Time and Again
Therese Whitmore is a realist, a historian, and the Smithsonian’s expert document preservationist hired to perform a job for a wealthy Scotsman. She doesn’t believe in the nonsense of past lives.
But when she arrives at Camden MacGregor’s castle, it feels like home, his touch makes her tingle like no other, and when she reads his family’s ancient journals, she experiences déjà vu like nothing she’s ever known.
Camden knows his long search is over. He’s found his soul mate, but trying to convince Therese…when she has no memory of her past lives…might cause him to lose her forever.
Camden MacGregor’s heart leaped when he saw his beloved Therese step from the silver town car. He’d spent a lifetime searching for her. A hundred lifetimes.
He chuckled and leaned closer to the second floor, leaded glass window to watch as she pushed her glasses up her nose and made a slow circle, taking in the scenery. She was nothing like he’d expected. But then, they never were...as the journals made plain.
She moved to the back of the car with Charles, her long gray skirt blowing in the chilly highland wind. Pulling her thin sweater tighter around her delicate shoulders, she pushed her waist-length black hair away from her face. She spoke with Charles, looking as though she argued with him.
Although Camden couldn’t hear her, he remembered every nuance of her sweet voice—its soft, west American drawl, the slight huskiness that had slipped in when she’d said his name the first time—the only time—he’d touched her.
Since their meeting in Washington D.C. a few months before, he’d researched her. She was nearing forty, had married and divorced in her twenties, no children and no living family. And nearly every museum in the world sought her because she was the best document preservationist on the face of the earth.
He cared not about her past. Only her future—their future—mattered. But he’d needed to know everything about her that he could find so he could persuade her to come to his remote castle in the Scottish highlands and spend time alone with him. So he could claim her as his own.
Therese, with eyes the color of Scottish bluebells and hair as dark and rich as a moonless night, was his twin flame. He’d recognized her the moment he saw her. This time, things would be different. Unlike his ancestors, he planned to spend a long life with his other half. His soul mate.
As she pulled her small blue suitcase from the boot of the car and brushed Charles away, Camden turned from the window and headed out of his study.
His biggest challenge, as he saw it, would be to convince Therese of their connection and prove to her he wasn’t crazy.
* * * * *
Teri Whitmore couldn’t believe she was here. Of all the locales around the world she’d ever visited, the Scottish highlands hadn’t been one of them. She feared she would freeze to death, but the beauty of the landscape literally stole her breath—or perhaps the wind accomplished that feat.
As Mr. MacGregor’s aged driver led her across the drive to the door of the refurbished, thirteenth century castle, her low heels clicked on the smooth cobblestones. The dark gray clouds hung low overhead, and she could hear Loch Ness’ waves battering the shore on the other side of the keep.
Her heart perched itself firmly in her throat, and tears stung her eyes. She loved this place, although she’d never laid eyes on it until five minutes ago. Yet, something seemed so familiar about it. Most likely from all the research she’d done about Quhartine and its owner.
The wind whipped around her with a biting force that stung her cheeks and blew her hair across her face. The castle should have seemed cold and looming with its dark gray stone, stark lines, and high tower, but it didn’t. She’d never felt such a sense of welcome anywhere.
The tall, solid wooden doors swung open to reveal none other than Camden MacGregor. Her ankle twisted slightly on a rough stone on the stair, she stumbled, and dropped her small suitcase. She would have fallen on her face at his feet if the handsome businessman hadn’t lunged forward and caught her against his wide, hard chest.
God, take me now! she prayed, unbelieving that for a second time in as many meetings with the man she wound up in his arms because of her clumsiness.
He smelled of wood smoke and clean male flesh. A scent remembered from a dream. Elemental. His cashmere sweater was soft against her cheek, so warm. She wanted nothing more than to bury her nose against him and breathe him in.
His deep chuckle rushed through her, making her skin prickle. “Now, there, lassie,” he said, his voice no more than a soft rumble against her ear. “We must stop meeting this way.”
She jerked back, away from the comfort of his thickly muscled arms, righted her glasses, and brushed her hair from her face. “I’m so sorry, Mr. MacGregor. My heel must have caught on the...”
