Laird of Her Heart
Dundragon Time Travel Trilogy, Book 1
by Sabrina York
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-941497-10-4
[ Time Travel Romance, MF ]
She comes face to face with him. Dominic Dundragon, the man whose portrait makes her knees weak. A man who’s been dead for 700 years. Will this adventure end in disaster or happy ever after?
“What are you staring at?”
Maggie Spencer snapped the book shut and glared at her cousin. “Nothing.” How could she admit she’d been mooning over a man who’d been dead 700 years?
But seriously, he was hot. At least the sketch of him was. It had captured his bulging muscles, his piercing eyes and the ferocious beauty of his features. Something in his expression—the intensity of it, perhaps—utterly captivated her attention. He was exactly what she thought, imagined, dreamed a hot highlander of old would be.
Even his name was fascinating. Dominic. Dominic Dundragon, infamous Laird of the Macintosh Clan of Dar. It broke her heart that, at the age of 27, he’d been betrayed by a kinsman and killed in the Urquhart Ambush—a brutal slaughter of Chattan Lairds instigated by a rival clan. But again, it was a pointless grief. Even if he had lived to be a hundred, he’d still be dead now. Would have been dead for centuries.
Jenny tipped her head to the side to read the cover of Maggie’s book and she grimaced. “That one again?”
Maggie sniffed and leaned back in her lawn chair. It was a lovely day in Seattle, a rare opportunity to soak up the sun and read. “It’s a good book.”
“It’s a boring book.”
“History is not boring. Besides, this is our family history. You should find it fascinating.” Maggie did. “These are the events, the peoples that made us what we are.”
“Ug. Dusty details. Wars. Famines. Plagues.”
“Romances. Adventures.” Handsome heroes. Could she not see it? The feud between the Camerons and the Macintoshes itself was fascinating reading. “Besides, Grandma wrote it. The least you could do is pretend to be interested. For her sake.”
“That’s not fair.”
Maggie winced at the wounded thread in Jenny’s tone. She hadn’t meant to be hurtful. She traced the old binding with idle fingers. “Do you think she’s okay?”
Jenny shrugged. “She wanted to go. She seems happy there.” It was never easy, locking someone you loved away in a nursing home. Although, to be fair, Grandma wasn’t locked away. She was probably playing BINGO with her minions. And winning. If not that, rumbling around town in the VRV van on one of the many tours the activity director dreamed up. Or eating pie. Valhalla Retirement Village, apparently, had excellent pie. And Grandma did love her pie.
Still, it had been hard moving her out of this rambling house she’d called home for over sixty years, into a tiny room in the nominal care wing of an assisted living community. “It’s weird being here without her.”
All Maggie’s memories of this place included Grandma and Grandpa and cousins and Christmases. But Grandma had wanted them to stay. Insisted they keep the house. As though she couldn’t bear the thought of strangers sitting on this patio, or cooking in her kitchen.
“It is weird.” Jenny sighed. “But she seems happy.”
Maggie nibbled on her lip. “I’m worried about her.” Over there, in a strange place. Isolated. All alone.
“She seems happy.” Yes, Jenny was the Redundancy Queen of Redundancy.
“But she’s started giving her stuff away.” Maggie fingered the locket at her neck.
“She could hardly keep it all. Her room is…smallish.”
“You know what I mean.” Maggie lifted a shoulder. “When elderly people start cleaning house…”
“She’s not going to die. Not for decades. She’s strong as a horse. She’ll probably outlive us all.”
“I know. But I worry.” They drifted into silence then, both wreathed in their own thoughts—of Grandma, of Grandpa who’d passed last winter, of the big house on the hill where they’d just taken up residence. Though Grandma has asked them to live here, it still felt like an infiltration, an invasion. This was and always would be Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
When it all became too maudlin, Maggie sighed and gestured to Jenny’s book. “So, what are you reading?”
Jenny shot a dismissive look at Maggie’s History of the Macintosh Clan of Dar. “Something interesting.”
“What is it?”
“Jacobs’ treatise on his theories of space-time.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. She turned her attention to the vista below, the sparkling waters of the Puget Sound beyond the rolling hills of the family estate. The sky was blue, the breeze gentle. She tried to focus on how pleasant it was. Because, yeah, she knew what was coming.
“Now this is fascinating.”
“Is it?” Oh. She shouldn’t have said anything. It only encouraged Jenny.
“The chapter I’m reading is about the effects of gravity on time. Isn’t that an intriguing concept?”
Maggie leaned closer and peered at the book through squinty eyes, just to make a point. “Are you reading fiction?”
“How could gravity have any effect on something with no mass?” She was hardly a science genius like her cousin, but that much seemed like simple logic.
“It does in a singularity.” Jenny flipped a few pages. “Here. They’ve postulated time shifts close to a black hole. Stretches. Folds. Kind of makes me wonder if it could make time act like a wormhole, you know, bending it over on itself so you could make a temporal hop.”
