3. The North
“Scar! Over here.”
I turned in the direction of the enthusiastic voice and, sure thing, on the other end of the platform stood my favourite partner-in-crime ever since we met at uni ten years ago.
Glasgow train station was quite busy at this time of the day and the platform was packed with people but I scurried over to Riley, zigzagging between everyone in my path. Two gentle arms wrapped around me when I finally reached her and my body relaxed with relief after everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours.
Riley had the face of an angel but her innocent look only fooled those who didn’t know her- everyone else was aware just how much of a badass she truly was. Not to mention that as far as the security and protection field in the UK was concerned, my bestie was one of the top professionals in the country and I knew that there was nowhere else that I was going to be safer. Plus, I was dying to catch up with her and find out everything about her time in Scotland.
“Well, if it isn’t my long-lost friend Aurelie Boswell,” I teased her as we embraced.
Riley giggled and grabbed my luggage from me, directing me towards the exit of the station.
“It’s actually Moreau around here,” she corrected me with a smile. “Turns out that my parents were kind of a big deal in the area and were quite well-known, so a lot of people knew who I was when I got here.”
My eyes nearly popped out in surprise at the pride that emanated from her as she spoke. Until recently, Riley didn’t know anything about her birth family and then one day, her long-lost brother arrived, inviting her to join him in Scotland to find out more about her heritage and her biological parents.
“Oh wow, you’ve accepted your birth family’s name- that’s a huge step. How do your parents feel about it?”
“They are okay with it. Actually, they were up here recently and got to meet my brother and... erm, everyone.” There was a hesitation in her voice that didn’t seem to have anything to do with her family but I could not figure out what else could be. “Anyway, a lot of things have changed over the past weeks- it was definitely the right decision for me to come to Scotland. I am...happy,” she said as she pointed her car key at a nearby silver BMW X5, unlocking it so that we could put my luggage in the booth.
I looked at my best friend, thinking about her words. She was glowing, contentment radiating from her. Her unusual blue eyes with golden circles around the irises were sparkling in a way that I had never seen before.
If I didn’t know better, I would have said that she was a woman in love, but Riley avoided relationships like the plague. Despite her incredibly giving and protective nature, which made her extremely generous and open with everyone she cared about, she guarded her heart when it came to men. Her high expectations also didn’t make things easier for her because she was never going to find one man to fit all her criteria.
I, on the other hand, hid my romantic soul behind my flirty behaviour and various flings. Rugged, bearded men with tattoos were usually my cup of tea, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because of the promise they carried of a wild time between the sheets or because I secretly hoped that I could turn them into charming, passionate teddy bears.
Jesus, my parents divorcing when I was little had really messed me up. Their broken relationship made me long to find someone who would love me and stand by my side, no matter what, but it was probably better to accept that these kinds of men only existed in fairytales.
Whatever Scotland had brought Riley, it certainly made her happy and I was thrilled for her. She deserved it. It didn’t mean that I was not going to tease her about it as we drove away from the airport.
“I would say. The way you are looking, I might think that you have been getting laid without sharing the spicy details with your BFF.”
I laughed at my own joke but, to my surprise, Riley didn’t even look at me when normally she would have had a witty comeback.
My mouth popped open and my eyes widened once again. “Wait, did you sleep with someone here?” Her awkward smile told me everything that I needed to know. “Oh my lord, you did! How could you not have told me about it when I saw you at your house earlier this week?” I jokingly slapped her shoulder. Sure, I pretended to be offended but I was excited to get all the details. “Was it one of the guys you came down to London with?”
I felt a pang to the chest though as I remembered Riley’s entourage when they suddenly appeared at her place, and my thoughts shifted to Callum. Was she dating him, perhaps?
It couldn’t be.
We had such a good time chatting and joking- if they were together, he wouldn’t have done that.
“It’s just that it’s all quite new, Miss Gossip Girl. I don’t even know what to call it yet. But I promise I will tell you all about it as soon as I know how to explain it all,” she turned to me, her face lighting up as she spoke, while a warm girlish blush pinked her cheeks. “Can you wait a little longer?”
Blimey, I was teasing her, but her pleading face and radiance definitely meant that whatever was going on was not just a dalliance. This was a BIG!
“I will, I promise. But once you are ready, I want to know everything about the guy who is making you blush like this.”
Her lips curled up into another smile but she gave nothing away. “Enough about me. Tell me what kind of trouble you have gotten yourself into again.”
And so I did while we drove from Glasgow to the Loch Lomond area. I had never been to Scotland before but now I knew just how much I had missed out on- the landscape was absolutely stunning to the point that I was forgetting what I was telling Riley because I was marvelling at the beauty around us. The sparkling, clear waters of Loch Lomond had me mesmerised but so did also the crumpled hills and sleepy forests that encompassed the lake. The magnificent scenery alone was probably enough of a motivation for Riley to stay here north and I was slowly becoming a fan as well.
