Betrayed by the woman he was to marry, Kendrick de Piaget was killed and his castle was stolen. Adding insult to injury, Kendrick was left with a curse that he will not know eternal peace until he can rightfully regain ownership of Seakirk Castle. It is now years later and Genevieve Buchanan is the last heir to the castle and the only thing standing between Kendrick and his beloved relatives who wait for him in eternity. Naturally, Kendrick is impatient to finally be free of the curse and sets out to remove Genevieve from the equation. In turn, Kendrick is fascinated by this 5-foot-nothing slip of a girl who refuses to be terrorized out of her inheritance. The two reach an agreement to co-inhabit the castle and soon their unusual friendship gives way to mutual feelings of love.
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Waking up. Yes, that was a sight that should have merely inspired him to pull the covers back over his head. Obviously, he was not at his best in the morning. Not telling his father to go to hell. That had been his second mistake. That had led to mistake number three: being cheap. Maybe he would reterm it thrift and move on. Was that a gun? Hard to say. He quickly ran through his arsenal of deadly self-defense techniques, trying to decide which he could use without getting himself thrown in the pokey.
Somebody MacLeod, he thought. Where was that MacLeod character when Jake needed him? Jake declined to comment. It was bad enough he was getting mugged; he had to get mugged by a moron. He spared an unkind thought for his father. He would have been rolling out of bed to head to his office where he engaged in his own brand of moneymaking. Which he would get to as soon as he gracefully extricated himself from his current situation. The thug sighed heavily.
Jake decided, once his would-be assailant began to grope more than keys, that the time for action had come. The man slumped to the ground. Jake bent down to retrieve his phone and his wallet only to find himself seeing stars quite suddenly as well. Blood dripped through his fingers as he looked down quickly at his adversary, prepared to take further action.
But the would-be thief was lying on the ground, drooling peacefully. He made certain he had taken back his goods, then removed one of the least official-looking papers from his briefcase and used it for clean-up duty. He shoved the bloody page into his pocket, then made his way across the car park to the elevators. Several minutes and a brief detour to the loo later, he was walking into the very posh lobby of Artane Enterprises, Inc. He had no idea what sort of sweet deal had been cooked up between the two, but since Jake knew nothing about AE, Inc.
He was, after all, the mugged errand boy, nothing more. He was apparently only marginally successful in easing her mind, because she put her hand over her mouth as she whispered into the phone. Jake waited patiently, with a harmless smile, until another woman came to fetch him. She looked him over and scowled, obviously not liking what she saw. She gave him a look of skepticism his father would have envied, then sighed. She opened them with a flourish to let him inside, then closed them with a discreet click.
Jake found himself in an office that somehow managed to be old world and quite modern at the same time. It was probably the smell of money. No wonder his father liked this group. The place just reeked of financial success. A sandy-haired man sat there, taking notes on a legal pad. The other man lifted his head. Jackson Kilchurn III. I run AE, Inc. Actually, that dabbling took him all over the world in search of the unusual and exquisite, which in turn left him able to create one-of-a-kind pieces that fetched prices even his father found outrageous.
Not that he ever would have anyway. He sank own into his chair, his attention fixed on the documents in his hands. Jake sat as well, briefly. In fact, he had just such a trip planned for the next day—if he could get out of AE, Inc. It was filled with quite lovely pastoral scenes that were no doubt geared to make one feel as if he needed to spend pleasant afternoons on a little hill in the Lake District.
Nice, easily digested paintings that demanded nothing and offered peace. He was accustomed to seeing castles, having lived in England for well over half his life, but this was different. It was that it looked so…familiar. Artane… The name whispered across his soul, sending a violent shiver down his spine.
He never shivered, not even when facing down spiders the size of his head in the depths of South American jungles. He wondered, briefly, if that stray blow to his nose had damaged his good sense as well. I know, Jake thought with a gasp, like a drowning man gulping in his last breath of sweet air before he surrendered to the pull beneath him. Have you lived in England long?
My father sent me to Eton when he learned I was enjoying my pricey New England boarding school a little too much. I assume you live here now. All the more reason to get the hell out of there while he had his sanity intact. It had taken a toll on his common sense. Books, swords, jewelry. And we have AE, as well.
Several other interests globally. Importers of the rare, the unique, and the ridiculously expensive? You might even find something useful. Damn it. Very quaint. Very sixteenth century. Gideon laughed. Give my love to my family. Enjoy your stay at the inn. That same breath of sea air whispered over his soul, bringing with it a longing so intense, a joy so sweet, that he caught his breath. He, Jackson Kilchurn IV, a take-no-prisoners kind of guy, thought he just might have to sit down. He drew his hand over his eyes and then rubbed them for good measure.
Gideon rose and came around the desk. Ring me when you return and let me know how you found things. He made it unmolested to his car and returned with all haste to his flat, fully intending to go immediately to bed and forget the unsettling and quite unwholesome events of the day.
Instead he found himself pacing in front of his expensive double-hung windows and pausing every now and again to stare at the equally expensive Georgian manors across the street. But instead of being soothed by their symmetry, he found himself being overwhelmed by the vision of a grim-looking, stone bird of prey, crouched on a bluff by the sea, looking out over the beach as if it dared anyone to come and try to conquer it. It was just a castle.
The why did the mere sight of it threaten to shatter his quite manly and jaded heart? Jake accepted an equally discreet manila envelope from a well-dressed lad who demurred when Jake offered him a tip. Obviously Gideon paid his people well. He opened the envelope to find that it contained only a handful of papers.
The other was directions to Artane. The last was a brief note from Gideon. Jake, My father is expecting you and has invited you to make free with his vaults.
He has a magnificent chef and the scenery is not to be missed. Let me know how you find the old pile of stones. Gideon Jake took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He found himself being driven inexorably north. Against his will. Without choice.
But driven just the same. There had better be a damn good reason for it. He shoved all the appropriate paperwork into his briefcase, then, with a sigh, picked up the phone to have his assistant change his plans.
The de Piaget Family Series
Waking up. Yes, that was a sight that should have merely inspired him to pull the covers back over his head. Obviously, he was not at his best in the morning. Not telling his father to go to hell. That had been his second mistake. That had led to mistake number three: being cheap.
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