My sisters were on a mission to cheer me up. Not that I thought I needed cheering up, but apparently, according to them, I’d been a little bit moody since Jack Mackie had left, or to be more accurate since I’d washed my hands of the backstabbing, devious outlander detective that had thought me capable of murder.
Thinking so wrong of me showed me just what kind of a man he was. Following me around like a sneak only reinforced that feeling.
It was a good thing that he didn’t live on Skye, or I may not have been able to stop myself from killing the man – well, not that I would ever kill, oh, never mind. Life was just too short to worry myself about the small things, except lately; when it felt like life was dragging by the second.
Still, I couldn’t see it myself, that whole being in a bad mood thing, but I guess trying to reach the knife in your back, while juggling work and family commitments could be a little bit stressful. Not that I was bitter as some had said because Detective stabs-you-in-the-back had every right to follow people like a devious little…least said about it the better.
Still, I’m sure being in the loving bosom of my family was going to make all the difference to my sunny outlook on life. Not.
Both of my sisters were being pursued, in one sense or another, by the men in our lives, and when I say our, well, they were a constant presence. Case in point.
“Ross, I swear; if you bring those big man boots in here again covered in mud and smearing it all over my nice clean floor, I will personally shove them up your furry backside and stab you in the eye with a fork,” I growled out across the bistro in a tone that I was sure he’d understand, being a werewolf and all.
Ross froze in place. The four tourists that had been in the bistro for what seemed like so long that they’d become part of the furniture sat open-mouthed and watched me from the table near the door. Ross shot a sideways glance at them as they suddenly scurried like rats to leave a sinking ship, and they practically bowled the big guy over in their rush to get out the door, the little chickens.
Had they never seen a Highland lass stand up for herself before? Well, this was Bonnie Scotland, and we were a fierce breed. You’d think people would figure that out from all the redheads alone, but no. I mean, come on, they had to build a wall to keep us inside our own country.
What part of that doesn’t scream – psycho here!?
“Smooth,” Ross chuckled as he hopped on one foot like an eejit and yanked a muddy boot from the other.
“They were only drinking coffee and table hogging,” I reasoned as I shrugged back with just a little sneer for my troubles.
Another thing with tourists was that they couldn’t believe how cold it was – really? It’s Scotland for heaven’s sake, not the Bahamas. We layer clothing, summer, and winter, and we don’t do that because we like to look three stone heavier.
“There is such a thing as online reviews,” Ross warned me from under his furrowed brow, and I nodded with a click of my fingers.
“You’re right, I’ll check the usual sites, and if they left me a bad review, then I’ll hunt them down and rip off their arms,” I added it to my mental to-do list.
Check websites, kill tourists. Did my day never end?
“Hey, Ross, Howl’s it going?” Moira teased, as she came from the kitchen carrying a top up for the cookie display that Ross was sure to munch his way through.
At least now we knew how the man could eat so much and why he was always so healthy – super fast metabolism and the healing gene. I guess being a werewolf came with its benefits.
When their gazes met, locked, and lingered in that lustful way, I was sure that I threw up just a little in my mouth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was happy that my friend and my sister had stumbled across that blasted, stupid, love everlasting thing, but they didn’t need to be flaunting it like love-struck teenagers.
“Can you knock off the smooshy stuff while you’re working and people are eating?” I grumbled.
“People? What people, you’ve run them all off today,” Moira grumbled back, and I grunted in response.
Now that she mentioned it; the customers had seemed a little eager to eat and run, can’t think why, and she was wrong about me running them off, but on the plus side, it did make my life easier.
“Maybe it’s your cooking.” I tossed back and snatched a sideways look at Miss Raised-eyebrow.
Moira huffed, and Ross took a single step. My gaze shot in his direction, my arm flew up, my index finger pointed at his big man chest, and I narrowed my eyes at him, causing him to freeze in place once more. “Those socks had better be clean and not smell like wet dog up and died on them,” I warned him.
Moira chuckled as Ross was back to hopping on one foot while he tried to sniff the other. Eejit. He wasn’t that bendy.
“You do smell like a wet dog sometimes,” Moira informed him, and Ross hopped, sniffed, and frowned all at the same time.
Who said our big, brawny Highland men couldn’t multitask? I mean, if you can down a pint with one hand and scratch your nether regions with the other – that’s multitasking.
“Ross!” I snapped, and his eyes shot a look at mine.
He froze like a deer in the gaze of his wolf. If I was feeling charitable, which I wasn’t, I might have given him bonus points for being able to hold that – sort of – flamingo pose, but then he was a werewolf, so I suppose he had gifts, just not in the bendy department.
“Aye, Maggie?” he said after a minute or so of silence on my part, urging me on in the hope that he could move.
“Just wanted to see how long you could stand like that. Now sit!” I snapped, and he stomped to his favorite table like a scolded child with his head down and mumbled under his breath. “Moira will fix you a doggie bowl of tasty treats for your dinner.”
