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Drawn to Death

By Marva Dale All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Chapter 1

Drawn to Death

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1982:

Margot Lucinda Wynant Blanton of Chesterfield passed away Friday, October 1st after a short illness.  A well-renowned artist on the local and national scene, Mrs. Blanton used her maiden name, Margot Wynant, for professional purposes, and was known for her vivid acrylic paintings of landscapes.  Mrs. Blanton leaves behind her loving husband of two years, Nicholas Blanton, another local artist.  Services are pending... 

Chapter One


Furness upon Heath, Scotland

Jessica McRae loved the village of her ancestors, Craignarie, still a small but thriving community.  In fact, she found all of Scotland charming, made even more enchanting with the addition of a new love in her life.  She hadn’t come here to look for a potential relationship, but Nick Blanton just happened along, at the right time and place.  They both had been staying at the Killen Hotel in the larger town of Kilteria, and subsequently met in the dining room when Jess accidently tipped over his water glass with a sudden swing of her shoulder bag.  Of course, she apologized profusely, hoping he wasn’t too angry about having water spilled in his lap, although water seemed preferable to hot tea or coffee. 

Nick actually grinned and asked her to join him.  From that moment on, they remained inseparable, touring the countryside by bicycle, exploring historical castles, enjoying a highlander celebration with bagpipe music, hiking the firths near Biarliargan, and just walking through fields of heather and thistle down.  It took only days for Jess to feel comfortable enough to reveal her personal triumphs and tragedies.  Nick wanted to know all about her life, and so she told him about her hometown of Kingston, Maryland, that her father, Dr. Dean McRae, had been one of the two doctors in town, and that her mother, Lorraine, had been a successful realtor with two real estate firms in her name, the main company in Kingston and a branch office in nearby Danbury. 

Unfortunately, a commuter plane crash killed both her parents during Jess’s sophomore year at the University of Maryland.  The McRaes had been on their way to attend a relative’s nuptials in Bermuda and had hired a local pilot—actually a good friend of theirs—to fly them to the destination wedding.  Unfortunately, bad weather caused the twin-engine plane to crash into the ocean.  Eerily enough, Jess had cancelled the trip with her parents at the last minute since she had been pressed for time to finish an important term paper.

“I still get shivers,” she confessed to Nick, “every time I think about what happened...and what could have been.”

“Then don’t think about it,” he counseled with a look of genuine concern.  “Just be glad you’re alive.  It wasn’t your time to die because you still have a destiny to fulfill.  I believe in fate, don’t you?”

She nodded.  “Yes...I do now.”

Subsequently, Jess had inherited the family home in Kingston as well as a sizable trust fund, although she continued to follow her avocation as a fourth-grade teacher, a position she loathed to give up since she loved to teach, to inspire children to do their best, and to encourage them to learn new ideas and concepts.  As she spoke, Nick listened without further comment, the intense look he gave her with his vivid blue eyes indicating that he held a real interest in her life.  Jess had never felt so close to a man before.  Not even her father had taken on the role of a trusted male confidante with whom she could talk about the intimate details of her life.  Nick seemed to fit the role quite naturally.

But she hesitated on moving their relationship to a more intimate level so soon.  She wanted to make sure this was not just a fling created and enhanced by the wonderful appeal of the place.  She wanted this to be a real, lasting romance that continued long after the magic had dissipated and they both returned to the states and assumed their regular lives.

Thankfully, Nick hadn’t pressed for more, and they remained content to kiss and hug with mutual affection, even though his overtures of late hinted at a growing passion.  Jess felt the same way, and knew any day now she would give in to temptation.  But why not?  They were both adults.  She had just celebrated her 27th birthday, and felt quite old enough to weigh her choices judiciously, while Nick had confessed to turning 38 in December.  But the eleven-year gap between them meant nothing to two people in love.  Yes, love!  Jess felt it with all of her heart and soul.

On this beautiful day in early March, she sat on a large rock near the headwaters of the Ellancoar River that ran into the Loch-an-Breachlaich, the beautiful, pristine lake.  Nick had been sketching her on his drawing pad.  He made his living as a commercial artist but preferred to paint artistically in acrylics or oils, whatever suited his mood, a landscape, a still life, a whimsical subject, or a portrait.  Nick wanted to paint her portrait, of course, but it would have to wait until they returned to the states so he could work in his studio.  Jess looked forward to it, not just for the portrait but because it meant a continuation of their relationship, even it meant a long distance romance, he in Westbrook, Connecticut and she in Kingston.

