Two Wee Drams of Love
Two novellas by Grace
Book 2 in the Highland Holidays series
Two contemporary romance novellas featuring the kilted version of true love…
Kiss and Tell
(Formerly published as a stand alone novella under the same title)
Jane DeLuca, Esquire, thrives on advocating zealously for her clients in Damson County’s courts, but her solo practice leaves no time for a personal life. She’s opposed in a nasty divorce case by dour, stubborn Scotsman, Dunstan Cromarty. And yet, as the clients’ case grows more complicated, so do Jane’s feelings for Dunstan—and his for her.
Crossing personal lines in the middle of a case could cost each of them their license to practice law, and in a small, rural jurisdiction, they’ll oppose each other frequently. Neither can afford to give up their livelihood or their professional integrity, but can they give up each other?
(Formerly published in the anthology Must Love Highlanders)
As a favor to his cousin, art history professor Liam Cromarty agrees to show American attorney Louise Cameron the Scottish sights. He doesn’t expect that his guest will challenge and charm him, until all he can see is the possibility of a shared future with Louise.
She’s at a professional crossroad, between the courtroom and the creative career she was robbed of as a younger woman. Liam is the perfect partner for exploring all of the wonders of Scotland, and he also inspires Louise to renew her artistic ambitions. When Liam realizes his actions were responsible for cheating Louise out of her dream years ago, he knows that whether he keeps silent about the past or reveals the truth, he could lose Louise forever.
Enjoy An Excerpt
Kiss and Tell
Attorney Jane Deluca has agreed to attend a lunch meeting with Dunstan Cromarty, a Scottish-born attorney who’s likely to oppose Jane in an upcoming divorce. They’re in an Eritrean restaurant, a family with a baby seated at a table near them. Jane keeps telling herself this is a business lunch….
“You don’t care for children?” Cromarty asked as the waitress moved off.
“I like children a lot,” Jane said, “but the rug rat will start bellowing here directly, as soon as Mom and Dad try to have an adult conversation. They’re always teething when they’re that small.”
The little family trundled by, the baby nothing more than a pink, sleepy face among soft blankets and padding.
“The bairnie’s too wee to teethe yet,” Cromarty said, his tone wistful. He turned a green-eyed gaze on Jane as she inhaled another bite of injera. “I admit to some puzzlement, Ms. DeLuca. You’re having bread with your bread and bread with your extra potatoes, and I heard mention of dessert. Are you the only American female who doesn’t fret about her weight?”
He posed this question without so much as a hint of a wandering eye, a skill necessary if one was to cross-examine witnesses effectively.
Or hide genuine curiosity.
“I like food, Mr. Cromarty, and though I’m usually careful about what I eat, sometimes a good dose of carby bliss can make an otherwise unpleasant chore bearable. Like your wee dram.”
He comprehended the analogy, but—let the record show—did not concede the point. “Is carby a word, then, Ms. DeLuca?”
The baby-family settled in two tables away, and Junior uttered nary a peep.
“There you go being Scottish again. In American, when the punch line is bliss, some leeway is allowed with the modifiers.”
“For a Scot, when the punch line is bliss, no modifiers are necessary. Have you any reason not to send the Almquists to mediation over the custody issues?”
He took the injera in one hand and tore back a strip with the other, the way he might have torn off a strip of paper to jot down his phone number. The gesture was fastidious and gave Jane an entire second to shift from carby-bliss to unpleasant-chore mode.
“Yes, I have a reason for avoiding custody mediation. My guy doesn’t want to waste the money. Why spend four hours in court-ordered mediation if you know ahead of time you won’t get anywhere?”
“A psychic client. How I wish I’d been retained by one myself. I don’t envy you.” He poured his heather beer into its special beer glass, letting the liquid dribble down the side in the exact quantity necessary to form a foamy head without spilling over.
“Not psychic,” Jane said. “Broke. Have you talked money with your client?”
“Some. Shall I pour your ale, Ms. DeLuca?”
“Please.” Because competence in any regard, but especially when it involved a man’s hands, was a pleasure to watch. “The Almquists are trying to maintain a decent lifestyle on one income, and mediation could cost them a grand they don’t have. Why don’t we at least try to come up with a parenting plan for them? They’ve already parted with the retainers, and they have only the two kids.”
Cromarty remained silent while he poured Jane’s ale, as if putting beer in a glass was his equivalent to savoring carby bliss. When the beer ritual was complete, he passed Jane her drink, then touched his own to it.
“To a quick, equitable, durable settlement.”
She sipped, because that was what the moment called for, and found…designer beer? “This tastes like flowers.”
“The heather is infused. The results don’t always turn out this well. I’ll ask Doreen if she’s amenable to a four-way meeting on the subject of parenting and try to come up with some proposals before we meet with you. I take it we’re going forward without fault grounds?”
The Toothless Wonder stirred to life. A small fist waved above the batting and blankets, and a thin cry sounded.
“That child wants a beer,” Jane said.
“That child wants a cuddle,” Cromarty countered, but softly, and as he spoke, the dad extracted the kid from the kid-carrier and cradled him against his shoulder. Junior went immediately quiet.
