Saturday, May 7, 2022

Sneak Peek from Falling for the Scotsman ~ Jean C. Gordon

This weekend we're on our way to a surprise birthday party for my husband's sister on the other side of the state, so I'm taking an easy out for my May blog and treating you to an excerpt from my latest release.

Falling for the Scotsman

Hopeless Romantics of Willow Ridge, Book 8

Can their book boyfriends lead a book club of hopeless romantics 
to a real happily ever after?

Available in eBook and Paperback

Chapter One

It was sad. Sorcha Laurent looked at the tray of upside-down shot glasses she’d put on the oak bar for today’s tour tastings. No change that. It was pitiful. Euan’s Choice Distillery, the family business, had become her whole life. She could count the number of dates she’d had in the last three months on one hand. Her only saving grace on the social front was the Hopeless Romantics Book Club at Edie Rogers’ Once Upon a Book Store and her book boyfriends.

Sorcha snorted as she finished readying the tasting room for the day. Where she was now was a far cry from where she’d expected to be when she’d left Emory University with her newly minted MS in Chemistry to supplement her undergraduate degree in in pre-med and a sparkling new engagement ring on her finger.

Then Grandpa had died and her mother needed her help with the distillery—for a “short while” until Grandma was back to herself—and Sorcha’s plans all unraveled. She swallowed the sour taste in her mouth. Her research job in Chicago, where her ex-fiance was attending medical school, was gone in three months. They could only hold it so long. At six months a one-hundred-year flood damaged part of the distillery, and the business took a hard financial hit. Employees had to be let go. Just temporarily, Mom and Gram had said when they’d asked her to stay a bit longer. Sorcha, again, cancelled her plans to join her fiancée. At nine months, he broke the engagement, saying he couldn’t handle med school and a long-distance relationship.

Sadly, by that time, she hadn’t even felt any great loss, and the experience had helped her define real love. She didn’t mind managing the distillery while she figured out what she wanted to do. But she had wanted a definite out date. So Sorcha had signed a five-year employment agreement. An agreement that was up this year. Emptiness hollowed her gut. Mom and Gram were pressing her for her plans. She still hadn’t decided what she wanted to do—what new dream might replace the old.

She huffed and angrily shoved back her hair. If she were being honest with herself, not having new dreams or even a new plan after five years looked a lot like fear. She was simply too afraid to make any work decision or any personal plans. And until she could figure her way past this, she was stuck in time, stuck in Willow Ridge, and stuck with her book boyfriends. Stuck with what seemed like no way out.

Sorcha checked the clock. Seven-forty-five. Early to be done setting up, but she wanted to make it as easy as possible for her mother and Gram, who’d be handling the usually heavier Saturday crowd by herself today.

A knock on the front glass door startled her. Couldn’t people read? The package store didn’t open until nine and tasting room and tours ten, as the sign on the door said in big black letters. Sorcha looked up, saw her friend Abby Cameron Howard, and smiled.

She hurried across the room and unlocked the door. “Hey. You’re early.” Abby was never early.

“How could I not be?” Abby asked. “Food. Drink. And men in kilts competing in manly physical challenges. I may not be into all things Scottish like you are, but I can’t believe I’ve lived in Willow Ridge my whole life and never heard about the Scottish Games in Savanah before Edie mentioned them at our last book club meeting.”

Sorcha laughed at Abby’s enthusiasm. “And here you are, a newlywed, I thought I’d have trouble tearing you away for an entire day, it being the weekend and all.”

“Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I don’t want to expand my experiences in other ways, too.” Abby grinned. “Besides, it gives Matthew some new-dad time with my kids.”

“Yep.” Sorcha ignored the pang that hit her more often now that all of the other members of the book club were in romantic relationships. She walked back, grabbed her leather satchel from behind the counter, and pulled out her keys to lock back up on their way out. At the door, she stopped to text Mom that she was leaving.

Abby grabbed the phone, erased the any-problem-call-me part of the text, and sent it.”

“Hey.” Sorcha glared at her and took the phone back. “What was that?”

“Your mother and grandmother can handle anything that comes up. It’ll give them practice for your great break when your contract is up.”

Sorcha slid into the passenger seat of Abby’s car. “Right.” She put Mom and Gram and the distillery and her future out of her mind until the boys’ academy where the games were held came into view. A smile spread across her face.

