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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hogmanay by Sherry Gloag


Victoria Prescott groaned at the sound of her brother’s voice in her ear. “Please don’t tell me you are cancelling your visit.” She glanced at the falling snow outside. It stole the light and turned everything grey.

“Penny’s gone into labor and I’m taking her to the hospital. I know in this weather…” his voice trailed off.

She hated driving, especially in snow.

“You want me to collect your boss from the airport?” Her question sounded more like a statement. “Give me the details.”

“I invited him to stay for Hogmanay, but I don’t know how long Penny will be before she delivers. Everyone says first babies always take longer.”

“When does his plane get in?” Other than family, she hated company over Hogmanay. But it seemed this New Year would be blighted by an intruder.

“Nine thirty,” her brother said. One hour to get there, her watch informed her. Plenty of time in good weather but in this snow storm…? She shuddered at the prospect.

“Vicki, I know I’m asking a lot, but can you put him up until I can get home. I don’t want to leave Penny…”

“For you I’ll do it,” she sighed.

She bit into her sandwich, made up several more, filled two flasks with strong black coffee, and dumped them in a carrier bag, snatched up her shoulder bag, heavy coat and gloves and left the house.

‘Nightmare’ didn’t begin to describe her journey. The snow thickened, and the ploughs were working full bat. Would she arrive to discover they’d diverted Lucas Quatro’s plane to another airport? She had no difficulty parking and wondered whether it bode good or ill.

The passengers were streaming through the gate when she reached it.

‘Tall, black hair and well tanned,’ was how Peter described his boss.

“Thanks, bro,” she muttered beneath her breath as three similar men strode towards the luggage carousel. Weren’t all Italians dark-haired? She huffed when more followed. The first three joined their families. That left the unclaimed arrivals. Two more candidates collected their luggage, and stood as though waiting for someone.

Well great! What did she do now?

Oh boy! Another one! And what a guy! The entire female population of Scotland would go into cardiac arrest if he posed for a centerfold picture. She focused on the last candidate. No one approached him either.

‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’? The second of the three men smiled at someone beyond her sight. One down, two to go.

Heartthrob took a cell phone from his jacket pocket and listened for a moment before scanning the area. His gaze skimmed over her then back again. Caramel eyes, she thought, and her mouth watered. His face lit with a smile that ought to carry a health-warning. He headed in her direction, the phone still glued to his ear.

Her heart danced the Highland Fling.

“Miss Prescott?”

With her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth she nodded, and took the phone he held out to her.

“Vicki?” Peter’s voice radiated happiness. “You’re an aunt to a bouncing baby boy, details later.”

“Congratulations, bro. Give Penny my love.”

“Luke appreciates your offer of a bed tonight.”

Her gaze flew to the man, whose body warmth almost melted her where she stood. And his cologne! She’d have to discover the name. After a moment she returned the phone to its owner.

“Were you going First-Footing?” he asked as they walked outside.

“No.” She studied the snow circling her car like a rabid beast.

“Tell me about it.” Like silk, his voice wrapped around her, soothing her unease.

“If you think of Hogmanay as a combination of an adult version of Halloween’s trick-or-treat, and the traditional Thanksgiving, where people get together and celebrate the coming year with as many friends and families they can in one evening, you’ll get some idea.”

She released the locks as they approached her car before continuing. “You have to remember that until the 1950’s the Kirk banned Christmas celebrations in Scotland, so the Scots celebrated New Year instead.

“Custom declares the first person to enter your home in the New Year, your First Footer, will determine your fortune for the rest of that year.”

She glanced at his raven-black hair, “Dark haired First-Footers denote good fortune. Blonds do not.”

“Why dark hair?”

“In Viking times a pillaging blond at your door spelled trouble. When Vikings entered your home, you lost everything you owned, including your life on occasions.” Her breath streamed from her lips to dance with the snow. She took his case and shelved it on the back seat. He made the generous space inside her car resemble a rabbit-hutch.

“If your First Footer is dark, legend says he’ll bring good luck.” As she pulled out of the parking lot, the snow fell thicker and faster than ever. She abandoned her explanation and concentrated on the road.

Snow plows travelled in the opposite direction with a satellite of cars behind it. Her passenger, thankfully, remained silent.

“Peter said you lived nearby,” Lucas said after a while.

“I do, but in this weather I refuse to take stupid risks.” She glanced at the dash-clock. An hour had passed since they left the airport and they were only half-way home. At this rate, she’d be spending Hogmanay in her car with Lucas.

With three minutes of the old year to spare, she turned into her drive. Releasing her clenched fingers from the wheel she cast a triumphant smile at Lucas. “Home-sweet-home.”

Church clocks across the city chimed the midnight hour as her guest stepped into her home, and before she realized his intentions, he swooped down and kissed her.

Never had a kiss tasted so sweet! Never had a man’s arms felt so safe. Vicki’s body recognized its home in Lucas’ arms. She prayed he felt the same sense of home-coming.

His smile lit up his face. “Happy Hogmanay, Vicki.”

Her heart resumed its Highland Fling.

About the Author: Sherry Gloag enjoys reading and is a successful author of short contemporary romance stories. She lives in the East of England, where, like those who may enjoy watching the 'Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace', she enjoys watching the changing of the seasons in the countryside.

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