Glen Loch, NY
An affair to remember.
That had been the guarantee that Adair MacPherson had given to Rexie Maitland and her parents when they’d signed the contract to hold their daughter’s wedding and reception at Castle MacPherson.
And she intended to deliver. She had to. There were already two big X marks in the failure column of her life. She didn’t need a third one.
Adair pressed a firm hand to the nerves jittering in her stomach. The first step on her way to her goal, the wedding rehearsal scheduled for today, had gotten off to a rocky start. The high-strung bride had gone into a panic attack when the groom-to-be hadn’t arrived on time. But Adair’s aunt and business partner, Viola MacPherson, had warded off a full meltdown with a cup of herb tea. And the tardy Lawrence Banes, a suave, sort of George Cloo-ney lookalike with a good fifteen years on the bride, had finally arrived, full of apologies.
Pulling off the Maitland/Banes wedding on Saturday was crucial to the launch of her new business plan, one that would establish the reputation of Castle MacPherson as a premier wedding destination in the heart of New York’s Adirondacks. Adair swept her gaze around the garden.
The setting was perfect. The gray stone castle she and her sisters had grown up in stood on a rocky promontory at the far eastern end of Glen Loch Lake. Three stories high and rectangular in shape, it sat tucked between two mountains, boasted spectacular views, and its gardens, thanks to her Aunt Vi, had graced the pages of several gardening magazines.
The Maitland/Banes wedding would take place beneath the stone arch her several-times-great-grandfather Angus One had built for the stolen bride he’d brought here from Scotland. Now the tardy Mr. Banes was standing beneath it flanked by the minister and his best man. The maid of honor and the flower girl had lined up just behind the arbor that marked the entrance to the gardens. The mother of the bride, Bunny Maitland, had taken her seat in the first row of chairs, and just in front of the stone arch, Aunt Vi sat, her bow poised over her cello, ready to play on signal.
Everything was perfect, except that the bride-to-be was holding Adair’s hand in a death grip.
"I don’t know if I can do this," Rexie whispered.
Ignoring her plummeting stomach, Adair took a deep breath and spoke in her calmest voice. "This is only a rehearsal. You have to save those nerves for Saturday."
"I know." Rexie, a pretty twenty-two-year-old blonde and heir to the Maitland fortune, smiled tremulously. "I can’t seem to help it. I need to know that I’m doing the right thing. I have to know that the legend will work."
"It will." The power of the legend and the stones was the one thing in her life that she still had absolute faith in. She might be a bit shaky on her ability to keep this wedding on track, but she had no doubt that the stone arch her ancestor Angus One had built for Eleanor Campbell MacPherson had the power to bring true loves together.
This was the young woman’s second go at matrimony. A little over a year ago, her first husband had left her to return to his family’s horse farm in Montana. Then Rexie had met Lawrence and six months ago, after reading an article on the history of the MacPhersons and the legend in the New York Times, she’d contacted Viola to ask about scheduling her ceremony and reception at the castle because she wanted a guarantee of success this time around.
The Times article had created quite a buzz because it had dug up all the rumors that had circulated over the years about the missing sapphires that Eleanor MacPherson had worn in her wedding portrait. The writer had even reprinted an image of Mary Stuart wearing a similar necklace and earrings at her coronation and posed the theory that Eleanor’s dowry of jewels had been given to her by the Queen of Scots.
Adair could have kissed the Times writer for stirring everything up and giving her the idea for a new business plan.
She took Rexie’s other hand in hers. "You are not going to fail this time."
That was the mantra Adair recited to herself each morning. Not that she’d ever failed at marriage—she hadn’t had the chance. Six months ago she’d come home to Aunt Vi and the castle to lick her wounds, and they were still fresh. The five-year plan she’d so carefully crafted when she’d finished her MBA had gone south. One day she’d been on the fast track, and the next, the company she’d worked for had downsized and derailed her. Her pink slip had been quickly followed by an email from her boyfriend, Baxter DuBois, terminating their personal relationship, as well.
That’s when she’d moved back to the castle. Now with her aunt’s help and the power of Angus One’s stone arch, she was determined to turn her family home into the wedding destination spot in upstate New York.
And the success of Rexie’s wedding was key. Mr. and Mrs. Winston Maitland III resided on Long Island but also owned homes in Boca Raton, Florida, and Vail, Colorado. They had the kind of social contacts that could make the reputation of Castle MacPherson.
Or break it.
"I’ve seen proof of the stones’ power in my own father’s life," Adair said. "He’s kissed two women beneath the stone arch, and if he were here, he’d tell you it was the stones that gave him two chances of finding his true loves. He considers himself a very fortunate man."
Adair held back a little on the details. Her father had taken the loss of her mother so hard that even after he fell in love with Professor Beth Sutherland, it had been a dozen years before he married her. But seven years ago she and her sisters, along with Beth’s three triplet sons, had stood beneath the arch while her father, A.D., and Beth had exchanged vows.
"And your father’s happy?" Rexie asked.
"Yes. There’s real power in the stones. When we were growing up, my sisters and I believed in it so much that we used to write down our dreams and goals and bury them in a metal box beneath some of the loose stones. It was my mother’s old jewelry box so it had three different compartments and we all used different colors of paper."
She’d nearly forgotten about that box, Adair realized. On the night of her father’s wedding, she’d even written down a particularly erotic fantasy involving Cam Sutherland and buried that, too. She hadn’t thought of it in years. And she hadn’t seen Cam or his brothers since the wedding. They’d been finishing college that year and each had been focused on career plans that kept them very busy. Last she’d heard, Cam was working overseas for the CIA. For an instant his image flashed brightly into her mind and she could see him just as he’d looked that day—the dark, unruly hair, the blue eyes that had always held a dare.
And Cam Sutherland was the last thing she needed to be thinking about right now. If she didn’t get this wedding rehearsal on track, an "affair to remember" was going to take on a whole new, horrible meaning.
She focused on the hint of panic in Rexie’s eyes. And a solution suddenly occurred to her. "Look, why don’t we tap into the power of the legend right now?"
"This is just a rehearsal and you won’t actually say your vows, but why don’t you kiss Lawrence? If you do that today while you’re beneath the stone arch, then you should be all set. In the legend, it’s the kiss that does the trick."
"Really?" Rexie shifted her gaze to where her groom-to-be waited. He was on his cell phone.
"It’s guaranteed," Adair assured her. "Why don’t we start? Everyone is in place."
"Except for my father," Rexie said, her lip trembling. "He’s taking another call on his cell."
"Mr. Maitland?" Adair spoke in a low tone, but she kept Rexie’s hand firmly gripped in hers.
The bride-to-be’s father held up one finger, but he never stopped talking into his phone. Winston Maitland, a tall stocky man with thinning gray hair, had pretty much had his cell glued to his ear since he’d arrived. So had the groom-to-be for that matter. The jerks. Adair wanted to shake both of them.
That was when she heard it…read more.