When Shannon met Jonathan McKenzie, an antique dealer, she thought she had found everything in life she had dreamed of. And so, when Johnathan dies in an explosion caused by his brother Darius, she is devastated. After admitting to herself that she can’t get over John’s death Shannon flees Paris and seeks refuge at Dunstan Cottage in her beloved Scotland, where she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Just a few weeks later, Adrian, a good friend of hers from Paris, appears and delivers the dreaded message she had long feared would come - Darius was back - and wanted to stake his claim for his inheritance. And so, Shannon finds the courage to return to Paris, to face the past and the painful memories it holds and soon meets the person who destroyed both her life and hopes for a happy future.
The familiar smell of the Seine-water and the houseboat brought her back from her thoughts. Shannon walked onto the ship; she descended to the lower deck and was greeted by loneliness. She laboured for breath upon seeing the big room and in her memories, she saw herself entering for the first time. She remembered how her impressions of the artworks and the room’s arrangement had enchanted her. She went up one step to the bed and slowly opened the door to the bathroom. She looked into the room. Everything was where it had always been. It was like she and John had just been to the city for a couple of hours. Adrian stood watching her. When she turned towards him, he saw that empty look in her eyes again. It was the same look she had had back then, shortly before her disappearance. There was only one way to describe it. It was as if all the life had disappeared from her eyes.
When he had seen her again at the cottage, it had been different. Seeing her then had reminded him of the fact that he had never seen a woman who could smile with her eyes as intensely as Shannon. And now, once again, all that was gone. The emptiness and the pain had gotten hold of her again.
“I don’t want you to stay here. Drive to my house and wait until everything is over. We can take care of the antiques later.” His voice couldn’t hide his concern. And she would have loved to just agree with him, to leave and never speak to Darius again. But there was still something she had to settle with him. Standing in front of him, and at least once, telling him to his face what he was responsible for, was unavoidable. Not facing Darius would be like running away. And she would never be able to forgive herself for doing that.
“I can’t. Maybe he’s thoughtless, hard hearted and evil, but I am not afraid of him. I have to know exactly what happened.” One look in her eyes told Adrian, that nothing could stop her. He went into the kitchen and heated water for tea.
While sitting in front of the fireplace and warming their hands on the hot tea-mugs, they thought about where they could safely store Jonathan’s many treasures. There were two, maybe three things that Shannon would have loved to take with her. She rose slowly and went through the room. A statue from the 14th century portrayed two figures, a man and a woman wrapped in soft, silky fabrics, who looked like angels. She had wings, and he looked at her with what seemed like envy. John often sat in front of it and said he was that man. He envied Shannon for her fantasies, her wings, which allowed her to escape reality any time she wanted to. In his eyes it was a really great gift, and he had put her on a pedestal. She had often seen this admiration in his eyes. It had been a wonderful feeling. She would never have taken advantage of it, or showed it, but it was nice. Her hands touched the cold, velvety marble and tears ran down her cheeks.
The second item was a large wooden chest. It was very old, but not really expensive. It contained all the possessions that connected her life with John’s. Pictures, postcards, letters, souvenirs that they had bought in some souvenir-hut or won on an amusement park, and even the menu from the restaurant in which they had eaten on their second date. Further down, wrapped in a blanket, were pictures of John’s family. Pictures of Highlanders in kilts, portraits and a family photo. All were very old and yellowed, and she couldn’t recognize John on any of them. Even further down, she found an old oil painting. It showed a castle in the woods of the Highlands. Next to it was a river running through a green landscape that disappeared in a little forest. It must have been the McKenzie’s castle, Shannon thought. They really had owned a castle.
The longer she looked at the painting, the more she wanted to go back to her new home, and so she gently put it away and closed the chest.
She rose slowly and looked towards Adrian, while walking towards a shelf on which lay the third piece she wanted to have. It was sitting on two bronze metal holders. “And I will take this sword with me. John showed me how to fight with it. Sometimes we drove to the countryside to the little forest at Laurence and just fought. He said, it belonged...” She laughed, despite the tears on her cheeks. “He said, it had belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie, but I don’t believe that.” Her eyes closed, and she saw his face again as it had been when he had told her this hard to believe story. A pain gripped her heart, and her voice grew thinner than a silk thread stretched by the wind. “The one he talked about surely looked a lot like this one. It is said to have been in the McKenzie’s household for centuries. His grandfather gave it to him.” She felt the weight of the sword in her hands.