“Don’t move, Jess!” he now demanded with a discerning smile.

Jess ceased squirming for the moment.  “I’m trying not to, but sitting on this rock isn’t the most comfortable or ideal position.”

“Oh, you’ve got another position in mind?”

She laughed.  “I’ll let you know later.”

Nick looked so serious, even somber, as he drew her, but she knew better.  He had an impish quality about him, but also a sexy vibe.  His raven hair fell to his broad shoulders in silken waves, and his eyes—those stunning blue eyes—could convey his mood to her so quickly and melt her just as fast.  She loved to study his face, the strong lines, the patrician nose, the long, dark lashes, and his mouth, dreamy and sensuous, that of a poet and artist.

At first, Jess couldn’t understand what he saw in her, just a simple woman with nothing special to offer, attractive but not especially beautiful or gifted.  Yet, he seemed to want her, and she gave up trying to analyze the attraction, knowing only that she had fallen quite madly in love with him.

“Oh, Mr. Blanton!”  Angus Murdock, their unofficial guide, came running over to the couple.  “You caught a fish, Mr. Blanton.  A nice, big trout.” 

Nick hadn’t really gone fishing even though he had been outfitted with fishing gear thanks to the accommodating Mr. Murdock.  In the end, the hearty Scotsman decided to do the fishing for the couple.

Nick paused in his drawing.  “Good!  Why don’t you reel it in and have it for your own supper?”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Blanton.” 

Angus Murdock resembled the perfect Scot with his ruddy face, red hair interspersed with patches of gray, clear agate eyes, and a definite highland burr to his speech.  Now he glanced up at the sky and pointed to a distant cloud.  “Going to rain, I believe.”

Jess looked up in the direction the Scotsman indicated, but found the sky just as bright blue as it had been all morning with just a few fluffy white clouds sailing by,  certainly nothing to indicate a brewing storm.  “Why, there’s not a cloud in the sky, Mr. Murdock.”

“Oh, you just watch, miss.  The clouds are rolling in as we speak.  You best be gathering up your things and heading back to the inn.”

Nick chuckled.  “I should make a bet that it won’t rain for at least another hour.”

The Scotsman laughed too.  “All right, Mr. Blanton, if you wish.  I’ll wager ten quid that it’ll rain soon enough.”

After depositing his pencil in his shirt pocket, Nick closed his sketch book.  “You’re on!”

Quicker than any of them imagined, a sentry of blue-gray clouds moved in.  Jess couldn’t believe such a sudden change in weather, especially after a few fat rain drops hit her on the head.  “Oh, oh!” she laughed and jumped off the rock.  “Looks like you lost the bet, Nick.”

“Oh, well, better luck next time.  I’ll pay you that pound when we get back to the inn, Mr. Murdock.”

Retrieving his wool hat from his back pocket, Angus Murdock slipped it on his head. “Right now, I’ve got to gather up the fishing gear.  But if you get caught in a downpour, folks, there’s an abandoned cottage right over the knoll and across the bridge of Lochay.  You can ride out the storm there.”

“Thanks for the suggestion.”  With his pad under his left arm, Nick circled Jess’s arm with his right.  “Maybe we should check out that cottage anyway”

She smiled.  “All right.  I’m game.”

Now as the rain increased to a steady drizzle, the couple began an easy run towards the knoll.  But they barely made it to the cottage before the clouds opened wide and produced a downpour.

“Only in Scotland,” Jess stated once inside the little stone house with its partial thatched roof.  At least the surviving half of the roof covered a good portion of the living area, giving them a cozy retreat.  Finding a few sticks and lots of straw, Jess gathered it all up and placed her stash in the sturdy, fieldstone fireplace.  “You wouldn’t happen to have a match by any chance?”  She had been kneeling to build her little pile of tinder and now rocked back on the heels of her boots.

Nick offered a lighter from his jeans pocket.  “Better yet.”

“My, you do come equipped for all occasions,” she laughed and took the proffered lighter.

He gave her a sly smile.  “Oh, baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The dry material caught easily enough and soon they had a decent fire going.  With her makeshift broom of straw wisps from the bales stashed in a corner, Jess swept away most the dirt on the floor so they could have a relatively clean place to sit as well as spread out their damp jackets to dry.

“Now isn’t this cozy?” she opined as they both got comfortable in front of the fireplace.

“You bet.”  Threading his arm around her waist, Nick pulled her close. 

