Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m crazy about Scotland. Given the chance, I’ll talk about it for hours, much to family members’ annoyance. LOL Some people can’t understand what’s so great about the country until they visit. My husband, for instance. Now he claims to love it more than I do. Not likely! Here, in no certain order, are the things I love most about Scotland:
- The beautiful landscapes – I only thought I liked Scotland until I went. That was when I truly fell in love with the place, mainly because of the beautiful, wind-blown landscapes, especially in the Highlands. The north of Scotland, Sutherland, is incredibly picturesque and atmospheric, and so are the Western Highlands and Islands. It is a harsh and wild environment, one where it would be hard to live, but to stay there a while and take in the surrounding beauty feeds the soul.
- The history – Scotland has a rich, turbulent history, lots of invasions and conflicts, wars with England, clan wars, etc. It’s fascinating to stand in a five-thousand year old ring of standing stones, or explore a castle built hundreds of years ago and learn who built it or who might have lived there. Some of their spirits remain; I’ve felt them.
- The people –Scottish people are friendly and welcoming, especially once they hear our American accents. They are also helpful and generous. I could listen to them talk all day. The Scottish accent is like music to my ears.
- The castles – I confess, I go for the castles mainly. I’m addicted to them. I love to explore them, learn their history, and take pictures of them in their mystical settings by lochs, on islands, or cliffs. These are the places where my stories happen. I need to fully imagine myself participating in the daily life of a castle four-hundred years ago.
- The weather – For anyone who’s been to Scotland they might wonder why I would say this. Not because the weather is always nice, warm and sunny. No, the opposite—because the weather is so interesting and unpredictable. You never know how the Scottish climate will treat you from one moment to the next. It might be a bright sunny day, but then you see a dark cloud approaching. Ignore it at your own peril. We tried to ignore a few of these looming dark clouds. Not good. We learned our lesson.
My newest release, My Daring Highlander, released in March. Here’s a short teaser:
Seona shivered, her teeth chattering, and she realized she wore naught but an ivory linen smock. Though the material was somewhat thick, the night air was cool. She’d not had time to belt her arisaid about her before Keegan dragged her from the tent. Besides, some of the maids had been sitting on it, and she’d had to leave it behind.
“Och, Lady Seona, you’re cold.”
In the near darkness, the rattle of Keegan’s belt startled her. What was he about? A moment later, a warm wool plaid surrounded her like a blanket. He pulled it around her and attached it beneath her chin with the brooch that had been fastened at his shoulder.
He had disrobed for her? Her face heated. “I cannot take your plaid.”
“Aye, you can and you will. I’ll not have you freezing to death on my watch.” He belted his weapons about his waist again.
“I wouldn’t freeze this time of year.” Though it was May, late spring in the far north of Scotland was much cooler than it was further south, where she’d grown up.
Keegan still wore a long linen shirt that reached almost to his knees, but to have taken his plaid… she couldn’t be so stingy.
“We could share this plaid,” she suggested.
She could only see an outline of him and the dim glow of his shirt in the night, but somehow she knew he was observing her, or trying to.
“I’m plenty warm,” he murmured, his voice husky. He withdrew his sword from the scabbard and turned his head. “Tell me if you hear anything.”
“Very well.” She knew he needed to concentrate on listening for enemies, but the time they had alone was rare and precious. After several minutes of peaceful silence, she felt it safe to whisper, “Earlier, you were going to tell me what you wished for.” She but wanted to know more about him, to learn who he was on the deepest level.
He turned to face her, his breathing close. She perceived his outline in the dim moonlight, but not his features or expression.
“I shouldn’t tell you,” he finally said.
“Why not?” Now, her curiosity was piqued. She wished to know all Keegan’s secrets.
“I’m not sure you would like it,” he murmured in a warning tone.
“Why? Do you wish to be an outlaw?” Could he have such shocking aspirations?
He gave a brief, low chuckle. “Nay.”
After a long, tense moment of silence, he stepped closer and placed a hand on her shoulder, then ran it into her unbound hair. He drew nearer still, his breath teasing the skin of her face.
“Seona,” he whispered against her forehead, then kissed her there. “This.” Slowly, he kissed her temple, her cheek. “This is what I wish for.”
All the breath left her and she could not draw more in. The kisses on her face created tingles that spread quickly throughout her entire body.
Lightly, he brushed his warm, tempting lips over hers. Her eyes slid closed for surely she had drifted into a dream world.
With his thumb, he gently stroked her face and jaw line. His lips were firm, but at the same time, soft and smooth. The short, rough whiskers on his chin scratched against her tender skin, but it wasn’t painful; it excited her and made her realize how very masculine he was.
His insistent lips compelled her to return his kiss, though she knew not how. She had never been kissed before, but she followed her instincts, pressing her lips against his and mimicking his movements.
“Mmm,” he breathed and kissed her more firmly. His lips nipped at hers, snatching her thoughts and scattering them to the breeze. When he touched the tip of his tongue to her lips, as if he wanted to taste her, a sound escaped her before she could stop it. Heavens! His tongue felt wicked. She wished he would do it again.
Trying to figure out how kissing worked, she parted her lips. He growled and darted his tongue into her mouth. That sultry move stole the strength from her legs, but she held on around his neck. Her breasts and other, lower, parts of her body tingled with a strange magic. What was happening to her?
Keegan tore his mouth away from hers. “Listen.” He turned his head toward the north.
She held her breath, trying to listen. With her heartbeat thumping in her ears, she could perceive naught.
* * * * *
Vonda Sinclair’s favorite indulgent pastime is exploring Scotland, from Edinburgh to the untamed and windblown north coast. She also enjoys creating hot, Highland heroes and spirited lasses to drive them mad. She is an EPIC Award winner, a past Golden Heart finalist and Laurie award winner. She lives with her amazing and supportive husband in the mountains of North Carolina where she is no doubt creating another Scottish story.