“What are you grinning about? We can’t even see any hunky Scotsmen yet.”

Sorcha gave her friend a playful shoulder shove.

“Watch it. I’m driving. I wouldn’t want to hit any prime specimen that might be jogging the road. You want as big a playing field as possible.”

“Newlyweds,” Sorcha said in fake disgust. “Always trying to fix people up. She touched the Celtic design necklace her grandfather had given her as a child. Her great-grandmother’s necklace. “I was thinking about all the times Gram and Grandpa brought me to the games. I had my own Cawdor tartan kilts and competed in the Scottish dance competitions.”

“Oh, you should have worn one.”

Sorcha grinned. “And be arrested for indecent exposure? I was about eleven or twelve when I stopped competing and didn’t get my growth spurt until I was a high school freshman.”

Abby laughed and pulled up to the parking lot admission booth.

“I’ve got this,” Sorcha said, and handed Abby the parking fee and their admission tickets. Nostalgia filled her again as she and Abby walked onto the grounds of the academy where the games were held.

“OMG! It’s him.” She clamped one hand over her mouth and pointed with the other, while her heart pounded.

“Him who?” Confusion clouded Abby’s face as she looked in the direction Sorcha pointed.

“The tall auburn-haired guy in the Campbell kilt and tank top. Laird of the Isles. Lachlan. The book I’ve been reading since I finished this month’s book club book early.

Abby continued to look puzzled.

Sorcha pulled a paperback out of her bag. “I hinted to Edie to make it the November club read.”

Abby looked at the book cover and sucked in a breath. “He could be the cover model. I’ve never met a cover model.

Sorcha shielded her eyes from sun. “He’s gone now.” There was no reason for the pang her words caused her. Maybe Mom was right. That she got so wrapped up in her romance books that she didn’t leave any room for real relationships. She had started reading them right after her broken engagement.

“Maybe, we’ll spot him again later.” Abby waved her program. “The border collie herding is starting. I’d like to see that.”

“Sure.” Sorcha slapped her program against her and increased her pace, as if she could outwalk the emptiness. “I like dogs.”

“I know what I want for my birthday,” Abby said as they left the sidelines of the field where the herding exhibition had been. “The kids would love a dog.”

“They are cute, and smart,” Sorcha said. “Made me want one, too.”

“Why not get one. You’re on the edge of town, could fence in a nice run for a dog.”

“Um. Hmm.” Except she might not be staying in Willow Ridge. But she wasn’t ready to share that out loud with anyone, not even a close friend like Abby. All the book club knew was that she was considering other work options.

“I know that look,” Abby said. “Your mind is back on that hunky Scottish clansman you saw.”

Sorcha kicked a stone from her path. “Actually, no.”

“Sorcha, Abby!” Edie’s voice calling from behind them saved Sorcha from spilling any more. She and Abby stopped and waited for the older woman to catch up with them.

“I’m glad you took my advice and came,” Edie said. “But I wish you’d let me know. We could have come together.”

Abby caught Sorcha’s gaze and they both pasted smiles on their faces. Edie was a darling, and they loved her bookstore. But she was also the second biggest busybody in Willow Ridge, after Edie’s best friend Millie who owned the Latte Da coffee shop.

“I expect you’re also headed for the athletic competition,” Edie said.

“We are now,” Sorcha agreed.

“Did you catch the preliminaries before the herding?”

“No,” Abby said. “We got here just in time for the border collies. You wouldn’t happen to know anyone who breeds them?”

“I do. We can track her down after this next round of athletics. There are some fine, fine lads competing this year. Some young and a few a bit older.” Edie’s eyes twinkled.

The trio was lucky enough to get a spot in the front row of the roped off competition area. Sorcha scanned the field—both area-wise and competitor-wise. “So you have a couple of favorites, Edie?”

“Yep, one for you and one for me. The silver-haired one with the neatly trimmed beard in the Gordon tartan is mine. I bet he’s not a day under sixty, and he breezed through the preliminaries with the guys half his age.”

Sorcha and Abby laughed.

“And here comes yours.” Edie pointed at the guy Sorcha had spotted earlier, and Sorcha fanned herself with her program.

“Right. I know,” Edie said. “He looks exactly like the warrior on the cover of the book you dropped not-so-subtle hints about as a club read.”

