Scotland To The Max

By: Grace Burrowes

(Trouble Wears Tartan #3)



CHAPTER ONE

The luggage carousel went around twenty times before Max Maitland permitted himself to swear. “The damned things aren’t here.”

“Beg pardon, sir?”

Max almost couldn’t understand the guy, so thick was his burr, but the Edinburgh Airport Security uniform spoke clearly enough, as did the way he’d hovered at Max’s elbow for the last five rotations of the baggage conveyor.

“My luggage has apparently not come up from London with me,” Max said.

“Did ye cam tru Heat-row, then?”

Fatigue, the mother of all headaches, and towering frustration made translating difficult. “I beg your pardon?”

“This way,” the man said. “We’ll fill out a wee lost-bag ticket and have ye on yerr way in no time a-t’all.”

Max’s suitcases were far from wee, because he was all but moving to Scotland, or that was the plan. He dealt with waiting in line—his favorite thing to do—to get the form to fill out.

He dealt with explaining the obvious to an uninterested public servant—his very most favorite thing to do.

And to add a splash of kirschwasser to his I Hate To Travel sundae, the person assigned to meet him had apparently bailed.

“Yer heid painin’ ye, laddie?” the lady at the coffee counter asked. She looked to be about eighty years old, maybe five foot one in her orthotic shoes, and Max would not have tangled with her on a bet.

Your head paining you, laddie?

“Something awful. I don’t enjoy flying, and thunderstorms at Dulles meant a three-hour delay before we took off.”

“Isn’t that always the way? Now you listen to me. Go through those doors and make a wee stop at the apothecary. We have much better over-the-counter remedies than you do in the States. You tell the man Annie MacDuie sent you, and you need something for your head. Go on now, and the luggage folks will send your bags along as soon as may be.”

Clucking and fussing was a universal dialect, particularly when done by blue-haired ladies.

“Thank you, Annie. I appreciate it.” Not everyone would have been as kind to a stranger, but then, Scotland was reputed to be one big tourist trap, a postcard outside every window, a quaint whisky distillery in every glen.

Every wee glen.

Whatever a glen was. Max was counting on Scotland’s tourist appeal, and on its recession-resistant economy. His faith in its over-the-counter pain meds was another matter. He picked up his backpack and wandered off in the assigned direction, letting the hum and bustle of foot traffic pass around him.

Though the hour was nearly noon in Scotland, the sun had barely risen in Maryland, and Max felt every second of the circadian dislocation. He couldn’t call Maura at this hour, he didn’t feel like breakfast, and how in the hell did a guy get a hotel room at eleven in the morning?

“Mr. Maitland?”

He got out his cell phone, that’s how.

“Mr. Maxwell Maitland?”

The voice was soft, female, and accented. Max beheld a petite blonde whose eyes were the same blue as… the little flowers that grew next to sidewalks. Began with a p.

“I’m Maitland.”

“Jeannie Cromarty.” She stuck out her hand. “Sorry I’m late. Uncle Donald was supposed to be here, but the flight delay meant some shuffling about on our end. Did your bags not arrive?”

Her voice had a lilt to go with the burr, a musicality not entirely a product of the accent. To a man deprived of sleep and dislocated by five long time zones, that voice was soothing.

Max had to shift his knapsack to shake hands. “My suitcases are supposed to be catching up to me. I wasn’t sure where I’d be staying tonight, so all the lost-luggage people have is my cell.”

“They’ll find you,” Jeannie said. “I’ve never known them to fail, though sometimes they take a day or two. How was your flight?”

He made chitchat the best he could, which was not very well. Jeannie had a graciousness about her, though, an ease that had Max relaxing despite exhaustion and travel nerves. She spoke more slowly than Max was used to. Didn’t fire off sentences like a lawyer being paid by the syllable.

“Is that the drugstore?” he asked as they passed one of the airport shops.

“The pharmacy, we call it. Did you need something?”

Max needed about three solid days of sleep—after he called Maura—and a protein shake. “Something for a headache. One of the ladies at the coffee shop said you have good over-the-counter meds here—better than in the States.”

“That, we do. I’ll show you.”

Jeannie explained the situation to the guy at the register, and Max soon had a bottle of water, a banana, and some pills. He waited until he was sitting on the wrong side of Jeannie’s compact car to eat the banana and take the pills.

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