Series: Morna's Legacy Series - English #12
Published by: Oliver Heber Books
Release Date: February 9, 2020
Genre: Scottish Time Travel Romance
Sometimes the love we need the most is that which we give to ourselves.
With a thriving physical therapy practice, it’s easy for Allanah to lose herself in her work. But when the sudden death of her best friend sends her reeling, she is forced to rethink her priorities. Guilted into a blind date by her best friend’s widower, she never suspects for a moment how much one meal will change her life. Quickly romanced by the handsome Scot, Allanah easily lets him into her life. But as her feelings grow, so does her fear. For her new love holds a secret. One she knows she must learn before she can ever really know him.
Plagued by his past, Ross knows that he will never love another again. But when a date he never wanted takes him by surprise, his plans for his life take a turn. It doesn’t take long for the lass to soften his scarred heart, but as new love blossoms, so do the memories of his past. Desperate to hold on to her, Ross vows to keep his secret from her, unaware of how much she already sees.
Will Allanah’s love be enough to make Ross trust her? Will Ross’ past remain in the past? Or will history repeat itself, causing them both to lose yet another person they love?
Read all the books in Morna’s Legacy Series:
Love Beyond Time (Book 1)
Love Beyond Reason (Book 2)
A Conall Christmas - A Novella (Book 2.5)
Love Beyond Hope (Book 3)
Love Beyond Measure (Book 4)
In Due Time - A Novella (Book 4.5)
Love Beyond Compare (Book 5)
Love Beyond Dreams (Book 6)
Love Beyond Belief (Book 7)
A McMillan Christmas - A Novella (Book 7.5)
Love Beyond Reach (Book 8)
Morna's Magic & Mistletoe - A Novella (Book 8.5)
Love Beyond Words (Book 9)
Love Beyond Wanting (Book 10)
The Haunting of Castle Dune - A Novella (Book 10.5)
Love Beyond Destiny (Book 11)
Love Beyond Boundaries (Book 12)
For All Time - A Novella (Book 12.5) - Coming Soon!
4 Months After Machara’s Defeat
With the rest of Cagair Castle’s residents tucked away for the night, Sydney kissed her sleeping baby and husband, quietly withdrawing from the comfort of her bed. By the time she made it down to her beloved kitchen, it would be seven in the evening in Boston—time for her weekly check-in with Ross.
Her weekly phone calls were part of the agreement Laurel made with Ross prior to his departure from the Isle of Eight Lairds after their successful defeat of Machara. In exchange for a place to live for the duration of Laurel’s lease and access to her rather hefty savings account, Ross was expected to visit with Sydney each week to ensure he was making good on the opportunity to make a new life for himself. As far as she could tell, he wasn’t.
While she’d happily agreed to be the go-between, she now dreaded these chats. Every week, they left her sad and exhausted. Ross was always kind to her. He would converse because he knew it was expected of him, but nothing he ever said rang true. Any bit of cheer in his voice sounded forced, and she often wondered if he made up stories to make his days sound more varied than they were just to placate her. She knew he continued to struggle to find his way, and honestly, from what Sydney could see, it wasn’t any wonder.
She knew where Laurel was coming from. She understood the impulse to solve other people’s problems, but providing Ross a place to live and giving him enough money that he needn’t seek out a way to make a living on his own was the last thing someone like him needed. It took away all necessity for him to solve his own problems.
With any luck, all of that would change soon. She’d visited with Laurel last week, and it had been clear that they had come to the same conclusion—life was a bit too easy for Ross now. Since Laurel still occasionally kept in touch with a few of her friends in Boston via Morna’s magic, Laurel had told her she had something in mind that might change things. Sydney couldn’t wait to see what it was.
She glanced at the clock as she flipped on the kitchen light and shuffled over to the small round table at the end of her favorite room in the castle. It was time.
Ross’ number was at the top of her call history. He was one of the few people she still visited with on the phone. She was so used to waiting for him to pick up until the last ring that it surprised her when she heard his voice after only the second ring.
“Sydney, good evening to ye.”
His voice sounded distorted—his tone muffled by the soft crunch of something in his mouth.
“Same to you. Are you eating?”
“Aye, apologies. Give me just a moment.”
Sydney smiled as she listened to him swallow. Whatever was in his mouth, he seemed to be enjoying it very much.
As if reading her mind, he confirmed her last thought. “’Twas the best meal I’ve had in at least five years.”
“Did you order out, then?”
He chuckled in response to her question, and the sound of it startled her. It was the first time she’d heard him laugh. It was a glorious sound that loosened the knot of dread that had settled in her stomach.
“No, lass. Believe it or not, I dinna order out. ’Twas a delivery from a neighbor. Said her name was Beth, and that she’d been meaning to come for a while, only she just had a babe a few months ago and couldna find the time until now. She’s the wife of the building manager, or I suppose I should say she is the wife of the former manager. He just bought the building and is looking for someone to replace him as manager now.”