“You’re making my brain hurt.” But it was, at least, her temporal lobe.
Jenny shot her a trademark smirk. “You did ask what I was reading. And you have to admit, it is an interesting possibility.”
“It’s not a possibility at all. Not if you have to go through a black hole to travel through time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t a black hole rip you apart, atom by atom, if you got too close?” Maggie huffed a sigh. “Honestly. What are they teaching you in science school?”
Jenny ignored her. She often did. Physicists were notoriously pretentious. “There’s a chapter… Where is it?” More riffling pages. “Ah. He talks about sites here, on Earth, where gravity behaves differently than it does elsewhere.”
“Oh joy. My boobs will be delighted.”
A glare. “Point being—”
“Was there an actual point?”
“Point being…” Jenny frowned. “You made me forget my point.”
“Must have been an enthralling point.”
“I hate when you do that.”
“It’s hardly my fault I’m so scintillating I make people forget what they were saying.” She made it a point to bat her lashes.
Jenny grumbled something beneath her breath and went back to her riffling. “Oh. Right. These gravitational aberrations.”
“Of course.” Maggie stifled a sigh. Or not.
“Many of the sites, like Stonehenge and Machu Picchu—”
“And the Oregon Vortex?” She tapped her lip. “Ah, but then, isn’t all of Oregon a vortex?”
“Hush. They have excellent donuts and some of my best friends live in Oregon.”
“I have friends in Oregon too—”
“Anyway…” Jenny shot her a quelling glare. “Many of these sites were considered sacred or magical in the days of yore.” She patted Maggie’s hand. “You should like that part. Days of yore were dusty.”
Maggie made a face and opened her tome again to that page. Not to stare at him again, or anything like that.
He didn’t look dusty. He looked strong and bold and handsome. Wild. Savage.
They didn’t make men like that anymore.
“Oh good googelymoogley,” Jenny warbled. “Are you drooling over him again?”
“I do not drool.”
“You do actually.” And then she added in a not-very-aside aside, “You snore too.”
“I most certainly do not snore.”
“Last night I thought you were running a chainsaw in your room.”
“As long as we’re laying out our grievances—”
“Were we? I thought we were just stating facts.”
“All right. Just stating facts. You might want to lay off the broccoli.”
Jenny bristled. “Just what is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. Just sayin’.”
“Are you intimating that I fart?”
“I think the scientific term is gaseous anomalies.”
“I do not fart!”
“Just remember, in the winter, don’t stand too close to the fireplace.”
Maggie exploded a hand. “Ker-blooey.”
Jenny tried not to smile and failed. “You know what you are?”
“Awesome?” A, like, Valley girl cant.
“A wench. That’s what you are.”
“You love me and you know it.”
“I do. But you’re a wench.” She narrowed her eyes. “And it’s your turn to make dinner.”
“I don’t think I want to live with you after all.”
“Because I insist that we share the household duties?”
“Oh, no, I was referring to the flatulence.”
Jenny smacked her on the shoulder and chuckled. Then she sobered. “Seriously. It’s your turn to make dinner.”
Maggie grimaced. She hated cooking. With. A. Passion. “How about a salad?”
It was adorable the way Jenny’s nose curled up. The way she hacked and gagged. “No. Not salad.”
“If it’s my turn to make dinner, I get to pick the food.”
“Salad is not real food. Google it.”
“I could put bacon on it…”
“Even so, not real food. How about pizza?”
“You want me to make pizza? Do you remember the last time I put something in the oven?” Although the fireman who had responded to the blaze had been cute.
“To be fair, that is a very old oven.”
“It probably came with the house.” The house was nearly a century old.
Maggie hid her smile. She’d been angling for take-out all along. “Pizza?”
It was Maggie’s turn to hack and gag. “Olives are disgusting. Pineapple.”
“Pineapple has no place on a pizza.”
“My turn to cook, remember?”
“Making a phone call does not count as cooking.”
“Okay. Half…” Shudder. “Olives and half pineapple?”
Maggie set aside her book and stood. As she headed across the porch, Jenny warbled, “And don’t forget the anchovies!”
When she opened the door, something small and furry and white shot out, darted between her legs and fairly flew down the steps into the yard. “Shit,” she muttered and let the screen door close. “Mop got out. Will you go get him?”
Jenny frowned at the dog as he disappeared into the woods. “You let him out.”
“But I need to ‘make dinner’.” Total air quotes there.
“I’ll call for pizza. You get the dog.”
“Oh, all right.” Maggie sighed and tramped back down the stairs. Damn dog. It was getting dark and the little twerp might get snatched by a coyote. Though they were technically in the Seattle city limits, their property was on a hill, surrounded by old growth forest for miles. Grandma and Grandpa had resisted all offers to buy them out. And with all the construction making incursions into their habitats, critters tended to flock to this forest. They’d even once spotted a bear.