His smile was so disarming she lost her train of thought. Straight white teeth, sparkling green eyes, and beautifully tanned skin. Oh, my...
“Come in, lass, before ye catch yer death.”
And his accent, she thought on a sigh. Sean Connery, eat your heart out.
She turned to lift her bag, but Charles stood behind her holding it, a slight grin tipping his lips and making his ruddy face wrinkle rather endearingly. He was probably trying not to laugh at her, she thought, and pushed her glasses up her nose. Oh-for-two for Teri.
Why had Mr. MacGregor hired her for this amazing opportunity? She’d spilled her drink on him the last time they met. Red wine right down the front of his white tuxedo shirt.
“Come in, come in,” he urged, stepping away from the doors and holding his hand out in welcome. “You must be near frozen standing out there with only a sweater. I’ve got a hot meal prepared in front of the fire.”
Food! Her stomach rumbled. It seemed as if it had been days since she’d last eaten. Heck, she’d been so long in transit she didn’t even know what day it was anymore. Airsickness was her plague, and she made sure she flew on an empty stomach.
She stepped into the warm interior of the keep, and her eyes went wide. She gasped. A tingle of recognition skittered over her skin, raising goose bumps on her arms. Déjà vu in its finest. Her tummy fluttered.
In her mind flickered a picture of how it had looked hundreds of years ago, without the heavy tapestries to warm the cold, stone walls, without the rich, white and gray marble flooring. The hall was magnificent now but had once served as a gathering place for well-trained Scots warriors fighting for their land, their people.
“Laird MacGregor,” she whispered.
Teri jerked back to the present and turned wide eyes on Camden MacGregor. “Remember?” she asked, her voice little more than a whisper. She shook off the eerie sensations coursing through her. This wasn’t the first time she’d felt a certain...recognition...to a building or piece of land, but she brushed it off as years of study.
“I read up on the Clan MacGregor before accepting this position, Mr. MacGregor. I’m sorry.” She pushed her glasses up her nose and flicked her hair over her shoulder. “Fanciful imaginings of a woman who spends too much time reading about history and too little time experiencing it.” She tried to laugh it off, but a chill skittered down her spine.
His rich, emerald eyes watched her with an intensity that made her more than a little nervous. From the moment he’d said her name as she stood behind a marble pillar in the ballroom, trying desperately not to be seen or spoken to by anyone, she felt as if she’d known him her entire life.
But that was silly. He was a Scottish businessman, and she spent ninety percent of her time in the basements of museums. Except for the symposium at the Smithsonian, she would have never had an opportunity to meet such a wealthy, gorgeous man.
Too much fantasy, she told herself now. A healthy imagination that let her fall into the lives of the long-dead people she studied.
Mr. MacGregor’s expression softened, and a warm smile spread over his lean face. “Of course, lass,” he said. “Please, follow me.”
She turned to look for her luggage and Charles, but he was nowhere to be seen. She hadn’t even heard him leave the room after he closed the doors.
“Charles took your bag to your rooms above stairs,” Mr. MacGregor said as he led the way across the wide room to the table in front of the massive fireplace. “I’ve put you in my mother’s solar. It has a gorgeous view of the gardens, though of course this time of the year nothing is blooming.”
He held her seat for her, and she sat down. The scent of roast beef and potatoes hit her hard, making her mouth water.
“Thank you,” she said softly, and set her purse on the floor next to her. She glanced at the fireplace to see that it had been converted to gas rather than wood burning. Warmth seeped into her, and she sighed.
Mr. MacGregor took the seat next to her at the long table and smiled at her. He lifted the lid on the silver serving tray in front of her, revealing a thick slice of roast and roasted red potatoes. “I hope the meal is up to your standards, Therese. I have stocked the pantry with American fare for your stay.”
“Thank you, Mr. MacGregor, but I don’t wish to put you out. And please, call me Teri.”
He chuckled, and she closed her eyes for a moment, savoring the rich sound. “Then I insist you call me Camden.”
Camden. “You are named after your ancestor, Laird MacGregor?”
