Posh Doc, Society Wedding

BOOK: Posh Doc, Society Wedding
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“I have two presents for you,” Ross said. “The first is just something that I thought you would enjoy…something to make you feel pampered at the end of a hard day.”

He had bought her a silk robe, beautifully hand embroidered, and exquisite in its entirety. She gasped. “It’s lovely,” she murmured. “I wasn’t expecting anything—especially not this.”

“Umm…I have to admit I’ve had a few problems over this robe—I can’t stop thinking of how you would look when you’re wearing it. I just can’t keep up with the cold showers.”

Her cheeks flushed hotly pink, but he had already turned away, and now drew out a small box from the bureau. “This is the present that I really wanted to give you,” he said softly. “The trouble is, I’m not at all sure that you will accept it.”

The breath seemed to have left her body all at once. He opened the box and inside, nestling on a velvet cushion, was the most perfect diamond ring she had ever seen.

Dear Reader,

New Year’s is always a very special time for me. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions as such these days, but I nearly always plan to do things better in the coming year, take more time for hobbies and organize my life as best I can.

For some people, New Year’s represents the opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to look at life from a different perspective.

What better place to experience all this than a romantic Scottish castle overlooking a beautiful loch? That’s the background for Ross and Izzy’s story. They have been on opposite sides of the fence for years, or at least their families have, with their ongoing feud. This makes things very difficult all around when these two young people realize that they are falling in love.

What they need is for their families to reach a truce, to make a fresh start. But how can that ever happen when everything Ross does is construed as the work of the enemy?

I hope you enjoy traveling along with this brave young couple as they struggle to find their very own happy ending.

Joanna

POSH DOC, SOCIETY WEDDING
Joanna Neil

POSH DOC, SOCIETY WEDDING
CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
doorbell made a cheerful jangle as Izzy walked into the village store, and the scent of freshly baked bread came to greet her, wafting on the air, teasing her nostrils and making her mouth water. Hunger pangs clutched at her stomach, causing her to frown momentarily. When had she last eaten? Could she count the couple of bites she’d taken from a sandwich several hours ago before all hell broke loose in A&E?

‘You look as though you’re ready to be off home, Izzy. Has it been a difficult day for you?’ Mary the shopkeeper came forward from behind the counter, her all-seeing glance taking in Izzy’s pale countenance, a smile softening her features.

‘You could say that.’ Izzy’s mouth made a faint curve in response. Mary was a motherly figure, always ready to talk, the sparkle in her blue eyes belying the years hinted at in her grey hair. ‘Unfortunately there was a triple-car accident on the dual carriageway earlier, and we were kept busy for most of the day dealing with all the casualties. We patched up the ones who were really badly injured, and sent them on to the hospital in Inverness.’ Izzy broke off
to glance around the shop, taking in the wide assortment of goods on display.

Mary nodded. ‘I heard about it on the local radio. I guessed they would be taken to your A&E first of all, it being the nearest. It was a marvellous day when they gave the go-ahead to set up the unit next to the health centre, wasn’t it? You and your doctor colleagues must have helped so many people there over the last few months.’

‘It’s true we’ve been in demand.’ Izzy turned her gaze from shelves filled with household essentials and pushed back a swathe of chestnut coloured hair that had fallen across her cheek. ‘Living here in the Highlands, people have always faced a long journey to hospital, but now the new A&E unit acts as a halfway station. Knowing it had been given the go ahead was one of the things that drew me back here…that and the fact that I can go out as an immediate care responder. It makes for variety and gives me a sense that I’m doing something worthwhile.’

Izzy’s gaze wandered again. She had dropped in here planning to pick up a set of teacloths for her kitchen, but her senses were filled with the appetising aroma of hot meat pasties and oven-fresh bread.

Mary smiled. ‘I guessed you would come back to us before too long…once you had completed your medical training. This place is in your blood. You were always one to love the hills and the mountains, and I remember when you were a teenager you could often be found down by the harbour, watching the boats.’

The shopkeeper contemplated that for a moment or two, but then her face straightened, her mouth pulling in a flat line. ‘Unlike some I could mention. You’d think
the Laird would put in an appearance at the castle from time to time, wouldn’t you, instead of leaving everything for Jake Ferguson to handle? Not that Jake’s done a great deal to help things along in the Laird’s absence…And now it looks as though he’ll be doing even less, if it’s true he’s thinking of moving down south to be with his daughter.’

‘Is he?’ Izzy raised a brow. No wonder she hadn’t received a reply to her request for various repairs to be carried out on her rented property. Jake obviously had other things on his mind. Why was she the last to know what was going on in the village? Her mouth made a rueful quirk. That was what came of working all hours and trying to mind her own business.

