James opened his mouth to say something, but Abby bustled in with the tea tray before he had the chance.
“James Campbell! Ye’ll be putting that pipe away, or taking it outside. Ye ken better. And why ye’d want tae slowly kill yerself with tobacco is beyond my ken anyhow.”
James looked very much like a schoolboy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Och, woman,” he replied. “Cease ye’re nagging. I’m an old man, and my time cannae be far in the future anyway. Let me enjoy what little I have left.”
Aileen ducked her head to hide a smile, but Patrick caught it just before a wave of raven hair hid her face. He glanced at Abby. “I take it this is a familiar battle?”
But it was Aileen who answered, lifting her head. She’d composed her features, but he could hear the laughter in her voice. “Oh, aye. They’ve been having it forever. My Da and Abby were sweethearts once upon a time.” She grinned. “But then she met Fergus, and he met my Mum and here I am.”
“Old history,” Abby replied. “Ye’ll pour, Aileen?”
“O’ course.” Aileen reached for the teapot Abby had set on the table. “How do ye like your tea, Patrick?”
“Cream.” He smiled at her. “And one of those amazing looking scones. I’m going to gain about a hundred pounds while I’m here, if Abby continues cooking the way she does.”
“Well, ye could use some fattening up,” Abby replied. She turned to glance at James. He sheepishly laid his pipe on the table, and took his teacup from his daughter. Abby turned on her heel with a satisfied smile and left the room.
“Harridan,” James muttered. But he appeared more amused than irritated as he tucked into a scone.
Aileen gazed at Patrick. “Ye said, ‘while I’m here.’ Are ye nae planning on staying then?”
“I haven’t really made any formal plans,” he answered. “I’ll keep the estate, of course, at least while Abby and Fergus are still able to run it for me. But I have to go to New York to meet with my agent and publishers from time to time, so I’m not sure I want to live here permanently. Though, the neighbors seem nice.” He grinned at her.
Aileen laughed. “Well, ye’re a charmer, aren’t ye?” she said. “But I understand yer predicament. I studied in America for a semester. The flight is exhausting in itself, and the time difference, the jet lag.” She smiled in sympathy. “Though, I’d think Grey House the perfect setting for a writer. Love yer books, by the way.”
“You’ve read them?” A sense of pride, mingled with curiosity, and fear struck him, as it always did when encountering someone who’d read his work. He was proud of his novels, but also filled with trepidation, in case the reader remained unmoved.
“She did indeed,” James offered. “Ordered the lot off Amazon as soon as we heard ye were coming. Devoured them, she did. And it was all laughter, then tears, then staring into space for days after.” He harrumphed and took another bite of scone.
Aileen blushed and ducked her head. Patrick’s grin split his face, while he gave a mental fist pump. “I’m so glad you enjoyed them. As an author, one always hopes they’re getting it right. It’s wonderful to get positive feedback.”
“They were fantastic,” Aileen said. “I was verra interested tae meet the man who wrote them. And here we are.” She took a sip of tea.
“Well, you’re right,” Patrick said. “Grey House would be a fantastic place to write, and it’s beginning to appeal more and more. Perhaps you’d be able to show me around the area? I’m between books and actually haven’t gotten a good idea for the next one. If I do some sightseeing, take in some local history, I might find some inspiration.”
“O’ course,” Aileen answered. “I’d be happy tae.”
***In romance, this is what they call the “Meet Cute.” I hope you’ll enjoy this first book, set in Scotland, a place I love. My ancestors lived there, and I feel the pull ever since I visited when I was 16. So, get ready to meet Patrick Graham, Aileen Campbell, and one very interesting Banshee, or Bean Nighe as she’s called in Scotland.