He nodded once and lifted the lid to his own plate. “Aye. My mother was a bit of a romantic. Please, help yourself.”
She didn’t need to be asked twice. Teri dug into her food, nearly moaning at the succulent, tender roast. She could get used to this. How nice to have servants to prepare your meals and serve them to you. She sighed and speared a small potato with her fork. This was nothing like the bologna sandwiches and stale potato chips she normally ate for lunch back home.
Home... She swallowed her bite and glanced at Camden. He watched her with an amused grin. His dark brown hair held glints of silver at his temples, and laugh lines accented his eyes and mouth. Not only had she read up on Quhartine Castle and the Clan MacGregor, she’d also looked up this man. No way was she taking a job from someone who might be an ax murderer...or worse.
He was forty-six years old and a millionaire many times over. He’d been born into a wealthy family but had made his personal fortune in real estate—enough to purchase back the family keep and rebuild it over the last ten years. He’d never been married. His father passed away the year before he bought Quhartine, and he lived here alone with his mother until her death two years ago.
Teri cleared her throat. They were alone, except for his driver, Charles, who she’d learned through asking the right people the right questions, was also his butler. “Tell me why you bought a falling down castle and decided to live in it.”
His smile could make a lesser woman swoon. She fought the urge to sigh like a girl with her first crush.
“Would ye not wish to live in such a grand old buildin’ if given the choice?”
She conceded the point with a nod. It would be wonderful to live here.
“The Quhartine history dates back to over three thousand years, as ye know, I’m sure.”
Again, she nodded then reached for her glass of...beer? She took a sip. Ale, she decided. Dark and rich. Delicious.
“This land was fought over by just aboot every invadin’ peoples through history. Since recorded time, the Norse, and then the English. Quhartine was built in the thirteenth century by my ancestors as a stronghold. What better location to keep an eye on intruders coming in from the sea, and also the glen.”
“But the MacGregor Clan only held the land for a few hundred years,” she interjected. “And then you were run out and many of the clan captured or slaughtered by the English.”
“Aye. We were, lass.” He took a deep swallow from his glass of ale. “Many of our clan, especially the women, were taken to England and enslaved as indentured servants.”
Teri licked her lips and sat back in the chair, her mind churning with questions. “Then how do you come to have these documents you wish to have me preserve? You said they date back centuries and that they are written journals of your ancestors.”
Camden tipped his head to the side. “I do believe, my dear Therese, that I will not divulge all of my family’s secrets at once.” He grinned at her and lifted his glass. “Tomorrow morning I will take you to the vault, and you can look over the journals. Perhaps some of your answers will be found within the ancient pages.”
Teri wrinkled her brow and studied the humor dancing in his eyes. She did love a mystery, and Camden MacGregor seemed to be the most intriguing one she’d ever come across. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on those journals.
“Finish your meal, lass, and then I’ll show ye to your rooms so you might rest. Tomorrow is soon enough to get down to business.”
She was tired—exhausted—from hours of traveling, but for two months, ever since Camden sent her the job proposal, she’d been dying to see the journals he said had never been viewed by anyone outside of his family.
Reaching across the table, Camden lifted the lid to another platter. “Dessert?” he asked, holding out a plate of cookies. “My grandmother’s shortbread recipe. Guaranteed to win the heart of...” His words faded away when she raised an eyebrow and put on her most stern expression.
“I hope you do not have seduction on the brain, Mr. MacGregor. I am here for a job, not a tryst.”
He schooled his expression, but she still saw humor in those gorgeous eyes. “Win the heart of the most finicky palate, is what I was going to say, Ms. Whitmore.” He lifted a cookie from the plate and held it out to her like a challenge. “Go on. If the lass shall not love me, at least she can love my baking.”
Her face heated with embarrassment as she took the cookie and bit into it. It crumbled on her tongue, and the sinfully buttery treat melted in her mouth. Oh, Lord, she thought, he baked this? She glanced at her mostly eaten meal. Had he cooked the entire luncheon? She’d assumed servants, yet other than Charles, she’d seen none.
