To honor her dying father’s wish, Chicago stockbroker Shelby Harmon promises to hand deliver an envelope addressed to “Robert Nichols, Personal & Confidential.” Her quest to find Robert leads her to a most unlikely place—the Castlehill Gardens outside Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle. Who is this fiercely private man and what is his connection to Harmony Lane, her family’s horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky?
Harrison Reed cautions Shelby against dredging up hurtful memories for his close friend, Robert. As they explore the city together, Shelby and Harrison find themselves increasingly drawn to one another. When the contents of the mysterious envelope are revealed, the answer gives her hope for the future of Harmony Lane.
Is the time spent in Edinburgh with Harrison destined to be nothing more than a beautiful memory? Did Shelby lose her heart in Edinburgh...or find her way home again?
“This one’s for you, Daddy.”
Six months ago, who could have guessed Shelby Harmon would be standing outside a castle? Not your average, run-of-the-mill castle, either, but Edinburgh Castle. Scotland’s national treasure. She breathed in the heady scent of blooming roses and soil dampened by the late morning rain. Shelby’s pulse strummed faster as she followed the winding walkway. Was she crazy to travel nearly four-thousand miles to deliver an envelope containing who-knows-what to a man she’d never met? Perhaps, but a promise was a promise, especially to her dying father.
The tour guide said she’d find the man she sought somewhere on the grounds, most likely in the Castlehill Gardens. After rounding a bend behind a row of hedges, she stopped short. Hunched between multi-colored rose bushes, a middle-aged gardener was engaged in a tug-of-war with pesky weeds. Intent on his work, he grunted with the effort. Thankful he hadn’t yet spied her, she stepped off the walkway, frowning as her new ballet flats sank into the earth.
When she glimpsed his profile, Shelby’s breath hitched. The strong resemblance to the man in the faded photograph she’d found among her father’s possessions was undeniable, the only difference being the added refinement of a quarter century. His dark hair was peppered with silver and cut military short, and his faded jeans were tucked into combat boots. The rolled sleeves of his denim work shirt revealed arms tanned a deep brown—an anomaly among the perennially fair-skinned Scottish natives.
He straightened to his full height and released a shallow groan. Sliding his hands down to his hips, he raised his face to the warmth of the emerging sun. As though sensing her scrutiny, he turned, his features a study in curiosity as he spied her.
“Please stay on the walkway, lass.” After tugging a soiled work glove from one hand, he pointed to the path. His slight brogue—husky as if thick with the ever-present mist—was tinged with an unmistakable Kentucky accent, an unexpected solace so far from home. He took a few slow steps toward her, favoring his right leg. As he approached, Shelby caught a glimpse of deep-set, piercing blue eyes that held a guarded wariness.
Not wanting to irritate him further, she stepped back on the walkway. “I’m sorry to interrupt your work, sir, but I’m looking for Robert Nichols from Lexington, Kentucky.”
“You’ve found him.” Standing a few feet away, he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes.
Shelby smiled, hoping to put them both more at ease. “I’m Shelby Harmon, Katie and Tom Harmon’s daughter.”
No immediate response was forthcoming although something akin to recognition flickered in his gaze.
“My Aunt Lily told me you worked at Harmony Lane with my mom when you were teenagers. I believe you knew her as Katie McCormick?” Her professional instincts taking over, Shelby extended her hand.
Robert’s stoic expression relaxed and, for a fleeting moment, reminded Shelby of her father. Gruff around the edges but softening at the mention of her mother. “Aye, I should have known. You have your mama’s same honey blonde hair and bonnie blue eyes.” He removed his remaining work glove and enfolded her hand in his warm grasp. A quick glance revealed the hands of a working man with small, rough calluses. His nails were clean and neatly trimmed, and he wore no wedding band.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve planted my feet on Kentucky bluegrass,” Robert said. “Left a big part of myself there. Kind of hard to shake it out of a man, not that I’d ever want to.” His lips curled as he released her hand. “Tommy was sweet on your mama from the time we were old enough to saddle up and ride.” He smoothed a hand over his short hair and glanced into the distance before returning his gaze to hers. “Seems fitting she ended up marrying the boss’s son and living at Harmony Lane. The way I see it, Katie belonged there all along. Born to the manor.”
Shelby had expected to hear more about her father, not her mother. What was Robert’s connection to her parents? Enough to bring her across the world on a personal mission?
For a half second, she considered pulling the envelope from her purse and handing it over. The promise to her father would be fulfilled, and she could return home to Chicago and her usual routine. No strings attached. End of story. “Mr. Nichols, I have something I need to—”
They both turned. A tall, lean man with tousled blond waves rounded the corner. He was rugged with high cheekbones, healthy sun-kissed skin, a square, chiseled jaw with a shadow of stubble, and a well-formed mouth—the latter not something she normally noticed. She estimated him to be in his late twenties to early thirties. With a black T-shirt stretched across broad shoulders, faded jeans and scuffed leather boots, he appeared an incongruous cross between a muscled surfer and an urban cowboy. Most definitely, this was a man she’d never expect to see standing in a garden outside a castle.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt.” Raising his hands, he started to back away but not before he shot a curious glance Robert’s way. “I’ll check on you later, Pops.”
