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They’d made it through the summer wedding season.
It had been a whirlwind of a year so far. Getting this to this point felt like nothing short of a miracle to Sophie, given all the business that had come in after Alyssa and Ryan’s wedding and Swayze’s series of videos highlighting Ardinmuir Event Planning. It was a great problem to have. Ciara had moved up to full-time, they’d added additional part-time staff for events, and Sophie had even brought on part-time help at Village Blume, which had finally moved to its new location—her father’s house.
Lorraine had been heavily fined and ultimately escaped prison sentencing, mostly because Hamish had interceded on her behalf in exchange for her relinquishing the house. She’d moved to Manchester to be nearer to her sister. With the help of her friends, Sophie had cleaned the entire thing from top to bottom, getting rid of every reminder of all those terrible years, before setting up shop on the bottom floor. They’d modified the foyer to create an apartment out of the rest of the of the house. She hadn’t let it yet, but the right tenant would come along. Until then, she was enjoying having reclaimed the space for joy.
John Milligan had also left town. Most of his properties had been bought up by Theo Gordon at a discount, except for one office building Hamish had purchased to house his new practice. All of them were being rehabbed, as time allowed, bringing each one up to code. The village council was ecstatic at the possibilities of new business being brought in, so they’d facilitated the necessary permits.
While there were events booked at Ardinmuir throughout the fall and into next spring, Sophie and Kyla had made it a point to leave some breathing room, both so that the new mum could enjoy her time with baby Lily and to squeeze in some more personal events.
It was finally time to put some work in on those, so Sophie settled against her nest of pillows in the room she now shared with Connor, her laptop on her knees, Cori curled on her chest, little head nestled beneath Sophie’s chin. She’d finally acclimated to Ardinmuir and been allowed more free roaming of the castle, though after an incident where she’d managed to get stuck in a suit of armor and was missing for a few hours, everyone had learned not to leave doors open, just in case.
Sophie put through the video call and waited.
After two rings, Swayze’s face filled the screen. “Hey, girl!”
“Hey. It’s good to see your smiling face. Where are you this week? I’m behind on your channel.”
“Still in Australia. Victoria, at the moment. You’ll have to scope out some videos. The mountains here are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve got a few weeks to bebop around down here before I head back to the States. Unless something prompts me to stay longer.” Her gaze flicked to something off-screen. “That’s the beauty of my job. It’s flexible. How is everything in your neck of the woods? Where’s Hottie MacHotterson?”
As if she’d summoned him, Connor strode into the bedroom. Sophie waved him over. “Swayze’s on. Come, say hi.”
He flopped down beside her on the bed and stuck his head in the frame. “Hey, Swayze.”
“Hey, you! Congrats on the latest write-up, Mr. Up and Coming Metalwork Artist to Watch.”
Connor’s cheeks flushed. “That’s no’ actually a formal thing. It was just one person’s opinion.”
Swayze waved her hand. “It’s good press that you more than deserve. So take the congratulations. You’re going places.”
“How’s Angus? I can’t wait for this season’s GBBO to start next week!”
“He’s great.” Sophie grinned. “He and Munro eloped while they were down in Berkshire for filming.”
“No! Really? That’s awesome. Pass on my congratulations.”
“Of course we will,” Sophie promised.
“How’s everybody else? Kyla and the baby?”
“My niece is the most adorable baby in the world,” Connor announced. “She has us all wrapped around her chubby wee finger.”
“As she should. That is the proper role of little girls. How about the two of you? What’s new for y’all?”
Sophie draped an arm around Connor’s shoulders, twining her fingers in the short hair at his nape. “Actually, we have some news.”
Swayze leaned closer to the screen, chin on hands. “Oh?”
She really was the best audience. “We finally set a date for the wedding.”
“That’s fantastic! When is it happening?”
“It’ll be the end of the year.”
“Aye. It’s a slightly less busy season for us around here, so we picked a weekend and grabbed it before anything else could take it over.” Sophie hadn’t wanted to delay any more than Connor. It felt as if they’d waited more than long enough for their happily ever after.
“Good for you for not puttering around about it.”
“We’ll certainly email you the details, because we hope you’ll be able to come. But actually, I was hoping for a bit more than that.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Well, I was really hoping you might be one of my bridesmaids. We wouldn’t be here if not for you, so it only seems right that you’re included in our big day.”
Swayze’s smile spread slow and wide. “I’d be absolutely honored.”
A low male voice sounded from off-camera. “Swayze?”
Sophie arched a brow. “You’re not alone?”
Swayze waggled her eyebrows. “I am not. But seriously, I’m thrilled to be included. Just let me know when, and I’ll be there with bells on.”
“Great. I’ll email you. So, who’s your friend?”
Her smiled turned wicked. “You know how I have that obsession with Roy Kent from Ted Lasso?”
“Let’s just say I found his Australian counterpart. And I’m not going to keep him waiting.” She blew a kiss at the screen. “See y’all in a few months!”
The call dropped as she signed off.
“Well.” Connor laughed. “Good for her. I hope he treats her well.”
“I’m sure we’ll hear about it when she gets here. Either way, our wedding might be small, but it will definitely not be boring.”
Connor plucked the laptop from her lap and set it aside. “About that…”
Sophie tensed. “What?”
“We might have to go a wee bit bigger than you wanted.”
“Well, aside from the fact that I’m the MacKean heir, the village was incredibly disappointed when Kyla eloped. They’ll expect to be invited. If you really dinna want more than close friends and family, that’s fine. That’s what we’ll do, but given both your businesses deal with the public—”
“—we should probably expand the guest list.” Sophie sighed. “I see the sense in it. What do you want?”
He laced his fingers with hers. “I want everyone far and wide to know you’re mine, so I’d be here for royal-family-level media coverage. Failing that, an open invitation to the village seems the best compromise.”
Sophie considered. She’d spent so many of the past several years making herself quiet and small, not drawing attention because she didn’t want anyone to see the dysfunctional situation she had with her stepmother. But Lorraine was gone, and the village had more than proven they were on her side. She had no reason to make herself small anymore.
“Then I guess we’d best tell Angus he’s making a lot more cake.”
I do love a good case of schadenfreude. The bad guys should ALWAYS get theirs in the end, and I’m particularly fond of how this particular story worked out. For more Kilted Hearts goodness, don’t forget to grab your copy of Protector in a Kilt! It’s grumpy/sunshine, woman in trouble GOLD.