I high-fived my sister as I heard him groan, and yes, I might have been walking and talking, being my sarcastic self, and doing the daily grind on auto-pilot, but the thing is – I wasn’t enjoying it the way I used to.
“Shift and bite your…” Ross muttered.
“What’s that you say?” I snapped out, and Ross looked pig-sick as he stared at me from under his furrowed brow. Guilt, I could scent it a mile away on that man.
“I said nothing…” he lied.
I’d heard him mumble and his lips had moved, a sure sign that he was either reading or talking, and he wasn’t reading. Ross knew our menu back, front and sideways, and I’d never seen the man with a book since his school days.
“I heard you.”
“Then what did I say, Maggie McFae?” he said, looking pleased with himself for coming up with that one.
Those dimples in his cheeks annoyed me. Those bright, laughing, teasing eyes annoyed me. He annoyed me. Heaven help me, but life annoyed me.
“I said I heard you muttering, did I say that I heard what you said, when you said it, Ross MacNabbie?”
I had my hands on my hips, head craned forward at him, I was wearing a hard glare, and my eyes were narrowed – you’d think the man would learn and not continue to repeat the same mistakes, over and over, and over again.
“Maybe you should get yourself to the doctor; it could be age related…”
I used my magic and shot the salt pot from the table in front of him up at his thick head, but, darn those werewolf reflexes, he caught it with ease. He might have grinned in triumph, but it was a short-lived victory because he didn’t catch the pepper pot that flew at him from the table behind his chair. It bounced off the back of his numpty head as he slapped his hand on the spot that would probably turn into a bruise sometime soon, if not a nice big duck egg-sized lump.
It was a shame that the man healed so speedily since his werewolf gene had been triggered, and that was also the reason I didn’t mind damaging him because a little lump might have reminded him that even a werewolf needed to be careful around witches.
Werewolves weren’t immortal like vampires, and don’t even get me started on Duncan – the boy-band impersonator, who we seem to have adopted like a family pet, and who couldn’t stop making eyes at my other sister, Eileen.
We had bat-boy and wolf-wonder at our house almost every night, and it was hard to escape the claustrophobic feel of the house lately. It felt like the only time I got any privacy was when I was asleep or in the bathroom, and Eileen had managed to walk in on me in the shower this morning – something she regretted about two seconds later when I used magic to lob the toilet brush at her head.
“Maggie!” Ross growled and then shot a look at him to make sure we were alone, and nobody had overheard the growl. Silly puppy.
“You can’t say butterfingers when you shot it at me behind my back!” he snapped.
“I can say butterfingers when you didn’t catch it,” I said with a shrug.
“It doesn’t work that way…”
“Does now, stinky feet,” I muttered back.
“I heard that,” he growled.
“I’ll let grandma know what big ears you have, you eejit,” I tossed back, snatching up my jacket and the deposit for the bank, and started across the shop for the door.
“What?” I said with a huff.
What was it that made people want to talk all the time? Was silence not golden anymore? Did they like to hear the sound of their own voice?
“Do you want me to go find that eejit, Jack Mackie, and eat him for you?” Ross growled.
“Ahh, Ross, that’s sweet, but – no,” I said firmly, and with a small shake of my head just in case he was doing the man thing of asking a question and not listening to the answer.
Why did everyone want to kill Jack? Even I didn’t want to kill the man – anymore, not that I was the sort to murder people as Jack should well have known but couldn’t seem to figure out with his detective's brain. Not that I was harping on it, Jack was a distant memory, or he might well have been if people didn’t keep bringing him up.
“Maggie,” he called just as I was about to escape to the outside world and some peace away from the insanity of my family, and Ross was my family now because he was dating my sister – sort of – and because I’d known him since the time when he still pooped his pants.
“Aye, Ross?” I huffed, standing in the doorway hoping to make it outside before I died of old age.
“That offer’s staying open, just say the word.”
“Aye? You want me to…?”
“No!” I shot back as I turned to look at the big oaf as he was pushing to his feet.
“But you said aye?” He looked a little confused and somewhat disappointed, and I had to wonder what the man was thinking.
Was he developing the bloodlust of his beast? Or maybe he was just a numpty as he always had been.
Scottish men did like to fight. It was in their DNA like the taste for a good Scotch, and the need to prove their worth. Not to mention the way they liked to tease the women they encountered. Aye, a Scotsman was more than just a thick head, a kilted warrior and good for a laugh, they were worth their weight in gold, and as most of them were built like brick outhouses, that could be a fair penny.
“And you did not let me finish. Aye, thanks, I’ll let you know when I want the man dead, but no – I don’t, so take a load off, eat cookies, ogle my sister’s goodies, and keep your paws to yourself – in more ways than one.” I tossed back.
