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A Heartsong Back to the Highlands
Ronan’s Story - (A MacKay Clan Legend)

He’s a fifteenth century Highlander pirate.
She’s a twenty-first century girl who just got jilted at the altar.
What could they possibly have in common?
Tricksy gods and goddesses reweaving the tapestry of time.

Harley Trent loves her job as a caregiver at the nursing home. Those sweet old people help her as much as she helps them. Especially after she caught her fiancé with her best friend in the chapel’s back room right before their wedding. But she’s determined to move past that humiliation. And also determined that there will be no more men for the foreseeable future. She’s got other goals now. Save up and head to the ocean. It may take a while, but she’ll get there. Until then, she enjoys taking care of the residents in the retirement home. Especially the newest one. Mr. MacCallen. A man who loves the sea as much as she does. He’s an odd duck who keeps to himself. But that’s all right. She’s taken care of odd ducks before. Until he shows her that antique locket and everything goes horribly wrong.

Fifteenth century Highlander Ronan MacKay’s magical birthright is dominion over the seas and everything in them. While his clan rules over the northeastern tip of the Highlands, he sails the oceans, reveling in the excitement and wonder of the untamable waters—until the gnawing starts. A persistent wee beastie chewing at his heart, urging him to chart a course for the one who needs him, the one pleading for him to save them. But where are they? Who are they? And what threatens them? With any luck, his mother will know or at least know where to look since she happens to be a talented, twenty-first century witch.

When the gods and goddesses decide they want something, they’ll stop at nothing to get it. And neither centuries nor the ancient edicts of the almighty Fates matter. Especially when Ronan’s magically powerful little sister unwittingly agrees to help. But for every action, there is a boon that must be paid. But the gods don’t care as long as Ronan and Harley are the ones paying—and if everything works out as planned, the two will consider the gift from the gods well worth the price.

This story includes these favorite tropes: fish out of water, wounded heroine, fated mates, strangers to lovers, forced proximity, meddling gods, and time travel

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Chapter 1

“Dagun roared. “Today? Be today the day we die?” 

Ronan laughed at his first mate’s panic that the wind and driving rain carried to him from across the ship, then off into oblivion. Poor old beggar. Dagun had endured many a storm at sea, but this one appeared to be a bit too harsh for his liking.

The deck dipped, then lurched upward with the wild fury of the angry waves. The crew struggled to hold fast, but they tumbled and flailed from pillar to post, as if they were naught but a wee bairn’s rag doll. Dagun tangled his arms in the rigging to keep from slamming into the ship’s railing—or worse—be tossed over the side and swallowed by the churning sea. 

“Clíodhna willna harm us,” Ronan bellowed to them. “She’s but bouncing us about for a wee bit of fun.” More at home at sea than on land, he stood easy at the wheel, his stance wide and balanced as though the vessel was naught but a gently rocking cradle.

“Aye, then,” Dagun sputtered and coughed after a wave hit him full in the face. “I be mighty glad about yer certainty of the sea goddess and her many moods—be they foul or be they fair.” Another salty blast knocked him off his feet and left him dangling from the rigging.

Ronan flashed a smile at the deluge’s sting and the lashing bite of the wind. His pulse quickened with each swell and heave of his beloved waters. A hearty laugh rumbled from deep in his belly and joined the song of the howling gale. His spirits soared as the black thunderclouds stirred like a boiling cauldron about to overflow. Fear of the storm would never plague him. Not here in his home. In the arms of his untamable ocean. His beloved Sea Goddess Clíodhna had won his loyalty and trust long ago when he was but a wee babe in his mother’s arms. The goddess had appeared to him in the form of a selkie that day and taken many forms since, always striving to amuse him and show how much she cherished him. Clíodhna would let no harm come his way.  

He never questioned the mystical ways of the goddesses or the powerful energies flowing through his world. Conceived in the dream plane, his mother a powerful twenty-first century witch, and his father a time traveling Scottish laird from the fourteenth century, magic filled his blood. The Goddess Brid herself had named him, for his destiny was to have dominion over the sea and every creature in it. A wee storm stirred up by Clíodhna was tonic to his very being.

“Douse canvas!” Dagun roared into the hurricane while squinting up at the creaking mast straining against the force of the gale. “She canna bear much more of this wind!” If they didn’t get the sails dropped quickly, the mast would surely snap and drag them into the unforgiving depths.

Ronan shook his head as his terrified crew staggered across the deck. Their expressions revealed their unspoken prayers and fears that they would never see home again before they died.

