Highland Heat – Eliza Knight

Oh yeah, strippers are on the menu. How about some sexy Highlanders in kilts?” “Amanda, you’re the bestest friend a girl could ever have. What would I do without you?” Trish shrieked on the other end of the phone. “Just leave it to me. Get the ladies on a train up here, and I’ll make sure your bachelorette party rivals all others.” Amanda Bennett hung up the phone and gazed around the little bookshop she now called home. She closed her eyes for a moment and took in the scent of the books, the smell of freshly baked bread from the bakery next door and the aromatic flowers Tavia had dropped off for her this morning. All of them calming and somehow magical. A small smile crept over her lips as she opened her eyes, feeling fresh and alive. Although she’d only lived on the Isle of Skye for a few months, she felt more at home here than she ever had in London. The Book Cove held a lot of precious memories from her youth, and although her grandmother had passed away, she was glad to have the shop still to remember her by. She clicked on the internet and began to do a search, mindful of the few customers browsing her stacks of books. Renting a castle for the party would be a dream. None of her friends had made it out to visit her yet. Actually, all of them had thought she was slightly insane for packing up and leaving busy London for the quiet Isle.

Even her parents had thought it a risky move. But she was doing quite well for herself and enjoying the little niche she’d made here. She wanted to make this trip as magical for her friends as possible. Maybe they’d see the pull Scotland had for her. The enchantment that took her breath away and made her feel as if she were floating through a fantasy. The fresh air, the misting skies and the history. The sexy men who still dressed in kilts…It was a dream come true for her. As she searched through the venues, she recalled a man coming into the shop a few weeks prior. Laird MacLeod, she thought he’d said, the current owner of Dunvegan Castle. Shutting down the internet, Amanda walked down the different aisles of books, quickly skimming through the travel and history section until she found the book she was looking for.

Dunvegan Castle. She sank to the floor and thumbed through the pages. God, the place was gorgeous. She’d always had a fascination with castles and history. Something about chivalry, valor, royalty just struck her as so romantic. Dunvegan had been built some eight hundred years ago and still held tons of relics inside. It was the perfect place to show her friends the magic of Skye, and they did rentals for weddings. Would they possibly let her rent it out for a bachelorette party? Hadn’t Laird MacLeod said something about being very close to her grandmother and if there was anything that she needed… No, she couldn’t. He certainly wouldn’t. With that, she slammed the book closed and picked up the phone.

Ten minutes later, she shot an email off to Trish with the destination. Castles and warriors, here we come. AMANDA WANDERED the halls of Dunvegan Castle and the Fairy Tower. Laird MacLeod had deemed this wing to be hers for the weekend. Paintings lined the walls, from ancient medieval battle scenes to more modern portraits. She smiled as she ran her fingertip over a carved table and came to a stop in front of a sculpture. Her gaze widened as she took in the life-sized marble rendition of a warrior, from his Michelangelo’s feet to the top of his wavy-haired head. The muscles carved intricately into the marble were so realistic. She reached out and ran her hands over the cool stone. Amanda licked her lips as the cool marble and muscled shape brought wicked images into her mind.

“If only you could come to life,” she murmured, looking down at the plaque at his feet, “Alasdair.” While her girlfriends were out exploring Skye, she’d be booking the entertainment. And Lord, she could only hope at least one resembled this sculpture. Looking at her watch, she realized she still had time before her last “guest” was to arrive. Exotic male dancers had been streaming through the castle doors all morning. Already, she’d booked several. She continued down the hall, her finger tracing some of the antique furniture until she came to an end. An oak door, ancient symbols carved into the wood and a hooped metal handle adorning its face, stood slightly ajar. Curious beyond belief, she eased it open a bit and stuck her head inside. A winding stone staircase was the only thing behind the door.

This was a separate set of stairs from the one she’d used earlier in the day to get to her room. Should she go down or up? From what she’d learned, down would lead her to the sea gate…an eerie place that should only be discovered with a partner. She wasn’t sure she would fare well in the darkness that seemed to rise from below. Besides, even though she knew things like ghost stories couldn’t possibly be real, if there were a thread of truth to them…She shuddered and rubbed her arms. So many battles had been fought here. So many lives lost. Just when she was about to turn around and continue toward the great hall, giving up completely on exploring the rooms of the tower, the sun cascaded in through an upper window. Rays spread out like fingers, beckoning her to continue. Warmth covered her, and suddenly the fear she’d felt was replaced by excitement. “And the mystery continues…” she whispered as she slipped through the door and began to climb up.

The air inside the tower was musty, but where she might have normally been turned off by the smell, she found it oddly thrilling. Her hand traced the cold stone walls for balance, and she lifted the hem of her chocolate-silk summer dress so it wouldn’t get stuck under her sandals. The stone stairs were slippery, not from being wet, but from years of wear. In her mind, she saw warriors clad in kilts with claymores strapped to their backs. Leather boots to their knees, muscled thighs, arms and chests exposed as they raced down these steps to avenge their laird or lady. She shuddered from the thought, her nipples growing taut beneath her dress. She’d chosen not to wear a bra today, and the feel of silk rubbing against her sensitive nipples sent a shock of pleasure straight to her core. In the distance, there was the eerie melodic sound of a lute being played. Each pluck of the strings stroked her heart and body. Her skin tingled, and she closed her eyes, taking in the moment.

