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Obsessed: Chapter 2

Cait

The red paint dripped like blood, and I gazed at my cottage door, my gut tight.

Of all the emotions I could stir in another person, obsession scared me the most. This had all the hallmarks of a spurned lover. Except that was hardly the case.

As a pre-teen, I’d been followed by boys who asked me out, caught on my apparently perfect face. Likewise, teenaged me gained admirers in droves.

Until they got to know me better. Then, they gave up.

No amount of good looks could replace the fact that I had nothing to offer them. Or them to me. Zero, zip, nada sexy feelings. It hadn’t happened for me once, not for any boy, man, or woman. It had become common knowledge that Cait McRae just wasn’t interested.

I still feared the attention. The infatuation my birth mother had had for my father that led to the disastrous first few months of my life.

At twenty-three, I’d hoped the days of random crushes were past me.

The events of the recent few months and now the word splattered on the entrance to my home told another story.

Bitch, it read.

Well, thanks very much, weirdo.

Gravel crunched behind me, and I twisted around. Two people exited a car. A man and a little girl.

My new neighbours, I assumed, and my heart sank. Why the ever-loving heck did they need to arrive right at this moment?

“Back in the car,” the man barked at his daughter.

She did as ordered, and he stalked over to me.

“What the hell is this?” He glared at the door as if the slur was aimed at him, not me.

Lochinvar. That was his name. My uncle had recruited him as the new head of the mountain rescue. He looked the part, too. Dark hair, a close-cut beard, and dangerously intelligent almost-black eyes.

He was huge, too. A mountain of a man. Wide shoulders stretched his t-shirt, sizable muscles plain.

Instinctively, I took a step back. “This is my place. I’m Cait. I just arrived home and found it.”

His gaze swept over me. “Ye havenae been inside?”

“Not yet.”

“Unlock the door.”

I bristled at the order but still obeyed. I’d seen enough horror movies to know that the woman should never enter the creepy house alone.

Except this wasn’t a creepy house. It was my home, my lovely cottage that I’d decorated and furnished. My refuge from a busy life. The place where I intended to raise a family.

Besides, I wasn’t on my own in this scenario.

The lock gave way, and I pushed inside, the stranger right behind me. His heavy hand landed on my shoulder, and he restrained me, sweeping the living room with a fierce focus.

I flipped on the light against the evening’s gloom and peered around. Nothing was out of place. Envelopes sat in a pile on my desk under the window, right where I’d left them. On the stone floor by the edge of the rug, my boots lined up undisturbed, and my sofa blanket draped at a jaunty angle, as I’d arranged it before work this morning. To the left, a clear line of sight into the kitchen gave the all-clear that way.

“I don’t think anyone’s been inside,” I breathed.

Lochinvar grunted then strode in the opposite direction to the closed door of my bedroom.

“Wait!” I squeaked, leaping after him.

While the rest of my tiny four-roomed single-storey home was neat, my bedroom was the opposite. Next to my bed, a patio door led to a small paved space out the back, bracketed from the forest by a low wall, and I often used the space to dry my laundry on an airer. Last night, I’d arrived home late after dinner with my family and grabbed the airer inside, and this morning, I’d dumped the lot onto my quilt.

Lingerie. All of it.

Fancy lacy bras. Thongs with gauzy panels and embroidered flowers.

My new neighbour stuck his head inside. “Holy fuck,” he muttered. “Someone’s been in here. The dirty bastard’s been in your drawers.”

Hot, I squeezed past his huge frame and whipped the blanket over to conceal my underwear. “Nope. This is my doing. I left it like that.”

Two dark eyebrows rose, then Lochinvar continued on to the last closed door—the en suite. “Clear,” he remarked and stalked back into the living room.

I closed my eyes for a second and tried to see a pattern in the recent minor disturbances. My stolen coat. My work emails opened before I’d read them. I had no idea who was behind it.

I’d also told very few people about it, too, and intended to keep it that way.

Where I lived, on a remote estate in Scotland, I was surrounded by family, which was both wonderful and slightly smothering. My parents and twin brothers respected my space, but if they heard about this…

A voice came from outside the cottage. “…paint on the door. Some arsehole up to no good. I need your police contact so we can get someone here.”

Oh, flipping hell.

I rushed out, my hand up. “Please don’t. I can handle this.”

Lochinvar glowered, his eyebrows forming a solid line. He stuck his finger into his ear and turned away, listening to the conversation I could only assume he was having with my uncle, the man who’d hired him.

There was no chance Da wouldn’t be here in twenty minutes.

“Aye. Grand. I’ll do that.” Lochinvar hung up and twisted back. “What’s the problem? This needs reporting.”

Annoyance rose at the presumption I couldn’t handle this myself. “Did you seriously just tell my family? Do ye know what you’ve done? The whole estate will find out in minutes. How about minding your own business?”

He reared back. Then his eyes narrowed. “Do ye know who did this?”

I fought the urge to grind my teeth. “No, but I’m more than capable of working it out on my own. I’ve been managing just fine for months.”

I caught myself too late, and Lochinvar homed in on that sliver of information.

“This has happened before,” he deduced.

“I didn’t say that, and don’t ye dare repeat it to my uncle, Da, or any other family member who comes steaming over.”

My chest heaved, and I stared him down. Likewise, the stranger glared back, hands on his hips, and breathing hard.

We locked gazes.

Why the hell was he so angry? I was the one who’d been attacked.

The car door popping open claimed both our attentions.

“Da?” came a small voice. “Is it safe?”

Lochinvar broke eye contact with me and swivelled to go fetch his daughter: a sweet little darling with blonde curls and big eyes. I wanted to meet her, too—part of his coming to work here was the agreement that we’d help with looking after his child if he had rescue call-outs overnight. I’d volunteered for that, more than happy to have a little one to care for before I had my own family.

Except right now, I was so hopping mad with her father, I couldn’t stand it.

I stomped inside and changed into old clothes then grabbed a bucket of soapy water and a scrubbing brush. Maybe if I was lucky, I could get rid of the evidence before anyone else saw it.


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