“Do you have children?” Jane asked. Cromarty wore no ring, but—family law, much?—that didn’t mean he wasn’t a father.
“Cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews.” He drew his finger around the rim of his ale glass. “It’s in the Almquists’ favor that they don’t have fault grounds. Their divorce might not be too bad.”
Fault grounds, meaning adultery usually. On that cheery thought, the yesiga sambusas were brought to the table. The spicy, meaty scent went surprisingly well with the ale.
“Have one of these,” Jane said, holding the plate of sambusas out to him. He was watching the baby, the infant again in charity with the world and grinning over the dad’s shoulder. Jane waved the plate a few inches either direction. “Earth to Cromarty, food’s here.”
That look passed over his features again, a careful non-reaction that pretty much shouted displeasure. In the courtroom, she wouldn’t mind putting that look on his face from time to time. Over lunch, however…
“My name is Dunstan, Ms. DeLuca. Dunstan Lachlan Cromarty.” He put one of the meat pastries on his plate.
“Is that an invitation to use your first name?” In this enlightened age, Jane did not presume with the guys in any manner she wouldn’t want them presuming with her.
And the Laird of Damson County’s Family Law Bar probably wouldn’t take kindly to presuming from anybody.
Dunstan Lachlan Cromarty unfastened his tie tack—a gold unicorn with a blue gemstone for an eye—and undid a button midway down his shirtfront. Next, he slipped his tie into the gap in his shirt, leaving the button undone, Continental-style.
He looked up when he’d finished rearranging his attire to protect his tie from flying gravy, and the sternness remained in the cast of his features, while in his eye…
A goddamn twinkle?
“How does one put it in American? Me Dunstan, you Jane?”
He bit off a tidy corner of the sambusa, while Jane tried not to choke on her ale. Mr. Cro—Dunstan—would be a terror on cross-examination, well prepared, quick, to the point, merciless, and blessed with excellent timing. Poor old Calvin wouldn’t know what hit him—again.
But Dunstan Cromarty would be a magnificent terror.
If they went to trial, Jane would just have to be magnificent-er.
Louise Cameron has slept off the jet lag of her flight to Edinburgh, and expects a day of seeing the sights of Scotsman Liam Cromarty. Her day doesn’t begin quite as planned…
“Hullo, the house!” a man’s voice called.
Dougie sprang from the bed and disappeared into the hallway, tail up, a cat on a mission.
“Gimme a minute!” Louise bellowed back. The clock said 7:45, but perhaps Liam had brought more scones. The leftovers from yesterday were in the fridge, minus the chocolate chippers that had been Louise’s dessert and snack.
Also her dinner. One of her dinners. The other had been a grilled cheese-on-rye sandwich.
She slipped into jeans and a T-shirt, then grabbed a flannel shirt for the sake of modesty and padded after the cat.
The guy standing in her kitchen was not Liam. “Who are you?”
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandpa left off munching one of the cinnamon scones Louise had been saving for Liam. He was white-haired, tall, thick-chested, and wore a red plaid kilt along with boots, knee socks, and bright red T-shirt.
“You were fishing yesterday, weren’t you?” Louise asked.
He’d been wearing plaid waders—the better to attract Scottish trout?—and singing something about rantin’ and rovin’. Louise had stuck to the path and quietly passed by, and when she’d returned, he’d been gone.
“I might ask the same question, lass: Who are you? I see you’ve passed muster with ma’ wee friend Dougie.”
Dougie stropped himself against heavy boots, clearly comfortable with the intruder. Louise sensed no threat from the guy, no menace, though the cinnamon scone was rapidly becoming history.
“Did you find the butter?” she asked.
“Aye, thank you, and the coffee’s on. I’m Uncle Donald. Welcome to Dunroamin Cottage. I expect you’re Jeannie’s latest American?” He passed her the box of scones, which held one plain and two raspberry.
Louise had never had an Uncle Donald. Now might be a fine time to acquire one. “If you made coffee, you’re welcome to stay,” she said. “Did I see you fishing yesterday?”
“I’m in the river most days, though I seldom call it fishing. What brings you to Scotland?”
A need to see fairy lights at dusk, and find strange old fellows making her coffee? The coffee maker hissed and gurgled, and a heavenly aroma filled the kitchen.
“I wanted to get away, and I’ve never been here before. Shall we sit?”
Uncle Donald put whole milk on the table and a bowl of white and brown lumps of sugar. Dougie sat before the fridge, switching his plume-y tail, until Uncle Donald took down a quarter-size green ceramic bowl from the cupboard and filled it with milk.
“The beasts train us, poor dumb creatures that we are,” he said, passing Louise the milk and setting out two plates. “You Americans like your orange juice, am I right?”
“Please. Are Scottish men all so well trained?”
“I’m a bachelor,” Uncle Donald said. “One learns to fend for oneself.”
For an instant, blue eyes focused on Louise, not unkindly, but as if the statement had some significance she wasn’t awake enough to figure out.
“Do you drink coffee?” she asked.
“Perish the notion. I drink tea, and whisky, of course.” He produced a flask covered in green and blue plaid. “Shall you have a wee nip?”
