Burns’ Night is a Scottish holiday when the works of Robert Burns are celebrated. I remember being 8 years old, living in Westhill near Aberdeen and having to learn Ode to a Mouse as part of a Burns project. I remember eating haggis, neeps & tatties (haggis, mashed turnips, and mashed potatoes) and trying to figure out with the haggis really was a creature with short front legs and long back legs – to stop it from falling off the mountains – or if my parents were spinning a yarn. I loved Burns’ Night, so I’m thrilled to be part of Tirgearr Publishing’s “Read Me, I’m Scottish” sale, especially since my third addition to the City Nights series, One Night in Inverness, is due to be published in March. For now, you can enjoy Aberdeen and Edinburgh for just 99p / 99c.
Chloe has travelled to Edinburgh to meet up with a potential client, and has just twenty-four hours to convince them to sign her contract. But when she meets the delicious Ethan, he proves to be so much more than an enticing distraction. It’s not long before Chloe has some life changing decisions to make, and less than a day to make them.
Chapter One – extract
Chloe squeezed her eyes shut as the plane’s wheels bumped along the tarmac, and her stomach lurched into her chest as the brakes were applied. Her ears flooded with the sound of her own heart beating louder than the squealing and screeching of the landing gear. Pressure built in her cheeks as she clenched her teeth together.
The worst hour in her life was almost over.
“Welcome to Edinburgh,” said the captain over the speaker system. “We hope you had a pleasant journey and enjoyed the flight. Please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until the light is turned off.”
A chuckle emanated from nearby. Chloe opened one eye and peered at the man in the seat across the aisle from her.
“You can breathe again,” he said in an American accent, flashing her a grin.
“I think I’ll wait until my feet are actually on the ground if it’s all the same to you,” she replied, leaning back into the headrest.
A loud ping was followed by a Mexican wave of clicking as the passengers released their seat belts and fought to get their bags and rush off the plane. Chloe undid her own belt then hurriedly squished herself into the seat as an oversized belly, violently stretching at a pale green shirt, began its invasion of her breathing space. Her shoulder was nudged as the impatient woman beside her stood up, hunching under the overhead compartment.
She waited for the plane to empty. The impatient woman started huffing and tutting. Chloe looked up apologetically, but was met with a hardened glare.
“Here,” said the man from opposite. She turned her gaze towards him and was grateful to see him holding back a herd of cattle desperate to depart. She drank him in for a second. He was broad enough to act as a barrier between her and the crowd. A very attractive barrier. From the way his T-shirt stretched over his biceps, she could tell that his width was certainly not due to being overweight. Ink spiralled around his skin from beneath the short sleeve, tracing down to his elbow.
“Thank you.” She stepped into the aisle. Immediately, the woman from beside her shoved herself through the gap, knocking Chloe into the man’s chest with an oof!
“I’m so sorry!” she said, stepping back and turning to the overhead compartments, feeling her cheeks heat. Her fingers tingled with the memory of his muscular chest beneath them.
Ross McKinley and his personal assistant, Lee Bradshaw, have been invited to Aberdeen by Ross’s ex-wife, Anna, to participate in a charity ‘slave auction.’ He finds the whole thing embarrassing, and not wanting to be ‘won’ on the auction block, he asks Lee to bid on him, and win whatever the cost. After a bidding war between Lee and Anna, Lee wins. Being the spoilsport, Anna begins subtly threatening Lee.
Ross finally takes Lee away from the event . . . and back to his hotel room where things quickly change from the boss-employee role to lovers. The following day when Ross is showing Lee around the city, it becomes obvious she’s not enjoying the adventure. She tells him about Anna’s threatening texts—she’s to quit her job and never see Ross again, or Anna will ruin his business.
“I swear to God, Lee…” he continued, turning to survey the room. He placed his elbows on the bar and leaned back. “What the hell have you got me into?”
She didn’t answer, finishing her drink instead. She didn’t need to respond. Technically it wasn’t her fault. It was Anna’s.
Ross watched as the other guests socialised, chatting amongst themselves. Waiters and waitresses dressed in black trousers and white shirts handed out hors d’oeuvres and glasses of sparkling wine with a couple of raspberries in the bottom. He grabbed one as a waiter walked past, drained the glass, leaving the fruit, and put it on the bar more forcefully than necessary. He checked his watch. Six o’clock. It was going to take much more alcohol to get him through the next six hours.
The hotel’s function room had been decorated in a vintage style, with pastel-coloured bunting and printed fabric hanging on the walls. Huge round tables had been placed around the room, draped in cream cloths, with ten places set around each one. The centrepieces were all identical – a slab of unfinished tree trunk used as a plate, with a glass jar holding a posy of pale pink roses and gypsophila, next to a small green bottle wrapped in old twine, holding a few sprigs of rosemary and flowering lavender. Candelabras hung from the high oak beams, catching the dying sun that broke through the few tall windows that dotted the stone walls. It was all very pretty, and very Anna.
His ex-wife was chatting with one of the band members, standing centre stage as always. Wearing a floor-length, emerald-green, figure-hugging dress with a neckline that skimmed her navel, and dripping in the diamonds he’d bought her over the ten years they’d been married, she looked amazing. And he hated her. He hated every fibre of her being.
“I am going to kill you,” he said again.
“It’s good publicity.”
“It’s a bad idea,” he countered.
“It’s a bit of fun and you’re raising money for a worthy cause. One you started, I should point out.” And she made her point well. The McKinley Trust was his baby, or more his ex-wife’s, but he was still on the board of the charity, for now. “It would have looked bad if you hadn’t turned up,” she continued.
He glanced at his assistant, not totally sure that he agreed with her. Lee finished her wine, and twisted on her seat. “I promise to bid on you,” she said, running her fingers through her long wavy brown hair and fiddling with the ends.
Ross shook his head, then squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. He pulled his chequebook and a pen from the inner pocket of his suit jacket and ripped out a page. He signed the bottom of it and handed it to her. “Go as high as you need to, but get me out of this.”
Lee nipped the corner of the cheque between two fingers, and smiled. “As high as I need to, huh?” She folded the cheque and put it in her black satin handbag. “Okay, boss,” she said with a wink.