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?
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