“It’s no’ the Highlands, but it’ll do.” Hamish Munroe laid his Scots accent on thick for the college student who’d driven him down from St. John’s to Thornton, Vermont.
In truth, the snow dusted village, set into a vast glacial valley between two old mountain ranges and a long, glittering expanse of lake, took his breath away. He’d teased Kate Pease about going back to America after the delights of Paris, clearly his head had been full of flour dust and French women.
Now he understood what pulled her home.
His ride dropped him just outside Kate’s bakery. Backpack slung over his shoulder and relishing the look of surprise he’d get from his old friend, he barreled straight into a woman turning the corner, sending both of them crashing to the sidewalk.
“Sorry, lass. I didna see ye there.” Hamish hadn’t yet turned off the Scot, and the words rumbled out of him like a bad Sean Connery impression. He hauled himself to standing and offered the woman his hand, along with the more modest burr that was his everyday accent. “Are you okay?”
Without missing a beat, she took his hand and pulled herself to standing, dusting road salt off slim denim-clad legs. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
Hamish shouldered his bag again and grabbed the door handle, gesturing to let the woman though while he took a moment to appreciate her. She was petite—enough so that he could picture tucking her under his chin, and to his chagrin, he topped out at five-foot-eleven—with dark deep-set eyes and a warm complexion. He’d noted a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheekbones. She wore her reddish-brown hair in a fringed shag, revealed when she pulled off her pompomed hat and shook it loose.
Fiona had rocked a platinum-dyed shag. Her Debbie Harry Hair, she’d called it.
The woman nodded to him as she passed, approaching the bakery’s counter with gaze already fixed on the menu board above.
Hamish shook off memories of Fee and her devotion to New Wave.
Looking around, he felt Kate’s presence as strongly as he had when they’d shared a tiny workspace in a Paris pastry shop. From the fuchsia awnings to the gleaming counters and coolers, it was sophisticated and welcoming, perfectly at home in this Vermont hamlet.
Just like its owner, he mused, as the woman herself pushed through a swinging door. Her gaze skimmed over him as she called out to her staff, but he caught a hitch in her stride—a happy one, he hoped.
Kate wheeled, her nose wrinkling slightly as she focused on him. “Hamish?”
“The one and only.” He made it halfway through a courtly bow before she launched herself into his arms, squeezing tight.
“What are you doing here?” She pulled back to kiss him on each cheek, a French custom they’d adopted while living there. Her gleeful expression dimmed. “I’m so sorry about your wife.”
To be continued…