A Highlander Christmas

By: Janet Chapman

Chapter One

The only thing stopping Grey from strangling the shivering man crouched in front of their hearth was that he didn’t wish to upset Grace. And since his wife already looked pale enough to pass out, Greylen MacKeage contented himself with glaring at his son-in-law and chief of police, Jack Stone, who had brought the half-frozen man to them.

Apparently also stunned by the news, Jack merely shrugged.

“Would you mind repeating what you just said, Mr. Pascal?” Grace whispered, clutching the arms of her chair. “As I don’t believe I heard you correctly the first time.”

Luke Pascal turned from warming his hands at the fire, his worried glance darting to Grey before returning to Grace. “When I went to NASA and asked to see her a couple of months ago, I was told that Camry hasn’t worked there since December of last year. Then when I went to her condo, I found out she had sold it sometime last spring. I’m sorry I’ve obviously shocked you, Dr. Sutter, but I assumed you knew. “

Honest to God, if Pascal didn’t stop calling his wife Dr. Sutter, Grey really was going to strangle the bastard. “And how is it that ye know our daughter?” he asked.

Luke Pascal stood up from his crouched position and faced Grey. “I’ve been communicating with Camry by e-mail for quite some time.” He shifted uncomfortably. “Or I had been up until this summer, when she suddenly stopped e-mailing me back.”

Grace suddenly jumped to her feet, which made Pascal step back. “You’re the Frenchman who was giving Camry fits?”

Pascal’s chill-drawn face flushed. “I prefer to think we were engaged in a lively scientific discussion. It certainly wasn’t my intention to give her fits.” He winced. “Though judging from some of her e-mails, I can see that I may have hit a nerve or two.”

“And you say she stopped e-mailing you last summer?”

“Right after I suggested that I should come to America so we could collaborate.”

“My daughter didn’t think that was a good idea?” Grey asked, drawing Pascal’s attention again.

The man took another step back. “According to her last e-mail, I would have to say no, she didn’t.”

“But you came anyway.”

Their slowly thawing guest looked at Grace, obviously knowing she was the scientist in the family and apparently deciding he’d rather deal with her. “I am this close to finally unlocking the secret to ion propulsion,” he said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. “And I was sure that if Camry and I tackled the problem together, we could have a working prototype within a year.”

“And her reply was?”

“A rather succinct no,” he muttered, edging back toward the fire. His navy blue eyes moved from Grace to Grey. “You haven’t spoken with her at all in the last year?”

Jack snorted, and Grey shot him a glare, which he then turned on Pascal. “Camry’s been home several times, but she always led us to believe she was returning to Florida whenever she left.”

“And since she has a cell phone,” Grace interjected, “we never bother calling her lab.” She collapsed back in her chair, shaking her head. “I just spoke with her a few days ago, and she told me her work was going great.” She lifted distressed eyes to Grey. “Why didn’t she tell us she’d left NASA? And if she sold her condo, where is she living now?”

Not wanting to discuss family matters in front of a stranger, Grey headed toward the foyer. “Come, Pascal. I’ll take you to our resort hotel and get ye a room.”

“No,” Grace said, jumping to her feet again. “Luke will stay here at Gù Brath.”

“That isn’t necessary,” Pascal said, correctly reading Grey’s desire that he get the hell out of their house. “I really don’t wish to intrude. If I can just sleep in a warm bed for a couple of days to thaw out,” he said with an involuntary shiver, “and get some hot food in my stomach, I will be good to go. I really should be heading back to France anyway, before I find myself out of a job.”

“But I thought you came here to collaborate with Camry?”

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