Under a Storm-Swept Sky

By: Beth Anne Miller

To Julie Young, for reading countless scenes and several full drafts of this book; for your enthusiasm, suggestions, and eagle eye; for all these years of friendship, and for being the bestest roomie ever.


To Nicole Pinto, for reading many drafts and scenes, for your advice and suggestions, and for being a sounding board and a dear friend. We may not have Grimm anymore, but at least we have Kiefer and Milo!





Prologue


All I’d known for the last few hours was pain. Four small summits, they’d said, like it was no big deal.

Lies. All lies.

I wanted to drop to the ground and refuse to go any farther. But there were so many reasons why that wasn’t an option, not the least of which was tall, Scottish, and sexy. And had been the bane of my existence since the beginning.

He was keeping pace with me, looking over every few minutes to make sure I was still there. It was mortifying, but I took some sadistic pleasure in knowing that his long legs were probably aching from the effort to go slowly as much as mine were from trying to keep up with the group.

My thigh and calf muscles screamed on the ascents, and my knees screamed on the way down. My eyes burned from the wind, and my shoulders ached from my pack.

And we hadn’t even made it to lunchtime yet.

What the hell was I doing here?





Chapter One


Amelia

Two Days Earlier

“Welcome to the Isle of Skye!”

The enthusiastic shout startled me from the weird stupor I’d fallen into following my overnight transatlantic flight from New York to Glasgow, the four-hour train ride from Glasgow to Fort William in the West Highlands, and nearly three hours in a van, broken up by a few stops along the way to stretch our legs and take photos of the increasingly more spectacular scenery as we ventured deeper into the Highlands before crossing the bridge to Skye.

Where I’d spend the next week walking over eighty miles from the northernmost tip of Skye down along the eastern side of the island.

I had a vague impression of the other people in the van from our brief meeting in Fort William before we were picked up by the guys from Scotland By Foot, the trekking company I’d be hiking with: a couple from Florida and two women from London, all around my parents’ age, and two bearded brothers in their thirties from somewhere in New England. They had all looked super-fit and super-excited, and if their well-used gear was any indication, super-experienced, too.

Unlike me.

And they were all pairs. Couples, friends, brothers—and me. Traveling by myself, sitting in the front bench seat of the van with the two male guides. As if being a novice hiker doing a week-long trek on the Isle of Skye wasn’t bad enough, I would be the only solo traveler in a group full of pairs.

Rather than dwell on that, I focused my attention on the jagged mountains in the distance, a blue-gray haze against the bright blue sky.

I sat up straight. Wait, were those mountains part of the Skye Trail? Carrie, what the hell were you thinking? And what the hell was I thinking when I decided to do this?

It was so wrong to be doing this trip without her. Carrie was the hiker, not me. We did everything else together, but not this. I was from flatter-than-flat Long Island, New York—how the hell would I be able to hike that mountainous trail?

Somehow, I would do it. I had to do it. For Carrie.

“How much longer?” asked one of the women in the back.

“About another half hour,” said Tommy MacDonald, the guide who sat next to me on the bench seat, the one who’d just welcomed us to Skye.

“If we don’t get stuck behind too many tourists,” muttered Rory Sutherland, the other guide and driver of the van. If Tommy was the “friendly guide,” as evidenced by the way he’d bounded up to us in Fort William with a blinding smile on his face, Rory appeared to be playing the role of “surly guide,” barely saying a word on the three-hour drive except to swear at the drivers ahead of us.

Hopefully his grouchiness was due more to the long, slow drive on the narrow, one-lane-each-way roads—which I could relate to, coming from Long Island, where every hour was rush hour and every road was permanently under construction—and not an indication of how he’d be on the hike.

Otherwise, this would be a really long week.