“What are they doing?” Abby asked.

“Tossing the caber,” Sorcha answered.

“Throwing those trees?” Abby’s eyes widened.

“Yep.” Sorcha and Edie said in unison. “The goal is to see who can get the caber to go farthest end over end,” Sorcha finishes.

As the other competitors took the field, she couldn’t help comparing them to her “Lachlan.” Most were burlier, some with a bit of paunch. What looked like a muscled paunch, but one none-the-less. Lachlan was as well muscled with no paunch. She checked out his arms and thighs. More than as well muscled as some, but leaner, taller looking. Was that a plus or a minus? Gram would know. Edie would, too, but she didn’t want to go there with Edie.

A couple other men were up before Edie’s pick and the Lachlan lookalike.

“Watch their kilts,” Edie said.

Abby turned to Sorcha. “I thought we were watching the trees.”

“Drat,” Edie said. “They’re all wearing spandex cycling shorts. Except Marcus.”

“Marcus?” Sorcha mouthed to Abby.

The older man stepped up for his throw.

“He’s got on Gordon tartan boxers.”

Sorcha choked and kept her gaze glued to the caber while the man threw. Not bad. Marcus was in the lead. The Lachlan lookalike was next.

He stretched, biceps bulging in a nice way as he lifted his caber, his muscles tensing from his face to his calves. One, two, three. Sorcha held her breath. Eyes on the caber, she admonished herself. Almost successfully. She glanced down just as he tossed the caber, and a flip of his kilt revealed a strip of navy-blue spandex. Her cheeks heated at she redirected her gaze and watched the caber tumble a couple of times before landing about the same distance as Marcus’s throw.

A group of teenage boys not far from Sorcha uh-ed in disappointment, as two men with a measuring line ran out. The men measured and nodded at “Lachlan.” He raised his fist toward the boys in a winning motion, and the boys changed their disappointment to a cheer: “Mr. Campbell, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Campbell.”

“Wonder what that’s about,” Abby said.

“Got me,” Sorcha answered. She watched Lachlan stride toward her, kilt swaying. That wasn’t the only thing that had her. She smiled, ready to congratulate him when he turned slightly and walked to the boys. What was with her. He hadn’t been headed to her. He didn’t know her, and she didn’t know him, except as a book boyfriend. And she’d thought she was pitiful earlier.

The competition continued with one of the burlier guys taking first, followed by “Lachlan” and Marcus.

Edie grabbed Sorcha’s arm. “Let’s go congratulate our guys before they leave the field.”

Our guys? She stumbled after Edie toward the group of teens. Who knew the woman had such strength? Edie pushed through the boys waving and calling Marcus.

“My Lady.” Marcus bowed when they reached the fence, and Edie curtsied.

Abby snorted.

“Nice showing.” Edie nodded to Marcus and his younger competitor before returning her attention to Marcus. “These are my friends Abby and Sorcha. They wanted to meet you both.” Edie’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Sorcha especially wanted to meet Mr. Campbell.”

I did not. Well, maybe a little for curiosity’s sake.

The teens snickered. Had she said that out loud. Her stomach tightened, then relaxed when she noticed the teens were focused on Mr. Campbell. She half waited for them to chant “Mr. Campbell has a girlfriend.” Sheer determination drove out the sing-song chant starting in her head. If he had a girlfriend, it wasn’t her. She attempted to give him a once over without being obvious. It was unlikely he didn’t have a woman, or several women, in his life. Her breath caught. How could he not, looking like that?

“Certainly.” Marcus’s voice brought her back from her mind drift. “This is …”

Mr. Campbell’s gaze pinned hers. She drank in the deep blue of his eyes, his chiseled cheekbones, the way the breeze blew an auburn curl across his forehead. “Lachlan Campbell in the flesh,” Sorcha blurted.

Available in eBook and Paperback

The Hopeless Romantics of Willow Ridge series are sweet, small-town contemporary romances. Each book is a standalone and can be read individually or as part of the series.

Hopeless Romantics of Willow Ridge series
Book 1: Falling for the Boss
Book 2: Falling for the Fireman
Book 3: Falling for the Doctor
Book 4: Falling for the Deputy
Book 5: Falling for the Hockey Player
Book 6: Falling for the Single Dad
Book 7: Falling for the Farmer
Book 8: Falling for the Scotsman

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