Sydney thought of the first few months with her baby and nodded. “Ah, well, a new baby does have a way of taking up every minute of your day. That was kind of her to stop by and introduce herself to you. You visited with her, then?”
There was a slight pause, and Sydney suspected he was shoveling another bite of food into his mouth.
“She dinna give me any choice, really. She stepped right into the apartment the moment I opened the door.”
I like her, Sydney thought, but kept the opinion to herself. If Ross liked her, she didn’t want to say anything that might make him push her away. Ross needed friends as badly as anyone she’d ever known.
“What did you two talk about?”
“We dinna talk at all. I mayhap said fifteen words the whole half hour she was here. She, however, spoke extensively about a manner of things.”
Sydney laughed. “She’s been trapped in her house with a new baby and is probably starved for some conversation. I’m sure she’s not always so chatty.”
Ross didn’t sound convinced. “I doona know about that. It seemed to be her personality. She somehow got me to agree to join her and her husband for dinner one week from today.”
Sydney smiled once again, and her worry dissipated a little bit more.
Clearly, whatever Laurel’s new plan was, it had just taken effect.
* * *
After three unanswered phone calls, Sydney was convinced that Ross had just successfully skipped out on their scheduled conversation for the first time. Just as she was about to give up and go back to bed, her phone lit up with his number.
She didn’t even have a chance to speak before he leapt into an explanation.
“My apologies. Caleb, Beth’s husband, asked if I would work on Ms. Jenkins’ drain. It took me far longer than I imagined.”
That was the sort of excuse Sydney would always be pleased with. Hard work was exactly what Ross needed. She would never give him a hard time for that.
“He’s been asking you to do quite a bit for him lately.”
“Aye. He’s said nothing, but I canna help but feel as if I am unknowingly being interviewed for a job.”
“What do you mean?”
“I told ye some time back that Caleb purchased the building. Beth’s dental practice has really grown in the past year, and they want Caleb to be able to be at home with their girls more. I believe Beth wants me to take over as building manager.”
It shocked Sydney to realize that the idea hadn’t occurred to her. The job would be perfect for Ross. Working on a farm for several years when he first traveled to the twenty-first century had made him handy, and from what she knew about Ross, he would never work well under any one else. Managing such a large building would keep him busy, but in many ways, he would be on his own.
“If Caleb ends up offering you the job, will you take it?”
“Aye. I know that I need to work. ’Tis not as if I’ve ever had any desire not to. I just havena been able to figure out how to go about it. I have no past work history, no education to show prospective employers, no references that anyone can call. On paper, I am not the most appealing candidate for any sort of job. And with my magic now gone, I canna even falsify such documents. If such an opportunity presents itself, I will jump at the chance.”
Sydney smiled as Callum entered the kitchen dressed in sweatpants and a white t-shirt. She always thought he looked sexiest just before bed. Quietly, he walked over to her and bent to press a light kiss on her forehead as she did her best to reassure Ross.
“I suspect that they will. Perhaps you should hint to him that you’re looking for work? It might spur him on.”
“Aye, I will.”
There was a slight pause as Ross’ breath caught, and a knot grew in Sydney’s stomach. She suspected she knew which direction their conversation was about to go.
“Yes, Ross. It’s done.”
“They’re married then, aye?”
“Yes. Silva and Marcus left on their honeymoon a week ago.”
Silence hung between them for a long moment, and Sydney didn’t rush to fill the silence. Instead she gave him the room he needed. She didn’t know what to say to him anyway. After thirty-odd seconds, he spoke.
“I hope he makes her far happier than I did. Will ye do me a favor, Sydney?”
“If I can.”
“If I write Silva a letter and send it to ye, will ye make sure she gets it somehow?”
“Ross, I don’t know…” Sydney started to protest, but Ross quickly interrupted her.
“There’s no need for ye to worry, lass. I’ll not say anything to upset her, but she was the most important part of my life for a verra long time. It doesna seem right that such a monumental event should occur without me acknowledging it. She’ll expect something from me. I’m sure of it.”
His use of the word ‘was’ made her hopeful. It meant that some part of him had begun to heal. He could see that what had once been true no longer was, and from that place, there was room to move on.
“Okay. Yes. I’ll get it to her.”
* * *
“How is the new job going?”
It had taken little time for Caleb to offer Ross the position of building manager, but Ross’ full takeover of the position had only been complete for about a month.
“While I canna say I expected there to be quite as much work as there is, I am thankful for the learning period Caleb provided.”
“I suspect he knew what he was doing. And how do you like the new apartment? Has anyone else moved into Laurel’s old place now that she’s finally given up her lease?”