“Thanks again for helping me out, Ri.” I finally tore my gaze away from the window. “Is there a B’n’B close to your family’s place where I could stay? You better not be considering having me stay with you as there is no way that I will accept.”
“I knew you would say this. But there is also no way that I am letting you stay at a B’n’B. Not only because I would be a terrible friend then but also because it would be easier to have you tracked down like that.”
And just like that, we were back to the usual, arguing to see which one of us was more stubborn.
“No way, Riley- I can’t stay with you. You only just met your brother and I am not going to crash your time together, even if Lucien is an absolute hottie.”
She chuckled at my words, probably remembering my last encounter with Lucien. Although, that was before I had met all of the other gorgeous men that my bestie had come across here.
“Don’t worry, I have a solution. Do you remember Aiden?” How could I forget? He was tall, blond, tattooed, and oozed elegance and finesse. He also most definitely seemed to appreciate Riley when I last saw them lazy, but so did the broody dark-haired guy who was with them. Rafe. I nodded in response to her question. “Aiden has to stay with Rafe for a while as he is helping out with some things at Rafe’s estate, so his place is empty at the moment and he offered for you to stay there. You can make use of the cars and bikes in his garage as well.”
That was...generous of him. Was he trying to butter me up because he was perhaps Riley’s new man?
“It’s really nice of him to offer but I would not want to mess up his place, Ri. Really, a B’n’B is more than good enough for me.”
“Oh, shush. You will not mess up anything. His castle has plenty of space and guest rooms.”
“His what now?” I nearly stuttered as I repeated her words. “Did you say castle?” She said it so casually as if all people lived in castles.
“It’s not quite how it sounds.”
“Oh, it’s not?” I asked with a fake surprise. “Because I am pretty sure that that living in a castle is pretty shocking for someone who managed to just about afford a two-bedroom flat in zone 2 London.”
“Well, here there happen to be many country houses where the castle tag has been added for fashion or prestige. But Scotland does have more than 1500 castles.”
I was about to protest at her attempts to downplay the whole thing but I was too stunned when we entered an estate and a beautiful castle with breathtaking panoramic views behind it appeared at the end of the road. It was insane to think that someone lived in such a spectacular place. I was certainly never going to have an opportunity to experience such a way of life, so I pushed my protests to the back of my mind and allowed Riley to show me around and help me settle in once we entered the castle.
The whole place was just as mind-blowing on the inside as it was outside. I finally knew why Riley was convinced that I was not going to mess anything up- the guy had eight bedrooms all to himself. I could spread my stuff across half of the castle and no one would even know. Not that I was going to. It was all a bit too much for me but screw it- I decided to go with the flow.
We were at the end of our tour when I saw a message flash on Riley’s mobile. Her eyes flashed with excitement when she read it. Damn lover, I thought to myself as I tried to roll my eyes subtly.
It was no surprise that she made up some excuses about being needed for some family business and disappeared within ten minutes, leaving the keys to the castle and some useful information for me.
So I did what anyone in my shoes would have done- I turned up the music on my phone and busted a few dance moves while I sang and unpacked my things.
When I was done, it was finally time to grab a nice hot shower. I peeled off all the layers of clothes that I had on until I was down to my mismatching underwear, but I didn’t really care as I had the whole place to myself. There were perks to staying at this castle, after all.
The sound of the doorbell echoed down the corridor just as I was about to jump into the shower. I contemplated whether to get dressed again but it was probably Riley who forgot something behind, and she had seen me in my underwear plenty of times.
I scuttled over to the front door but the doorbell kept ringing. Ugh, Riley was never a patient person.
“Damn it, woman, do you have to keep ringing so persistently? I was just about to shower,” I said, slightly out of breath as I unlocked the door.
The cool air caressed my naked skin when the door swung open, making me shiver. Countless tiny goosebumps erupted all over my body. Yet, I didn’t feel the cold because I was too shocked by what, or rather who was on the other side of the door.
My jaw nearly dropped to the floor but I found the strength to react, at least.
Ahhhh, Riley is back! I don’t know about you but I definitely missed her.
If you are returning reader, Bear with Me picks up after the last SaO chapter and wayyyyy before the epilogue so prepare to get some extra glimpses of our favourite triad after that mind-blowing mating.
Back to Scar though- who do you think is at the door?
I truly hope you enjoyed having this troublesome duo reunited. I can’t wait to hear what you think in the comments.
Don’t forget to be back for Chapter 4 tomorrow.
p.s. If you are a new reader, here is my girl Riley (inspired by model Barbara Palvin). If you haven’t yet, definitely check out Stronger as One while you are waiting for the next update.