“Och, no. They could have just had ye switch vehicles. This means I’m driving ye in. Not many folks get ta drive onta Ardnoch Estate. Wait till ma wife hears aboot this.”
Glad he was chipper about the whole thing, I took his phone to Security Guy, who confiscated it and instructed, “Tell your driver the gates will open momentarily. He will follow my vehicle and not deviate. We’ll escort him back to the gate once we’ve delivered you to your sister and he’ll get his phone back then.”
His militant attitude amused me so much it almost distracted me from Robyn. “Okay, Sarge.” I returned to the cab. After I got in, I relayed the info and we waited. First the Range Rover did a tight U-turn, and then the gates opened.
Those anxious butterflies came back with a vengeance while my cabbie hooted, “My Carolann will no’ believe this. Pity they took ma phone. Wid have loved some pictures.”
I couldn’t answer.
I pressed my forehead to the window as the cab drove slowly up a gravel drive through thick woodlands. Sunbeams cut through the trees, casting rays across the vehicles’ path. And it seemed awhile before we were driving out of them into bright sunshine that illuminated manicured lawns. Miles of them. Flat near the building in the distance, but increasingly rolling farther away. Little flags on the distant lawns suggested it was a golf course.
The gravel drive led toward the immense building up ahead.
Not just any building.
My sister’s boyfriend owned a freaking castle.
With turrets and everything.
“Holy shit,” I whispered as we drew nearer. The castle was six stories tall and who knew how old. It was like Downton Abbey, but bigger. The thought of Downton Abbey reminded me of bingeing the show with Robyn. An ache flared in my chest, along with another flurry of nerves in my belly. Eyeing the parapets and the St. Andrew’s Cross flag that fluttered in the breeze, I took in a deep breath.
It was then I spotted the people standing outside the majestic building awaiting our arrival.
Waiting for me.
The cab pulled up, and I focused on no one but my sister.
She stood huddled into a man’s side, her eyes on my cab. Dressed in workout gear, little makeup, and hair scraped back into a ponytail.
And she’d never looked more beautiful.
Memories flooded me and I wanted to launch myself out of the vehicle and into her arms and have her take care of everything.
Yet I knew it couldn’t be that way anymore.
Instead, I forced a smile, threw open the passenger door, and stepped out. Hand to my hip, I cocked it, pushing my grin so my dimples appeared. “Hey, sis.” I winked at her. “Did you miss me?”
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