She laid her head on his shoulder.  “Ohm.  To me, this has to be the most romantic spot on earth.”

Nick placed his index finger under her chin and lifted her head.  Their gazes met.  “You seem to find romance wherever we go, don’t you, Jess?  Now if we were caught in a snowstorm and had to share an igloo, you’d think that was romantic too, even with our teeth chattering and our fingers and toes numb to the bone.”

Jess smiled.  “Of course.  We could share a parka and keep each other from freezing to death by generating and sharing our body heat.”

“Now that’s the kind of situation I could go for.”  Bending his head to hers, Nick captured her mouth for a breathless kiss.  Her arms circled his neck while he wrapped her in his strong embrace.

His embrace seemed to swallow her whole; and when he stroked a hand over her hair and down her back she shivered with delight.  She opened her mouth beneath his and felt a wild rush as his tongue touched hers and their kiss turned urgent.  She ached and trembled with the sensations that now exploded inside.  Heat blushed just below the surface of her skin and lust pooled thick and liquid between her legs.  She could taste his need, feel it, wanted to give in to it and banish all of her questions and doubts from her mind.  She didn’t want thought, or logic or reason.  She wanted Nick right now, this minute.

His hands slipped beneath her tee shirt and skimmed across her breasts.  The shirt came off as they moved to their knees.  He discarded his own plaid shirt between hot kisses and offered the smooth, muscular planes of his chest.  They came together, fevered skin to fevered skin, mouths and hands exploring, until Nick scooted them over to a nearby pile of hay to make it softer and more comfortable for them.  They paused only to shed the rest of their clothing.

Then, stretched on the bed of hay, Jess pulled him down to her and moaned as his lips kissed her breasts and his tongue tickled her nipples.  She felt and heard nothing around her but concentrated on the strength of him, the masculine scent of his hair and skin.  She gave herself over to all of these sensations, the texture of his upper chest with the small dragon tattoo between his nipples, the smooth hardness of his stomach muscles, and the feel of his erection in her hands.

In turn, Nick stroked through the dark curls between her thighs and tested her readiness, finding her hot, open and wet.  And then he was inside her, filling her, stretching her.  She dug her fingers into his back and wrapped her legs around his hips, allowing the urgency of the act to consume her.  The first orgasm blinded her with its intensity, a reaffirmation of her existence, of her womanhood.

She cried out and held onto Nick as he increased his thrusts.  She arched to meet him as he rode her harder, faster, bringing her to climax yet again.  He found his own as he drove deeper still and moaned through gritted teeth.  Jess felt him come with the sudden rigidity of his back muscles, and the skimming of his body over hers until he let go and covered her completely. 

Neither of them moved for minutes afterward, the only sounds the cracks and pops of the fire and their own ragged breathing as they both relaxed in a tangle of limbs, of sated minds and bodies.

Jess would never forget this moment, so special it made her heart ache.  Now she realized that the rain had ceased its beat upon the exposed wooden ceiling beams.  She smelled the damp hay inside and the heather and clover outside.  From somewhere nearby, several sheep let out mournful baas.  All of this would be forever etched in her memory, all these wonderful sights, sounds, and sensations.

“Well, that was very, very nice,” Nick laughed as he shifted to her side and propped himself up on his elbow.  He took her hand and threaded his fingers through hers.  “I guess we should go back, even though I could stay like this forever.  You, too, I imagine.”

“Of course.”  She smiled up at him, memorizing every line in his handsome, chiseled face, the curl of his poet’s lips, and his eyes like the placid, clear waters of nearby Loch Anna.

“We can take this back to the inn, you know, which will be much more comfortable in either your room or mine—but after we eat dinner.  I know I need to refuel.”

“Will it be Haggis this time?” she chuckled.  It had been a running joke between them, with Jess refusing to even try the Scottish savory of various meats, tripe and vegetables cooked inside a sheep’s stomach.  Yet Nick vowed that he would have to try it at least once before they left Scotland.

“No,” he assured her with a sly smile. “I think we’ll play it safe with Fin Haddon and some stout ale tonight.”  The idea of fish with sour cream sauce sounded much more appetizing and appealing.  “And maybe we’ll have champagne later on, to celebrate the consummating of our love with much more to come.”  His smile broadened to an ecstatic grin.  “So what do you say, my love?  Ah, yes, there I said it! in I love you, my love.”

My love!  Nick said it with such passion that it made her heart soar.  Reaching up, she stroked his strong chin.  “I say I love your suggestions and I love you, love.”

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