My Highland Mate

Page 10

The Gathering Begins
“He’scute,”Suziesaid, staring after the man Anita was trying to ignore and avoid. The blasted wolf kept popping into her location like a magical genie.
Edwina laughed. “That’s the shifter Anita barfed on. He’s frightened to come too close in case she does a repeat performance.”
“Haha,” Anita muttered. “Hilarious. Is anyone interested in a walk?”
“I’m up for one.” Ramsay checked his watch. “We have time before the day’s activities begin.”
Anita lingered over her coffee, waiting until Rory disappeared, before swallowing the dregs and standing. “I’m ready.”
Ramsay stood, and they left the castle together.
“We can stroll around the loch. The sign says it takes less than an hour,” Ramsay said.
They wandered into the forest, the temperature cooler than out in the open. The fresh pine filled Anita’s lungs, and the tenseness faded from her muscles. The gathering would be enjoyable if it weren’t for Rory’s presence. Meeting new people always invigorated her, and the fact one hundred percent were shifters made this an incredible opportunity.
“Are you feeling better?” Ramsay asked.
“Yes, thanks. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe a mix of nerves, alcohol on an empty stomach and—”
“Anita.” Ramsay folded his arms over his chest, his green eyes full of patience and humor and friendship. His black hair lifted in the faint breeze. “You have a cast-iron stomach and handle alcohol better than me. What’s going on? You were fine until that guy sat beside you, then you fell to pieces.”
Anita closed her eyes and heaved out a loud sigh. When she opened her eyes again, Ramsay regarded her with a lopsided grin. “Why hasn’t a smart woman snapped you up?”
“I’m a busy man. Work leaves little time for socializing. I wanted to excel in my studies and the practical side of cooking.”
“Seen anyone to tempt you here?”
“You’re changing the subject.” Ramsay grabbed her hand and dragged her along the path. “Walk and talk.”
Anita sighed again. “My parents worked for Rory’s grandmother.”
“He didn’t recognize you. I mean, he was interested, but he treated you like a new acquaintance.”
“I’m not the same scrawny eighteen-year-old who informed him he was my mate.”
“He rejected you?” Ramsay grasped the gist of her story without her needing to paint the details.
“Yeah. I wasn’t an attractive teen. Back then, I was a scrawny feline. Rory’s grandmother wanted to keep the pack pure. She wants wolf great-grandchildren with not a hint of any other shifter. My father lost his job because of my actions.”
“Hell,” Ramsay said as they exited the pines and got a clear view of the loch. “Where did your family go? What happened?”
“My father took a job at an English estate.”
“I hear a but at the end of that sentence.”
She exhaled a gusty breath. “My parents decided they couldn’t trust me not to cause more chaos in their lives. They arranged a marriage for me with an older man with two children.”
“But you were eighteen.”
“Didn’t matter. I was of age. My new husband had decided to emigrate to New Zealand for a fresh start since Scotland held too many memories of his wife. He’d loved her, but he needed help with the children. That was my job.”
“It was a marriage of convenience?”
“Convenient for him. He got a babysitter, bed partner, and maid in one sweep.”
Ramsay scowled. “Did he mistreat you?”