Duffy, used to his rider’s subtle commands, turned his tail on Alex’s tiny Alamo and cantered toward the castle, the highest point in Ethie Wood. Rory mused that the old idea of a dún, or fortress, really didn’t fit Castle Drummond. The whole area around Arbroath was too goddamned flat. But at some point in their family’s gloried history, this castle really did stand guard over the rugged sea stacks and relentless waves of the North Sea. The “top” of the hill rose only a few hundred feet from sea level. Enough to give it a kind of stern authority, back in the day when these towering Scots firs and pine trees had not grown tall enough to hide it from the rest of the world.
He followed the low rubble stone wall, an old boundary marker that served to separate the castle proper from the outbuildings below…long-vanished structures once full of horses and their grooms, castle workers and their families, property guardsmen, livestock keepers, and who the foog knew what all? He’d never been interested in being a “laird,” a glorified landlord. His idea of “keeping” a castle meant being a rich playboy, touring the world, dipping his dick in whatever took his momentary fancy. But not long ago, his father Kenneth had put his very large brogan on his son’s very vulnerable neck and had politely insisted…
He sighed. Of all the goddamned luck. Just when he’d found the love of his life, he had to spend that life doing a job that bored him shitless, in a place he’d rather be leagues away from.
He grinned again at nothing in particular. Better to have Alex in hell itself, than be in a heaven without him. As if I’d be welcome there anyway.
A hundred feet from the patio on the south side, just beyond the newer, higher stone wall, he noticed a spot where the grounds were flat enough to hold a rainfall without washing to the bottom. He and Duffy paced the perimeter of his mother’s future flower bed, while Thistle criss-crossed it a hundred times.
Perfect, Rory me lad. Travel ten thousand feet, find it damn near where you started. He rode around the wall to the high wrought iron fence that opened to the wide driveway and main castle door.
Kathleen Drummond, her sky-blue sundress flapping in the wind, clearly stood out from the rose hedge half her height, not yet in bloom, that ringed the castle’s eastern face. Urging Duffy through the open gate, he smiled as she turned to greet him, shielding her eyes from the early afternoon sun.
He swung easily from the saddle and signaled Thistle to sit while he strode to his mother.
“Darling.” She turned her face a little to allow an affectionate peck on a cheek.
“Mommy dearest.” He laughed out loud at her sardonic lift of eyebrow.
“I hope I’m neither crazy nor alcoholic.”
“Nothing gets past you.”
“No curve ball you throw, my most handsome and only child.”
They stood for a moments smiling at each other in the warmth of a welcome sun.
His mother was forty-something, going on twenty. Still slender, endowed with a rich, clear skin and luminous eyes, she was far more beautiful than her famed Scots roses—in his studied opinion.
“The hedge looks perfect. How far from blooming?”
“With this weather, I give them just another month, or five weeks at the most. Look here, Rory, where these tiny budlets are swelling from the thickest stems… We’ll have masses of creamy roses a whole month early this year.”
He pinched her cheek. “The envy of the Rose Fanciers Guild, or whatever they call themselves. Where’s Father?”
His mother waggled her bypass pruner. “No such guild. I wish. The last I saw, Kenneth had three cell phones lined up on his desk, saying something different into each one.”
Rory wondered why one of those calls had not been to him. At the same time, he was relieved to be off his father’s radar so far today. He shook his head. “Business. I wish I had the knack.”
“…Or the interest.” Again she raised one knowing eyebrow. Rory turned to hide a scowl. Both his parents loved him deeply. But they also knew him better than his comfort level would allow.
Pretending to loosen Duffy’s already loose bit, he thought about what had happened only five months ago, when he’d taken the first red-eye flight out of Houston back to Dundee Airport. His steward Alain had practically carried him in a babbling state of drunken despair, certain he’d never again lay eyes on a smoke-eyed Nevada cop, wishing someone would topple him off the cliffs of Arbroath and get it over with. He vaguely remembered wallowing in the fumes of some vile whisky for days or weeks, not bothering to bathe or eat, until his father appeared at the foot of his bed one fine morning.
He could not remember the conversation. But the scenario was one he was glad to let fog over in his memory. Kenneth Drummond had dragged him out of his too-large bed and dumped his arse on the floor. That he remembered. Told him to stand like a man so he could beat the holy living crap out of him. Only fear of breaking the bed—his own long-ago marriage bed—had kept his father from doing it on the spot.
He did remember part of what his sire had said. Something about getting a life, or losing everything—including his long-suffering father, who’d been acting as castle laird all the while his lazy-ass son moped and studied to be a foogin fool of an alcoholic…
Kenneth Drummond could wallop his overgrown son any day. Rory, who’d learned all his martial techniques from him, already knew that. Furthermore, he could, and he would, set his asshole son in one of the abandoned rowboats on Arbroath’s rocky shore, push it into the ebb tide, and let him sink.
Days or hours later, after Rory had crawled back from the edge, Alex had showed up out of nowhere. Literally. Nowhere, Nevada. From that day forward, whether because of his father or Alex or both, he’d become a different man.
But he still hated the hum-drum of lairdship. When he turned back to his mother, he tried to put his smile also in his eyes.
“You’re right, Mother. I’ve never pretended to be good at this property management cr—stuff. But a married man needs to buckle down and take responsibility. And I will.”
She laid a gentle hand on his sleeve. “I know you will, Rory. There’s no bigger buckle than yours, dear heart.”
If that had not been his own mother speaking, Rory would have made an instant lewd joke. But she was serious.
“Um, thanks. I think.” He grinned, affecting a broad Scottish burr. “Besides, I cannae wear Levi’s without me big buckle, nou can I?”
She sighed and shook her head. “Dungarees. You know how I love a man in a tartan.”
“Tell that to your husband.”
They both laughed at that. Ken Drummond loathed looking like, in his words, “a foogin penguin or Sean Connery.” He’d wear a dress kilt whenever he entered the Parliament complex to meet with his brother, and someone would probably bury him in his clan colors. End of discussion.
“Walk with me, Mother. It’s not far. Let’s take a look at your future garden. D’ye mind if Thistle tags along?”
She laid her hand on his sleeve again. “She’s part of the family, darling. Escort me to Kathleen’s Kailyard.”
His mother must be psychic. How could she know the new garden would be close to the castle cooking rooms—a kind of kitchen plot, like the old-fashioned “kale yard,” where his Jacobite ancestor Alexander Drummond hid from the Redcoats in 1715?
He patted her hand. “I love you, Mother dearest.”
His cell rang. Fishing it out of his hip pocket, he scowled at the likeness on its face: a ginger-and-gray bearded scoundrel.
Kenneth Drummond had not forgotten his son today after all.
The first two chapters are now “complete” as first drafts. Here’s another draft: a makeshift promo, using a makeshift cover. 😀
The first three novels are on their own Kindle series page here:
Thank you for following “my guys.” ❤