An excerpt from the book
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An Excerpt From...
? Copyright Jaid Black,
All Rights Reserved,
Ellora's Cave, Inc.
?Oh Morag you?re terrible!? Janet shook
her head and grinned at her best friend?s story. She had met the rascally
redheaded Morag three years past when she?d first started working as the
liaison between her firm and the whiskey distillery in Nairn. The duo had
hit it off famously and had been inseparable ever since. ?Did he really
call it...? She waggled her eyebrows and chuckled. ?...a love hammer??
Morag snorted at that. ?Yea he did. Can
you imagine? That wee bitty thing...having the nerve to call it a hammer??
Her green eyes sparkled playfully. ?I?ve
never seen it,? she grinned, ?but you?ve told me enough about it that I?d
have to agree with you.?
One red eyebrow shot up mockingly. ?More
like a love pencil I?d say.?
The women laughed together, then moved on
to another topic. Morag waved her fork through the air, punctuating her
words as she spoke. ?So are you going to take that promotion or no???
?I don?t know.? Janet sighed, her
demeanor growing serious. ?It would mean a great deal more money, but it
would also mean that I wouldn?t be traveling to Nairn every few weeks
anymore. I?d be at corporate headquarters instead.?
Morag?s chewing ceased abruptly. Her
blue eyes widened. ?You wouldn?t be coming to Scotland??
Janet looked away. ?No. Not very often.?
She shrugged, though the gesture was far
from casual. ?Once or twice a year,? she murmured.
?Once or twice a year?? Morag screeched.
?Oh Janet, that?s no? verra good news.?
She could only sigh at that. ?I know.?
The women sat in silence for a few
minutes, both of them lost in the implications of what it would mean to
their friendship if Janet took the promotion her company was preparing to
offer her. They?d hardly see each other. And they both knew it.
?Well,? Morag said quietly after a few
more heartbeats had ticked by, ?selfish or no?, I?m hoping you don?t take
Janet?s tawny head shot up. She searched
her best friend?s gaze for answers. ?What will I do if they fire me??
Morag thought that over for a minute.
?We?ve talked about going into business together more than once,? she said
Morag grinned. ?Sounds like the perfect
time to do it then.?
Janet?s lips curled into a wry smile. ?I
hadn?t considered that option.?
?Then consider it.? Morag glanced down
at her watch. ?But consider it as we walk back towards the inn. I?m on duty
for the late shift tonight.?
?Oh of course.? Janet stood immediately,
having momentarily forgotten that it was her best friend?s job to run the
small cozy inn her family owned and operated in the middle of Nairn. But
then Morag didn?t typically work nights. She only was this week because her
brothers were off visiting friends in Inverness.
Janet didn?t particularly care for
either of Morag?s brothers. In her opinion, they treated their twenty-five
year old sister more like a worker bee than as a sibling and an equal
partner in their deceased parents? heirloom of an inn. But Janet had never
said as much to Morag. She figured if her friend wanted to talk about it,
well, then she knew she was always willing and happy to listen.
The women paid their tabs and said their
goodbyes to the other pub patrons, then made their way towards the door.
Janet pulled on her cloak and buttoned it up after the brisk Highland winds
hit her square in the face, underscoring the fact that the temperature had
plummeted in the little time they?d been squirreled away inside of the
?It?s foggy out there tonight,? Morag
commented as she donned her own cloak. ?More so than what?s normal.?
Janet studied the tendrils of mist with
a curious eye as an inexplicable chill of uneasiness coursed down her
spine. Shrugging off the bizarre feeling, she closed the pub?s door and
followed Morag outside into the dense cloudy formation.
?Yes,? she agreed as they walked down
the street. ?It?s strange out tonight.?
* * * *
?Morag,? Janet said as her eyes
struggled to penetrate the surrounding mist, ?I can?t tell which way is up
let alone which way heads east toward the inn.?
?Neither can I.? She sighed. ?Good god
Janet, this fog is like nothing I?ve ever seen before.?
Janet nodded, though Morag couldn?t see
the affirming gesture through the swirling mist. The fog was so dense that
the friends were holding hands lest they lose each other in it.
Janet looked left then right, but had no
more luck seeing one way than she had seeing another. She used her free
hand to burrow further into the cloak. Her heartbeat was accelerating, her
skin prickling, and she wasn?t altogether certain as to why. The fog was
thick, yes, but that hardly accounted for the feeling of near panic that
was swamping her senses. ?We better be careful,? she whispered. ?We could
run smack dab into a wall and not know it until it?s too?oomph.?
