Kara blinked trying to focus. Cold, stiff muscles spasmed in her back. How long had she’d been asleep? She stretched her arms overhead when realization hit. She was no longer in the confines of an airplane. “What the hell?”

A light mist coiled around slopes of purple heather. In the distance lay a body of water sheltered by cliffs, creating a beautiful backdrop. Fading twilight streaked through passing clouds and she sat on a gravel road with a severe wedgey and something sharp jabbing her butt.

“Holy hell.” She pinched the bridge of her nose, closed her eyes, and counted to ten. When she opened her eyes, nothing had changed. The strange weather caused the plane to crash and I’m dead. But if the plane crashed, wouldn’t I be injured and wouldn’t there be burning debris from the fuselage littering the ground? A vicious headache pounded at her temples. Shifting to her hands and knees, Kara braced herself before rising. As she stood, aches and pains wrestled through her body from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, each vying for a place to settle.

She massaged her temples and closed her eyes again. “This isn’t happening.” She bit back a bout of hysterical laughter.

Steadying herself, she decided to take a look around. Strangely dressed people gawked at her. Some kids chasing a small dog ran past her so closely that she staggered to keep her balance. They giggled but kept on their hunt. The sweet smell of fresh elderberries tickled her nose as did a strong lavender scent from nearby bushes. She could hear murmured voices, a startled laugh, and a hawker announced some type of carnival or fair. More children raced around stands filled with woolen fabrics, apples, and what looked like raspberries.

She could see, hear, smell and feel pain—this couldn’t be a dream. No dream was this real and besides, everyone was staring at her. If it had been a dream, she would have fit in. Right?

No matter how she looked at it, she was still standing in the village common—freezing her ass off, with her underwear stuck in her nether regions and a bruised butt. Chills raced across her skin. The Boston Celtics t-shirt she wore offered little warmth. Not to mention, in her current attire, she stuck out like a red rose in a bouquet of white carnations.

Grand buckets of wood were ablaze. If only she could get closer to one of those, the fire would warm her. But, she dared not approach with so many gaping on-lookers which set her already shattered nerves on edge. Furiously rubbing her hands up and down her arms to generate friction and warmth, she searched for a hiding place, quickly finding there was none save the woods. At dusk, who knew what kind of creatures would be in there, snakes, spiders, bats—not the most pleasant thought.

Skulking away, casually drifting up the road so as not to draw any more unnecessary attention, Kara ducked into a thicket of trees, not venturing too deeply inward. Large pines towered above her and the smell reminded her of Christmas.

“What the hell am I going to do? Think, Kara.” Her brain had always been her best weapon against adversity. Okay, so her right hook had gotten her out of a few jams, but she’d been working on temper control.

Staying concealed, she crept closer to see and hear the gathering of people. One withered man with a hunched back and heavy accent argued the price of some kind of tool. An elderly woman wrapped in large squared tartan of blue, red and yellow strolled over to a wooden two-wheeled wagon covered in baskets, examining each with a critical eye. Others milled about the stands, all adorned in plaids. One stocky fellow wore his as a kilt, a woman had hers wrapped about her shoulders.

Kara’s grandfather used to wear his tartan on special occasions. He often spoke of the festivals in the old country and how much fun he’d had there.

She ducked back into the trees and slid down the trunk of one to the cold, hard ground, hissing from the bruise on her backside. “Scotland,” she murmured, massaging her temples. “How in God’s name did I get to Scotland?” You’re a scientist, figure it out. She studied rocks, volcanoes, gems—not physics. Time travel, space warps, magic, those weren’t her specialties. Where there are people, there are answers. “I hope. Reading those pages has caused my mind to conjure this place—again.”

The setting sun meant a rapid change in the air and the cool mist which earlier had been mysterious, now stuck to her exposed skin. She crept back toward the small field of merchant booths where villagers sold their wares. “Please, Lord, give me strength.” If she didn’t find a way to warm up soon, she worried about hypothermia setting in.

Kara searched for anything familiar in the landscape, in her memories of stories told to her by her grandparents. Nothing. Her stomach grumbled as she happened upon one family packing up their vegetables. She’d give up chocolate for a month if even one piece rolled off their stand unnoticed. Not likely.

Distracted by the merry folk, her rumbling belly, combined with not watching where she was going, Kara stumbled over a rather large rock and fell hard.

A horse whinnied.

She threw her arm over her face and screamed before the rider reined the animal in. The horse reared, its massive hooves kicking out at the air over her head. Its active forelegs landed a foot away and a figure jumped off the stallion and roared down on her.

“Bloody hell, woman, are ye mad, jumping out in front o’ me horse like that? You could’ve been killed.”

Kara lowered her arm and checked her body. I’m not trampled. Words caught in her dry throat, and her stomach flip-flopped as she gaped at the mountain of a man towering over her. His dark hair whipped around broad shoulders and his blue eyes burned with anger.

It was him, the dark giant who came to life in her dreams


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