Coveted

By: Stacey Brutger



There were billions of men in the world. Go into any town, walk into any store, and she practically tripped over them. But instead of finding Mr. Right, she’d landed an insane non-priest bent on destroying her life.

And Shayla had no idea why.

Her mother moaned that if she had a man in her life, none of this would’ve happened. She didn’t seem to understand Shayla didn’t want a man to protect her. She wanted an equal partnership. Mother was a tyrant who henpecked her husband at every opportunity, while he adored her dainty feet even as they walked all over him. As the eldest, Shayla was expected to marry first, much to the amusement and relief of her siblings. She received the brunt of their mother’s badgering. Within a year of her eighteenth birthday, she’d been being labeled incorrigible, not to mention a few other unflattering names.

Though she’d never admit it aloud, Shayla longed for the romance of falling in love. Craved the intricate steps of courtship.

She half-heartedly lifted the camera and snapped a picture of a tumble-down castle in the distance. The hundreds of painstakingly cultivated flowers gave the castle a bit of whimsy, as if the previous owner still painstakingly tended the grounds after hundreds of years, but even the beautiful scenery couldn’t pierce her foul mood.

She actually kind of wished her stalker would show, just so she could put a stop to his nonsense and be done with it. She sincerely doubted he really believed she was a witch.

No, he wanted something from her.

Men like him always did.

Each incident isolated her from her friends and family. He was methodically separating her from those who cared. And he did such a damned good job of it, too, that she hadn’t even noticed until she was alone.

If she got near the old coot, maybe she could glean something from his past that she could use against him and force him to leave her alone.

Or break his legs.

Either would give her the same results. The thought almost made her smile.

The problem was she was in Scotland, the most romantic spot on the planet, and she was alone. Oh, she knew James wasn’t the one, but he was the closest she’d been able to find.

He was every woman’s perfect man.

Rich.

Good looking.

Just not perfect for her.

There was no spark.

Her mother insisted excitement was overrated, that Shayla could be happy with James if she put aside her fantasies and settled down.

But one word stuck…settled.

She didn’t want to settle for a man. She wanted the perfect love her grandparents had.

She just had to locate him first.

Too bad she was beginning to suspect that wouldn’t happen in her line of work. She’d have to give up her magic. It was becoming progressively more dangerous, both physically and emotionally.

Though the priest wasn’t her first stalker, he was the most persistent.

Maybe a warning of things to come. A shiver worked down her spine. It was time for her to decide what type of future she wanted.

She was supposed to be a Seeker, able to locate the most obscure items. She was the best in her field. Even being selective, she had a list of jobs waiting for her attention.

Which made her search for the elusive one all the more ironic. She’d never been able to use her faerie magic, as her grandfather called it, when doing a search for herself. It was considered personal gain and against the rules.

That left her stalker as the only man in her life.

So when she’d received a job offer for an obscene amount of money to go to Scotland and listen to a pitch for a new job, she’d jumped at the chance. Her over-protective family had agreed, insisting she get away…until they learned her destination.

They forbade her to leave, insisting it was too dangerous, which was ridiculous, since the family had emigrated from Scotland some three hundred years ago. Any lingering danger, if there had ever been any, had long since turned to dust.

All the stories about guardians and werewolves her grandfather whispered to her when she was a kid flashed through her mind. He’d warned that her fate and that of the guardians were intertwined, that her destiny lay in Scotland.

Her childhood wonder had faded years ago, the stories merely fairytales, told to her by an old man who’d suffered from Alzheimer’s. And despite all that, her heart ached that she was in Scotland without the old man. It had been ten years since his death, and she still missed him. Missed his romantic stories.

Scotland was everything her grandfather had said and more. The mystical places he’d described so vividly lay stretched out before her.

She’d just arrived a few centuries too late to witness the magic firsthand.

But her family had behaved as if they’d never see her again. The only reason they’d relented and she wasn’t physically locked in their basement was because James had offered to accompany her.

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