?Janet!? Morag said worriedly, unable to
see exactly what had happened. She only knew for certain that she?d come to
an abrupt stop. ?Are you all right, lovie?? When she didn?t answer right
away, Morag squeezed her hand tighter, urging her to speak. ?Janet!?
?I?m fine.? Janet giggled. ?Remember how
I said we could walk smack dab into a wall and not know it??
?I did.? She giggled again, her wide
smile beaming. ?Be careful, but come here and feel.?
Morag pivoted slowly in a circle, allowing
her best friend to lead her slightly to the right and place her hand on a
cold stone wall. She chuckled when she realized that, indeed, Janet truly
had walked into a wall. ?This will make for a good story.? She grinned, her
eyes at last finding Janet?s through the layers of mist. ?I can?t wait to
tell everybody about??
A shrill scream pierced their ears,
abruptly bringing a halt to whatever Morag had been about to say. Their
eyes widened nervously.
Janet?s tongue darted out to wet her
suddenly parched upper lip. ?D-Did you hear that scream too?? she said in
an urgent tone beneath her breath.
?Y-Yea.? Morag swallowed a bit roughly
as she glanced about.
Squeezing her best friend?s hand, Janet
attempted to steady her breathing, but found that she couldn?t. ?We must
leave here,? she said, her heart feeling as though it might beat out of her
chest. ?But I can?t see which way to go.?
?Neither can I,? Morag murmured. ?Oh god
Janet there?s another scream!? she whispered in a panic.
?It wasn?t the same as the first.? Eyes
rounded in fright, Janet used her free hand to clutch the wall that was now
beside her rather than in front of her. She sucked in her breath when her
hand didn?t come in contact with a stone wall as it should have, but with a
wall that felt as though it were made of...earth and twigs?
?What the hell?? she asked herself
almost rhetorically. ?Morag this wall isn?t right!?
Morag didn?t know what to make of such
an odd declaration, so she ignored it. ?Come. Behind the wall,? she
whispered. ?The fog does no? look so thick back there.?
Janet glanced toward where her friend
was pointing and nodded. She said nothing as she retreated a few steps
backward, stepping behind the wall she had just clutched onto, a wall that
looked to belong to a home of some sort. Only that couldn?t be right. Homes
in the Highlands were no longer made of thatch, and they hadn?t been for
years and years.
Shaking her head, she thrust the odd
feelings at bay and followed quietly. Only when they?d gained their
position did she speak. ?The fog seems to be lessening a bit,? she
Wide-eyed, Morag nodded. ?That could be
good or bad, I?m thinking.?
?I know.? Janet squeezed her hand and
breathed in deeply to regain her composure. She could be of no help to
either Morag or herself if she wasn?t thinking clearly. ?If the fog lifts
we?ll be able to see who?s causing the screams, but...?
Morag closed her eyes and said a quick
prayer to Mother Mary. ?They will also be able to see us.?
Morag closed her eyes to finish her
prayer, leaving Janet to keep vigil.
Not even a moment later, Janet watched
in horror as the fog lifted a bit and the surreal scene before her revealed
a large barbaric-looking man clamping his palm over a young girl?s mouth
and lifting her up into his overly muscled arms. He passed the girl up to
another man mounted atop a horse, only then glancing over in their
Janet shuddered as her large green eyes
made contact with piercing black ones. She tried to clutch Morag?s hand
tighter, only then remembering her friend had released hers to say a
prayer. ?Shit,? she whispered frantically, ?he sees us.?
?Oh my god,? Morag cried out, ?we?ve got
Morag?s scream caused Janet to whirl
around on her heel. She watched in helpless horror as a mounted rider flew
by on horseback and snatched Morag off of the ground with one sweep of a
heavily muscled arm. Tears of overwhelming fright gathered up in Janet?s
eyes. In shock, she drew her arms around her middle and hugged herself as
she listened to Morag wail for her to go get help.
?Help. Yes, help.
The reality of the fact that there was
aide to be found within running distance helped to snap Janet from her
state of frozen shock long enough to get her to move.
She would get help for Morag. Oh
Pivoting on her sandal, she turned
toward the enveloping mist, preparing to dash into it, uncaring of the fact
that she would be nearly blinded, unable to see through the thick fog.
Braving one last glance over her shoulder, she clamped her hand over her
mouth when she heard Morag?s scream and watched as her best friend?s captor
held her securely while riding off to only god knows where with her.
Janet?s gaze was drawn toward where the
lone dismounted man stood, the largest and most frightening looking of all
these marauders. He was watching her, seemingly undisturbed by the fact
that he knew she was about to run.
She sucked in her breath as his black
gaze found hers and his lips slowly curled into a terrifyingly icy smile.
Saying a quick prayer of her own, she broke his stare and fled into the