My Highland Mate

Page 11

Anita shrugged. “No, not really. We didn’t have a passionate marriage, but we became friends. I miss him.”
“How long have you been a widow?”
“Almost three years now.”
“What about your stepchildren?”
“They don’t like me.” Anita lengthened her strides, trying to outrun the truth and the questions. She never discussed this because it made her remember the failure of her marriage. Toward the end, they’d argued more, and she’d suspected David was having an affair. There had been something fishy about his death in the Wellington hotel room. Her oldest stepdaughter had taken care of the formalities since she worked in the capital, too.
“How old are your stepchildren now?” Ramsay persisted.
“Irene is around your age. She’s twenty-five, and Susan is twenty-two.”
“They’re not much younger than you. You’re what, thirty-two?
“Thirty-one,” Anita said. “Do you think we’ll make it back for the start of the scavenger hunt?”
Ramsay curved his fingers around her shoulder. “Stop changing the subject. I told you about my background during the flight. Fair’s fair. Have your stepdaughters always been difficult?”
“They resented their father for replacing their mother so fast. After David died, they disagreed about his will and money. They had their mother’s jewelry and the apartment in Wellington, and we each had equal shares in the house in Christchurch.”
“What happened?”
“We sold the house and split the proceeds three ways. I haven’t spoken to the girls since. As far as they’re concerned, we’re not related, and they don’t owe me a damn thing.”
“That must be difficult when you nurtured them for all those years.”
“Honestly, they made my life hell, but never in front of David. I tried not to let it show, but it was a happy day when David decided the girls should attend a boarding school in Auckland and spend time with their mother’s sister during the holidays. David flew up to visit them every few months, but I’d started an office management job to fill my days by that time. I couldn’t get time off as easily as David, so I stayed at home.” Anita came to a standstill at the loch and studied the sweeping castle turrets. They gleamed in the morning light. “I’m glad I let you talk me into this walk. I’d missed Scotland.”
“You didn’t think of returning?”
“My parents wiped their hands of me from the moment I left.”
“But you’re here now,” Ramsay said.
“Against my better judgment, I let Saber talk me into this visit. He got me at a bad time, and I caved because I was lonely and feeling sorry for myself.”
Ramsay brushed shoulders with her and cast her a grin. “Huh! He pulled a similar trick on me. Got me in a weak moment.”
Anita chuckled. “I tell you what. While Saber might want us to find mates, there’s no reason to attend every event and activity. Did you check the evening’s entertainment?”
“Another dinner and dancing afterward. They called it a mixer.”
“Want to play hooky and go sightseeing later this afternoon? Instead of returning for dinner, we can have a meal at the pub. There’s bound to be a decent pub in the village.”
“Transport?” Ramsay asked.
“Uber,” Anita said. “The village is large enough for a taxi service, but it’s not far to walk.”
“Plan,” Ramsay said. “If you see the others, invite them to come with us.”
“Edwina and Suzie were going to the scavenger hunt. The guys… No clue. I’ll ask them if I see them, and you do the same.”
“Deal,” Ramsay said. “Now, let’s try to win this tropical island holiday.”
“Huh! Fat chance. I bet most shifters will try to win. The compere told us there were one hundred and fifty attendees.”
Ramsay pursed his lips in a whistle. “That’s a lot of single shifters. What are the chances of finding mates? I can imagine Edwina and Suzie’s grandmothers jumping up and down if the Council’s investment in us doesn’t work.”