She muttered under her breath and stalked past him to join the others who’d chosen their partners.
Rory observed her angry strut as she preceded him. He wasn’t stupid enough to smile. Instead, he handed her the list of the items they had to locate.
“We need a plan of attack,” he said.
She scanned the list. “Outside items first, since we’ll need to walk farther to find them. The inside items should be faster.”
Soon they lined up and waited for the starter’s gun. A loud boom echoed around them, and the couples surged forward.
“I passed an oak tree during my loch walk this morning,” Anita said.
“Right. Are you up for a jog? We want to move as fast as we can without exhausting ourselves.”
“Lead the way.”
Rory thrilled at the competitive glint in her eyes, and he set a fast pace. It was a test of sorts since he wanted a strong woman. A sissy town girl would never pass his grandmother’s high standards.
“What type of job do you do?” Rory asked.
“I’m a widow, and my husband left me fairly well off, but I work in a lawyer’s office three days a week. I also help with community events in Middlemarch, where I live. What about you?”
“I make furniture.”
“You do?” Her brows arched. “I don’t know why, but I presumed you were a farmer.”
“My family has always been farmers, but times are hard. Our people turned to woodwork during the cold winter months. We have talent, and it made me think about diversification. It has worked well, although there was resistance at first.”
Rory noted she kept up with his pace, and pride filled him. She was robust and fit, yet feminine too. “Do you get the chance to run in your feline form where you live?”
“Yes.” She didn’t elaborate.
He tried again. “Is Middlemarch a good place to live?”
“It is. Our Feline Council works hard to give us everything we need yet keeps us safe. It was a fluke that led me to the town, but I’m glad I relied on my instinct to visit. It didn’t take long for the town to feel like home, so I stayed.”
Intrigued, Rory sought another topic to keep her talking. “If you find a mate here at the gathering, will you want to return to New Zealand?”
She shrugged and put on a burst of speed. “The oak tree is up ahead. Oh, look. A black feather. Isn’t that on the list?”
Rory checked, and aye, it was. He plucked it off the path and placed it in the paper bag the organizers had handed each couple. “An acorn.” He scooped one up and turned it over in his palm before placing it inside the bag. “What’s next on the list?”
“A photo of a MacGregor headstone and a piece of pink heather.”
Rory glanced around. “We’ll have to walk up the hills behind the castle to collect a sprig of heather. Have you seen a cemetery?”
“No. Maybe we’ll be able to spot it once we get higher.”
She’d lost some of her reserve, and a healthy pink tinted her cheeks.It made Rory wonder what she’d look like during lovemaking. Heat roared through him, and his wolf stirred, emitting a low growl. Rory restrained his wolf and raced to get ahead of Anita. A furtive approach might work best.
The second problem was he got the sense she didn’t want to move to Scotland. So, he’d pick his battles and face them one at a time. He and his wolf were of an accord. They weren’t about to let her escape with another shifter.