Maggie had to go get him. He was Grandma’s darling; she would be devastated if anything happened to him. But in all honesty, Grandma should have warned them he was an escape artist when she handed over the leash. He was named Mop because he looked like one with all that scraggly hair. Maybe they should use him as one.
Maggie sighed and set out for the woods, but turned back to waggle a finger at her cousin. “You better not forget the pineapples on that pizza.”
Jenny’s grin was disarming. “You better take a flashlight,” she chirped. “Last time it took me a couple hours to find him.”
* * *
Maggie was glad she’d brought the flashlight, because even though the sun was still sinking, once she got deep into the trees, it was hard to see. And Mop was small. Why old women went for the tiny yippy dogs was a mystery. In Maggie’s mind it wasn’t a real dog unless it could knock her down.
She shined the beam into the scrub and called him. “Mop? Moppie? I have nom noms for you.” She didn’t. It was a lie. But it hardly mattered since the stupid mutt didn’t even speak English.
She heard a bark from her right, little more than a canine taunt. She growled to herself and forged off in that direction. And yeah, there he was, dancing around in circles. But when she neared, he took off again.
This happened several times, luring her deeper and deeper into the woods. She hoped she could find her way back since for some reason the dog refused to use the path.
“Mop, get your ass over here,” she bellowed when she just missed him again. Not that she was getting annoyed. But she was.
Maybe her frustration penetrated his tiny little brain, because the next time she spotted him—in a clearing—he stood still, waiting for her to approach. Her steps slowed as she neared. Not because she wanted to sneak up on him, but because the clearing where he stood was…strange.
She couldn’t put her finger on why it sent shivers up her spine, but it did. Though the trees surrounding it were large and dense, nothing grew here. The forest floor was dirt—not even ferns or mushrooms or moss. To her surprise, she realized there were what looked like ancient stones circling it. When she stepped between two of the pillars, a bolt of electricity shot through her. When she touched one, it happened again. She drew back and studied it, noting the markings on the face of the column. She didn’t understand the symbols carved there, even though, as a historian, she’d studied hieroglyphics and cuneiform. These markings were unfamiliar. Rune-like, perhaps.
Funny that she’d never found this place as a child, when they’d played in these woods, but maybe she’d never come this far before. She glanced at the sky, but it was blotted out by the canopy of trees. Still, she could tell it was getting dark. Too late to explore this interesting site, but she would come back tomorrow, if she could find it again.
“All right, you imp,” she said, heading for Mop. “Let’s go have some pizza.” She tucked the flashlight into her pocket and scooped him up, but he yelped and wriggled from her grasp. To her complete and utter annoyance, he skittered away again.
She made a sound, a growl or a snarl or something like that, and started after him but at that moment, the clasp on her locket broke and it fell to the ground.
It was an old locket—no one really knew how old it was as it had been given to Grandma when she’d been a girl—but it was precious because Grandma had treasured it. And she’d given it to Maggie. She huffed a sigh and bent to pick it up.
Perhaps she bent too quickly, or perhaps she was weakened by lack of food—surely the pizza had arrived by now—but her head spun and she lost her balance and fell.
Barraged by a swirling welter of movement, blinded by flashing lights and stars flickering before her eyes, she tumbled. For some reason, the image of Alice plummeting into the rabbit hole flickered through her mind. She squeezed her eyes shut, tightened her hold on the locket and tried to focus on quieting her pattering pulse.
She’d never fainted before. Was that what this was?
She landed with a thump, one reminiscent of waking with a jolt from a falling dream.
Sucking in a deep breath, she opened her eyes…and then closed them again as bright sunlight scored her corneas. What the—?
“What have we here?” A deep voice in a thick brogue echoed through the trees. Maggie sat up like a shot and scraped the hair from her eyes and stared at the man standing before her. He was tall and broad, with dark riotous curls and a fierce expression. He was dressed in strange clothes made of wool and had simple leather boots on his feet. He held a large bow with an arrow pointed at her heart.
Another man captured her attention. He was ferocious as well. In fact…they all were. No fewer than six rough and feral and thoroughly unwashed men surrounded her in a semi-circle.
It occurred to her that, though she was still in a circle of stones, they were not the same stones…and the forest was different. These trees were leafy where the ones at home had been firs. The angle of the light was off and the air…tasted different. She knew something very strange had happened, but her mind was having a hard time processing what it could have been.
Where was she? What had happened? Was this a hallucination? A dream? Had she died? Was this heaven? The men were certainly handsome enough for it to be.
And why was she still…tingling?
“What is it Declan?” One of the men asked.
The first man—the leader—looked her up and down. His lip curled and he sneered, “What is it? Why, a Cameron spy of course.”