The music strummed her insides until she was in such a heightened state of arousal, she reached down and pressed her hand to the hard nub encased by tender folds between her thighs. Taken aback by the erotic thrills passing through her body, she jerked her hand away. The scents of arousal, heather and clean mists enveloped her like a cloud. The sounds and scents were unbelievably real, tangible, even though she knew they could not be. What she wouldn’t give to travel back in time just for a moment to see and touch a real piece of history—not just the relics but the real thing. To belong in that moment. Talk to someone from the era, experience it for herself. Shaking her head, Amanda pulled herself out of her reverie and continued up the spiral stairs. If the winding staircase could evoke such powerful imaginings from her mind, get her body hot and bothered, what would the rest of the tower hold for her? She passed several small rooms and hallways as she climbed, one of which looked very much like the corridor her room for the weekend was housed on. But only one room captivated her, and it was at the top of the winding stairs.

An ancient wooden door stood closed with its iron ring handle illuminated by the sun beaming in from a narrow arrowslit window. Amanda took a deep breath and reached out to grasp the handle. Despite the sun shining on it, the metal was cold to the touch. She pushed, and with surprising ease, the door came open, whining minimally on its ancient hinges. Dust particles filled the air, sparkling when they caught the sun’s rays. The room held that comforting, musty smell of history. She stepped inside, and it was like walking into the past. It didn’t look like anyone had entered the room in years, decades or maybe even centuries. Sparsely furnished, there was only a random chair against the far wall and an antique chest underneath one of the windows. She walked slowly forward until she reached the narrow opening.

Below, Dunvegan Loch licked lazily at the cliffs the tower stood on. The view was captivating. The slowly setting sun made the water glitter in a thousand different colors. Rolling hills, marshland and a few trees surrounded the water. She strained to hear the sound of the seals barking, as she knew they resided somewhere along the rocky shores. Salty sea air wafted in from the window, and she breathed in deeply the calming essence. Amanda was glad she’d sucked up her fear and climbed to the top. The Fairy Tower was a place she’d always been fascinated with. The story behind it was somewhat of a legend. From what she could recall, the great laird Alasdair MacLeod, the subject of the carved statue that she’d admired, had been visited by a fairy.

She’d given him a flag that he could hang on the Fairy Tower to call her forth for protection, should his clan come under attack. But while she visited him, they’d fallen in love and later married. From that moment on, the clan was always victorious over anyone who tried to lay claim to what was theirs. Truly a romantic story. Who knew if it was true, but it was one of those enchanting tales from her youth she’d always remember. Amanda sighed, a small smile lifting the corners of her lips. Her grandmother had told her that story so many times over the years, and now she stood in the very place where the consummation of such a union supposedly had taken place. Perhaps the fairy lady had looked out this very window. Amanda sighed deeply as she gazed at the landscape. So much beauty.

So much peace. Even in her own era, she doubted the tranquility had changed overmuch from what those in the past had seen. As she turned to leave the tower room, a shiny object wedged between two stones caught her eye. She walked to the opposite corner of the room and knelt down. About one and a half feet above the floor, embedded between two of the wall’s stones, was a polished black stone. Instantly, she was intrigued. “What have we here? A gift from the fairy?” She laughed at her childish musings. When she tried to pull it out, the stone wouldn’t budge. Rubbing her hands on her dress to wipe away anything that might be impeding her quest, she tried again. This time the stone came loose without any pressure, almost like someone shoved it into her hands from the other side of the wall.

But it wasn’t just a stone. Wrapped around it was a tarnished thin piece of metal, and attached to that, an ancient-looking looped leather thong. Had it once been a necklace? From the way the leather appeared and the tarnish on the metal, nobody had worn it for hundreds of years. She stood and carried the necklace over to the window for better inspection. The stone was circular, almost heart-shaped, and caught the light from the sun. She couldn’t tell what type of material the stone was encased in. Silver? Gold? Iron? Right now, its blackness blended in with the stone, save for the sheen glowing from the stone. How on earth had the stone retained its polished shine? As she examined it, the stone grew warm in her hand. Wind whipped in from the window, lifting her hair up and swirling her dress around her calves. The wind whistled, and she could have sworn she heard a singsong voice chanting, “Take the soul stone…the soul stone…Find your soul mate…soul mate…” The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

Amanda wasn’t sure how much more of the enchanting castle and tower she could take. She was feeling things she didn’t normally feel, hearing things she didn’t normally hear, and now imagining things that blew her mind… Her fingers, of their own volition, pulled the leather thong down over her head. The warm stone nestled in the cleft between her breasts, sending heat spreading through her. She closed her eyes, her hands resting over the stone on her heart. Images she’d just as soon shove from her mind, of ancient warriors, battle scenes and then a startling pair of steel-gray eyes, floated behind her lids. Those eyes were at once hard, sensual and exotic. They beckoned her, called to her, sending chills of excitement racing through her veins. “My soul mate,” she whispered. Amanda’s eyes flew open. This was all too weird for her.

She took one last glance out the window before looking back to the place where she’d found the stone, then she bolted for the door. She fled down the winding staircase, slipping a couple of times on the slick stones until she made it to the hallway that she was sure would lead to her room. She leaned against the cool stone wall, her head falling back. What had just happened? Although it had frightened her at the time, she felt oddly at ease now. At peace. “Your imagination is running away with you, Amanda Bennett.” Too much time spent with books, and not enough time in the real world, must be the cause. Time to return to reality


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