then tore down the path, overtaking his master. Alastair laughed as he watched the sleek black streak of dog. That was another thing he’d always wanted but his previous landlords had always insisted on ‘no pets’. He’d had Bounce just a few weeks now but already he couldn’t imagine his life without him. It was good having a dog when you were a writer. They were silent companions. They didn’t interrupt you with speech when your head was already full of words but they were there if you needed to reach out and touch something warm and, of course, Bounce got him away from the dreaded computer at least twice a day. Although Alastair was a great walker anyway and sometimes threw a bit of climbing in for good measure, he had no doubt that his physique wouldn’t be quite as toned if it wasn’t for Bounce. Whole days could fly by when his writing was going well and the world outside his walls was often forgotten.
Yes, he thought, it was good to get out, breathe in some fresh spring air and try to forget about plots, characters and speeches that sounded neither natural nor interesting.
The track led through a wood and then sloped steeply down towards the loch. The rain the night before had made the path slippery but the smell was wonderful. Alastair inhaled deeply, wondering why nobody had invented an aftershave half as good as that. Not that he needed it. He only managed a shave every couple of weeks, preferring a stubbly, low-maintenance complexion. He ran his hands through his dark hair. That could do with some attention too but it was such a hassle driving all the way to Strathcorrie and it wasn’t as if there was a woman in his life to impress. His mother would go spare if she could see him but, luckily, she was in Edinburgh and he could sort himself out before his next visit. She liked the Alastair of a few years ago who’d had a nice wee office job in London with regular hours. The sort of job that required a suit, a tie, a briefcase and a nice neat haircut.
‘And unrelenting boredom,’ Alastair said, causing Bounce to look back at him.
No, his mother had not been impressed when he’d told her he was going to be a full-time writer, even though he’d had numerous plays published and even sold one to a film company.
‘But the money, Alastair! What are you going to live on?’
‘Fresh air and whisky,’ Alastair had joked.
His mother had gasped in horror.
‘I’ve bought a little crofter’s cottage in the Highlands. It’s as cheap as chips. Won’t cost much to run. It’s perfect.’
But it was no good. For his mother, there was no world outside of Edinburgh. The Highlands? That was a place for tourists. People didn’t really live there, did they?
‘Well, I do,’ Alastair said out loud as he walked. ‘I DO!’ he shouted, his voice echoing beautifully as he neared the loch. He loved that about this place. It made him want to run and shout and be foolish. In short, it made him feel young again. Not that he was exactly over the hill but it was a long time since he’d shouted just for the fun of it.
Connie was walking around the loch when she heard a man shouting.
She looked around, expecting to see someone, but there was nobody there. How strange, she thought. Was there some sort of wedding ceremony taking place? It would certainly be a stunning location for it but, as far as she could see, she was the only person there. There wasn’t a single soul around – not in the mountains, by the loch nor even across the other side of the water in Lochnabrae. The whole world felt as if it were sleeping.
Connie took a deep breath, luxuriating in air that didn’t smell of traffic. There was such a stillness here. LA was always in such a rush: people rushing to get to work, to lunch, to the gym, to the dentist’s. There hadn’t been any sign of rushing so far in Lochnabrae, Connie thought. It had been like stepping back in time, which was utterly delightful. Although she was slightly