Robert motioned to him. “No need to leave. Come meet Shelby Harmon. I knew her mama a lifetime ago when I worked at her daddy’s thoroughbred farm in Kentucky. Shelby, this is Harrison Reed.”
Shelby’s pulse skipped a few beats, but whether from nerves or an instant awareness of this man, she couldn’t be sure. Eyes as blue-green as the lochs in the travel brochures met hers. Brilliant and intense. Intelligent. The ingrained business instinct kicked in again and she stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“You, too.” Harrison’s grip was assured and self-confident, always a good trait.
Shelby opened her purse, retrieved a business card from a small engraved case, and handed it to Robert. “I’m staying at the Radisson Blu on The Royal Mile. My cell phone number is on the card. If you’d consider having lunch while I’m in Edinburgh, please give me a call.” A trace of her no-nonsense, professional tone crept into her words. Wonderful. Instead of coming across as friendly, she probably sounded like a controlling, bossy know-it-all. Not exactly the impression she’d hoped to make.
“It would seem you inherited more than your looks from Katie.” Amusement laced Robert’s words. He glanced at her business card before tucking it in his front shirt pocket. “One of the top ten worldwide brokerage firms, eh? I’m sure Katie and Tommy are very proud of you, as well they should be. So, you’ve come all the way from Chicago. Are you in Edinburgh on business?” The charming way he pronounced Ed-in-ber-ah made her smile.
“No. I’m here for personal reasons.”
“Fair enough,” Robert said. “How about sharing the noon meal tomorrow?” He nudged Harrison’s arm with the ease of well-worn familiarity. “I trust you’re free to join us.” Robert returned his focus to her. “Provided that’s all right with you, Shelby?”
“Of course.” Although she’d planned on meeting with Robert in private, why shouldn’t Harrison come along? The two men obviously shared a close relationship.
“I have a meeting in the morning, but I’ll make it a priority to be done before noon,” Harrison said. “Abernethy’s might be fun and give Shelby an idea of some of the local flavor.”
Robert appeared pleased. “Excellent idea.”
Harrison’s mesmerizing gaze met hers again. “How about I swing over to the Radisson and meet you in the lobby a few minutes before noon? It’s only a five minute walk to Abernethy’s from there.” His deep southern accent hinted of Alabama or perhaps Mississippi and was as distracting as everything else about this intriguing man.
“Ever been to Scotland before, lass?” Robert tugged a work glove back on one hand.
“When I was eight.” Her gaze moved to the ancient castle wall behind them. “I told Mama I was moving here to be a fairy princess and live in Edinburgh Castle forever. The rolling hills and the countryside were so lush and lovely, and the lochs were the most incredible color of blue-green I’d ever seen.” She avoided glancing at Harrison since his eyes brought to mind that very thing. As it was, his smile thawed her more with each passing moment. “And sheep,” she said, feeling silly. “Lots of sheep.”
Harrison chuckled. “You’ll find nothing’s changed in that regard. How long will you be in Edinburgh, Shelby?”
“I’m not sure. At least a few days. My airline ticket says a week from Sunday.” Now she’d done it. Must be her subconscious taking over. She’d intended to return home straight away, but as a precaution, she’d cleared her schedule for a little more than a week in case she’d need to track down Robert across the Scottish moors. Thanks to her Aunt Lily, she’d discovered Robert lived in Scotland, and through the wonders of the Internet, she’d located him quite easily.
“Long enough to fall in love then,” Robert said.
Shelby snapped up her chin. “I beg your pardon?”
“I think you’ll quickly fall under the charms of...Auld Reekie.” Was that pause purposeful? The corners of Robert’s mouth tipped upward, making her wonder.
“What exactly is Old Reeky?”
“It’s a nickname for Edinburgh,” Harrison said. “Pops is a self-appointed ambassador.”
“I see.” She didn’t, really, but managed a small smile. “I’ll look forward to seeing you both tomorrow.” With a murmured good-bye, Shelby departed, aware the men watched. As the sound of their voices grew faint, she retraced her steps, being mindful of the still somewhat slippery walkway. A few hundred yards away, she sensed movement behind her.
“Shelby, wait up. Can we talk for a minute?”
Harrison. She’d only just met the man yet she’d know that voice anywhere. How odd. She glanced over her shoulder and drew in a quick breath when she spied the long-stemmed, yellow rose he carried. Walking toward her, he filled her range of vision, exuding a confidence that was masculine and swoon-worthy. She’d always rued that silly description—one the women in her office bandied about when discussing the latest hunk-of-the-moment actor—but Harrison effortlessly earned the title. The ladies would have an absolute field day with this man.
Shelby gasped as her right foot slid out from beneath her. Skidding forward, she flailed her arms like a fledgling leaving the nest. But instead of soaring, she was going down fast, and it was not going to be pretty.
So much for six years of ballet lessons.