“I am so screwed.”
Katie rested her hands on her hips and stared at the little wooden bridge. This made the third time she’d ended up here. Okay, so maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to set off on her own. But damn it, she refused to sit at the pub drinking too much Guinness with the other tourists again.
They had a whole afternoon, and a beautiful one at that. She would just as soon have spent the remainder of it at the Breadalbane Folklore Centre. The old mill overlooking the Falls of Dochart with its working water wheel was a lovely place to visit. It housed a treasure trove of stories and legends of all things Celtic. Mystical tales of magic and faeries called to her. But the contrary bus driver had insisted they return to the hotel in Killin.
“Enchanted forest, my ass.”
A bellboy had filled her head with tales of faeries, trolls, and banshees. So far, she hadn’t found anything magical about the place. It was beautiful, yes. But the only things she managed to find were midges. While the tiny, biting insects were definitely some kind of curse, there was nothing enchanting about the evil little bloodsuckers.
This time she walked up onto the bridge. Sturdy but plain, it spanned the gap between two small hills. She sank down, dangling her legs over the side. Lord, she was tired. Her feet hurt, and she was thirsty as hell. Too bad no stream ran under the blasted bridge.
Katie checked her watch. Eight-thirty. Bracing her hands behind her, she tilted her head back to scan the sky. The sun still rode high and wouldn’t set for another two hours. The long summer days in Scotland felt strange, but lucky for her, she still had time to find her way back before dark.
A soft breeze raised chill bumps on her skin beneath her thin sweater. She rubbed her arms for warmth and shook her head, bemused. Back home, the flowers would be wilting from the sweltering Georgia heat. Here, the high temperatures only reached the mid sixties. Licking her parched lips, she remembered the warm, spiced cider she’d had at the hotel restaurant in Glasgow.
She laid back on the bridge and stared at the puffy, white clouds floating on the breeze. Birds sang, and crickets chirped. It would have been a wonderful way to spend the evening, if she weren’t lost, cold, and thirsty. Closing her eyes, she sighed. She’d just rest here for a minute and then try to find her way back again. She crossed her arms and tucked her hands beneath them to stay warm.
“Get off me bridge.”
Katie jerked her head up to find the ugliest creature she’d ever seen peering at her through beady, black eyes. Bumps and warts covered a bulbous nose so long that it hung down over its mouth. And its hair…well, maybe it was hair. The wiry mass of brown stuff resembling grass and twigs fell down past its waist. Large ears stuck out on each side of the thing’s head, and bristles grew from them as well. A plain, light gray shirt and dark gray pants covered his stocky frame. He couldn’t have been more than four feet high.
Stiff and cold, she raised herself to a sitting position and scrunched her eyes closed. When she opened them, he was still there. She shook her head and tried again. This time she massaged her temples, determined to force the hallucination from her mind.
“I said, get off me bridge. Are ye deaf?”
An uneasy sensation trickled down her spine. Opening her eyes, she stamped down the hysteria threatening to claim her. “Are you a troll?”
“Blasted foreigners. ’Tis trow. I’m a trow. And yer on me bridge.”
She laughed then. “I’ve lost it. I’ve totally gone off the deep end.” She wiped her hands over her face. “There’s no such thing as trolls.”