“I love it. ’Tis much larger. It has an office so I can keep up with the necessary paperwork, and it connects to a storeroom that is large enough to hold all of my tools and equipment. As for Laurel’s old apartment, no, ’tis still vacant. There’ve been many applicants, but Caleb has asked that I keep it open for a while. I doona know why.”
Ross had lived in modern times far longer than her own husband, but the speed with which Ross had learned everything that should have been so foreign to him—computers, cell phones, paperwork—still astonished her.
“How did you learn everything when you first came forward to this time? It doesn’t matter what we talk about, you seem to have knowledge of it.”
Ross gave her a slight chuckle before answering. “I read extensively and became quick friends with the farmer’s wife who employed me. I believe she thought of me as the son she never had. While I’m sure she must’ve thought I’d been raised in a cave, she took great pride in teaching me much that I didn’t know.”
“Sounds like you lucked out.”
“Aye. I did.”
Sydney smiled as she glanced over at the calendar. One year had passed since Ross had traveled back to help The Eight defeat Machara. She wondered if Ross even realized it. He’d come so far in the past year. The man she looked forward to speaking to now bore no resemblance to the man she’d conversed with one year ago.
“Where’d ye go, lass? Ye grew quiet on me.”
“Sorry. I’m here. I was looking at the calendar. Can you believe it’s been a year, Ross? Please don’t take this the wrong way, but when you first moved to Boston, I was half worried you would drink yourself to death within six months.”
There was a soft, somber chuckle from the other end of the phone.
“So was I. I doona know if I’ve told ye before, but I will never be able to repay the kindness ye have shown me, lass. I doona deserve the friendship I’ve received from ye and others. I’ve slowly begun to find myself again. For a long time, I dinna think I ever would.”
Sydney swallowed the lump in her throat. She didn’t want him to hear her cry. The depth of her own affection for Ross frequently took her by surprise. It had taken so long for him to let her in, but now that she’d cracked Ross’ tough exterior, she could see just how utterly warm and gooey he was on the inside.
“I’m proud of you, Ross. And there’s no need for you to thank me. I look forward to visiting with you as much as you do with me.”
A sudden shrill yipping sound reached her, and she pulled the phone away from her ear reflexively.
“Hush yer yappin’ now, Tink. Ye know that Ms. Jenkins is right frightened of ye. We canna have her telling Caleb that ye are here.”
Sydney listened on in fascination, waiting until he stopped before speaking.
“Did you get a dog, Ross?”
“Ach, no. I canna stand the little rascal. ’Twas Beth’s doing. She adopted the wee, ornery rat as a Christmas gift for her girls, but she doesna wish for them or Caleb to see her until Christmas Day. I suspect she knows that once Caleb sees how excited his girls are, he willna be able to say no. So…she’s placed the pup under my care until then.”
Sydney shook her head, wishing Ross could see her.
“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Do you have any idea how difficult it is going to be for you to give her up after taking care of her for that long?”
He quickly dismissed her. “’Twill be no trouble at all, I promise ye that. The creature is driving me mad. My only regret in having agreed to care for the wee beastie is that I underestimated what a pain in the arse she would be.”
Sydney pinched the phone between her ear and shoulder, struggling to keep it still as she reached out for the small babe Callum extended in her direction. Nothing she said would change Ross’ mind. He would just have to learn the lesson for himself.
“Whatever you say, Ross. My bet is that you’re at the dog shelter five minutes after you drop Tink off with Beth and Caleb on Christmas morning.”
Ross laughed as their conversation drew to a close. “Doona hold your breath, lass.”
* * *
Two Weeks Later
“Sydney, wake up, lass. Yer phone is ringing. ’Tis Ross.”
Startled by the sound of her husband’s voice and the obnoxious ping from her cell phone, Sydney sat up in bed and reached to turn on the bedside lamp.
“What time is it?”
“Four in the morning. Something must be wrong. He wouldna call ye at this time of day otherwise. Ye best answer it.”
A sick, cold, foreboding enveloped her as she reached for her cell phone and stumbled out of bed. Adrenaline fully waking her, she hurried from the room, ringing phone in hand. Once she was out in the hallway, she slid her thumb across the screen to answer his call.
“Ross? Is everything okay? What’s…”
He interrupted her; the sound of his voice enough to make her grip the doorway.
“She’s dead, Sydney. Beth has died. A car hit her as she was walking across the parking lot at her office.”
Ross broke down into a string of strangled sobs, and Sydney closed her eyes as she slowly slid to the floor. She didn’t know this woman, didn’t even have the slightest idea what she looked like, but Ross’ affection for her was enough to break her heart.
God, what about her two little girls? Sydney couldn’t bear the thought of how her husband might be feeling. There were so many people that would be devastated by this loss, but her only priority was the man on the telephone.
He’d come so far in the past year, and now the friend who had helped him so much was gone. She couldn’t let him backslide.
“Ross…I’ll start looking at flights right now. Don’t worry. You don’t have to go through this alone. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”