Adrian’s eyes filled with tears. This was the real funeral of Jonathan McKenzie, his friend and brother. He went to a sideboard and opened the box on it. Shannon knew what he was taking out, and her heart seemed to almost burst. “I would like to have that pistol as a memory. Perhaps you know it. Once I tried to steal it from him, shortly after he had taken me into his home, but of course he caught me. John didn’t scream and wasn’t upset either. He simply said: I’m giving it to you as a gift“. Adrian looked at the floor. “Then I put it back and haven’t touched it since. I couldn’t. Because I was embarrassed. –It would always remind me of him.” He looked up at her.
„Jonathan wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Take it. You deserve it. He was so proud of you and of what you made of your life.” She turned away from him and quickly wiped the tears from her eyes. Hastily, she walked to John’s wardrobe and took out his leather jacket. It was old and worn, but that was what made it so beautiful. The tangy, but also sweet scent of Roma spread as she clinched her fingers into the old leather, and pressed her face into the wrinkles, in spite of herself. Seconds turned into hours. “He would have given you this one. I know you love this jacket and I know John often thought about giving it to you. – Please take it.” Adrian touched the leather as if it was the most precious brocade. When he looked towards Shannon again, he saw that she had turned away. Her head was tilted back and in her hands she held something that she pressed against her face. When he recognized John’s favourite sweatshirt, his heart almost broke. He heard her silent, suffocated cry, and didn’t dare to come close.
He sat down quietly on the bed, and remembered an important time in his life, when he had gotten to know Jonathan and, without rules or force, had turned his poor troubled life into a precious one. When Shannon, who had seemed to have gotten a hold of herself again, went into the bathroom, Adrian wiped his nose and brushed away his tears with his sleeve. He looked at his watch and realized that it was almost evening.
Back again, Shannon turned to the sword once more. She tried to focus her thoughts on something positive. No more tears. John would have liked her new life which was now connected so closely to his.
The door flew open, and Darius stood there, like Phoenix out of the ashes. “I hope I’m not disturbing you!“
Shannon knew it was him, even though she had never seen him before. She raised the weapon in her hands as if she wanted to attack him.
“Sweety, what kind of hello is that, after all this time. And for the first time. I missed you, even though I have never seen you before.” He came towards her, so close that the tip of the sword touched his chest. He seemed not to be afraid. His hair was short. His body, athletic. His appearance would have been an event, almost breathtaking, if it hadn’t been for the circumstances.
Shannon didn’t move a single centimetre. His cheekiness and cold-bloodedness made her furious. “The feeling isn’t mutual.” She still didn’t move.
“You will not forgive me for what I have done. I wanted to see you, talk to you about all the things that have happened, but you were gone.” He looked at her, and one could almost interpret something like compassion in his voice.
Adrian recognized hate in Shannon’s eyes for the first time since he had known her, and for a moment he was sure she would find the power to thrust the sword in between Darius´ ribs.
With a quick step forward, she managed to put the blade of the weapon on Darius’ throat.
“He always was a good teacher.” He forced a smile.
“The only reason you are still alive is that you have only been a name until now. But never, never as long as I live will I forgive you. You are the reason he had to die. Keep that in mind whatever brought you here. You are nothing but a shadow which has cast its darkness on a wonderful time.” She turned her sword down, and Darius dared to breathe again.
“You are insane, completely insane.”
She could see tiny drops of sweat on his forehead, and she felt at ease. He had lost his composure for a short moment. And suddenly she didn’t want to know the truth anymore. “Get away from here. Get away and don’t ever come back. There is nothing for you to get. Absolutely nothing.” She looked at him, still holding the sword in her hands.
Now she also felt Adrian’s presence. He was standing directly behind her. “You heard her, get out.” His voice sounded scornful.
“I have a right to be here. This all belonged to my brother, so it also belongs to me. Actually it only belongs to me now.” He looked around and his eyes reflected his greediness. Shannon knew that her anger would take control of her at any moment. For the first time in her life she wanted to hurt somebody. And then she remembered something Jonathan had once said about his brother. “You don’t have a family anymore because that’s what you wanted. You don’t have a brother and a girlfriend anymore because you killed them. You will get nothing from your legacy which you obviously came for. Nothing, not a single piece. He saw through you. In his last will he explicitly declared that you get nothing, and I will give you exactly what you deserve. - Nothing!”
At that moment, there was only one thing Darius wanted, and that was to kill her! She had reminded him of the fact that he had destroyed everything that should be precious for a man. And Shannon was the one who was courageous enough to tell him the truth to his face. “John never made a last will. And even if he did, I will get what’s mine.”