Then I escaped before my head imploded or exploded, or I killed someone. It wasn’t like I didn’t have a mental list of victims, I did, but Jack Mackie didn’t know that because unlike bat-boy, the detective couldn’t read minds.
“Hello, Maggie,” Mrs. D called in that sickly sweet voice that was designed to lure you in, just at the moment that I’d already committed to turning away from the bistro to skulk off from Ross and his madness.
That’s what I get for not paying attention. I almost walked right into their web.
Really, you gossip just once, okay, twice, and they think they have their claws in you. Geez, I’d rather face down Ross’ beast any night of the week than become one of them.
“Got to get to the bank,” I called, turned the other way, and started off in the opposite direction than I’d originally planned.
Mrs. D, Mrs. P, Mrs. M, and Angela were all standing there like a pack of hungry dogs waiting for the weakest link to walk by. Well, that wasn’t me, they weren’t getting their claws into this woman, the gossips. Did they not have a life to get to?
“How are loves young dream?” She called after me, eager for news of Moira and Ross so she could spread it far and wide. Not that anywhere on the Isle was really far or wide, unless you got stuck in the middle of nowhere on a horrible day, and then it felt as if you were in the remotest place on Earth, but that only really happened to the eejits that didn’t stick to the areas around the roads. We call them – tourists.
“Inside making googly eyes at each other,” I called back over my shoulder as I kept walking, but wouldn’t you know it, there was my cousin, Isla, coming from around the corner and right at me.
Could I not catch a break? It wasn’t as if I could turn back. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place. I had the urge to headbutt the wall, and that wouldn’t have been a good look on me.
“Hello, cousin,” she said, and her eyes lit up when she saw me. Me, potentially the only person left on Skye that hadn’t heard some juicy bit of fluff and puff that was doing the rounds.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the gossips hunted in packs they also had their outriders. Who were the wolves now?
“I hear there’s a new bit of trouble…” I tossed out my worm to see if she’d snap it up.
“What’s that then?” Her eyes brightened like she’d scented a kill. I did my happy dance inside my mind; it wasn’t as enthusiastic as it used to be, but still…
“I don’t rightly know because I’m off to the bank before it closes. You go find out for me, and I’ll catch you on the way back,” I said.
I kept walking, and thankfully, so did she. Like a bloodhound that had the scent.
I’d spent the better part of an hour sitting on the benches that were tucked out of the way of Isla’s gaze just waiting for the woman to give up and move on from outside the bistro before she finally got the message that I wasn’t coming back and left.
I loved her as a cousin, but I didn’t want to listen to her gossiping ways today. And sure, it would probably have been more efficient just to meet her head on and turn my ears off as she gabbed, but I wasn’t feeling the love.
As I skirted around the back of the shop and went in via the kitchen, I had to wonder if my family were right about me being a bit on the moody side…No, I was fine, or I would be if everyone just let me be.
Gossips really were like a dog with a bone and Isla was one of the worst. She got that from my Aunt Kenzie, my dad’s sister. I swear, my family would be the death of me one day.
“Longest quick nip to the bank that you’ve ever taken,” Moira said as she caught me sneaking back in.
“I was ducking Isla,” I groaned, snatching up my bag and keys from under the counter.
I’d had enough for one day. I wanted some me time for once. I liked me time, not that I knew what to do with it because I never normally had any, but I should experience new things, and on Skye, new things were pretty hard to come by, aside from the whole vampires and werewolves are real thing.
“You off?” Moira asked, and I sighed at her stupid question.
“No, I thought I’d cuddle my bag, it looked lonely, the poor wee thing.” A stupid question deserved a stupid answer in return.
“Speaking of lonely…”
“I am not lonely. I am not moping. I do not need Ross to go howling mad numpty on Jack’s backside, and I’d kindly like it if we could get back to normal around here and stop talking behind my back with the pitying eyes.” I exploded, not in the spontaneous combustible way, although, that would have been fun to see Moira’s face if I had, but in the leave me alone before I press the nuclear button way.
Boy, did it feel good to finally get that off my chest? Moira had not been herself. Lately, she was being – nice. It was kind of creepy, like a Stepford Wife or a pod person had taken her over.
“I was going to say that Gran seemed a little down, but you go ahead and have your pity party…” she grinned, and I eyed her with suspicion for a long moment. She was always good at thinking on her feet.
“Really?” Didn’t I feel like an eejit?
“No, sad eyes.” She gave me her best pitiful look, so I zapped her.
“And then some.”
She beamed me a teasing smile, so I gave her a zinger of a sting like a wet towel being flicked against her double-wide backside before I started for the back door.
I was gone, out of there, and yea.
“There you are, I must have missed you,” Isla said, coming in, and I groaned as I turned on my heels and pleaded with Moira to save me from Isla, because I was starting to rethink that whole killing thing as something that might be good for me after all, like stress relief.