‘That’s what Finn the postman reckons.’ Mary was frowning. ‘He’s always the first to know the gossip.’ She gave a small gesture of dissatisfaction at the complexities of life before gathering herself together once more. ‘Anyway, what can I get for you today, Izzy?’ she asked. ‘Will you be wanting a loaf of bread to take home? I’ve just brought a batch fresh from the oven, and I know how much you like it.’

‘Thanks, Mary. That would be lovely…and a couple of those pasties, too, since I’m in no mood for cooking today. I’m so hungry I could eat one here and now.’

‘Then you must do that,’ Mary said with a chuckle, handing her a pasty along with a serviette.

‘Thanks. You’re a life-saver.’ Izzy took a bite, savouring the tender meat and flaky pastry before brushing crumbs from her mouth. ‘Mmm…that’s delicious.’ She closed her eyes fleetingly, to better relish the experience. ‘And will you add a bag of my father’s favourite
mint sweets? I’ll drop them off to him on my way home. And my mother’s magazine, if it’s come in.’

‘Aye. I can do all that. And we’ve a new batch of diaries in, ready for the New Year, if you’re interested. I’m very taken with them, with the gold embossed lettering and the soft feel of the leather.’

Izzy glanced over to the display rack where the diaries were set out, and paused to run a clean index finger lightly over the cover of one that stood to the front. ‘You’re right—and I will take one with me, before they’re all snapped up. They’re beautiful, aren’t they?’ She gave a gentle sigh. ‘If only we could really start afresh with each year that comes along. We’ve still a few weeks to go before then, though, haven’t we? It seems like an eternity. These last few months have been so difficult, in one way or another…For all of us, not just for my family. I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see an end to this year.’

‘Me, too.’ Mary put in a heartfelt acknowledgement. ‘The business is limping along, but I’m not alone in that…all the villagers are having a tough time of it.’

Izzy nodded, taking a moment to finish off her pasty before wandering over to the shelves where the teacloths were stacked. ‘The crofters haven’t been doing too well, have they?’ She frowned, pausing to pick up a linen cloth, holding it up to the light of the window. It was pleasingly decorated with a Highland scene, depicting a shimmering loch bordered on either side by craggy, heather-clad mountains. ‘I know the harvest was poor this year, so it’s probably just as well the majority have other jobs to keep them going.’

‘It is,’ Mary acknowledged, ‘but I can’t help thinking you’ve come off worse than any of us, with your cousin
Alice being in hospital and all. Your poor mother was terribly shaken up by it, I know.’

‘Yes, it hit us hard, all of us—my mother especially. Hearing about the car crash came as a dreadful blow. After all, Alice lived with us for a few years after her parents passed away, and she was more like a sister to me.’ Izzy was still shocked by the thought of the accident that had kept Alice in hospital these several months. It saddened her that she was helpless to do anything to speed up her recovery, and it wrung her heart that there was so much bitterness and recrimination associated with the whole event.

Her father had never reconciled himself to the circumstances that had taken Alice away from them, some six or seven years ago, and now her return to Scotland was tinged with unhappiness.

She tried not to think about it. Instead she looked out of the window at the landscape of her birth, a sight that invariably had the power to calm her. In the distance she could see the glorious hills and mountains of the West Highlands, with white painted houses clustered along the road that wound gently through the glen, and if she looked very carefully she could just make out the curve of the bay and the small harbour where boats bobbed gently on the water.

Bringing her glance closer to home, she looked to where the side road led on to the paved forecourt of the village shop. She thought she heard the soft purr of an engine drawing closer. Moments later a gleaming four-by-four made an appearance, gliding to a halt in front of the store.

‘Well, there’s a vehicle that makes a grand statement,
if ever there was one.’ Mary came to join her by the window, and both women looked out at the majestic silver Range Rover that had come into view. ‘Now, who do you think that belongs to?’ the shopkeeper queried absently. ‘No one from around here, that’s for sure.’

Izzy didn’t answer, but watched as the driver slid down from the car and walked purposefully round to the passenger side. He pulled open the door and reached inside the vehicle, resting his arm on one of the seats as he paused to speak to someone who was sitting in the back.

Perhaps it was the casual, loose-limbed confidence in the way he moved that caught Izzy’s attention, or maybe it was the taut stretch of black denim straining against his strong thighs that alerted her, or even the sweep of his broad shoulders, clad in a supple leather jacket…Either way, Izzy’s senses were suddenly geared into action. A band of tension tautened her abdomen. She realised there was something intensely familiar about the rugged, long-legged man who had come out of the blue to fill her vision.

Right now he was inviting a tawny-haired child to step down from the vehicle, and when the girl hesitated he lifted his arms to grasp her with both hands and swing her effortlessly from her seat, setting her carefully down on the ground. For a second or two, as he paused to steady her, he looked towards the far hills, so that his features came momentarily into sharp relief. Izzy pulled in a brief, harsh breath of recognition.