“Clíodhna!” he shouted into the wind. “Leave off and move on to pester some other unsuspecting mortals. Ye have frightened my men long enough.”

The storm died like a snuffed candle. Mountainous waves smoothed to subtle ripples. The sun broke through the thinning clouds scurrying across the horizon. A rich golden voice floated on the breeze and danced across the water.

 “My beautiful Ronan,” it said, “ye ken I was merely having a wee bit of fun.”

“Aye, my goddess, and ye ken how I enjoy a hearty storm.” He cast a smile up at the fluffy white clouds tumbling across the brightness of the clear blue sky. His long hair, black as the ink of a squid, quickly dried in the gentled wind as the Goddess Clíodhna breathed a warm balminess into the air. He winked, even though she had yet to take solid form. “Ye are wondrous, my goddess, but I fear the fury that charges my blood with exciting energy drains the marrow from my crew’s bones.”

A mighty wave crashed over the railing, its sparkling white crest transforming into the shapely figure of a striking woman. Her white hair swirled around her enticing curves and puddled around her feet. Her translucent skin gleamed in the sunlight, iridescent as a pearl pulled from the sea. She was clad in a delicate clinging garment colored with the hues of the waters, rich sapphires, emeralds, and aquamarines. The gown shimmered and changed with her every move. When Clíodhna took human form, she ensured that the form she took was breathtaking.

The goddess smiled as she touched his cheek with the tenderness of a lover’s caress. “My precious Ronan. Ye ken I treasure ye and will always see ye safe. No one adores my beloved seas like ye do. ’Tis such a pity ye are but a wee mortal, fragile as a bit of driftwood. Ye would make such a fine god, a wondrous immortal, and consort.”

He covered her hand with his and chose his words carefully. “Ye ken I honor ye, and the seas shall always sing to my heart and soul. But as ye say, my beloved goddess, I am but a mere mortal—and that canna change.”

She narrowed her stormy blue eyes but kept her smile in place as she leaned forward and brushed a motherly kiss to his forehead. “Ye are a wise little mortal as well, choosing yer words with such care. Have ye spent time with Brid again or has yer wee brother, the fox, given ye lessons on slipping through snares?”

Ronan ducked his head, feeling guilty as a lad caught stealing sweets from the pantry. The mighty Brid had warned him to take care with whatever he said to Clíodhna, for she was known for twisting a man’s words when granting their wishes. Often, she turned a mortal’s most cherished dreams into unimaginable nightmares. Of course, conversations with the all-powerful Brid also took careful wording. But he was extra wary with his precious Clíodhna of the seas.

 “As I said,” he assured her, “I will honor ye to the grave.”

Her laughter bubbled like the gurgle of water as it poured from an urn. She combed her fingers possessively through his tangled mane. “My dear sweet Ronan. What more could a goddess ask for? When I look into yer heart, I see a soul so devoted and pure that it takes my breath away. Ye shall always have my protection, my handsome mortal. Always.”

He bowed his head in reverence. “I thank ye, my goddess, for calming the storm.”

She returned to her realm in the next wave that swept across the bow. 

The crew shook their heads, their relief apparent as they returned to their duties. With the temperamental goddess no longer in their midst, they hurried to repair the damage from the storm.  

Ronan watched them from the wheel, well aware they had heard the rumors about him before signing to serve on his ship. His mystical powers and dominion over the sea were not a secret—at least not upon the waters where he felt most at home. A smile came to him as he remembered one of them confessing they had not truly believed until they’d witnessed his easy relationship with the sea goddess, and how she calmed any storm with just a word from him. They were a superstitious lot. That, he knew, but he hoped they all felt him to be the safest captain to sail under. After all, if the sea goddess kept him safe, the mighty Clíodhna would keep them safe as well.

He turned back into the wind and gave the wheel a gentle turn. Without the storm to distract him, the nagging twitch that had troubled his soul of late demanded his attention once more. He scrubbed his chest, wishing he could rub the annoying strangeness of the ache out of his being. Being the middle son of the MacKay laird, it could not be the curse that demanded he find the other half of his soul. But if not that malady, then what? He rolled his shoulders and flexed his back until it popped, but still, the sensation persisted. A subtle gnawing made his heart ache with longing. Something pulled at him, nagged him to find whatever it was, and claim it for his own.

He snorted and rolled his shoulders. Whatever the feckin’ problem was, he fully intended to ignore it. He refused to look for trouble. After all, whenever trouble wished to find him, it always managed it easily enough on its own.