The sixth book in the Loch Lannick series will be available from the 28th of November 2020. Scroll down for a sneak peek…
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Isla Mackenzie was waiting for the kettle to boil when Jasper barked. The German shepherd trotted to the front door, wagging his tail furiously. Through the kitchen window Isla watched Logan get out of his van. The sound of the door banging shut made Jasper bark again and jump up.
“Get down!” Isla said without authority.
As the front door began to open, Jasper jumped around in excited circles, his nails clicking on the wood floor.
Logan was barely in the door when he dropped to his knees and patted Jasper down. “I missed you,” he said, rubbing his face against the dog’s. “You’re such a good boy.”
“Did you miss me too?” Isla asked with a smirk.
“Of course.” He walked over and wrapped his arms around her, then reached down to stroke Jasper, who was attempting to nudge his way between them. Isla shooed him away to his bed.
“How was your day?” she asked.
“Okay. I’m glad it’s Sunday tomorrow.”
“Do you want to go out tonight?”
He raised his eyebrows, not managing to hide his surprise. They didn’t go out often, preferring to curl up on the couch if Isla wasn’t working in the evening. Frequently, she was too caught up in her paintings or jewellery-making to take a break. When they did go out, it was usually Logan’s suggestion.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked. “Up to the pub?”
“We could go out for dinner? Drive over to Portree or Broadford for a change.”
“I just need to have a quick shower.”
“Definitely,” she said, sniffing at him and turning her nose up.
“I don’t smell that bad!” He tickled her ribs until she squirmed out of his embrace. “Oh, I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Her eyes widened. “Is it sea glass?” She made her jewellery from the sea glass she collected at local beaches. Sometimes Logan would find a beach on his lunch break and bring her a few pieces.
“You’re not supposed to guess,” he said, shaking his head.
“Sorry. It’s still a surprise, though. What colour is it? Please tell me it’s red.”
His eyebrows drew together. “Now you’ve ruined it completely.”
“I was joking. You didn’t really find red sea glass, did you?” It was the rarest kind, and she always got a thrill when she found a red piece.
“No, I didn’t.” His steely gaze made her grimace.
“Show me anyway.” She pleaded with her eyes until he reached into his pocket. Slowly, he brought his hand out and uncurled his fist. “You’re like a small boy,” she said, peering at the assorted items. A few coins, a paperclip and three shards of sea glass sat on his palm.
She picked up the two green pieces of glass along with a small translucent piece, which she held up to the light. “It’s so pretty. I can make a nice necklace with that. Or I might have a similar piece I could make earrings with.” She pushed up on her toes to kiss Logan. “Thank you. It was a great surprise.”
“Next time don’t guess. Act surprised. And definitely don’t guess at red sea glass!”
“Sorry! Where did you find it?”
“On a beach north of Portree.”
“Thank you,” she said again. “Go and have a shower. I’m getting hungry.”
He took a step away then glanced through the kitchen window. “Rory’s here,” he said.
Isla’s younger sister’s boyfriend lived in Edinburgh but came up to Skye regularly. As a teacher he had a lot of holiday time. He’d arrived that lunchtime to stay for the Easter break.
“Do you think he could get his tongue any further down Elspeth’s throat?”
Isla laughed. “They haven’t seen each other for ages.”
“He’s here all the time,” Logan said. “At least it feels like it. And they should seriously get a room.”
“Or you could move away from the window and stop watching them.”
“Arran’s out there too,” he said, catching sight of Isla’s three-year old nephew. “Not in front of the kid,” he grumbled and raised a hand to knock on the glass.
Isla pulled his hand away. “You’re such a grumpy old man sometimes. I hardly think Arran’s going to be traumatised by seeing his parents kissing.”
“They’re not even watching him. Anything could happen to the poor kid while they’re busy eating each other’s faces.”
“Like what?” Isla asked, amused.
“He could fall into the loch.”
“He’s not going to fall into the loch. He’s nowhere near the water. And if you’re so concerned about his welfare you could go out and watch him.”
“I’m not going out there when those two are all over each other. Besides, it’s Saturday. If Elspeth sees me she’ll no doubt rope me into babysitting. Why does she always ask me?”
“Because you never turn her down.”
Logan walked to the hall and tipped his chin at Jasper, who jumped up out of his dog bed. “Go out and keep an eye on Arran,” he said, stroking Jasper’s head as he walked to the door with him.
“You’ve really just sent Jasper out to look after Arran?” Isla asked.
“Yes! He’s far more vigilant than Elspeth and Rory.”
Logan went to the stairs, taking them two at a time as he jogged up them. He reappeared ten minutes later wearing clean jeans and a T-shirt. His hair was still damp from the shower.
“They’re still at it,” he said, standing by the window in the living room and staring out.
Isla went over to him. “They’re only talking. What’s your problem now?”
“They’re not watching Arran. That’s my problem. He could wander off and they wouldn’t even notice because they’re too busy gazing into each other’s eyes.”
“They’re in love,” Isla said. “Don’t be such a grump.”