What had Mary said about the Laird not coming home? She watched as he stood aside to encourage a young boy to jump down from the car, and beside her Mary echoed what they were both thinking.

‘Well, I never. Talk of the devil. If it isn’t himself, come to grace us with his presence. And aren’t those children with him your Alice’s bairns? I thought they were staying with their aunt, Alice’s sister, down in the Lake District?’ She frowned. ‘I wonder what brings him to these parts after all this time? How long has it been? About six years, do you think?’

‘That sounds about right.’ Izzy struggled to find her voice. ‘It must be all of six years since the old Laird died.’

‘And hardly a sight of the new Laird since—though I suppose he must have been in touch with his estate manager on a fairly regular basis. How else would Jake have had the power to put the rents up and cut the timber hereabouts? Things could be falling apart up at the castle, for all Ross Buchanan knows. That’s what comes of being an absentee landlord. Everything goes to rack and ruin.’

Izzy was still struggling to come to terms with seeing Ross back on his home ground, but now she stifled a discomfited laugh. ‘You’re beginning to sound an awful lot like my father,’ she murmured.

Mary chuckled. ‘And your father doesn’t even have the excuse of being a tenant, does he? Now, there’s a man with more than his fair share of common sense.’

‘I think it has rather more to do with a determination never to be indebted to the Buchanans in any way,’ Izzy said with a rueful smile. ‘He’s a fiercely proud man, my father.’

The sound of children’s excited voices floated on the air, coming closer, and Izzy felt her whole body tighten as she waited for the shop door to open. How was she going to cope with coming face to face with Ross Buchanan after all this time?

‘I’m thirsty,’ the boy said, bursting into the store with the noisy rush of energy of a youngster who had been imprisoned inside a car for far too long. At six years old, he had no time to waste. Life was for living. ‘Can I have a can of fizzy pop?’ He directed the words behind him as he continued on his path. ‘I’m not going to be sick again. You said I could have a drink, and I really want fizzy pop…and an ice cream with lots of sprinkles on it and a chocolate flake.’ He headed towards the snacks section.

The girl followed him in a slower, more measured fashion, taking time to look around. The lingering rays of afternoon sunshine lent glimmering highlights to her hair, and Izzy saw that her green eyes were thoughtful, as though she wanted to weigh up the situation before making any decisions. She was younger than the boy, about five years old, and a pretty girl, so much like her mother, but with a shy expression. Now she put out a tentative hand to examine a packet of potato chips, only to have the item whipped out of her fingers by her brother.

‘I saw it first,’ he said. ‘They’re barbecue flavour and that’s my favourite and it’s the only one.’

‘You snatched it from me,’ the girl protested. ‘Give it back.’

‘You’ll stop fighting this minute, both of you,’ Ross said in a quiet, authoritative voice, ‘or neither of you will have anything. You’re on someone else’s property and you will respect that.’ He held out a hand for the crisp packet.

The boy’s mouth clamped in a mutinous line, and he glared at his sister. She sent him back a daggers-drawn look, sparks of steel arrowing towards him, her body poised ready for action.

Ross retrieved the offending packet and glanced at
Mary, who had stepped forward. ‘I’m sorry about that,’ he said softly, his voice a low rumble like smooth velvet trailing over a roughened surface. ‘They’re usually much more well behaved, but they’ve been cooped up in the car for a few hours. That was my fault—I wanted to get here before nightfall.’

‘That’s all right,’ Mary answered. ‘Perhaps they might like to run around out back for a while and let off a bit of steam? There’s a patch of grass and some wooden benches where they could sit and eat, and there are some swings. We don’t have the café operating now, since the tourist season has finished, but the facilities are available for them to use, and they can take a snack out there with them if you like.’ She looked fondly at the children, who were optimistically replacing glowers with cautious, expectant glances.

‘Thanks, Mary. I appreciate that. I’m sure that will be just the thing.’ He studied her, a brief, all-encompassing look that took in her neat skirt and blouse and the softly styled hair that framed her face. ‘It’s good to see you again. You’re looking well.’

‘Thank you. And the same goes for you…Though we were just saying that we were surprised to see you back here after all this time. But perhaps you’re here to see Alice, now that she’s been brought up to Inverness?’

‘We?’ Ross glanced around, but Izzy had already moved forward, pausing to crouch down and say hello to the children.

‘Molly, Cameron—it’s so lovely to see you again.’ She hugged them both, and they in turn smiled a bright-eyed welcome.

‘Auntie Izzy, you came to my birthday party, do you
remember?’ Molly’s eyes were shining with happiness. ‘You bought me a dolly, and you and Mummy baked cakes for tea. And then the next day we went down to the lake for a picnic.’

BOOK: Posh Doc, Society Wedding
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