If she were the type to entertain any thoughts of love, she could easily see herself falling at his feet and begging for his affection. Not only looks and charm and more money than God, but he could cook as well?
Love had passed her by years ago, though, and affairs only led to heartache. She’d learned her lesson well. Professionalism was all she had now, and she clung to it like a life raft. Wrapped it around her to keep her warm.
“Thank you, Mr. MacGregor,” she said after she swallowed the sweet treat and sipped more of the ale. “I’m sorry if that sounded curt, but I...” I’m lusting after your gorgeous body and wondering what it looks like under that sweater and those pressed slacks.
“I understand. Ye’re here for a job, not a tryst. I have no intention of foisting meself on a lass who does not wish for me company.” His grin was wicked. “I shall keep the teasing to meself from now on.”
“I meant no offence. I’m sure you have many women offering themselves...” Why would the floor never open and swallow her when she needed it?
Oh, God, I sound like an imbecile.
“Shall I show you to your rooms?”
She nodded and dropped her napkin next to the plate. “Please.” Please get me out of here before I say anything else stupid. She reached down for her purse, bumped the table, and her half-drunk glass of ale toppled over onto her plate. She grabbed for it and, in the process, her elbow hit his glass. The dark beer splashed over the front of his off-white sweater and down the crotch of his tan slacks.
“I’m sorry,” she said in a rush as she grabbed her napkin and tried blotting his sweater. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I’m such a klutz. I keep ruining your clothes.”
His big, warm hand closed over hers. Bolts of lightning seemed to zip through her, and she stopped moving. Her heart beat as if it would jump right out her chest.
“’Tis but clothing, lass. Nothing to get your knickers in a bunch over.”
She burst out laughing at his terminology and slowly pulled her hand from beneath his. She bit her lip to keep it from trembling as she took a steadying breath. What the heck was it about this man that made her react so strongly to his touch? Why, oh why did she have the urge to lean into him, breathe him in? Why were her heart racing, her hands shaking, and her body pulsing with a need she hadn’t felt in years?
“I’m sorry,” she said again, and pushed her glasses up her nose. Careful this time, she leaned over and picked up her purse. “I think I’m overtired from the trip.”
Camden’s smile seemed to be filled with... God, she didn’t know. He looked like a father smiling down at a child who has just done something incredibly cute and stupid. Like eaten a mud pie.
“I’ll show you to your rooms,” he said as he stood. “You’ll feel better after a nap, I’m sure.”
* * * * *
Therese had to be the sweetest woman he’d ever met. She blushed like an innocent lass when she was embarrassed, yet there was no missing the flame of passion in those big blue eyes. She might deny their connection, but he knew she couldn’t hold out forever. She was scheduled to be here a month. He’d win her over in that time, no matter how much she protested now.
Camden pushed open the door to the solar and led her inside.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” she said as she spun a full circle, her eyes alight with precious wonder.
He’d lit the gas fire just before her arrival, so the room was cozy warm. The lowered light of the chandelier overhead added to the warmth, even though outside the wind raged on and the low, gray clouds clung to the tops of the nearby hills. The four-poster bed and its red and green tartan down quilt had been his mother’s choice.
His mother was the one who had convinced him to seek his mate when he’d become restless with his life. For ten years, ever since moving into Quhartine, he’d sought her out. But where does one find their twin flame?
In the most improbable of places, he reminded himself. When he’d decided to seek out Therese Whitmore to preserve his ancestors’ journals, he’d had no idea she would be the one. But as all the journals plainly state, there’s no mistaking the surge of power, of lust, of hope and dreams that overtake one’s body when soul mates touch for the first time.
“Through there,” he said, pointing to a door on the other side of the room, “is the washroom. You have yer own tub and shower. All up-to-date, I assure you. And through there...” He pointed to another door that stood open. “Is an office with phone, fax, and computer with Internet access.”
She nodded, but her back was toward him, so she hadn’t seen him point. She stared out the window. The gardens stretched from the back of the keep to the edge of the cliff. Beyond lay Loch Ness.
“Have you ever seen it?” she asked, her voice soft.