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Chapter 1

 

Duart Castle

The Isle of Mull, Scotland

October 2010

“There she be, lass.”

Emmy gripped the edge of the window and stared at the panoramic view of the distant castle the driver’s finger pointed toward as the bus traveled the winding road along the eastern coastline of the Isle of Mull.  In the distance was the last destination on her ten-day UK vacation.  From London to Wales to Yorkshire and from there on to Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Her visit today was the last spectacle she had come so far to see.  Duart Castle - the ancestral home of the clan MacLean for hundreds of years.

Her guidebook told her the name Duart meant “Black Point” in Gaelic and based on the view from the ferry as she had crossed the Sound of Mull that afternoon from mainland Scotland, she knew why it bore that name.  The castle did indeed sit on black earth that contrasted with the waters of the sound and the gray sky behind it.  When she had spotted the castle from the ferry on her arrival, the clouds had hung so low that they almost clung to the land between the water and the castle nearly obscuring her view of it.  Now as the shuttle approached from the ferry terminus at Craignure, she could see its prominent outline standing alone on the land against the skies beyond.   The setting sun lit the West-facing side as she neared showing the wear of centuries on the face of the building.

Emmy’s guidebook also told her the clan MacLean had lived on this land since the 14th century and had remained in that castle until they were forced to leave during the Jacobite rebellion when they retreated to the Treshnsih Isles.  After several years of military occupation, the castle had been burned in 1756 and Duart remained a ruin until it was bought back by the family in the mid-1800s and restored.

Now the castle was a fine example of medieval architecture; glorious, wonderful…

And open to the public from May until October.

What a vacation this had been so far!  After four years of brain-numbing undergraduate work, two years of medical school full of rotations through various medical specialties and four more years of harrowing residency with 48-hour shifts and no personal life, it was long past time for Emmy to have a vacation. If there was a person on earth who ever thought that doctors didn’t earn every penny of their billings then that person was dead wrong. As a resident, Emmy had hung by her fingertips on the lowest rung of the ladder.  She was only just above those medical students rotating through the departments and just below the lab rats.  She had been the gopher, grunt and dumping ground for every job no one else wanted to do.

It had been four years since Emmy had even been on a date.  Not a single date!  Not one and she now felt more sexless than one would think was humanly possible.  She had brought it on herself, though.  She had heard the tales, seen the proof and knew better than to encourage a relationship during her residency.  With all the long hours, overnights and demands associated with a medical residency, the future MD’s had one of the highest divorce rates by occupation in the US.  They were only nudged from the top spot by naval submariners who spent up to six months at a time under water and out of contact.

Like a submariner, Emmy certainly felt like she had been underwater for a long while now.  But here and now, she had made time for herself. Though several of the other residents had invited her to join them on their vacations to the Virgin Islands and Hawaii, Emmy had chosen to take her vacation alone.  Most of her friends couldn’t fathom that she wanted to do the UK in the chill of fall, but Emmy was determined to enjoy her alone time to the fullest extent before starting her new career.

A little “me” time was her explanation.

She had always been comfortable in her own company.

The shuttle rolled to a stop outside the outer gates of the ancient castle, the keep Emmy thought it was called, and she accepted the driver’s hand as the old man assisted her from the bus.  “Wow, Donell,” she addressed the old man who had thus far been chatty and informative on the short trip from Craignure, “it is just as amazing as you said.”  She was the only passenger today, most likely because it was the last day the castle was open to the public for the season.  The weather was turning colder and most tourists were long gone from the area by this time.  Donell had probably just been happy for someone to show up and wanted to make her feel welcome.  He had entertained her along the way with outrageous tales of the region’s past conflicts that he had surely embellished on to make them more exciting.

The brisk October breeze had Emmy clutching her short velvet blazer closed as she turned to the old castle.  The heavy cloud coverage did nothing to relieve the somber façade of the castle.  The walls were dark and crumbling a bit.  It was showing its age, Emmy thought, but was magnificent nonetheless growing from the rocky cliffs to tower five stories high at its hipped roofline.

“She’s a bonny lass, is Duart,” the old Scot commented with a thick brogue Emmy enjoyed.  In fact, between his gravelly voice and his appearance of the clichéd old-timer, it was easy to picture him at the local tavern taking a pint or two.  His haggard, weathered features fell into more folds than a Shar Pei.  His dark eyes so deeply recessed that Donell almost gave an impression of unfathomable age.  An ancient Scotsman in his battered cap and coat.  A bit clichéd but the perfect person for the tourists to sidle up to for a picture or two.

Swinging her large tote and smaller

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