Whisky in the fudge and whisky for breakfast. No wonder people loved Scotland. “No, thank you.”
He tipped back the flask, his wee nip not so wee. “I do love a good island single malt. What’s your name, Yank?”
Louise was torn between a sense of privacy invaded, and the novelty of having company for breakfast.
“Louise Cameron, attorney at law, sort of.” She could go a-lawyering again if she had to, couldn’t she?
“Camerons are thick on the ground here, though they haven’t always been popular. Eat, child. Are you and Jeannie off to the city, then? Fine day to see the sights.”
Louise dipped a corner of the raspberry scone in her coffee.
“Liam is taking me into Edinburgh today. We’re supposed to see the portrait gallery, then tool out to Rosslyn Chapel, and finish with a climb up Arthur’s Seat.”
Another not-so-wee nip. “Busy folk, you Americans. Shall you put butter on that?” He nudged the butter dish to Louise’s side of the table.
She nearly said, “Aye,” such was the Scottish gravitational pull of Uncle Donald’s company. “The butter here is good.”
“The food here is good,” he countered. “We don’t go for those android crops you make in your laboratories. Our dairy is largely organic, as is much of our produce. You must also try the whiskys, though Liam won’t be much help in that regard.”
“You’re his uncle?”
“I’m the Cromarty uncle-at-large, more or less. You mustn’t mind Liam.”
Family was family the world over. Aunt Evangeline had probably said the same thing about Louise to half the bachelors in Atlanta. You mustn’t mind Louise. She went to school Up Nawthe.
“What does that mean, I mustn’t mind Liam?” Louise liked Liam, right down to his t’s, and d’s, and the crow’s-feet around his eyes.
“We try to include him,” Uncle Donald said, “but the boy’s not very includable. Hasn’t been since—”
A sharp rap on the door interrupted whatever confidence Uncle Donald had been about to inflict on her, and Louise was relieved. Lawyers probably heard more dirty family laundry than therapists, and she certainly didn’t want to hear Liam Cromarty’s.
She opened the door to find the man himself on her doorstep. The cat shot out between his legs, while Uncle Donald remained at the table, munching the last of Louise’s raspberry scone.
“Uncle, what a surprise.” Liam clearly wasn’t pleased to see Donald, and neither was he surprised.
“Liam, good day to ye. Help yourself to a scone, and the coffee’s hot.”
Liam wore a kilt, another black T-shirt, and a wool jacket. The only resemblance between the two men, though, was size and blue eyes.
“I have an aunt just like Uncle Donald,” Louise said, patting Liam’s chest. “Every bit as presuming, though not half as likable. You might as well have some coffee. I’m not quite ready to leave.”
“Liam doesn’t eat meat,” Uncle Donald observed as he dusted his fingers. “Makes him skinny and cranky, but a day in the city will do the boy good.”
“At least I don’t housebreak uninvited,” Liam remarked, taking up Dougie’s empty green bowl and running it under the tap. “You’ll cost Jeannie her business one of these days, old man. Miss Cameron’s a lawyer. She can sue you for unlawful entry and pilfering her scones.”
Liam sounded more Scottish—“auld mon”—and he looked more Scottish in his kilt and boots. He smelled the same, though. Spicy, woodsy, delightful.
“Save me the last raspberry scone,” Louise said, “and Uncle Donald, it was a pleasure to meet you—mostly.”
With two Cromarty men in the kitchen, the space became significantly smaller. Louise took herself upstairs, grabbed a shower, finished dressing, and came down to find Liam alone, putting the last of the dishes away.
“You can relax,” Louise said. “Uncle Donald hadn’t really warmed up before you got here, and your deep, dark secrets are safe for now.”
Liam draped a red plaid towel just so over the handle to the oven. “You have an aunt like him?”
“She has to let everybody know I graduated first in my law school class, and that business with art school was a funny little idea I picked up from the Yankees, bless their hearts.”
Liam stared at the towel, his hands tucked into his armpits. “And every time she says it, you hurt a bit, but you’ve learned not to show it. I don’t drink spirits.”
Every time Aunt Evangeline dismissed four years of hard work and heartbreak as a silly little phase, Louise died inside. When Aunt Ev started in on that awful man and the silly business about the pots, Louise spent days in hell.
“Sobriety is a fine quality in the man who’ll be driving me all over Scotland, Liam.”
His shoulders relaxed, his hands returned to his sides. “I enjoy a good ale, and I’ve been known to have a glass of wine.”
The topic was sensitive, though, and personal, so Louise changed the subject. “Do we pack lunch, or eat on the run?”
“We’ll eat atop of Arthur’s Seat, unless you have an objection to picnicking?”
Louise had not gone on a picnic for… she couldn’t recall her last picnic. “No objection at all. Let me grab my jacket and purse, and last one to the car is a rotten egg.”
When she joined Liam at the car, he held the door for her, and she climbed in, prepared to enjoy a day that combined art, architecture, exercise, and natural beauty.
Also some company, though who would have thought: Liam Cromarty, that Scottish male monument to relaxed confidence and easy grace, had deep, dark secrets after all.