When you write a fish-out-of-water tail, which is essentially what a time travel story is, some of the best scenes to write are the ones where the person who’s time-traveled to the past has to face the new world around them and the new ways of doing things. In the case of First Time with a Highlander, this scene dovetails nicely with another sort of scene I like to write, which is to get the hero, the heroine or both undressed as soon as I can in the book. I find it really helps the characters get to know one another. When you only have 350 pages, there’s no time to waste.
In this scene, we’re in Gerard’s head. Gerard is my ad man hero from the twenty-first century, and Serafina is my heroine, the down-on-her-luck eighteenth-century owner of a small shipping concern. They’re running away down a street in Edinburgh to escape some bad guys. Serafina is trying to get Gerard into a plaid and sark so that he’ll be less obviously out of place in 1706. This changing of clothes is taking place in a narrow alley the Scots call a close, and it’s being witnessed by a woman and her son. The woman has emerged from her home with a musket, which she now has pointed at Gerard because she thinks he poses some risk to Serafina. But Gerard is too confused to pose a risk to anyone. He’s still trying to figure out how he woke up in bed with a beautiful woman in the eighteenth century and why he can only remember the less interesting parts of the night they’ve apparently spent together.
Could he really be more than three hundred years in the past? When he tried to consider the idea, his thoughts veered away, as if it were a flaming pit his mind wouldn’t let him disappear into.
Serafina finished the adjustments she was making to the fabric, and when Gerard helped her to her feet, he found himself looking directly at her.
“This is the first time we’ve seen eye to eye,” he said with a laugh, trying to hide the awkwardness.
She mmphfed. “Take off your sark.”
She shook her head, impatient with his stupidity. He noticed her eyes got bluer when she was angry.
She took the first button under his collar and undid it.
Oh, my shirt!
He wanted to tell her he got it now, that he was not the imbecile she imagined, but nothing short of death would persuade him to interfere with her precise and beguilingly short-tempered unbuttoning. He wished the shirtfront ran to his ankles.
She tugged the fabric off his shoulders as if he were a recalcitrant child and pulled a length of snowy fabric from the things she had stuffed under her arm.
“Goodness,” he said. “You come prepared.”
She glanced behind her and replied sotto voce, “I told you last night to keep this on.”
“Perhaps,” he said just as quietly, “we found a pressing need to remove it.”
He took the linen from her hand and slipped it over his head. The shirt—or sark as she called it—was exceptionally long. When he tucked it in, the tails fell nearly to his knees. Serafina tightened the laces at the split neck.
“Mama, are they going to kiss?” the boy asked.
Gerard realized his mooning must be obvious and cleared his face.
“Or clash, I expect,” the woman said, repositioning the musket. “Either way, he hasn’t a prayer of defending himself. Do ye need an escort to St. Giles, by any chance?” she asked Serafina. “Your man has the look of an errant bridegroom, and I have had enough of those to last a lifetime.”
“Och, he’s not my man.” Serafina reached for the loose ends of the plaid wool and lifted them to his shoulder. “Though I seem to have been tasked with his care.”
Gerard thought of the ring. He turned to look at her hand and saw the gold was gone. “Wait, are you married?”
Serafina paused in the middle of knotting the corners. “What a question! No.”
The other woman raised a disapproving brow. “Och, now ye ask?”
But there was something in the way Serafina had answered and in the odd frisson he’d gotten at the mention of St. Giles that made him certain his gut was onto something.
Serafina held out a pair of thick knee-high socks.
“Ah, that’s a girl’s pair,” he said.
“Would ye rather wear yer skin to blisters?”
He took the socks from her arms as well as a pair of rough leather shoes. “What the hell is this?” He held up two narrow straps of leather that were inside the shoes. “I know what we’d use them for where I come from, but I somehow doubt that’s your intent.”
“They’re garters,” she said, rolling her eyes. “For your stockings.”
He donned the accessories grudgingly. “Well, I’m dressed to your exacting standards now, and I think with the thorough search you’ve just concluded, you’ve established I represent no risk. Might we take the rest of this discussion to the closest dining establishment? I’m starving, and I have some very pressing questions to ask you.”
Serafina turned to the woman and curtsied prettily. “Thank you for your help.”
The woman made a noncommittal noise and lowered the musket. “He has nae weapon, aye. But if I were ye, I wouldn’t assume he represents nae risk.”
About the Book
From the “master of time travel romance”, award-winning author Gwyn Cready continues her steamy Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series.
She needs a man—but only for a night
What do you get when you imbibe centuries-old whiskey—besides a hangover the size of the Highlands? If you’re twenty-first century ad exec Gerard Innes, you get swept back to 18th-century Edinburgh and into the bed of a gorgeous, fiery redhead. Gerard has only a foggy idea what he and the lady have been up to…but what he does remember draws him into the most dangerous and exhilarating campaign of his life.
Be careful what you wish for…
Serafina Seonag Fallon’s scoundrel of a fiancé has left her with nothing, and she’s determined to turn the tables. If she can come up with a ringer, she can claim the cargo he stole from her. But the dashing man she summons from the future demands more than a night, and Serafina finds it easier to command the seas under her feet than the crashing waves he unleashes in her heart.
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About the Author
Gwyn Cready is a writer of contemporary, Scottish, and time travel romance. She’s been called “the master of time travel romance” and is the winner of the RITA Award, the most prestigious award given in romance writing. She has been profiled in Real Simple and USA Today, among others. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 25 years in brand management. She has two grown children and lives with her husband on a hill overlooking the magical kingdom of Pittsburgh.