His eyes flashed with mischief. “I might teach them a lesson.”
Isla sighed as he went to the front door. Standing in the open doorway, he let out a quick, sharp whistle. Jasper padded over with Arran beside him.
“Hi!” Logan said quietly, crouching to greet Arran. “Do you want to come in and play?”
“My daddy here,” Arran replied.
“I’ve seen that,” Logan said. “Do you want something to eat?”
“Okay,” Arran said.
“What are you doing?” Isla asked as she followed them into the kitchen.
“I want to see how long it takes them to notice he’s gone. And let them panic for a minute when they can’t find him. Maybe they’ll watch him more carefully in future.”
“That’s mean,” Isla said. “And you’ll get Arran in trouble.” She looked down at her nephew with his mess of red hair. “Did you tell Mummy you’re coming over here?”
He shook his head. “I go tell her.”
“Do you want some chocolate first?” Logan said quickly.
Arran paused, then went back to Logan, who lifted him up onto the counter before rifling through the cupboard behind him.
“You realise you’ve lured a small child away from his parents with chocolate?”
Logan tore open a packet of chocolate buttons and handed them to Arran. He draped an arm around Isla and turned her to face the window. “Look at how sickening they are.”
Isla’s lip curled as she looked out at Elspeth and Rory. They were standing down by the water with their arms around each other, beaming and looking ridiculously happy. “Okay,” she agreed. “We’ll steal their kid and watch while they freak out.”
“It’ll be funny,” Logan said.
“I’m concerned this doesn’t reflect well on us.”
With a silly grin, Logan lifted Arran off the counter. “How about some TV?”
“Yes!” Arran happily set off for the living room.
For the next fifteen minutes Logan alternated between watching cartoons with Arran and looking out of the window.
“Now they’ve got coffees,” he said, pacing to the window again. “I can’t believe they still haven’t noticed their son is missing.”
“I guess Elspeth knows he’s here,” Isla said, amused.
“She should at least come and check.”
“Can we just send Arran home and go out for dinner?”
“She’s coming,” Logan said, darting away from the window to join Isla and Arran on the couch. “Act casual.”
“I think it’s you who needs to act casual,” Isla said dryly.
Elspeth didn’t bother to knock, just swanned in. “I thought you must be in front of the TV,” she said, ruffling Arran’s hair and perching on the arm of the couch beside him.
“He’s been here for ages,” Logan said. “If you hadn’t been so busy snogging Rory you might have noticed he was missing.”
Elspeth’s brow wrinkled. “I saw him come over here with Jasper.”
Isla stifled a laugh at the look on Logan’s face.
“But if you thought I didn’t know where he was,” Elspeth went on, “it would have been nice of you to let me know.”
“I would’ve done but …” He trailed off, looking slightly sheepish.
“But you thought you’d wait and let me panic about losing my child?” She shook her head. “That’s quite pathetic. And kind of mean.”
“Well, you were lucky he only wandered over here while you weren’t paying attention. Anything could happen.”
“We were in the garden,” Elspeth said. “What on earth’s going to happen?”
“He could wander off, or fall in the loch.”
“I think I’d notice the splash! And I can actually kiss my boyfriend and watch my child at the same time. It’s called multi-tasking.”
“Shhh!” Arran hissed without taking his eyes from the TV.
“Anyway,” Elspeth whispered, a twinkle in her eyes as she looked at Logan, “since you’re such an expert on childcare—”
“No!” he said, cutting her off.
Elspeth smiled sweetly. “Please! Rory and I want to go out for dinner.”
“Doesn’t Rory want to spend time with his son? He hasn’t seen him for ages.”
“He actually saw him two weeks ago. And he just spent all afternoon with him. Plus he’ll be here for the next two weeks.”
“We’re going out tonight so we can’t babysit,” Logan said.
“No you’re not! You never go out. Please will you babysit?”
“Tell her we’re going out for dinner,” Logan said, glaring at Isla.
“It was the plan,” Isla said.
“Going up to the Old Inn for dinner doesn’t really count as a night out. You can do that any time.”
“We’re not going to the Old Inn,” Logan huffed.
“We hadn’t decided yet.”
“I don’t believe you had any plans to go out.” Elspeth stood, seeming unperturbed by the conversation. “Come on,” she said, holding her hand out to Arran. “It’s easy to see we’re not wanted here.”
“Leave him here,” Logan said, sighing loudly. “If going out means so much to you, we can cancel our plans.”
Elspeth beamed at Isla and headed for the door. “Thank you!”
Gently, Isla ran a hand through Logan’s hair. “I feel like that didn’t really go to plan.”
“I told you she always ropes me into babysitting. She didn’t include you in the conversation at all.”
“That’s because Elspeth has you wrapped around her little finger.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway. Now we get the pleasure of Arran’s company for the evening. And once we take him home and put him to bed we can raid Elspeth’s fridge.”
“You’re not going to admit you tried to mess with Elspeth and it completely backfired, are you?”
A smile broke slowly over his face. “No. I’ll never admit that.”