From A Highlander Walks into a Bar. Copyright © 2019 by Laura Trentham and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
“I brought home a surprise!” Rose Buchanan threw her arms out wide as if embracing the world. From the sto- ries she told to the way she entered the room, Rose was exuberant and entertaining and enjoyed being the center of attention.
Isabel Buchanan, who was perfectly content on the fringes, pushed her wavy hair off her sticky forehead with hands that trembled from the nightmare drive through At- lanta to the airport to pick up her mom. Her mom’s trip to Scotland had doubled as both research and vacation. The jammed stop-and-go traffic had left Izzy flustered and al- ready dreading their exit from the airport.
Rolling her stiff shoulders, Izzy stepped around the bumper of the car, popping the trunk open on the way. Her mom had a beautiful plaid scarf of greens and browns and blues tossed over her shoulder and what appeared to be new earrings. Either purchase might inspire her mother to gush, and she would expect reciprocal gushing from Izzy. Making an educated guess, Izzy asked, “Are those ear-
rings your surprise?”
Without waiting for an answer, she hauled one of her mom’s giant wheeled suitcases closer and prepared to
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heave it into the back. The sooner they got out of Atlanta, the sooner she could get back to work planning the High- land festival. Or she might pour an extra-large glass of wine and escape into a book. A guilty pleasure, consider- ing how much she still had to get in order in three scant weeks.
“Allow me, please.” A bearded man who had been roll- ing cases to the curb stepped forward with a grin and an accent Izzy couldn’t place.
She checked her pockets and winced. No cash to tip the man, and no hope her mom had thought of something so inconsequential.
“Do you like them? They’re hammered silver.” Her mom flipped her bobbed matching silver hair to the side and displayed one earring with her fingers. “And as a matter of fact, I did buy them from a lovely shop in Edin- burgh, but I brought something bigger home. Something more exciting.”
“Your scarf? It’s lovely.” Izzy gave her mom limited attention while she watched the man load suitcase after suitcase into her trunk, fitting them together like a puzzle. More luggage than her mom had left with. She waved to catch the man’s attention. “Hang on. That’s not all my mom’s stuff.”
For the first time, Izzy really looked at the man. He was close to her mom in age, and good-looking in a bear- like way with a gleaming white smile highlighted by a salt-and-pepper beard. His full head of hair was a shade darker, but graying heavily at the temples. The expres- sion on the man’s face when he looked in her mom’s direction—a mix of adoration and amusement—cleared the fog of confusion.
Lord have mercy, her mother had brought back a six- foot, two-hundred-pound-plus souvenir from Scotland.